Joseph Pizzo, a 7th grade language arts teacher in Chester, has been selected as the 2020 National Educator of the Year, a top honor from the Association for Middle Level Education.
Pizzo, an integrated language arts teacher and co-director of drama at Black River Middle School, Chester, is to be honored in October.
The Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE) 2020 Educator of the Year Award, supported by the AMLE Foundation Fund, recognizes outstanding practitioners in middle level education—those who have made a significant impact on the lives of young adolescents through exemplary leadership, vision, and advocacy. The award will be presented as part of #AMLE20, the 47th Annual Conference for Middle Level Education, which is being held as a virtual professional learning experience, October 23-25.
“Teaching at the middle level takes a great deal of energy, patience, integrity, and flexibility, but the rewards are tremendous. We teachers make a great difference in the lives of our students, and our students make a great difference in our lives as well,” said Pizzo. In addition, Pizzo adds that “Receiving the AMLE 2020 Educator of the Year Award is a great honor, and I accept it on behalf of all of my outstanding, dedicated colleagues in middle level classrooms across our great nation.”
Pizzo promotes student engagement through meaningful experiences, particularly those that honor each student’s culture and understanding of the world. He encourages creativity in his classroom and promotes a sense of pride and accomplishment as he shares students’ work with local newspapers and community groups. Pizzo generously offers his time in support of other educators, whether at his school, at workshops, for state-level projects and initiatives, or as a volunteer for the many professional organizations he belongs to.
Pizzo was named the 2016 New Jersey Association for Middle Level Education (NJAMLE) Teacher of the Year,and is an executive board member of NJAMLE. He is part of the New Jersey Schools to Watch Review and Evaluation Core Team, has served on the board for the New Jersey Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), has served as a member of the NJDOE’s Council for Teaching and Learning and the Education Committee for Future Ready Schools, and is a member of the Digital Literacies Collaborative at Drew University (formerly at Fordham University).
An adjunct professor at Centenary University, he has also taught at College of Saint Elizabeth and Union County College and as a member of the NJ Autism Think Tank, Pizzo helps prepare future teachers and aspiring writers. He was inducted into the WWOR-TV Ch. 9 A+ for Teachers Hall of Fame on a show broadcast internationally. Pizzo received a grant from the Chester Education Foundation to have a published author and illustrator in residency at his school for a week to brainstorm book and story ideas with students, one of whom has written her own novel. He has recorded podcasts, written blogs, books, and poetry, made promotional and educational videos, and started an Edmodo group for language arts educators that generated a global following.
According to Black River Middle School Principal Andrew White, Pizzo “is kind, generous, and involved in all the students’ lives. Mr. Pizzo goes out of his way to mentor and work with struggling students as well as push those high caliber writers in his classroom. Mr. Pizzo provides support and opportunities for his students that are greatly appreciated by the teachers, families, and community of Chester.”
Nolan Cheng, a prior student of Pizzo’s, said, “I learned not just academics from him, but also just how important it is to be proactive in making other people’s lives around me better. I have been very inspired by just his ability to see the needs of both his students and those around him. It is because of him that I do so much in my community and that I am always aware of the needs of others around me.”
AMLE Chief Executive Officer Stephanie Auditore said, “We’re proud to honor Joseph Pizzo for his dedication to serving his students with respect for their individual needs at this critical time of life. Mr. Pizzo embodies the spirit of excellence in middle level education and is an example to all who aspire to have a positive impact on young adolescents.”