Richard “Rick” Crescente, Jr., a history teacher at Robert R. Lazar Middle School, received the 2022-2023 Department of New Jersey Veterans of Foreign Wars and Auxiliary [VFW] Middle School Teacher of the Year award.
The award was presented to Crescente by State VFW Commander Jay Boxwell. The plaque Crescente received states that it was awarded: “In Recognition of Your Enduring Service and Extraordinary Dedication to the Citizen Education of Our Students.” Crescente received the award in Wildwood on June 17, 2023, during the New Jersey VFW & Auxiliary Convention.
“Mr. Crescente’s resume of patriotism is extensive,” wrote Montville Township VFW Post #5481 Commander Ken Hanzl. “He has created initiatives designed to educate students on the importance and sacrifices of America’s veterans. Over the years Mr. Crescente has worked with his students organizing the placement of veteran markers and flags at Montville Township’s cemeteries on Memorial Day. For the flag placement, Mr. Crescente has produced and distributed a video making people aware of the activity which instills both patriotism and respect. Mr. Crescente has organized numerous events that salute veterans. He has been the school’s leader in many different activities that center on respect for veterans with an emphasis on recognizing sacrifices they have made.”
In addition to the extensive Memorial Day activities Crescente also organizes the Lazar Middle School’s Veterans Day activities and coordinates the VFW’s annual Patriot’s Pen essay contest for Montville Township’s middle school students.
“His Veterans Day activities educate students on the importance of what the day means and the respect that is expected,” Hanzl wrote.
Hanzl also credited Crescente for the on-going success of the VFWs Patriot’s Pen essay contests. “He [Crescente] has been key in keeping this program alive in Montville. For this, and for the many other patriotic activities that Mr. Crescente undertakes, is why there is increased respect for our country by Montville’s students.”
Each year the local, state and national VFW selects elementary, middle, and high school teachers to participate in the Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher program. This award is named after former VFW National Commander John Smart and retired VFW Quartermaster General Larry Maher. Candidates for this award are teachers who promote America’s history, civic responsibility, flag etiquette and patriotism.
At the State level, the VFW Teacher of the Year award contest recognizes three exceptional teachers for their outstanding commitment to teaching Americanism and patriotism to their students. Each year three teachers are honored. Those teachers, one from a middle school, one from a high school, and one from an elementary school, receive state VFW awards.
The NJ State VFW and Auxiliary recognized the following New Jersey teachers at the state convention in Wildwood on June 17, 2023: Brigantine Community Elementary School teacher Mindy Pomatto, Delaware Valley Regional High School teacher Margaret Esposito and Robert R. Lazar Middle School teacher Richard “Rick” Crescente, Jr.
In addition to teaching at Robert R. Lazar Middle school, Crescente is also the Montville Township High School Bowling Coach.
The Lazar Middle School enrollment is nearly 725 students. Montville Township Public Schools, in Morris County, NJ, is a district consisting of five elementary schools, Montville Township High School, and Robert R. Lazar Middle School.