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

What is your name & job title?

My name is Christopher Butchko. I am a Social Studies teacher with a focus on Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Montville Township High School for the past 13 years.

Do you love your job? What do you love about it?

I REALLY love my job! I love that I get to teach students all about a very serious topic that also happens to be my passion. The Holocaust is the most documented even in human history, and the more we understand this genocide, the more we can understand the world we live in today. Many people ask me WHY the Holocaust happened. It is a very complicated story, and I wrote my Masters Thesis on Holocaust and Genocide Studies based around this very question. My thesis is a workbook for High School students that will help them understand WHY.

Tell me about your students.

My students are High School Juniors and Seniors who have chosen to take the class because of their genuine interest in the topic, and to understand how and why the Holocaust occurred. Many are excited to hear about Holocaust topics that most people never hear about. We discuss heroes such as Mordechai Anielewicz and Janusz Korczak, risk everything so that others could live or die with honor. We also discuss the horrors of many concentration camps which are seldom mentioned in textbooks.

Tell me about a project related to your work that you’re really proud of.

Without a doubt the single greatest experience I have given my students is guiding them on a personal tour of the concentration camps of Dachau, Treblinka, Plaszow, and most importantly Auschwitz. There is only so much a teacher can do for their students in the classroom. That’s why I have felt it necessary to go the extra step and take them to the actual sites that we learned about all year. It brings the subject directly to them and gives them an experience they cannot forget. Through this ultimate field trip, my students can bring their experiences home to inform others what they witnessed.

What is your connection to your union/local association?

I am a member of the Montville Township Education Association.

Why did you choose a career in public education?

Teaching is in my DNA, both of my parents were teachers. My father was instrumental in my career path when he gave me a set of encyclopedias when I was 6 years old. I learned so much from them that I loved to discuss anything I read in them. History soon became my favorite subject in school, and then I decided to make it my major in college, along with Secondary Education.

Have you had a teacher or educational support professional who inspired you?

My 8th grade Social Studies teacher, Mr. Cohen, encouraged me to become an active class participant, and Mr. Brian McLaughlin whom I had for two years in High School saw my potential and placed me in my first Honors Class, something I am still grateful for him doing.

If you had to describe public education in one word, what would that be?

Given only one word, I would have to say the Journey. The path to a successful education is complicated, and it’s amazing how much a teacher not only learns about their subjects each year, but also how much they learn from their students. We all come from diverse walks of life, and having discussions with the students makes the teacher become a more effective educator.

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?

Virtual learning has unique advantages. During the spring my classroom hours extended well beyond the end of the school day. When my students needed guidance, I was able to communicate with them at any reasonable hour for as long as required to help them master a lesson.

The pandemic has taught me that the classroom environment, combined with the hands on experience of field trips, is second to none! My greatest accomplishment as a teacher has been preparing my students to understand the Holocaust and then to become witnesses to the genocide when I take them to Auschwitz. I hope to return to this environment as soon as it is safe to do so

Is there anything I haven’t asked you about that you would like to share?

I have a message for students and parents. This going to be the beginning of a unique school year, but there is no need to worry because you have an ally. Your teachers are here to help you every step of the way! Don’t hesitate to reach out to your teacher with any questions or concerns. Talking about what’s on your mind can really help reduce anxiety that you may have.

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