Todd Pagel, a history teacher at John Adams Middle School in Edison, has been named New Jersey Veteran of Foreign Wars’s Teacher of the Year.
“I am extremely honored,” said Pagel, who has been a teacher for 11 years. “The VFW is an amazing organization that helps veterans throughout America. They also do an excellent job reaching out to schools and students to promote patriotism. I feel very fortunate to be able to work with a great group of veterans from Edison Post 3117 to help my students understand the importance of honoring our vets through activities and lessons in my classroom.”
For Pagel, who lives in Metuchen and serves as a councilman, service to the community, state and nation has been an integral part of his life.
“My grandfathers served as Marines in World War II and Korea. My dad is a Vietnam vet,” Pagel said. “My mom taught for 35 years in the Edison Township schools.”
Pagel graduated from Quinnipiac University in Connecticut where he captained the lacrosse team his senior year. He also earned a master’s degree in education from Quinnipiac.
He and his wife Nora have two children.
Pagel has been a social studies teacher at John Adams for four years. He is a member of the student support team, which was created to help struggling students through the development of innovative classroom support systems.
Outside the classroom, Pagel has been active in both civic and military activities.
“I am involved with Life Rolls On, an organization that helps disabled persons aspire to self-confidence and an active lifestyle through sports,” he said, noting his specialty is surfing.
In his hometown, Pagel serves as chair for the Metuchen Shade Tree Commission and has served on the Metuchen Borough Council since September 2017.
He is a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve and will attend officers’ candidate school this summer to earn a commission in the Coast Guard Reserve.
VFW Post 3117 Quartermaster Ken Durkin said the organization nominates a teacher from Edison every year to represent the post.
“He or she competes with the nominees of the VFW district in Middlesex County, which comprises of 21 posts,” Durkin said. “If he or she wins then he or she goes on to compete with other district winners. It’s a process making the award a real achievement for the teacher.”
Durkin heads the Voice of Democracy program for the post, which encourages middle school students every year to write essays on patriotic themes.
“Todd has encouraged his students very well,” he said. “This year three of Post 3117’s four nominees [sent to] the county VFW were Todd’s students. One of them earned the bronze award.”
Frank Aleck, commander of Post 3117, said they are proud that the New Jersey VFW chose Pagel for the award.
“Todd’s truly impressive accomplishments in education, civics and the military are a great example of a person who has demonstrated strong leadership skills in all three areas,” he said.