Joseph F. Berenato
Educators of the Year announced
HAMMONTON—Hammonton Public Schools have announced their Governor’s Educators of the Year for the 2020/2021 school year.
The Governor’s Educator of the Year program integrates the previous New Jersey Teacher of the Year program and the Governor’s Teacher/Educational Services Professionals Recognition Program.
According to the website for the N.J. Department of Education, “This updated program highlights educational innovation, student achievement, the rewards of teaching and important services outside the classroom environment that lead to student success. Further, it seeks to attract public attention to the positive aspects of our educational system.”
English teacher Adam Preim was named the Governor’s Educator of the Year from Hammonton High School. A press release from high school principal Thomas Ramsay noted that Preim, a 2010 graduate of Hammonton High School, has been teaching English at multiple levels for seven years. A graduate of The College of New Jersey—and currently pursuing a graduate degree—Preim is, according to Ramsay, “very active in the total school program,” having coached soccer, tennis and volleyball, is the advisor for the Yearbook Club and serves as a Technology Facilitator.
Preim, who lives in Hammonton with his wife Allison and their daughter Addyson, said that it is “a great honor” to be selected by his peers, but the reaction from his students has been even more meaningful.
“You teach kids all the time, but you don’t always hear where it goes. You just hope it made an impact in the long run. The nice part about this is that I’ve had a couple dozen students reach out and say, ‘Congrats, Mr. Preim. You deserve it because ...’ and then they tell me their reasons why. ‘I’m so glad you got it because of this.’ It’s really nice to get it from peers, but it’s amazing to hear it from students ... That means 100 times more. That’s why I’m here. Teachers aren’t here to fight for the admiration of our peers; we’re here to change lives, so it’s nice to hear that it happens once in a while,” Preim said.
Preim credits other teachers—both in his department and those he had during his years as a student—for his success.
“I haven’t been here nearly as long as other people, and I wouldn’t be if I didn’t lean on them to help me a lot. My department is awesome; there are so many people I can attribute. When you first become a teacher, you pick up the traits of other teachers and find your own voice, and I had some amazing teachers I could look up to and learn from when I first got here ... If I look at the wall of Teachers of the Year, I had like 90 percent of them as my teachers,” he said.
School Nurse Kimberly Scavo 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 Scavo, who graduated from Stockton State College with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and sociology, later earned a nursing degree from Burlington County College in 2000. After working at Ancora Psychiatric Hospital, Scavo joined the staff at the middle school as the nurse.
In addition to her normal duties in that position, Nolan noted that Scavo “oversees our student compliance with vaccinations, sports physicals and just about every injury or illness imaginable. Specifically, this year she has spearheaded our efforts for safety in dealing with COVID-19.”
“More than anything else, we have 100 percent confidence in any health issue that may arise that she will keep our students (and staff) safe and work in the best interests of all. She is friendly, kind and caring,” Nolan said in the release.
Scavo, who lives in Hammonton with her children, Dylan and Justin, said that the honor was “completely unexpected.”
“I’m very humbled. I love the middle school; I love being here. I feel this is the best fit for me with the students’ ages. They’re sixth, seventh and eighth graders, so they’re little adults. They’re not quite high school age, they’re not elementary; they’re in that in-between stage, and they’re my favorite,” she said.
Scavo noted that she was grateful to her co-workers for selecting her.
“I know this is a challenge for them as well; the classroom teachers are doing something that they’ve never had to do before, and I am in awe of what they’re doing. As a parent, I see what my kids are dealing with from the parent end, but, working in a school, I can see on the professional end what they’re dealing with. For them to recognize me is definitely an honor. I feel more appreciative than anyone can imagine, especially this year,” Scavo said.
Second grade teacher Natalie Scaffidi was chosen as Warren E. Sooy, Jr. Elementary School’s Governor’s Educator of the Year. School principal Dr. Kristina Tigro noted in a release that Scaffidi, a Hammonton alumna who graduated from Stockton University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and elementary education, has been teaching in the district for 20 years, 18 of which have been with the second grade. Scaffidi is a founding member of the WES Kind Kids Academy, and serves on many other committees including the School Advisory Committee, Courtyard Committee and Family Reading Night Committee.
Additionally, she has volunteered her time to serve as a student mentor for many years.
