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Hingham elementary school produces NHL’s Most Valuable Teacher of 2020

Fifth-grade teacher Joan Kilban (top right) got some unexpected good news from the Bruins' Charlie Coyle (bottom).
Fifth-grade teacher Joan Kilban (top right) got some unexpected good news from the Bruins' Charlie Coyle (bottom).handout

While the NHL surprised Joan Kilban, she surprised her students.

“They said they’d never seen a teacher cry before,” she said.

Kilban, a fifth-grade teacher from Weymouth, shed happy tears during a video call this week in which the NHL named her its Most Valuable Teacher of the Year, for teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Sponsor SAP gave her school, Plymouth River Elementary in Hingham, an unexpected $30,000 donation for classroom tech supplies.

Kilban’s favorite player, Charlie Coyle, popped up to announce the news.

“It was an honor,” Coyle said in a statement. “It has always been important to me to give back to this community. Joan is a true role model and I admire and appreciate everything she has done for the town of Hingham.”

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Kilban, reached by phone, said Coyle grew up a “couple streets over from me” in Weymouth.

“We have been following his career since he was a little boy," she said. "He was going places. You can’t help but want the very best for him.”

The “water works," she said, came on the call when her current students, who were ostensibly gathered for a virtual pep rally hosted by NHL Network’s Jamison Coyle (of Nashua, N.H.), took turns praising her.

Kilban, who uses Bruins examples to explain STEM concepts, has taught at Plymouth River for 24 years and went to school there.

During the five-month contest, Kilban said she heard from hundreds of her past students, some of whom she hadn’t spoken with in 20 years. To know she was a factor in their growth, she said, is worth more than any laptop or gadget she can bring to her classroom.

“Every teacher goes into the profession to make a difference in a child’s life,” she said. “To have that confirmed later on is the ultimate prize.”

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Matt Porter can be reached at matthew.porter@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyports