First-grade teacher Kristine Stagliano calls Palmyra School District ‘a family’
Each year, schools throughout the state nominate outstanding members of their staff to be recognized as part of the New Jersey Educator of the Year Program.
According to the state Department of Education, this program highlights educational innovation, student achievement, the rewards of teaching and important services outside the classroom environment that lead to student success.
This year, at Charles Street School in Palmyra, first-grade teacher Kristine Stagliano was chosen as an educator who exemplifies these qualities. According to her, it was a complete surprise, but obviously a welcome one.
The announcement was made during a faculty meeting on Dec. 21, where Stagliano’s colleague Bobbi Webb was also recognized as Educational Professional of the Year.
“I was completely shocked and surprised,” said Stagliano. “It took awhile for it to really settle in.”
If you ask Charles Street School Assistant Principal Chris Tracey, every member of the staff deserves recognition, but this year Stagliano, who has been with the school for 14 years, was chosen for her dedication, hard work and leadership.
“She’s relentless, a ball of energy. Despite having her own family, she is here late into the afternoon. We have a lot of conversations about the kids, trying to figure out how to reach them, and she spends a lot of time on that,” said Tracey.
Since her senior year of high school, Stagliano knew she wanted to go into education, and, after college and some field experience, she jumped right in. Her career began in her home city of Philadelphia as a fourth-grade teacher at St. John the Baptist School. She admits there was some culture shock at the beginning.
“It was very different than you ever imagine it would be. Originally, when you’re sitting in class, it’s so different than what really happens when you go out and teach,” said Stagliano.
It was an easy transition from a private Catholic school to public school for Stagliano. To her, kids are kids no matter where they are and require much of the same care and attention. She found a similar bond among members of the staff at both schools as well. According to Stagliano, there is a lot of collaboration and support in the teaching community. Coming to a Palmyra public school was like joining another family.
“Everybody in both places are very helpful, they work together,” said Stagliano. “It’s a family, it really is, not just with the kids but with your coworkers.”
Stagliano is particularly fond of working with younger children. She gets to actively participate and witness a time of significant growth in her students. Her first graders come to her with a clean slate, and she is able to lay those first building blocks of the rest of their educational careers.
“The independence that happens in one year, all the big things that start to happen, and they leave knowing so much more and being able to do so much more,” said Stagliano.
With the rapid rise of technology children today are growing up with, teachers face unique challenges with their students. According to Stagliano, balancing screen time and being active is something she tries to address at an early age.
Independence is another trait she tries to foster in her students. Problem-solving skills are something she believes will serve these children as they grow older. When students approach her with a problem, Stagliano makes it a point to explore how they could have solved the issue themselves. She often asks if they first tried using their words before intervening herself.
Stagliano is a firm believer in the old proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child.” She tries to foster a collaborative environment with parents and get them involved in their child’s education.
“We’re in this together,” said Stagliano. “I can’t do it without you, and you can’t do it without me.”