SOMERVILLE, NJ – Kerry Kuboski Foote, a first-grade teacher at Van Derveer School, has been nominated for the prestigious Life Changer Award for 2017-18.
Life Changer of the Year is an annual program recognizing K-12 educators and school employees nationwide. The program celebrates those who are making a significant difference in the lives of students by exemplifying excellence, positive influence and leadership.
Foote and her twin sister, Courtney Kuboski, are 2005 graduates of Immaculata High School in Somerville; both attended Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY, graduating in 2009 with degrees in elementary and special education.
Foote has worked for 8 years at VanDerveer School; Kuboski has spent 8 years at Hillsborough’s Triangle School as a Special Education teacher in one of the district’s Language Learning Disabilities classrooms.
Last spring Foote was named Teacher of the Year at Van Derveer; six months later Courtney received that honor at Triangle School.
In January 2017 Foote was named to the Magic 98.3 Teachers Who Make Magic Class of 2017, representing teachers in Somerset, Middlesex, and Hunterdon Counties. Two weeks later, Kuboski received news that she was among those 24 educators selected this year for Magic’s award as well.
The sisters have expanded their academic vision beyond the classroom walls.
Working with a close colleague, they created a business 4 years ago called “Apple of Their Eye.” With close to 6,000 followers on Instagram, this business sells and shares lesson plans, worksheets, center activities, and project ideas on the popular site, Teachers Pay Teachers.
Through social media and Teachers Pay Teachers, they have connected and collaborated with teachers nationwide. Additionally, over the past two years, Apple of Their Eye has begun teaching various Professional Development Workshops to fellow educators.
Most recently, they expanded their business and created their own online marketplace for educators to buy and sell used or unneeded, personally owned, classroom items.
The website, MyClassroom2Yours.com, owned by their business, Apple of Their Eye, is designed to allow teachers to earn extra money selling personal materials that they no longer use, while simultaneously giving teachers a place to shop for discounted items for use in their classrooms.
Kuboski offered support for her twin sister on the Life Changer website:
"Kerry Foote is the absolute perfect recipient of this award. She is constantly going above and beyond to meet the needs of her students and school community. Kerry is a role-model amongst her peers. She proves to be an endless source of encouragement, advice, and ideas.
"She is always creating materials and resources to share with her coworkers. Kerry is loved by each of her students. As her twin sister, I get stopped almost daily asking if I am “Mrs. Foote”. When I tell them that I am her sister, their face lights up and they ask, “Can you tell her I said, ‘Hi!’” She has become a role model in the community and continues to touch the lives of all she comes in contact with. Kerry Foote deserves this award!!"
Sponsored by National Life Group and the National Life Group Foundation, the goal of the foundation is to support nonprofit and educational organizations by providing grants, sponsoring events, and offering in-kind donations.
There are a series of awards given to the Life Changers selected by the National Life Group, ranging from $10,000 to $2,500; half of the grand prize is given to the award winner, with the other half awarded to his/her school.
Foote was nominated for the award by her colleague, Lindsay Frevert.
Van Derveer Preschool-Second Grade Principal Susan Moran circulated a letter to the school’s staff, citing a quote from Margaret Mead:
"Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have." Margaret Mead.
“I am proud and honored to share that Kerry Foote has been nominated as a 2017-2018 Life Changer of the Year award, an honor recognized by the National Life Group,” Moran said.
“When I spoke to Kerry about her nomination her response was "I don't qualify for this. I don't change lives." I disagree with Kerry. It is truly the "small" things that make the largest impact. Wouldn't you agree? I firmly and adamantly believe that people change lives each day through sharing their passion, commitment and talent; indeed this is Kerry Foote.
“I know that I can confidently say that in one way or another Kerry Foote has impacted you: perhaps a resource for a unit, a treat in your mailbox, a celebration as a school, a tip gained from a CPLA workshop, a center idea for a holiday, a laugh from a video shared. And as a result, your students benefited.
“I highly encourage you to log into the link http://app.lifechangeroftheyear.com/nomination_detail.cfm?NominationID=1477 and share in the comments how Kerry has impacted you. I also encourage you to share this link with anyone who knows Kerry.
“What a life changing message it would be to share and exhibit that Margaret Mead's quote still holds true,” Moran said.
Frevert’s nomination essay follows:
“Ms. Foote has been a Life Changer every year that she has been an educator. Her passion and love for her students and colleagues is evident and contagious. Everyone wants to be better educators because of the drive and effort she brings each and every day.
“Ms. Foote is an innovative leader because she finds new ways of teaching, and is constantly creating a classroom environment that is welcoming to every student.
"When you walk into Kerry’s room, you feel such a positive energy," Frevert said. "Her students have the opportunity to have a variety of ways to sit and learn. There are pillows, laundry baskets, desk pedals, saucer seats, etc. for students to utilize while they work.
