Nashua North teacher honored by students
The award, which alternates each year between the North and South high schools, is handed out at the sole discretion of the students.
"He is an amazing teacher. For a lot of students, history can be hard, but he makes it so easy. He is an approachable, easy-going person. He is the kind of teacher everyone would want to be friends with," said senior Sabrina Souvron, who is also National Honor Society president.
Otocka, who has been teaching at North for 10 years, said he was honored by the award and humbled that his students gave it to him.
"The thing that is most gratifying about the award is that it comes from the kids. Most teachers don't start out looking for awards, that is not the nature of the beast, but the fact that people you work with everyday and know what goes on in the classroom chose me is really wonderful."
Superintendent Mark Conrad said he is a big fan of the award because it allows students to honor teachers they know to be the most effective.
"I think what is special about No Bell Award, is that the teacher is awarded by students. It is special when it comes from the student, and it truly reflects great teachers. Andy inspires students, and he is enthusiastic and articulate teaching social studies. He is a well-deserving recipient."
Souvron added that the award means a lot to the students, because it allows them to honor that one teacher that made the biggest impact on students' lives.
"It is the highest praise you can give your favorite teacher," Souvron said.
North Principal David Ryan agreed, saying Otocka is well-deserving of the honor.
"It was his turn. The beauty of Andy is that he individualizes education for every student who comes through the door, whether he is teaching a foundation class or (Advanced Placement) class. He takes it personally when a student doesn't do well, so he pours a lot of his personal time and emotional energy into his students."
Otocka said he customizes his teaching to each of his individual students to ensure that each one gets the most out of his class.
"I will do everything short of standing on my head to reach my students. What I want is for them to leave my class knowing how to read, write and even think, even if they forget the history," Otocka said.
Otocka said he became a teacher because he likes working with kids, but also because of the strong relationships he had with his teachers and coaches.
"I was heavily influenced by teachers and coaches growing up, and I wanted to follow in their good example," he said.