MADISON, NJ—Each of the borough’s five schools on Tuesday recognized their teachers of the year at a Board of Education meeting.

Principals from each school took a few minutes before the meeting to say a few words about these teachers, who were nominated for the award by students and their families.

This year’s winners for teacher of the year:

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  • Madison High School - Russ Batsch, marching band director
  • Madison Junior School - Steve Finkelstein, social studies teacher
  • Torey J. Sabatini School - Tina Smith, fifth-grade teacher
  • Kings Road School - Laurie Schaefer, fourth-grade teacher
  • Central Avenue School - Megan Petersen, occupational therapy

Here is what some of the schools’ top dogs had to say about the winning teachers:

When Batsch began his journey as the Madison High School band director nine years ago, he had a vision for a marching band that would replace the school’s non-competitive pep band, said Principal Greg Robertson.

“With a budget of $0 and an unbridled passion, he began the process of building a new marching band from the ground up,” Robertson said. “They had no uniforms, no formal choreography, no supplies; but what students that first year did have was a teacher with a vision and a commitment so strong that he would prove to be unstoppable in his quest to form a competitive band.”

“Fast forward to today and the Marching Dodgers marching band is now one of the most successful and popular activities at the high school” with more than 70 members, he said.

Social Studies teacher Steve Finkelstein of Madison Junior School is said to be nearly everyone’s favorite teacher, according to Principal David Coster.

In submissions for teacher of the year, parents praised Finkelstein because they know they can count on him, Coster said.

“His communication with parents lets us know that he is on top of things, giving us one less thing to worry about,” Coster said, quoting an eighth grade parent’s nomination. “His sensitivity to the awkwardness of being 12 years old makes his classroom a safe space for students for all three years they’re at MJS.”

Central Avenue School Principal Alison Stager recognized fifth-grade teacher Tina Smith’s as the 2017 teacher of the year.

Smith supports her students in any way she can, often attending community and sporting events in which her students are involved, and has an innate ability to connect with colleagues, students and parents, according to Stager.

“I’ve worked with her only a year now, but her determination, commitment and perseverance were apparent on the first day I met her,” Stager said.

Fourth-grade teacher Laurie Schaefer is a “positive, engaged” part of the Kings Road School family, said Principal Kathleen Koop. Schaefer has spent 17 years in the Madison school district.

In Petersen’s classroom, Central Avenue School Principal Tom Liss said, students are having so much fun they do not realize they are improving their skills.

“Imagine if all of us could say the students themselves in our classrooms or program and do not know they are actually learning,” he said.

Retirees from each school were also recognized at Tuesday’s meeting.

Here is a look at who will leave the Madison school district this year:

Madison High School

Tim Maseker, business and technology teacher, after 14 years at the high school

Madison Junior School

Janice Corte, special education

Torey J. Sabatini School

Marlene Ryan, reading specialist, after more than 20 years in the Madison district

Kings Road School

Marie Pehowic, second-grade teacher, after 45 years in the Madison district

Beverly DeFabiis, basic skills teacher, after 32 years in the Madison district

Central Avenue School

Mary Gibbons, second-grade teacher, after 43 years in the Madison district

The fourth- and fifth-grade Central Avenue School chorus, led by chorus teacher Kiera Chiarino, performed “When I Close My Eyes” at Tuesday’s Board meeting.