WAYNE, NJ – The Wayne Board of Education celebrated this year’s top educators with a presentation honoring a teacher and service professional from each of Wayne’s fourteen schools. This article features the educators from Wayne's three middle schools and two high schools.
According to a statement release by the Wayne school district, the Governor’s Educator of the Year program recognizes both outstanding teachers and outstanding educational services professionals such as guidance counselors, nurses, speech language specialists and more.
“After school level nominations were received, each of the Wayne Township Public Schools convened a committee to select one teacher and one educational services professional under the program guidelines,” read a statement from the district. “In the coming months, each of the educators selected locally may move on for recognition at the county, and potentially as candidates for state educator of the year.”
In 2019, Wayne Valley High School technology teacher, Patrick Slater won the Passaic County teacher of the year award. Perhaps one of these educators can follow suit.
The following are excerpts from the bios of each winner found on the Wayne Schools website.
Anthony Wayne Middle School
Nicole Marquez, 8th Grade English/Language
Nicole's favorite part of teaching is the relationships she has been able to develop with her students. Her students make her laugh and she credits them with continually opening her eyes to their unique personalities, strengths, interests, and diverse backgrounds. They provide her daily with another perspective on life, help to keep her young at heart, and teach her something new every day. While many teachers love the grade they teach, she feels a special attachment to 8th grade, as she is able to watch students enter the year unsure about their place in the world, and leave having gained valuable knowledge and confidence in themselves. Having the opportunity to hear from former students and learn about their varied paths in life and hearing their memories of their time together makes teaching even more rewarding.
Christopher Vacca, Speech and Language Specialist
In the two decades as a speech-language pathologist, Chris Vacca has worked in multiple settings. He has treated a wide array of students/clients from early intervention through adulthood. His interest in all aspects of communication continues to drive him to meet the needs of his students at the middle school and high school levels. Chris believes that students thrive when they learn how to address their own obstacles with the support of therapy. This occurs optimally through positive encouragement, focus, and teamwork. He is fascinated by his profession and continues to search for new ways to motivate his students. He learns as much from his students as they learn from him.
George Washington Middle School
Carolyn Leibowitz, 8th Grade English/Language Arts
Teaching has been a long term career goal of Carolyn Leibowitz and she is thrilled it came to fruition. What she loves most about being a teacher is making meaningful connections with her students. While she takes much pride in creating new, engaging and relevant instruction, she cannot help but learn from them as well. She cherishes the moments when her classroom, no matter the setting, becomes a give and take of learning, laughing and mutual respect.
Peggy Serek, School Nurse
Peggy Serek's favorite part of being a school nurse is helping and educating others. She works with students and their families who have chronic medical conditions including diabetes, asthma, food allergies and seizure disorders. Peggy enjoys seeing the students in the health office and developing relationships with the students. There is no typical day in the health office. You always need to be prepared for any emergency. This position also allows Peggy to develop relationships with staff members who reach out with student concerns or their own medical concerns.
Schuyler Colfax Middle School
Jennifer Burton, 7th Grade English/Language Arts
It is not work when she loves what she does. Each day, Jennifer Burton shares this passion with others, whether she is doing a book talk or conferring with a student for a writing conference. She feels the joy of knowing that she is making a difference in their lives. Although she teaches them, she feels like they have taught her more. The students taught Mrs. Burton to be vulnerable and share her life stories with them, they showed her it is okay to make mistakes, and most importantly, to forgive and not let one mistake define you.
Laura Healy, Library Media Specialist
The best part of being a Media Specialist for Laura Healy is working with all of the educators and students both within the building and throughout the district. Being an educational specialist provides a unique opportunity to share our knowledge while also being able to push into classrooms and learn from colleagues. We have the ability to provide guidance making cross curricular connections and serve as a central resource of support for technology and content areas.
