Wedgwood Elementary math teacher named county Teacher of the Year

Domenick Renzi attributes his success and inspiration to his own elementary educators in Washington Township

Wedgwood Elementary School math teacher Domenick Renzi was awarded the title of Gloucester County Teacher of the Year, effective on Sept. 1.

Wedgwood Elementary School basic skills math teacher Domenick Renzi knew he wanted to be a teacher when he was in third grade. After 22 years in education, cycling full circle from teaching to administrative roles, and back into teaching, Renzi was named not only the Washington Township Public Schools District Teacher of the Year last spring, but the Gloucester County Teacher of the Year, as of Sept. 1.

During his years attending Hurffville Elementary School, his teachers who showed him the joy of learning inspired Renzi, specifically his fifth-grade teacher, who happened to be his first male teacher.

“It was different, it was more hands-on and the learning all of the sudden was really fun. We could relate to him,” Renzi said.

Years later, during middle school, Renzi was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, causing him to miss a lot of school and rely on his teachers for support. Renzi said the experiences he had growing up with these teachers is what solidified his desire to become an educator himself.

Renzi started his career as a part-time basic skills math teacher at Bells Elementary School. In the middle of the year, he said, a full-time position became available in fifth grade, a position he held for 11 years. From there, Renzi moved into an administrative role as a supervisor and principal at Bells Elementary School, where he spent more time teaching other teachers, instead of students, he said. Presently, Renzi is back where he began, teaching basic skills math for first through fifth grade students at Wedgwood Elementary School.

“My career has come full circle,” Renzi said. “I started in basic skills math and here I am, back in basic skills math after moving to the dark side. This is like the return of the Jedi, as I call it.”

According to the district’s release, Renzi is the fourth Washington Township educator recognized as the Gloucester County Teacher of the Year since 1998. His unique approach to teaching through math stations, he said, allows for students to stay engaged while providing the opportunity to learn a number of skills throughout the exercise. During the class, students rotate through different stations where they learn different mathematics, some led by Renzi or his co-teachers, others practicing independent work.

“The stations allow for multiple skills to be either taught or practiced, they allow for small group instruction and small group reinforcement, they allow for fact practice and games to be used and implemented in the classroom,” Renzi said. “It allows us to challenge, but not frustrate the students.”

Renzi said when planning lessons, his main objective is to engage the students, making sure they are involved in the lesson and working on a level that will help them “become a better mathematician.”

As the county’s Teacher of the Year, Renzi was able to attend a number of training sessions throughout the summer to prepare for the year’s opportunities. Renzi said he will soon have the opportunity to speak to the Gloucester County Superintendent Round Table, the Gloucester County Education Association Representative Council, as well as attend a retreat for county Teachers of the Year, past and present, to network, set goals and determine what the educators want to accomplish by the end of their year.

“We serve as an ambassador, we represent Gloucester County and all of the wonderful teachers and we’re the ambassador between the county and the state,” Renzi said. “If the state is looking for members to join some committees, they may reach out to see if I am interested. We are the the voice for the teachers.”

Renzi said during his year as Teacher of the Year, his goal is to get involved, embrace the position, and “not say no” to opportunities.

“It’s not something you think will happen,” Renzi said. “You don’t become a teacher to be honored with an award, you become a teacher because you enjoy working with kids. You want to see them learn, do well, make productive citizens. It was a great honor, and I think it’s great pride for the school community, as well.”

Renzi’s position makes him eligible for New Jersey State Teacher of the Year, which will be announced in October.