ALTON — Elizabeth Lichtenberg, a fourth grade teacher at Alton Central School, who is the 2015 New Hampshire Teacher of the Year, says that she was overwhelmed when she found out at a school assembly yesterday that she had received the honor.
She was interviewed by the selection committee in August but says that she had completely put the honor out of her mind. ''When I didn't hear from anyone I thought that was over,'' said Lichtenberg, who had no idea that yesterday's assembly was being held in her honor.
Students cheered wildly when the award was announced and after the ceremony gathered around her to give her hugs and congratulations.
Lichtenberg has been a part of the Alton community for five years. The selection committee says it recognized her innate ability to develop authentic relationships with her students.
''Her generous and optimistic demeanor welcomes students into the learning environment where she prides herself on providing the individual guidance, motivation, and nurturing each student needs to find success. Elizabeth puts great pride in ensuring the students are having fun, but requires that her students take risks as she makes every effort to facilitate growth and change by working closely with both students and parents. Her efforts in the classroom extend beyond the classroom doors as she connects her community to her classroom through a rich student centered curriculum. Her commitment to her students and their families, her school, and her community are remarkable.'' the committee said in a written announcement of the award.
Lichtenberg, who prefers to be called Liz, wrote in her application, "Each day I work to create an environment where my students feel an ownership over their own learning, make connections, and become intrinsically motivated because they can see how what they are learning and doing makes a difference in their community."
Her former principal, Sydney Leggett, wrote in her letter of recommendation, "Elizabeth Lichtenberg is an exceptional teacher and leader in our community at Alton Central School who inspires children, other teachers, and parents to be and do their best."
Lichtenberg, who grew up in Columbus, Ohio, says that she was motivated to become a teacher by her fourth grade teacher, Julie Keifer, who helped develop her passion for writing and reading and was until recently her long-time pen pal.
She began her teaching career in San Diego, California, before moving to New Hampshire and taught in Portsmouth for two years before moving to Alton.
And, while San Diego is said to have an ideal climate, Lichtenberg says that she prefers New Hampshire. ''San Diego is too crowded. I like the open space here and the people are wonderful. Alton Central School is the most amazing school I've ever been in. There are lots of people here who do exactly the same things I do and are equally deserving of this award,'' said Lichtenberg.
She said that because Alton is so big and spread out over so much territory that the school plays a central role in town. ''The school is our community. It's the gathering place for everyone in town,'' says Lichtenberg.
This year is her first year as the Gifted, Talented and Enrichment teacher for Alton Central School and she says that one of the reasons she was considered for the Teacher of the Year award is her willingness to work with everyone.
She and her husband, Aaron, who is a farmer, operate the Winnipesaukee Woods Farm, and raise vegetables at the former John Rogers farm on Hoyt Road in Gilford.
''We farm about one and a half acres and sell our produce at the Thursday night Farmer's Market in Laconia.'' she says.
Lichtenberg becomes New Hampshire's candidate for National Teacher of the Year award. In early December, she and other finalists for the 2015 NH Teacher of the Year will be invited to a "Leadership in Education Banquet" to celebrate their accomplishments along with other distinguished educators in the state.
Hannaford Supermarkets partners with the Department of Education to sponsor the New Hampshire Teacher of the Year program.
CAPTION: teacher of year
Elizabeth Lichtenberg, a teacher at Alton Central School, has been named the 2015 New Ham[shire Teacher of the Year. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)