Thomas Jefferson Arts Academy
Teacher of the Year
Degrees and Certifications:
Kenneth Charles Echezona
In my previous employment in the information Management and Systems Department of a bank, I was involved in onboarding new employees by training them in the use of the information technology infrastructure of the bank. The purpose was to ensure that they are successful in performance of their jobs and maximizing productivity. I observed my trainees excel in their assigned roles in the bank. Thus, when I transitioned to the field of education, I was driven by the belief that education of students can be greatly enhanced by the integration of technology in the education process with the aim of ensuring students can transitions into roles that will make them productive members society.
However, in my career as an educator, I quickly came to the realization that technology without a human face is ineffective as an education tool. Rather, I always seek to create an environment of trust in my classroom, build rapport with the students, create a classroom where students can respectfully express themselves without fear of making mistakes. I encourage my students to make mistakes because those could serve as starting point of meaningful math dialogues that could be beneficial to all students. The resultant effect of this practice is that some of my ex-students still stop by even after graduation to seek advice regarding life choices / decisions they have to make.
My personal feeling about teaching is that it should a fun-filled, experiential, and discovery process for the students in such a way that it is meaningful for them. The beauty of this approach lies in taking otherwise abstract/obscure concepts and making them relevant to the students by making connections to their daily experiences.
We must challenge our students to achieve at their highest potential and not settle for less. We also should be observant and sensitive to the social, emotional, and mental wellbeing of our students while striving to find effective ways to work closely with parents/guardians, as partners and stakeholders, to ensure that with their support we are able to fulfill these responsibilities.
Educational Service Professional of the Year
Degrees and Certifications:
Anthony Del Polito
CST Social Worker
Anthony Del Polito graduated from Kean University with a master’s degree in Social Work in 2004 with the desire to work in a school setting. Shortly thereafter, he was appointed to Grover Cleveland Middle School where he remained for two and a half years. During that time, he counseled students and fostered relationships with some amazing teachers, administration, and support staff. He also served as part of the I&RS committee, frequently meeting with parents and teachers, running group counseling, and managing individual sessions. Using his knowledge about services that existed across our community, he was able to successfully link students’ families to resources in hopes of supporting them more effectively.
In February 2009, he was assigned to Dwyer Academy and Halsey Academy as part of the Child Study Team. Although he was considerably anxious about this change, district leaders assured him that this was a good fit and that he had the aptitude to succeed in a high school environment. Though he did not know it then, this new position and role provided him with both structure and balance that he needed. Together with his fellow Child Study Team members, he learned the ropes of IEP’s, classifications and many other aspects of Special Education. Along the way, he also met some of his closest friends. After almost ten years, he was reassigned to the Thomas Jefferson Arts Academy where he serves today. Mr. Del Polito describes his time at Elizabeth Public Schools as infinitely rewarding. He is deeply thankful for everyone who has crossed his path and fostered his professional growth.