Best Service Winner: Kyle Holden, Teacher

By Jay Braman, Jr.
When Kyle Holden got home the other day and switched on his answering machine he couldn’t believe his ears.
A message from the Catskill Mountain News informed the local Head Start teacher that he had been voted best teacher in the paper’s annual Best Service Awards contest.
The down-to-earth Holden, who also coaches the girls’ basketball and softball teams at Margaretville Central School, was shocked.
Kyle Holden, Arkville Head Start teacherKyle Holden, Arkville Head Start teacher
“It was a total surprise,” he said in a telephone interview on Thursday, “Not a soul told me anything. I had no idea anyone even voted for me.”
Both humbled and delighted, the lifelong Arkville resident used the circumstance as a chance to reflect on his career in education, a career that began back when he was a teenager.
“My older sister was a teacher back then and she used to come home and have me do things for her bulletin board. She would tell what she wanted and I would sit and do it with construction paper,” he said with faint chuckle. “That’s when it started.”
Now 46, Holden is still working with construction paper and other tools of the education trade as a teacher with the Arkville Heat Start, a federally funded pre-school program that serves about 30 families in the area.
He started there in 1993 after getting his Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education at SUNY Oneonta and before that, an Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education at SUNY Cobleskill.
Trying to understand how he won, Holden suspects that it might the parents and guardians of the Head Start kids.
“As a pre-school teacher I’m the first teacher their kids see,” he said. “I have a good rapport with them.”
After 21 years, he’s had that rapport with quite a lot of students. This year his classroom has 13 kids. He works with them alongside his co-teacher, Dori Buerge, whom he wishes was sharing the limelight with him with this service award because the two work so closely together. “We’re a great team,” he said.
It’s also likely that votes came from his work with the MCS girls’ basketball team, which he has coached since 2002, but sometimes it’s hard to tell the two jobs apart because as times marches on, Holden sees many a familiar face.
“In a lot of cases I see Head Start kids 10 years later,” he said fondly. “ A lot of them remember me, some don’t, but a lot them remember details, like telling me they remember coming into my classroom to play at the water table. It’s pretty neat.”
And perhaps a few votes came from the girls’ softball team, which he coached to four division titles starting in 2008. That winning streak ended last season, but there’s always the 2014 season coming up, he says enthusiastically.
So it’s hard to say exactly where the votes came from, especially when one considers the number of lives touched by Holden over the years.
Not just students he taught. Not just the ball players who shot swishes on the court or hit homers on the field, but perhaps their moms and dads, brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles. Maybe some of them, each with their own little memory about how Holden helped someone during his career, decided that now it is time for this unsung hero to gain some recognition.
But still, Holden has no idea. He’s just happy to be doing what it was that he decided to with his life all those years ago while making his sister’s bulletin boards for her.