By Chris Bavender
Maria Kussy can’t recall a time when she didn’t want to be a teacher. As a young child, she loved school and her elementary teachers.
“I do not come from a family of educators, but I do come from a very large extended family of hard workers who are always ready to help others, and that is who teachers are,” said Kussy, a teacher librarian at Brooks School Elementary. “As I began my undergraduate program at Marian College in 1996, I knew I was in the right place and that teaching was my calling. I have never once questioned if I was doing the right thing.”
Now, the long-time educator has been named Hamilton Southeastern Eastern’s Teacher of the Year for 2020. Something calls the distinction a “complete honor.”
“I have to thank my colleagues for not only nominating me, but also for their constant eagerness, passion and commitment to partner with me to support them and their students on a daily basis,” Kussy said. “Their dedication to empowering students strengthens the classroom-library partnership and has allowed me to be successful.”
Kussy’s 20 years in education includes one year as an instructional assistant and 16 years as a classroom teacher. She is in her third year as teacher librarian.
“When I took over the role of teacher librarian three years ago, I had underestimated how powerful it was going to be for me. I wear the teacher librarian hat as not only the caretaker of books, but as an avenue to empower and inspire children through literature,” she said. “I am also an advocate for diversity and equity through the books that I purchase for the library, books I recommend to student readers, books I select for other teachers and read alouds, and books used in the collaborations with other teachers.”
Kussy also has been named a top 10 finalist for the 2020 Indiana Teacher of the Year. The announcement of the state’s top teacher is expected by the end of September or the beginning of October. Her message for the state application centered on equity.
“My goal is to be a voice for equity and advocate for changing the way people interact with others,” she said. “Treat others how they want to be treated.”
Kussy said the entire process has allowed her to reflect on herself as an educator and “even just as an individual.”
“In some ways it has energized me in new ways to think beyond where I am now and look into so many new possibilities I had not seen before,” Kussy said. “As I continue on this journey as a top 10 finalist, I hope more people see the importance of books and those that are their fiercest advocates and caretakers, librarians.”