DERRY — Pinkerton Academy social studies teacher Joseph Lee doesn’t even consider himself the best teacher in his own department. But yesterday, he received an honor much bigger than that.
Lee, 29, was named the 2014 New Hampshire Teacher of the Year by the state Department of Education.
“I’m still shaking,” Lee said after he was surprised with the award in front of 3,000 students at Pinkerton’s fall pep rally. “It’s a range of emotions. I’m overwhelmed.”
Lee was one of 36 teachers in the state nominated for the award.
“Comparing me to the other 35 teachers, I kind of wrote it off immediately,” Lee said. “I thought it would be a nice activity and then I’d go on to my regular job.”
Instead, Lee will represent New Hampshire as the state’s candidate for the National Teacher of the Year.
“He truly exemplifies what we want with education found in the classroom,” said Cindy Chagnon, a member of the state Board of Education.
In addition to being a social studies teacher, he is the head golf and ice hockey coach at Pinkerton. He also is the co-director of Pinkerton’s China Exchange program.
Lee was nominated in February by Beverly Lannan, Pinkerton’s Dean of Faculty. Lee received an application in the mail, and wrote a couple essays about his teaching methods.
“A teacher is a leader,” Lee wrote. “A teacher must recognize the unique characteristics and strengths of each student, and work to hone their strengths and overcome their challenges.”
Leadership is also the first thing that came to mind of Eric Byrne, a senior tri-captain on Pinkerton’s golf team.
“He’s just such a great leader,” Byrne said. “He is definitely someone who deserves this award.”
In August, Lee was named a semi-finalist, which led to more essays and interviews with the Department of Education. Department officials observed Lee at Pinkerton and interviewed colleagues, parents and students.