Last Updated May 21, 2020 10:36 AM EDT
The 2020 National Teacher of the Year is Kansas preschool teacher Tabatha Rosproy, "CBS This Morning" announced Thursday. Mrs. Tabatha, as she's known to her students, runs a preschool program housed in a retirement village in Winfield, Kansas.
The unique learning environment is built on the interaction between the children and the grandparent volunteers. The partnership with the retirement village provides "the most joyful experience that you can imagine," Rosproy said on "CBS This Morning."
The students "get read to one-on-one every single day, which I couldn't do alone before. They are connected to people who are older than them, who have differing abilities, and it has built so much empathy in their hearts," she said.
Teaching empathy and how to understand your own emotions is something Rosproy prioritizes.
"I think that social emotional learning is one of the most important things that we can offer our students in preschool and at all ages. It is something that every person needs and something that I plan to advocate for as National Teacher of the Year," she said.
Her students, their parents and the volunteers praised Rosproy. "She loves everyone," said 5-year-old Easton Kent.
"She makes us be kind to everybody," 5-year-old Ashlynn Wall said.
Clyde Vasey, one of the grandparent volunteers, said Rosproy stands out from other teachers.
"I know that there are thousands of wonderful teachers in this country. I have never known one that showed all of the aspects of learning that she has shown — equality, love, respect," he said.
"She just pours her heart and soul into these little kiddos every day," said Barbara Trecek, a mother of one of Rosproy's students.
Even during the coronavirus pandemic, which has shut down schools, Rosproy "didn't skip a beat," said Elizabeth Wall, Ashlynn's mom. "She continued to teach and it was still very hands-on and interactive and fun."
"She created individualized sensory bins because that's all of their favorite part of the class," Trecek said. The bins, which were sent to the kids' homes, are typically filled with objects and materials to stimulate the senses.
Rosproy said during the pandemic, she has discovered that "learning can happen anywhere at any time."
"A lot of what I've done is one-on-one video calls with my students and their families, and I have been on a tractor ride, I have seen a kid on a horse, I've been jumping on a bed, I have been all around families' houses, inside closets, and we are doing learning at that time," she said.
She also offered some advice to parents who are struggling with remote learning during the pandemic.
"You are probably doing a lot of educational things already in your day," she said. "Remember the most important thing that you can do with your students and your kids is to connect with them through meaningful play and activities that they enjoy, ask them open-ended questions that extend their learning and make sure they have opportunities to read."