LIVINGSTON, NJ — When Livingston High School Principal Mark Stern appeared on the school’s morning news show “AM Wired” this week under the guise of announcing new procedures for 2016, LHS Television Production teacher and girls softball coach Jason Daily did not expect Stern’s true motive to be announcing Daily as LHS Teacher of the Year.
In the chaos that is the LHS TV Studio during the hour leading up to the live program, Daily said the last thing he was expecting was for Stern go off script. According to Daily, being named LHS Teacher of the Year wasn’t a title that he ever considered receiving.
Current and former students, on the other hand, were only surprised that the leader of one of the state’s best student-television programs and the 2012 NJ Coach of the Year hadn’t received the title sooner.
“I still say to this day that I wouldn't be where I am without the TV program at Livingston High School,” said LHS alum Jeff Ackermann, who is currently a fulltime News Producer at KOAA 5 in Colorado and an intern at 60 Minutes. “It's hard to believe I walked into my first TV Production class with Mr. Daily nine years ago—little did I know it would shape my career path. He pushed his students to be the best they can be, and I still use the skills I learned from Mr. Daily's class every day.”
AM Wired, which celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2016, has produced dozens of alumni who went on to work professionally in the field. Many of these alumni took to Facebook and other forms of communication to congratulate Daily and thank him for creating such an authentic and inspirational learning environment.
“About 10 years ago I walked into [Daily’s] TV class and immediately knew I wanted to have a career in TV,” said Class of 2009 alumna Colleen Reilly, who studied broadcasting at Susquehanna University and currently works at MTV. “If it wasn't for the extensive knowledge and experience I gained from Daily's classroom, I don't think I would be where I am today. He pushes you to be the best, even when you don't think it's possible.”
Daily’s encouragement also made an impact on hundreds of girls who thrived on the softball field under his leadership. Those who knew him both on and off the field, many of whom stay in touch with their former teacher and coach, were ecstatic to hear the announcement.
“You weren't just a great teacher in the room, but as a coach on the field,” Colleen’s sister, Kaitlyn Reilly, wrote to Daily via Facebook. “You are the one who created a softball family and taught us all life lessons. The four years as a player with you were some of the best of my life.”
Daily said he was honored and gratified to hear back from so many former students and softball players, whom Daily said he feels a certain pride for. According to Daily, the best part of teaching is knowing that his students’ experience in the TV studio is something they would always remember, as well as knowing that he had an influence on many of their professional lives.
“It's been absolutely amazing to hear back from so many former students either through phone messages, text messages, emails and Facebook,” said Daily. “It's been amazing and overwhelming and a great ride so far.”
According to Daily’s 16-year-old daughter, Alexa, her father conquers everything he does and could be everything, but teaching is his calling. Growing up, Alexa said, her father was her coach, math tutor, driving instructor, motivator and the hero in all of her stories. Describing her father as a humble man who leaves a mark on every student he teaches, including herself and her younger brother, Garrett, Alexa said she wasn’t at all surprised to hear he had won LHS Teacher of the Year.
“He'll always be the best teacher I'll ever have,” said Alexa, who also has a talent for TV production. “What he does is so unique, and that’s why it sticks with everyone. He has an impact on his students that carries with them through life. We can’t go to the grocery store without running into family after family that needs to thank Mr. Daily, Coach Daily, Jason Daily. He’s building a nation of successful kids in his style, and influencing the youth is where it all matters.”