Irvington teacher wins ­WDHA Teachers Who Rock award

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IRVINGTON, NJ — An Irvington teacher, retired U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Harvey Craig, won the 2023 WDHA Teachers Who Rock award. Craig has been a JROTC instructor at Irvington High School since 2004. Craig, along with retired Army Maj. Crosby Munro, has been mentoring young scholars to enter the workforce, college and the armed services.

“Maj. Munro and I are here every morning at 6:50 a.m. and the kids will come to school that early,” Craig said. “They start practicing drill from 7 to 8 a.m. We will drill in our club room, in the gym or anywhere we can.”

The JROTC program is one of the oldest programs at Irvington High School; it was initially formed at the school in 1984. Since then, there have been many champions and first-place winners in the school’s history. There are three teams for competitions at Irvington High in the JROTC curriculum.

“We have several types of training, because we have three teams,” Craig said. “We have an academic team, where the kids learn and compete against other schools in the JROTC curriculum. They also learn and compete about current events and leadership. In drill, students learn to march, face, about-face, forward march, things of that nature. Then we have a physical fitness team. Our kids are good in all categories and win trophies in all three.”

The JROTC students at Irvington have already competed and excelled at an event in 2023.

“Our most recent competition that the kids went to was on the first Saturday of this month, January,” Craig said. “They went to Central Regional High School (in Bayville), and they won first- and third-place honors in two separate competitions. When they go to these competitions, they will compete with anywhere from 10 to over 25 different schools at larger competitions.”

Much of the success for the JROTC cadets at Irvington High School can be attributed to the policies and culture that were created at the school by Craig and Munro.

“Each year, like clockwork, the senior cadets always train back down to the junior cadets and the cycle continues on and on,” Craig said. “It has been that way since I arrived.”

The many years of success and mentorship created by Craig led to him winning the award this year.

“I am grateful for our athletic director, Dr. John Taylor, who came in with the assistant superintendent and the principal to pull Maj. Munro and myself to the side,” Craig said, on being told he had won the award.

Taylor nominated Craig for the Teachers Who Rock award, saying that Craig helps mold his students into young adults who seek out ways to improve their academic performance, social relationships and self-belief. According to WDHA’s announcement, Irvington JROTC has produced nine of the last 10 class valedictorians at IHS, and students in the program have gained admission to colleges such as Brown, Yale, Norwich, Amherst, MIT and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Many others have chosen to enlist in the military after high school to serve the United States and to earn money for college. Craig works with the students on improving their study habits, homework submissions, college applications and life decisions.

Craig has a teaching mantra that he follows in order to bring the best out of the students who enter the JROTC at Irvington High.

“Whenever I meet a student’s parents, I always say that I am the ‘boy and girl breaker’ and the ‘man and woman maker,’” Craig said. “That is my job. I am going to break your boy and girl down from being a child and make them into men and women.”

Students in the JROTC program have also been involved in other clubs at Irvington High School.

“With Maj. Munro and myself, we are very fortunate that the national honor society students are primarily made up of our cadets,” Craig said. “When our kids graduate, we have something called the top 12. For the past five years, the top 12 have all been JROTC cadets. In 2022, all top 20 students have been cadets.”

In regard to the impact that the JROTC program has had on former students, Craig recalls moments in which he has met his former students.

“I had one of my students, he was my cadet command sergeant major, and he would always tell me that he was going to be a cardiologist,” Craig said. “I had a heart attack in 2014; I had surgery and went through rehab. I follow up with my cardiologist and I hear a voice in the background. So, I stand up to see my cardiologist, and I see him, interning with my cardiologist. I cried like a baby.”

Photos Courtesy of Harvey Craig