There are certain educators who go the extra mile in making their students feel like they belong, who encourage learners to see the world through a different lens and who teach lessons that extend far beyond the classroom. These transformational educators inspire their class to become not only better students but also better people.

Duquesne University School of Education alum and North Hills Middle School Teacher Joe Welch is a transformational educator. For over fifteen years, the 8th grade American history teacher has been empowering young people to know that they matter. This year, Welch was chosen as a finalist in the National Teacher of the Year for 2022 award by the Council of Chief State School Officers. The organization previously named him the 2020 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year.

For many, the job of preparing the next generation for the future might seem like an intimidating task. For Welch, it's an opportunity to make a difference - one of the main reasons that drew him to choose a career in education in the first place. "Realizing that you've made a difference, that you've helped students find themselves or inspired them to make an impact in their's moments like that when I can't think of a more rewarding career than being an educator."

Welch was among four finalists for National Teacher of the Year who were selected by a national committee from a pool of 55 state teachers of the year. This year's winner, Kurt Russell, is a high school history teacher in Oberlin, Ohio.

During his time at Duquesne, Welch was active in horizon-expanding opportunities, including the Resident Assistant program. He says that experience, in many ways, was his first classroom.

"As a Resident Assistant (RA), you have the opportunity to help shape the lives of people from all different backgrounds who come to you for support and guidance. My position as an RA combined with my experience in the School of Education made me feel extremely prepared to take over my own classroom after college."

While there have been major shifts in the evolving landscape of education, Welch says he still believes that teaching is one of the most fulfilling careers.

"The challenges that exist now in education are different than they were 15 years ago. What hasn't changed, however, are those relationships that you can build every day with your students and colleagues. You have the opportunity to impact individual lives. The words that you say, the connections that you make, the opportunities that you have to empower young people, it all matters every single day."


Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and horizon-expanding education. A campus of nearly 8,500 graduate and undergraduate students, Duquesne prepares students by having them work alongside faculty to discover and reach their goals. The Universitys academic programs, community service, and commitment to equity and opportunity in the Pittsburgh region have earned national acclaim.

It's time for bigger goals
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April 21, 2022