Theresa Vara-Dannen, an English teacher at the University of High School of Science and Engineering in Hartford and an adjunct professor at the University of Hartford and the University of Connecticut, was recently named Poet-of-the-Year for 2014 by the New England Association of Teachers of English (NEATE). Vara-Dannen was crowned with a laurel wreath and presented with a plaque commemorating her literary achievement at NEATE’s annual conference in late October.
This year’s competition included a number of excellent poets, which makes this honor especially meaningful, noted Barbara A. Wahlberg, chair of NEATE’s Poet-of-the-Year award committee.
“The words of the judges show the excellence of poems and note her talent as a poet who uses the power of words to express her deepest thoughts,” wrote Wahlberg, in a letter announcing the honor to University High School Principal Matthew Folan.
“One judge said of her poem My Father, Fishing, ‘The images of torn gasping and broken fish was described so viscerally alongside being a family activity were very sharp . . . the poem gives a distinct picture of the kind of person the father is…’ and of On a Daughter’s Departure, ‘The poem simply renders such a deep sense of sadness…the imagery of autumn colors…made for a beautiful compact piece,’” Wahlberg noted.
“We trust that you will find a way to honor her in your school so that her colleagues and students will realize her gift and how fortunate they are to have such a good model of writing in their midst,” Wahlberg said to Folan.
In 2012, Vara-Dannen was named the Connecticut History Teacher of the Year by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.