For the Connecticut River Academy (CTRA), an early college and environmentally-minded high school located on Goodwin College’s campus, innovative teaching styles and courses centered on community involvement are the norm.
The high school, which supplies each of its students with a MacBook Air to provide access to the creative power of a personal computer, strives to constantly be at the cutting edge — and that effort is best reflected in the dedicated teaching staff. On May 29, the Connecticut River Academy named social studies teacher Tony Roy as the CTRA Teacher of the Year at their annual school celebration. Roy was a founding staff member of the school, and has been teaching there for five years. “It’s humbling. There are a lot of other great educators who work here, and I think it could have been anyone else because everyone works really hard here,” said Roy about the honor.
Nominated for the award by his fellow teachers, Roy is known by students and teachers alike as a force to be reckoned with. He designed and taught curricula for classes like Civics, Food Systems, Social Justice, and Gender Studies, classes that have been wildly popular with students and often involve fieldwork along the Connecticut River. Roy also works to bring the community action and involvement outside of the classroom.
Since CTRA’s founding five years ago, Roy has supervised the CTRA Activists. The club, Roy explained, focuses on helping the community as well as addressing social justice issues within the high school environment. As a group, they participated in statewide events like Rebuilding Together and the Walk Against Hunger for all five years. Last year, the school raised about $1,400 for the Walk Against Hunger and the club plans to continue the tradition.
The club’s first event on the school campus was a Mix it Up at Lunch Day in 2010, where students were encouraged to sit with people they had never eaten lunch with before and make new friends. This style of diversifying the student population expanded into more serious issues like gender inequality in the student environment, which is explored through a program named GirlCott. The focus of GirlCott shifts every year — past topics have included the makeup industry to domestic violence — and culminates in a schoolwide assembly or show.
Despite mentoring the club through all of these programs, Roy does not claim to be the driving force behind it. “I think my role is that of a coach, someone who is there for support and guidance and sometimes a little bit of boosting. I think that same kind of thing goes into my classroom as well,” Roy explained. He mentioned that this style of teaching is embraced by a growing number of teachers in Connecticut, not just those at CTRA.
However, Roy explained that he did not think he could have achieved all of this on his own. He made sure to mention the other people he felt made his success possible, thanking them for their support. “Without my other colleagues in my department, who all worked together to build this great curriculum; without my wife, who is a major activist in this area and inspires me every day, this wouldn’t be possible,” he said.