“Making learning both challenging and fun, Mrs. Scaffidi is highly passionate about always going above and beyond for all of her students. It is not an exaggeration to say that each and every child’s face just lights up when interacting with her ... Most importantly, Mrs. Scaffidi makes each student feel valued, important, and accepted. She is the teacher that students will remember for the rest of their lives! I believe she is one of the very best,” Tigro said in the release.
Scaffidi, who resides in Hammonton with her husband Kenneth and their two daughters, Nola and Nina, credits her co-workers, past and present, for molding her into the teacher she is now, including Ann Domenico, who was herself Scaffidi’s second-grade teacher.
“I work with, and have worked with, some really amazing teachers, and they’ve been my mentors. They’ve taught me so much. A lot of the retired teachers now, I learned so much from them ... I feel like it takes 10 years to become really established and feel very confident at what you’re doing. I had some really strong mentors those first 10 years of my career, and they really helped to mold who I am as a teacher. I’m really grateful for that. I worked under some fantastic administrators, and I’m grateful for that as well. I learned a lot from them,” Scaffidi said.
Scaffidi noted that she is honored to be chosen by her peers, and that the job itself brings its own rewards.
“I’m so lucky to do what I do. This is what I was meant to do. I absolutely love and enjoy going to work every single day. I feel very fortunate for that, because not many people can say that. I feel very fortunate and blessed to have a job that I love. These kids inspire me. They make me love what I do even more,” she said.
Scaffidi said that watching children grow in many facets throughout the school year is the most rewarding aspect of her job.
“Watching them blossom and change in all different ways is really the most rewarding. Whether it’s small leaps or big leaps, and them being excited for themselves is extremely rewarding ... Sometimes it’s not just academically. You’ll have a child that’s very shy, not very confident or not outgoing, then to see them become really comfortable with me and bonding with me is super rewarding. They make me laugh. They’re happy. They want to learn. They want to be there. They’re little sponges and they listen, and they’re excited to learn every day,” Scaffidi said.
At the Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC), school nurse Teresa Christopher was named the Governor’s Educator of the Year. Principal Dr. Darla Salay said in a press release that Christopher is a graduate of Atlantic Cape Community College, Camden County College, Helene Fuld School of Nursing—from whence she earned her registered nurse (RN) licensure—and Rowan University, where she received her B.A. and certifications in school nursing and health education. Prior to the start of her career in Hammonton in 2005, Christopher worked at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, from 1993 to 2005.
Salay said that Christopher has been very involved in ECEC initiatives during her tenure there.
“She formed a Wellness Committee for students and staff, and she has helped to plan numerous school events to engage students in healthy habits. Ms. Christopher has also partnered with the AtlantiCare Healthy Schools Program, having received three grants that were used to improve and sustain a healthy student body. She was instrumental in creating awareness about food allergies, both within the school and the community. She is a member of the ECEC’s schoolwide planning team and the student intervention and referral services team. She is also a member of the Hammonton Lion’s Club,” Salay said in the release.
Christopher—who resides in Hammonton with her husband, Robert, and their children, Cara, Pat, and Bobby Jr.—said that she is as enthusiastic about her position as she was when she started 15 years ago.
“My professional goals here are always to stay up-to-date and follow the best practice procedures, as well as any more ideas to promote and enhance the health of our students; that’s always been my position. That hasn’t changed,” Christopher said.
One of Christopher’s credos is that healthy children learn better.
“You have to be healthy to be able to learn, but first you have to learn how to be healthy. This age group is like sponges; the habits that they learn now, they’ll take with them through their lifetime. I have to keep reminding myself of that and keep working towards that. It’s our job here to prepare them not just physically but also psychosocially for their post-primary education. I believe that health and success go hand-in-hand; you cannot be successful in your life or in school in general if you don’t have your mental and physical health needs addressed. A child who is hungry, sick, scared, upset, depressed and much more need support in school before they can sit at a desk and learn a lesson,” she said.
Christopher noted that she is “truly honored” to be chosen by her peers, particularly since she is part of the nursing department.
“This is what I’ve always said: the saying ‘it takes a village to rear a child’ is also very true in education. It takes all of our main services and our support services within the district to help a child succeed. When you add in this unprecedented pandemic, it’s more important than ever that our various services work together to meet their needs for minimal interruption in their education,” Christopher said.