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Heroes in Teaching Award winner announced

on May 13, 2015

Congratulations to Warwick Valley High School Social Studies teacher, Denis O’Connor, who was named the winner of this year’s Heroes in Teaching award at the May 11, 2015 Board of Education meeting.

The annual Heroes in Teaching Award is designed to recognize the positive impact of excellent teaching on students in the Warwick Valley Central School District. Each year, graduating WVHS seniors are given the opportunity to nominate a teacher for this award, sharing how a particular K-12 teacher has impacted their academic career and helped them achieve academic excellence.

This award is generously sponsored by Warwick community member Nancy Appelquist.

As part of the nomination process, students answer questions such as:

  • “How did this teacher demonstrate excellence in the classroom?”
  • “What did the teacher do to improve your skills as a student?” and
  • “What impact did this teacher have on your academic career beyond their own class?”

2014-15 winner:

Mr. Denis O’Connor, WVHS Social Studies teacher – Nominated by WVHS student, Ryan Appelquist
Mr. O’Connor taught Ryan tenth grade World History. In nominating Mr. O’Connor Ryan gave use his reasons why he thought he deserved the award.

In his nomination, Ryan noted that:

  • In class, he kept the student’s attention with his enthusiasm for his subject as well as his occasional use of humor when they weren’t expecting it.
  • Mr. O’Connor helps not only current students but also former students. Ryan attends his before school study review sessions for AP Government even though Mr. O’Connor is not his teacher this year.
  • He inspired Ryan to challenge himself by taking honors and AP classes. Prior to having Mr. O’Connor for a teacher Ryan did not think he was capable of doing well in those classes but Mr. O’Connor convinced him otherwise and gave him the confidence to give it a try. Ryan knows of other students that have been affected the same way by Mr. O’Connor.
  • Gives up a lot of his time both before school and after school as he coaches both soccer and lacrosse. It’s obvious that he puts 100% into his job and loves what he does.
  • To end with a quote from Ryan’s nomination: “If everyone were like Mr. O’Connor, the world would be a much better place.”

This year’s nominee:

Mr. Joseph Mita, WVHS Social Studies teacher – Nominated by WVHS student, Sarah Jackson
Mr. Mita taught Sarah in both tenth and twelfth grade; first in World History and then Critical Thinking in the Humanities.

In her nomination, Sarah noted that:

  • Mr. Mita stressed that being wrong is OK and to state your opinion even if it may not be the popular one.
  • Doesn’t teach out of the textbook; brings in visuals and music
  • Teaches to be aware of ourselves vs other view points; to see the “beauty in the us and us rather than us vs them
  • Student dreads the bell ringing because he “teaches so that we want to learn”
  • Friend wants to start a critical thinking club because no one wants the class to end.
  • Finally, when asked her main reason for nominating Mr. Mita, she said that she always left his class feeling empowered, and that it was moving to see him teach because it was obvious how much he loved his job.


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