Lenape Teacher of the Year connects with students, colleagues

Health and physical education teacher Mike Curcio incorporates life lessons into his classes.

Mike Curcio believes a high school education should go beyond what students read in a textbook.

A health and physical education teacher at Lenape High School, Curcio makes sure he incorporates life skills into the lessons he teaches to his freshmen and sophomore students.

Curcio’s ability to connect with students and work well with his colleagues recently earned him a prestigious honor when Lenape named him the 2019 Teacher of the Year.

Curcio credits several influential youth sports coaches with inspiring him to pursue a career in education. An avid athlete as a kid growing up in Medford, Curcio said Dick Brown and Al Canale were two coaches who had a lasting impact on him.

“I just always had good youth coaches and they were real positive role models,” Curcio said.

A graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College, Curcio has been a health and physical education teacher at Lenape for 26 years. He currently teaches freshman health and physical education and sophomore driver’s education and physical education and enjoys the impact he can have on students and their future.

“I try to incorporate life lessons,” Curcio said. “In health, you’re teaching them about life skills and it’s the same thing in driver’s ed.”

A big factor in Curcio being selected as Teacher of the Year was his work with teachers in other departments on interdisciplinary lessons. Interdisciplinary work consists of students completing assignments where they apply concepts or knowledge relating to different subject areas. In one example, Curcio talked about having students write a paper about a mock traffic accident. The paper is then edited by students in an English class and then sent back to the driver’s education students to see what edits were made.

Curcio also uses subjects such as math and not only incorporates them into his lessons, but adds a real-life scenario to them.

“We did a car buying lesson,” Curcio said. “They had to buy cars and see if it’s better to lease it or buy it, how much is it finance-wise.”

“They’re learning about buying a car and we’re teaching them about life skills, too,” he added.

Curcio’s involvement in driver’s education goes beyond the classroom as he also participates as an advisor for Lenape’s Driver’s Ed Club.

“About 10 years ago, we just came up with the idea that we were going to have a club about driving, about being a safe driver,” Curcio said. “We started putting up posters about safe driving. We’ll go to games and pass out pamphlets on safe driving. At back to school night, we’ll go and do it as well.”

Students involved in the club attend all sorts of school events ranging from athletic events to school plays to pass out information on safe driving. During club meetings, older students who already have their license will come in and speak to the club about their experiences on the road. Curcio feels it’s important for students to hear from their peers about the importance of safe driving.

Curcio also doesn’t take a lot of the credit for helping the Driver’s Ed Club, saying it was a combined effort of teachers from his department and students who made the club a success. He shares the same sentiment when talking about his Teacher of the Year award, saying he doesn’t feel like it’s an individual accomplishment.

“I was happy because I felt it was good for my department,” Curcio said. “I feel like it was a team award. Everyone in the department really works hard and we all work together. As an athlete and a coach, I also felt like I was just doing my part on the team. I was happy our department got recognized.”