• Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson (JVJ) STEM Academy

Teacher of the Year

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Mr. Vincent Caldarulo

Social Studies

As people, we are shaped by our experiences and those around us. Our interests and goals develop and change with each encounter. In the field of education, most people will tell you that they have always known they wanted to be a teacher. Even though I had dedicated and engaging teachers, my inspiration came from a much different source and halfway into my college experience. In high school I developed my love of performing magic. In college, I became a stagehand for live events that led to long days with down time. In 2005, I was practicing magic at a concert when a promoter saw me and told me he was bringing me out as entertainment on his summer music festival. I traveled to 46 cities across the U.S. and Canada. I saw many historical and national landmarks along the way. This experience led me to change my outlook and perception of my professional future. My college baseball coach is a history teacher himself. Sharing my experiences of the summer, he was the one that planted the seed of switching my career choice. When I came home, I switched my major to history education. The career of teaching awards me the opportunity to share my passions with the students. It also gives me the flexibility to continue to learn and explore my other interests and bring those experiences with me back into my classroom.

I have always strived to create a respectable and relatable rapport with my students. I also try to create lessons that reference my students’ interests and play to their skills. My projects are not one-sized-fits-all tasks. I want my students to be able to think back and say, “I remember learning about THAT in history class.” If the student can demonstrate the standards of content through a medium of their choice, then learning has taken place. I make real-world connections for my students. I am fortunate enough to teach in an area of diversity. My students come in with their own stories and experiences that relate to my history lessons. This enhances the learning process for my class. We can look at the same issue of history, apply it to something modern (because we all know that history repeats itself), and look at the event from different lenses that are shaped by the backgrounds of the students in the class.

Educational Service Professional of the Year

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Ms. Karen Strahan

School Nurse

When I had to decide "what I wanted to be" back in high school, the options for females were rather limited. Secretary, teacher, or nurse were the predominant choices at the time, so I chose nurse...and what a journey it has been! I started my career as a staff nurse in a medical/surgical unit. After two years, I moved on to Maternal/Child Health, where I eventually became the nurse manager of the department. It didn't stop there. Nursing provides many opportunities, so in my spare time I worked as a corrections nurse in one of New Jersey's state prisons, became a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner and member of the first S.A.N.E Team for Union County, and still work as an administrative nursing supervisor in a local hospital. Never did I consider school nursing. "Boring" I thought, when I used to substitute in my children's schools when they were younger until it hit me...maybe it was time for a change and to try school nursing. So, here I am and enjoying the change!

Realizing that for some students, the school nurse may be the only source of medical information and health care they have access to, I find it necessary to complete a thorough assessment and evaluation when they arrive at the nurse's office. I also like to engage the students in conversation. This provides me an opportunity to evaluate how they are doing socially and emotionally. By creating a safe, trusting, and respectful environment, I want each student to feel valued and cared for.