For Cinnaminson native Jessica DeBarberie, being named the 2020 New Albany Elementary School Educator of the Year is not only special because of the award itself, but also because of its connection to her father.
As a high school and middle school teacher in Delran for 39 years, DeBarberie’s father inspired her to follow his example. She recalls that when she was a child, he would bring home supplies from school and she and her siblings would play school. She would always be the teacher.
Years later, the career sparked by her father would lead her on a path to educator of the year.
“It was such an honor,” DeBarberie noted. “To be considered along with the many teachers that received the award and to know all of the hard work that goes into it … it’s just like wow, someone thinks that of me. It’s so fantastic that people would hold me in that regard.
“My dad was teacher of the year once in Delran so he was so excited for me to get the award. It was really wonderful and such an honor.”
While DeBarberie’s father initially sparked her interest in teaching, where they differ is in the age group they prefer. DeBarberie found her niche teaching first grade and T1, transitional first.
“I’ve always worked with children growing up,” she said. “I was always a babysitter and I have lots of younger cousins, so I was always the go-to babysitter for my aunts and uncles.
“I always loved to be around children. It’s fun for me. Teaching children, I think, is something I was destined to do.”
Once in her field, DeBarberie recalled, she and her father would compare notes.
“Sometimes he would come into my classroom, and then after say, ‘I could never do what you do.’ I would always say to him, ‘I could never do what you do. I could never teach high school.’”
According to DeBarberie, one of the best things about the age group she teaches is the impact she has on her students’ futures.
“I have students that come back and they say things to me or send me an email,“ she related. “I just got an email from a student that’s doing so phenomenally and still thinks of me. He’s doing these wonderful things and he remembers books that I read to him in first grade.”
“I’m so amazed at the things he’s doing and he attributes some of his success to some of the things I did with him,” DeBarberie added. “It makes me want to cry. I see some of my former students are now teachers. One of my former students is a police officer and he read to my class this week.”
“It’s amazing how it comes full circle.”.