Position: Second and Third Grade Special Education Teacher
School: Red Bank Primary School
School District: Red Bank Borough Public Schools
City, State: Red Bank, New Jersey
About the Nominee: Wendy Strumph was nominated by a colleague, Rachel Mambach. Ms. Strumph is the heart of Red Bank Primary School. It's evident in everything she does, from the way she speaks to others to all the little things she does behind the scenes. She sets an example that everyone should follow.
Ms. Strumph teaches a special education class of 13 students. The abilities of these students are incredibly varied, and with the help of her two IAs, she addresses each student's individual needs. Whether their needs are social, academic or both, Ms. Strumph is able to transform these students. Students who could not read when they came to her are now reading and writing. Students who were quiet and shy now have friends and volunteer to answer questions in class. When Ms. Strumph speaks to her students, she is kind but firm and insists they speak to each other with the same kindness and patience. Her class is more of a family than a class. Her students may sometimes argue and bother each other like siblings do, but deep down, they truly care about each other. They celebrate each other’s accomplishments, help each other and stand up for each other. Everyone in Red Bank Primary loves Ms. Strumph's class. This is because she has an innate ability to bring out kindness and joy in each of her students.
Ms. Strumph also does a lot for the Red Bank community. Every November, she organizes and spearheads a food drive to help some of the district's families in need have a memorable Thanksgiving. She has even been known to deliver the baskets of food to the families at their homes outside of school hours. She volunteers to serve food at her school's spring International Night, and she also helps with her school's spring art show.
Ms. Strumph's most memorable attributes are the many ways she advocates for her students. For example, she taught her students how to run the school store. Every month, her students greet the other students as their customers, help them find what they are looking for and even make change. They attend special area classes with general education classes and participate in the Winter and Spring Concerts. When she was asked to move her classroom to a different location in the building, Ms. Strumph stood her ground so her students could stay near their peers in the general education classes.
Each year, third grade students at her school take the PARCC test. Because Ms. Strumph's students have special needs, some of them take the PARCC with modifications, but many of them take a different, more individualized test. Guidelines for testing are always changing, so Ms. Strumph always stays up to date on the current tests, asking questions when necessary so her students have the best chance at success. All these small ways that Ms. Strumph advocates for her students set them up for a lifetime of success. Many parents have walked out of her parent-teacher conferences with tears in their eyes because the growth they see in their children is overwhelming.