Having been going to Philadelphia Eagles’ games since she was in fourth grade, and having gotten married on home plate at Citizens Bank Park, it’s clear that Shawnee teacher Stefanie Kirk is passionate about both her profession and her Philadelphia sports teams.
Needless to say, it was fitting when she received an award from the Philadelphia Eagles that encapsulated both of them.
At each home game this season, the Eagles have recognized one teacher from the tri-state area for his or her contributions to their students, school and surrounding community.
The award is through the Axalta All-Pro Teachers Program, and the criterion it developed is based on educational drive, innovation in the classroom and community ownership.
On Sunday, Nov. 15, the Eagles recognized Kirk at their home game against the Miami Dolphins.
As part of her recognition, Kirk received a $1,000 donation to Shawnee High School, four tickets to the game, a personalized Eagles jersey and football, and an automatic nomination for the Teacher of the Year Award that will be announced at a breakfast awards ceremony later in the season, according to the public relations coordinator of the Eagles, Anthony Bonagura.
Kirk plans to use the $1,000 donation to run three workshops that will be free to students in the community, as well as a STEM event for her high school students.
“I am very excited to have been chosen! I was totally taken aback when I received the email,” Kirk said. “I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to do something every day that I love. Not many people have that chance.”
Kirk has been teaching in the Lenape Regional High School District for seven years, six of those years being at Shawnee.
After graduating from The College of New Jersey in 2009, she dove right into her teaching career and is now teaching technology education, more formally known as industrial arts.
She teaches various classes such as drafting and design I and II, architecture and engineering to a wide range of students spanning from ninth to 12th grade.
Kirk employs a unique teaching style that constantly enforces keeping things current and trying to tie in the community any way she can.
She’s led numerous projects with her students including making cat toys for the Animal Welfare Association, designing and implementing a number of gardens in Medford Lakes, offering free STEM workshops to the community and even leading students as they created a miniature golf course that is open to the community.
“To me, being a teacher is more than teaching students curriculum. It’s about establishing connections and getting the students to be inspired by something every day. Because of what I teach, I have the chance to work with the same students for up to four years, so in those four years, we all become very close; they tend to enjoy my classes because they are engaged as well as being academically challenged,” Kirk said.
Saying students tend to enjoy her classes may be a bit of an understatement, as she was nominated for this award solely by her students; she had no idea she was even in the running for the award until she received the message she had won.
Kirk has a knack for being humble and deflecting the credit elsewhere.
“The best part of receiving this award has been simply being acknowledged for doing what I do every day. I am not one to boast about things that I do, so to be recognized is a huge honor. I try to get my students recognition for all the things they do, as they are the ones creating and building. I’m just giving them tools and a few words of wisdom. I’m excited that I can show the community that I am just one great teacher in the area. Our schools are full of men and women like me who give their all and love what they do,” Kirk said.
Shortly after being notified about receiving the award, Michael Finn, senior vice president and general counsel of Axalta, invited Kirk and her three guests to their suite on game day.
The group wound up staying in the suite for the entire the game as Finn treated them to his favorite foods and gave them some Eagles memorabilia to take home.
She also got to skip the hectic check-in lines and saw a great game that came down to the wire.
Unfortunately, her Eagles were not able to pull out the victory, losing by one point, but it did not relinquish her fandom for the team.
Kirk could not say enough about how nice and welcoming everyone was.
“They do a great job at recognizing the people in the community and are constantly trying to do new and innovative things with their stadium. This just goes to show that they are truly passionate about the community!” Kirk said.