It’s a Friday night. You and your friend just got home from dinner and are chatting on the couch about an idea for a new broadcast segment for your journalism class. I know, it’s hard to believe. Two high school students talking about school on a Friday night? How strange.
Filled with enthusiasm for this new project, you can’t help but message your teacher and share with him your idea. Instead of simply responding with a, “Cool, we’ll talk about it Monday,” this teacher picks up the phone to help develop your idea. In what seems like no time at all, the conference call reads 10:59 p.m. and, at this point, you have pages of notes and a Google Document with all the details for the first “Hawk Headlines Roundtable.”
Although, this anecdote may seem far-fetched and fictional, it actually happened. And this dedicated and encouraging teacher just happened to be Mr. James Amato.
Amato is recognized around Woodland Regional High School and across the region as an always present outlet of support and guidance. He is not only a teacher, but also a coach, advisor, manager, and mentor. For his continued effort and commitment to excellence, Amato has been named the 2018 Regional School District #16 Teacher of the Year.
The Teacher of the Year is chosen based on the following criteria as outlined on the nomination form: the teacher’s knowledge of the subject taught, his/her superior ability to teach and communicate, and collaboration with staff and students. To achieve this recognition, a teacher is nominated by students, staff, and parents or community members. A decision is then made by a committee of volunteers representing the elementary, middle school and high school.
As a member of Hawk Headlines Journalism, the Woodland Volleyball Team, and a former English student of Mr. Amato’s, I can personally attest to the superior commitment Amato has to his job. Whenever I approach Amato with a new idea, he encourages me to take action and takes the necessary steps to ensure I am confident in doing so.
He also pushes me to do things outside of my comfort zone such as talking to distinguished community members or taking on a leadership position. His answer to a proposal is always “yes,” as long as I am willing to put in the work to accomplish the desired task. Tina Vlamis, Journalism student and Woodland Junior expands upon this observation and commends Amato for his consistent support.
“Whenever students approach Mr. Amato with a far-fetched idea or plan, he never shuts them down. He is one of the only people I see who tells kids how they can accomplish something, instead of telling them the reasons they can’t,” said Vlamis.
Amato’s impact certainly extends beyond Journalism to the students, staff, and community, of Region 16 as well. Amato is the head coach of the Girls Volleyball Team at Woodland and has dedicated much of his time into coaching his team to victory.
As a senior who aspires to continue to play volleyball in college, Mckenna Cronin is grateful for Amato’s encouragement and his role in developing her confidence on the court. She notes that after being pulled up to play at the varsity level, Amato took the time to focus on her control and approach instead of just the power in her hitting.
“He didn’t care if I screwed up,” said Cronin. “All he cared about was my confidence which helped me evolve every time I stepped on the court.”
Senior Lindsey Gabianelli, also a member of the Woodland Volleyball Team and a member of Amato’s advisory for the past four years. She was not surprised in the slightest to see Amato achieve this recognition.
“There is not a thing this man can’t do,” said Gabianelli. “Whether it’s on the court, in the classroom, or on a casual Sunday afternoon, he will always be there with great advice or just a helping hand. No one better fits that title than he does.”
Woodland Principal Kurt Ogren adds that Amato is also appreciated throughout the region for his expertise with technology and has been instrumental in the success of the One-to-One Chromebook Initiative and with the use of Schoology.
“Mr. Amato is a teacher-leader and a ‘go to person’ for many of his colleagues if they have questions regarding technology,” said Ogren. “He truly wears many hats, and he wears them well.”
Aside from his extensive extracurricular involvement, Amato is first and foremost being recognized by the students, staff, and administration at Woodland for being an excellent teacher. Ogren comments that Amato is an engaging classroom teacher who easily develops positive relationships with his students.
“Mr. Amato thinks ‘outside of the box’ on a regular basis and challenges his students with rigorous assignments,” said Ogren. “Ultimately, Mr. Amato’s students display an incredible amount of growth and they leave him with real world skills and many leave with a career pathway.”
On a personal note, Amato has been invaluable in my development as a student, volleyball player, and journalist. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from such a dedicated teacher and motivational coach. It has been an unforgettable learning experience to work alongside Amato as Managing Editor of Hawk Headlines Journalism. Under his guidance, I have realized my passion for journalism and he has helped me develop confidence in the pursuit of my dream. I am incredibly honored to publish my last article in recognition of Mr. James Amato.
Teacher of the Year is positively an achievement to be proud of. But, in true Amato fashion, I have to ask– what’s next?