NJ Teachers’ Lounge is excited to continue its Teachers of New Jersey series in 2018. 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.
An interview with Karen Young and Michele Barshewski, both nominated by parents in Keansburg for this feature. Karen is a teacher and Michele her teacher’s assistant at Keansburg Preschool.
Karen Young (Right): “I have been teaching here for 10 years. We teach mixed ages of three and four, and when they leave to go to Kindergarten, most of them are five. Michele and I have been working together here for five years.”
Michele Barshewski: “When my son started school I got a job as a teacher’s assistant. This is my 17th year as a teacher’s assistant in this school. One of my favorite memories was when we had this one little girl, who touched my heart a few years ago. I take her to lunch, and I’ll take her shopping, she is in second grade now. When she was in our class, she would come in every day crying, Karen is the teacher, so she can’t take the one-on-one time with her, so I would put her in my lap, and she would settle down. And if you click with a student like that at the beginning of the year, they sort of bond with you and follow you around the rest of the year. She is still in my life today.
Karen: “Keansburg is a Bayshore town. I am very proud to be from here, and I don’t ever see myself leaving this town. It is a beautiful community. Everyone is very friendly, it is very family oriented. They have so many events for families to do together. We have the boardwalk, and a great recreational program that does so many amazing things. And they have so many programs to offer people assistance who have needs.”
Michele: “I love living here: the families I have met through this school are really great. We have a very good relationship with the families of the students we have each year. The parents see us around town at the drug store and the bagel store, and they feel comfortable with us, so they will let us know if they are struggling in some way.”
Karen: “Sometimes a family of one of our students could be going through a personal struggle, and they are so comfortable with us, that they come to us to find help from us. If Michele and I cannot help them ourselves, then we will go to our school supervisor and our school psychologist, and they are really knowledgeable and know local programs that they can reach out to for help for the families.
“Everyone who works here at the school are all friends. If someone has an activity that worked really well in their class, then they will share that with everyone else. If I am having a hard time with something, I will ask the other teachers to help out. We work with some of the best women you will ever meet anywhere, right here in this school. We all do things outside of this school together. The nice thing about Keansburg, is we have a lot of pride in this town. We are all a very caring community, and we all are here for each other. It is a really special town.”