One of my all-time favorite books is Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It is a magical and timeless tale about logic, word play, and growing up. And in Alice’s words, “a moral if you can find it.” The passage below captures Alice’s initial meeting with the White Queen:
The White Queen asks Alice, “How old are you?”
Alice responds, “I am seven and a half exactly.”
The White Queen replies, “You needn’t say exactly. I can believe it without that. Now, I’ll give you something to believe. I am 101, 5 months and one day.”
Alice exclaims, “I can’t believe that.”
The White Queen says, “Can’t you? Try again! Draw a long breath and shut your eyes.”
Alice sighs as she says, “There’s no use trying. One can’t believe impossible things.”
The White Queen states, “I daresay you haven’t had much practice. When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
We, in education, can appreciate the White Queen’s words for we, too, have much practice in believing many impossible things before breakfast. As educators, we believe that teaching and learning are among the most noble, most profound endeavors of the human experience. We believe that we can inspire in every student a passion and love of learning. Every day, teachers and support staff commit to providing rich and meaningful learning experiences for students.
Like many professions, education has become increasingly complicated and demanding. Teachers are required to possess mastery in curriculum and instruction, child development, assessment, and effective communication. They must be well versed and up to date on current educational research and trends. They must possess expertise in technology for online lesson planning and grade submission as well as for classroom instruction. Teachers are responsible for attending to each learner’s developmental needs while providing guidance, identifying academic expectations, and monitoring each learner’s academic and social growth. As students come to school with greater mental and emotional health issues and fewer social skills, managing student behaviors has become more challenging. Today’s teachers must provide direct instruction in the area social-emotional learning to help students acquire the tools necessary to manage themselves and navigate their day to day environment. Additionally, with the chronic threat of school violence, staff members must adhere to an array of drilling protocols to ensure student safety.
Like the White Queen, educators clearly have a lot of practice in the impossible.
In spite of the ongoing challenges facing our education professionals we are delighted to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week beginning on May 6. As we prepare to honor all of our outstanding professionals, I would like to point to five individuals that have been selected by their colleagues to serve our district as the 2020 Educators of the Year.
Kristin Aquilino, K-4 STEAM/Computer Teacher and Media Specialist at Sharon Elementary School, has 16 years of experience in the teaching profession. Serving up to 200 students each day, Kristin fosters an inquiry and problem-solving laboratory in which students collaborate with their peers to discover new connections and take charge of their learning experiences. Kristin’s passion for teaching and learning and her unwavering commitment to the socio-emotional and academic learning needs of every student is strikingly apparent in all that she does.
Shelly Vos is the PRMS Educational Service Professional of the Year. Shelly strives to take initiative and respond quickly to the needs of her students. She actively collaborates with the teachers she works with and offers a fresh perspective to any obstacle she encounters. Shelly has become an integral part of Pond’s Knight and Day Coffee Café. She has a joyful presence and infuses positivity within, as well as outside of, the classroom. It is abundantly clear that she loves her job and the students she works with each day!
A physical education and health teacher at PRMS for 19 years, Karen DeRossett is the Pond Road Middle School Teacher of the Year. Karen has an infectious and positive presence and always sees the best in people. Her unassuming nature and winning smile put everyone she encounters in a positive mindset, making everyone she interacts with feel important and valued.
RHS Educational Service Professional of the Year Gregg Lerner began his tenure in Robbinsville as a part-time instructional aide at Pond Road Middle School in 2011. Prior to this he worked for 22 years as a sportswriter for The Star-Ledger. Currently he serves as a full-time instructional aide in the RHS SOAR program as a tireless advocate for students with special needs.
Angel Dolina is the RHS Educator of the Year. She has been a member of the history department for ten years and over the past few years has created a phenomenal psychology program. As an instructional leader, Angel joined me at a national conference to present on incorporating student voices in teacher evaluation. She has organized guest speakers on topics such as the Holocaust and war veterans, and serves as a turnkey teacher trainer for the Positive Education Initiative (PEI), Genesis Portal, Danielson Teacher Evaluation Instrument, and our Robbinsville Ready Skills.
We in Robbinsville Public Schools are grateful for the passion and dedication that define our staff. Their presence each day makes a difference in the lives of our students. We also count our administrative support staff, instructional aides, bus drivers, our technology team, custodial and maintenance staff, SROs, and cafeteria personnel among our many blessings. Because every member of this phenomenal team commits anew each day to the capacity and well-being of our students, things that may seem utterly impossible before breakfast suddenly become infinitely and extraordinarily possible.
Kathie Foster is superintendent of Robbinsville Schools.