Ed.S. Student Named New Jersey Teacher of the Year
May 14, 2012 | Heather Usewicz
Liberty University Online student Daniel Cullen was recently named the 2011-12 New Jersey Council for Exceptional Children (NJCEC) State Teacher of the Year.
The NJCEC is the largest international professional organization dedicated to improving educational outcomes for individuals with exceptionalities, students with disabilities, and/or the gifted. The award was presented during NJCEC Children’s Annual Spring Conventional in honor of Cullen’s passionate teaching approaches and outcomes.
“It’s such a humbling honor for my work with the kids to be recognized,” Cullen said. “I turned it right around and gave all the credit to them as my success is measured by what my kids do in the classroom; they’re the ones who are truly successful.”
As a special education teacher at Warren Hills Regional Middle School in Washington, N.J., Cullen implements new tactics to meet the individual needs of his seventh and eighth grade students.
Also recently named Warren County’s Teacher of the Year, Cullen will be competing in June in for the title of New Jersey State Teacher of the Year.
“I realized early on in my career that my calling was in Special Ed, especially when I started to see myself being drawn to kids who struggle with emotion and anger like I did as a young person,” Cullen shared. “It’s just a very genuine exchange that I have with my students – I just feel incredibly, incredibly blessed in that way.”
Over the past two years, nearly $17,000 in grants and fundraisers have been awarded to fund his efforts, from companies such as Target and Exxon Mobil. He will also be receiving a $9,600 grant to continue the program teaching students how to be responsible citizens and stewards.
Cullen has also received numerous other accolades, including the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) Hipp grant for his program “Exceptional Students Discovering Citizenship through Inquiry and Experience.” His innovative special education teaching practices have been presented in documentaries, such as the Emmy Award winning documentary TV show, Classroom Close-Up.
“Cullen is a passionate advocate for his students and his profession,” Executive Producer of Classroom Close-Up Wanda Swanson said. “He had me in tears as he explained the challenges that his students face on a daily basis and how he does whatever he can to meet their needs, promote their success, and share his knowledge with other educators.”
Striving for excellence in his profession, Cullen has chosen to continuously further his education and will graduate with a postgraduate Education Specialist (Ed. S.) degree from Liberty Online in July. This fall, he plans to continue in Liberty’s online program to earn his Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership.
Cullen is impacting his community and the world for Christ with diligence and determination. Through his persistent efforts and initiatives to influencing education, he is making a difference in the lives of many students and changing how others view the world of special education.
“My job isn’t a job at all – it’s a mission field, it’s a calling, and it’s a very strong passion,” Cullen shared of his love for teaching. “Christ didn’t just show up to work each day, he wanted to be with the people that needed him the most.”