As a teacher shaping young minds at his alma mater, Danny Erb never thought he would call another school home. But four years after accepting his position at Pedro Menendez High School, he couldn’t imagine wanting to be anywhere else, and the passion he demonstrates for his students is what made him St. Johns County Teacher of the Year.
Known as a student favorite across the Pedro campus, Danny currently teaches Algebra I, Math for College Readiness, and IB Statistics/Calculus, in addition to sponsoring numerous activities. His enormous acclaim as an educator could be surprising when considering that he was once poised instead for a successful career in engineering.
After earning a Bachelors and Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering from Penn State University, Danny took a position with Con Edison in New York, a decision which almost cost him his life. On September 11, 2001, Danny was scheduled to work on a project at the World Trade Center. He was meant to meet his supervisor there that morning, but his supervisor subsequently lost his life in the terrorist attack.
During this time, Danny’s family back home was struggling through his parents’ divorce. “I had had a conversation with my mom a few days before. I could already tell that she needed help,” says Danny. “It wasn’t a hard decision for me … family first. A week later, I was in Virginia and I never looked back.”
Upon learning of his return, his old math teacher at Green Run High School sought him out to fill a vacancy that had just become available. He interviewed that following Monday. “I fell into it. I fell in love with it,” says Danny. “I felt like I was home and doing the thing I was always supposed to be doing.”
After teaching for 14 years at Green Run, Danny, his two daughters, and his wife of ten years were beckoned by the allure of St. Augustine’s beaches, festivals, and rich history. It is the students of Pedro and Danny’s fellow faculty members, however, that made them want to stay.
“It really, really feels like a family,” says Danny. “At my old school, at my alma mater, I was a student favorite there also. I ended up making a lot of promises – like I would never, ever teach at another school. Pedro has really made me change my mind about that. I never thought I would call another school home, but Pedro is home.”
He is often asked what makes him such a favorite among students, so he shared his secret to success. “It’s because I love the students. Not enough teachers take time to get to know their students. These kids are smart. They know whether or not these teachers care about them. The first week of school, we just get to know each other – no math,” says Danny. “You have to invest that time. The more time you spend building those connections, the better your teaching is going to be.”