Winfield NEA member first early childhood educator to win prestigious honor

By Angela Deines

Shock and disbelief quickly gave way to bursting pride for Tabatha Rosproy when she was told she was selected as the 2020 National Teacher of the Year.

Tabatha Rosproy,
2020 National Teacher of the Year

“I’m overwhelmed,” the preschool teacher and Winfield NEA member said on Thursday. “I never thought that when I started teaching 10 years ago that I’d be in this position.”

Tabatha Rosproy’s early childhood education program at Cumbernauld Village Retirement Community in Winfield

Rosproy was one of four finalists for the prestigious teaching award, the first early childhood educator, and the second Kansas educator to receive the honor. The first Kansan was Marjorie French in 1962, a math teacher at Topeka High School. 

With the proud support of her colleagues, Winfield NEA, and certainly all of Kansas, Rosproy said she is humbled by the honor and looks forward to taking a message of hope to the nation, especially now that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted students and families so dramatically.  

“I’ve been in a place that teaching love and empathy is day-to-day for me,” Rosproy said. “This would be good to highlight now. We are really struggling. In order to survive, we have to have love and show empathy to our fellow human beings.”

Rosproy has been recognized for leading a unique early childhood program at a senior living facility in Winfield where residents and four-year-olds interact daily through reading, music, and other intergenerational activities.

“Tabatha is an energetic educator,” said Mark Farr, Kansas NEA president. “Her classroom is the classroom every teacher strives to have.  A classroom filled with love for her students and her grandparent volunteers from the Cumbernauld Village retirement community.  You won’t find a more dedicated educator in Kansas.  As one of her students said, ‘she is the best teacher in the world’.”

The four-year-olds in Tabatha Rosproy’s class took pictures of themselves for grandparent volunteers at Cumbernauld Village to let them know they were missed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“She has a special gift and she works very hard at it,” added Linda Voth, executive director of Cumbernauld Village. “We’re just thrilled for her. She so deserves it.”

Voth said in the nearly two years of the early childhood program, she has seen social and emotional growth in the preschool children who have formed lasting bonds with Cumbernauld’s residents.

“I saw kids that came in the door who were intimidated by people in wheelchairs,” she said. “By the end, they were blind to disability, they were blind to aging.” 

NEA president Lily Eskelsen GarcÍa said Rosproy “is a great example of how educators transform the lives of their students.”

“Investing in our youngest students is investing in America’s future, and Tabatha does that every single day,” she said. “She is providing our children with the tools they need in order to succeed later in life. She realizes the importance of social-emotional education and prioritizes it in her classroom, as well as works to educate families on this important issue. She understands the importance of community engagement, and how the entire community benefits.”

Tabatha Rosproy and
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly

Rosproy was one of several educators represented on the Kansas State Department of Education’s Continuous Learning Taskforce this past spring. This group, which included several Kansas NEA members, spearheaded the creation of guidelines for the transition to online learning after Gov. Laura Kelly was the first governor in the nation to close schools for the remainder of the academic year. 

“What a tremendous honor for Tabatha and the state of Kansas,” Gov. Kelly said in a video Facebook address. “I couldn’t be more proud of her for this amazing accomplishment. The rest of the country now has another reason to recognize what we’ve known all along, Kansas educators are outstanding.” 

“Tabatha Rosproy embodies the spirit demonstrated by so many teachers, caring for her students and leading the Kansas educators who helped develop the state’s continuity of learning plan,” according to a statement by Carissa Moffat Miller, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, the organization that selects the National Teacher of the Year. 

Rosproy said in addition to Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) contacting her, she received a congratulatory call from Betsy DeVos, U.S. Secretary of Education, who asked her about how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted her program with Cumbernauld Village and other general aspects about her work.

Tabatha Rosproy with other delegates at the KNEA Representative Assembly

“I told her I looked forward to elevating teachers’ voices and educating our youngest learners,” Rosproy said. 

The President of the United States, she said, typically gives the National Teacher of the Year award in Washington, D.C. However, Rosproy said her trip to the nation’s capital has been postponed for the time being given the current COVID-19 pandemic and election year scheduling issues.         

In the meantime, as she embarks on her NTOY duties, Rosproy said she will champion the “gold standard” Kansas set for continuous learning and “the incredible opportunities students have here in Kansas.”  

“The innovative thinking in Kansas is going to be useful for teachers across the country,” she said. “I also want to thank KNEA for helping me be an advocate for students. This is going to serve me well with students and educators.”