Kimberly Hand has always enjoyed working with children, even in her early days growing up in rural Michigan. “I enjoyed watching them grow and being motivated to learn,” she said. “That’s what I wanted to keep seeing.”
Hand, who is deaf, became the first teacher in her family. She has been at it for 14 years; the last 10 with the New Mexico School for the Deaf. On Monday afternoon, the school and Partners in Education honored Hand with a Teachers Who Inspire award during a brief assembly in the school gym.
School superintendent Ronald Stern said the award “puts the New Mexico School for the Deaf on the map.” In her brief acceptance speech, Hand said her students, her peers, and her friends all play a role in her success as a teacher.
Hand is credited with using resources from outside the classroom in her teaching. For instance, when Hand discovered that some of her students were interested in studying veterinary medicine, she contacted the mother of a former student who runs a mobile vet clinic and invited her to the classroom for some hands-on learning.
Hand said she earned her teaching degree at the federally chartered Gallaudet University for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in Washington, D.C. She taught for four years at the Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind before relocating to New Mexico 10 years ago with her husband, Gary, who also teaches at the school. The couple have two children who attend the school for the deaf — Lindsay, who is in the fifth grade, and Dustin, who is in the third grade.
Hand has been teaching early childhood education at the school since January 2010. Many of her pre-K students came up to hug her after the award was announced. “I’m speechless, really,” Hand said several times.
Scott Mohan, early childhood/elementary school principal, and others applauded Hand for her ability to connect with children in the classroom. Hand noted that she and Mohan were supposed to go over her annual evaluation this week. But, she suggested to him, perhaps this Teachers Who Inspire award eliminates any need to have such a meeting.
Partners in Education, a local nonprofit that partners with schools to support teachers, has presented this award for 21 years. Recipients are nominated by their peers — usually other educators working in the same school — and receive a glass sculpture of an apple and a check for $1,000. The anonymous donors who provide the money for the awards emphasize that they want the teachers to spend that $1,000 on themselves, and not on classroom needs.
Hand, who is the seventh and last of the Teachers Who Inspire for this school year, said she may apply the $1,000 toward roughly $3,000 needed to attend a professional-development program in Italy this summer. “That’s not spending it on my classroom, is it?” Hand asked.
This is the last week of school for The New Mexico School for the Deaf, which graduates about 15 seniors at 10 a.m. Friday, June 7 in the James A. Little Theater on campus.