February 22, 2012 - By Olivia Schumaker
Romito sits at his desk where the torrent of paperwork keeps him busy. Photo by O. Shumaker (click for larger version)
Special to the Review
Earlier this month, Lake Orion High School social studies teacher Tom Romito was named Teacher of the Year by his colleagues and students at the high school. He will later act as the high school's district representative for the county Teacher of the Year nomination.
"It's long overdue and very deserving," said Associate Principal Chris Bell. "His enthusiasm, his love for social studies and his love for his students are what make him an incredible teacher."
Romito has taught at the high school since 1995 and currently teaches World History, Advanced Placement U.S. Government and Politics, and U.S. History. For all of his classes, Romito uses a process he jokingly calls constructing knowledge.
"I like to give students a situation or scenario, something where they're not really sure what's going on, and force them to think about stuff and ask questions," Romito explained. "I like to sometimes set up a little bit of discomfort and then piece it together from there. I feel like that builds some understanding."
Surprisingly, Romito did not always plan on becoming solely a social studies teacher. While Romito knew he wanted to be a teacher, "As soon as I was old enough to really start thinking about the future I knew that I was going to be a teacher," he originally started out as an English teacher. Graduating from the University of Michigan with an undergraduate degree in English and a Social Studies minor, Romito taught some English when he first started, and progressively found himself teaching more social studies.
So, he went back to school—graduate school at Wayne State University, where he earned a degree in political science. Romito has taught social studies for the majority of his teaching career.
Still, teaching is not the hardest part, but rather, "students that absolutely don't care," Romito said. While Romito says he can manage lackluster motivation or students who do not list school as their highest priority, he has yet to find a tried and true solution for students, "that absolutely don't care and it seems like nothing will motivate them."
Nonetheless, one of Romito's favorite parts about teaching is the various challenges of different students. "There are times when I'm teaching the same class all day long and that, on the one hand, gets a little tedious by the end of the day, but every hour is a totally different mix of kids," Romito said. "You can do the exact same thing and get totally different results."
Another aspect of teaching that Romito enjoys is the closure. "Even if it's the same group everybody starts over, and at ten weeks you get a whole different mix of kids, and that changes everything," Romito explains. Adding to the closure is the fact that Romito has, for the past few years, hosted the senior honors presentation, in which the top seniors are recognized for their achievements and scholarships are handed out. Now teaching freshmen World History, Romito may have met many of these seniors while they were still freshmen, seeing them again in U.S. History or AP Government.
"That's very nice to be able to be a part of that," Romito said.
Outside of school, Romito enjoys spending time with his wife and two kids, who are in first and fifth grade. Romito coaches their sports teams and, "being with them as they're going through their education," Romito said. He and his wife enjoy music, playing in a band together, as well as going to see different bands.
"The biggest thing outside of the classroom is my family," Romito said.
There have been plenty of memorable moments along the way, even before Romito came to Lake Orion. Romito reminisced about an experience during his first year teaching, when he was teaching English and had a special education student in the class.
They were using the New York Times for a class activity, and Romito told the student that he could go to the support room to work there if he wanted. The student apparently thought that he was being sent to the principal's office, Romito said, and took the paper with him. "The principal came up to me later and said, 'I don't know what you're doing in there but this guy's sitting in the office reading the New York Times. I've never seen anything like it!'" Romito said.
Memories aside, current students agree that Romito, with his signature bow ties, love of The West Wing, and in-class expressions such as, "Pile on the learning!" is deserving of his award. "He's really dedicated to his job and he finds a way to make learning fun," said senior Dana Schrauben. "We all laugh at least twice a day."