Kevin McOwen, a 45-year-old post-baccalaureate student who completed Ramapo’s teacher education certification in 2012, was awarded the prestigious New Jersey Distinguished Student Teacher Award at Rider University this past June.
“I was really happy to be nominated,” said McOwen, who is now teaching algebra II, pre-calculus and trigonometry at Ridgewood High School.
According to the State of New Jersey Department of Education, the New Jersey Distinguished Teacher Award has been around since 1985. Each year, the presidents of New Jersey’s teacher training institutions are invited to submit the dossiers of their three most outstanding prospective teachers to compete for this award. This annual award publicly recognizes the year’s top 15 graduates of teacher education programs of New Jersey’s colleges and universities.
Anne DeGroot, assistant professor of teacher education at Ramapo, coordinates the nomination of students and helps students submit their application for an award.
McOwen described this application process as extensive. The application included a resume, an essay, a transcript, letters of recommendations and an evaluation from a co-op teacher. He said that DeGroot was “instrumental” in guiding him through the application process.
DeGroot’s help was invaluable. During her five years of nominating students, there have been four Ramapo winners.
“I am very proud of that because we have excellent students,” said DeGroot.
While Degroot was happy for her students, McOwen was happy for the departments at Ramapo from which he earned his degree.
“I was just really happy for the department,” he said. “I view it as great for Ramapo’s math department and teaching department.”
DeGroot was very excited to hear that McOwen made it to the Top 15. She said his presentation, maturity, confidence, life experiences and knowledge of his subject matter made his application stick out from the rest.
Prior to teaching, McOwen was a professional working on Wall Street for many years and then a stay-at-home dad. Looking to challenge himself, he decided to become a teacher.
“If anyone is looking for a challenging career, be a teacher. It’s so much harder and more gratifying than I ever thought,” McOwen continued.
McOwen was a student teacher for a calculus class at Waldwick High School from September to December 2012, and a few months after, he received his math degree from Ramapo that May. Luckily, Ridgewood High School was looking for a math teacher in the middle of the school year, so he was hired.
Although it is only his first year of teaching, McOwen thinks it’s a fantastic career. He loves having the opportunity to have an influence on today’s young kids.
“I view it as giving back,” said McOwen. “I am so appreciative of what my high school teachers gave me in terms of education, and I want to do the same thing.”