CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- After an incredibly difficult two years for all teachers, the smiling faces of students in Vivian Rivera-Maysonet’s classroom were a major payoff.
The Spanish Resource Teacher at Elizabeth Scott Elementary was named the Chesterfield County Teacher of the Year, on the first day of Teacher Appreciation Week nationally.
Rivara-Maysonet’s mother got to watch on, beaming, as her daughter received the award. She too works at Elizabeth Scott.
“Being able to receive this award and look her in the eyes, she’s with me, you know. It’s my mommy, she’s with me, she’s safe,” Rivera-Maysonet said.
In 2017, she moved from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria ravaged the island. Her mother joined the next year. River-Maysonet has been teaching at Elizabeth Scott since 2020, but for 19 years overall.
“I think that Virginia chose me. That’s why I’m here because I had to be here and look what’s happening now!” she said. “I believe that when a child is happy and enjoying him or herself, they’re learning. They won’t forget whatever happens in that moment.”
This moment comes after two-plus years of teacher strain, facing the challenges presented by the pandemic.
“It is Teacher Appreciation Week. It shouldn't be just a week, it should be the whole year after these last two years, right?” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, who visited Reynolds Community College and Armstrong High School.
Cardona said during the visit to Armstrong that the Richmond Teacher Residency program is an example of ways to better invest in quality teachers.
“We know the pandemic exacerbated the need to have more qualified teachers. This program here, which we’re really proud to say at the Department of Education to say we’re putting funding into that, invests in the community to get teachers that will be here,” Cardona said.
“I’m going to have to say it, I felt like a really cheap YouTuber right there. ‘Oh, si, si!’” Rivera-Maysonet said with a smile.
Seeing her back in the classroom shows why her peers praise her passion for the classroom. Rivera-Maysonet engages her students through conversation and practice phrasing with a certain beat to it. Her students Monday smiled and practiced Spanish with energy.
“It’s going far beyond these four walls that are surrounding us in the classroom. It’s teaching them about a world that’s out there,” she said. “Education is power. When you give education from the heart to a child, and the child is learning and is empowered by that knowledge, you’re saving a life. Teachers save lives every day with the work that we do.”
Rivera-Maysonet now moves on to compete in the Region 1 Teacher of the Year from the Virginia Department of Education.