New Jersey

Jeanette Cellucci

Position: Seventh Grade Social Studies Teacher

School: Jordan Road School

School District: Somers Point Schools

City, State: Somers Point, New Jersey

About the Nominee: Jeanette Cellucci is a role model in every sense of the word. She infuses her lessons with technology and hands-on activities for her students. When students at her school wanted to participate in a state-wide STEM competition, Ms. Cellucci worked tirelessly with them in preparing their projects for viewing by the judges. She opened her classroom on Saturdays so students could work on their videos and scripts. She is also the coach for the boys' basketball team. On the court, no one is more competitive than her. She holds daily practices for the students to get them in shape for the season. Off the court, she is equally as demanding in the kind of behavior she wants her team to exhibit. She is an outstanding teacher who understands that some of the most important lessons in life are learned outside the classroom. She is a tireless volunteer for the community and its children.

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Sadye Heenan

Position: Third Grade Teacher

School: Northfield Elementary School

School District: Northfield Community School District

City, State: Northfield, New Jersey

About the Nominee: Every day, Sadye Heenan changes the lives of her students! She is a kind, compassionate teacher whose enthusiasm and passion for teaching is repeatedly shown to her students throughout the school day and beyond. Mrs. Heenan gains the respect and admiration of her students by running a structured, fair classroom that is infused with lots of fun and positive reinforcement! In addition to being a LifeChanger to her students, she continuously inspires her colleagues. Her supportive and encouraging attitude helps keep a positive spirit around the school. Mrs. Heenan can often be found volunteering for committees that are created to improve the school.

As the elementary representative of the recycling program, her class is responsible for collecting the elementary recycling every week. Mrs. Heenan has motivated her school to recognize the importance of recycling.

It takes a special person to go above and beyond for both students and staff. Mrs. Heenan is most certainly a LifeChanger in her school, and her colleagues and students feel fortunate that she is part of the Northfield Community School family!

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Michael Caiazza

Position: Physical Education Teacher

School: Egg Harbor Township High School

School District: Egg Harbor Township Board of Education

City, State: Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey

About the Nominee: Michael Caiazza was nominated by Michael Previti, a member of the community. Coach Caiazza defines the word LifeChanger. He has had a positive impact across his community for over 30 years as a Physical Education teacher and wrestling coach. In order to understand how drastic this impact is, however, one must read Michael's story.

When Michael started high school, he was an unmotivated teenager. He wasn't involved in clubs, struggled academically and didn't make the best choices in friends. He first met Coach in 1987 as a freshman in gym class, where Coach encouraged him to try out for the wrestling team. At first, Michael was resistant, but after two years of persistence, he decided to give it a try. As it turned out, he really enjoyed it. When Coach realized that Michael's grades were mediocre at best, he pulled him aside. Coach made Michael come to his office every day after school so he could make sure he was doing his homework. It wasn’t that Michael needed a tutor, but he needed the push to dedicate some time to learning. At that point, he realized how much Coach cared, not only for him, but for everyone around him. Michael's grades changed dramatically; he went from ranking in the lower third of his class to graduating in the top third. Coach pushed his athletes to do other sports in the off-season to stay in shape and, more importantly, stay out of trouble.

Michael made lifelong friends through the wrestling team, friends who feel the same way about Coach that he does. Coach teaches his athletes that if they want to do well, they will have to work hard. He teaches them respect and other life skills that have proved to carry over into life after high school.

According to Michael, Coach came into his life at a very crucial time. If it wasn't for Coach, Michael isn't sure if he'd be as successful as he is today. Coach brought out the drive and motivation it takes to succeed in this world. He taught Michael values and the work ethic that guides his professional and personal life. Every day, Michael tries to pass these on to his own children, like Coach Caiazza did for him.

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Cindy Juniewicz

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.

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Amy Andersen

Position: American Sign Language Teacher School: Ocean City High School

School District: Ocean City School District

City, State: Ocean City, New Jersey

About the Nominee: Amy Andersen was nominated by her superintendent, Kathleen Taylor.

