North Dakota State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler recently announced Scranton educator Dr. Karyn Chiapella as a finalist for 2020 ND Teacher of the Year. Chiapella was one of five North Dakota educators announced as finalists for the prestigious title. The 2020 ND Teacher of the Year will be selected September 30th.
By Frank Turner
The ND Teacher of the Year title was created to honor and recognize the contributions of the American classroom teacher. According to the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction, the National Teacher of the Year Program is “the oldest and most prestigious honors program to focus public attention on excellence in teaching.”
Chiapella covers many roles at Scranton Public School. In addition to being a special education teacher, Chiapella is an intervention specialist and advanced composition teacher.
Scranton Public School Superintendent John Pretzer nominated Chiapella for the title last spring. Pretzer considered it an honor that Chiapella was recognized as a finalist.
“She is definitely deserving of this type of recognition,” said Pretzer. “Dr. Chiapella wears a lot of hats in our school and does great in each area… She is always willing to get involved, and she always has the students’ interests in mind.”
This year is Chiapella’s eighth year at Scranton Public School. While at the school, Chiapella has started many impactful initiatives. Specifically, Chiapella helped organize school mentorship program where older highschool students have a chance to interact and work with younger students.
“We are empowering the big kids to be role models for the little kids,” she said.
Chiapella also started the initiative called “Mission: Possible” where students have a chance to send letters and donations to veterans and soldiers overseas.
“The community is incredible at donating for our soldiers,” she said. “It teaches the kids that the world is bigger than them and that we have to take care of one another.”
In addition to making broader change across the school with various initiatives, Chiapella also has taken large strides forward as a special education teacher. Chiapella said one of her biggest accomplishments over the years has been to change the perception of special education areas and to make the resource room a more welcoming and inclusive place.
“Oftentimes I’ve heard the resource room referred to as, ‘where the dumb kids go,’ where nobody wants to be. I have worked very hard over the years to change that vision of what the resource room is,” said Chiapella. “The resource room should be welcoming place for all kids, and I think we have accomplished that [at Scranton Public School.]”
Overall, Chiapella said being nominated as a finalist for 2020 ND Teacher of the Year was a great honor.
“I have worked with hundreds of teachers who are incredible and have inspired me,” said Chiapella, “and to think that I was chosen to be in the top five amongst all of those people is unbelievable and surreal.”