Kent teacher remains clam, in spite of receiving Ivar's award

Thursday, Northwood Middle School
Thursday, Northwood Middle School's Denise Khazoyan, right, sits with her student Milia Kostadinova, for a cup of chowder provided by Ivar's. Khazoyan is the recipient of Ivar's teacher of the year award, and Kostadinova was the student who nominated her.
— image credit: Charles Cortes, Kent Reporter

A Kent teacher and student were honored this past week when representatives from Ivar's selected Northwood Middle School math teacher Denise Khazoyan as their Teacher of the Year Grand Prize winner, based on an essay written by eighth-grader Milia Kostadinova.

Khazoyan was presented her award by the Ivar's Giant Clam at a surprise assembly Thursday at the school, which culminated in a special chowder lunch for her, Kostadinova and her fellow math students.

"I had no idea," Khazoyan said during the lunch, adding that her first suspicion was walking into the commons for the assembly. "I think the clam on the stage - I knew something was up."

Kostadinova said she wrote her essay about Khazoyan because she makes math fun.

"She's an amazing teacher," Kostadinova, 14, said. "I've had her for two years and learned so much."

"She has her own special way of teaching that always makes the new concept stick in your mind," Kostadinova wrote in her essay. "The way Mrs. Khazoyan explains and describes something makes it impossible for you to not understand!"

Sitting next to her teacher and eating a cup of Ivar's chowder, Kostadinova said she didn't think her essay would be chosen, but was proud to help honor her teacher.

"I wrote it from the heart and I meant it," she said.

Khazoyan said she was honored by the award, but even more so of Kostadinova's choice of her for the contest.

"I appreciate that," she said.

Khazoyan has taught a total of 12 years, the last seven in Kent, and said her goal is to "spread the joy of math" to her students.

"You have to make it interesting. You have to tie it to things they already know," she said. "You have to create an environment where they want to share the information they know."

Principal Colleen Nelson also sang Khazoyan's praises.

"I think it is well-deserved," Nelson said. "Denise is an outstanding math teacher."

According to Nelson and Kostadinova, the hardest part was keeping the award a secret since they found out a week ago.

"I wanted to tell somebody, but I held it back," said Kostadinova.

"The truth is we tried not to tell too many people," Nelson said, adding that the hardest part was coordinating the day, when Khazoyan's husband was hiding in the office, a giant clam was sneaking in the front door and chowder was being delivered at the back of the school.

Khazoyan said she was honored by the Teacher of the Year award, as well as the plaque and $250 check that came with it, but that it was never her goal.

"I teach just to watch and spread the joy of math," she said. "I teach for the kids. I don't do it for awards."

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