Middlesex Community College math teacher wins national award

The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers recently named César Llontop, of New London, Educator of the Year.

Llontop, a Peruvian native, has been teaching math for the past 12 years. He teaches at the New London Adult & Continuing Education program, and at the Middlesex Community College site at Platt High School in Meriden.

“I teach mathematics with all my passion and I put my heart into it,” Llontop said in an online interview.

The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers Technical Achievement and Recognition, also known as STAR Awards, recognize those in science, technology, engineering or math who are changing lives through their community outreach, work, and research.

Founded in 1974, the society cites more than 13,000 members, 280 chapters nationwide and an annual conference that draws about 10,000 attendees.

This year, the society plans on recognizing Llontop and the other STAR Award honorees at the national convention held in Charlotte, North Carolina in early November.

Making concepts easier to understand

Llontop’s students and mentors highlight his ability to use visual aids and YouTube videos. In class, Llontop has been known to talk loud – and even sing – to get his point across.

Last year, Giovanni Morrison switched into the GED program at Adult Education. He said he struggled with math since he was a kid and Llontop helped make some of the concepts easier to understand.

“He [Llontop] was a big help,” Morrison said in a phone interview. “Every day, he helped me get my math done. Then in extra time, he gave me certain things I needed for class to get it done even faster. And even after I finished that, he helped me with college stuff.”

Morrison passed his GED tests and is studying criminology at Three Rivers Community College.

From actuary tables to teaching math

However, despite the recent award, Llontop did not always have a passion for education. Llontop is from Lima, Perú, and moved to the United States when he was 19 to study actuarial science at UConn.

“I had to adopt a new culture. I adopted the best of the American values, and I merged them with the best of the Peruvian values,” explained Llontop, who calls himself a “hybrid.”

After earning his degree, Llontop said he worked as a consultant in the corporate world. However, Llontop said he wasn’t happy and decided to change his path at a spiritual retreat at St. Charles Borromeo in Bridgeport.

“I found myself,” he said. “I know I'm doing God's will, so everything I do is to his glory.”

Influenced by his wife, also a teacher, Llontop decided to go get his master’s degree from Sacred Heart University in Fairfield. After getting a certificate, he taught Algebra 2 classes under the supervision of John Cote at Lyman Memorial High School in Lebanon.

As a new teacher, Llontop said he was concerned about teaching with a slight Spanish accent at a majority-white school. The lack of teachers of color is an ongoing issue in the state, as students of color represented 51% of the total enrollment in 2021-2022, while minority educators made up just 11% of educators, according to state data.

“How do you think the kids are going to react when they see me?,” Llontop asked Cote.

Cote looked at Llontop and smiled. “They’re going to see you as the teacher,” he said. 

Cote is now an assistant principal at Plainfield High School and an adjunct professor at Eastern Connecticut State University. He said teaching at Lyman gave Llontop the chance to develop his unique teaching style. Cote also said he admires the ability Llontop has to create a constructive learning environment.

“I tell César all the time that he should feel proud about what he's doing and the impact that he's having on students' lives,” he said. “It is nice when people recognize his accomplishments and everything that he's done.”

lguzman@record-journal.com, Twitter: @lguzm_n

Latino Communities Reporter Lau Guzmán is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. Support RFA reporters at the Record-Journal through a donation at https://bit.ly/3Pdb0re, To learn more about RFA, visit www.reportforamerica.org.


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