Wayne Hills High School
Donna Del Moro, English Teacher
The thing that Mrs. Donna Del Moro loves most about teaching is the connections that she has successfully made throughout the years with students on a regular basis. She also enjoys being able to make students smile, wave their hands in the air swaying to the music she plays from her home office on virtual days and stepping out of their comfort zones to act out a scene, read a poem or summarize a chapter. Mrs. Del Moro also prides herself in changing with the times and creating new and exciting ways - often technologically oriented - to teach the literature she has been teaching for two decades so that she can keep her approaches fresh. She keeps in touch with many alumni and socializes with them on occasion. She also takes great pride in the fact that it is very often the quietest of students or the student she expects least who will write her an awesome letter at the end of the school year, just when exhaustion and often, dispiritedness have begun to sink in. This is the sort of fortification that she enjoys most. Additionally, she finds that an occasional email from a student telling her that something they've learned in her class came in handy in college is at times, just what the doctor ordered! These messages/emails/cards/letters or GroupMe messages have always miraculously appeared at just the right time.
Bruce Keogh, High School Counselor
At the foundation of first being a teacher and now as a School Counselor in Wayne, Bruce Keogh is focused on student learning, growth and fostering in each student the belief, ability and confidence to make quality decisions today and throughout their lives. Bruce believes that life is about helping and serving others. He feels privileged to work with students in all the academic levels and grades in high school. “This career brings both great challenges and remarkable successes...and students will always present you with new opportunities to learn.” Working with students and their parents/guardians to bring understanding and insight is another reason he was attracted to the education profession. He shared that working in the world of business as a CPA, prior to this career change, offered him the experience and ability to communicate in a personal and helpful manner with people of all ages, backgrounds and perspectives. Listening to student/parent/faculty ideas and assisting all to make the best decision for a student is exhilarating and Bruce never tires of helping one person at a time.
Wayne Valley High School
Dorian Aimi, Business Education Teacher College Marketing I, II, III, Business Capstone SLE Internship Coordinator
Ms. Dorian Aimi enrolled in her first Marketing class at the age of 16 where she learned the importance of applying “the action of promoting and selling” to every aspect of her life, and the value in creatively and effectively delivering these lessons to help others. She used these tools to design a successful career teaching Marketing, hoping to improve the lives of her students and prepare them for the real world and independence. Ms. Aimi believes that effective teaching starts with credibility, creativity, and leading by example. She takes pride in mentoring her students and guiding young people on a career path. Her goal is to inspire her students to stay on track with the 3-year Marketing program, encouraging them to earn 9 college credits, and most importantly to pursue the invaluable internship experience in Marketing III. Ms. Aimi is most proud of the Community Relations and Social Responsibility Vaping campaign her students developed with the Wayne Alliance, the Diversity & Inclusion launch through her class Instagram Account “Valley is One” and the funds her students raised for community scholarships on behalf of the PTO. The most exciting part of her job is preparing her students for high-stakes corporate strategy presentations with companies like Toys R Us, Barnes & Noble, training students for DECA competitions, and of course overseeing the production of the annual PTO Spirit Wear Fashion Show! She’s proud of the hard work she put into earning CTE approval for her courses and assembling an Advisory Board.
Barbara Bardi, Library Media Specialist
Barbara has been an educator for over 40 years. Deciding on a career is a daunting task. From Barbara’s earliest years, she always knew that she wanted to teach. Her desire to impart her knowledge to others and teach her favorite subject, mathematics, opened a world of opportunity for her. Upon her college graduation, she obtained a middle and then a high school teaching position. After marrying and having a son and two daughters, Barbara took a hiatus from teaching to raise her young family. When they were of age to begin school, Barbara joined the Wayne Public Library staff where she combined her passion for reading and teaching to work with children again. Working in the children’s room allowed her to engage young children with the printed and spoken word. Barbara continued to perform her routine tasks and expanded her responsibilities to work with older children. Eventually, she developed the Young Adult Volunteer program for middle and high school students who could then assist in the children’s room. Her experience at Wayne Public Library brought her to Wayne Valley High School in the Media Center as the assistant. Continuing her own education, Barbara studied to become a Library Media Specialist. When the position became available, she applied for and became Wayne Valley’s Media Specialist. As an Educational Specialist, Barbara continues to work with students and staff at Wayne Valley. Each day brings new challenges and continued rewarding experiences which will always remain in her memory.