WARREN, NJ – Watchung Hills Regional High School (WHRHS) Social Studies and Special Education Teacher Jeff Dealaman has been selected the 2019-2020 Teacher of the Year.

Dealaman is not only a member of the faculty, he is a 1998 graduate of WHRHS, as are his parents, George and Sue, who are both members of the Class of 1968. His grandfather George Dealaman, died in 2007 at 89, and was a farmer, businessman and longtime elected official in Warren Township. He served on the Warren Township Committee for 12 years, from 1983 to 1999, including as mayor in 1985, 1990, and 1992, and as deputy mayor in 1984, 1989 and 1991.

In addition, the Teacher of the Year’s wife, Karen Dealaman, teaches Mathematics at WHRHS.  He said they met at a community social event in a neighboring town in the Fall of 2006, and started their relationship from that point. 

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They live in Warren Township, and have three children, Bennett, age 9, and Owen,7, who are students at Central School in the Warren Township School District, and Wyatt, 4, who will be joining his brothers at Central as a kindergartener in the fall.

Jeff Dealaman received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Hartford, West Hartford, Conn., and his master’s degree in Special Education from New Jersey City University, Jersey City. Mrs. Dealaman graduated from the Academy of St. Elizabeth, in the Convent Station section of Morris Township, and Providence College, Providence, R.I.

Dealaman splits his teaching duties between teaching American History with the Social Studies Department, and teaching American History and World History with the Special Services Department. In addition to his teaching duties, he is also the Assistant Coach of the WHRHS Girls Basketball Team.

Dealaman said he was informed that he had been selected as this school year’s Teacher of the Year during a recent practice of the Basketball Team. 

“I was very surprised,” he said. “I definitely got choked up a little bit. I am honored and flattered by the selection. It means a lot to me to know that students appreciate me enough to go out of their way to nominate me and write something nice on my behalf.”

The Teacher of the Year selection is competed by a combination of nominations that are made and voted on by students, and a committee of faculty members who then select from among the top vote getters.

A Very Special Place

Later, Dealaman reflected on his selection.

“It is truly an honor to receive this recognition,” Dealaman said. “Watchung Hills is a very special place to me on a personal level. Not only did I graduate from this high school but it’s also where my parents met, where I met my wife, Karen, and it’s where my three boys will eventually attend high school. To be recognized by the students and staff of Watchung Hills as someone deserving of this award is extremely meaningful to me.”

He said that his high school history teachers – Louis Dudas, Anita Falvo and Jim Carden – inspired me to pursue a degree in history from the University of Hartford. 

“However, after I graduated, I was unsure of what I wanted to do with that degree,” he said. “I did know that I loved sports and working with kids. That summer I became aware of an open coaching position at Watchung Hills with the boys basketball program so I contacted Gene McAteer, the head coach at the time. I was hired to coach the freshman team that winter. Knowing that I would be coaching at the school, I went through the process to become a substitute teacher and started working at Watchung Hills in the fall of 2002. After covering for a variety of different teachers, across many subjects and academic levels, I found myself drawn to working with the school’s learning and language disabled (LLD) population.”

He said that over the winter break that year, he got a surprising phone call and was informed that one of the school’s Special Education teachers was resigning and that he was being offered Emergency Certification to teach their classes for the rest of the school year. 

“I excitedly accepted and went on to teach five self-contained biology classes, scrambling to stay one-step ahead of my students by preparing my lessons the night before each class. I also coached the Junior Varsity baseball team that spring.”

He said he could not have gotten through that time without the support of some phenomenal teachers and even better people. He listed, Sandi Mann, Bonnie Quigley, Laura Goodson and Lydia Chu, among many others. 

“I also want to thank the school’s Director of Special Education at the time, Dr. Fran Stromsland, the Supervisor of Special Services Marianne Sales, Athletic Director Mario Diez and Principal Tom DiGanci, for believing in me and having the confidence that I would do a good job despite not having an educational background,” he said.

He said that for the following two school years, he worked as an instructional aide as he worked toward his teaching certification as a Teacher of the Handicapped and his master’s degree in Special Education at New Jersey City University, Jersey City.During this time, Marianne Sales and he worked together to establish Watchung Hills’ Transition Coordinator position and build relationships with businesses in the community to expand the Special Service department’s school-to-work program for the LLD population.

“Since receiving my teaching certification,” Dealaman said, “I have been in the classroom for the past 15 years and moved from boys basketball and baseball to girls basketball and softball. The highlights of my coaching career include winning the softball state championship alongside Mike D’Alessandro in 2016 and serving as the varsity assistant in the girls basketball program with Sandy Whelan and for the last 6 years, Reese Kirchofer.”

He has taught a variety of classes over the past 15 years, he said, including: Self-contained History and English courses and co-taught classes in about every department in the school – biology, chemistry, Spanish, English, algebra and geometry. For the past five years, he has had a consistent schedule of two OCR-level US History 1 classes, two LLD History classes and one co-taught US History 1 class. 

Goal: A Positive Experience

“My goal has always been to give the students and athletes that I have worked with a positive experience and something that they can look forward to everyday,” he said. It is important to me that my students feel comfortable and heard. I want them to know that they have people here at Watchung Hills that they can approach with any issues they are having and that we have a phenomenal group of educators here that care about them. It is flattering and humbling to receive the appreciation from my students and the staff of such a great school community. Thank you to my students, the student-athletes that I’ve had the pleasure to coach, colleagues, especially my brothers in LOW and my beautiful and amazing wife, Karen. I take great pride in being valued as an educator and member of this great community.”