Helen Corveleyn’s passion for teaching comes from two things – hope and energy.
That is what has kept the teacher at the Hopewell Elementary School going and has resulted in her recently being awarded the distinction of Mercer County Teacher of Year for 2019-20 school year.
“The children provide a never ending source of encouragement and hope about any issue you may have in life. That is a special quality in children,” Corveleyn said. “You can be influenced by their gift of being innocent in the way that they look at the world. When you step back and hear what the children have to say it gets you up every morning to say I want more of that.”
She said the energy that children possess give her energy.
“You go through one day and they are ready for more the next day,” Corveleyn said. “They just feed off of you and in turn I feed off of them. They just keep me going, keep me young and coming back for more.”
Corveleyn is one of 21 teachers who were recognized throughout the state as County Teachers of the Year for the 2019-20 school year.
According district administrators, this is the second year in a row a staff member from Hopewell Valley Regional School District has been named Mercer County Teacher of the Year.
Nicholas Johnson, a science teacher at Hopewell Valley Central High School, received the honor for the 2018-19 school year.
“I was really surprised and quite humbled by the fact that I was chosen out of so many talented teachers in my own district and in Mercer County. It is a really big distinction,” she said. “There are so many talented teachers in New Jersey so I was very honored.”
Corveleyn has been a part of Hopewell Elementary School since 2014. She is a kindergarten through fifth grade STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) facilitator.
“This is really a special position that Hopewell Valley has designed that other districts do not necessarily have. It is a hybrid of being a teacher and coach,” Corveleyn said. “I am still able to teach, interact and collaborate with children in a classroom. STEM education is a real important topic for me. We really need to prepare our children for making decisions based on fact and science.”
For Corveleyn, STEM education helps create collaborative thinkers and helps children have the ability to identify problems and find solutions.
“These are all tools that children need going out into a world doing whatever they want to do. STEM provides skills that are needed whether they get a degree in engineering or the technical field,” she said. “This has just been an incredible position because of the blend of teaching teachers and children.”
During the 2018-19 school year, Corveleyn played an important part in Hopewell Elementary School being named Best New Jersey Farm to School Program by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.
“I could not have done this without my principal David Friedrich, who is a phenomenal support and really started the idea of having one of the first organic lunch programs in the state,” she said. “When we put our heads together we ended up getting soil gardens and hydroponic gardens to teach the children a plant based curriculum. We planted gardens outside in traditionalized culture and then created using technology a garden that grows strawberries in the winter.”
Corveleyn has used student learning and inquiry based science with her student’s hands-on approach to learning.
“These are the essence a core of my teaching philosophy, because children learn by experience. They have to question, so it goes beyond just being hands-on,” she said. “This is really student driven. The knowledge they learn becomes their own. It is not the easiest thing to do but is a priority.”
Teaching has made Corveleyn continue to be life long learner.
“You never stop looking for the next thing to learn about and uncover. When you have children right next to you doing that it makes it a lot more exciting,” she said. “Their enthusiasm and joy just rubs off on you. It is a deeply moving experience.”
Coveleyn said with her love of conservation and environmental science she hopes that when children learn about science they care about taking care of the planet.
“I hope that when children learn from me they remember that they need to be respectful to the earth and respectful to their surroundings,” she said.