National Teacher of the Year

2009 National Teacher of the Year

NameAnthony J. Mullen

School Information

School Address
ARCH SchoolGreenwich, CT
Teaching AreaSpecial Education
Teaching Level9-12

Washington, DC, April 28, 2009 "A teacher can receive no greater reward than the knowledge that he or she helped recover a lost student."

That statement by Anthony Mullen comes from a lifetime of service in the public sector, first as a New York City police officer and then, to further transform the fractured lives of young people in crisis, as a teacher and mentor of teenagers who truly need a second chance.

Because of his innovative approach, community focus, and teamwork with other teachers, Mullen was named 2009 National Teacher of the Year by President Barack Obama at a White House ceremony on Tuesday, April 28, 2009. Also recognized at this event were the 2009 state teachers of the year.

The National Teacher of the Year Program, sponsored by the ING Foundation, is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). CCSSO is a nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions. "Mullen is exactly the type of educator we want to acknowledge. He believes in and encourages collaboration between and among teachers and school leaders as he knows this brings the right focus on the student," said Gene Wilhoit, executive director of CCSSO. "We at CCSSO are supportive and working toward creating a collaborative and student-centered 21st century educator development system and are pleased to have our National Teacher of the Year reflect our values and direction in this area of work."

The National Teacher of the Year Program focuses public attention on teaching excellence and is the oldest and most prestigious awards program for teachers. According to Rhonda Mims, president of the ING Foundation, ING is proud to collaborate with CCSSO to celebrate the national and state teachers of the year. "We applaud Mr. Mullen and all the state teachers of the year for their efforts to advance education. ING is committed to honoring excellence in education, and it's important that we support all educators who are empowering our children to achieve a better future for themselves," Mims said.

Mullen, a ninth through twelfth grade special education teacher at The ARCH School, an alternative education branch of Greenwich High School in Greenwich, Connecticut, is the 59th National Teacher of the Year. He will begin a year as a full-time national and international spokesperson for education on June 1, 2009.

Providing passion, professionalism and perseverance are the keys to his drive as an educator. As Mullen explains, of all three: "passion is the noblest of the trio because it ignites a flame too bright to be ignored by students. A teacher must project passion in the classroom because this powerful emotion sparks the learning process in children and motivates them to remember key concepts and ideas. Students can feel the energy, enthusiasm, and creativity radiating from a teacher and realize that what is being taught is important and worthwhile."

"Professionalism," he says, "means that teaching is an avocation and not a vocation. The professional teacher must move beyond existing models of educational theory and philosophy and become an artist and a creator. Teachers are entrusted with the task of creating intelligent, ethical, and productive young adults--a job achieved by understanding the many shades and hues of children and how they learn.

And for Mullen perseverance is the ability to teach any student, particularly children diagnosed with behavioral and emotional disabilities. Such students "slide quickly down the ladder of 'a continuum of educational services' until they land in self-contained classrooms or drop out," he says. "These students desperately want teachers to colorize their black and white world but are unable to convey their unique needs. Teachers must find the resolve to teach and mentor these fragile students because we represent hope and the promise of a better tomorrow."

Sharon Turshen, the Greenwich district's assistant director of pupil personnel services, is especially impressed with Mullen's ability to connect with his students. "He establishes rapport with students who have not been able to develop relationships with other adults in school, and in many cases, at home as well." she says. "He commands such respect in the classroom that students exhibit few, if any, behavioral issues. His teaching style, high behavioral expectations and concern for his students have resulted in a classroom environment that is focused on learning and mutual respect."

Turshen adds, "Mr. Mullen is a master teacher who seems to have a natural ability to engage and motivate students and push them to perform at levels higher than they thought possible. As a result of Mr. Mullen's strong skills and success with students, other teachers have come to observe him teach and he has served as a mentor and coach to staff. In all he does, Mr. Mullen approaches his work with extraordinary effort, a commitment to serving youth, professionalism, high expectations, humor, a flexible cooperative attitude, and a smile on his face. He is an outstanding professional who has earned the respect of all with whom he works and has positively affected the lives of students."

Mullen was born in New York City, in the Bronx, on May 7, 1960, and graduated in 1978 from Flushing High School in Flushing, NY. Due to family circumstances when he was young, college attendance along with a desire to become a teacher were deferred for full-time work, first in a factory assembly line then for 20 years as a New York City police officer, all the while saving money out of his salary to eventually go to college. At the time he was ready for higher education he chose Long Island University because its program accommodated the fluctuating schedule of police officers and fire fighters. He received a bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice from the University in 1990.

Continuing through the 1990s with the NYPD, Mullen had many opportunities to work with troubled teenagers--young people he describes as "destined for prison unless they received the benefits of a quality education and positive adult role models." He wanted to be that role model so consequently he earned a master's degree in Elementary Education and Special Education from Mercy College in New York in 2001. Retiring from the police department because he wanted to teach and mentor teenagers who needed a second chance, Mullen says, "I actively sought teaching positions that included the job description 'working with students with severe behavioral or emotional problems.' I knew that my biography and work experience would provide me the empathy and skills necessary to help such young people."

During his first year of teaching in 2001-2002, Mullen taught special education in grades seven and eight at Northern Westchester Board of Cooperative Educational Services in Yorktown Heights, New York. He then went to The Arch School where he has taught for the past seven years.

He is married to Susan Mullen and they have three children, John, Andrea, and Thomas.

A committee of representatives from 15 national education organizations chooses the National Teacher of the Year from among the state teachers of the year, including those representing American Samoa, the Department of Defense Education Activity, the District of Columbia, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The other 2009 National Teacher of the Year finalists are Alex Kajitani, a mathematics teacher at Mission Middle School in Escondido, California; Susan Elliott, an English and social studies teacher at Highlands Ranch High School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado; and Cynthia Cole Rigsbee, a reading teacher at Gravelly Hill Middle School in Efland, North Carolina.

View the complete candidate application for Mr. Mullen.