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Point Pleasant Borough Schools' 2018 Teachers of the Year2018 Teachers of the Year

Educators are charged with the delicate task of shaping the future. As the architects of their students’ educational experience, teachers help lay the foundation for a lifetime of learning, setting the tone for what, where, when, how and why their students learn while also inspiring a sense of intellectual curiosity and a love of learning. Through their influence, teachers have the power to make their students’ lives - and by extension the world - better. 

The Point Pleasant School District believes that teachers’ efforts should be commended; however, teachers rarely receive the recognition and praise they deserve for the vital role they serve in the development of an advanced, well-educated society.

“When asked, most teachers will commonly cite the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others as the reason they pursued the teaching profession,” said Superintendent of Point Pleasant Schools Vincent S. Smith.  “Though I’d venture to guess that few are in it for the recognition and praise, the transformative and enriching impact teachers have on their students’ lives makes them worthy of both, which is why the Point Pleasant School District so strongly believes that teachers’ efforts should be regularly recognized and applauded.

“Plus, because recognizing exemplary teaching serves as a motivational tool for staff, teacher recognition programs foster a drive for professional success,” he said.

Fortunately, at the Point Pleasant Borough School District, where teaching excellence is standard, recognition happens frequently.

“Our district’s teachers regularly capture the attention of various local recognition programs and have also been honored - with increasing frequency – by numerous regional and national programs,” said Superintendent Smith.

According to the Superintendent, the list of district educators that have been recognized for exemplary teaching practice continues to grow and has added another four teachers following the announcement of the recipients of the 2018 Ocean County Teacher of the Year Award.

On Feb. 15, Superintendent Smith, Director of Curriculum & Instruction Susan Ladd, Ed.D., Supervisor of Pupil Personnel Services Rita Miller and School Business Administrator Steve Corso visited each of the district’s four schools to inform the Teachers of the Year of their selection for the award.

For their outstanding efforts on behalf of the students of Point Pleasant Borough, Nick Gattuso from Point Pleasant Borough High School, Lauren Mattei from Memorial Middle School, Tammy Pausz from Nellie F. Bennett Elementary School and Jill Vitale from Ocean Road Elementary School were named the district’s 2018 Educators of the Year.

Initially nominated by parents and fellow staff members, the Teachers of the Year are selected by a panel of district administrators, teachers, parents and community members. The committee reviews the nominations to determine the four educators whose use of creativity, innovation and efficiency in the classroom improves student achievement by fostering a learning-focused environment.

Mr. Gattuso, Teacher of the YearNick Gattuso, Point Pleasant Borough High School
Point Pleasant Borough High School Computer Science Teacher pursued an alternate route to the teaching profession in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks. At the time, Mr. Gattuso had been working at the Pentagon as a Software Engineer for Bellcore. His experiences on that fateful day led him to evaluate his career and he decided it was time to help and give back.

“I watched in horror as the Pentagon and Twin Towers were attacked,” said Mr. Gattuso. “I made a major life decision and became a Computer Science Teacher at Point Pleasant High School.  Fast forward 15 years and our Computer Science department has evolved into a nationally recognized program with alum working at companies such as Google and Twitter.”

Throughout his career as an educator, Mr. Gattuso’s influence on both his students and Point Pleasant Borough High School has been profound; not only is he responsible for inspiring countless students to pursue careers in the computer sciences, but he has also helped to promote acceptance and inclusion at the high school through the Panthers Assisted Learning Software, or PALS, suite of apps, the program for which he is most proud.

“In 2014, our Advanced Software Engineering Topics Class started the Panther Assisted Learning Software or PALS program for which our students design and develop apps for our Special Needs friends,” he said. “I am proud to have been able to contribute to the growth of STEM students who understand it is important to give back and that I've been able to take the tragedy of 9/11 and turn it into something positive.”  

Lauren Mattei, Memorial Middle SchoolMrs. Mattei, Teacher of the Year

Memorial Middle School eighth grade Language Arts teacher Lauren Mattei’s teaching philosophy is centered on the belief that everyone can learn while feeling supported and empowered to try their best. Mrs. Mattei has been putting that belief into practice since 2008, when, upon graduation from Georgian Court University, she began her teaching career at Memorial Middle School.

Mrs. Mattei’s commitment to her students extends beyond the classroom where she serves not only as the coordinator of the Intervention & Referral Services committee but also as the eighth grade class advisor, a position she finds to be among the most rewarding of her career.

“[As the eighth grade class advisor] I am afforded the opportunity to plan a three-day academic trip to Washington, D.C. for more than 220 students, faculty, and administration,” she said. “I have a passion for learning and wish to transfer that information to my students while continuing to build strong bonds and be a productive member of the Panther community.”

Tammy Pausz, Nellie F. Bennett Elementary School

Mrs. Pausz, Teacher of the YearFor as long she can remember, Nellie Bennett’s Tammy Pausz had dreamed of following in her mother’s footsteps and becoming a teacher. She realized that dream in 1996 after she graduated from The College of New Jersey with a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education and biology.

“I began my teaching career as a sixth grade teacher in Bloomfield, NJ,” Mrs. Pausz said. “After taking a few years for maternity, I returned to teaching in Point Pleasant where I have been teaching third or fourth grade for the last 16 years.

“I am so blessed to be a part of the Nellie Bennett Elementary School community not just as a teacher, but as a parent since all three of my children are current or former students of our school,” she said. “Being selected as our teacher of the year is such an honor because I am surrounded by a group of inspiring educators who constantly raise the bar for our students. I love living in the same community where I teach because it allows me the opportunity to watch my former students grow into young men and women.”

Jill Vitale, Ocean Road Elementary SchoolMrs. Vitale, Teacher of the Year

For the past 16 years, Ocean Road Elementary School’s Jill Vitale has been preparing special needs preschoolers for a lifetime of educational success.
Though the lifelong Point Pleasant resident initially set out to become a nurse, during college, Mr. Vitale realized something was missing and she shifter her focus to teaching.

“Nursing and teaching both embrace the nurturing and caring atmosphere that I was looking for,” said Mrs. Vitale. “When I walked into a classroom for the first time, I knew teaching felt right.”
Mrs. Vitale graduated from Georgian Court University with a degree in Special Education in 2002. She began her teaching career as an in-class support teacher and enjoyed teaching in several grade levels before transitioning to Ocean Road’s preschool program, a position she loves.

“I am proud to call myself a preschool teacher,” she said.  “This journey as an early childhood educator has been very rewarding. I am truly honored to receive this award.  It is a humbling experience to be recognized for doing something that I love.”

The Teacher of the Year Program was developed with the goal of highlighting the rewards of teaching, as well as the important services outside the classroom environment that lead to student success. 

The criteria for selection includes the use of innovative instructional techniques & methods; the ability to inspire students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn; skill and dedication as an educator; and the ability to foster excellence in education by ongoing contributions to the improvement of student learning and the learning environment.

“Teachers of the Year are dedicated and inspiring, and they are committed to making a difference – in short, they are like these four exemplary educators,” said Superintendent Smith. “I offer my wholehearted congratulations to each of them for this outstanding achievement.”

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