Submitted by Simsbury Public Schools
At a welcoming gathering for the district’s teachers on the morning of August 27, 2012, Simsbury Public Schools Superintendent Matthew T. Curtis announced that Simsbury High School (SHS) music and performing arts teacher Dr. Stuart Younse is Simsbury’s Teacher of the Year.
Said Curtis, “Dr. Younse’s career has been marked by so many professional distinctions, but this one probably means the most to him. This is a teacher who ‘makes magic’ in the classroom. I have seen what a difference he makes in his students’ lives, and I am thrilled that he is getting the recognition he deserves.”
Dr. Younse may teach chorus and theater, but his purpose is not to create singers, dancers, and actors. Although there have been many talented singers, dancers, and actors who have emerged under his tutelage, Dr. Younse’s purpose is to help students navigate the current world of data-driven decision making and strike a balance between rigor and human feelings, trust and passion.
“Passionate” is a term that Dr. Younse’s colleagues and students use often to describe his attitude toward teaching. SHS Class of 2012 graduate Andrew Shaw demonstrates the degree to which his teacher has inspired him, even leading him to pursue music in college. He said, “Dr. Younse is the most dedicated, hard-working and caring teacher that I have ever had. Words are not sufficient tools with which to convey the love and gratitude that I feel toward Dr. Younse; music would be far more effective, as it somehow manages to express what words cannot.”
In a community known for some terrific teachers, being designated Teacher of the Year is a proud achievement. And as any good teacher knows, no matter how much content knowledge a teacher may have, what is really important is the ability to have a positive impact on an individual’s life. Often times this means that even when a teacher works with students in a highly competitive environment, many vying for the same acting role or the chance to sing a solo, every student somehow feels special.
SHS senior Jenna Dafgek, who studied theater under Dr. Younse, said, “Dr. Younse believes that ‘there are no small parts, just small actors’ because he makes everyone feel important and included in shows.”
His way of growing students’ self-confidence is just part of what makes Dr. Younse such an exceptional teacher. His teaching philosophy focuses on the individual, and is marked by a somewhat unusual position, one of equality with his students. He begins with the assumption that each student is an “intelligent human being within which lies the potential to learn, create and innovate.”
In Younse’s statement of teaching philosophy, he writes, “Students, regardless of age, are my equal as humans, and in many ways they have skills and knowledge that far surpass my own.”
This attitude, which some would dismiss as merely humble, is essential to Dr. Younse’s success at not only teaching students the basic skills to succeed at music and performing arts, but at enabling them to grow. His role, as Younse sees it, is to guide young people as they take risks and find ways to solve problems. Said Younse, “Theater production is really all about solving problems, using the creative process as a valid way to approach problems. Just as a scientist might collect scientific data, an actor’s ‘data’ will consist of imagination, thoughts and feelings.”
With his designation as Simsbury Teacher of the Year, Dr. Younse is eligible to compete for the honor at the state level. The Connecticut Teacher of the Year will be announced in October.