Each year, three members of the faculty are honored as Teachers of the Year and recognized by their peers at a Board of Education meeting. On Wednesday night, school psychologist Maryann Durante, fifth grade teacher Joanne Haggerty and second grade teacher Kara Fenarjian were celebrated as the 2012 River Edge Teachers of the Year.
"It is a very difficult task to select the Teacher of the Year which is undertaken by a committee of parents, teachers, Board members and administrators who sit and deliberate every candidate," Superintendent Dr. Tova Ben Dov said. "We usually have quite a few very deserving ones but we can only pick three out of many."
The Unsung Hero
Maryann Durante is the district psychologist with the Child Study Team and serves students at all three schools although her office is located at
Thought of as the "selfless unsung hero" of by Assistant Principal Mike Henzel, Durante was recognized for her constant efforts to promote the emotional well being of all students and their families.
"Maryanne's primary responsibility is to help the special education students and their families but remains available to all students in the district," Rosemary Kurac, Supervisor of Special Services with the Child Study Team said. "She organizes social skills groups for special and general education students. Students see Maryann as their advocate and her office as a safe haven. She will drop everything she's doing to help a student.
As the district test coordinator, Durante organizes and guides the state testing procedures and analyzes the results to identify trends, successes and areas in need of improvement. She is an active member in the Intervention and Referral Services Team and contributes to student intervention plans, in addition to her role as the school psychologist and Child Study Team member.
"I am so honored and thankful for this award," Durante said. "I'm fortunate to be recognized for a job I love doing. I love working in the River Edge district and interacting with the entire staff and a wide variety of students and families."
The Dream Team
The third time was the charm for Kara Fenarjian who finally wound her way to as a second grade teacher after numerous attempts to return to her hometown. The East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania and alum began her teaching career in South Hackensack as a pre-k and first grade teacher.
"I grew up in River Edge, went to the recreation camp, spent my summers at the , attended and , worked at the ," Fenarjian said. "I have a great deal of pride in this town so after I graduated college I knew I wanted to work in River Edge."
At the time there were no openings in the district so Fenarjian signed on as a substitute for a time before taking off on a trip to Greece with family and was officially bitten by the travel bug. After returning she was hired by the South Hackensack school district and in 2002 opportunity knocked and found her way back to River Edge.
"Kara is a product of the River Edge schools and a member of the second grade dream team," principal Tony Vouvalides said. "The empathy and enthusiasm Kara shows with her students makes them feel important, valued and wanted. She is a phenominal teacher and I'm proud to have hired her and have her be a member of my staff."
The travel bug that bit Fenarjian a few years ago resurfaced in 2009 when she requested a year-long sabbatical from teaching at to volunteer and travel around the world. While traveling she created a blog, for her students to share in the experience. Among the places she explored were Peru, Argentina, Falkland Islands, Antarctica, Morocco, Spain, Portugal and Armenia.
"She has a way of making her students excited," former teacher Kelly Maver said. "She brought back videos of penguins, sand from the desert. She's constantly thinking about her kids, how to do more, and try something new."
In addition to working with students in school, she has supported students outside the classroom as a R.E.G.A.L. Runners coach for the past five years. Fenarjian has been a member of the Tri-District Writing Committee, Tri-District Reading Committee, Professional Development Committee, and an active member of the River Edge Education Association.
The Go-To Person
Cherry Hill fifth grade teacher Joanne Haggerty came to River Edge in 2006 with 15 years of experience from second through fifth grade in both Leonia and Paramus.
The Boston College graduate completed some of her student teaching in a fifth-grade class at The American School of Madrid in Spain and has brought her love of literature, writing and reading to the classroom.
"Joanne will never say no and is that go-to person," Cherry Hill principal Denise Heitman said. "Many times when I ask something of her or run an idea past her, she'll say that she'll 'make it work' and that is a common thing to hear from Joanne. She has a compassion for children and this is her calling."
Haggerty has co-chaired the science fair committee for several years. In addition, she has been the representative for the school's Parent Teacher Organization. Most recently, Haggerty shares the responsibility as one of three Student Council advisors for Cherry Hill.
"It seems strange to me to receive an award for something that I love to do," Haggerty said. "Tonight is bitter sweet for me as my father passed away a few months ago and he would have loved this, sitting in the front row and be tickled. He taught me to love books, talking about books and learning, but most of all he taught me be grateful and count my blessings. I feel gratitude that I live and work in a town that I love, it makes a world of difference. More than anything I'm grateful to come to a school that is a bright shining fun place and spend the day here."
Each of the three honorees were awarded a plaque in recognizition of their achievements, a parking space for the 2012-13 school year at their respective school and $500 discretionary funding to be used at their school in the coming year.