WEST ORANGE, NJ — Kelly Elementary School teacher Dr. Keri Orange-Jones has been named an Exemplary Educator by the Nwq Jersey Department of Education.

The award is given to educators who “exhibit strong knowledge and skills, an inspiring presence, and a positive impact on students, colleagues and the school community,” according to the NJDOE website. A nominee must also have a rating of Effective or Highly Effective on his or her most recent final summative evaluation.

The entire process is carried on without the knowledge of the nominee. Social Studies Supervisor Michael Figuereido submitted Dr. Orange-Jones’ accomplishments for consideration.

Sign Up for West Orange Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

“Dr. Keri Orange has exemplary educational accomplishments outside the classroom, contributes to our profession which largely goes unheralded, consistently engages, motivates as well as inspires our students/staff and I can think of no better a person who has demonstrated long-range potential for professional and policy leadership,” said Figuereido in his letter to the NJDOE.

Dr. Orange-Jones was born and raised in Jersey City. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice from Seton Hall University. While working in corporate at Dow Jones, she was inspired to become an educator by her friend and mentor, the late Detective Calvin Hart, who believed she would be a good teacher.

“I disagreed, but I am glad I listened to him,” she said. 

Orange-Jones began her transition into teaching via the Alternate Route Program, “a non-traditional teacher preparation program designed for those who have not completed a formal teacher preparation program at an accredited college or university, but wish to obtain the necessary training to become a New Jersey certified teacher." Alternate route teachers earn a Certificate of Eligibility. 

After working in the Jersey City and Newark Public Schools, Orange-Jones came to West Orange, where she is heading into her 24th year of teaching. She obtained her Masters of Education from St. Peter’s College, as well as her supervisor and school administration certifications. She completed her doctoral degree at Rutgers University in 2018.

“The nominating information contained detailed questions regarding Keri's educational experience, Keri's teaching methodology, Keri's professionalism both in and out of the classroom, Keri's influence at Kelly and any data the district possessed regarding Keri's classes,” Figuereido said.

“I've worked closely with Mike to integrate multiculturalism into the fifth grade curriculum district-wide,” Orange-Jones said. “We have been working to revise the curriculum by focusing on the view of “Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and co-moderated an in-district book club featuring “Stamped” and independent clubs that have also included “White Fragility” and “We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom.". 

As part of the Educator Collaborative, Jones-Orange has given presentations about student choice and integrating social studies with the English-Language Arts curriculum using the global read aloud books and other projects like the global goals. She recently submitted an essay for a book to be published and is presenting at a conference in February, “Teaching Literacy in Times of Change and Uncertainty,” where her topic will be “Using Book Clubs and Other Media to Engage in Discussions about Race.”

“I have enjoyed being an educator for 23 years now," Orange-Jones said. “Although I formerly aspired to be a school administrator, I am currently involved in consulting work and presentations focused on equity, alternatives to assessment, and how to view giftedness in a non-traditional way. I hope to segue into higher education and research as well as continue to author articles, book chapters, and perhaps even my own publication one day. In my wildest dreams, I will also own a jazz and cigar club where I am also the chef. I love to cook."