Rebecca Louise Vitelli said she wants her students to learn in an environment without stress and anxiety.

Rebecca Louise Vitelli was named Delaware’s 2020 Teacher of the Year Tuesday, Oct. 15. She is a pre-kindergarten teacher in the Colonial Early Education Program in New Castle.

2019 Teacher of the Year, Dana Bowe, is an elementary special education teacher from Seaford School District. She used her role to advocate for increasing inclusion for special education students.

“We must encourage inclusion with acceptance and kindness,” she said in her speech before Gov. John Carney announced her successor.

After accepting her award from Carney, Vitelli reflected on one powerful moment she had with a student.

The young boy was extremely nervous and anxious about coming to school, physically unable to step into the classroom. Vitelli said she worked with him to build his confidence and find ways to enjoy school.

When he came back to start kindergarten and stood outside his classroom, he looked up at his mom and said, ‘I can do this,’ Vitelli recalled.

“It was an honor to be a part of that child’s journey,” she said.

Vitelli was one of 20 teachers recognized at the award banquet at Dover Downs Hotel and Casino.

All nominees received a $2,000 state grant, and the winner was awarded $5,000 for her students’ education and $3,000 for personal use.

As each teacher was announced, a video tribute played. In the video, the teachers shared why they chose the career, and classroom footage played of each teacher working with their students.

Vitelli’s video showed her giving two little girls a dollop of shaving cream to touch, explaining that she wants her students to know that learning can be fun and even messy.

Although Vitelli had been nominated before, she was too early in her career to qualify as a Teacher of the Year candidate. Now in her fourth year as a teacher, she said she hopes to use this opportunity to grow in her career.

After being nominated by their schools or charter networks, each teacher completed a detailed online application, followed by a classroom observation and a recorded presentation. An independent panel of non-Department of Education judges selected the 2020 Delaware Teacher of the Year.

Vitelli will go on to be Delaware’s nominee in the national Teacher of the Year program. The national winner spends the following year advocating for teaching across the country.