Learn more about the 2020-2021 New Jersey County Teachers of the Year:

What is your name & job title?
My name is David Coster and I am a math and technology teacher at Cedar Grove High School.

Do you love your job? What do you love about it?
I absolutely love my job. The best part of my day is when I get to work with my students. While I’m teaching them about standard deviations or demystifying an engineering concept for them, they are teaching me to be a better person, teacher, and father. The kids in Cedar Grove come from amazing families and truly appreciate all of the opportunities afforded to them.

Tell me about your students.
My students are the best. Every teacher may think that, but I know it for a fact. They are more intelligent, persistent, athletic, and talented than I was at their age. Not a day goes by that I’m not in awe of their accomplishments.

Tell me about a project related to your work that you’re really proud of.
One of the projects I’m most proud of is the 3D printed guitar. I knew a few musicians signed up for my class, so over the summer I order various guitar components. Their excitement and diligence exceeded my expectations. I have a clear memory of one of my seniors work up until the last day wiring the guitar so he could hear it play before he graduated. We went don’t in the band room and plugged it in, not knowing if it would work. The look on his face when a perfect tone escaped from the amp is something I will cherish forever.

What is your connection to your union/local association?
I am a proud member of my union.

Why did you choose a career in public education?
I stumbled into teaching during college. I was a math major and also a door security guard. As the residence got to know me and found out I was a math major, they would come down for tutoring sessions during my shifts. I would be overcome with joy when they would come back to show me an A on a test, or let me know that they were able to explain a concept in class. That’s when I knew I was a teacher.

Have you had a teacher or educational support professional who inspired you?
I’ve had two teachers who both inspired and supported me along my teaching journey. The first was John Colagrande. He was a science teacher and taught amazing electives. He was interested in oceanography and aeronautics, so he developed a class around those two. He looked like he was having fun and I inspire me to pursue my passions. The other educator who supported me unlike any other was my State mentor, Fern Wilson. Fern was the best teacher I have ever seen. Her heart was as big as the legion of students she inspired during her career. Fern taught me to be kind and compassionate. She showed me that you can dance in the hallways (literally) between classes and still hold your students to high standards. I’m half the teacher she was…..but I’ll keep trying.

If you had to describe public education in one word, what would that be?
If I had to describe public education in one word, it would be students. They are our greatest resource and our hope for a better tomorrow.

Public education is facing many challenges. One is the impact that COVID-19 has had on how we teach and how students learn. What have you learned about how you, your colleagues, and your students adapted to remote instruction?
I am very impressed by the way my peers have transitioned to virtual instruction. With only a day’s notice, we flipped our practice on its head, and together with our amazing families, finished out the school year. Over the summer, so many of us attended virtual workshops, shared best-practices with one another, and prepared for a start of school unlike any other in recent history. Again, with the support of our families, the students are attending virtual classes and getting the best education any state has to offer. What this time has taught me, more than anything, is that we can not do this alone. We all have the same goal: helping the students achieve. Together we can do amazing things for these kids.

As a result of George Floyd’s murder, along with other tragedies targeting Black people, more and more people are supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. How has this affected you as an educator, and as a person, and how do you see yourself addressing systemic racism through your work as a teacher?
People think that teachers should have all the answers. After all, we stand in front of students everyday sharing our expertise on various subjects. But we don’t have all the answers. I believe that I know enough to know what I don’t know. It is time for the world to stop assuming they know all the answers and start listening.

Is there anything I haven’t asked you about that you would like to share?
Thank you for taking the time to get to know me.

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