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Kolenich honored as Heritage’s ‘Teacher of the Year’

MADISON – When explaining her teaching philosophy, Kristen Kolenich holds the firm belief that teaching starts with the heart. Kolenich is 2020 “Teacher of the Year” at Heritage Elementary School.

“Relationships are key. It is so important to get to know a student’s heart, their passions and foster that connection,” Kolenich said. “Once you have established a positive relationship, you can find ways to tap into how they learn.”

The “Teacher of the Year” honor was special because Kolenich “works with the best teachers around. It was a huge honor to be recognized by my fellow teachers. If they think I am worthy of this honor, it is only because of their support and encouragement.”

Virtual learning “has challenged teachers to do something that has never been done before. There’s no precedent, and nothing could have prepared us for this challenge,” Kolenich said.

However, every day she was proud of Madison teachers (Heritage, in particular) and the ways that they approached the challenge head-on. “They constantly wanted to know how they could do the best job possible to continue to meet our students’ needs,” Kolenich said.

Kolenich’s leadership roles at Heritage include Teacher Lighthouse Team and sponsor of Heritage Student Lighthouse Team, along with sponsoring Destination Imagination and National Elementary Honor Society. During the past five years, she has served on district and state-level committees.

She graduated from Auburn University in 2005 and received a master’s degree in instructional leadership in 2018 from Samford University.

“I taught in Madison County for 10 years. Once my children were approaching school age, I knew I wanted us all to be a part of the Madison City Schools family,” Kolenich said. “I’ve had the privilege to work at Heritage elementary for the past five years. I’ve taught fifth and sixth grades, and last year was my first year as a reading coach.”

Her husband Daniel works for the Department of Defense. They have two children – 11-year-old Aubrey and 9-year-old Ben.

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