CRANFORD - Brookside Place Elementary School (BPS) has announced that Donna Schlenker has been selected as the 2019-2020 Educator of the Year.

According to the release, Schlenker's selection came from nominations made by the BPS community as part of the New Jersey Department of Education 2019-20 Governor’s Educator of the Year Program.

Ms. Schlenker has taught at BPS for 27 years, with the past 14 of those years teaching first grade. She has taught every grade except for second grade. She received her master’s degree in reading at Millersville University and holds an early childhood education undergraduate degree from University of Delaware. She also holds a reading specialist certification.

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“I had a hard time reading and I wanted to make sure no one else had a hard time reading too,” Ms. Schlenker said when asked why she decided to teach. She also was the youngest of five and always enjoyed being around children.

She teaches with patience, kindness and respect, she said. Safety is also a key component as a teacher, she added.

“Especially at this time in my career, I consider this an honor,” she said of being named the Educator of the Year at BPS. “For them to vote for me, I’m still on top of my game, and I feel good about that. I feel like I’m an old house…instead of tearing down the old home, I feel like I’ve been renovated several times over. I still retain the character of the old house, but I always try to keep fresh. All the new things coming down the pike, I learn them and then I keep some of the old and some of the new,” said Ms. Schlenker, who added she is a team player and enjoys collaborating with her colleagues.

Throughout the school day, she provides her students with a lot of movement and opportunities to share and be engaged, she said. An important part of her learning environment is incorporating music. Ms.Schlenker is known for playing the guitar while the children sit on the rug and listen.

“Music can help you learn...and it also gives them a nice break,” she explained. She teaches them songs, such as the doubles rap that aids in the six- and seven-year-olds to learn their math doubles addition, as well as patriotic songs to teach them respect for their country and the flag. The children also learn over a dozen songs, which they then perform at the Edward K. Gill Apartments for seniors in Cranford.

Ms. Schlenker has also always had a class pet, something she said “fosters kindness and respect in a different way.” For the last four years, the class pet is a guinea pig named Oreo, who the children are invited to take home and care for on weekends.

“I love the innocence of first graders and their honesty,” she said of why she likes teaching first grade. “I believe you learn more in first grade than any other grade. First grade is a big growth year. I try to make it as fun as possible because I want them to like school,” Ms. Schlenker said.

About Brookside:

Brookside Place School is a grades K-5 school located at 700 Brookside Place, Cranford, N.J. Mr. Michael Klimko serves as Principal.

Brookside Place School is a wonderful community of students and educators. Together with our school families, we strive to create a culture that emphasizes education, personal growth and the development of character. Our goal is to foster a strong love of learning in our students and help them create connections to their community. This is accomplished through classroom rigor, enrichment programs and an ideal nurturing environment for young children.

To learn more, go to: https://www.cranfordschools.org/Domain/14

About the Governor’s Educator of the Year Program:

The Governor’s Educator of the Year Program highlights educational innovation, student achievement, the rewards of teaching, and important services outside the classroom environment that lead to student success. Further, it seeks to attract public attention to the positive aspects of our educational system. For more information, please visit:

https://www.state.nj.us/education/rpr/recognition/educators/geoy.shtml