Lawrence High School science teacher Kevin Malady has been named the Somerset County Teacher of the Year. Malady, who has taught for 44 years, is seen recently with an albino corn snake at his classroom at Lawrence in Fairfield. Malady keeps a variety of reptiles inside his classroom, including a salamander, bearded dragon, chameleon, frog and turtle. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

FAIRFIELD — If one had asked a young Kevin Malady what he wanted to do with his life, teaching was probably the last thing he would have said.  

He went to the University of Miami intent on becoming a research scientist. It was purely by chance he saw a part-time job posting in the science department to help teachers at a local high school run labs. Once he started, he enjoyed it. But privately, he thought teachers were not doing a very good job.  

“I started thinking to myself: ‘You can get paid to do this? This is fun. This isn’t even work,’” Malady said. 

He was hooked. 

Malady, now in his 41st year teaching at Lawrence Senior High School in Fairfield, has been named the Somerset County Teacher of the Year. And while he insists he is not worthy of the award, those around him say it is long overdue.  

“He hooks the kids. They may not come in overly excited — some kids are, but some aren’t,” said Dan Bowers, principal of Lawrence High School. “He gets them interested and keeps their enthusiasm going throughout the semester.” 

Malady was nominated by a former student, Haley Hersey, who now has a summer internship with the Morning Sentinel.  

As a science teacher, the classes Malady teaches varies from year to year, but usually include biology. And he takes an active approach to teaching. 

Lawrence High School science teacher Kevin Malady has been named the Somerset County Teacher of the Year. Malady, who has taught for 44 years, is seen recently with a life-size poster of theoretical physicist Albert Einstein at Malady’s classroom at Lawrence in Fairfield. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

He said he does not like to lecture “at” students. Instead, he seeks to “tell” them information, like a story one would tell a friend. He said he wants students to be involved, so he offers many labs, but refuses to run what he calls “recipe labs,” in which students know the outcome for which they are looking before they even start.  

Malady said he teaches students to think, not what to think. He often stays late at school to help students, and keeps in contact with parents if students are falling behind. 

“There’s really no reason to fail his class,” Bowers said. “Because he’s that kind of teacher. He’ll keep reaching out and giving you a helping hand to complete your stuff and understand the concept and the topics.” 

Eric Brown and Jason Bellner, who also teach science at Lawrence, said while Malady is one of the most-humble people they know, he absolutely deserves the recognition. 

And how does Malady feel about being in the spotlight? 

“It’s embarrassing,” he said. “I don’t think I deserve this award. I mean, there’s got to be better teachers than me. I’m just in my own world, doing what I can for my kids. I’m not trying to be teacher of the year. I’m not trying to be that person.” 

Bellner said the only reason Malady went through the selection process was he was nominated by students. 

“He couldn’t say no to the kids,” Bellner said. “If I came to him with something like this, he’d say, ‘No way.’” 

Malady is not only known and liked for what he does in the classroom. He is also respected for what he does outside that shows his commitment to students. 

He is known for Shadow, an elaborate scavenger hunt he creates each spring for students. It began years ago, Malady said, when he had reached the end of his textbook, but was weeks away from the end of the school year.

Malady said he decided to create a scientific murder mystery in which students would find a clue each day and then come back to class to do lab work to understand what it meant. At the end of the week, someone was “murdered.” The game was a hit with students, and Malady finished the year with it.  

The following year, many students asked to play the mystery game again, even though they were no longer in Malady’s class. They said they wanted to stay after school to play. 

“I said: ‘Really, you’ll do that? Well, I’m going to make it harder,’” Malady said.

So the game lives on every spring, after April break, during which Malady hides the clues. There is a “doomsday” device to defeat. Built by Malady, the device includes tricks and traps, with clues hidden all over Fairfield and surrounding towns. Students will sometimes stay overnight at the school working on it, trying to figure out the riddles and clues. 

And while students most years are able to find the device, Malady said, they are usually not able to disarm it.  

Like much of what Malady does, he does not advertise the game. Instead, he puts it together quietly year after year. 

“He does this for no money, no acknowledgement,” Bellner said. “It’s just if you know, you know. And if you don’t know, you miss it.” 

Brown said Malady also helps the theater department build sets for school productions.

“He’ll leave the science room after school, make sure he’s done with his science kids and then he’ll go down to the theater and work with the theater kids, making sure the sets are painted or that all the stairs that go up the back of the set, that the audience doesn’t see, have a railing on them so they’re safe,” Brown said. 

Malady will even take on a role in some productions, Brown said, and dance along in the back of a scene.  

For years, Malady also coached football, and would put on a helmet and pads and tell students to try and tackle him, all in the pursuit of improvement.

For all Malady has done — and continues to do — for students and school, he said he still enjoys every day at Lawrence.

“It’s fun,” Malady said. “I get my creative juices out.”

And when students ask when he might retire, he answers, “Well, when I’m not having fun anymore.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: