Educator Of The Year: Ms. Griffith!

The New Jersey Department of Education’s Governor’s Educator of the Year Recognition Program encourages educators to become champions of education. The program promotes a culture that recognizes excellence creates a sense of pride, and brings public attention to the work of outstanding educators.

The main criteria that were considered during the selection process included:

-Serving as an exceptionally skilled and dedicated educator in a public school,

-Inspiring students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn,

-Demonstrating leadership and innovation in and outside of the classroom,

-Having the respect and admiration of students, parents, administrators

With these criteria in mind, teachers nominated other teachers for the award. There were 4 nominees: Mrs. Griffith, Madame Georgel, Mr. Cosenza, and Mr. Sylvester. In other words, it must have been a really tough call to narrow it down to one winner, considering this short but powerful list. Ultimately, Ms. Griffith was announced as EOY. We start with her interview, and then hear from the runners-up.

 

The Parrot: What did it feel like to be nominated for educator of the year? 

Ms. Griffith: When the names were being read, my students were saying Mr. Cosenza and other teachers. I felt shocked that my name was mentioned and, next thing, they announced who was the educator of the year. I diminished to tears immediately and my students clapped for me, but ultimately I felt humbled and honored. 

The Parrot: What are some things that you do in your classroom that you think people recognize? 

Ms. Griffith: I get to know my students and my students know that I’m always here and willing to help them. I like to think of my classroom as a safe haven, and whenever I’m available, I let my students eat lunch with me. 

The Parrot: What do you love about teaching? 

Ms. Griffith: The variety of students I see everyday. Everyday is different and I believe that I was always supposed to be teaching, always striving to be the best each day, and always understanding that there are bad days so I can work on having good days. 

The Parrot: What’s your favorite memory as a teacher? 

Ms. Griffith: I love to hear from students that have graduated and I love reaching out to ask them what they’re doing and what steps they’ve taken to become who they are. They send pictures of their college degrees, but sometimes I meet them in stores. I love to see success. 

The Parrot: What are some fun facts about you?

Ms. Griffith: I love the beach, and I love to go to Florida and Disney. I love being with my family at home and also my family at Audubon High School. I hated math but loved my math teacher because she always made math really fun to do. I’m typically a very private person; I support people, usually quietly, but I just hope that my students and friends know that I’m always there for them. 

Nominees:

Madame Georgel

The Parrot: What did it feel like to be nominated for educator of the year?

Madame:I felt honored, and I was surprised of course. 

The Parrot: What are some things that you do in your classroom that you think people recognize? 

Madame: I think I incorporate a lot of culture and my own personal experiences into the curriculum. 

The Parrot: What do you love about teaching?

Madame: I love having my students experience a different culture, or multiple different cultures. I love seeing them experience other things than what they’re usually used to. 

The Parrot: What’s your educational philosophy? 

Madame: As cliché as it sounds, do everything to the best of your ability. But, I always say that traveling and experiencing what the world has to offer is also learning, and that’s what I hope to inspire in my students. 

The Parrot: What’s your favorite memory as a teacher?

Madame: I would say getting together with former students in France, but not through the trips with ACIS. There was this one student that came to me in 9th grade and he was so shy but he ended up going on the France trip with us that we usually set up, two times. He then continued to study at a university for French in France and I met up with them there. It’s just great to open up a new perspective to students that could not be given that opportunity.

Mr. Cosenza

The Parrot: What did it feel like to be nominated for educator of the year? 

Mr. Cosenza: I was a little shocked at first.  I was sitting in first period study hall and looking at Brandon Gregoire and we kind of just joked that I was going to be on there and then I heard my name.  It’s a big accomplishment. I didn’t expect it, usually those are for more established teachers who have been in the district for many years. This is only my fourth year here so to be recognized was awesome. 

The Parrot: What are some things that you do in your classroom that you think people recognize? 

Mr. Cosenza: I think in my class I try to bring a lot of energy.  Kids are either tired or dislike history so I try to make the class as upbeat as possible. We do a bunch of group work and watch different videos and try to see things from as many points of view as we can so we get a full understanding of it. I try and bring older things into more current events and make it hit home on their level.

