SOUTHINGTON — John Mastroianni, an educator of 32 years and Southington resident, says he constantly works on perfecting his craft.
“I never think of myself as a great teacher,” he said. “I always try to get better.”
The state evidently disagrees with Mastroianni’s self-evaluation, as he was named the 2014 Connecticut Teacher of the Year last month.
Mastroianni, the band director at Hall High School in West Hartford, called the honor the “biggest accolade of my entire life.”
A committee of former Teachers of the Year, along with representatives from educational, professional, and community groups, chose Mastroianni for the award after an extensive selection process that included interviews and classroom observations.
At the official presentation ceremony, which was held at Hall on Oct. 8, Connecticut Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said Mastroianni “identifies and fosters the artistry in every young person” and “inspires lifelong learning in our students.”
Principal Dan Zittoun expanded upon the commissioner’s praise. Mastroianni “empowers students to feel that they can learn on their own,” he said.
Zittoun said Mastroianni’s passion for teaching comes from his passion for music.
Mastroianni is an accomplished musician, composer, and arranger.
Mastroianni transfers his love of music to students, Zittoun said.
Despite his zeal for his art, Mastroianni said his goal is not to churn out music majors. Instead, he tries to teach students the dedication necessary to be successful in life through that which is required to be a musician, he said.
Mastroianni exemplifies this type of commitment in the fields of both music and teaching. Besides his full-time position at Hall, he is also an adjunct instructor at the University of Connecticut and directs its jazz ensemble.
“I love to teach,” he said.
Mastroianni said that his devotion to both music and education have allowed him to “maintain the same enthusiasm I had 32 years ago.”
The Connecticut Teacher of the Year award is not the first honor of its kind that the veteran educator has received. In 2004, the Connecticut Music Educators Association selected Mastroianni as the Secondary School Teacher of the Year.
He was also designated the 2013 West Hartford Public Schools Teacher of the Year, a prerequisite to becoming state Teacher of the Year.
Mastroianni and others teachers around the state who were named district teachers of the year will be honored in a ceremony at the Bushnell Center in Hartford on Nov. 19.
In the spring, Mastroiannni will have the opportunity to meet with President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in Washington, along with teachers of the year from the other 49 states. The president will choose the National Teacher of the Year from among this group and formally honor the winner in April.
Zittoun believes Mastroianni is worthy of the award. “If you spend five minutes with him you’ll know why he was selected teacher of the year,” he said.