Ann Rigney\’s Ohio Teacher of the Year Acceptance Speech 4-26-2013

Thank you to everyone involved.  I am most grateful.  I was completely surprised by the announcement that I was the winner because I didn\’t even know that I had been nominated.

When a teacher from our preschool won this award a few years ago, she wet her pants.  I didn\’t wet my pants, but I did have to sit down suddenly.  They called me out of the classroom to receive a special phone call.  I couldn\’t even understand what I was told on the phone because I was so distracted by the sight of my husband, fellow teachers, retired teachers and director surrounding me with balloons and cameras.

I\’m extremely honored to receive this award.  I am representing the many creative and wonderful preschool teachers, past and present, at the School for Young Children and also the many excellent teachers statewide who work with young children.  But this award is especially meaningful because it honors a school I\’ve devoted my life to — the School for Young Children and its play-based philosophy.

At the School for Young Children, we know that kids need time and space for free play without teachers telling them what to do.  That wrestling matches in the classroom are OK.  That boys can wear princess dresses.  That kids can paint their arms and feet purple.  This type of play helps kids develop socially and emotionally.  That\’s the core of our preschool program, and it has remained strong for the past 43 years, despite many national swings of the pendulum.

The School for Young Children was started in 1969 by two forward-thinking women.  It has made a profound difference in my life.  When I first encountered the preschool I was a struggling new parent.  I felt uncomfortable with my children\’s feelings, unless they were happy.  I soaked up knowledge from mentors at the School for Young Children, became a teacher, and stayed.  Forty years later, I am still learning.

I feel so lucky to have found this very supportive and loving community of teachers and parents.  Both my son and daughter attended the preschool and they are here tonight.  Both my children are writers, and my daughter felt so strongly about the School for Young Children that she wrote the book It\’s OK Not to Share, which summarizes its philosophy.

There are a lot of expectations that pressure young children these days.  When in doubt, trust your own instincts; trust your children\’s play ideas, and Let Kids Play!  Thank you.

Ann Rigney

Ohio Teacher of the Year