Audrey Kelley is LEARN's Teacher of the Year

Audrey Kelley is LEARN's Teacher of the Year
Audrey KElley

In 2018-19, Riverside Magnet School (RMS) was rapidly expanding, adding a 5th grade and completing renovations to a building that would house its upper grade levels. The changes brought the need for someone to write and build the 5th grade curriculum, and mentor a young teaching staff.

Audrey Kelley stepped up to the challenge. While relatively new to teaching, she quickly established herself as a role model for her colleagues. As an energetic and passionate educator, Audrey aided RMS through a year of growth and became a favorite among students. As a result, Kelley was named the 2019 LEARN Teacher of the Year.

“When I found out that I was LEARN’s teacher of the year, I was very honored and shocked,” Kelley said. “I work with some amazing colleagues, who are the reason why I am successful.”

Kelley, of Hartford, is entering her third year at RMS, a Reggio Emilia-inspired interdistict magnet school, located on the Goodwin College campus in East Hartford. LEARN and Goodwin College cooperatively run RMS, which has grown from its infancy as a pre-kindergarten and kindergarten school to now accepting students through the 5th grade.

Peppy and intelligent, Kelley brings literature and social studies to life and helps her students grasp unfamiliar concepts in math and science. RMS Interim Principal Tonja Kelly called Audrey Kelley a role model who plans thoughtful lessons, and helps others achieve the very best in themselves.

Moreover, Kelley embodies school values and the Reggio Emilia model and was critical to a successful expansion. Her lessons give students a voice in their learning and choice in the projects they pursue.

“Respect for self, others, and the environment are at the core of Audrey Kelley's passion for teaching and learning,” Tonja Kelly said.  “She exemplifies what global citizenship through teaching and learning is all about.”

Kelley was peer-nominated as Teacher of the Year at RMS. At its Convocation to begin the school year, LEARN announced Kelley as the agency’s 2019 Teacher of the Year and nominee for statewide consideration as Connecticut’s 2020 Teacher of the Year.

In many ways, Kelley said she has grown with RMS. She was hired to teach 4th grade when that was the top grade level, then moved up to the 5th grade with the same cohort of students. When Kelley moved up with her class, she modeled and wrote curriculum around their strengths and interests.

“With a brand new school, you’re learning and growing with your students and fellow teachers,” Kelley said. “It’s empowering at times, but it’s also very challenging. Thankfully, the administration helped us and allowed us to play off each other’s strengths, build up confidence, and flourish.”

Last spring, the first cohort of students moved on from RMS. When they started at the school, renovations were merely conceptual, and students in grades above kindergarten were learning in portable classrooms.

When RMS’s renovations were completed in 2018 and the upper grades had their own permanent space and a new playground, Kelley was overwhelmed.

“It was awesome to witness the true joy and pride on their faces when the ribbon was cut and they had a new playground and basketball court,” Kelley said.

LEARN congratulates Audrey Kelley and all her colleagues who were named 2019 Teacher of the Year by their peers at their respective LEARN schools, including:

  • Tara Conway, Special Education Teacher, Student Support Services
  • Ruth Toledo, Pre-Kindergarten Teacher, The Friendship School
  • Stacy Pleau-Guckian, Grade 4/5 Teacher, Regional Multicultural Magnet School
  • Constance O’Brien, School Counselor, Dual Language & Arts Magnet Middle School
  • Dante Gonzales, English and Language Arts Teacher, Marine Science Magnet High School
  • Angelica Sirois, Spanish Teacher, Connecticut River Academy


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