NEW LONDON, Conn. (WTNH) — A fourth-grade educator at Nathan Hale Arts Magnet School was named the state’s teacher of the year on Tuesday.

The fourth and fifth graders at Nathan Hale Arts Magnet School thought they were going to a dance ensemble. Instead, they saw state leaders there to name Kiana Foster-Mauro the 2024 Connecticut Teacher of the Year.

“Everything I do would not be possible without this community,” Foster-Mauro said. “So I think it’s the community that surrounds me that makes me stronger.”

She’s known at the school for being kind and caring about her students.

“To dedicate one’s life to empowering minds and hearts that is magic,” Foster-Mauro said.

Zoe Reyes-Soto, a fifth grader, had Foster-Mauro as her teacher last year.

“I’m super excited, because she deserves this,” Reyes-Soto said. “She is the best teacher in the world/multiverse.”

Not only is Foster-Mauro’s work now known beyond the New London Public Schools, but she will also have an influence statewide because she will become part of a council which helps shape education throughout Connecticut.

“I am so excited to contribute to policy and practice reform which will celebrate the beautiful and diverse mosaic of identities that make up our state,” said Foster-Mauro.

She is now in the running for National Teacher of the Year.