BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Over this past summer, the Berkeley Heights Public School District welcomed a number of new staff members and faculty. Among them is Marybeth Kopacz, MA LAL, MA Educational Leadership, who has joined the administrative staff as the Director of Elementary Education and Intervention. This exciting and important new role within the district is responsible for the administration, coordination and supervision of all aspects of Elementary Education, and Kopacz’s responsibilities include oversight of all elementary schools and the Mary Kay McMillin Early Childhood Center.
Kopacz was born and raised in New Jersey and attended college here. Married to her high school sweetheart, she has two grown children and is the proud grandparent of one grandbaby (with another on the way), and has a grand-dog coming soon, too.
Aside from a brief stint in Upstate, NY, she has always lived in NJ. Kopacz earned her Undergraduate degree and first Master’s degree in English Language Arts and Literacy at Fairleigh Dickinson University. She then went on to earn a second Masters degree from Montclair State University in Educational Leadership. She also holds numerous certifications including reading specialist, gifted talented, supervisor, and principal.
Throughout her career, Kopacz has taught a variety of age groups including pre-K through 5th grade. Most recently, she was the Director of Curriculum Instruction and Professional Development for Livingston Public School District (Pre-K-12) for 5 years.
When Kopacz saw the job posting for Director of Elementary Education and Intervention in BHPS, she knew it was the perfect fit for her. She told us, “While I enjoyed my most recent position, I felt very far away from education in my role. With this job, I feel like I'm coming back to what I am truly passionate about - working with administrators and teachers to develop the whole child. At the elementary ages, foundational skills are a main focus, and they are extremely vital to future learning and growth. Our goals aim at the holistic development of each child's social, emotional, cognitive and physical needs. In this role, I can work to build a solid foundation for lifelong learning and a sense of well-being for our youngest students.”
Kopacz is a self-proclaimed ‘curriculum nerd’. She loves working with teachers and making curriculum the best and strongest it can be, and ensuring that it is differentiated to suit the needs for all students, whether they require early interventions, targeted instruction, or additional challenges as part of our gifted and talented programs. This love for curriculum directly aligns with one of the primary goals of her new role which is the continued development and execution of a multitiered system of supports to ensure BHPS is giving our students everything they need to succeed. Kopacz said, “I am looking at our curriculum and staffing and asking, ‘are we giving students the proper supports they need in the curriculum areas? Do we have the staffing, resources, and professional development our teachers need, so they can support students?’ It is about meeting the needs of our very diverse learners and enriching where they need enrichment, and supporting where they need support.”
Another goal of Kopacz is to cultivate and act as the main point person for the district’s new partnership with Columbia Teachers College. According to Kopacz, “We have become a partner school district for Columbia Teachers College and have a close working relationship with Columbia. As such, we have started implementation of the Lucy Calkins Reading Units of Study. We have purchased them for our teachers and are aligning them with the Berkeley Heights units of study. It is part of our overall balanced literacy work. We are also participating in their Professional Development Model which gives us the advantage of working with the staff developers who come in and work closely with our teachers to implement the program and coach principals and staff members in the Reading Workshop Model. Once they are gone, it is my job to ensure the work continues.”
Kopacz is also focused on ensuring that the district’s prioritization of diversity, inclusion and equity are executed and included in her work. She is chairing the Elementary Committee, sits on the District-wide Committee, and is collaborating with additional committees in the schools to develop and tie these values into the curricula to ensure that we celebrate diversity, and keep inclusion and equity at the forefront of all that we do.
Recently, parents of some of our youngest students had the pleasure of getting to know Kopacz at the start of the school year when she filled in as the interim principal at Mary Kay McMillin Early Childhood Center. “The teachers are doing amazing work in these incredibly difficult and unprecedented times. They are making the best of things and they are just so impressive. Teachers are naturally very flexible, but we are trying to plan for things that nobody could ever conceive of.” She considered it an honor to be asked to fill this role and enjoyed it immensely as it was a great way to get to know some of the parents and staff members, before fully assuming her responsibilities as Director of Elementary Education and Intervention and moving to office space at William Woodruff Elementary School.
“When this job was posted I knew it would be the perfect opportunity -it’s in my wheelhouse, it’s where I belong. From the moment I walked into the BHPS district, it felt like a great fit. I feel like I've found a really wonderful home,” concluded Kopacz.
Thank you, Ms. Kopacz, for your passion. We look forward to seeing all that you will do to enhance the educational experience for our youngest learners in your new role.
Editor's Note: "Bright Spots" is a regular feature from the Berkeley Heights Public School Distrcit highlighting "Brigh Spots" in education.