My name is Jeanne DelColle and I am the 2011-2012 New Jersey State Teacher of the Year. It still seems strange to say it out loud. My life has changed in so many ways, I hardly recognize the somewhat reluctant teacher-leader I was in early September when this all happened. It seems like years ago now. I wasn't going to keep a blog, but I realized that things in my life were changing so rapidly that I really ought to keep a record. I certainly do not claim to be the best teacher in the state, but as the one chosen to represent public educators for the year it is my job to elevate the profession and illuminate the work that we do. I can say without reservation that unless you are a teacher or you know a teacher as a close friend or family member, most people have no idea what it is that teachers do on a daily basis and how much talent, skill, energy, passion, patience, and dedication it takes to do the job well. Teaching is incredibly rewarding, but it is really hard work.
I am currently on sabbatical working at the Department of Education (DOE) in Trenton. Although I miss the kids terribly, I realized that this was the opportunity to effect change on a whole different level. It is a steep learning curve getting up to speed on policy details and the nightly grading of papers and writing of lesson plans has been replaced with studying white papers. The new perspective I have gained in the few weeks I have been in Trenton is invaluable, and the DOE has been very welcoming and eager to have teacher input in their desire for transparency. The NJEA has been equally welcoming and provided enormous support. In order to gain perspective of education beyond my classroom and school, I have been welcomed to the various events sponsored by the NJEA so that I have the opportunity to listen to the voices of the many diverse educators I am proud to represent.
As Uncle Ben once said to Peter Parker in Spiderman, "With great honor comes great responsibility." I take this responsibility seriously and feel duty bound to do the best job that I can to honor my family, students and fellow educators. In a climate where, lets face it, public opinion is downright hostile to teachers, it is my goal to build bridges and help restore respect to the profession. Communication is the key, both incoming and outgoing, and I will do my best to elevate the voice of the teacher in shaping policy in this time of transformation. Although there are many different perspectives that weigh in on the topic of education, all have one central focus, the desire for our students to achieve success.