Kelsey Stoyanova, an eighth-grade teacher at Reeds Brook Middle School in Hampden, is named the 2022 Teacher of the Year at a surprise ceremony on Wednesday. Education Commissioner Pender Makin is at right. Credit: Lia Russell / BDN
Kelsey Stoyanova, who teaches eighth-grade language arts at Reeds Brook Middle School in Hampden is pictured in an undated photo. Credit: Courtesy of Maine Department of Education

An eighth-grade teacher at Reeds Brook Middle School in Hampden was named Maine’s Teacher of the Year for 2022 during a surprise ceremony held at the school Wednesday morning.

Kelsey Stoyanova teaches language arts at the middle school, which is part of Regional School Unit 22. Education Commissioner Pender Makin presented the award during the surprise ceremony.

Colleagues, education officials and former students honored a teacher who is passionate about instilling a love of learning and reading in her students and for championing social justice in her classroom. 

Nick Johnston said he never would have stood before an audience until Stoyanova encouraged him to overcome his fear of public speaking. “It just wasn’t something I would have done,” the now-high schooler said in his ceremony speech. 

“In Ms. Stoyanova’s classroom, you feel seen, you feel heard, you feel loved,” former student Roz O’Reilly said. 

Stoyanova made students look forward to going to school in the morning, even during a pandemic, Zoe Castrucci said. Stoyanova conducted a unit on social justice and current events that made the classroom a safe space to learn about sensitive topics without judgment. 

She also cared about students’ lives and showed respect and empathy, qualities that endeared her to students as a “mother figure,” Castrucci said.

“Your students share that you value their voice and present them with information in ways that allow them to form and feel confident to share their own opinions and ideas,” Cindy Soule, Maine’s 2021 Teacher of the Year, said. 

She compared Stoyanova to the bookish character Belle from “Beauty and the Beast,” noting that Stoyanova motivated normally shy students to participate in class. “Students who have never contributed in other academic settings, share ideas, boldly and confidently.” 

In her acceptance speech, Stoyanova said she strove to teach her students “the power of their voice.”  

Stoyanova was named one of three finalists for the award in August, along with one other teacher from the same district, Hilary Hoyt, who teaches at Leroy H. Smith School in Winterport.

“It speaks to the standard of excellence in our district,” RSU 22 Assistant Superintendent Christine Boone said. 

Stoyanova was named the 2021 Penobscot County Teacher of the Year in May.

Two students, Tessa Castrucci and Stella Fox, nominated Stoyanova for the honor. Tessa Castrucci called her “a teacher that listens to and understands her students while trying to create a space to encourage our interests and push us to be our very best.”

Stoyanova has worked on district efforts to revise the language arts curriculum, as RSU 22’s middle-level language arts curriculum leader. She also serves on the district’s equity in education committee, through which she designed a reading challenge for students and community members that highlighted works by authors from a variety of backgrounds and works that feature characters from a wide range of backgrounds.

Lia Russell

Lia Russell is a reporter on the city desk for the Bangor Daily News. Send tips to LRussell@bangordailynews.com.