Somerset County Teacher of the Year:  An Honor He Chooses To Share with Those Who Taught Him

Somerville High School Social Studies teacher Mike Skomba fist bumps members of the freshman football team as they arrive for bi-weekly mandatory study hall. Credits: Rod Hirsch
Freshman football coach Mike Skomba during practice at Somerville High School. Credits: Courtesy Somerville High School
Somerset County Teacher of the Year Mike Skomba outside his classroom at Somerville High School. Credits: Rod Hirsch
Somerset County Teacher of the Year Mike Skomba gets a congratulatory handshake from Somerville High School freshman Ricky Van Ness, a member of the freshmen football team. Credits: Rod Hirsch
Coach Mike Skomba speaks with the Somerville High School freshmen team during a break in practice. He is also the varsity strength and conditioning coach. Credits: Courtesy Somerville High School
Somerset County Teacher of the Year Mike Skomba in his classroom at Somerville High School. Credits: Rod Hirsch

SOMERVILLE, NJ - The electronic horn resonates in the hallways of Somerville High School to signal the end of the school day, but outside Room 214 a crowd of freshmen with backpacks and book bags congregates waiting for the door to open.

The students file in, right arms extended, to fist bump the teacher who greets them just inside the room. It’s the usual routine, every Monday and Wednesday. A few of the freshmen offer congratulations to the teacher, whom they address as “Coach.”

It’s time for what some call Period 10, or The Extra Period, when members of the Pioneers’ freshmen football team gather for an hour-long study hall under the strict supervision of Coach Mike Skomba, a Social Studies teacher who has made his mark in the classroom this year having been named Somerset County Teacher of the Year for the 2017-18 academic year.

Sign Up for E-News

He is the second SHS teacher accorded the professional distinction; in 2013, SHS choir director Karen Gorzynski was selected Somerset County Teacher of the Year.

SHS principal Jerry Foley circulated an e-mail to staff late in the day Tuesday when the announcement was made by the state Department of Education; on Wednesday, he spread the news on the public address system during morning announcements.

Foley said Skomba is well-liked and well-deserving of the award. He and teachers in New Jersey's other 20 counties will now go through a selection process to see who will be selected as New Jersey Teacher of the Year. 

The announcement triggered well wishes and congratulations from the staff and students throughout the day – more fist bumps, handshakes, pats on the back and a chorus of “atta-boys.”

Skomba is a 2005 graduate of Somerville High School, and works alongside many of the teachers he had during his years as a student, where he also played varsity football for three years staring on offense and defense. He also sang in the high school choir.

He moved on to the College of New Jersey and was captain of the Division III team, earning All-Conference honors in the New Jersey Athletic Conference before graduating in 2009.

Last year, he earned his Master’s degree taking courses administered by Fairleigh Dickinson University through an extension program at SHS.

“I’d be in the weight room downstairs at 4:45 and upstairs in the classroom at 4:46,” he said.

Soft-spoken, Skomba said he’s flattered by the good wishes and said he particularly enjoys sharing the award with those teachers he now calls colleagues, the ones who taught and inspired him, helping influence his career choice.

“Part of this award is theirs,” he said. “To share it with them is very special.”

Skomba, 30, said he was also surprised by the students’ reactions.

“My home room went nuts, clapping and cheering,” he said.

He implemented the mandatory study hall for his freshmen players last year, respectful of academics and understanding team members could benefit from the discipline and extra work in the classroom.

The second-floor classroom in the northwest corner of the school is home base for Skomba; an orange and black Pioneers’ football helmet sits on a desk in front of the room.  It’s also where he works with students as advisor to the SHS Yearbook.

His passion for American history spills over to his personal life; it seems that whenever he is on vacation, he immerses himself in his surroundings, absorbs the experience and brings it back to the classroom. He spoke of spending time on an Indian reservation in New Mexico, where he taught for a year; during a trip to France, he walked along the beaches of Normandy, where thousands of American soldiers were killed on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

Closer to home, he invites members of the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Club based in Neshanic Station to visit his class and speak of their experiences during the Vietnam War.

