Janice Skene was named the 2022-2023 Teacher of the Year. Skene, a physical education and health teacher, has taught a multiple schools throughout the district over the last 35 years.
Described as “an incredibly passionate teacher with a huge heart,” Buttonball Lane Elementary health and physical education teacher Janice Skene last week was named Glastonbury Public Schools 2022-23 Teacher of the Year.
“It means so much,” said Skene, who is now her 36th year (35th in Glastonbury) of teaching. “Over the years, I have met a lot of awesome people and it was so nice to be appreciated.”
Skene was first told about the honor in June and had to keep it a secret before the news was officially announced to her friends and colleagues at the district’s convocation on Aug. 22.
During her 35 years in Glastonbury, Skene has taught at numerous schools, including Naubuc, Nayaug, Hopewell, Gideon Welles and (of course) Buttonball.
Skene “truly represents the best in Glastonbury Public Schools and the best in Connecticut teaching,” according to Superintendent of Schools Alan Bookman.
“She provides students with a safe learning environment where they can comfortably take appropriate risks,” added Bookman. “She teaches them how to work as a team toward a common goal. She helps them be proud of who they are and what they have achieved.”
Bookman also noted that the entire school community—administrators, teachers, students and families—seeks Skene out for her leadership, positive spirit, and skills.
Skene said being named teacher of the year is special for her for several reasons, including being a representative for the health and physical education teachers in the district.
“Health and physical education is so important to so many kids,” said Skene. “It is so important to our kids in so many ways, not just the physical fitness and wellness component, but so much is about the social and emotional connection.”
Skene added that she is in a unique position at the elementary level because she gets to connect with the students over a six-years period (from kindergarten through fifth grade).
Director of Health and Physical Education Jennifer Spring is impressed by Skene’s ability to motivate and inspire others. “She is such an incredibly passionate teacher with a huge heart,” said Spring. “And she is clearly in this for the kids.”
Skene grew up in Middletown and went to Middletown High School (MHS), where she starred on the basketball courts—later making the MHS Athletic Hall of Fame—before graduating and playing basketball at Southern Connecticut State University, where she would earn both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
After a year spent between Haddam-Killingworth and Portland high schools, Skene applied for a pair of teaching jobs in Glastonbury—one at the elementary level and the other at the secondary level.
She recalled hoping to get the secondary job because of her desire to coach, but she was offered the elementary gig; 35 years later, she said she wouldn't want it any other way.
Shortly after taking her first job in Glastonbury, she became a coach for the Glastonbury Special Olympics, which she called “her second family.”
“It’s such a big part of my life,” added Skene, who is also heavily involved with Unified Sports. “Things happen for a reason sometimes.”
In addition to her work with her school community, Skene has been an active member and leader in the Connecticut Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (CTAHPERD) for many years.
She later received an advanced graduate study certificate in curriculum design and instructional strategies from the University of New England and has also led numerous professional learning workshops across Connecticut.
She has also been the recipient of numerous teaching awards, including the Elementary and Middle School Principal’s Association Award in 2000 and the Friends of Glastonbury Youth (FOGY) Distinguished Service Award in 2004. She was also named the CTAHPERD Elementary Education Teacher of the Year in 2007.
After playing sports for so long, Skene admitted that it took her a while to transition from an athlete to a teacher. She said she still considered herself an athlete when she was hired by Glastonbury in 1988.
But her perspective soon changed.
“After all these years, I’m definitely a teacher now,” said Skene, who added that she always has a basketball, pickleball, volleyball, or some other sports equipment rolling around in the back of her car.
Throughout her multiple stops in Glastonbury, Skene said she has been amazed at how well the town provides the resources for students to excel.
“Glastonbury is really incredible,” stated Skene. “The bar is set really high in Glastonbury. The most important thing is that we have the tools to reach that bar and I am so appreciative of that.”
The appreciation is reciprocated and Buttonball Lane Principal Janet Balthazar noted that Skene is known for two phrases: “whatever you need” and “it’s all about the kids.”
“In the eyes of the students, she is famous,” added Balthazar. “When she walks down the hallway, you can hear little voices exclaim with joy and awe, ‘Look! It’s Miss Skene!’”
Balthazar also pointed out that Skene is equally respected by her colleagues.
Heather Guilmette, a first grade teacher at Buttonball, said of Skene, “She would do anything for the Buttonball community and truly goes above and beyond to support us.”
Skene noted that she is inspired by the Dr. Harvey Silver quote, “If they can’t learn the way you teach, then teach the way they learn.”
Because of this, she designs her lesson plans to support students with varied physical and mental abilities, interests, and experiences.
“It takes time to connect with 400 students in an elementary school, but it’s worth every minute,” she stated. “I just love seeing a child’s eyes light up when they feel seen and known or when they finally ‘get it’ and succeed with an activity. It’s that magical and meaningful moment that keeps teachers going.”
Now that she has conquered Glastonbury, Skene moves onto the Connecticut Teacher of the Year competition—where she has already been named a semifinalist!
According to Glastonbury schools, six out of its last eight teachers of the year have become semifinalists in the state competition (and one was named a finalist).
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin