Marist Alumna Erin Berthold is Connecticut's 2018 Teacher of the Year
Of all the things Erin Berthold ’05 cherishes about her time at Marist – meeting her husband Matt in Champagnat, hanging out with friends in Gartland Commons, and working alongside faculty mentors in the Steel Plant Studios – it’s the sense of community she remembers most. “The terrorist attacks of 9/11 happened during my freshman year, and Professors Jim Luciana, Donise English, and Richard Lewis remembered that my dad was a New York City fire chief. I’ll never forget how they called me in my dorm room to check in. They cared so much about me.” Fortunately, Erin’s dad was fine, but that sense of caring really stuck with her.
Fast forward 16 years, and Erin is having a similar impact on the first-graders she teaches at Cook Hill Elementary School in Wallingford, Connecticut. So much so that she was recently recognized as Connecticut’s 2018 Teacher of the Year, an award she accepted on November 15 at the Bushnell Performing Arts Center in Hartford.
She credits her Marist education with setting her on the path to success. Growing up in Warwick, New York, Erin was originally attracted to the College because of its fashion design program, as well as the fact that her older sister had attended. After switching her focus to digital media (with a minor in studio art), she delved into both graphic design and art history, areas of expertise that would later make her a highly effective and engaging teacher.
As Erin approached her senior year at Marist, she started to rethink her career path. With 9/11 such a recent memory, she had trouble picturing herself living and working in New York City. Sensing her hesitation, her mom invited her to spend the day at the school where she worked as an educator. Erin was immediately inspired by the children and soon set her sights on teaching as a career. After completing her master’s in teaching at St. Thomas Aquinas College, Erin began working in special education and later, early childhood education.
Erin Berthold '05 in her classroom
For the past three years, Erin has worked with first-graders, and she feels a great responsibility toward them. “Any great teacher is very dedicated to what they do. You can’t work with kids and not give it your all. It’s very important work.” To build her kids’ love of school, she makes learning fun, so much so that they don’t always realize they’re learning. “My job is to build their love of learning, which is more important than any academic lesson. I want them to remember how they felt in my class, that their teacher cared about them, that they were safe and happy.”
And Erin’s Marist education has helped her develop some truly innovative teaching techniques. “Coming from a background of digital media and art, I try to make visually appealing learning tools. I’m really marketing the curriculum so that students want to engage.” Through the use of technology – all of her students have iPads donated by her husband’s company – the students make YouTube videos, create their own versions of famous works of art, and engage with all things media.
Erin describes being chosen as Teacher of the Year as “unexpected” and “surreal,” but she is looking forward to a whirlwind year of travel, presentations, and professional development. Her activities will even include a trip to the White House. Most of all, she looks forward to sharing her experiences with other educators and working to elevate the teaching profession.
For Erin, the College will always be a special part of her life (“I would do anything for Marist”), and she and her husband visit the campus bookstore every couple of months to stock up on Marist tee shirts and sweatshirts (“We drop about $100 on each visit!”). It is appropriate, then, that when she received the Teacher of the Year award on November 15, she literally carried a piece of Marist with her – the necklace she recently purchased at Mporium.
Erin Berthold '05 and Matt Berthold '05