Ms. Andersen founded and single-handedly developed the ASL program at Ocean City High School (OCHS) in 2004. The program, which has significantly changed her district, started with 42 students. By the second year, 142 students registered for the classes. Student interest has continued to grow, and as a result, ASL I, II and III are now offered. Ms. Andersen has made ASL one of the most popular programs in OCHS. She has created a place where students find inspiration, self-confidence, a nurturing environment and often, their future. The entire district and surrounding community has been transformed as more awareness of and respect for Deaf culture and ASL spreads.

Her impact extends beyond the four walls of her classroom. She encourages her students to find their passion by enabling them to realize the positive changes in themselves and the unique contributions they have to offer. Ms. Andersen is continually reaching out to develop a nationwide network of Deaf and hearing professionals to enhance what she teaches and to expand her students’ experiences.

Ms. Andersen has been contacted for advice and support by teachers from around the country who have also recognized her success. In 2007, she presented at the New Jersey Department of Education Administrators Roundtable, giving an overview of the OCHS ASL program.

Year after year, Ms. Andersen connects with her students, and in turn, with the local Deaf community. These ties continue long after students graduate. Ms. Andersen teaches students from different backgrounds to come together to form what students refer to as an “ASL family.”

Nicholl, a current ASL III Honors student, said, "The class is a diverse mixture of students I probably wouldn't ordinarily be friends with, not in terms of ethnicity or social status, but the typical high school cliques that separate us all. From the beginning, we learn about diversity and acceptance… how to look at a group of people who are different and view them as equals and a variation of ourselves.”

In addition to OCHS, Ms. Andersen’s influence has dramatically changed the broader Ocean City community, as well. As part of her class, she gives students opportunities to meet, sign with and learn from role models in the Deaf community. For example, using her classroom videophone, she connects students to people like Bruce Bucci, the Director of Deaf Studies at Boston University and Carl Andreasen, a Deaf survivor of the World Trade Center attack in 2001. Every month, Ms. Andersen helps run ASL Socials at a local Starbucks, where Deaf volunteers practice ASL with her students. Because of Ms. Andersen, Ocean City has become known as a Deaf-friendly town, and her program is a resource to the surrounding community, as well. When a local day care center reached out to Ms. Andersen regarding a Deaf baby in the center, she encouraged OCHS students to volunteer after school a few hours a week to provide language stimulation for the baby through play. Not only did the baby become more confident and communicative, but the ASL students became more aware of their inner talents and love for ASL.

In addition to providing a phenomenal ASL program, Ms. Andersen offers a nurturing, safe place for students to learn while building their confidence and opening up opportunities.

Ana, a graduate of the class of 2014, wrote, “Before I took your class, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my future, but your passion for ASL and Deaf culture inspired me. Without your constant support and encouragement, I never would have found the confidence in my signing to succeed. Thank you for always believing in my abilities, even when I did not. And most importantly, thank you for changing my life!”

Each year, Ms. Andersen's students present a well-attended ASL Show, the proceeds of which support ASL scholarships for senior students and Deaf related charities.

In 2014, the show's theme was "Stand for the Silent." Ms. Andersen found a way to unite the general public, her ASL students and the Deaf community with an anti-bullying theme. Students produced an ASL video based on Stand for the Silent’s signature song, “Hey Bully,” which went viral and now has 37,266 views! Students also brought in Kirk Smalley, the founder of Stand for the Silent, to present his message to OCHS, surrounding districts and the general public.

Ms. Andersen has received a number of honors and awards for her considerable and notable achievements beginning with, but certainly not limited to, earning National Board Certification - Exceptional Needs Specialist: Deaf/Hard of Hearing (2002-2012); New Jersey Association of the Deaf Award (2011); Atlantic County Society of the Deaf Certificate of Appreciation (2014); ASL Teacher of the Year (2014); and OCHS Teacher of the Year (2016).

In conclusion, it is clear that Ms. Andersen fosters a sense of community and responsibility for others in her students. She has had a life-changing effect, not only on the hundreds of students who have been fortunate enough to take her classes, but on the entire school community, including parents, and the hearing and Deaf communities of Ocean City, New Jersey.

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