It's safe to say that our teachers here on the SouthCoast have been the unsung heroes that helped continue forward with the education of our youth during difficult times.

Within the Westport Community School System, one teacher's selflessness and educational ingenuity stood out significantly, which made it a pretty easy decision to bestow him with a high honor.

Allow me to offer a congratulatory spotlight on Daniel Marques, a life skills educator who was just presented with the Westport Senior High "Teacher of the Year" award. For the past four years, Marques has gone above and beyond to ensure that his students are taught meaningful lessons on life that will eventually help them in the real world.

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In order to qualify for the award, you need to be teaching at Westport for a minimum of four years for professional status. This was the first year eligible for Marques, who was completely caught off guard.

"(A group of students and teachers) showed up in my room and had a small ceremonial celebration," Marques said. "I was nominated by the Westport Senior High National Honor Society and I had no idea whatsoever, it was a complete surprise."

The announcement was made while Marques was in the middle of teaching his "School to Career" course.

"It's a program that I'm running at the high school that connects kids to the community through internship programs to teach them practical workplace skills, resumes, portfolio, and soft skills such as communication," Marques said. "These are all skills that will eventually help out my students in the long run."

Marques teaches a "Life Skills" course that he created and pioneered that teaches his students how to budget, deal with taxes, cooking, relationships, life goals, priorities, how to communicate with one another, and how to deal with emotion.

"There are a lot of things that kids aren't being taught these days and a lot of it is a result of family breakdown," Marques said. "These are kids who come from motherless and/or fatherless homes that have a lot of breakdowns in the family structure, so they're not being taught these skills."

Three years ago, Marques asked his classes, "What do you guys need and want from your high school experience?" in which they replied with practical skills and a life skills course. Marques took the inquiry to his admins who in turn granted him permission to teach it.

Not only is Marques now the Teacher of the Year, but also has some clout within the school system as he was also crowned Mr. Westport, an annual senior pageant, back in 2013.

"Being a Westport alumnus and coming back full circle to teach at my high school, it's kind of a dream come true really in many senses," Marques said. "I always tell the kids, we're not just here for ourselves, we're here to leave a legacy and impact each other in a positive way, so if I can spread a little bit of joy and be a support system – that's my goal."

Teaching goes beyond just the curriculum for Marques.

"It all comes back to relationships," Marques said. "I tell the kids that I'm their teacher for life, so if they need anything at all, it goes beyond just the 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. job. I will always be there for them, no matter what life throws our way."

Marques is a prime example of the hard work of our teachers here on the SouthCoast and it is teachers just like him who are constantly making a difference and impacting the future lives of today's youth.

Well done, Mr. Marques, from one Mr. Westport to another, I'm very proud of you. As an alum myself and also the winner of the 2005 Mr. Westport pageant, I can personally say that I'm honored to have met Marques and have seen his accomplishments within the educational community thus far. Keep up the wonderful work and connection that you have with your students.

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