Read Hunterdon County Vocational School District’s announcement of instructor Teresa Diaz becoming County Teacher of the Year.
Hunterdon County Polytech Career & Technical High School’s Commercial Arts & Advertising Design and 3D Computer Animation Instructor Teresa De Sapio Diaz began this school year with the impressive title of Hunterdon County Teacher of the Year for 2021-2022. She was given the honor by the New Jersey Education Association. During last school year, Diaz was named Educator of the Year by Hunterdon County Vocational School District (HCVSD), which put her in the running for the county-wide Teacher of the Year.
“It felt really good to be recognized and honored for the work that I do,” said Diaz, noting it is significant that a career and technical education (CTE) teacher was included among those selected. “It’s timely because after the pandemic, people realized that what kept the economy moving is a lot of what we train our students to do.”
“We are beyond thrilled to have Mrs. Diaz not only represent our district, but represent all 21 county vocational-technical schools with this honor,” said HCVSD Superintendent Dr. Todd Bonsall. “It is so important for us to have visibility in the profession to help us continue to attract industry professionals who have so much knowledge and passion to share with the next generation.”
As County Teacher of the Year, Diaz had to develop a platform on a topic of her choice that she would share with other county schools, administrators, parents and the community. Diaz selected art education and CTE. To support her platform, she collaborated with several teachers throughout the county over the summer to create a program that has a curriculum with vertical alignment. The program begins in middle school and carries through to high school (Polytech), college, and into a professional career.
“These kinds of things have us all excited to come back to school. It’s important to be open to change and create projects that you would be excited to be involved in. It gets you excited to teach, which rubs off on your students, who then get excited to do it and learn,” said Diaz.
Diaz said the County Teachers of the Year received social media training to help them spread the messages of their platforms. The teachers also are asked to be involved in or speak at events to “elevate the profession of educator and encourage others to become educators.”
Diaz is sharing her experience as an educator on a panel at Seton Hall University, as well as addressing the County Superintendents Roundtable Meeting.
“We also actively seek leadership positions in our schools and communities so we can pass on our knowledge to others,” noted Diaz. “This year, I am the district SkillsUSA advisor and was named to the board of the Art Educators of New Jersey, serving as the membership chairperson.” She said although she has presented at the organization’s state conferences in the past and has been a member for more than 18 years, this is the first time she has taken on a leadership role. “It’s been rewarding to take on leadership roles; I’m learning and growing as a teacher, networking and meeting new people. It’s fun. I’m working on writing some articles for journals and magazines. It’s all about passing on our knowledge to others.”
Diaz has felt supported on many levels. “My students were so excited for me and told their parents, who were excited to have their child in the County Teacher of the Year’s classroom. It’s cool to see other people’s reactions to my honor.”
Diaz encourages other professionals to become teachers at their county vocational-technical schools. “It’s so important to share what you know, especially if you’re passionate about something. You’ll want to keep that going and see that excitement and enthusiasm in someone else.”
She believes that more professionals should embrace internships and apprenticeships as well to further share their knowledge with the next generation. “It’s kind of going back in time to family businesses where you learn from your parents and grandparents. Today, you can do that as a professional and pass your knowledge on to strangers and get them just as excited for the field you went into,” said Diaz.