A Conversation with Tabatha Rosproy, National Teacher of the Year

December 15, 2020

Photo credit: Kaydee Riggs-Johnson

The Council for Professional Recognition had the opportunity to speak to Tabatha Rosproy, the first-ever preschool educator to be named National Teacher of the Year by the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Tabatha takes her responsibility as Teacher of the Year very seriously, as she’s a trailblazer by being the only early childhood educator to date to receive this prestigious award. She knows how hard it is for teachers, especially during the global pandemic, and she wants to empower teachers and elevate their voice. Tabatha told the Council that it is important to remind administrators, school districts and others to engage teachers in the decisions that are being made.

During her tenure as National Teacher of the Year, Tabatha has learned that while we may think we are the only ones going through something or the only ones doing it well, there is a vast network of educator rock stars giving 110% on behalf of their students and families every single day.

Her world was made a lot bigger by receiving this award, and she feels incredibly fortunate. She is looking forward to continuing to build visibility for early childhood educators long after her tenure as Teacher of the Year is over in July 2021.

Tabatha teaches preschool at the Winfield Early Learning Center (WELC) in Winfield, Kansas. Her school is housed in Cumbernauld Village, a local retirement community and nursing home. This intergenerational program provides preschoolers and senior residents the opportunity to interact with one another and build relationships. WELC is the first public school preschool program in Kansas to use this unique approach. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the students and “grandparents,” as the village residents are affectionately called, have paused in-person activities. But they are finding new ways to connect, including using technology, mailed letters and window visits.

Photo credit: Tabatha Rosproy

“This is an extremely difficult time that none of us ever thought we would be facing,” said Tabatha. She hopes educators do not get discouraged, because she knows they are making a bigger impact than they realize. Her biggest piece of advice is to partner with families. “You are not only helping your students, but you are helping their families who are in this new situation with obstacles and problems to overcome, and you can be a valuable resource for them,” she said.

She added that it’s more important than ever to adopt a family coaching model. Tabatha has always been passionate about working with families, but the pandemic has amplified the need for this approach. “We always want to have good relationships with our students, of course, but focusing on our families will help us be in a better place for the future,” she says.

While Tabatha thinks children are particularly resilient, she has seen how hard it can be for teachers to keep our youngest learners engaged in new models of remote/hybrid education. Yet teachers are rising to the occasion. She joked that to keep children engaged, sometimes you may have to be willing to make a fool of yourself.

Since coming on board as the Council’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Calvin E. Moore, Jr. has shared his desire to encourage more men to pursue careers in early education. Tabatha echoed this notion and said she believes our students need to see themselves in their teachers. She has seen children respond differently to male educators, not because women are lacking in their abilities, but because men’s and women’s approach to nurturing children can be different. She believes our children need to have as many positive role models as possible.

The greatest advice Tabatha ever received was: “behavior is information.” In early education classrooms, a lot of the time is spent regulating behaviors. When Tabatha was a young teacher, she recalled taking it very personally when kids misbehaved. Once she recognized that her students needed help rather than discipline, she began to approach her teaching in a new way.

More details about Tabatha are on Twitter @TabathaRosproy, Instagram at ntoy2020 and Facebook at ntoy2020.

 

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