• Joseph F. Berenato

Educators of the Year


English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher Christian Febles is the Governor’s Educator of the Year from Hammonton High School. (Courtesy Photo)

HAMMONTON—Hammonton Public Schools have announced their Governor’s Educators of the Year for the 2021-2022 school year.


According to the website for the N.J. Department of Education, each candidate must “be an exceptionally skilled and dedicated licensed classroom teacher ... where teaching is the primary responsibility rather than administrative or supervisory responsibilities or an educational services professional (ESP) who is listed as one of the eligible enrollment areas.”


Additionally, each candidate must:


• Have the latest summative rating of at least effective; if the teacher or the ESP has not received a summative rating at the time of application, then their most current practice rating should be at least effective or the equivalent


• Be an expert in the field who inspires students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn


• Actively collaborate with colleagues, students and families to create a strong culture of respect and success


• Demonstrate leadership and innovation in educational activities at the school, district and/or state and national levels that take place both within and outside the school setting


• Have the respect and admiration of students, parents and colleagues


• Have not earned the title of school, county or state Teacher of the Year nor ESP of the Year for the past five years


Superintendent of Schools Robin Chieco offered her congratulations to the 2021-2022 Governor’s Educators of the Year.


“We are very fortunate to have such a dedicated staff. All of the recipients are well-deserved,” Chieco said.


English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher Christian Febles was named the Governor’s Educator of the Year from Hammonton High School. A press release from high school principal Thomas Ramsay noted that Febles began teaching in 2015, but has worked for the district for 10 years. Febles began his career first as an instructional aide in Warren E. Sooy Elementary School and then at Hammonton Middle School before starting at Hammonton High School in 2015 as an ESL teacher.


Febles, who lives in Elwood, earned his B.A. in history and political science and an ESL certification from Stockton University, as well as an M.A. in American history from Rutgers University.


“Mr. Febles is very knowledgeable, a great communicator, passionate about being an educator, and most of all compassionate. We are very proud that Mr. Febles is part of the educational family at Hammonton High School,” Ramsay said in the release.


Febles said that he never expected to be named Educator of the Year.


“It was a total surprise. It’s definitely an honor. I never thought I was going to receive this honor. I’m extremely thankful,” Febles said.


Febles said that there are many different aspects to his position as ESL teacher that he finds rewarding.


“I love working with the students, talking to them, getting to know them—and knowing that I’m contributing something positive to their lives ... I love when students contribute, and we have a conversation and they get into the material, the discussion just comes to life and the passion comes out,” Febles said.


Megan Goblirsch was selected for Hammonton Middle School's Governor's Educator of the Year. (Courtesy Photo)

Megan Goblirsch was selected as the Governor’s Educator of the Year for Hammonton Middle School. Dr. Michael Nolan, the middle school principal, said in a release that Goblirsch first began in Hammonton in 2000 at Warren E. Sooy Jr. Elementary School—where she taught elementary special education—before moving to Hammonton Middle School in 2002. During her time at the middle school, Goblirsch has served as an eighth-grade English and language arts teacher, special education teacher—where she taught self-contained and in-class resource—and is now STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics) teacher. Goblirsch has advised student council, coached field hockey and currently teaches the middle school’s robotics academy.


Goblirsch has a bachelor’s degree in education and special education from York College, a master’s degree as a reading specialist from Concordia University and is currently working on becoming Wilson certified. She lives in Hammonton with her husband, Nick, and their two children, Abby, 15, and Nathan, 13.


“All in all, for her passion and enthusiasm inside and outside of the classroom Mrs. Goblirsch is an asset here at the middle school. We are proud to call her our 2022 Educator of the Year,” Nolan said in the release.


Goblirsch said that she was overwhelmed to be named Educator of the Year.


“An honor like this is really nice because it actually comes from your peers’ nominations and not from a boss or a supervisor. I think that it really is a special award, overall, because it’s a nomination from the people who work most closely with you,” Goblirsch said.


Goblirsch said that she feels at her best when she is teaching.


“We can get bogged down by the minutiae; all of those things can create chaos and discomfort in what we do, but the bottom line is, when I’m in my classroom and I’m with the kids, I’m the most comfortable and the most confident ... I want the kids to love what they do. I want them to come back tomorrow and be excited, and not stress them out,” Goblirsch said.


Goblirsch credits her students for helping her to grow as a teacher during the course of her career to be “a little more patient, be a little more empathetic and focus on what the goal is.”