The Parrot: What do you love about teaching? 

Mr. Cosenza: I love motivating my students or athletes. So many kids (and adults) think they can’t achieve things and have bad attitudes. I like flipping that script and showing kids that they are able to do way more than they think. I always tell them it’s going to be hard and I’m going to call them out on being lazy if they are because they need to learn to push through things. When I see students push through and build that confidence, that’s what I love.

The Parrot: What’s your educational philosophy? 

Mr. Cosenza: My philosophy is focused on a few things. For the majority of my 8th graders it is being active learners and active participants. I always try and preach to them about doing more. Be more involved at school. Be more involved in the community. Ask more questions. If you’re active and engaged in multiple things you’re going to constantly be learning. I like teaching little life skills in between the actual history stuff. For the history aspect I’m really looking for the students to be able to understand PS=PC (problem solved = problem created). We’ll look at something, figure out why it was happening, maybe how it was going to be solved, but what comes of it. With history it’ll all come back together at some point or another. 

The Parrot: What’s your favorite memory as a teacher? 

Mr. Cosenza: My favorite memory…hmm, this one is tough. I have a bunch of memories that I can instantly recall. Teaching a new lesson in 8th grade at Haddon Twp. Or my first JFK Cuban Missile Crisis activity at Overbrook. But I think my favorite memory has to come from here. My first year teaching here was 2016 and the current juniors were my 8th graders. We had an honors class that was jam packed with 24 opinionated kids and it was the election year. Those were great debates, arguments, conversations that I’ll always hold onto but I also got to see how smart and skilled some of them were, especially in speaking. Later that year myself and Mr. Webb started the Civics Club and a few students came out to join. Since then I’ve really been able to work with a few of them on conducting research, formulating speeches and then tips on giving a good speech. My favorite moment would have to be watching Greta Davis go through that first year competition like it was nothing and to take 5th in the state. It set the bar high but it made them work and Ashley DeFrates dethroned her last year to take 4th in the state. 

Mr. Sylvester

The Parrot: What did it feel like to be nominated for educator of the year? 

Mr. Sylvester: It was an honor, it really was. It was a good thing to be recognized. It was a double edged sword; I appreciated it but it wasn’t my best spring however what this will do though, is make me work harder. 

The Parrot: What are some things that you do in your classroom that you think people recognize? 

Mr. Sylvester: As crazy as it sounds, I do as little for my students as I can. I know the material so I’m here to teach it, not do it. I force them to do the work, in creative ways of course. Whether it’s an honors course or inquiry class you’re here to do the work. I kind of have a knack for seeing teaching materials in everyday life. It makes it easier and more fun but there’s also a lot of time to make this stuff behind the scenes. The majority of the material I use, I makeup myself. I rarely use material from other people unless it’s perfected already. If I can’t find anything that does exactly what I want to do, then I will make it myself.

The Parrot: What do you love about teaching? 

Mr. Sylvester: It’s tough for you guys to understand this, but people’s future depends on me doing my job correctly; this includes coaching and teaching. Younger students won’t get the materials they need for high school if I don’t do my job. For example, my physics class, they won’t get the material they need for college or whatever it may be, if I don’t do my job. To be able to take that material that they are afraid of like math and science, and make them embraceable, I take a lot of pride in that. 

The Parrot: What’s your educational philosophy? 

Mr. Sylvester: I’m a material guy. In other words, some focus more on the atmosphere of the room and try to make it as comfortable as possible, but I let the material do the talking. My educational philosophy is that there is no such thing as too much education. The pursuit of that knowledge is something that should extend way beyond the classroom. The challenge I always have for myself is to try to spark that desire for them to study the material and figure it out, outside of the classroom. I want to get them to light the spark of desire to learn things. I really try to make it fun as possible but the fun always comes after the work; I don’t think it should be that easy. 

The Parrot: What’s your favorite teaching memory?

Mr. Sylvester: My favorite teaching memory was the moment I received a shared Google Doc that contained a college essay that one of my favorite students had written about me and his experience in my 8th grade class. It was really touching, and made me really reflect on my career to that point. It has  since made me a better teacher.