Rachel Scott Receives New Jersey Distinguished Student Teacher Award

Last fall, Wildwood native Rachel Scott entered fourth grade again—not as a student, but as a student teacher for Cyndi Rosenberg’s classroom at the Maud Abrams School in Lower Township, Cape May County.  On the second day of the school year, she met a classroom of students and her mentor teacher  – who together would teach her as much as she would teach her first class of students over the course of 15 weeks.

Almost instantly, bonds were formed. On a day Scott was substitute teaching at Maud Abrams, she noticed familiar faces peering through the doorway into her classroom. The curious students were spying on their student teacher, Miss Scott, a summa cum laude December graduate of Stockton’s Education program.

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Scott enrolled at Stockton as a graduate of Rutgers University where she double-majored in Art History and English. She entered her 160 hours of fieldwork and the following semester of student teaching eager to absorb as much as she could about teaching styles and engaging students. She also completed Stockton’s Instructional Technology Leadership Academy (ITLA) where she gained valuable skills to incorporate the latest technology into teaching practices.

“As an educator, my goal is to unlock each student’s full potential and instill a lifelong passion for learning,” Scott wrote in her philosophy of education.

The state’s educational leaders feel that she is well on her way to making an impact on New Jersey’s youth.

Scott was one of 15 individuals to receive a 2013-2014 New Jersey Distinguished Student Teacher Award on June 25 at Rider University. She was joined by Dr. Norma Boakes, her faculty preceptor and Stockton’s Teacher Education coordinator, Cyndi Rosenberg, her mentor teacher, and Jeanne DelColle, the School of Education strategic partnership and instructional development specialist.

Stockton nominated Scott, who was then selected by David C. Hespe, acting commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Education, along with DOE staff and an award selection committee.

Scott naturally demonstrates the qualities of an educator. “She is extremely bright and has a knack for teaching, making it fun and engaging for students,” said Dr. Boakes who saw Scott in action during the ITLA and in Methods of Teaching Elementary School Mathematics.

“She had excellent ideas for making teaching hands-on and enjoyable in mathematics. Her math lessons were always student-centered with activities to help students understand the mathematics behind concepts. I recall a symmetry lesson she wrote for my course that involved students practicing symmetry by exploring with a collection of geometric shapes. She also demonstrated a lesson in my class using her skills from our technology course. With a group of three classmates, she presented an interactive whiteboard lesson on experimental probability. In all cases, she was articulate, had a strong presence, and really sought to make learning engaging and interactive for the student,” explained Boakes.

During her student teaching experience, Scott discovered that she most enjoys teaching math and science. Her students’ excitement brought a whole new level of energy to the classroom during a science experiment demonstrating density, she recalled. A small grape and a large grapefruit were both dropped into water, each making a splash, but only the tiny grape sank.

The students “crowded around me,” she said, so they wouldn’t miss a thing.

Science was never Scott’s favorite subject during her elementary and middle school years, but Dr. Kimberly Lebak, associate professor of Education and director of the MAED program, helped to change that. In one of Lebak’s courses, Scott said she “changed her mind about science.”

During the semester with Lebak, she built a repertoire of creative ideas to make science lesson as fun as they are informative. “Math and science are hands-on,” she said adding that “math is a fun puzzle to solve.”

“I want students to like math,” she said of the often-feared subject.

Scott began by teaching the students math and gradually began teaching additional subjects until the last month, when she was given full rein to teach a class of 20 all subjects. “I had a great, supportive class,” Scott said.

The most important lesson she learned throughout student teaching is that teachers must be “self-aware and reflective.” Constant adjustments to improve instruction and being one’s own critic are essential, because “no one is telling you what you are doing wrong” in the classroom, she explained.

On her last day as a student teacher at Maud Abrams, the students put a blindfold on her and carefully escorted her down the hallway to a classroom. When the blindfold came off, she opened her eyes to a surprise party.

After completion of student teaching, she took a fourth grade teaching position to fill in for a teacher on maternity leave at Margaret Mace School in North Wildwood. Scott’s goal is to teach third and fourth graders. They are independent and can take on more challenging and fun material, she said.

This summer, Scott was board-approved for a maternity leave position at Maud Abrams, so she will be teaching fourth grade for the fall.

Outside the classroom, Scott is a runner and a traveler. She’ll jump at the opportunity to go zip-lining or rafting.