“I didn’t necessarily [take] the same path as a lot of other teachers”

English teacher and Journalism advisor Bill Rawson wins PV Teacher of the Year Award

After+13+years+working+at+Pascack+Valley%2C++English+and+Journalism+teacher+Bill+Rawson+was+named+the+2020-2021+PV+Teacher+of+the+Year.+

After 13 years working at Pascack Valley, English and Journalism teacher Bill Rawson was named the 2020-2021 PV Teacher of the Year.

Ilmie Xhaferi and Sarah Buttikofer

When Pascack Valley English and Journalism teacher Bill Rawson first started working for the district during the 2008-09 school year, he didn’t think his position would last for long. Thirteen years later, Rawson was named the 2020-2021 PV Teacher of the Year. 

“I didn’t necessarily [take] the same path to where I am right now as a lot of other teachers,” Rawson said. “So that’s what makes [winning this award] maybe a little more unusual: it catches me off guard a little bit more.”

Rawson was first hired at Pascack Hills to fill in for English teacher Heather Lutz, who was on maternity leave at the time. When Lutz returned in February, Rawson thought his time with the district was over – at least until he was offered a job at PV. 

“Right as I was literally getting ready to be out of a job, an English teacher at PV very unexpectedly had to leave,” Rawson said. “The timing wound up being really weird, but it ended up obviously working out for me.”

The Teacher of the Year Award was announced to him by district Superintendent Erik Gundersen, PV Principal Glenn deMarrais, PV Assistant Principals John Puccio and Christine Pollinger, and district Supervisor of English, Art, and Media Centers Valerie Mattessich. 

“I’ve worked with people like Matthew Morone, Tracy Recine, and Diana Mckenna, and all these people who are just great teachers,” Rawson said. “It feels strange to me that I would be honored this way and not all the other people that I work with, so it’s a little surreal for sure.”

Mattesich said the teacher who receives the Teacher of the Year Award is determined by a committee of members of the PV community. The committee reviews all the teachers who were nominated with a rubric that lists criterias that each nominee should possess. While the nominations are anonymous, colleagues, parents, and students are permitted to nominate a teacher for the award.

“I know the key factor [of winning the award] is usually: how does this person contribute to the school community as a whole?” Mattessich said. “So not just being great in the classroom, but really they’re really looking at all these different types of [factors] to nominate the teacher.”

Mattessich said she was nervous to present Rawson with the award because she and the administration were trying to keep it a surprise until they could announce it to him in front of his journalism class. 

“I’m super happy for him to have the recognition that he deserves because the publication and the program for journalism gets a lot of awards, and the student journalists get a lot of awards because he’s wonderful, and that’s what he wants,” Mattessich said. “He deserves for the public to know how much he puts into the school and everything else.”

PV Class of 2020 alumni and former PV Student Publication Editors in Chief Rachel Cohen and Katie Mullaney both said that they are glad that Rawson won the award because he’s “passionate” about journalism and being a teacher. 

“I’m glad that [the district] finally gave him the recognition that he deserves especially because of all he’s done for us,” Mullaney said. “He helped shape me as not only a writer but also as a person, so I’m grateful for how much effort he puts into everything that he teaches us.”

Cohen said that she’s grateful to have had Rawson as a teacher and advisor because he “showed her what it is to write an article and all the little details that go into it.”

“I’ve never seen anyone work as hard as him, especially with teaching and then balancing being the advisor, and he clearly cares about his students, and he wants everyone to succeed and nothing else,” Cohen said. 

Although the subject that each nominee teaches has no influence over who wins the Teacher of the Year Award, Mattessich said it’s “cool” that an English teacher won the award, and that the English department was excited to learn that he won the award. 

“Teaching is what I [have] always wanted to do,” Rawson said. “Life yanks you in different directions sometimes, and sometimes you get a little lost on the way. To say I’m flattered, to say I’m honored or humbled – to say I’m any of these things is an understatement.”