Jason McCuish, giving it his all

It’s not surprising to see Jason McCuish looking extremely uncomfortable on the front page of Monday’s Item as U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton tells a crowd about why McCuish is the 2017 recipient of the Peter J. Gomes Service Award.

McCuish, a Lynn Vocational Technical Institute teacher, is not someone who is attracted to the limelight or who is interested in piling up awards and recognition. He leaves the honors and praise to the students he has helped guide to Skills USA competitions around the country.

Like Ken Oswald at English High School and dozens of other exemplary educators across Lynn, McCuish is a low-key guy who takes gratification behind the scenes by pushing students to rewrite their definitions of success and achievement.

Named after the late Rev. Peter Gomes, an academic respected by Moulton for his teachings, the award recognizes an individual in the Sixth Massachusetts Congressional District who best epitomizes the qualities of integrity, compassion and commitment to service.

It is worth stepping back and pausing for a minute to appreciate the significance of the honor conferred on McCuish.

The Sixth District stretches from near the New Hampshire border west to Wilmington and south to Saugus. McCuish was selected to receive only the second Gomes award out of a candidate field of hundreds of thousands of people reduced to eight finalists.

He was selected for his integrity and his commitment to his job and for his compassion. Put simply, McCuish received recognition for not only being a professional who shows uncompromising dedication to his job; he was also picked for the Gomes award because of the passion he shows for his work and the kids he teaches.

Teachers get praised for their commitment and dedication, but they also face detractors who depict them as undereducated burnouts who “teach to the test,” get the summer off while other people work, and keep one eye on the clock and the other on their pension.

These criticisms are really aimed at achieving the goal of taking the human element out of education and replacing it with computers capable of turning kids into their own teachers and providing people-proof systems for evaluating academic performance.

In the Education Utopia imagined by teacher-haters, schools and classrooms disappear and the world is the schoolhouse for social media and smartphone-savvy kids who click their way on a miniature keyboard to academic success.

Teachers like Jason McCuish know that the cynics have it backward. High technology and its onslaught of innovations aren’t what makes kids succeed in the classroom and overcome obstacles. Kids achieve because truly gifted teachers like McCuish teach them how to learn and how to succeed.

SkillsUSA challenges students to plan and execute service projects and then be prepared to measure their work against achievements logged by peers across the country. Like a great coach or mentor, McCuish picked out his most motivated SkillsUSA competitors at Tech and told them, “Your job is to motivate other kids and show them how to follow in your footsteps.”

In true McCuish fashion, when it came time to accept congratulations on Sunday from Moulton and an appreciative audience, McCuish was quick to credit colleagues and Lynn Tech as an institution for the honor he received.

The greatest tribute came from David Barrios, a Tech junior who called McCuish “… one of the most fascinating, caring, and dedicated people I have ever met.” That says it all and those words define Jason McCuish to the core.

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