End of year reflections from Teachers of New Jersey writer, Gregory Andrus…

When I started Portraits of the Jersey Shore 27 months ago, I had one singular passion: To let people share their stories, and highlight how unique each of us are, and yet in our uniqueness, how much we all have in common. It is our stories and experiences that shape the way we see ourselves, shape our views of life, and have shaped each of our senses of purpose and passion.

When I was asked to do a series called “Teachers of New Jersey,” to feature every month the unsung heroes and shapers of our children, it was a joy to say, “Yes.”

The men and women I have interviewed for this series are people whose experiences in life have led them down paths where they identified that their mission in life is to teach children. As teachers they have fostered experiences in the classroom that have helped young people identify their own delights and talents, have given them a safe place to be curious and ask questions and learn, and have nurtured their mental and emotional growth. They also have helped students to navigate on a daily basis through the uncharted waters of their own unique experiences.

These teachers have drawn from their own life experiences to encourage the students and help them to see that they too can grow from the challenges they are facing, to go after their own dreams and to pursue their own sense of purpose in life. Many of the teachers I have interviewed were inspired by their own unique life’s circumstances that shaped a desire to teach and care for students. Many of them – if not all of them – could identify a time when a teacher at some point in their education had inspired them to go on to become teachers as well.

I have had the honor of interviewing a teacher who is a survivor of breast cancer, another who has incredible compassion for her students as well as for ending stigmas of mental illness, another who was raised by a single mother and has used that to fuel her desire to make an impact on young kids and still another who had an uncle that was marginalized due to his developmental disabilities, and now is a leader in socializing and mainstreaming children who have developmental disables.

These are just a sample of the unsung heroes of our society, the essential shapers of the future of our country, of our world, and I am honored to interview them twice a month. It is these people and their stories that continue to inspire me, and fuels my passion to be a positive force in this world. Thank you to every single one of the teachers who shared a part of themselves with us in this series. I look forward to another year of meeting the teachers of New Jersey, the difference makers of our children.

~ Sincerely, Gregory Andrus, Teachers of New Jersey.

Thank you so much to Plymouth Teachers Insurance, whose sponsorship makes this all possible.

(If there is a special teacher you would like to nominate to be interviewed, please contact me at andrusgregory@gmail.com. Thank you!)

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