MONTVILLE, NJ - The Christie Administration named Robert R. Lazar Middle School Science teacher, Cheryl Zanone, Morris County Teacher of the Year for 2015-16. Zanone is the first teacher from Montville Township Public Schools to receive the county award.

The announcement, which was made September 10, 2015, included the names of all of New Jersey's 21 County Teachers of the Year for the 2015-16 school year.

“I am extremely proud to receive this honor; considering that I was named by a panel of administrators, teachers, and parents who may not know me or my work personally,” Zanone said. “Each teacher from Morris County who was nominated by their district for this recognition of Teacher of the Year demonstrated their dedication, talent, and success.  Having been selected, I assume my role as a teacher leader sincerely and look forward to collaborating with the other New Jersey County Teachers of the Year as we help shape education in the state.  Also, I am eager to represent the teachers of Morris County in whatever educational opportunities come my way.  Finally, I am excited to serve as a conduit for new ideas and beneficial programs, and bring these back to all educators in my district.”  

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Through the recognition program, the New Jersey Department of Education honors some of the state's most dynamic educators. The County Teachers of the Year are recognized for their valuable contributions to their school communities at the local level, and are given the opportunity to serve as ambassadors of education to officials at the state level.

“Cheryl Zanone is an extraordinary and dedicated teacher who goes above and beyond to inspire and guide her students. Both in the classroom and as an advisor she is generous with time and knowledge,” said Montville Township Superintendent, Dr. René Rovtar. “Cheryl is dedicated to student success. She creates an atmosphere of learning and excitement. Cheryl Zanone embodies the goals and initiatives of the Montville Township Public Schools. This is the first time a Montville Township teacher has been awarded a Morris County Teacher of the Year Award. We are proud to be represented by Cheryl and we are very proud of her accomplishments. Cheryl is inspired by her students and is dedicated to her students. She truly deserves this honor.  I am so excited that Cheryl has been selected to exemplify instructional excellence in our county. ”

The 21 County Teachers of the Year were recently honored at an orientation ceremony at the Department of Education in Trenton. The Department of Education celebrated the achievements of the teachers as they interacted with each other in a variety of sessions and took part in a panel discussion about educational initiatives.

“I’m pleased to congratulate all of our County Teachers of the Year for 2015-16,” said Education Commissioner David C. Hespe. “I consider this award a tribute to the talent, dedication, professionalism and success of these educators. They not only inspire the children they teach, they inspire us all.

“New Jersey public schools are widely considered to be among the strongest in the nation,” Hespe added, “and teachers like these are part of the reason why. I am proud to recognize their leadership and look forward to learning more from them in the year to come.”

The Department of Education will engage this group of honored educators throughout the 2015-16 school year in a number of ways. In addition to fostering opportunities for the teachers to network with educators throughout the state and country, state officials will count on the group to bring valuable resources and materials directly from the Department to local districts. At the same time, the teachers will be invited to serve on state committees and task forces to share their own experiences and voices at the state level.

Zanone, who earned her Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees in Science from Fairleigh Dickinson University, as well as a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership from Thomas Edison State College, came to teaching science at Robert R. Lazar Middle School after more than a decade in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical chemicals industry. 

“Upon seeing my own children learning science solely from a text book, I felt compelled to make a difference in science education,” Zanone recalled. “I believe that a scientific mindset can frame how we think about and solve problems of our world.”

In 2002 she joined the Lazar faculty.

“Teaching is a remarkable, challenging profession as every day starts with a clean slate,” Zanone explained. “Each morning, eager faces greet me and I know that my lessons must creatively motivate and engage their curiosity while delivering the collective standards of the state. The autonomy within the walls of a classroom allows my own maximum personal growth as I carefully cultivate the seeds of our future.  My attitudes about and methods of teaching have remained fluid and centered on active learning.” 

Principal Sharon Carr confirmed Zanone’s dedication to education.

“Each and every day, Mrs. Zanone provides students with an opportunity to inquire, discover, and reflect in an atmosphere of kindness and trust,” she said.

County Teachers of the Year are first selected at the school level through the Governor’s Educator of the Year program. They then go on to compete at the county level and are selected by panels representing a cross-section of administrators, teachers, parents, and county education association representatives convened by the Department’s executive county superintendents.

A state-level panel of educators will select New Jersey's State Teacher of the Year based on a written application, video submission, and interviews with the top five finalists. The State Teacher of the Year will be announced at the State Board of Education's October meeting, and will go on to represent New Jersey at the National Teacher of the Year competition.

The National Teacher of the Year Program, of which the County Teacher of the Year program is a part, began in 1952 and continues as the oldest, most prestigious national honors program that focuses public attention on excellence in teaching. The program is sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).  The CCSSO will name the nation’s top teacher in April 2016.

Additional information can be found on the Governor’s Educator of the Year webpage.

Zanone now moves on to the state Teacher of the Year competition where she will compete against twenty other county educators from across New Jersey.