WESTFIELD, NJ — Westfield Public School teachers Christine Cabrales and Erika Hodges have been named Outstanding Intermediate School Teachers for 2015 by the Optimist Club of Westfield, Westfield Public Schools announced. They will be honored by the Westfield Board of Education on Tuesday, June 9, when resolutions will be presented to the teachers by Board President Richard Mattessich. The meeting will take place at 7 p.m. in room 105 at 302 Elm Street.
Cabrales and Hodges are the recipients of the 18th annual Optimist award, established in 1998 to recognize the importance of teaching in the intermediate grades. The award is presented annually to two Westfield teachers – one each from Edison and Roosevelt Intermediate Schools.
Cabrales is in her 14th year as a physical education/health teacher at Edison Intermediate School, where she instructs students in grades six through eight. Currently the eighth grade volleyball coach, she has served as the coach of girls JV tennis and eighth grade softball.
Cabrales holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Health and Physical Education from the University of Delaware. She is a member of SHAPE America (Society of Health and Physical Educators), NJAHPERD (New Jersey Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance) and USA Volleyball.
In a letter of nomination, one former student of Cabrales wrote, “Her students were her number one priority. She came to school ready to make an impact.”
“She brings her positive attitude, enthusiasm and love of teaching and appreciation for competitive play with her to work every day. She is kind, patient and considerate to everyone,” a colleague wrote. Another colleague added, “Not only does she build a positive rapport with students, but she motivates them to always do their best and strive to reach their goals.”
“I am honored to join such a remarkable and distinguished group of educators who have received this award,” said Cabrales. “I’m humbled because there are simply so many outstanding, passionate and creative educators at Edison Intermediate School. I’m extremely proud to represent a subject that promotes a healthy and active lifestyle.”
Hodges is a seventh grade Language Arts teacher in her 10th year at Roosevelt Intermediate School in Westfield. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Science Education from the University of Delaware, and is certified in Grade K-5 elementary and a specialization in Language Arts, grades 5-8.
In nominating Hodges, a student described her as “nice, caring, and fun.”
“She is an overall awesome person and she also is a really great teacher. She makes sure everyone understands. She is the greatest teacher and always brightens everyone’s day,” another student wrote.
A current seventh grader added, “One thing that I like the most about her is that she makes the work fun, makes us work hard, and she’s happy to help you when you need help.”
“For years I have carried around a small Post-it note, a quote from author Mitch Albom: ‘Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers’ — if not to remind myself of the importance of my job, but to encourage myself to be thoughtful in my classroom and cognizant of my position, to incorporate learning and laughter on a daily basis, to present myself to my students as a real person with flaws and strengths.
“I feel incredibly fortunate to love my profession and feel challenged by it every day. It’s even more rewarding to work in a school district that values their teachers by honoring them. But it isn’t the honor that I treasure most. It’s the small notes, emails, and comments I have received from my colleagues, my students and their families over the years that I hold close to my heart as I accept the honor of Teacher of the Year.”