Published December 03. 2012 4:00AM Updated December 04. 2012 4:56PM
Hard work really does have its rewards. Westbrook High School English teacher Steven Albrecht's ability to provide a calm, caring, and educational atmosphere in the classroom was recognized by his community with the 2012 Westbrook Teacher of the Year award.
Steven first learned about the news in June, but had to keep it a secret until the beginning of the school year. He was formally recognized at the start of the 2012-'13 school year in a ceremony before all the district's teachers. Last year's Teacher of the Year, Diane Lewis, had the honor of introducing her successor.
"Since then I received so many pats on the back, congratulations, cards, and so forth," Steven says. "It's really been kind of humbling to receive so much support, and the kids have been great about it."
The East Haddam resident and Woodstock native wasn't always aware teaching was his passion. Steven began educating in 1992 while attending graduate school at the University of Connecticut (UConn), teaching writing in literature to young adults. Upon completing a master's degree, he began working as an editor for an educational software company in Fairfield.
After learning that wasn't the right fit for him, Steven looked back on his past jobs, including retail and marketing, and realized educating was when he felt the happiest.
"The teaching I did in UConn was the most satisfying and fulfilling thing I had done, so it took a while, but I realized that teaching was going to bring me more satisfaction than anything else," he says. "It was a slow process of discovery that brought me here."
Steven entered Southern Connecticut State University's (SCSU) teacher certification program for college graduates in the mid-1990s. He then began student teaching at Westbrook High School and quickly learned the small community was the perfect fit for him.
He teaches 11th-grade American literature and also serves as the curriculum leader for English and Language Arts for grades 5 through 12, working with students and facilitating monthly meetings with colleagues on topics such as the Common Core Standards.
He says his teaching style is simple-to create a caring and educational classroom while getting to know his students' strengths and weaknesses.
"I really tried to build up a very strong rapport with my students and I do that by taking an interest in some of the little things," says Steven. "I like to greet them, I like to notice what they do, I like to give out lots of praise, and when somebody's disappointed me, I like them to know that, too.
"I tend not to get angry-I don't see much point to yelling and it's not my goal to be friends with students, but to build up some relationship where they can trust me, confide in me, and also respect me," he continues.
When Steven isn't busy teaching, he's busy learning. He is currently attending SCSU's educational leadership program and is open to enhancing his knowledge of both teaching and literature.
Beyond all, the best part of his job is watching his students succeed.
"I love seeing the students succeed when he or she didn't expect to and I love to see it when students take risks in the classroom that really pay off?that they did something creative or innovative or that they approached an assignment from an angle that I didn't anticipate and just wowed me with the result," says Steven.