BRISTOL, Conn. (WTNH) – Connecticut named its Teacher of the Year for 2023 on Thursday.

The announcement was supposed to be a surprise, but word got out beforehand that Bristol Eastern High School science teacher, Carolyn Kielma, is the Connecticut Teacher of the Year.

“What an exhilaration,” Kielma said. “I do this whole self-defeating thing where, ‘I’m not going to get it. It’s going to be fine.’ And then, sure enough, it was a wonderful surprise.”

Kielma not only teaches some challenging biology classes but a heads-up college readiness program for the underprivileged.

“I love to teach, and I love my students,” Kielma said.

“She goes above and beyond for anybody,” said Keyshla Sanabria, a student. “She’s welcoming to anybody. She really does deserve this.”

Some of the students talked about her energy. In science, the transfer of energy is defined as a force.

“She exerts the force,” said Michael Higgins, BEHS Principal. “She is the force that gets students engaged, gets them to find learning enjoyable, fun, and worthwhile.”

Kielma says the secret to teaching is making a connection with each student.

“Then, you also understand their backgrounds and identifies, and you can really focus your lessons on each student for what they need,” she said.

Kielma said she wants to see more of that diversity reflected in the ranks of her fellow teachers. So, she encourages her students to think about becoming teachers one day.

Learn more about Connecticut’s Teacher of the Year Program here.