The NFA Teacher of the Year award has been rewarding teachers for their phenomenal work for over 40 years. This year, NFA’s Teacher of the Year committee selected school psychologist, Arikka Kalwara to represent them.
“It’s certainly a boost of self esteem doing this, ‘cause it’s a tough job, and I’m proud of my accomplishment and knowing, ok, I guess I’m doing a good job,” stated Kalwara.
Former NFA Teacher of the Year, English teacher Patrick Kirker chaired this year’s selection committee.
“The process of choosing the Teacher of the Year is very detailed,” explained Kirker.
“A colleague wrote a letter describing what I do, what my job is like, how I treat my students; a whole bunch of nice stuff. She submitted it to the committee, and they sent me an email saying I was selected as a potential candidate… I had to give an update on my resume, and write two essays,” said Kalwara.
The selection committee then interviewed all of the nominees.
“They then choose the winner, and this year, they chose me,” added Kalwara.
Teachers honored as Teacher of the Year typically move on to the state competition; however, Kalwara’s experience was different.
“[When a teacher wins, they] can submit to the state level where [they] can potentially win teacher of the state… then from there, [they] can apply to National Teacher of the Year. Being a psychologist however, interestingly enough, I wasn’t able to apply to the Connecticut state teacher process, because they don’t consider my position a ‘teacher’ per se, so it had to stop here,” she explained.
Though Kalwara is not able to move forward in the competition, she has maintained her sense of humor.
“I still don’t have my preferred parking space, I’m waiting for fresh juice when I come to school,” joked Kalwara. She added, “No, you don’t actually get monetary things, I got flowers and cards, so that was nice.”
“I’m honored to represent school psychologists because there’s such a small number of us, compared to teachers, that we are often not at the forefront of things that happen in school. School psychologists are often in the back helping, they’re ‘secret helpers’. So, for our role to be acknowledged and to be verified is, I think, very special” stated Kalwara.