Platt High School family and consumer science teacher Cynthia Van Fleet was recognized at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting as Meriden 2013 Teacher of the Year.
“She is a master teacher who challenges all students to reach their true potential,” said School Superintendent Dr. Mark Benigni before presenting her with a plaque.
Van Fleet, who was also selected by UConn as its Early College Experience (ECE) Teacher of the Year, has taught at Platt for 33 years. Her popular Human Development and Family Studies ECE class can be taken for UConn college credit. About 60 students at Platt took the class last year.
In a brief speech accepting the honor, Van Fleet showed school board members and the public in attendance why students find her inspiring. She spoke about starting her 34th first day of school at Platt with the same sense of anticipation and excitement she has experienced since her very first day of preschool. That was in 1961, when her teacher picked up all the students herself in a station wagon and drove them to school each day.
Van Fleet also talked about the importance of connecting the dots in our lives, a concept she heard from Steve Jobs when he spoke at her son’s college graduation. We may not always see the importance of each individual event that happens, Van Fleet said. It only becomes apparent when we connect the individual dots to see the big picture.
Van Fleet shared her thoughts about the importance of having a passion for teaching with these words from Randy Pausch's The Last Lecture: “The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.”
In her own words, Van Fleet said, “As educators, we need to be passionate about what we do. Kids know who’s real and who’s not.”
She closed by reminding her colleagues: “Make it real. Make it matter.”