ROXBURY, NJ - Seven teachers who "exemplify high expectations for all students" were recently named Roxbury's teachers of the year.
The awards were presented May 8 by the Roxbury Board of Education to Franklin School teacher Cathy Freund, Jefferson School teacher Jennifer Toupet, Kennedy School teacher Karen Kovarik, Nixon School teacher Abigail Scales, Lincoln/Roosevelt School teacher Jennifer Smith, Eisenhower Middle School teacher Marie Pessolano and Roxbury High School teacher Cheryl Jones.
“These teachers of the year exemplify high expectations for all students, an ability to foster feelings of self-worth and a love of learning, and the skill to create a student-centered environment,” said Roxbury Superintendent of Schools Loretta Radulic. “They represent all of the talented, committed, and knowledgeable teachers in Roxbury, and it is a pleasure to honor them.”
Each building administrator introduced and praised their school’s teacher of the year sharing anecdotes from their personal experience, from a student or staff member or from a parent of a child in the school.
Newly appointed Franklin School Principal Lisa Ferrare said she’s worked with second grade teacher Freund for only a short time but has seen her impact. “Mrs. Freund creates a safe learning environment,” Ferrare said. “She is a positive force in the school. She makes learning fun for all her students and creates a warm atmosphere throughout the building. Mrs. Freund inspires. She knows how to bring out the best in her students and her warm, positive, caring demeanor will be greatly missed this year as Mrs. Freund retires from Franklin School.”
Toupet, a second-grade teacher at Jefferson School, was praised by that school’s principal, Melissa Cosgrove. “While visiting Mrs. Toupet’s classroom you can’t help but to feel excited about learning,” Cosgrove said. “There is always so much happening and Jen is the dynamic conductor behind it all. Her positivity is contagious. I am proud to have her as a colleague and we are all lucky to have her talents here in Roxbury.”
Kennedy School Principal Eric Renfors spoke about Kovarik, a BSI/Computer teacher at the school. “Parents nominated her for the wonderful website that she maintains with so many valuable resources and leading school-wide events celebrating the Hour of Code and the annual Sum Dog contest,” he said. “She was recognized for inviting parent volunteers into her room on a weekly basis and it has been said more than once that the parents learn as much from her as the students. She is an invaluable resource to our staff, serving as the technology teacher, ISL math teacher, and de-factor support person for all things technology.”
Nixon Principal Danielle Lynch shared this regarding Scales, a Kindergarten teacher at her school: “Mrs. Scales, who is in her fifth year of teaching at Nixon School, is the ultimate professional. According to many staff members at Nixon, Abbie is a compassionate and passionate teacher, who sets high expectations for herself and her students. She varies her teaching methods so as to optimize learning and to ensure that her lessons achieve the goal that she has set forth.”
Lincoln/Roosevelt Assistant Principal Chris Argenziano shared one co-worker’s comment regarding Smith, who teaches fifth grade. “I think that the staff at L/R is amazing and while I feel there are many who are deserving of this award, the one who sticks out to me as going above and beyond every day is Jenn Smith,” said Smith’s colleague, according to Argenziano. “Jenn is one of the most hard-working individuals I have ever met. As far as curriculum, she knows it inside and out and can give you standards off the top of her head. She creates tests, quizzes, study guides and projects that are all aligned with the standards and is always willing to share them with her group. She is a team player and works well with everyone.”
Pessolano, an art teacher at Eisenhower Middle School “puts heart in it,” said principal Dominick Miller. “She builds her students like a fine sculpture. She doesn’t care if her students are abstract or conceptual. She loves them all. She is a Renaissance woman. She is a masterpiece and she is our teacher of the year.”
Roxbury High School Principal Jeff Swanson shared an anecdote from a fellow staff member regarding his Jones, a special education teacher who works in co-teaching classrooms with Bruce Heike in senior English and Frank Misurelli in U.S. History classes.
The co-teacher said Jones “does not work with the AP students, or honors students or with the gifted students … No Cheryl works with the angry, with the struggling, the IEPs and the 504s. If they don’t have an icon by their name in Genesis, they probably are not one of hers. Her students don’t arrive each day expecting accolades and acclaim. They come in quietly, sheepishly, hesitantly, praying not to be embarrassed in class and hoping to find a guide to help them survive. Cheryl is that guide. She consoles, quiets, calms, encourages, nurtures, mothers and teaches her pupils.”