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Voice: March 2017
Like many high schools, East Stroudsburg High School sends a lot of students to top-tier colleges and universities.
So, a few years ago, social studies teacher Michael Healey asked himself, "Why aren't we using these kids as resources while they are here?"
For that and other projects, Healey was chosen as the Pennsylvania Council on the Social Studies Secondary Teacher of the Year.
His students help grassroots organizations that serve the East Stroudsburg and Monroe County communities. Their work includes raising canned goods and cold weather clothing for the East Stroudsburg Methodist Church; helping various soup kitchens; and aiding homeless veterans groups.
"We want the kids to see there is this connection to the community where they go to school," said Healey, who credits now retired East Stroudsburg School District Superintendent Sharon Laverdure for creating an environment that encourages staff and students to give back to the community. It was Laverdure who nominated him for the council's award.
The one activity Healey said he is most proud of came last spring when students with special needs were preparing for their annual spring gala.
"We partnered with them and raised $800 for their event," he said. "The students served as buddies, and they had a really great time."
In addition to his statewide award, Healey and his students were selected last spring to participate in the United Nations' Peace Bell Ceremony. After that, they attended a session of the UN General Assembly, and one of the students got to give a presentation on East Stroudsburg's projects.
"You try not to get starstruck but sitting in the audience is Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Douglas, Dr. Jane Goodall (a world-renowned primatologist), and Nobel laureates," Healey said.
The council's award is actually just the latest honor the 14-year veteran teacher has received.
Because of his involvement in the UN ASPIRE program, PSEA in 2013 awarded Healey its Award of Excellence for Human Rights in Educational Leadership. He is also a past recipient of the UN's CTAUN Best Practices Award for a project about HIV/AIDs awareness.
Healey said he views teaching as "a call to public service. Certainly, it is first and foremost about the students. But as I tell the students, we are at the centerpoint of the community and there are so many ways to give back."