Tabatha Rosproy was moved to tears this morning with Gayle King, Anthony Mason, and Tony Dokoupil on “CBS This Morning,” but it had nothing to do with being on a major network or any of the morning TV Shows. The instantaneous and genuine emotion displayed by the Kansas preschool teacher wasn't even prompted by the news that she had just been named the 2020 National Teacher of the Year during the May 21 broadcast.

The reason “Mrs. Tabatha,” as she is called by her students, cried sincere tears of joy was that her students and their elderly mentors couldn't say enough good things about her. The “CBS This Morning” segment only lasted a few minutes, but every parent, child, and “grandma” or “grandpa” interviewed could have talked for hours about how Tabatha Rosproy had changed lives, old and young, forever.

Tabatha Rosproy joins the ranks of heroes with loving hearts

For many years, “CBS This Morning” has highlighted honors for Teacher of the Year and the deserving nominees. This year, Louisiana social studies teacher, Chris Dier, Ohio middle school language teacher, Leila Kubesch, and Montana high school science teacher, Linda Rost were in the honored class alongside Tabatha Rosproy.

The self-quarantining mandated in the wake of the coronavirus crisis has made the role of parents as teachers a true reality, and the appreciation and empathy for educators who selflessly put aside their own finances and needs to bring the most of themselves any every resource they can to enrich young minds have become elevated to new levels as learning is brought home to kitchen tables.

This interlude of recognition is most welcome and much deserved in the field of early childhood education. The most crucial learning in life occurs before the age of six, but far too often, budget cuts and shortages strike early learning classrooms much more dramatically than high school football programs.

To see Tabatha Rosproy at work molding our future leaders undoubtedly will inspire school districts and teachers in training to look differently at learning in the youngest years.

Rosproy insists that “social-emotional learning is one of the most important things we can offer to students in preschool and it all ages.” The new Teacher of the Year aims to make advocacy for social and emotional education a key element of her tenure, asserting that “it is something that every person needs” beyond the cognitive realm.

Her students and grandparent volunteers had no struggles in coming up with what they admired most in Tabatha Rosproy. “She asks good questions,” remarked one pupil. Another older mentor said that the love exchanged between the volunteer grandparents and the children were the most delightful and lasting legacy of the teacher. “She loved them, she respected them, she allowed them to be themselves,” echoed another “grandpa,” referring to both generations engaged in daily learning. “She puts her heart and soul into these kiddos every day,” commented one mom, Barbara Trecek, and kindness was a prominent theme before “Mrs. Tabatha” cried real tears.

Love and learning never stop for Tabatha Rosproy or her learners

While it's true that most preschool programs are not housed in senior retirement villages, like the one where Tabatha Rosproy and her students share cross-generational lessons every day, it's also true that learning and loving have no age limit, as long as human beings breathe. Tabatha's broad smile was in every glimpse of the teacher with her volunteers and kids. Just like countless other educators, she never let being home-based stop her from being a daily presence in their lives.

The intrepid educator “never missed a beat,” spoke parent Elizabeth Wall. The teacher continued to lead one-on-one online sessions with students, leading everything from crafts to counting, to storytimes.

Tabatha Rosproy also continued to provide and deliver one of the things that every student loved best in the classroom—individual sensory bins, with all kinds of things to feel, touch, hear, see, taste, and smell.

The “love and connection” between the older residents and the children evokes "empathy in their heart" and warmth that cannot be substituted, but it is also not forgotten. The gift of every single child being read to every day is one that will linger forever in the hearts and memories of both generations. Tabatha Rosproy explained that she would trust the guidance of her state health and education experts as to when to resume teaching in the classroom, and that she would be “ready to go” when that time comes.

“I have learned that learning can happen anyplace and anywhere, “ Rosproy relates. The pandemic conditions have allowed her to teach and see learning happen “from the back of a horse, on a tractor or jumping on a bed,” and seeing more inside closets than she ever thought possible.

Parents need grace, says Tabatha Rosproy

“Give yourself some grace,” Tabatha Rosproy counsels parents who may feel that they are barely keeping their heads above water, much less the kids on track, during what the teacher deems as “an emergency situation.”

Rosproy encourages parents to “breathe” just as she would lead her students in a stressful situation. Simply engaging in meaningful play, accomplishing daily routines, and “asking lots of open-ended questions” (Ex: “How did you decide to use those blocks to build the bridge?”).

Simple strategies keep learning and imagination growing. She also adds that “opportunities to read” are vitally important.

One of the senior residents who engages with the students of Tabatha Rosproy every day described how he most valued the “empathy, love, and respect” exhibited through her classroom. Especially in these times, this teacher and those lessons are invaluable for every age, every family, and every person.

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