Ryan Fitzsimmons was a natural choice as New Milford's 2013 Teacher of the Year.

Fitzsimmons, a New Milford High School math teacher, is known for his passion for teaching and dedication to his students.

He started his NMHS teaching career as a student teacher there in the fall of 2004.

The next year, he was hired to a full-time position.

"It's a tremendous honor to be in the company of the amazing teachers who have been noted with this award before me," said Fitzsimmons, an NMHS Class of 2000 graduate.

"I'm really a figure head for all those teachers who inspired me as a student and who are inspiring students today," he said.

Fitzsimmons was introduced Aug. 23 as Teacher of the Year to his school district peers and other schools staff during their annual meeting.

Superintendent of Schools JeanAnn Paddyfote lauded Fitzsimmons as "a talented and creative educator.

"He is passionate about teaching and he always brings out the best in his students," Paddyfote said. "Mr. Fitzsimmons goes above and beyond to help students."

"They know immediately that he cares about them," she said, "and will do whatever is necessary to help them grasp the concepts."

Known to many simply as "Fitz," Fitzsimmons credits his love of mathematics to his "great experiences as a student in the math department at New Milford High School."

"I picked up a passion for math from teachers like David Shaffer and Bill Hibbard," Fitzsimmons said.

"It's great to pass that passion along to my students."

Shaffer, now retired and serving on New Milford's Board of Education, described his former student as "cheerful, happy, athletic, diligent and always with a sense of fair play."

"In every activity... Ryan always had a smile on his face," Shaffer said. "Whether he was giving some pointers to a new member of the varsity wrestling team or helping a classmate with a mathematics problem, Ryan proved time and again to be a friend who cares."

Fitzsimmons lives in Woodbury with his wife, Nicole, and their 5-month-old daughter, Erin.

He also is the head coach for the Green Wave boys' track team, and an assistant coach with the wrestling program.

He plans a long teaching career in New Milford.

"It's my hometown and my experience in the New Milford school system has been phenomenal," Fitzsimmons said. "I want to pass on the enthusiasm I feel to generations of students to come."

stuz@newstimes.com; 860-355-7322