LIVINGSTON, NJ — Greer Gelman, a lifelong resident of Livingston and a 1990 graduate of Livingston High School (LHS), has made it a mission to give back to her hometown through her position as a kindergarten teacher at Collins Elementary School and as the president of the Livingston Education Foundation (LEF). After 21 years as a Livingston educator, Gelman was acknowledged as the recipient of the Livingston Board of Education award at the 2018 Livingston Area Chamber of Commerce (LACC) Awards Dinner held at the Westminster Hotel.
At Collins, where Gelman taught second grade before moving to kindergarten, has also managed the student council program, created the Collins Care initiative to teach students how to give back to their community and is “an extraordinary teacher,” according to Superintendent of Schools Christina Steffner. In addition to her position as an educator, Gelman is also giving back to the public school community through the LEF, which she and other like-minded community members are on a mission to revitalize in order to enhance education for Livingston students as well as provide opportunities for alumni.
“When I was trying to think about what makes Greer so special, it’s really about her spirit,” said Steffner as she explained why Gelman was nominated for the LACC award. “She brings energy and joy to everything that she does. She is dedicated not only to her students, but she is also dedicated to the community that she loves…Greer said that she was lucky to have grown up in Livingston, because it is here that she learned the importance of community. I would argue that it is Livingston that is lucky to have Greer Gelman.”
Following her graduation from LHS, Gelman studied at the University of Delaware, where she majored in psychology and educational studies, before receiving a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood from Montclair University. Prior to becoming the chairperson for the LEF, she was inducted into the LHS Hall of Fame in 2012 by the same organization.
“As Greer does with everything she touches, she makes [the LEF] a success,” said Steffner, who specifically acknowledged the community book chat that Gelman took on as one of her first initiatives as the foundation’s president.
Not only was Gelman able to recruit LHS alumnus and best-selling author Harlan Coben to speak at the inaugural community-wide book chat in January, she was also instrumental in attracting nearly 600 people to attend the event. Steffner said it was a “great activity to get the LEF back into doing what it does best.”
“Volunteering and giving back is something I am passionate about and it gives me joy to be recognized and honored for doing so well and makes it even more special,” said Gelman, who said she was stunned when members of the district announced that she would be this year’s honoree. “I cannot tell you how honored and humbled I am to accept this award tonight, and I feel so fortunate to work for a group of people who not only value the importance of teaching, but of giving back to others. I am proud to be a teacher and I am proud to call Livingston my home.”
Gelman thanked her boyfriend, Tod, her brother, Adam, and her extended family for their supports as well as her parents for teaching her to “be the best [she] can be” and how to give without expecting anything in return. She also acknowledged many of her friends who are currently joining her on the mission to revitalize the LEF.
“I will continue to work hard as I educate young children and help prepare them to be good citizens,” she said. “It is my hope that I could be a positive role model and continue to demonstrate the power of building community and the understanding that everyone has the power to give back.”
Councilman Shawn Klein, whose two sons, Jack and Neil, had Gelman as a kindergarten teacher at Collins, said he has seen first-hand all of the reasons why the Livingston Board of Education would nominate her for this award.
“We need more people that love Livingston as much as Greer loves Livingston,” Klein said as he presented Gelman with the award. “She ‘bleeds green,’ as they say.”
Steffner said that when she was trying to find something to say that "would capture Greer’s essence," she remembered a poem entitled "A Woman of Strength." She quoted the poem in Gelman's honor as follows:
“A strong woman works out every day to keep her body in shape, but a woman of strength kneels in prayer to keep her soul in shape. A strong woman isn’t afraid of anything, but a woman of strength shows courage in the midst of fear. A strong woman won’t let anything get the best of her, but a woman of strength gives her best to everyone. A strong woman makes mistakes and avoids the same in the future, but a woman of strength realizes life’s mistakes can also be a blessing and she capitalizes on them. A strong woman walks sure-footedly, but a woman of strength knows that she will be able to get up if she should fall. A strong woman wears a look of confidence on her face, but a woman of strength wears grace. A strong woman has faith that she is strong enough for the journey, but a woman of strength has faith that it is in the journey that she will become strong."
Other honorees of the 2018 LACC Awards Dinner including Saint Barnabas Medical Center (SBMC) for Business of the Year; Margie Heller, administrative director of community health and outreach at SBMC, for Civic Leader of the Year; and Mahesh Lekkala of Wine Legend for Business Person of the Year. Click HERE to learn more about these honorees.
First responders Michael Barnhard, Lt. John Drumm and Vincent Kulik were also honored for their work on the Livingston First Aid Squad (LFAS), Livingston Police Department (LPD) and the Livingston Fire Department (LFD), respectively. Click HERE to learn about these award.