A $25,000 annual award that recognizes outstanding teachers across the nation for their classroom innovations was recently presented to a man who grew up in West Milford.
Daniel Willever is the only New Jersey educator among 40 recipients across the nation to receive the 2019 Milken Educator Award.
Willever is a social studies teacher at Ramsey High School, where the announcement of the award was made at a school assembly.
Recipients are chosen after the foundation conducts its own “confidential selection process” that is next reviewed by panels appointed by state departments of education.
The Milken family makes the final selection.
According to the foundation, more than $140 million in funding, including $70 million in individual $25,000 awards, has been devoted to the overall Awards initiative, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout recipients' careers.
Educators do not apply for the award and do not know they are being considered, the foundation said in a press release.
Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley and New Jersey Commissioner of Education Dr. Lamont Repollet were on hand at the Ramsey presentation.
"We extend our congratulations to Daniel Willever," Commissioner Repollet said. "His innovative teaching methods introduce students to diverse opinions and real-world issues. He epitomizes the great teaching that is taking place in classrooms throughout New Jersey."
Willever has a bachelor degree from Gettysburg College and earned his master of education degree at Drew University.
He was a Woodrow Wilson Institute Fellow in Princeton and a Keizal Koho Center in Japan.
Along with teaching high school social studies classes the acclaimed teacher is advisor of the Ramsey High School History Club.
The school’s mock trial team was in the county finals for the first time in the 25-year history of competition.
Willever said he sees globalization as a major issue and works at having students question what is happening around them and why this is happening.
He authored the school’s new World and National Affairs elective curriculum in order to challenge students to confront narratives in local, global and social media while using project-based learning.
The award winner was cited for his use of blended learning, smart technology and innovative teacher methods to provide students in his AP Human Geography class the critical thinking skills to unfold the map of social history as they explore the organizing of principles of society.
"Dan Willever's classroom has no walls," said Ramsey High School Principal Dr. Michael Thumm. "He is a Social Studies teacher at Ramsey High School who has distinguished himself as a teacher-leader in our building and across the district with his commitment, innovation, and ability to actively engage students in the learning process. His approach allows students to connect with what they are studying, whether it be History, Law, World and National Affairs, or simply citizenship. He has helped us shape our profile of a Ramsey Graduate initiative, which is centered on reimagining the high school experience for our students, by seeking to shift instructional practices, learning structures, and graduation requirements to help our students meet the demands of the 21st century."
The foundation summary saw his multi-faceted approach as working wonders in producing higher test scores and motivated students.
"A great teacher like Daniel Willever empowers his students with the skills needed to make sense of our complex society through high-technology and, more importantly, critical thinking," said Foley. "His energetic and creative teaching style is the kind of inspirational leadership we seek in our Milken Educators."