West Hartford 2024 Teacher of the Year is Announced

Nora McHugh. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

Conard High School science teacher Nora McHugh has been named the 2024 West Hartford Teacher of the Year.

By Ronni Newton

West Hartford’s Teacher of the Year was announced Monday afternoon, during a Google Meet session with more than 50 participants that was led by Michele Hadlock, co-chair of the Teacher of the Year Committee.

The winner – chosen through a rigorous process that began with a nomination, submission of a resume and an essay, recommendation letters, and having a lesson videotaped, and formal interviews by the Teacher of the Year Committee – is Conard High School science teacher Nora McHugh.

“Thank you, everyone,” said a shocked McHugh, placing her hands over her face as the announcement was made. “I really appreciate it. Teaching is nothing without the people you work with,” she added.

Nora McHugh, upon learning she was named West Hartford’s 2024 Teacher of the Year. Screenshot by Ronni Newton

McHugh has been a chemistry and anatomy/physiology teacher with West Hartford Public Schools since 2010 – and this past year has been teaching AP Chemistry at Conard after spending 11 years teaching at Hall.

When asked by We-Ha.com at a reception for the finalists in early May what she thought contributed to being nominated for Teacher of the Year, she said, “I think it was probably a lot of my work with colleagues. I put a lot of effort into being a team member.”

The comments made by her colleagues, shared by Vicinus at the May 7 Board of Education meeting, noted that she “shines as both a remarkable collaborator and educator. She inspires students to engage in the wonders of science through dynamic and hands-on activities that hone skills and scientific thinking. … Nora’s deep knowledge of science content and pedagogy coupled with her unyielding commitment to students has made a measurable impact on her students by ay of achievement and the development of self-confidence a love of learning,” he said.

McHugh started a “science of tie dye” program at Hall – that became an important year-end tradition that she’s now brought it to Conard. She teaches about the chemistry of tie dye and then engages students in the hands-on project of creating unique t-shirts. Interim Conard Principal Jocelyn Tamborello-Noble and the Conard staff planned to participate in the science of tie dye activity this year.

McHugh also formed a “chem for kids” collaborative partnership between high school and elementary school students, and outside the classroom has also been a Link Crew and Relay for Life advisor. She’s also an Irish step dance teacher and scholarship program chairperson, and was guest choreographer for Pops ‘N Jazz.

Before graduating from UConn, where she earned a BS in animal science, and Central Connecticut State University, where she earned her master’s degree, McHugh went all the way through West Hartford Public Schools, attending Charter Oak, King Philip Middle School, and Hall. “It’s a reward to come from the schools and give back to the schools,” she said.

The Teacher of the Year Committee includes 21 educators from across the district – one from each of the elementary schools and two each from the secondary schools.

“I also proud of our three finalists,” said Superintendent Paul Vicinus. He said all are excellent teachers, excellent people, and great representatives of the district. “Everyone here is a winner, and your students are the biggest winners.”

The other two finalists this year were Jill Dailey, the library media specialist at Duffy Elementary School and Kim Fine, a fifth grade teacher at Duffy Elementary School.

They are “all winners,” said Hadlock, and EJ Greenspan, co-president of the Foundation for West Hartford Public Schools, announced during the Google Meet that each of the finalists will receive a $500 grant from the Foundation for use in the 2024-2025 academic year.

Charter Oak International Academy Pre-K teacher Emily McMurray was the 2023 Teacher of the Year.

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