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Boro teachers honored for teaching excellence

Multiple studies have shown that among school-related factors that contribute most significantly to student achievement, nothing matters more than teaching excellenceteachers. As the architects of their students’ educational experience, teachers help lay the foundation for a lifetime of learning, setting the tone for what, where, when, how and why their students learn while also inspiring a sense of intellectual curiosity and a love of learning in their students. Through their influence, teachers have the capacity to make their students’ lives - and by extension the world - better. 

Unfortunately, teachers rarely receive the recognition and praise they deserve for the vital role they serve in the development of an advanced, well-educated society.

“The most common response given when people are asked why they pursue the teaching profession is to make a difference in the lives of others,” said Superintendent of Schools Vincent S. Smith. “Though I’d venture to guess that few are in it for the glory or praise, the transformative and enriching impact teachers have on their students’ lives makes them worthy of both, which is why the Point Pleasant Borough School District so strongly believes that teachers’ efforts should be regularly recognized and applauded.”

Fortunately, at the Point Pleasant Borough School District, where teaching excellence is the norm, recognition happens frequently.

“Our district’s teachers regularly capture the attention of various local recognition programs and have also been honored - with increasing frequency – by numerous regional and national programs,” said Superintendent Smith.

According to the Superintendent, the list of district educators that have been recognized for exemplary teaching practice continues to grow.

“Since September,” he said, “district teachers have won the New Jersey Exemplary Elementary Educator Award and the Rutgers University School of Engineering’s Dean’s Award for Service.”

A district teacher was also recognized as a New Jersey Science Teachers Association Simmons Scholar for her work helping to prepare for the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards [NGSS].

Exemplary Elementary Educator2016 New Jersey Exemplary Elementary Educator Award

The lengthy, rigorous and confidential path to the selection of New Jersey’s 2016 Exemplary Elementary Educator Award proved worth the wait with the announcement that Nellie Bennett Elementary School Fifth Grade Teacher Beth Kobesky and Ocean Road Elementary School Kindergarten Teacher Maureen DePolo were chosen as its recipients.

The goal of the New Jersey Exemplary Elementary Educator Award is to identify and honor educators who are valued by their school and community and who have exhibited an inspiring presence, and a clear vision for quality teaching and learning.

The process began during the 2015-16 school year, when Nellie Bennett Principal James Karaba and Ocean Road Principal Sheila Buck nominated Mrs. Kobesky and Mrs. DePolo, respectively.  The thorough nomination process required the principals submit the teachers’ resumes and pictures along with several letters of recommendation and the completed applications – challenging tasks given that the entire process had to be kept confidential.

“Both Mrs. Kobesky and Mrs. DePolo were chosen to receive this award based on the impact they have on their students, their colleagues and the community,” said Superintendent Smith.

According to the superintendent, the Award honors teachers who demonstrate exceptional educational talent as evidenced by effective instructional practices and student learning results in the classroom and school; outstanding educational accomplishments beyond the classroom; and contributions to education that are largely unheralded yet worthy of the spotlight.

“Be it their inspiring presence in their classrooms; their strong knowledge base and teaching skills; or their clear vision for quality teaching and learning, it is abundantly clear that Mrs. Kobesky and Mrs. DePolo have had an immeasurable impact on their students, colleagues and our entire school community,” he said.

NJSTA Simmons ScholarBeth Kobesky-Simmons Scholar
The New Jersey Department of Education in 2014 adopted the Next Generation Science Standards [NGSS] as part of a multi-state effort to implement new education standards that are rich in content and practice and arranged in a coherent manner across disciplines and grades to provide all students an internationally benchmarked science education. September 2016 marked the start of New Jersey’s first year of NGSS implementation for grades 6-12. The standards will be implemented in grades K-5 beginning September 2017.

“The Next Generation Science Standards have presented a significant conceptual shift in the way science is taught and learned,” said District Supervisor of Math & Science Jennifer Riback. “Historically, elementary science education has been textbook driven and vocabulary heavy, sometimes supplemented with cut-and-paste poster projects. NGSS fundamentally changes science education to more closely resemble the way scientists work and think. The philosophy behind the new standards is that by engaging in real world scientific and engineering practices students will deepen their understanding of scientific ideas. Under the new standards, students engage in hands-on experimentation, using critical thinking skills to design investigations that answer questions about the world around them.”

Though she expects the new standards to increase scientific literacy, maximize student engagement and ultimately improve learning outcomes, Ms. Riback admits the transition to NGSS represented a steep learning curve for the district’s teachers.

“Because NGSS requires such vastly different instructional practices, aligning instruction to the new standards has required a great deal of planning and effort,” she said.

Ms. Riback said district science teachers have attended extensive professional development to prepare for NGSS’s implementation.

“I really commend our teachers for proactively working to ensure the transition to the new standards in grades 6-12 has been as seamless as possible,” she said. “I expect a similar smooth implementation of NGSS for kindergarten through grade five, which takes place in September 2017.”

