By Taylor Shillam
Rita Roth, Borah Elementary School
“My favorite professor in college started his classes asking us every day what the most important thing about teaching is. The answer? People,” says Rita Roth, fourth- and fifth-grade looping teacher at Borah Elementary. “It has been my honor to work with the most incredible students. Not a day passes that I don’t laugh with them, learn from them, watch them achieve goals and overcome challenges.”
Rita was named Coeur d’Alene Public Schools’ Teacher of the Year in 2022-2023. She has been teaching for 14 years and says her favorite experiences have been the “millions of small moments” she cherishes.
“It is one student sharing his dyslexia story with confidence and courage as he explained that dyslexia has been both a struggle and a gift, and another student thanking [him] for the inspiration she found in his story,” Rita says. “For one student, it was finding her voice and asking for help when she was struggling with an academic concept. For another it was working tirelessly on a speech to get into Student Council and then being elected by his peers. For another student, it was finding his love for chess during Chess Club and going from not placing last year to getting first place this year.”
She says the small moments include the student who, at the beginning of the year, was embarrassed when he got an answer wrong and yelled in frustration but now reminds his peers that we learn more from our mistakes than we do from when we get the answer right the first time.
“It is the student who as a second-grader would hide in lockers and now as a fifth-grader stops when she sees second-graders hiding in lockers and calmly says, ‘I get it. I used to hide in lockers too, but I learned some better strategies. Can I walk you back to your class and help you learn them too?’” Rita says. “And they go with her, almost every time.”
In addition to moments cherished with her students, Rita takes pride in her team. “I get to work with the most incredible team at Borah who encourage, challenge and inspire me every day. The people are the best thing about teaching.”
Above all, Rita hopes her students know the impact they can make in life. "I hope my students learn that what we do and say matters, and that small acts of kindness make a huge difference in the world."