Cherry Hill resident Kimberly Pope, a French teacher at Rancocas Valley Regional High School for 16 years, was recently named the school’s Educator of the Year for 2023 out of 58 teachers nominated.
“As a teacher Kim is always looking to engage her students in meaningful and exciting ways,” said Joe Martin, Rancocas Valley Regional High School principal. “As a colleague Kim has the ability to lift coworkers up, especially in the realm of instructional technology.”
Pope was nominated by both students and staff members who praised Pope for “making learning as fun as possible” and “creating a community full of empathetic and engaged students.” To be considered, nominees must be exceptionally skilled and dedicated licensed teacher and be an expert in the field who inspires students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn.
Besides teaching, Pope moderates the National French Honor Society and French Club and is a technology facilitator who meets with teachers and helps them incorporate new instructional technology and apps into their lessons.
“Kim is a remarkable educator, mentor, child advocate and tech guru,” said Stephen Joseph, ELA and world language supervisor. “She is on the forefront of modern and innovative ways to bring the world language department forward.”
While Pope was introduced to French in middle and high school, her love of the language developed in college after she took three semesters of French as a requirement for her major. Pope credits her professors for sparking her interest and encouraging her to briefly study in France.
“I lived with a host family and I completely fell in love with everything,” Pope said of her six weeks in the country. “I lived in Normandy in Caen, and learned about the history, explored the region. There were just so many wonderful experiences I had there.”
Pope now uses her experiences to encourage student interest in French, in part by creating more immersive experiences for pupils to connect with France. They include a cheese day and a classroom French market where students pretend to buy and sell things by speaking the language.
“The kids always rise to the occasion,” she said. “They’re wonderful.”
Pope said it was a rewarding experience to take seniors on international trips to France – among other places – pre-COVID.
“Students who are able to travel with us really get that first-hand experience,” she noted. “Finally, they’re in the country and they get to use their language and they’re exposed to all the things we teach in class.
“That’s a really rewarding experience as well, seeing them say ‘bon jour’ on day one, to taking a trip with them senior year (where) they’re interacting with people in French.”
Pope believes that learning another language can help create a sense of global awareness in students.
“We’re living in a world where it’s super important to feel represented and accepted, and I want my kids to know that just because someone is from somewhere else and does something different from you doesn’t mean it’s weird,” she pointed out. “But it’s different.”
Given her long tenure at Rancocas Valley, Pope considers it a great honor to be named Educator of the Year, an award she will also apply for on a county level.
“Every time I walk down the hallway and I see the pictures on the wall with the plaques with all the different Educators of the Year from prior years, I’m so in awe of them,” she acknowledged. “They are the people I’ve looked up to for the past 16 years, and to be on the wall, memorialized with them, it’s a really great feeling.
“It kind of validates (that) I’m doing the right stuff, my students are learning, my passion is hopefully coming across.”