History in the making

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Woodland educator named Region 16 Teacher of the Year

Woodland Regional High School history teacher Chris Tomlin is Region 16’s 2016 Teacher of the Year. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI
Woodland Regional High School history teacher Chris Tomlin is Region 16’s 2016 Teacher of the Year. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

REGION 16 — When Chris Tomlin found out he had been named Region 16’s 2016 Teacher of the Year, the scene didn’t play out exactly how he imagined it would.

Tomlin, a history teacher at Woodland Regional High School, had been nominated for the award several times in the past. Tomlin envisioned that, if he ever won the award, he’d be in the middle of teaching an “awesome” lesson when administrators walked in to break the news.

The news come in a rather different fashion.

Tomlin was on hallway duty in June — “boldly guarding the second-floor bathroom,” as he put it — when Woodland Principal Kurt Ogren and Region 16 Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin came walking down the hall. As Ogren and Yamin walked his way, Tomlin recalled, one of them said, “Oh look, it’s the teacher of the year.”

“I thought they were joking,” said the 36-year-old teacher. “I honestly thought they were joking.”

They weren’t joking.

“It was fun to see his jaw literally drop when he heard the news,” Ogren said.

Tomlin, who has a Bachelor’s of Science Degree with a certification in history from Southern Connecticut State University and a Master’s of Education from American InterContinental University, started his teaching career in the fall of 2001 at Platt Technical High School in Milford. After one year at Platt, Tomlin accepted a job offer at Woodland, and he’s been there ever since.

Woodland was entering its second year of existence when Tomlin started at the school. The high school for Region 16, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, was still formulating its own traditions and history at the time.

“This place has been an amazing experience,” Tomlin said. “How often do you get to be a part of starting something brand new? … Especially as a history geek, when do you get to make history in a meaningful way?”

Tomlin’s love of history and desire to be a teacher come from his upbringing.

Tomlin explained his father, who worked as an engineer, always wanted to be a teacher and was a big history buff. Growing up, Tomlin recalled, his father would have him read books about history.

“It was a way for us to connect,” Tomlin said.

Tomlin added that history dominated much of the discussion — and continues to — around his family. So, being knowledgeable about history allowed him to get involved with the conversations.

“It was a way I could participate in the adult conversations,” Tomlin said.

The final push down his career path was provided by Tomlin’s freshman history teacher at Hamden High School, Albert Oneto.

“Mr. Oneto was the one that really showed me I could take my joy of history and really impact people. That was the really cool thing,” Tomlin said.

Tomlin does more than teach history at Woodland. He is also the advisor for the Student Government, co-advisor for the school’s DECA chapter and the junior varsity volleyball coach.

“Mr. Tomlin is truly dedicated to his profession,” Ogren said. “On a regular basis, he is one of the first teachers to arrive to work and one of the last to leave. Students are in his room both before and after school for extra help, to work on Student Council projects and seek his mentorship.”

Yamin added, “He’s a tremendous example of what we’re looking for in all our teachers in the Region.”

Tomlin said it’s incredibly humbling to be named teacher of the year and be listed among the past recipients.

“It’s very special to be ranked with those people,” he said.

While he dreamed of receiving the honor, awards aren’t what drives Tomlin. He wants to show his students that history matters and is an important part of their lives.

“I want them (students) to remember that hopefully when I taught them they knew that I really enjoyed it, and some of the joy rubs off on them,” Tomlin said.