CLIFFSIDE, N.J. — Cliffside Park teacher Michael Ryan has been nominated for "Life Changer of the Year," — an award by the National Life Group that recognizes exceptional K-12 educators.
The a 13-year veteran of School No. 3 recently helped three of his former students publish a widely acclaimed book (SEE: PTSD Book Earns Young Cliffside Park Authors Praise From Obama, Christie ).
"Educators get into the field of teaching because we want to change lives," said the sixth grade teacher. "Being nominated confirms that what we are doing is changing lives."
Ryan got into teaching "by accident" when he took a job as a children's program director for a health club, he said. At the time, he was studying to become a commodities broker but that changed when he met some people involved in the New Jersey Teacher Alternate Route Program.
"They really pushed and encouraged me to go into teaching," Ryan said. "I have always had a passion for science and history and the thought of getting America’s children excited to learn really motivated me to apply for and enter the Alternate Route Program."
The longtime educator doesn't do it all on his own, he said.
"I am only as good as my coworkers, my principal and my parents," Ryan said. "Without them, I could never accomplish what I do in the classroom."
For Ryan, it's all about "the end result."
"I find it very rewarding when students come back five or ten years later and say that their time in my class made a real impact on their life," he said. "It is a very sentimental feeling when a student comes back and says “thank you”.
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