TORRINGTON, Conn. (WTNH) — In this week’s What’s Right With Schools, we highlight Torrington Middle School’s Teacher of the Year. 

Jim Pepper is the physical education teacher and has been at the school for just about three decades. He was given the title for his work inside the school and for the impact he’s making throughout Torrington and the entire community.  

Of course, last year the pandemic caused restrictions on almost everything inside schools. Gym class definitely looked different during the pandemic. Pepper says, “no gymnasium, no equipment.” 

Pepper didn’t let the restrictions stop him from stepping up for his students. He tells News 8 his main goal was to just get the students outside.

Pepper and his coworkers came up with different programs to help engage the students during such an unprecedented time. From history walks through their nature trail to snowshoeing in the winter season, they certainly got creative.

Pepper says, “when you say the word community, we’re talking about common unity.”

Community is exactly what he focused on for the past year, taking his efforts beyond the classroom. He encouraged the students to paint motivational rocks and hand them out around town and they collected thousands of items during multiple food drives.

Teacher of the Year is chosen by staff members at the school.

“Jim saw people struggling, whether students, staff or the community and he would make an extra effort to make sure those people or that group lifted their morale and brought spirit back to Torrington Middle School,” said Principal Brian Scott.

For Pepper, he says, “I think it’s to make an impact on people and show them the investment and how important education is.”