Teaching a passion for Foley Award winner

Naugatuck High School teacher Tim Reilly, center, is applauded following the DECA chapter’s annual Rip the Runway show in 2014. Reilly, who is also the advisor for DECA, is this year’s Raymond K. Foley Award winner. –FILE PHOTO

Naugatuck High School teacher Tim Reilly, center, is applauded following the DECA chapter’s annual Rip the Runway show in 2014. Reilly, who is also the advisor for DECA, is this year’s Raymond K. Foley Award winner. –FILE PHOTO

NAUGATUCK — This year’s Raymond K. Foley Award recipient is passionate about being able to work with students every day.

“I just love what I do,” Naugatuck High School marketing teacher and DECA advisor Tim Reilly said. “I’m honored to be chosen and I’m honored to be working with these kids.”

The Naugatuck Parent School Council announced in April that Reilly, 58, is the recipient of the 2014-15 Raymond K. Foley Award. Reilly will be honored at the Foley Award Dinner on May 12.

The award honors an individual or group that has demonstrated outstanding service and unselfish dedication contributing to the betterment of Naugatuck children.

For Reilly, working with the students is the best part of the job.

“It’s always about the kids. No matter what my night before was like or the morning, when I come in and sit down with these kids everything changes,” Reilly said. “I think Naugatuck kids are the best. As long as they are willing to work, I believe they can do anything in high school.”

Reilly, a Prospect resident, worked in the international business field before becoming a teacher.

In the early 2000s, Reilly decided it was time for a change.

“I’ve always loved children,” Reilly said. “It came time for change. I wanted to teach, and I decided I was going to give it a shot.”

Reilly received his teaching certification in business and marketing, and almost immediately found a job at Naugatuck High.

“As fate would have it, the marketing teacher was retiring. They needed someone to take over. Of course I was glad to do that,” Reilly said.

He started teaching during the 2005-06 school year. The following year he became the advisor for the school’s DECA chapter.

Reilly said he goes into the school each day in order to make sure the students achieve as much as possible.

“The way I look at it is the kids need to win every day. If they win then, by default, I win as the teacher and the education system wins,” Reilly said.

Reilly said winning looks different for each student. It can be building confidence, feeling good about an answer they give, or doing well in DECA.

Reilly’s effort is not lost on Naugatuck High Principal Jan Saam.

“Tim Reilly epitomizes what it means to give 110 percent to teaching. He doesn’t see teaching as a job; rather it’s a calling and a privilege to work with kids. Everything he does has the kids at the heart of all his decisions,” Saam said.

Saam said Reilly’s passion for working with students shows through in the DECA program, in addition to the classroom.

“If it wasn’t for Mr. Reilly our DECA program would not be the robust and award-winning program that it currently is. Our students would never have traveled or competed across the country. Those experiences will be life-changing and show that real-life learning often occurs outside of classroom walls. He has impacted our students in numerous ways,” Saam said.

Reilly said that he continues teaching year after year because of the students. He said they are willing to help each other, the community and their teachers.

Recently, as part of a fundraiser for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, students and faculty came together on the basketball court during an annual event known as Clash for the Cure. Not only did the students help raise money to fight cancer, they let the teachers win the game, Reilly said with a laugh.

“These kids in Naugatuck, so many are up against adverse situations. However, in the end, whether it’s helping special education kids or letting us win a game, their hearts are so big. That’s what keeps me going, the heart,” Reilly said.