DANBURY, Conn. — John Webber, who has devoted his career to teaching biology and aquatic and environmental science to at-risk students at the Alternative Center for Excellence, has been named Danbury's "Teacher of the Year" for 2016-17.
Webber, a 1993 graduate of Danbury High School, is a hometown guy who has been teaching for 12 years at ACE, an alternative high school.“My whole career I’ve been at ACE,” Webber said in a statement. “I chose ACE because the students you work with here make you a better teacher. The kids have challenges that most adults don’t face.”
Webber explained that many of his students are considered at-risk.
“They are forced into situations where they grow up really quick,” he said. “This is a place where you get a third, fourth or fifth second chance.”
He finds himself constantly adapting to the needs of his students. “That challenge strengthens you as a teacher,” Webber said.
In the hallway outside his classroom is "the fridge," which is covered with graded papers that would make any parent proud and to let students know that he is proud of their efforts and accomplishments.
Webber, a popular and supportive teacher, is known for his good nature and character.
“ACE students regard John as a role model, someone who engages them in relevant learning and a man who demonstrates integrity in every way,” ACE principal Sandra Atanasoff said in a statement.
Part of this integrity is in his teaching style, which he believes is not just teaching students in academics, but also helping them grow and develop into young adults, the district said in a statement. Learning to respect others is one of the components that he incorporates into his classroom.
“There are layers in teaching. When they fit together is when they are most effective,” Webber said. “When they all work together is when the kid benefits the most.”
A 1993 Danbury High School graduate, Webber earned his undergraduate degree from University of Massachusetts at Amherst, a master’s degree from University of Bridgeport, and a sixth-year certificate from Sacred Heart University in Fairfield.
Webber also enjoys the extracurricular component of his job, taking students on outdoor adventures, such as camping, whitewater rafting and hiking.
This past year, he took 23 students on a hiking trip during which they hiked 4 to 5 miles a day carrying their own camping equipment. Webber said he believes in learning beyond the classroom so that students can develop skills to meet their physical and emotional needs and to learn to connect with people and situations outside of school.
“They need to see what they are learning is going to result in something in their lives,” he said.
Webber said there are 15 students to a class at ACE, which is challenging because the kids all have different needs. “You have to find the time and resources for each student,” he said.
Webber also gave his colleagues credit for the award.
“It’s flattering to receive this, but it’s not my award. There’s no way to do your job effectively in this building without a tight unit – and it’s the staff – the whole staff. You can’t be ‘Teacher of the Year’ if you don’t have all these people,” he said.