School board honors teachers and students

BY JAY BODAS Staff Writer

Staff Writer

METUCHEN – Most people would jump at the chance to retire in a year. Not Ellen Goldstein.

Goldstein, a guidance counselor at the Edgar Middle School, isn’t going anywhere soon.

“I started my career as a teacher, but my dream was always to become a counselor,” she said. “I feel like I can make a difference in a student’s life. I love what I do. It is exciting, different, challenging and rewarding. I am eligible to retire in a year, but I have no plans to because I enjoy it so much.”

Goldstein was one of a number of district educators and students honored by the Board of Education at the June 14 board meeting.

Board members selected a faculty or staff member from each of Metuchen’s four schools for the Governor’s Teacher Recognition Program Educator of the Year Award.

“These annual educator awards used to be given to just classroom teachers, because they are indeed the cornerstone of the educational system,” said award winner Mary Kay Sessa, who is the school nurse at Moss School. “But today, there are a wider variety of professionals in education than ever before, such as guidance counselors, psychologists, school nurses and others, and so this year the award was opened to other support services.”

The other members chosen were Becky Jacheo-Smith, a special education teacher at Campbell School, and Marilyn Higgins, a librarian at Metuchen High School.

Sessa is now in her fifth year as the nurse at Moss School.

“We help keep the children healthy by doing regular screenings, checking vision and hearing and spinal deformities such as scoliosis,” she said. “We also have a lot of students with chronic conditions who we monitor and give medications to. The second part of it is if a child becomes ill or injured, we need to take care of injuries that may involve EMS [emergency medical services], for example. The school nurse today has to work as a team along with doctors, and it is in many ways an extension of the doctor’s office.”

She considers herself an educator as well, and works to introduce health-related issues into the students’ education.

“I am the chair of the pupil assistance committee, which consists of the principal, a social worker and teachers, and we meet monthly over the school year to help students having academic and behavioral difficulties,” Sessa said. “I also do health teaching, and one of our goals this year was to combat obesity. The teachers and I collaborated to have programs in the classroom on good nutrition and healthy exercise.”

Jacheo-Smith, now in her sixth year in Metuchen, teaches special needs students in both small groups and in the classroom.

“For some students, I give them an individualized education plan, and I pull the students out to do small group instruction in language arts, reading and math, teaching up to nine students at a time in the school’s resource center,” she said.

Sessa also teaches cooperatively with the teachers in science and social studies, proving in-class support, and meets regularly with the teacher to review lesson plans.

“By teaching this way, those students with special needs are not being isolated,” she said.

Goldstein, who has been with the Metuchen school district for 20 years, is finishing up her fifth year at Edgar School.

“The guidance department meets the needs of all different kinds of students, academic and emotional,” she said. “I run support groups, such as divorce and bereavement groups, for kids, and I do a support group for parents, which meets Friday mornings.”

Higgins is retiring this year after 22 years in the district. She could not be reached for comment.

Patrick Gibson, 10, was lauded for winning the New Jersey Council of Teachers of English Writing Contest.

“I wrote an eight-page science-fiction story about two boys who get sucked into a computer by a virus,” Gibson said. “It won first place for science fiction out of 600 entries,” he said.

Joscelyn Poll, 10, and Lauretta Mosteller, 9, were commended for their achievements in music. Poll was selected for the New Jersey All-State Choir last January, and Mosteller was chosen to sing in the New York City Opera Children’s Chorus at Lincoln Center.