From the deck of her backyard, where she was spending the Saturday morning knitting with a fellow teacher, Lori Peck heard the car horns honking. Then, she spotted the tiger. "He was the first person I saw," said Peck, referring to a Ridgefield High School staff member dressed as the school's mascot. "Right after that I saw two of my daughters and [Ridgefield High principal] Stacey Gross and all the other co-workers and the cars in the driveway." The surprise visit to Peck's house in Newtown on June 13 had a purpose: To tell Peck she had been chosen as the Ridgefield school district's Teacher of the Year. "I was selected the Teacher of the Year for Ridgefield High on May 22, so I knew I was in the running for the overall award," said Peck, a family and consumer science teacher at RHS. "But I didn't expect to win." Gross said Peck's honor was well deserved. "She is an incredible teacher and consistently demonstrates her commitment to the high school through her work on committees and at extracurricular events," Gross said about Peck, who has been teaching at Ridgefield High for 14 years. "Lori's driving force in all she does is to do what is best for students and for her colleagues." Peck has taught classes ranging from interior design to fashion to baking in the family and consumer science department, which was formerly known as home economics. She also teaches a popular human development class that counts as college credit through an affiliation with the University of Connecticut. Students who successfully complete the class receive a UConn transcript that can be applied at the college or transferred to many other schools. "I enjoy that class the most," Peck said. "It's a combination of psychology, sociology and biology and how all three of those connect. We go over human development, from birth to death. "I'm the only one who teaches it," Peck added. "This [school] year we had 80 students over four classes. Next year I am teaching five sections." Peck said one of her goals is getting to know her students. "My way of connecting is to walk around and talk to them while they are working on projects," she said. "That's a little tougher in the human development class, which has more discussions than projects, but I try to learn about the students through some of the assignments." "Lori is a highly skilled teacher," Gross said. "[She] skillfully motivates and inspires her students. She guides them toward discovering new interests and passions, as well as toward discovering capabilities they themselves often didn't realize they possess." Peck began teaching in 1984, working at a large, suburban high school in South Florida. From there she went to a K-8 school in an urban area of Cincinnati before relocating to Newtown with her husband and teaching for four years at Trumbull High School. "After that I got the job in Ridgefield," she said. "I'm glad it's worked out the way it has, for a number of reasons." "I have many wonderful memories of my time with Lori," said Gross, who is retiring at the end of June. "Two differing examples are her invaluable work in determining school programming on the RHS Leadership Team and her energetic participation as a primary dancer in the RHS "Can't Stop the Feeling" lip-sync video." During the surprise, backyard award ceremony - surreptitiously arranged by RHS history teacher Jennifer DeJulio and Peck's husband, Chad - Gross gave a brief congratulatory speech; several work colleagues held up balloons with the letters T.O.Y.; and Peck was presented with a home-made RPS (Ridgefield Public Schools) Teacher of the Year sash. The attendees wore masks and mostly followed social distancing protocol - with one notable exception. "I gave the Tiger mascot a hug," Peck said. "I figured it was OK because he was covered from head to toe in the costume."