Teachers of NJ: Bittersweet Graduations and Lasting Bonds in Lacey

NJ Teachers’ Lounge is excited to continue its Teachers of New Jersey series in 2017. Due to the overwhelming popularity of the series, it now comes out twice a month. This editorial series is curated by photojournalist, Gregory Andrus, creator of the social media series, Portraits of the Jersey Shore. These stories highlight the joys, struggles, and personal reflections that surround being a teacher.

“I teach US History II, and Psychology. One class is a social and behavioral class, and we also just started offering AP Psychology, which is much more intensive, and year-long. They are very relatable, and very useful. You get so many different kids in these classes. You get kids that may have a personal diagnosis or they might be the child of someone with a diagnosis. Or some kids might just  want to go into the helping profession and are getting their start with these classes.”

“My number one requirement for them is to just be a good person. I know there is such a big emphasis on materialism and having lots of credentials, and if that makes you happy, I definitely encourage that. But I don’t want them to forget to be good to people. I don’t preach it in class, like ‘You should be good.’ Instead, I hope that I demonstrate it, just by being here for them and being excited about what they are doing in life. I do tell them that there are certain words we shouldn’t say about people with mental heath issues, and there are certain attitudes I won’t tolerate. But again, I try to look at it as why should we look at mental health as anything different than a diagnosis of cancer or diabetes? What I want them to get from being in my class is, just be nice to people. Be kind. The world needs more kind people in it.”

“I have a student I keep in close contact with. I would consider her family to me at this point. She had a difficult home life. She had very little supervision growing up, so she was one of the students who would linger after school, sometimes hours. I didn’t have any children at the time, so I could give the time to her, and we would just do homework, and talk and spend time together at school. She says to this day that she really benefited from that. She recognized that she was really on her own, and eventually  she was able to clarify what she wanted to do in life. She felt very supported by us here. But it wasn’t just me being there for her. She had many teachers, many mentors here. A lot of times the teachers and I will find each other and say, ‘You have this student, I have this student, let’s put our heads together and figure out a support system.’ In her case our support system was really tough love. We tolerated no nonsense, and she really needed that. She went on to become a very successful college student, and got her undergraduate degree in psychology. She is also a phenomenal, elite athlete today. She is living an amazing life now.”

~Lacey Township High School


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