“They help me more than I help them, and I think that’s also a key to education: you don’t always have to be right, and you don’t always have to know everything ... You’re not always going to be at your best, but you have to look back and go, how can I be better tomorrow?” Goblirsch said.


School nurse Cindy McBride was chosen as Warren E. Sooy, Jr. Elementary School’s Governor's Educator of the Year. (Courtesy Photo)

School nurse Cindy McBride was chosen as Warren E. Sooy, Jr. Elementary School’s Governor’s Educator of the Year. She attended Thomas Jefferson University, where she earned her bachelor of science in nursing in 1984, and earned a certification in school nursing from Rowan University in 1997. McBride worked as a pediatric nurse for many years at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.


McBride lives in Atco with her husband, Michael, and together they have two grown children, Lindsay Rundstrom and Shawn McBride.


School principal Dr. Kristina Tigro noted in a release that McBride joined the staff at Warren E. Sooy Elementary School eight years ago.


“She has worked extremely hard to keep our entire school community safe during this unprecedented time in education. Cindy is an exceptional nurse who consistently provides outstanding service to both students and staff members. Nurse Cindy has kept all of us reassured and informed about ever-changing CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines. She is a positive, professional and highly dedicated school nurse who has played a major role in helping us navigate through the pandemic. Cindy is a kind and compassionate person who can adapt to the needs of everyone, always with a smile on her face and willingness to help,” Tigro said in the release.


McBride said that being named as the Educator of the Year “feels great.”


“It was an honor to be picked with the exceptional staff that we have here at WES ... I would like to thank my colleagues for this honor. I know everyone is working exceptionally hard this year to help our students have the best year possible. I also would like to thank the administration for all that they’ve done in supporting all of the nurses in the district to deal with the challenges of this school year,” McBride said.


McBride spoke to some of those challenges.


“There have been some challenges due to the pandemic with children having to quarantine and miss school for certain lengths of time. However, the district has been wonderful in providing alternative measures, such as remote learning, for those children that have to quarantine ... It was exciting to be starting the year off with all the students coming back to school full-time after being out of school or part-time for the last year and a half,” McBride said.


McBride, a career pediatric nurse, said that she was excited for the opportunity to become a school nurse for the elementary-aged population.


“I’ve always loved working with children ... The most rewarding aspect of my job is when I get to care for a child who is hurt or sick, and I’m able to put a smile on their face,” McBride said.


Response to Intervention (RTI) teacher Judy Rybacki was named the Governor’s Educator of the Year at the Early Childhood Education Center. (Courtesy Photo)

At the Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC), Response to Intervention (RTI) teacher Judy Rybacki was named the Governor’s Educator of the Year. Rybacki began at Hammonton in 1998 as a basic skills instruction (BSI) teacher in 1998 before starting as a first-grade teacher for 14 years.


Principal Dr. Darla Salay said in a press release that, after teaching first grade, Rybacki transitioned into an RTI teacher. During the 2020-2021 school year, Rybacki took on the role of remote second-grade teacher, and is now back in her position of RTI teacher at the ECEC.


Rybacki is a graduate of Glassboro State College (now Rowan University) and currently resides in Atco with her husband. Ron. Together they have two grown children—Alex and Kaitlyn—and they are awaiting the arrival of two grandchildren.


“Ms. Rybacki has been very involved in many school committees over the years and is always willing to lend a helping hand. She often volunteers for committees such as the One Book Committee, the Wellness Committee and others. She brings consistency and positivity to her school and to her work with students,” Salay said in the release.


Rybacki described her role as RTI teacher.


“If the children are struggling, or just not catching on to things, I come in and give them another lesson or point of view and help them out. Mostly, right now, I’m doing a lot with letter recognition, letter sounds and things like that. Sometimes it’s numbers. Sometimes it’s blending words. I can do reading or math, but right now it’s mostly reading. Some kids got behind with the online stuff, so I’m trying to catch them all up,” Rybacki said.


Rybacki said that the position is not without its challenges, and frequently holds rewards.


“You try to do multisensory ways, and sometimes the light turns on and it’s exciting and rewarding when you see that they understand it and they’re so proud of themselves. I love just being with the children, watching them grow and watching them mature and learn things.... All the kids know my name in the hallways. I get a lot of hellos—even from kids I don’t have,” Rybacki said.


Rybacki said that she was surprised to be named Educator of the Year.


“I didn’t expect it. It was very nice ... It feel wonderful. It feels nice that they notice me. I try to do my work and keep myself busy, and it feels nice to be recognized,” Rybacki said.