Bridgeport teacher among state Teacher of the Year finalists

September 20, 2018

BRIDGEPORT — For the second time in four years, a city teacher has made the final round in the 2019 Connecticut Teacher of the Year competition.

Sheena Graham, a music teacher at Harding High School was tapped this week as one of four finalists. The others include Ryley Zawodniak, a fifth grade teacher in Mansfield, Jennifer Freese, a Newington science teacher and Jessica Harris, a kindergarten through second grade interventionist in Wallingford.

Graham was among 15 semifinalists who were interviewed last week. The four finalists will get visits to their school on September 27 and 28, according to Kim Wachtelhausen, an education consultant for the Connecticut State Department of Education.

The reaction to Graham being named one of the finalists was instantaneous.

“Terrific teacher ...No better person deserving of this..... Well deserved,” came the responses when the news broke on Twitter on Tuesday evening.

Graham taught at music Harding from 1998 to 2008 before transferring to Central High School. During that decade, she brought choirs to music competitions call Fiesta-val, earning dozens of trophies. She has since returned to Harding and this year teaches in a brand new, state of the art choir room in the new school building.

The Connecticut Teacher of the Year program is run by a council that works with the sttate Department of Education and partners to celebrate teaching excellence. The program looks for teachers who have inspired a love for learning in their students, and who have distinguished themselves in the profession, according to the program website. The Connecticut Teacher of the Year goes on to participate in the national Teacher of the Year program.

In 2016, Shaun Mitchell, a Central High English teacher was one of four finalists for the state title. That year, Jahana Hayes, a Waterbury history teacher went on to win the state and then national title. Hayes is now a candidate for congress.

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