Peter O'Sullivan's peers have selected him as 2011-12 Avon Teacher of the Year following his eight years of teaching Latin and Greek in Avon.
He will represent Avon at the state level in the pool of Connecticut Teacher of the Year candidates and will address his colleagues in the 2011-12 high school convocation.
Assistant Superintendent of Schools Jody Goeler announced the news to district staff in an e-mail last week and he, Superintendent of Schools Gary Mala and Avon High School Principal Jason Beaudin presented O'Sullivan with the award at the high school.
"I was very, very pleased and surprised," O'Sullivan said, not knowing what to expect when he was called down to the principal's office. "I keep on thinking, 'Why not him? Why not her?'"
After being nominated two years ago, O'Sullivan — who lives in Simsbury with his wife and three children — submitted an application, which was valid until this year.
He was greeted with "balloons and smiling faces" at an impromptu ceremony. The committee that reviews the applications for teacher of the year is made up of past recipients in Avon. O'Sulivan is the second Latin teacher to be named Teacher of the Year, and the other was the first ever Avon Teacher of the Year, he said.
The award gives him the opportunity to raise awareness about the Latin and Greek languages, which are not as commonly taught in the United States.
"Being Latin and Greek teachers, we need readers and people interested in the discipline, more people to learn about what we do," he said.
He said is honored to work with other Avon classical language teachers like Owen Patterson and Tyler Nye, and he likes how teaching Greek and Latin is "always looking ahead." For years, he said, Greek and Latin manuscripts were only available in hard copy, but now more digital versions are becoming available.
"I relish the readings. I relish the literature myself," O'Sullivan said when asked why he likes teaching classical languages.
Next year, the students are going to explore ancient manuscripts through online media with the help of professor Neil Smith, of the College of Holy Cross, who has archived classical manuscripts online in a format like Google Documents. The students are going to review original manuscripts by Homer (for the Greek students) and Jewish scholar Josephus (for the Latin students) and translate them into more modern text, he said.
O'Sullivan said he was happy he was named Teacher of the Year in 2011 because the graduating senior class means a lot to him.
"These students have been showing up to say hi and chat for four years," he said.
One of his standout students is senior Michael Russo, who won the Bean Scholarship from the College of the Holy Cross for Latin and Greek studies. O'Sullivan is impressed by all of his students and said they are half the reason he likes teaching.
"I have 'pinch me' moments. Are they really that good?" he said.
Goeler wrote in the e-mail that O'Sullivan's peers have said, "Peter does so much to bring his subject alive. His enthusiasm infects both students and colleagues. Students adore him and often take Latin and Greek simply to have him as their teacher.
"Peter is an individual of the greatest integrity and openness. He expects the same from his students and is ready to hold them to those high standards, realizing these dispositions are at least as important to convey as the subject he teaches. Peter's teaching provides his students a foundation for both their intellectual and well as their moral development," Goeler wrote in the e-mail.
Outside of academics, O'Sullivan is the coach for the high school developmental boys soccer team and also coaches soccer at Avon Middle School. His involvement in district athletic programs "has allowed many to see this outstanding educator as an energetic, knowledgeable and supportive coach as well," he continued.
Overall, O'Sullivan has taught classical languages for 17 years. He is the coordinator for the Avon High School language department, a member of the District Technology Council and co-advisor to the National Honor Society.