Teacher of the Year says career was inevitable

Madison Middle School language arts teacher Robert Devine, second from right, is the Trumbull Teacher of the Year for 2018-19. Here, Devine receives his award from Madison Principal Peter Sullivan, Supt. Gary Cialfi, and Asst. Supt. Michael McGrath.

Whether he is in a classroom or on a pool deck, Robert Devine’s advice is the same — dive in.

Devine, a language arts teacher at Madison Middle School, student government adviser and Trumbull High diving coach, is the 2018-19 Trumbull Teacher of the Year. He now goes on to the statewide teacher of the year competition.

People often say of good teachers that they were born to do the job. In Devine’s case, that just might be true.

“I don’t know that there was a definitive moment when I chose to be a teacher,” he said. “It was always kind of inevitable.”

Like many students, Devine said he would sometimes daydream in class. Unlike many, he would daydream about being in front of the class.

“When I was in class I found myself wondering how I would teach this particular class,” he said. He also had a role model in his late older sister, who taught in the New Canaan schools.

“I got to watch her go through her certification process, so I had her as an inspiration and a mentor,” he said.

Devine said his approach to teaching was to approach each year, in fact each day, with an open mind.

“There are surprises every year,” he said. “Curveballs come your way, and that’s part of what makes it fun. A counterpart once said, ‘I laugh every day,’ and it’s true, every day is an adventure.”

If Devine looks at teaching as an adventure, it is one that many people, non-teachers, don’t envy, he said.

“Whenever I tell people that I teach middle school, their immediate reaction is often ‘Wow, that’s fantastic.’” he said. “But it is often followed by something like ‘I don’t think I could ever do that’ or ‘I would never have the patience.’ One person just said ‘Oh God’ and simply walked away from me.”

But the truth, he said, is that teaching is an act of love.

“Teaching gives us the greatest opportunity to love: our jobs, our students, and our fellow educators,” he said. “I am blessed to be in a profession where oftentimes I get as much as I give.”

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