As a physical education teacher and coach at Cheshire High School, Dan Lee's job is to teach kids how to succeed in the gym or on the field. But through sports, he also teaches them how to succeed in life.
Superintendent of Schools Greg Florio said as both a teacher and coach, Lee works hard to reach all students, even those for whom physical education is not a favorite class.
"He is driven to win, but is always teaching and helping students improve," Florio said.
Lee, Cheshire's 2013 Teacher of the Year, was one of more than 100 teachers honored at the Bushnell on Nov. 15 as part of the state Department of Education’s Teacher of the Year program.
Lee, who is head coach of the boys’ basketball and golf teams, has been a member of the high school faculty for 16 years. Florio described him as "a very genuine person" who is honest and "has a phenomenal sense of humor."
"Dan is always about students first," said Florio. "He never wants to be in the limelight. He always wants kids to take credit for what they do."
Teachers are nominated for the award by their colleagues. In Cheshire, a committee of teachers, parents and administrators reviews the nominations and interviews the candidates before making its selection.
Florio said Lee is known for his "inclusive" approach to teaching. He is credited with developing Cheshire High’s Best Buddies program, which pairs students with special needs with non-special needs classmates.
Lee also helped launch a Unified Sports program for high school students with disabilities and began a Peer Health Educators program, where members work to integrate special needs students into the social fabric of the high school, ensuring they are included at dances, proms and sporting events, Florio said. The program has become a model for other high schools in Connecticut and the nation.
In addition, Lee coordinates a training class for student leaders who are poised to take on roles such as team captains, class officers or section leaders in the band.
Lee was first introduced as Cheshire's Teacher of the Year in August during the school district’s opening convocation. At the time, Lee told his colleagues how much he appreciated their support after the death of his 19-year-old son Ryan, a sophomore at Long Island University, who was killed in April 2011 after being hit by a car in Brooklyn.
"I will be eternally grateful that the Cheshire school community was at its best when I needed them the most," he said.