Thursday, May 26, 2016


Two years ago my neice Molly courageously left the comfort of her mother's care and headed off to preschool. Certainly there was trepidation as she headed into an unfamiliar environment, but her mother carefully prepared her for the challenges that awaited and she was willing to take the risk.

Yesterday on a sunny May morning I attended her preschool graduation and witnessed her finding courage once again, this time as she was preparing to leave the comfort of her preschool home and head off to Kindergarten. 

As the ceremony evolved I was immediately impressed by the strong relationships that had been fostered by the teachers with their young students.  This was never more evident as the students concluded thier singing performance and the program moved on to the distribution of awards.

Each graduate received an award and a comment about their future aspirations. Some were "most kind", while others were, "most funny"or "most dramatic." We learned that some of the children wanted to be firemen or policeman or teachers, and we were told of the inspiration behind each one.  Clearly these teachers had invested time and energy in building relationships with each one of their students over the course of the past two years.

As the ceremony neared conclusion it was time for one final song. This  was perhaps my favorite moment. I watched and listened to the graduates proudly and confidently sing " I don't know but I've been told that Kindergartens the place to be." 

While I am quite sure that my niece has mastered all of the necessary skills to be  "Kindergarten Ready", listening to the confident rendition of this song signaled to me that she also posesses the necessary social/emotional skills to take the next step on her educational journey.

Taking these steps into her kindergarten classroom will again force my neice to face new risks, but I am reminded of a Henry David Thoreau quote that calls for us to "go confidently in the direction of our dreams." Due to the guidance, support and nurturing of her preschool teachers, she is ready to do just that.

Friday, May 13, 2016

H is for Honor

For the past few months I have struggled with how to best craft this post. My greatest challenge has been to share the news of this wonderful honor with others and still come across as humble. What you are about to read is a reflection of my gratitude for the honors bestowed upon me, since being named the 2016 Teacher of the Year at Pond Road Middle School.

The past several months have featured administrators, colleagues, students and parents going to great lengths to honor my professional commitment to the community of Robbinsville. 

 It all began on a mild Friday afternoon in early January, when a celebratory party  including my Asisstant Superintendent, my Superintendent, my Principal, my Assistant Principal and my teammates arrived on my classroom doorstep and then proceeded to make their way inside.  My long time friend and our Assistant Superintendent then announced with great enthusiasm that I had been selected as our school's honoree for the 2016 Teacher of the Year.  A bouquet of flowers, hugs and congratulatory wishes followed from everyone present.I was overwhelmed with joy and overcome by emotion.

Later that afternoon came an announcement over the school intercom that I was the Pond Road Middle School Teacher of the Year. My 8th period class was estatic and voiced just how thrilled they were, raising the decibel level exponentially in the room. Outside in the hall students began to excitedly chant my last name and again I became emotional.  As the day came to a close many colleagues and former students stopped by with congratulatory wishes and hugs. This would become a day etched in my memory not to ever be forgotten. Telling my family that evening of the honor bestowed upon me was one of the proudest moments of my 21 year career.

A few months later, the sign in front of our school posted the news that I was being honored as the 2016 Teacher of the Year . In the days that followed, many people throughout the community have extended congratulatory wishes via cards, emails or in person. I've been touched by their gestures. I must admit to feeling a great deal of pride upon arrival and departure from school each day, as I take a passing glance at that sign.

Today I had the special privilege of attending two celebrations with the two other outstanding educators being honored by my district. Both Amanda Matticks and Jason Armstrong are exceptional educators and amazing people.

Jason is a reflective high School educator who understands the value of the written word. He uses writing to inspire and empower his students. Moreover, he continues to use writing as a transformative tool to assist with his own professional and personal growth.

Amanda is a primary school educator who gives tirelessly of herself to engage her students and empower them to adopt a lifelong love of learning. As a technology coach she also goes to great lengths to help her colleagues grow professionally, as 21st century educators.

The morning celebration started witha breakfast reception at our district offices. All of our district administrators rolled out the red carpet for us and treated us like royalty. They went to great lengths to make sure that our day was off to a great start. Mission Accomplished! I am grateful for all that they did to make this experience a special one I and will never forget their kind words and generous contributions in making this day memorable.

A short ride into Princeton and a luncheon honoring the Teachers of the Year recipients from throughout Mercer County at ETS followed our breakfast reception.  Brief welcome remarks and a moving speech from the 2016 New Jersey Teacher of the Year, started off our afternoon. Being in a room of passionate innovative educators who shared this award on this day was an honor in itself.

 A special bonus during the program was the inspiring speech by the 2015 Mercer County Teacher of the Year, our own Ed Holub. Ed's reflections included his own professional transformation toward becoming a student centered educator along with thoughts on the many daunting challenges that face our students today.

When the time came to recognize Robbinsville's recipients, again we were honored by the eloquent and heartfelt comments delivered by our acting Superintendent Kathie Foster who was accompanied by board member Tom Halm. The afternoon came to an end following the closing remarks.  We headed out into a steady rain but our hearts were full of sunshine as we made the trek home.

I am grateful for the measures that have been taken over the past several months by the various stakeholders within our school community, honoring my service and professionalism to our community.

I am especially honored by the steps taken by two cherished collegues and friends that believed me worthy of this award, early on in the nominating process.

While I am honored to represent the Robbinsviile School District as one of their three Teachers of the Year for 2016,  my greatest honor continues to be inspiring, educating and motivating  today's learners, as they prepare to make an impact on the world tomorrow.

( This post is dedicated in honor and memory of the late Dr. Steven Mayer who championed both kids and teachers and inspired me to inspire others.)