Standing in the middle of Hall High School’s gymnasium Tuesday morning, English teacher Anna Capobianco thought she was keeping an eye on students during an assembly highlighting the school’s human rights day programs.
She was wrong.
Capobianco was the reason the assembly was called — the Milken Family Foundation awarded her the 2017 Educator Award and a $25,000 check. She is the only educator in Connecticut to receive the distinction this year.
Surrounded by students, other teachers, West Hartford Public Schools staff, and local and state elected officials, as well as Department of Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell, Capobianco said she was humbled and thanked her colleagues and students.
“I was totally shocked,” Capobianco told reporters after receiving the award. “I really love what I do and I feel that everyday I work to inspire students and fight for them and advocate for them and think about, not just how they can learn skills and read books but how they can be better people and make our world a better place.”
As part of the award recognition, Capobianco, 33, will join the other recipients in Washington, D.C., next March to work on initiatives aimed at improving education across the country.
“I love learning from colleagues, from other teachers, so I am very excited to hear what they have to say and learn what they’re doing in their schools that make them so amazing, and hopefully be able to apply that to strengthen our own school and our own community,” Capobianco said.
She said she’s not sure what she will do with the $25,000 award money, but hopes to use it to “inspire other educators” or build a charity or foundation. “I definitely want to pay it forward in some way,” she said.
A Connecticut native who grew up in Norwich, Capobianco has lived in West Hartford for the past 10 years.
During her 11 years as a teacher, Capobianco has taught in Wallingford and at West Hartford’s King Philip Middle School and Hall High School, where she has taught English the last six years. She now teaches American literature, honors English and the Advanced Placement seminar class.
Capobianco said she tries to incorporate a “real-world element” into her teaching. Capobianco’s approach through the use of nonfiction Fridays stood out to the Milken Family Foundation.
Jane Foley, senior vice president of the Milken Educator Awards and Milken Family Foundation, said those nonfiction Fridays provide opportunities for students to bring in different types of articles and content and analyze. Foley, describing Capobianco as an “unsung hero,” said her work with a pilot AP seminar — the first in the state — stood out.
“We believe she will be a leader in education for decades to come,” Foley said. “She has demonstrated great leadership in her school at the district, she’s been on state committees.”