Sitting at a conference table in Foley’s office, the principal urged Skomba to share his experiences in Little Havana during a trip to Miami. Skomba met several Cuban expatriates by chance when he stopped at a small café for coffee. A conversation ensued, and as it turns out, he chose to stop by on the anniversary of the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, a botched CIA-backed mission that was meant to overthrow Fidel Castro.

Many of the Cubans drinking coffee with Skomba had been there, fighting to restore democracy in their homeland.

Skomba befriended one of them, Ramon Machado,an officer who helped to lead the invasion.

Machado has witten a book, "Cuba,My (Twice) Betrayed Generation."

Skomba stays in touch with Machado, and has brought the Cuban expatriate into his classroom via Skype to offer his students a first-hand account of the historic event.

“This is more than a job to me,” Skomba said. “It’s what I love to do.”

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Somerset Regional Animal Shelter Offering July Adoption Promotion for Cats/Kittens

July 10, 2018

BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Somerset Regional Animal Shelter, in Bridgewater, is urgently looking for homes for its cats and kittens.

According to a release from the shelter, the population surges throughout the summer during kitten breeding season, and so the shelter is launching a special promotion to help increase cat and kitten adoptions. During the month of July, all cats and kittens that over ...

Do You Recognize These Dogs?

PLAINFIELD, NJ - Two dogs were found in Plainfield near the fire station on Central Avenue on Saturday. 

The dogs are currently with a family in South Plainfield.  If you recognize the dogs, please email TAPinto Plainfield at

A Hidden Gem in the Suburbs – Spring Academy Montessori Pre-School helps children reach their full potential by fostering an innate love of learning!

July 16, 2018

Located on a quiet residential street in Warren, NJ, Spring Academy Montessori Preschool opened its doors to the public in late November 2016.  Spring Academy wanted to fill a niche that was missing in the community -- a pre-school with a Montessori philosophy combined with an emphasis on language immersion.  Since then, parents have been coming from all over to enroll their children in ...

Upcoming Events

Wed, July 18, 7:30 PM

Chatham United Methodist Church, Chatham

Masterwork’s Summer Sing Four to Feature Brahms

Arts & Entertainment

Wed, July 25, 7:30 PM

Chatham United Methodist Church, Chatham

Masterwork’s Summer Sings Conclude with Verdi ...

Arts & Entertainment

Wed, October 3, 7:00 PM

SCLSNJ's Warren Township Library branch, Warren

A History of the Old Presbyterian Graveyard in ...

Government Other


Jul 28, 1955 - Feb 8, 2018
Owner/Chef of Jaret’s Stuffed Cupcakes  Beloved Husband, Father, Brother and ...
Read more

Get Ready Warren: Fireworks, Food and Family Fun At Mt. Carmel Feast

July 13, 2018

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, N.J. – It’s time again for the annual Mt. Carmel Feast, a four-day festival full of food, music, games, rides, fireworks, and other family fun, located at Mt. Carmel Field in Berkeley Heights.

The fairgrounds will be open from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday, July 13 through Monday, July 16. Those four nights will include concerts, games, and ...

Somerset Regional Animal Shelter Offering July Adoption Promotion for Cats/Kittens

BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Somerset Regional Animal Shelter, in Bridgewater, is urgently looking for homes for its cats and kittens.

According to a release from the shelter, the population surges throughout the summer during kitten breeding season, and so the shelter is launching a special promotion to help increase cat and kitten adoptions. During the month of July, all cats and kittens that over ...

A Guide to July 4: Fourth of July Fun Facts, a Video and Where to Find Independence Day Celebrations, Fireworks Displays

WARREN, NJ -  Independence Day 2018. “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Thomas Jefferson penned words based on what he learned as a student of the enlightenment.  John Locke’s writings were ...

