June was a busy month for Kristen Record.
The Bunnell High School physics teacher served as senior class advisor, which meant planning prom, the senior picnic and graduation. And between those taxing preparations, she had to squeeze in time to go to Washington, D.C., to meet with President Obama and 49 other teachers who'd been named by their state as teacher of the year.
Soon after she was back from our nation's capital, she was off to Hartford so that she could receive accolades and an award from state legislators for being Connecticut’s 2011 Teacher of the Year. Then, it was back to the classroom to finish up the year and give final exams.
Quite the schedule for anyone – but then Record is no stranger to multitasking or to winning awards. Her list of activities makes you tired just reading about them. For instance, Record was the only Connecticut recipient in 2009 of the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. This is awarded annually to the best pre-college level science and mathematics teachers across the country.
In 2005, she was awarded a Creating Teacher Scientists Fellowship by the U.S. Department of Energy. Because of that, she spent three summers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado, working on fuel cell membrane and hydrogen production research.
Record said her summers at NREL were the best professional development experiences of her life.
“I came back and completely reorganized my curriculum to integrate renewable energy and social issues in a way that made physics accessible and relevant to a lot more students,” she said.
The Connecticut Teacher of the Year, chosen from 50,000 primary and secondary teachers, represents the state at the national level – participating in everything from national educational forums to U.S. Department of Education meetings.
"To influence education practices and policies, for a brief time, on a national level, would be amazing,” Record said.
In announcing Record as the winner, State Education Commissioner Mark K. McQuillan said, “I am pleased to introduce as the 2011 Teacher of the Year, an educator who has raised the standard in her classroom and who has helped to bring high-level science teaching to her school, her state and her nation.”
Reading from some of the many accolades that were written by her colleagues and students in support of her nomination, he quoted, “She's just terrific. She is the picture of the educator of tomorrow, and she's a brainiac, but not in a weird way."
And, by most standards, Record is a brainiac. She has always loved math and science. She comes from a family of science teachers. Her father teaches high school physics and won the Presidential Award of Excellence in 1986. Her mother teaches sixth-grade science. Her younger brother, Daniel, teaches physics at Darien High School. Both Record and her brother attended Fairfield University, then went on to pursue master’s degrees from Harvard.
While still at Fairfield, where she would graduate magna cum laud, Record was mulling over a career as a research scientist. Then she had a semester of student teaching and was hooked.
“It has been said that I was destined to be a teacher,” Record said. “Teaching is in my DNA.”
She loves the challenges each day brings and the students she teaches. She receives great satisfaction, she says, “from knowing my students will leave the classroom understanding how relevant science is to their lives.”
So how did the teacher of the year find her niche at Bunnell High School?
Record is a Connecticut native and came to Stratford because “I was looking for diversity. I found it here. The kids are different every year and their learning needs are different. I never teach the same way twice.” She also noted that Bunnell “honors diverse views as well as hard work and effort.” She said that she works with many outstanding teachers every day and is proud to represent them.
Record finds that teaching the inquiring minds of her students keeps life from getting boring. Of course, she’s managed to find other things to keep life interesting as well.
Not only is she the senior class advisor, she's also the physics olympics team advisor, a member of the Bunnell High School Scholarship Committee and a mentor at Fairfield University’s Ignatian Residential College. She has also served as Bunnell’s PTSA teacher representative and on the Board of Directors for Revital Arts, a non-profit youth arts organization founded by Bunnell graduates.
And the list goes on: She is an accomplished soprano with the Mendelssohn Choir of Connecticut, a community choir in Fairfield County that regularly collaborates with the Connecticut Grand Opera, the Greater Bridgeport Symphony and the Norwalk Symphony. And, she volunteers at Prospect House, Habitat for Humanity and Relay for Life.
"Teaching well is about continually growing and recognizing that there is always something new to learn,” said Record, adding that teaching is more of a calling than a job.
Stratford has reason to be glad Record heeded that call.