A first-grade teacher from Wallingford was named Connecticut's teacher of the year on Tuesday afternoon.

According to state education officials, Erin Berthold, a first-grade teacher at Cook Hill Elementary School, was honored during an assembly.

Berthold has been a teacher at Cook Hill Elementary School since 2015. She was previously a special education teacher at Yalesville Elementary and Moses Y. Beach Elementary School in Wallingford. She also worked at both the middle and high school levels at Lincoln Middle School in Meriden and Woodhouse Academy in Milford.

Berthold said she encourages her students "to take action."

“They may encounter some bumps along the way, but the best and deepest learning occurs when students reroute themselves. I believe children need to learn to make decisions regarding their own learning at an early age, so they are prepared to make life decisions. I encourage students to try new things, pursue their interests, and see failure as an opportunity for growth.”

Berthold created an online listening program so students could hear her read them bedtime stories. the program was then adopted by other teachers and has encouraged students to love reading.

"Sometimes the kids say to me, we didn't learn anything today all we did was have fun and I say what are you talking about they don't realize how much they learning by playing it is the work of children that is important to remember they your working with little children," Berthold said.

Berthold at the assembly told students to "have fun, get down on the carpet, dance, sing, play."

"They learn best when they're having fun and playing," Berthold said.

Berthold said she originally intended to be a graphic designer. Her mother was a teacher and she visited her class one day and knew that day that was what she wanted to do with her life.

“Today we celebrate the pride we take in our teachers for being out front every day making dreams possible for our students,” Commissioner of Education Dianna R. Wentzell said in a statement on Tuesday. “Teachers are called upon to stir intellect and ignite passion in their students. They come to the classroom as learners themselves, ready to share knowledge, engage in thoughtful dialogue, and inspire new ideas. Erin Berthold exemplifies all of this in her daily work with our youngest learners.”

Students, a marching band, state Board of Education members and others were on hand for the announcement.

“Erin Berthold is one of the most dedicated and valued members of our education community. Her thirst for knowledge, passion for children, and creative out-of-the-box thinking motivates and personalizes learning for each of her students. Her desire to work with families and colleagues allows everyone to experience success," Kristine Friend, who is the principal at Cook Hill School, said in a statement on Tuesday. "The Cook Hill School community congratulates her on this most prestigious honor.”

Gov. Dannel Malloy said teachers such as Berthold can "make a real difference in the lives of the students they serve."

“As an early childhood educator, Mrs. Berthold has the opportunity to inspire a love of learning and set up her students for lifelong success. Congratulations to Mrs. Berthold on being named the 2018 Teacher of the Year and thank you to all of our educators for the work that you do each day on behalf of Connecticut children," Malloy said in a statement on Tuesday.

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