Conn. Top Teach Goes for National Title

A Greenwich teacher is waiting to hear if he’s the top teacher in the country.

Anthony Mullen, who teaches ninth through twelfth grade Special Education at ARCH school in Greenwich, is one of four finalists.

Since 2002, he has worked at ARCH school, an alternative high school for Greenwich students. Mullen is credited with introducing some new courses to the school including forensics, electronics, carpentry and horticulture.
Teaching is a second career for Mullen. For 20 years, he served the New York Police Department, never forgetting his dream to teach. 
Mullen parents wanted their son to be the first generation go to college. Growing up, he was reminded of that daily by a small metal trashcan in his bedroom that was emblazoned with college emblem, he wrote in his award application.

Mullen’s parents died when he was young, so instead of college, he went to work in a factory.

“The monotony of standing along an assembly line provided much time for self-reflection. I wanted to become a teacher but could not afford to attend college. I needed a better paying job so I applied for the many "good union jobs" NYC offered to hard-working people with few skills and a high school diploma,” he wrote.

So, he wound up in the New York Police Department, where he served 20 years in the NYPD, rising from the rank of police officer to captain. In the department, he worked with troubled teenagers who were destined for prison unless they received the a good education and positive adult role models, he said.

“But I never forgot my desire and obligation to be the first in my family to receive a college education and to become a teacher,” he wrote. He attended Long Island University and got his degree.

Mullen obtained his master’s degree in education and retired from the police department, to go on to teach and mentor teenagers who needed a second chance, he said.

As a teacher, Mullen sought positions to work with students with severe behavioral or emotional problems.

He establishes rapport with students who have not been able to develop relationships with other adults in school and in many cases, at home as well. He commands such respect in the classroom that student exhibit few, if any, behavioral issues,” Sharon Turshen, assistant director of pupil personnel services, wrote in a recommendation for him.. “The students Mr. Mullen teachers will not have the highest grade point average or SAT scores, but he has inspired them to remain in school until graduation, deal with personal issues and pursue post-secondary goals.”

Mullen is Connecticut’s 2009 top teacher. He wrote in his application for national teacher of the year that a teacher can receive no greater reward than the knowledge that he or she helped recover a lost student.

Mullen is up against California’s teacher of the year, Alex Kajitani; Colorado’s teacher of the year, Susan Elliott; and North Carolina’s teacher of the year, Cynthia Cole Rigsbee.
The National Teacher of the Year Program began in 1952 and is the oldest most prestigious national honors program that focuses attention on excellence in teaching.
After the Council of Chief State Schools Officers makes its decision on the teacher of the year. That person will be introduced during a White House ceremony at the end of April.

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