Hopewell Valley Regional School District has announced that six teachers have been honored with the Governor’s Teacher/Educational Services Professional Recognition award.
The awards are part of a statewide program that acknowledges educators who demonstrate outstanding performance year after year.
Hopewell’s 2015 winners are:
- Hopewell Valley Central High School math teacher Lori Cavanaugh
- Timberlane Middle School science teacher Gregory Hunter
- Stony Brook Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Sarah Lindbloom
- Bear Tavern Elementary School Media Specialist Paula Ann Muhlbauer
- Hopewell Elementary School Special Education teacher Catherine Kulp
- Toll Gate Grammar School teacher Kimberly Renick, who teaches Advanced Level Reading and Math and Basic Skills
Educators can be nominated by anyone in their district—parents, students, or other educators—and are chosen by a committee of administrators, teachers and former honorees. The award is informally called the Teacher of the Year Award, and is given to educators who demonstrate: exceptional instructional techniques; positive interactions with students, staff and parents; creative and innovative practices; and significant contributions to professional development.
“It was a total surprise to me; I didn’t know I had been nominated,” said Mrs. Cavanaugh, who currently teaches regular and honors Pre-Calculus and Fundamentals of Intermediate Algebra, at the high school. “So many people in the building are worthy of the award, that I was surprised to hear my name. It’s a really nice honor.”
Mrs. Cavanaugh grew up in Buffalo and has an undergraduate degree in Secondary Math Education from Buffalo State College and a master’s degree in the same subject from the University at Buffalo. She said she enjoys helping students master what can be perceived as an intimidating subject.
“Some people have a negative feeling about math,” she noted. “It’s nice to see a student who previously was struggling with it do well, and to know that you had a part in helping them accomplish that,” she reflected. “With high school students you see them grow; they are young adults and you play a bit of a parenting role. But by the time they graduate, they are ready to be on their own,” said the teacher, who lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two teenage children.
Teacher of the Year Gregory Hunter, who teaches sixth grade science at Timberlane Middle School, has taught in Hopewell schools for a decade. He is a graduate of The College of New Jersey, where he received a degree in Elementary Education. He also taught as a long-term substitute in the Pennsbury (Pa.) school district.
“I was very surprised to get the award,” said Mr. Hunter, who teaches environmental and earth sciences. “We have some really great teachers in our school and it’s nice to be honored.”
Mr. Hunter, who lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and three small children, said; “Hopewell is a great place to work: we have great colleagues, great administrators and great kids.” He said his favorite part of teaching is seeing the kids each day and thinking of creative ways to present the curriculum to his students.
“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher, since I was 5 years old,” said Ms. Lindbloom. “I love the challenge of it, being there everyday with the kids. I love bringing them to new levels academically, socially, and emotionally, to see them doing things they never thought they could do.”
Ms. Lindbloom, who majored in Psychology and Elementary Education at Rider University, with a minor in Special Education, said in her classroom students are encouraged to treat each other as a family.
“We support each other, love each other and care for each other. It doesn’t matter if you make mistakes, we are a family and there for each other,” said Ms. Lindbloom, who lives in Hightstown where she grew up.
“It’s such an honor; you never think it’s going to be you. You come in and do your job, and never expect to get an award,” she said, noting that she actually “shaking” when they announced her as the winner during announcements one day.
Mrs. Muhlbauer came to education by way of business, getting an undergraduate degree in Business Administration from Ramapo College of New Jersey, and working for the Michelin Corporation for several years. Ms. Muhlbauer decided to switch careers, getting an elementary education teaching certificate from Rider University and a Masters in Education with an emphasis in library science from Arcadia University in Pennsylvania.
“I was in the business world and I wasn’t feeling that inspired,” she noted of her decision.
Since getting her degrees, Mrs. Muhlbauer has worked in Bucks County public libraries, Hamilton Township school libraries, and now in Hopewell. She says her favorite parts of the job are when her older students are inspired by a lesson she teaches to do further research on a topic.
“For the younger ones, it’s the spark in their eyes when they find just the right book!” said Mrs. Muhlbauer, who lives in Newtown, Pa., with her husband and two teenagers.
“I feel that working with students with special needs, I have the opportunity every day to affect change and impact a child’s future,” said Mrs. Kulp of her passion for early intervention. “When children are able to receive the interventions that they require at an early age, they have greater academic, life and career opportunities.”
Mrs. Kulp, who has an undergraduate degree in Elementary and Early Childhood Education, and a master’s degree in Special Education from Arcadia University, said she is particularly proud to represent Special Ed teachers among awardees. She lives in Bucks County with her husband and two children.
“I’m very honored to receive this award, but it really belongs to every teacher in the school; everybody’s efforts went into it,” said Ms. Renick, who lives in Pennington. “I appreciate the teachers and parents and administrators pointing out the work I do, and I truly enjoy coming to school everyday and teaching. It’s a job that is continuously changing.”
Ms. Renick grew up in Oregon, where she was a nationally competitive gymnast as a teenager, at one point ranking 21st in the nation. Attending a gymnastics school where she did her studies in the morning and spent up to 8 hours a day training at the gym was key in molding her work ethic, and traits of motivation and determination, she said. When an injury sidelined her at 17, she decided to attend Portland State University, where she studied Psychology and Child Development. She got her teaching certificate in Early Childhood Education from Warner Pacific University, also in Portland. She began her career in the city, where she taught underprivileged kids at all grade levels, including bilingual Spanish/English classes.
“The kids continue to challenge me,” she said. “They give me energy, and I love working with them, the relationships that you can build with your students. I appreciate the parents who stand behind me and trust me to teach their kids.”