Mr. Croston Wins Teacher of the Year

Annabel Andre, Staff Writer

This school year, Jon Croston, one of the Physics and Calculus teachers and both the golf and cross country coach, won LASA’s 2020-2021 teacher of the year award. According to principal Stacia Crescenzi, despite the difficulties of virtual school this year, Croston continues to go the extra mile to help his students. 

Every year LASA conducts a survey to choose the teacher of the year. The survey is sent to staff members and after two rounds of voting, they choose who they think is the best teacher to receive the award. Croston devotes much of his time to his students and their education, as he teaches two AP classes and coaches two sports teams. The rest of his time is spent hosting office hours and preparing for his classes. Crescenzi explained the process of choosing the teacher of the year. 

“It’s two rounds of voting by the staff,” Crescenzi said. “There is an initial round of voting based on the guidelines the district gives us. We list everyone who meets the qualifications and there’s a first round of voting, Ms. Czaplinski runs it and then she sees the top couple of teachers. Then [teachers] put together their resumes and then that’s sent out to staffers as a second voting opportunity.”

During virtual school the process of choosing a teacher has not changed, but it was difficult for faculty to gauge how well teachers orchestrated their classes since there has been less interaction among them. Connections and bonds between teachers and students were also lacking, leaving faculty members unsure of how to vote.

“The process was exactly the same,” Crescenzi said. “I think teachers might not feel as connected to each other. You don’t get the buzz about what people are doing in their classrooms the same way you do when you’re here and all the students are on campus.”

Online learning has also forced teachers to adapt and change how they teach, which is connected with their effectiveness in engaging students. Crescenzi said that despite the recent and sudden changes teachers have had to respond to, they have managed it very well.

“Virtual teaching is a totally different thing and I think that the platform comes more naturally to some people than others. Some content areas lend themselves to virtual models more than others,” Crescenzi said. “It was just hard to pivot. Some of our veteran teachers, they’ve been doing this for decades and all of a sudden had to sort of reinvent themselves and I think that’s hard. I’ve been super impressed with the whole staff and how they’ve been able to manage that change.”

According to Crescenzi, Croston has always gone the extra mile for his students and actively tries to create a healthy learning environment for them. Crescenzi said that teaching at LASA is really challenging because of how academically driven the students are, but she says Croston consistently meets this challenge head on.

“[Staff] hear from their students all the time just how much time and effort Mr. Croston puts into ensuring that he meets every student’s needs,” Crescenzi said. “He runs long review sessions, he has a bazillion office hours, he’s here early, he’s on Zoom late. He’s personable with his students, he cares about their education, and cares about them being successful in life. I think working with 100% academically motivated students is a challenge. I’m constantly amazed and impressed at how the staff meets that challenge. I think Mr. Croston epitomizes that.”

Senior Emily Thompson has had Croston as a physics teacher and a cross country coach since her freshman year. She said it is obvious he puts in a lot of work to his various positions, and he is always available to help.

“He was a very approachable teacher. When I was struggling in the class or I needed help on a homework problem it was easy to just reach out to him and ask him for help,” Thompson said. “He probably won because of all the effort he puts into his classes; he teaches physics and calc, and those are both really big classes that a lot of people struggle with or find difficult. I think he does a really good job of not only teaching them, but also providing help and access when students are struggling in his classes.”

An example of how Croston tries to connect with his students is through his love of otters and what they symbolize for him. Since school went virtual in March last year, he has been teaching his classes with help from his many stuffed otters.

“I admire otters,” Croston said. “They are like cute little people with a wonderful attitude on life — life is about others and finding joy in the simplest things. I often wish I was an otter, everyone loves otters.” 

Croston has been teaching for 25 years and to him, the most important part of being a teacher is helping students learn and making them happy. Croston feels honored to be teacher of the year, but ultimately, he is content if his students think he is a good teacher.

“It is a huge honor,” Croston said. “LASA is such an incredible school with incredible students but I also think it has pretty incredible faculty. I mean, there’s a lot of teachers in there that are really just incredible. To be selected and honored as one of them is huge, I feel it. But honestly, if my students are happy, if my students learn and if my students think I am a good teacher, I’m happy. The district is all about being professional and joining professional organizations, but for me a lot of being a good teacher is being an effective teacher. Being able to relate to students, being able to make connections with students and really to just help them learn.”

Teaching students and helping them succeed is what motivates Croston every day. He explained that he believes being a good and effective teacher means that you not only love your subject, but you also love teaching students. 

“I think the biggest part of being a good teacher is not being so in love with your content, but really caring about the students,” Croston said. “The students are what motivate me every day. I really enjoy teaching them, not my subject. I enjoy students coming into my class and realizing how hard it’s going to be, how difficult it is, and then succeeding. I love that. I love being a part of helping them.”

Despite not receiving a physical award due to COVID-19, Croston is appreciative to be chosen as teacher of the year. He is grateful to have worked with all the teachers and students at LASA for as long as has.

“It is such an honor with the faculty we have,” Croston said. “I’m just glad that I can teach at LASA. Thank you to all the students and all the teachers for providing a place.”