In the midst of hard times, Winfield, Cowley County and the state of Kansas received some inspiring news Thursday as one of its own was named National Teacher of the Year.
Little Vikes preschool teacher Tabatha Rosproy, earlier named Kansas Teacher of the Year, received the honor from the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and was interviewed on national television early Thursday.
Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson announcement the news at a virtual conference Thursday morning.
Rosproy was one of four finalists narrowed from 55 state winners up for the national honor.
Rosproy is the first early childhood education teacher to win the national award and the first Kansas teacher in about 60 years to achieve the prestigious recognition.
Full of praise
Her many fans were full of praise when they heard the news Thursday, especially when they saw it on CBS TV on the morning news.
Little Vikes volunteer Ed Foster went to the office at Cumbernauld Village, where the program is held.
“I stuck my head in the door and said hip, hip, hooray, and everyone was up and dancing around and saying how happy they are,” he said.
A teacher for 40 years both in public school and at Southwestern College, Foster praised both Rosproy and the Little Vikes program.
“She is a wonderful, outstanding, talented, gifted teacher,” Foster said, “so deserving of that honor.”
Her innovative teaching methods impressed Foster. He also praised the trips she took with the children to the zoo, fishing and other places.
“And she did so much good for us,” Foster said of the volunteers, who are Cumbernauld residents who read and interact with the children.
Children also visit other residents, including those fragile ones.
“It was such a thrill to be called Grandpa Ed,” Foster said.
The Little Vikes program was an experiment, a brainchild of former USD 465 superintendent JK Campbell who’d gotten the idea from a program in Coffeyville.
“Some people didn’t think it was a good idea,” Foster said. “They thought the kids would be running around everywhere. That’s not what happened at all.”
Rosproy incorporated into the curriculum an emphasis on psychological /emotional development of the students.
“She had a special passion to do that,” Cumbernauld CEO Linda Voth.Voth said. “It is a gift people rarely have.”
Laura Buterbaugh’s daughter Catherine was in the first class of Little Vikes. Buterbaugh called Rosproy an amazing teacher who loves the students.
“Cat flourished in that environment of multi-generational learning,” Buterbaugh said.
Rosproy is also “so good with the Cumbernauld residents, so committed to them.”
Buterbaugh said Rosproy keeps involved with the students outside the classroom, including attending “The Nutcracker” ballet in which Cat danced.
“Cat was so excited when she saw her there,” her mother said.
A 10-year teacher who graduated from Southwestern College and has taught at the Winfield Early Learning Center for her career, Rosproy has served on building committees and was named the Rookie Teacher of the Year in 2014.
“I am so proud of her and so excited for the community,” said USD 465 Superintendent Dr. Nathan Reed. “She puts Winfield and Southwestern on the map.”
Her travels throughout the country over the next year will have “a great, positive ripple effect on Winfield.”
Her advocating for early childhood education will serve children and teachers, he said.
Reed said he is “excited but not surprised” that she received the award.
He said a long-term substitute teacher will have to be hired to replace Rosproy, but that process is just starting.
She was the “perfect candidate,” said Country View and WELC principal Desaree Groene, who nominated Rosproy for the award.
As Groene filled out the application, she saw many of the qualities Rosproy represents in the questions. She is a leader, well-spoken, can do presentations, Groene said.
“JK (Campbell) and I hired her” for the Little Vikes program, Groene said. “She has such a presence and the program really set her apart.”
“I am overwhelmed with joy and pride,” Rosproy said in a phone interview. “And I’m humbled to advocate for students and teachers at such a critical time as the coronavirus.”
As Kansas Teacher of the Year, Watson called on her and two others to help design the education program that was followed during the pandemic crisis.
No matter how the coronavirus pandemic plays itself, “It will be a challenge for schools to ensure safety plus equitable services for all students,” Rosproy said.
The best part of the continuous learning program followed by Kansas is that it was “led by teachers and focused on students,” Rosproy said. “We have seen a lot more success in students’ learning (than in other some other states) because teachers have been involved from point A and before. We never lost our focus on the students.”
Rosproy designed a number of ways to keep her students engaged in virtual learning during this spring. They made homemade items and had online visits and reading every day.
She also had one-on-one video chats with the students. The class had weekly Zoom get-togethers.
“It brought a lot of joy to them. It was hard for them not to see their friends,” Rosproy said.
Rosproy has known she won the award for some time, so she has been working with CCSSO developing the message she will take across the country.
She even has a publicist now to help her keep on track. She still has some programs to give in Kansas before she starts her tenure as National Teacher of the Year in July.
By Thursday afternoon, she had already received 10 requests to speak at other sites throughout the U.S.
The hardest part of the next year, she said, will be being away from her students. “I’m gonna miss Little Vikes,” she said.
But she will be serving students and education in a different way, she said. “I’m looking forward to advocating for early childhood education across the country.”
Anyone wanting to invite Rosproy to give a presentation can make the connection on ntoy.ccsso.org.