Teachers of New Jersey: Turning Life’s Trials Into Compassion in the Classroom

NJ Teachers’ Lounge is excited to continue its Teachers of New Jersey series in 2017. Due to the overwhelming popularity of the series, it will now come 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 love teaching. I love what I do. But ironically, in no way did I want to be a teacher when I was younger. I went to school and got a bio degree, and got a job as a naturalist. I worked at Cattus Island and Island Beach State Park working with the ospreys, and I stumbled upon teaching, because they had me do nature walks with kids and their moms. I was 21 at the time. Once I started working with those kids, I loved it. I loved teaching kids science. I never would have known I had a talent for teaching kids. I soon enrolled in the Education program.”

“I teach seventh grade science and engineering at Toms River Intermediate. My love for kids and my connection for them is what I love about teaching. Middle school kids are old enough, but not too old. I find them very involved and interactive, even more than high schoolers. They are questioning the world, and I really like that. I have been teaching there since 2003. I took some time off for each of my three kids, but other than that, I have been there.”

“I always have an open door. Even at lunch, I have ten to twelve kids that come to my classroom every single day. They say they are coming for extra help, but usually they’re not. And that’s ok. They just want to hang out and talk to me, or talk to each other. Sometimes they just want a quiet place to be away from the noise of the cafeteria. And that’s okay.”

“But they would have never known what was happening in my personal life at home. There was an addiction issue [in my family].”

“This has given me a deep sensitivity to my kids at school. I don’t know their stories, and they don’t know mine, and there are some kids who come into my classroom, and it may be the best part of their day. I am teaching them science, but I am teaching them that I care about them too. So when I hear that a kid is losing his father in a custody battle because of drugs… I get it. I really truly do. It’s given me more than sympathy. I actually truly understand.”

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