That expectation is largely due to Nellie F. Bennett Elementary School Teacher Beth Kobesky’s experiences attending an intensive five-day professional development workshop at the 2016 Maitland P. Simmons Memorial Summer Institute. Mrs. Kobesky was one of only 22 New Jersey elementary teachers selected by competitive application process to attend the New Jersey Science Teachers Association [NJSTA]- sponsored workshop entitled Preparing Elementary Teachers to Implement NGSS her participation in which earned her the title 2016 NJSTA Simmons Scholar.

“We received about 40 hours of targeted NGSS instruction focused on specific curricular tools and topics designed to engage elementary grade level students,” Mrs. Kobesky said of the workshop. “We constructed content and grade-specific lessons integrating the Life, Physical, and Earth Sciences, with a focus on authentic experiences. We also learned how to effectively infuse science lessons with literacy and mathematics content, for a more comprehensive cross-curricular educational experience.”

Mrs. Kobesky said she took part in a series of structured activities that included hands-on and data-focused lessons, demonstrations and field experiences suitable for the elementary classroom, like building, testing, and redesigning straw rockets; investigating seed dispersal; and building marshmallow towers.

“Throughout the workshop, we were prompted to consider how each activity could be used with our students and how each exemplified NGSS,” she said.

Ms. Riback said Mrs. Kobesky’s training has been instrumental in guiding other Point Pleasant elementary teachers to understand the shift to NGSS

“Mrs. Kobesky returned to Point Pleasant from the Institute equipped with the skills and knowledge to effectively turnkey her experiences with her colleagues and help lead the implementation of an NGSS-aligned elementary science curriculum,” she said. 

In a joint statement, NJSTA Institute Administrator Cheryl Zanone and President Scott Goldthorp wrote, “Educators such as Mrs. Kobesky provide inspiration for our students and fellow teachers throughout our State and the opportunity to excite and motivate colleagues with new ideas for the science classroom. We appreciate Mrs. Kobesky’s contributions to professional development and dedication to improving science education in New Jersey.”

John McAllenRutgers School of Engineering Dean’s Award for Service
Since 2011, Point Pleasant Borough High School math teacher John McAllen has received some of the nation’s most prestigious awards for teaching excellence; among them, the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics Teaching, the Governor’s Teacher of the Year Award and the Princeton University Distinguished Teacher Award. In October, Mr. McAllen added another prominent award to his trophy case with his receipt of the Rutgers University School of Engineering’s Dean’s Award for Service, an award that is presented annually to a School of Engineering alumnus who, through personal commitment and dedication, has contributed to advancing the engineering profession.

John McAllen’s contributions to the engineering profession span two decades and two careers. An alternate route teacher, he began his professional career as a biomedical researcher with Johnson & Johnson, where he designed and patented five surgical devices, some of which are still in use today. Though he pursued his teaching certification concurrent to working at J&J, it wasn’t until spring 2000 when a chance encounter with then Point Pleasant Borough High School Principal John Staryak resulted in an interview and later a job offer. Mr. McAllen began his teaching career at Point Pleasant Borough High School in September 2000; since that time, he has inspired countless students to not only take but become passionate about Calculus.

“Over the past 16 years, John McAllen has increased both enrollment and achievement in Calculus,” said high school Principal Kurt Karcich. “He is responsible for helping to expand the high school’s Calculus course offerings, personally developing our Advanced Placement Calculus program. Under John’s tutelage, student enrollment in AP Calculus has more than quadrupled and though our total student population is small relative to other high schools, we have the largest percentage of students taking the AP Calculus exam! These achievements are a testament to Mr. McAllen’s superior teaching skills and the passion he exudes as an educator.”

The Dean’s Award for Service was one of six awards presented to distinguished Rutgers University School of Engineering alumni at the 10th Annual Medal of Excellence Dinner held at the school on Oct. 13.

“The 2016 honorees showcase the outstanding achievements of the school’s alumni and also demonstrate the diversity of careers that encompass an engineering degree,” said Rutgers School of Engineering dean Thomas N. Farris. “Rutgers University engineering graduates make an important impact, sparking innovation that strengthens New Jersey’s economy and shapes lives around the globe.”

“As the recipient of the Governor’s Teacher of the Year Award, the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics Teaching, the Princeton Distinguished Educator Award and now the Rutgers School of Engineering Dean’s Award for Service John McAllen has solidified his standing as one of the nation’s best educators,” said Superintendent of Schools Vincent S. Smith.   “Though I typically try and avoid making such grandiose statements, I can say, without pretense, that the world is a better place because of John McAllen. Be it his contributions to the world of biomedical research or through his efforts as an educator, inspiring a love of mathematics in nearly two decades of students, empirically speaking, Mr. McAllen has had a profound impact on the world.

“Of all of his impressive accomplishments however, I believe John McAllen’s greatest achievement is yet to come, and will be revealed by the futures of his students.” 

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