NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - In an evening of celebration, recognition and spontaneity, four borough educators were named Teacher of the Year and awarded the coveted Golden Apple during a Board of Education meeting.
Representing the school district’s four schools, Dave Chango, Kelly Fahey, Denise Thompson and Clint Pazdera were introduced by their respective school principals.
Nomination for Teacher of the Year is made by their colleagues and the Golden Apples were presented by Schools Superintendent Dr. David Miceli and Board President John Wolak.
Dave Chango serves as a Student Assistance Counselor for both the Middle School and High School. He is also the anti-bullying specialist for the Middle School. He was introduced by Middle School Principal Scott Hough.
“Without question, Mr. Chango has earned this honor,” Hough said. “He has a positive impact on the entire school community, is well respected by his students and colleagues and he always puts children first.”
In his role as counselor, Chango meets individually with students that need guidance and support to work through some challenging moments offering a blend of compassion, knowledge and positive guidance.
“I can’t tell you how many times I have received a compliment or a genuine thank you from parents,” Hough said.
After the state enactment of anti-bullying legislation, Chango was the first staff member to volunteer to serve as a specialist. Hough said Chango has proven to be outstanding in this role and puts an incredible amount of time and effort into resolving student conflicts and making every incident a teachable moment.
Kelly Fahey, a technology specialist for the past 10 years at Allen W. Roberts, was introduced by Principal Gina Hansen.
Hansen described Fahey as a staff member whose many contributions happen behind the scenes and often after regular school hours. She is always willing to assist parents, students, faculty, school office staff and school district staff members.
“She never looks for any recognition and is truly uncomfortable when in the spotlight,” Hansen said.
In her role, Fahey manages all the school desktops, laptops, iPads, printers, projects and SmartBoards. She also maintains the school’s website, takes photos at school events and can often be found in the school office assisting secretaries and administrators with projects.
“Kelley has been instrumental in training teachers to integrate technology into the classroom often leading students in technology–assisted lessons,” Hansen said. In addition, Fahey offers professional development to staff members and is available to provide one-on-one assistance at any time.
Nursing a broken foot doing the summer recess, Fahey helped a faculty member convert audio to MP3 files and helped re-organize the school district’s choral library listings.
“Kelley is someone always willing to help a colleague or community member solve a technology issue during the school day or on her own time,” Hansen said.
Math teacher Clint Pazdera was introduced by Salt Brook Principal Jeannie Maier and four poised and charming sixth grade students who provided a first-hand account of the teacher’s achievements.
Affectionately known as “Mr. Paz,” the teacher starts every class directing students to write a sentence down in their notebooks. The sentence called a TEQ (today’s essential question) explains what students will be learning in the up-coming math session, Olivia Torsiello said.
“The occupation of a teacher is not all about getting through a lesson, but also about teaching life lessons that can last a lifetime” she added.
Lauren Rinaldi pointed to Mr. Paz’s use of real life examples as an aid to learning. In a lesson about finding the value of unknown variables, Mr. Paz used a scale with cubes to demonstrate that to keep an equation balanced you have to do the same thing to both sides of the equal sign.
However, Mr. Paz’s talents aren’t limited to the classroom. Rinaldi said that since 2005, the teacher has worked with students to raise a total of $196,091 for St. Jude’s Hospital.
Another student, Shaumek Deb, talked about the teacher’s ability to make math fun. “This gets us to enjoy the class and be motivated to learn,” he said.
His comments were echoed by Olivia Tiboni who said all sixth grade students have the same opinion about math. “It is the best and Mr. Pazdera is a great teacher.”
New Providence High School social studies teacher Denise Thompson was introduced by Principal Lauren Zirpoli. “Her approach to teaching is that she never gives up on her students.”
Zirpoli said the teacher inspires her students to prosper beyond their limits while challenging and engaging them to think critically and to connect ideas to their own lives.