To Our Current and Future Representatives

July 17, 2018

To Our Current and Future Representatives - Wherever They May Be:

We can never forget we are a nation of immigrants. 

We cannot fall prey to fear, ignorance and anger when we  have been historically driven by freedom and justice. 

We must have the courage and will to fight hate, bigotry and prejudice. 

We must not wake up to what we hoped was a bad dream and ...

Viewing and Funeral Mass Set for 1-Year-Old Boy Killed in July 7 Crash, Fundraiser Established

July 16, 2018

RARITAN, NJ - A viewing for the 1-year-old Raritan boy killed on Anderson Street July 7 will be held this week at St. Ann Church in Raritan, according to an obituary released by the Bongiovi Funeral Home.

Matias Ortega-Rosales was killed on the evening of his first birthday when a vehicle hit two cars and then his family as he was being pushed in a stroller by his mother, Domitila Rosales.

Bedminster Woman Dies From Injuries After Being Struck by Car in Mall Parking Lot

BRIDGEWATER, NJ - A Bedminster woman has died from her injuries after being struck by a car in the parking lot of the Bridgewater Commons Mall Monday.

Marion Kelley, 62, was struck by a vehicle while walking in lot four near the Macy's merchandise pick up area at around 3:20 p.m. Monday.

The 2017 Mazda was driven by Chinmayi Parikh, 33, of Piscataway.

The crash is still being ...

County Kicks Off Summer Concert Series with Bob Miranda and the Happenings

BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Somerset County Park Commission kicked off its Summer Concert Series at Duke Island Park Sunday with a performance by Bob Miranda and the Happenings.

A very large crowd turned out for the performance by the band made famous in part by the song "See You in September."

The next concert will be held July 15 at 7 p.m. at Duke Island Park, with Billy ...

Somerset County Flags at Half-Staff to Honor Grace Gurisic, First Woman Freeholder

SOMERVILLE, NJ – Somerset County will fly its flags at half-staff July 12 in memory of Grace A. Gurisic, who served as the county’s first woman freeholder more than half a century ago.

Gurisic passed away June 9; she was 84. Funeral services will be held 8:30 a.m. Thursday, July 12, from the Vander May Wayne Colonial Funeral Home in Wayne. A funeral mass will follow at St.

3-Day ‘AddamsFest’ set to Celebrate Charles Addams and His Creations This Fall

July 14, 2018

WESTFIELD, NJ — It’s creepy. It’s kooky. And it’s taking over Westfield from Oct 26 to 28. AddamsFest, a town-wide celebration honoring Westfield native Charles Addams and his most famous creations, The Addams Family, will be a destination event this fall with family-friendly activities, lectures, exhibits and film screenings, the town announced Thursday.

Watch the ...

Exchange Place and WTC PATH Stations to Close For Weekend Track Maintenance

JERSEY CITY, NJ - At least they waited until after the Fourth of July fireworks were over before starting.  

PATH stations at Exchange Place and the World Trade Center (WTC) will close at 11:59 p.m. this Friday, July 6, and remain closed until 5 a.m. Monday, July 9, to allow crews to transition to a new signal system being installed as part of the ...

Make the Call, Save a Life

July 10, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - There is much focus on preventative opioid abuse education. Rightfully so. However, the goal in addressing the opioid epidemic is saving lives. Even if that means just saving one life. While people are becoming increasingly aware of resources relating to rehabilitative services, support groups for friends and family of addicts, and training parents for signs of opioid and ...

'Servant of Two Masters' exudes foolish fun

‘Servant of Two Masters’ makes for foolish, frivolous fun

By Liz Keill

MADISON, NJ –Carlo Goldoni’s “The Servant of Two Masters,” in a rousing translation and adaptation by Bonnie J. Monte, has the outdoor audience at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey laughing and clapping all the way through.

The yearly production, held at the amphitheatre on the ...