“Flexible seating is a big part of Ms. Foote's classroom, and students determine how they work best and decide how they will sit or even stand. This allows students to have their own learning independence.
“Ms. Foote has students learning in several different ways. They are on computers, in small groups, writing in sand, using QR codes, or videoing themselves on iPads practicing fluency. During different holidays, students are seen using Frankenstein fingers while reading, or special holiday glasses while editing. Students have also dressed up in a doctor’s outfit when dissecting words. Her creativity is truly incredible, and the students love it.
“This past year, Ms. Foote had a special event in her room when she opened up her library. The students were so excited to be able to go book shopping, and the principal, school librarian, and even school mascot came. This little event was very special to her students. Students have a variety of different needs when they enter Ms. Foote's room, and she does all that she can to ensure their needs are met.
“Ms. Foote is not only a leader in the classroom, but within the district as well. She is a part of many committees in her school district. She has helped run the Winter Literacy Night, as well as the Read Across America Event. These events have run flawlessly because Ms. Foote has put the time in beforehand to set everything up. Whenever she runs an event, it is run perfectly because of her commitment.
“Ms. Foote is also on the SunFISH Committee, which does various activities for the staff. She is always willing to assist with making cupcakes or bringing in treats for the staff. She is of great assistance during the staff Holiday Party, always bringing fun games to the table. Ms. Foote has also shared her expertise by presenting various Professional Development workshops for the teachers of our district.
“Ms. Foote is always willing to do whatever needs to be done. If there are flyers that need to be typed up, she is willing to do it. If stamina charts or reading logs need to be done, she is there to do them. The curriculum has been revised, and Ms. Foote has been assisting where she can.
“She has provided activities and centers to assist teachers with the implementation of the curriculum.Ms. Foote is phenomenal with making center activities, and is always willing to make centers for any grade that asks. Whatever she makes, she shares. She is currently on maternity leave, but is still sending emails with various activities for every grade to use. Her own team is constantly receiving emails of something that she put together.
“Ms. Foote is a natural teacher. She is a role model, not only to her students, but the staff as well. Ms. Foote is always trying to find ways to remind her students and her colleagues how awesome they are. She always has Halloween costumes for students just in case they may not have one.
“One way that she has shown her commitment to her students was with what she did a few years ago, when one of her students was diagnosed with ALD. She was the one who met with the parents to voice the concerns she saw within the classroom. Because of her communication with the parents, they were able to find out what was wrong. Her student was sent to Minnesota for a bone marrow transplant. She and Frevert knew exactly what they needed to do—visit him there.
“It was the greatest experience, not only for her student, but for his parents as well. After Ms. Foote's student came back, they also tutored him at home and have become permanent members of their family. Ms. Foote continues to stay in contact with her students after they have left her room. She wants them to know that she is always there to support them."
The mother of the boy that Frevert spoke of also posted on the Life Changer website:
In reading the award description, I can wholeheartedly say that Kerry fully embodies the ideals of the Life Changer of the Year Award! Kerry gets to know each and every student individually, works with their abilities and encourages them to achieve all that they possibly can.
"Few parents can say this, but I can honestly say that Kerry has not only changed, but SAVED my son's life!
"When Kerry had my son 5 years ago in her 3rd grade class, she noticed that he had some inconsistencies in focus and behavior which eventually led to him being diagnosed with advanced stages of a metabolic disease called adrenoleukodystrophy; a disease in his brain which required two bone marrow transplants to save his life.
"Looking back, the symptoms were present for several years prior, but the symptoms often present themselves similar to typical learning disabilities like ADHD and other focus-related behaviors.
"However, Kerry knew my son well enough to notice that these problems were more than a learning disability or unruly behavior. Something was very wrong. It was her observations and actions that let to his diagnosis, and had it not been for her pursuing it farther and working along with us to determine the cause, my son would not be alive today.
Since that time frame, Kerry has continued to go above and beyond with my son and support his accomplishments in so many ways. While undergoing his transplants, she came all of the way from New Jersey out to visit him in the hospital in Minnesota.
"She brought such sunshine to our entire family during a very difficult time, and while she continues to remain very close to us, she brings him cheer as he works through depression and makes him feel special as he has learned to adapt to his many disabilities that have resulted from his illness. Kerry's contagious enthusiasm and positive energy impacts everyone with whom she comes in contact. Whether within the classroom or out among everyday life, she is the type of teacher that the world could use many more of!"
"There is no one that is more deserving of this award," Frevert said. "I am lucky to not only have Kerry as a colleague but as a friend as well. This is truly an award made for Kerry."
Those wishing to post a letter of support for Foote can access this link: