New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy congratulated social studies teacher Christopher Butchko in a phone call on Thursday, October 22, 2020.
Governor Murphy called Butchko in the morning, while classes were in session both virtually and in-person at Montville Township High School, in Montville Township, NJ.
“Congratulations on Morris County Teacher of the Year,” Murphy told Butchko.
Students in the classroom had the opportunity to listen to the Governor’s call.
“Thank you so much, Governor Murphy,” Butchko said. “I am totally honored by it and I really appreciate you calling me.”
A Holocaust and Genocide Studies teacher for 13 years at MTHS, Butchko was named the 2020-2021 Morris County Teacher of the Year in August.
Following the congratulations, Butchko invited the Governor to participate in a trivia question with students. The activity involved knowledge of the German language and knowledge of which of the listed former US Presidents: Bill Clinton, John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, or Theodore Roosevelt, were the least proficient in speaking German.
Governor Murphy, who once served as the US Ambassador to Germany, said, “This must be a trick question.” The Governor pointed out that although President Kennedy’s most famous words were in German, “’Ich bin ein Berliner’ was not properly pronounced, and everyone assumed that he spoke German, but I’m going to say that he didn’t.”
With the answer of John F. Kennedy, Governor Murphy, and four others in the room, were correct.
The Governor's Educator of the Year Program promotes a positive school culture by acknowledging the hard work and dedication of outstanding teachers.
Christopher Butchko is the second Morris County Teacher of the Year that has been selected in the Montville Township Public Schools district. Seventh Grade science teacher Cheryl Zanone, served as the 2015-2016 Morris County Teacher of the Year.
Butchko, a teacher with 19 years of experience – 13 of them at MTHS -- is an innovative Social Studies teacher who, with the help of professors at Kean University, has created his own textbook for his MTHS Holocaust and Genocide Studies courses.
“I teach Holocaust and Genocide Studies, that is my specialty,” Butchko told Governor Murphy. Butchko has taken more than 100 students to Holocaust-related sites in Europe including the Concentration Camps of Dachau, Terezin, Plaszow, Treblinka and Auschwitz.
In his application for Morris County Teacher of the Year, Butchko wrote: “I teach because I care about the future of our society. I love giving my students the highest quality education and high school experience that I can…. My priority is to create an environment of respect and rapport. I remind everyone that we are here to learn, myself included.”
Governor Murphy encouraged Butchko and his students to explore Dietrich Bonhoeffer in class. Murphy mentioned that Bonhoeffer, an anti-Nazi dissident, had a lasting influence.
“He, to me, is one of the most fascinating individuals in the 30s and 40s in Germany; including his relationship to New York, and including his legacy that was, at one point, acknowledged explicitly by Martin Luther King, Jr., many, many years later,” Murphy explained.
The four minute and twenty-eight second call ended with the Governor saying, “Again, congratulations. It takes a village. Teachers of the Year get there because they are really great teachers, but they also get there because they have really great students, so hats off to each and every one of you. Take care everybody. Well done.”
Video of the congratulations call between NJ Governor Phil Murphy and 2020-2021 Morris County Teacher of the Year Christopher Butchko can be viewed on the Montville Township Public Schools YouTube channel ( https://youtu.be/UkbOGWqwEVs ).