CURRITUCK COUNTY, N.C. (WAVY)- A Currituck County middle school teacher is being recognized for his work in and outside of the classroom.

The district nominated Christopher Pinto, who teaches sixth grade English at Currituck County Middle School, as an excellent educator because he’s a positive and collaborative educator.

Pinto’s taught for nine and a half years with five of them at Currituck County Middle.

Teaching runs in his blood. His mother and sister are both teachers. Another sister also taught for a number of years.

Pinto says teaching English was the natural thing to do for him.

“I was that kid who at the basketball game in middle, where there’s a shot of me. I’m reading a book and everyone else is fully focused on the game. I was always reading. I loved to read and write. I was always going to do English,” he said.

Pinto says it’s his students that keep him coming back each day.

“The kids are the reason why anybody teaches. It’s definitely that way for me with establishing those relationships, watching them grow, learning and figuring out things they didn’t think they could,” he said.

Pinto is a part of the district’s English Language Arts Leadership Team, where he creates resources to help other teachers across the county.

But it isn’t just English he’s teaching students about.

“One of my big passions that I started when I started teaching was coaching chess,” he said.

He started when he first taught in Elizabeth City.

Pinto says he created a nonprofit to continue to teach students in Elizabeth City when he relocated to Currituck County Middle.

He’s now the chess team coach and is working with the district to establish other teams.

“All the benefits and soft skills you learn from any sport, just being part of a team and being in competition, you get that from chess as well. Any competition brings out those values of perseverance and dedication to whatever you’re trying to master,” Pinto said. “Yes, in chess you have extra benefits. You’re analyzing things at a higher level. You remember some things but you’re thinking critically and acting in a higher way. That applies applicably to the classroom and in life. Critical thinking skills, we need them at all times.”

Those skills and lessons are what some students are reaching out to him about years after taking his classes.

Pinto says just recently a former student, who’s currently in law school, contacted him to let him know he’s still using those critical thinking skills he learned under Pinto.

“It’s hard to put into words because it’s an emotional experience from an event that or series of events that took place a decade ago knowing you made an impact.,” he said about hearing from former students. “It makes you feel good but it makes you feel emotional as well,”

Pinto says he was surprised to be nominated as an excellent educator but it’s a huge honor.