HOWELL – One of Howell’s very own has won the coveted title of Monmouth County’s Teacher of the Year.
Todd Curtis, history teacher at Howell High School, was recently named Teacher of the Year for the county. Those who are eligible for the county title must first be chosen as their Teacher of the Year for their individual school.
Curtis, who is entering his 15th year with the school, noted that upon the news of his win, he was surprised; not only at the win, but at the delivery as well.
“There are so many great teachers in our area, so when I filled out the application, I didn’t think I would win,” he said. “Then one day I was teaching my US History Class and in walk my superintendent, principal and a man I didn’t recognize that turned out to be the executive county superintendent,” to deliver the news.
Governor Phil Murphy and the NJ Department of Education (NJDOE) announced the county winners in August. These 21 individuals were honored at a ceremony hosted at the Jackson Memorial High School.
“Individual schools are encouraged to identify educators for the Governor’s Educator of the Year Program to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of their outstanding teachers…Panels representing a cross-section of administrators, teachers, parents and members of county education associations select each County Teacher of the Year,” stated the NJDOE in a press release.
While unsure of the criteria for choosing the number one teacher, Curtis believes that his role in the school’s community as his leadership qualities helped him achieve this title.
“For many years I was one of the teachers of our Peer Leadership program which works to improve school culture through peer to peer education around school issues such as bullying, social media etiquette, and building bridges between different groups of students,” Curtis explained. “I also played a role as a teacher leader who facilitated collaboration among colleagues and provided training in educational technology.”
Interestingly, it was one of Curtis’ former students turned colleague that nominated him for the award. He was her 9th grade World History teacher during his very first year at HHS and now they are colleagues, friends even, in the Social Studies Department.
“It’s so gratifying to see influence and relationships carry on long after the school year ends,” he said.”
Aside from his community engagement and leadership tendencies, Curtis utilizes a respectful and encouraging philosophy in the classroom which has also contributed to his achievements.
“I also worked very hard to make the content relevant by connecting it to the world today. On a more personal level, I always appreciate those teachable moments when you can communicate a life lesson to a class or come alongside a student who’s struggling and help them through it,” he said.
The next step for Curtis would be NJ’s Teacher of the Year. Unfortunately he was not selected as one of the six finalists to appear before a panel of judges for an interview for this title. However, Curtis remains grateful for his county win.
“I have been so humbled because there are so many teachers I know who deserve an award like this. And I’m also deeply appreciative to all the colleagues and students I worked with over the last 20 years who challenged me to be a little bit better every day,” Curtis emphasized.