NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – Superintendent David Miceli presented the Golden Apple awards to four teachers representing each borough school at the Thursday, April 25 Board of Education (BOE) meeting. He commended the Teachers of the Year: Melissa Hatfield, Joan Rykus, Joanna Silva and Mary Ellen Raiti for their contributions to the educational experience of their students. He explained that one of his favorite tasks of the year is to go to each teacher’s classroom and announce their award in front of their students and see their reactions.
Brian Henry, Assistant Principal at the High School, introduced the High School Teacher of the Year, Melissa Hatfield. She is a Language Arts teacher who has taught all levels of classes during her tenure at the high school. Most notably she has taught World Literature for many years, including epic poetry, short stories, novels, drama, and classics, Henry said. She makes the world literature relatable to students as she connects insights into the human development of the characters and themes that are relevant in today’s world. Students at her class gain appreciation for culture and humanity within our society, he added.
For the past two years Hatfield has served as model teacher, taking on two student teachers. “Through her mentorship she has modeled excellent teaching for the student teachers,” Henry explained. She has shown commitment and passion towards the value of excellent education for all students. She has inspired and challenged her students beyond their limits with her innovative teaching methods, he said and added that Hatfield is “always smiling” and in a good mood making it pleasant for her students and colleagues to be around her.
Joan Rykus has been “a valued member” of the Middle School Math Department for the past eight years, Middle School Principal Karin Kidd said. “Her goals are always student-centered,” Kidd said. She is an active participant in the district math committee and is a title-1 support teacher outside the school day. “She is always eager to pilot new ways to individualize learning,” Kidd added.
In order to get a full picture of Rykus’s character and professionalism Kidd had interviewed both Rykus’s students and colleagues, who shared “very favorable comments and anecdotes” regarding Rykus. Her colleagues pointed out that Rykus’s extensive knowledge of mathematics allows her to clearly explain concepts to her students.
Rykus’s students had also shared “how much they value her dedication to them,” Kidd explained. One of Rykus’s students, Cassie, came to the meeting and summarized why Rykus deserves the Teacher of the Year nomination. She called Rykus “an amazing person for many reasons.” The students especially appreciate Rykus for making herself available to students both before and after school, while helping the students to master the math concepts.
Allen W. Roberts School Principal Gina Hansen introduced Joanna Silva as the recipient of the Golden Apple award. Silva started her teaching career in New Providence in 1998. She worked as a third grade teacher for eight years, and after that she has been a second grade teacher. She has always been on the cutting edge when it comes to technology, Hansen said. Silva served as a co-director of a summer camp. She also served on the AWR Technology Committee and AWR Safety Committee. Hansen touted Silva’s positive energy and approachability.
Hansen told the board about Silva’s little dog, Penny, who is the star of the children’s book Silva wrote. Silva is an active member of her community, and has served as a CCD teacher. She has also helped organize parties at the school and she is a natural member of the Sunshine Committee with a positive and smiling demeanor, Hansen explained. “She is someone who I can always count on, someone who is always willing to do whatever it takes to engage each and every one of her students,” Hansen said.
Salt Brook School Principal Jeannie Drexinger provided a video show with children commending their school’s Teacher of the Year Mary Ellen Raiti. The students described Raiti as a “fun” and “awesome” teacher who helps them learn with “catchy songs” and “fun games”.
Drexinger described her as an innovative and creative teacher who cares about each of her students. She works hard to meet their needs both academically and emotionally. “She is extremely insightful and thoughtful in her approach to working with our students, and is constantly expanding her professional knowledge in order to better meet their needs.” Mrs. Raiti understands the importance of having her students think deeply, communicate clearly, resolve complex problems, and lead with empathy. She is an instructional leader and an exemplary teacher within the Salt Brook School, Drexinger said.
The four award winning teachers will also be celebrated at the countywide event at Kean University on May 29, 2019.
Additionally, the board declared the week of May 5-11, 2019 as Teacher Recognition Week in New Providence and throughout the state.