Trumbull High teacher among state's top educators

A Trumbull High teacher has made it onto a short list of top educators.

Eric August, a Trumbull High social studies teacher and Monroe resident, is among just four finalists for the Connecticut Teacher of the Year honor.

Each school in the state picks a teacher of the year, then each district picks a teacher. That pool submits an application with essays due over the summer, then it is whittled down by the state.

“I was selected as a semi-finalist in early September,” August said.

From there, 16 applicants are chosen and interviewed by a committee, and its further pared down to four top teachers.

“I am one of the four finalists,” August said.

The final round involves on-campus observations at the four teachers’ schools. As of Wednesday, no decision had been made. August was congratulated at Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting. Board members, staff, students and parents were among those interviewed by a committee that came to Trumbull High Monday.

“He is an ambassador for teachers in the state and he has the qualities to be an ambassador for every teacher in our country,” Superintendent Gary Cialfi said.

August appreciates the honor, but he gives credit to his colleagues, too.

“I don’t think I’m ‘the best’ teacher — I think I’m just a representation of the great teachers at Trumbull High School.”

August didn’t start off as a teacher.

“I’m a lawyer. I practiced law for three years,” he said. He practiced general law, primarily handling criminal defense and divorce cases. “I realized I was really not happy in the career of law...

“I was inspired by my friend Chris who is a teacher,” he said.

He knew he wanted to teach high school.

“From the beginning I knew that I would be much more suitable for high school than I would be for elementary or even junior high school.”

August said he strives to form meaningful connections with his students.

“I take pride in taking extra special care to get to know my students on a different level than just being just my students in the classroom ... making connections on levels that are beyond school walls.”

That way “they realize that you are a real person, and you respect them, and they respect you in turn.”

August’s brief career in law and his education — criminal justice at University of New Haven, followed by New England School of Law — helped him as an educator, both in and outside the classrom.

“I teach world history; I teach honors justice and law, and I teach honors political science,” he said.

He’s also started a successful club — the mock trial program, which has gone to become the defending state champion.

It started off “a small group of kids who are inexperienced to a group that now has over 40 kids in it,” he said. “Two years ago we lost in semi-finals. This past school year we won the whole thing.”

He said Tuesday night that the highlight of the experience came Monday, when the committee told him all of the wonderful things staff, students and board members said about him in interviews. August said that once in a while, he has questioned if he did the right thing by switching from law to teaching.

“After yesterday, I’ll never have that thought again,” he said.

August is a sports fan (a lifelong New Orleans Saints fan), and he coaches freshman boys basketball and varsity pitching for baseball.

August grew up in Stratford and now lives in Monroe with his wife of seven years their 5-year-old daughter who goes to Monroe El, and their two-year-old son.

Kate Czaplinski contributed to this story.