Mantua school district teachers were honored at the Gloucester County teacher recognition ceremony late last month, including teachers of the year Joanne Spicer of Sewell School, Sherry Legander of Centre City Elementary School and Brianna Gray of J. Mason Tomlin Elementary.
Spicer has been a developmental preschool teacher for 28 years, 26 of them in the Mantua district.
“I was surprised and incredibly honored to be chosen as teacher of the year,” she said. “There are so many wonderful educators at Sewell School, any one of them would have been a perfect choice. I definitely feel humbled to receive this honor.”
Legander, a third grade teacher for 11 years at Centre City, is a school alumna.
“I was in shock and got a little teary eyed when I got the news,” she noted. “I work with so many incredible teachers and staff. I was not expecting this at all. My class was just relieved they weren’t in trouble when all the adults walked into the room to announce it!”
A district teacher for nine years and currently teaching sixth grade, Gray also attended Mantua schools and now works alongside instructors who inspired her to pursue teaching.
“I am lucky to have been inspired by many wonderful teachers as a student,” she said. “Some of those teachers have become my co-workers and now friends. I could not be more thankful to work in the same district I attended.”
Each teacher of the year emphasized how enhancing the student-teacher relationship is especially important in their instructing styles.
“I feel once you build a relationship, you can achieve anything with them,” Gray explained. “My favorite part of my job is being able to instill the love of reading in my students. It makes my teacher heart so happy to be able to take a child who dislikes reading and have them grow into a student who begs me for more books by the end of the year.”
Legander shares a similar sentiment, noting that bonding with students is one of the most important lessons she has learned.
“I had a college professor tell me that if your students are comfortable in your classroom, the curriculum and standards will happen naturally, and that has always stuck with me,” she recalled.
“I have found when you connect with your students, you create a culture of kind, respectful problem solvers, and that’s what makes my job so fulfilling.”
For Spicer, a collaborative and adaptive teaching style is one that she sees making a positive impact on children’s lives.
“It’s seeing the young children that I teach develop independence and self-esteem,” she said. “I love to see my students come back and visit me. Now many of them are teachers themselves.
“It makes everything we do worth it to see their successes.”