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School psychologist named Norwich Free Academy teacher of the year

The Day - 9/22/2018

Sept. 22--NORWICH -- Often when a school district announces its teacher of the year, the recipient reacts with surprise and briefly questions if it's for real.

Not being a classroom teacher, Norwich Free Academy school psychologist Arikka Kalwara did just that recently when she was told she would be the NFA 2018-19 teacher of the year.

"I am deeply honored that I was recognized as teacher of the year," she told the NFA board of trustees Tuesday. "I may not be a traditional teacher in that sense, but I do feel that my profession does a lot of teaching, and I have come to love this job."

Lisa Wheeler, director of student services at NFA, said Kalwara works hard to keep both students and staff "buoyed up, tamped down and even keeled" and works closely with families when students are diagnosed with cognitive difficulties.

"Arikka carries on her main responsibilities with grace and professionalism," Wheeler told the trustees. "She is the perfect teacher of the year recipient, who can now represent her school psychologist colleagues who keep our students safe, supported and loved unconditionally."

Kalwara graduated from NFA in 1991 and earned her bachelor's degree in psychology and mental health from Southern Connecticut State University and her master's degree and certificate of advanced graduate study in school psychology from Northeastern University. She worked at Yale University'sChild Center for the Study of Learning and Attention and has held positions as a school psychologist in Marlborough, Mass., and Groton before becoming a school psychologist at NFA in 2003.

Kalwara described school psychologists as the "back-door helpers" who support student learning and growth from behind the scenes, making them ready for classroom learning.

Kalwara thanked the trustees for supporting her department, which has grown from "a few of us" to a staff of more than 10 people.

"There are some tough days, really tough days," she told the board, "and I want to thank you all at this table for allowing us to have more and more support during really difficult times. Our students come from very different backgrounds, very tough backgrounds and need a lot of help."

c.bessette@theday.com

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(c)2018 The Day (New London, Conn.)

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