BRICK – At a Board of Education meeting, members of the board honored Erika Karu, who was selected as the 2021-22 Brick Township School District Teacher of the Year.
Each year, teachers complete an application for the Ocean County Teacher of the Year. A district committee comprised of teachers, administrators and community members evaluate the applications and select the Brick Township Teacher of the Year.
The committee will review their professional biography, teaching philosophy, message and educational leadership.
“I consider it both an honor and a privilege to be standing here tonight. It’s been such a humbling experience to be recognized amongst the many exceptional educators I have the privilege of working with,” Karu said during a speech at the recent Board of Education meeting.
“It’s given me an opportunity to reflect on my career, the path I’ve taken and the students I’ve met along the way,” she added.
Karu is a special education teacher of mathematics and was selected for her role in starting a mentoring program, leading intervention and referral services processes and serving as a Summer Spark program coordinator.
“As a child when I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I can’t remember giving any other answer than a teacher,” she said.
She explained how her teachers in elementary school and high school had a significant role in shaping her love for education.
Karu had received a New Jersey Governor’s teaching scholarship for education and said how her English teacher at the time encouraged her to apply.
“That scholarship made a world of difference in my life. It’s no doubt that it was the positive influence of my teachers that made me want to become one myself,” Karu said.
After high school she went on to college and received her teaching certificate for mathematics at the elementary and high school level. She later received her master’s degree in special education.
“The past few years in particular have presented challenges that we could not have ever anticipated. The COVID experience has been far reaching and has impacted our students socially, emotionally and academically,” Karu said.
“It has never been more important in our current learning environment to approach teaching from a whole child perspective. Developing relationships with students and getting to know them as individuals is key to understanding their individual needs. Thinking outside of the box and finding ways to support students has been my mission,” Karu added.
Karu concluded her speech stating how recognizing students as individuals and giving them a voice empowers them as learners.
“As educators we believe that every child can succeed. This may look different for each student but our core belief is that success is obtainable for each and every one of them,” she said.
“Teachers are leaders who lead with empathy. Empathy helps us better understand the needs of our most vulnerable students. Recognizing our students as individuals and giving them a voice empowers them as learners and lets us know what they need to succeed. Believing that every child can succeed, being their cheerleader, is the heart of what it means to be a student centered – teacher led,” Karu added.
In addition to Karu receiving Teacher of the year, the board honored two teachers at each school throughout the district as the Governor’s Educator of the Year for 2021-22. A video was presented highlighting each honoree.