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Watch now: Meet the Richmond schools Teacher of the Year

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In just her sixth year of teaching, Richmond Public Schools eighth-grade science teacher Kiara Thompson, 31, was chosen as the school system’s Teacher of the Year for 2022.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, Superintendent Jason Kamras, members of the School Board and administrators broke the news to Thompson on Friday in her Thomas C. Boushall Middle School classroom. City leaders also held a surprise presentation for Thompson in the school media center.

A day earlier, Kamras visited Thompson’s class in recognition of being selected as one of the five finalists for the title, but she didn’t expect to be crowned the winner.

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“It means so much to me,” Thompson said. “I can’t even describe in words how excited and how overjoyed I am by it. I will cherish it forever.”

Over the course of the year, each school votes for its teacher of the year from a pool of candidates nominated by colleagues. Candidates send a district committee a portfolio detailing their work in their schools and reasons why they should be selected to receive the award.

Thompson grew up in Richmond’s East End, attended Henrico County Public Schools and graduated from Varina High School. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in public administration from Old Dominion University.

When Thompson decided she wanted to teach, she was determined to be a teacher at RPS. Her mother, Monique Thompson, said that was always the goal her daughter had in mind.

“She doesn’t want to teach anywhere else,” Thompson’s mother told the Richmond Times-Dispatch in an interview Friday. “I’m so proud of what she’s accomplished.”

Thompson’s passion for teaching has shown in the love she has for her students and the love they’ve shown toward her, Kamras told the audience Friday. When he visited her classroom, he knew straight away what an amazing teacher Thompson had become by the joy written on her students’ faces.

“I could tell from the minute I walked into your classroom yesterday, and we saw again today, that you love your students and they love you,” Kamras said to the audience of friends and faculty celebrating Thompson’s achievement. “At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.”

As humbled and appreciative as Thompson is for receiving this award, she said she’s also motivated to continue to provide a safe space for students to feel comfortable and grow confident.

As an educator, Thompson said she hopes to give all her students an equitable education that’s going to help them be successful not only in school but in life.

“They deal with so much each and every day that are things beyond their control,” Thompson said. “I’m just humbled and very appreciative of the fact that families trust us to educate their children, and I’m just very, very excited.”

Stoney said the past 2½ years have been challenging for RPS parents, students and most certainly its teachers as they continue to overcome the coronavirus pandemic.

Stoney said throughout that time, RPS has been dependent on its teachers to show up, despite their own individual circumstances.

“It has been a difficult last couple years with the pandemic and whatnot,” Stoney said. “For not only our children but also for our teachers as well, but they’ve shown up each and every day to make sure our children get the best education possible in the city limits.”

Thompson said giving students the tools they need to be successful is more than enough fuel to power her passion for teaching.

“It feels amazing to be there for my community, specifically to be able to give back and educate our students,” she said.

LGerman@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6340

Twitter: @Lyndon_G

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