Stephen Landry, a math teacher at Appoquinimink High School, will now represent the school district in the Delaware Teacher of the Year competition.

The Appoquinimink School District Teacher of the Year said he wakes up every day thinking about three things: his family, his students, and how to give a child a world-class education.

Stephen Landry, a math teacher at Appoquinimink High School, was honored by the district at a banquet in April which included recognition of all 16 building-level Teacher of the Year winners, followed by the announcement of the District Teacher of the Year for 2019-20.

“I just wanted to thank the district and AHS for taking a chance on me. The Appoquinimink School District gives students the ability to pursue their dreams, and though I was not a student in the district, they also gave me that opportunity,” Landry said. “A lesser-known fact is that I was hired through the Alternative Route to Certification program. I had completed all of my master’s level classes, but could not quit my job to student teach, because I was the only means of income for my family. My wife had quit her job as a teacher to stay at home and raise our children. AHS took a chance on me and hired me, which allowed me to complete my student teaching obligation while being employed. For that, my family and I are forever grateful.”

Landry has been teaching for nine years, all at Appo High. He earned his bachelor’s degree in human services and education from the University of Delaware and his master’s degree in secondary teaching from Wilmington University. He and wife Kathleen have been married for 13 years and have three children: Zach, 11; Mackenzie, 9; and Paige, 6. They live in Middletown and all three children attend district schools.

After being honored as the District Teacher of the Year, Landry responded to questions about his career and what he loves about teaching.

What inspired you to enter the field?

I always had a passion for working with youth, going as far back as middle school when I worked sports camps as a counselor. I had a math teacher in high school, Raja Abou-Rahme, who really showed me what teaching could be. He brought education to life and is really the person that inspired me to become a teacher.

What keeps you passionate about the job?

That’s easy – it’s the kids. Each student comes into a classroom with their own story and their own thoughts. My job is to find out what those are so I can relate to them, to help them relate to math. I love seeing them in the hallways and making personal connections. I believe those personal connections are what make learning and the classroom fun.

How do you make math engaging for your students?

I try to make math as real as I can. When students don’t see value in what they are doing, they think it is just a process. I try to bring in real world examples and show them how math can be seen in everyday life. That is how you get them hooked. I also try to keep them moving around and collaborating with their peers as much as possible. This helps foster mathematical discussion.

How do you ensure that your students are connected to the world around them?

You can see mathematics all around you, in the real world, every day. Bringing those real life examples into the classroom helps students relate to the math. This is one of the reasons I enjoy teaching our Integrated Mathematics I course. There are so many real life examples of needing to solve equations, interpret data, and use probability to simulate events, and those are major points of emphasis in that course.

Are you involved in any extra-curricular or co-curricular activities?

I have assisted with several clubs and organizations in my nine years at AHS, but the ones I have spent the most time with are the softball and football programs. I have assisted the softball team on a day-in, day-out basis for the last seven years as a volunteer. There I attend practices, games, help with fundraisers and basically do whatever the team needs. I assist the football program on game days and with some more of the behind-the-scenes work that needs to be completed. Both teams are coming off successful seasons. In 2018, our softball team was the state runner-up and our football team enjoyed their first Division 1 playoff appearance.

Any words of advice for the Class of 2019?

Find your passion and pursue it. I started my professional life working for a bank, but found it unsatisfying. Once I discovered my true calling was teaching, I focused on doing what it took to be successful. It wasn’t always easy, but it’s a decision I’m thankful for every day. Educating young people brings me incredible happiness and satisfaction.

I encourage students to pursue their goals with a fierce determination and overcome any challenges or obstacles in their way. The next few years will be extremely influential to the rest of their lives, whether they are headed to college, studying a trade, entering the military, or starting in the workforce. Whatever those next steps may be, be true to yourself and pursue your passion.

What is the single most important message you have for teachers and the community about education?

My message to educators, parents and the public is to get involved. As an educator, some of my fondest memories have been non-classroom related. Seeing the students at school events, coaching athletes, assisting with a club – all of these things show students you care. The same is true of parents and the public. The more involved we are in coming together to collaborate for our students, the better the educational experience will be for everyone. “It takes a village” to help raise our youth. By us all working together, we can ensure a wonderful future for our students and ourselves.

In October, Landry will join Teacher of the Year winners from public school districts and charter schools around the state to compete for the title of Delaware’s Teacher of the Year.