Tony Mullen, National Teacher of the Year
Once in a while, dear reader, something happens that makes us all truly proud to be a resident of the Town of Greenwich. Arch Street teacher and former NYPD homicide detective Tony Mullen has been named the 2009 National Teacher of the Year, and addressed a group of about 100 students, colleagues, politicians, and well-wishers today at Julian Curtiss School, where the inclement weather had forced the proceedings indoors. Fresh from a black-tie gala in Washington and a Rose Garden ceremony at the White House, Tony told us that this was the event of the past week that meant the most to him, because he could share it with his students, fellow teachers, and the Greenwich community.
His low-key humor was captivating. He described the agony of waiting in the Roosevelt Room, with his Secret Service minders constantly counting down the minutes until his Oval Office meeting with the President, as though he weren't already nervous enough without their assistance. Then, just as he was ready for the big moment, they told him he was on hold for another ten minutes, as the President could not be located and was (they assumed) running late.
Actually, the President was right on schedule. He popped unexpectedly out of a side door, put his arm around Tony, and said it was nice to meet him. Leaving the Secret Service minders in their dust, the President himself escorted Tony to the Oval Office, where he acknowledged that this would be his first official Rose Garden ceremony. Not to be outdone, Tony admitted that it was his first, as well.
Tony told us that the teacher-student relationship is the most important aspect of education. Each student has his or her own backstory, and the teacher's job is to work with the students to help them "write a happy ending," to "radically transform their fractured lives." "Origin is not destiny," he reminded the students there, referring to them as "apprentice adults". Finally, as he reminded all of us, "I am the face" that represents all dedicated teachers everywhere, in every town and city across the country, and indeed across the world.
Tony himself will be spending the next year criss-crossing the country, speaking on behalf of the teaching profession. But he will be coming back to Greenwich regularly to keep tabs on his students, before he rejoins them full-time in the classroom the following year. The respect and affection his students have for him was quite evident at the ceremony; one young lady sang "To Sir, With Love" from the 1967 film of the same name. There was hardly a dry eye in the house.
Of course, we had to put up with the inane natterings of the ineffable Betty Sternberg, who seemed to regard Tony as her own personal triumph, since she had, as she reminded us more than once, been the one to pick him from the six local finalists. As usual, her natterings were more about herself than Tony, down to the choice Bettyism that epitomizes just how poorly qualified she is to have been the local Superintendent of Schools (at ruinous cost, both financial and educational) for the past three years. Today's prize blooper (just one of many, to be sure) was this:
"The students attributed him to saving their lives."
This woman is such an embarrassment! Thankfully, she has less than two months remaining in office, before she walks away with over a million dollars in salary and benefits for her multitude of disservices to the Town. Will she also be getting a pension, all the more to further our economic woes? Your scribe shudders at the possibility.
But we can't let an embarrassment like Betty ruin an otherwise wonderful occasion. Frankly, seeing Tony juxtaposed with her, it was clear to everyone in the room that he would have made a much better Superintendent than she has been. And if the Board of Education has any sense at all left in their heads, Tony's name should go on a short list of local candidates who could try to restore some sanity to the school system after the Betty Sternberg train wreck of the past three years.
How say you, gentle reader? Tony Mullen for Superintendent? Oh, sure, he probably doesn't meet the list of qualifications that the "experts" have drawn up. Which, some would say, is probably a positive thing. "He's only a teacher," one can hear the "experts" sniff. He is, however, the BEST high school teacher in America. The President says so, and more importantly, so do his students. Do you think Tony Mullen could whip the Greenwich school system back into the shape it used to be in its glory days? Your scribe, for one, doesn't have any doubt about it.
Let's hear it, folks: Tony Mullen for Superintendent of Schools!