Position: Civics Teacher
School: Pinelands Regional Junior High School
School District: Pinelands Regional School District
City, State: Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey
About the Nominee: Cindy Juniewicz was nominated by Gina Frasca, her supervisor for the past decade. Every year, Ms. Juniewicz changes the lives of hundreds of students who enter the doors of Pinelands Regional Junior High School (PRJHS). Since joining PRJHS in March 1986, Ms. Juniewicz has proven her ability to make a difference throughout the entire school by developing programs that provide huge benefits to all. She began the Employees Aiding Students Education (EASE) Fund at least 20 years ago. Many students come from a relatively low-income area. As a result, they sometimes lack funding for basic things required for learning. Ms. Juniewicz set up the EASE Fund and asked staff to contribute their own money. In return, they would become part of a membership program. She has a talent for recognizing students in need, even if they do not approach her directly. Of course, Ms. Juniewicz also contributes her own personal money, helping about 20 students per year for the past 20 years.
Raquel, a former student, told her, “Thank you for being such a great person and sometimes giving me money; that means a lot to me. Thank you one more time for being an inspirational, caring and wonderful teacher.”
Ms. Juniewicz has also run the Clothes Closet for about five years, accepting age-appropriate, gently used or new clothes or shoes, which are provided to students in need. She took over an unused bathroom and stocked and organized shelves with the donated clothes.
About three years ago, Ms. Juniewicz organized a secret group of teachers who created and distributed journals of support to other staff members. Those who received the journals were encouraged to select other staff members to anonymously receive journals in this “Caring Cats” project.
Ms. Juniewicz also contributes to the community’s well-being by creating and organizing Community Action Team (CAT) projects every year. CAT projects – which she started and still spearheads - ensure that every eighth-grader on campus creates, plans and executes a community service project, often raising money. Ms. Juniewicz raised the idea in a Professional Learning Community and went to Ms. Frasca with the group’s thoughts. Her leadership and determination to make a difference within our school has provided staff with valuable community connections (i.e, when the students go out and provide service to outside organizations), as well as a higher reputation as a result of media attention from the CAT projects.
Since the CAT projects' implementation in 2013, Ms. Juniewicz's classes alone have raised $20,459.15. The projects, wholly designed by the students, range from Celebrating National Autism Day with PRJHS students with autism, to a gift basket auction, to a staff basketball game. All classes start with a budget of $0. Ms. Juniewicz allows the students in each class to choose their own cause, as she believes it’s important for the kids to “buy-in.” This empowers her students and enables them to realize they can make a difference in their own community.
“The CAT project taught me that if you put your mind to something, you can achieve anything,” said Taylor G., a former student.
Ms. Juniewicz is also committed to providing a nurturing atmosphere for her students. She often sits and talks with them to build up their self-esteem, telling them how much they have to offer.
“Mrs. Juniewicz is a very caring teacher that will help her students with anything. Even if it’s not school related, she’s always there for her students,” said Hailie, a former student. “Mrs. Juniewicz is very helpful with giving advice to those who need it. Thank you for everything you do, you are always a great help, and a great friend.”
Her efforts do not just focus on PRJHS. For the last three years, Ms. Juniewicz and her son have volunteered frequently at the South Jersey Field of Dreams and Hoops for All, organizations that work with special needs children. In addition, she has been a donor to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for more than 25 years.
On a professional level, Ms. Juniewicz has an excellent performance record. At PRJHS, she has served in various capacities, including being a member of the Curriculum Review Committee, Instructional Council, Student Achievement Leadership Team Committee, PRJHS Transition Team and Leadership Committee, as well as being the leader of the Eighth-Grade Professional Learning Community, Seventh- and Eighth-Grade Class Advisor and Certified Teaching Mentor.
Ms. Juniewicz has been the recipient of local and national awards. Within the last year, she also wrote and received a $1,000 grant from Walmart.
Finally, Ms. Juniewicz is a model for adherence to high moral and ethical standards. As a civics teacher, she teaches politics to her students. During this year’s contentious presidential election, she taught lessons so that her students would understand the process of electing a president, as well as their own political views, in a completely objective way. Students always want to know Ms. Juniewicz's own political leanings, but she remains neutral and enables her students to decide their own positions.