Kathy Duritza said Wednesday began as a "pretty mediocre" day. It was cloudy and cool outside the North Hills KinderCare Learning Center, where she's worked for seven years, teaching 3-year-olds.
But mediocre became magnificent around 10 a.m. as Kathy sat and listened, while the center's director began to read a story to the two dozen or so children assembled at their feet.
It was a story about a very special teacher, who had won a $10,000 prize. At the end of the story, Rebecca Stein, the center's director, turned the final page of the book to reveal the name of the prize-winning teacher, Kathy Duritza.
Watch the video to see her reaction. As the children and staff applauded, Duritza broke down in tears.
"Not in a million years would I thought it could happen to me, but it did," she said a few minutes later. "It's wonderful, and it's not because of me. It's because of all of the teachers here. It's a a big team effort."
The Knowledge Universe Early Childhood Educator Award recognizes teachers who demonstrate exceptional skills in teaching young children. Duritza was nominated by her peers and is the 21st teacher to receive the $10,000 award since the program began in 2008.
The Knowledge Universe is a family of companies, including KinderCare, which educate more than 32,000 children nationwide.
Kathy Duritza, husband Don, and their 13-year-old daughter live in the Millvale home where she grew up. She graduated from Vincentian High School, and then California University of Pennsylvania. She calls the children at KinderCare her "second family."
She is known for her creations in the classroom, such as an igloo for the children to play in.
"I've always loved to create, and I like to create things the children can actually play with, hands on. I just want to give them the opportunity to experience new things," she said.
"It's definitely a lot of time and effort, but when you see a child's face when you create something new, it's just so rewarding."