McKean High’s Stock named state’s Teacher of the Year

Kim Stock, an English/English learner teacher from McKean High in Red Clay, has been named Delaware’s 2021 Teacher of the Year. Ms. Stock and the 19 other nominees from across the state were honored through a virtual event this year. Ms. Stock accepted the recognition surrounded by family and colleagues in a small watch party Tuesday night. (Submitted photo)

WILMINGTON — Students deserve to learn about those who look like them — and see themselves “represented in what you learn and on the walls of where you learn,” said Kim Stock as she accepted the honor of Delaware’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.

Ms. Stock, an English/English learner teacher at McKean High, was surprised by Secretary of Education Susan Bunting during the annual ceremony Tuesday night.

“This is a big deal for a girl from Nebraska,” she told the group gathered together in the auditorium.

This year’s ceremony unfolded a bit differently than the many that have come before it. The 20 Teacher of the Year nominees were honored remotely, the ceremony streamed through Facebook and Youtube. Each teacher was featured in the presentation.

With the honor, Ms. Stock will receive a $5,000 grant to use for the educational benefit of her students, as well as a personal grant of $3,000. Additionally, all nominees will receive a $2,000 grant from the state.

In a phone call after the ceremony, she said that she was “overwhelmed and honored” by the recognition.

Ms. Stock, who hails from a family of teachers and nurses, was adopted by “parents have always taught us the gift of service.”

“My family was my first teacher in what it meant to love and accept those who do not look like you and the importance of listening, disagreeing and loving each other anyway,” she said. “We can all learn something from the Stock family.”

As she was growing up, she never saw herself in education.

“We didn’t know back then that it was important for students to be able to see themselves in their classroom through their curriculum or even just what they see on the walls, their teachers, people on TV,” she said.

It wasn’t until her junior year, in English class, that her teacher brought in works that broke from the typical literary canon, introducing Ms. Stock to the poet and writer Maya Angelou.

“When I read her book, I realized, ‘Oh my gosh, I can relate to this,’ just because of the perspective,” she said. “She spoke about racism, she spoke about discrimination and she spoke about trauma in ways that were so powerful. It was something that I could really relate to and it was so important. That’s when I realized it was really important what teachers do — what teachers teach, that really matters.”

Ms. Stock has been in education for 13 years. She has previously served as a middle school English teacher in Nebraska, a language arts tutor and writer, a GED language arts instructor for adult learners and the manager of a community-based learning center where she helped to increase the center’s enrollment by over 100%, according to a news release.

She came to Delaware for her husband’s work. While she never expected to raise her family in Delaware, let alone on the East Coast, she said they never left because they love it.

“Delaware is amazing,” she said in a phone interview. “I’m just so grateful.”

As the evening honored this year’s 20 teacher nominees — spanning from career and technical education, to agriculture, to math, to music — COVID-19 loomed large. The virus shuttered school buildings in March, and many are still primarily remote, with teachers having to adapt and rise to the challenges teaching through Zoom has brought.

“2020 has truly shown that high quality education involves the entire community,” said Rebecca Vitelli, Delaware’s 2020 Teacher of the Year from Colonial School District. “It takes a collaboration of many different resources, supports and individuals to ensure that children thrive.”

Ms. Stock said that teachers were thrust into a difficult situation last year.

“We have done the best that we can, learning either hybrid or virtually and, to be honest, we have learned these skills overnight,” she said. “And we’ve done it because of supporting each other and because, teachers, we put our students first. That is what we do and we have continued to do. And it has not always been easy.”

In addition to changing the format, she said that this is the time for teachers to evaluate what they teach and how they teach it, to make sure education is equitable.

“I do think it’s an exciting time to be a teacher because we do have the ability to change hearts and minds,” she said.

Regardless of how the format of the duties has changed this year, Ms. Stock noted that the work that English learner students and educators do matters. This year, she told viewers, “every educator and decision-maker in Delaware will understand why our [English learners] deserve equitable funding and every opportunity out there.”

“The time has come where the table has turned and we are asking you to be leaders because, quite frankly, you do so many things better than us adults,” she said in her acceptance speech. “We need your help in creating better schools that truly value each person, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion practice or not practice, age or immigration status. … Use your voice and tell us what you want and need. We value you and we vow to do better because you are worth it.”