Joe Nappi, a history and social studies teacher at Monmouth Regional High School in Tinton Falls, is one of four finalists for the 2024 National Teacher of the Year award, The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) announced. Nappi won the state's Teacher of the Year award in September 2023.
The other finalists are Cat Walker from Alaska, Christy Todd from Georgia, and Missy Testerman from Tennessee. Nappi is the third Garden State educator to be a national finalist, according to the state Department of Education.
Nappi specializes in Holocaust history and genocide studies psychology, according to his biography on the CCSSO's website. Through a partnership with Kean University, Nappi has brought more than 600 students in his senior classes to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
Nappi has also been a teacher fellow at the museum since 2019.
"Daily, he inspires students to "be the change," which has resulted in their efforts to end human trafficking, infuse Holocaust and genocide education nationwide, and raise money for refugee resettlement, to name just a few," Nappi's CCSSO bio said.
Nappi's Holocaust lessons have been published by PBS. He worked with a national team of educators to help with a Ken Burns-directed documentary called "The US and the Holocaust".
The Rowan University graduate also wrote a PBS blog post called "10 Tips for Teaching About the Holocaust."
"Teaching about the Holocaust has been one of my career's most meaningful and challenging tasks," Nappi wrote. "No other topic has allowed my students to struggle with complex issues and moral questions quite like the Holocaust."
Nappi also co-founded a charity called Monmouth Helping Its Own. The group has raised more than $75,000 from staff donations to help students dealing with financial hardships.
Along with state Teacher of the Year, Nappi has received other awards like the Ida and Jeff Margolis Medallion for Excellence in Multicultural Education, U.S. Navy Distinguished Educator, and the Dr. Frank Kaplowitz Human Rights Educator of the Year Award.
The CCSO said the National Teacher of the Year will be named in the spring and the winner will spend the following school year speaking across the U.S. "to shine a light on the vital role of teachers in this country."
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