Service professionals recognized by Sayreville school board

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SAYREVILLE – The Governor’s Educational Support Services Professionals (ESP) of the Year in the Sayreville School District have been recognized for the 2020-21 year.

A presentation was given on the Educators of the Year during the Board of Education’s June 15 meeting.

At Project Before Preschool, the ESP of the year is Annemarie Christensen.

“Annemarie has been working for the Sayreville public school system for over 20 years,” Director of Early Childhood Audrey Burns said. “During her many years of service to our schools, she has worked as a paraprofessional for both Sayreville Preschool and our Project Before program. Annemarie’s dedication to the program is evident by her strong commitment to the students, her ability to volunteer to assist wherever needed, and her teamwork and ethic.

“Annemarie’s sense of humor brightens up the program and is enjoyed by both staff and students,” Burns continued. “Annemarie is very creative and her artwork can be seen around both the interior and exterior of our new location. Annemarie thoroughly enjoys working with our young students and puts her heart into each lesson that she implements. She always supports her classroom teacher while assisting the children under her care. Annmarie is an absolute joy to work with. She’s an asset to our preschool department and she should be celebrated every day for her commitment to our students.”

At the Emma Arleth Elementary School, the ESP of the year is Lou Anne Jensen.

“Lou Anne is a gentle, caring teacher who transitioned from third grade teacher to adaptive physical education many years ago,” Arleth Principal Robert Preston said. “Her devotion to our special needs students is unparalleled. Mrs. Jensen is always quick to offer support with afterschool programs, such as Fun and Fitness, as well as our extracurricular initiatives, such as Unified Sports.

“She always volunteers and helps out on our annual Back to School Barbecue, our Autism Awareness Fair and other school-wide community-based functions each year,” Preston continued. “Each year, Mrs. Jensen also coordinates an annual donation to St. Jude’s Hospital and helps out every way she can. Her influence is felt throughout the Arleth community and her presence is missed now that she’s retired. We wish her nothing but the best in her future endeavors.”

At the Dwight D. Eisenhower Elementary School, the ESP of the year is Stephanie Gottdenker.

“I want you to put yourself in the shoes of an elementary ELL [English Language Learner] teacher,” Eisenhower Principal Scott Nurnberger said. “Teaching is difficult no matter what the grade level, no matter what the subject, but picture yourself going into a classroom the first day with a group of six-year-olds who, for the most part, have probably just come into the country. None of them speak English. For the most part, they all speak different languages – Spanish, Arabic, Russian, Ukrainian, you name it. It gets me nervous just thinking about it. I don’t think I’d know even what to do, but Stephanie Gottdenker, our ELL teacher at Eisenhower, comes up and addresses these challenges with poise, professionalism and grace that’s rarely seen in the classroom.

“She is a fierce advocate for her students and she supports them in every facet of academic and school life, not just in her classroom,” Nurnberger continued. “She works diligently with the general education teachers as well to make sure this unique group of students has their needs met. It’s not only the students, but the families themselves. She goes above and beyond to make sure that those families become part of our community, that the family engagement there becomes part of the process and they start to understand their role in the community as well. She’s an exceptional teacher and asset to Eisenhower.”

At the Harry S. Truman Elementary School, the ESP of the year is Kim Thornton.

“I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Mrs. Kim Thornton for over 20 years,” Truman Principal Amy Stueber said. “In fact, she was my son’s first grade teacher. Kim has been an exemplary educator in the Sayreville School District. Her passion shines through on a daily basis as a teacher and a leader.

“As an elementary and ASI [Academic Support Instruction] math teacher, she prepares lessons and activities that makes her learners flourish in the classroom,” Stueber continued. “In addition, she is eager to support her colleagues by mentoring teaching classes at Sayreville University and writing curriculum. Mrs. Thornton is innovative, knowledgeable and highly respected by the school community. We are fortunate to have her as Truman School’s Educational Support Professional.”

At the Woodrow Wilson Elementary School, the ESP of the year is Jacqueline Abrams.

“Jackie went actually went to school at Wilson,” Wilson Principal Timothy Byrne said. “Her mom went to school at Wilson when it was a high school and I had the pleasure of working with her mom when I was at Arleth. Jackie is a graduate of Rutgers with a master’s in reading and is one of our ASR [Audio-Supported Reading] reading specialists.

“She is an extremely dedicated individual who’s deeply caring about her children and that shows in terms of the the smiles that they have on their faces when they work with her,” Byrne continued. “She’s been a teacher in the district for over 10 years and she’s a core member of our RTI [Response to Intervention] team as well as our NJ PBSIS [Positive Behavior Support in Schools] team at Wilson School.”

At the Samsel Upper Elementary School (SUES), the ESP of the year is Michael Velardi.

“Mr. Velardi is our school counselor,” SUES Principal Stacey Coglianese said. “He is a gentleman who bleeds blue and goes above and beyond for the students, their families and his colleagues. He develops a strong connection with the students and their families as he supports them in whatever they may need.

“During remote learning, Mr. Velardi was instrumental in putting together a parent classroom where resources and videos were placed to assist parents and guardians. He is a major contributor to the RTI [Response to Intervention] Committee, School Safety Team, 504 Committee, and district culture and climate,” Coglianese continued. “He has led the organization of standardized testing and developed a leadership group, Secret Agents of Change, with students. He is a person of character integrity and compassion and he is so deserving of being named the 2021 Educational Services Professional of the year at SUES.”

At the Sayreville Middle School (SMS), the ESP of the year is Rose Griggs.

“Ms. Riggs is a language arts based instructional coach with many years of experience,” SMS Principal Richard Gluchowski said. “She is someone who is always available to help, listen or offer experience to all of our teachers. She spends hours upon hours researching new practices, best practices to help our teachers daily. She volunteers as a member of numerous school and district committees, provides professional development sessions through Sayreville University, volunteered extensively at Sayreville War Memorial High School this past summer for the command team throughout the (coronavirus) pandemic, and is our induction coordinator for mentors and mentees at Sayreville Middle School.

“As our instructional coach, she has created many avenues for our teachers to collaborate with her and each other,” Gluchowski continued. “She created so many different programs for our teachers to take advantage of, such as the coaches connection, which provides support and resources for our teachers, a monthly newsletter, and Cookies with the Coach to use resources and have snacks with our teachers. She created the Lucky Duck Friday Raffle Winner, a culture and climate building item which identifies a staff member as the Lucky Duck of the week. She does so much for our teachers in our school, she is a warm and kind of vigil individual, which inspires many.”

At the Sayreville War Memorial High School, the ESP of the year is Maritza Morales.

“Miss Morales is a dedicated and valued member of the Special Education Department,” SWMHS Principal Dale Rubino said. “The administration and teachers have come to rely on her knowledge for troubleshooting and problem-solving. In fact, she lends a hand so much that some teachers refer to her as ‘mom’.

“Miss Morales never backs down from a challenge and is forward-thinking, anticipating and finding solutions for issues,” Rubino continued. “Not only does she complete her required duties to the highest level possible, she also works after school helping our students at our unified athletic programs. She is conscientious, dependable and well-informed and will go beyond her paraprofessional responsibilities to make a difference in the lives of her students. On behalf of the high school administration, we thank you so very much for always making the learning environment for our students a positive one.”