SPOTSWOOD, NJ - Jennifer Asprocolas watched her first class of students graduate Spotswood High School last June. Back in September of 2009, members of the class of 2017 were fifth-graders at the Appleby Elementary School. Their teacher was new. Her name was Miss Nemer.
As that graduating class begins to make their way in the world, Asprocolas is starting the next facet of hers as the principal of the Spotswood School District's Schoenly School. The school teaches the district's youngest students, housing prekindergarten, kindergarten and first-graders.
Since Asprocolas began her career as a fifth-grade teacher, she has worn many hats throughout the district, including special education teacher, teacher of gifted and talented, school testing coordinator for grades 3-5, Department Chairperson of Art, Music and World Language and extended school year principal. The New Jersey native received her Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Teacher Education and Special Education as well as English Concentration from the University of Delaware. She earned her Master of Arts in Administration and Leadership from Georgian Court University in Lakewood.
Asprocolas has been both an Appleby Teacher of the Year and district Teacher of the Year during her tenure. The newly-appointed principal has always gravitated towards leadership opportunities she explained, even as a young girl.
"I'm excited to open my eyes to a new school," Asprocolas said with a smile in a recent interview.
The veteran educator always saw herself as a first-grade teacher and is thrilled to play a pivotal role in the inaugural educational experience for Spotswood School District students.
Partnering with longtime colleague, Nancy Torchiano is another exhilarating element of her new administrative position. Torchiano has been the principal of the Schoenly School for the past two years and will be taking over the reins as the principal of the Appleby Elementary School on September 1 when Karen Boyle retires after 39 years in the district. The pair taught together at Appleby and Asprocolas replaced Torchiano as the school's gifted and talented teacher when she became principal at Schoenly in September of 2015.
"Nancy's (Torchiano) goal and my goal is to have a cohesion between the two buildings. It's a little bit right now like islands. We want to have a vision where it is the elementary program. Our goal this year is to bring the teachers together to talk about what's being done in fifth grade and how kindergarten can lead up to that."
"That's especially important with the messages that we are giving the students in character development," Asprocolas continued. "We want to make sure that the values we instill in kindergarten are strengthened until they become fifth graders."
"I think that the fact that Nancy and I share a lot of the same philosophies and we have similar values in education," Asprocolas added. "Is going to make a really seamless transition for me and it will also strengthen the elementary program."
While Asprocolas has enjoyed all of her educational experiences in the Spotswood School District, she is drawn to the components of being a building administrator since the position allows her to "educate the whole child."
Even though Asprocolas makes her home with her husband in Metuchen, Spotswood has always held a special place in her heart even through she didn't grow up here. It was a feeling the enveloped her when she left her initial interview in the district with Boyle way back when and has never left. She told the interview panel that she started her career in the borough and wanted to conclude it here as well.
"This really is my dream job," Asprocolas said. "My heart is in elementary education. I've dabbled in other areas, but there has always been something about elementary students. It's that sense of wonder. It's that sense of the light bulb going off. It really just excites me."
Asprocolas will officially welcome her new staff back on September 5 for two days of teacher in-service. Spotswood School District students return to their classrooms on Thursday, September 7 for the start of the 2017-18 school year.