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Lori Fontana Awarded Center Grove Elementary Teacher of the Year
Special Education teacher Lori Fontana was selected as this year’s Teacher of the Year at Center Grove Elementary. Ms. Fontana began teaching for Randolph Township Schools in 1995. Over the course of her career with the district, she has taught all major subjects including language arts, math, science, and social studies. Ms. Fontana received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education and Social Studies from Caldwell College. She also holds a Master’s degree in Human Services Leadership and Special Education from the College of Saint Elizabeth.
In addition to teaching, Ms. Fontana has played many different roles outside of the classroom. She is currently Vice President of the Randolph Education Association, a PRIDE Representative, and a Superintendent’s Liaison Representative for Center Grove. Ms. Fontana has presented on Student Culture & Climate, Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) data, and has been instrumental in the development of math curriculum.
As a district alumna and former Shongum Elementary student, Ms. Fontana was inspired to teach because of the experiences she had as a student in Randolph. “When I was young, I sat in a classroom at Shongum listening intently to my 3rd grade teacher Mrs. Batson teaching a lesson about verbs. I remember our class learning a fun song that Mrs. Batson had created to help my peers and I learn the helping verbs. I remember watching everyone smile as we all sang along, and looking back on that moment I knew those smiles were from Mrs. Batson,” Ms. Fontana said. “As I continued in school, I was selected to participate in a program in high school where I assisted in the classroom as a peer mentor. It was during that time that I began to see how much I enjoyed helping people and started noticing that I was making a difference in the lives of others. I knew in that moment that I was destined to teach, and my dream started to become more of a reality when I could not picture myself doing anything other than teaching.”
Ms. Fontana is constantly making modifications and adjustments to help all of her students achieve success at their own level. She believes that being an outstanding teacher requires going above and beyond the curriculum. Ms. Fontana approaches each day with the recognition that she has the opportunity to change her students’ lives. She does this by making every day memorable through creative lessons that help students learn through exploration and fun.
Outside of the classroom, Ms. Fontana is active in her students’ lives by attending different events they are a part of such as baseball or soccer games. She does this as part of her commitment to support the whole child and help each student develop based on their unique personalities. “As a teacher, my beliefs stem from knowing each one of my students individually. With a vast understanding of each student on a personal level, I can reach them educationally through things that interest them in their daily lives,” Ms. Fontana said. “Taking this step to personalize learning for each student comes full circle and connects them to the world around them. Learning becomes more about their lives and it allows them to grow to their fullest potential.
Despite the pandemic, Ms. Fontana continues to create opportunities that are in the best interest of each individual student. Out of all of the lessons she has taught over the years, the lessons she taught during the quarantine helped her grow stronger as an educator. “As a teacher, being distanced from my students was not only challenging physically but also posed quite a challenge emotionally. I knew working through a computer to see and engage with students would be difficult, and I knew from the start that I had to find a way to keep my students interested while learning from afar,” Ms. Fontana said. “I was teaching a science lesson on matter, and I created a science lab to conduct the experiment with them. The experiment was conducted live on my back deck and the reactions to the results of the experiment were priceless. Not only was I able to connect with each student during the lesson, I was elated to see the further connections my students made. My students created videos and shared them with me after they tried the experiment in their own “science labs."
Ms. Fontana is more than just an educator. Her compassion, love, and empathy for teaching is evident in every fiber of her being. She lives and breathes teaching. Ms. Fontana lives to serve as an inspiration every day for the students she serves and the colleagues she works with. “Teaching is not about a score or a grade. It is about making connections with students and encouraging them to expand on all levels, not just educationally. The connections begin the moment a student walks through the door, and it never ends. I became a teacher to inspire others, to help change people, and to send the message to never give up even when faced with challenges that seem impossible. Challenges force me to dig deeper and find the way to touch the heart of each child and appreciate the gift that is every moment we share together. I hope my students become the best possible version of themselves and I forever challenge them to always reach for the stars.”
We are incredibly proud of all that Ms. Fontana has done for students and staff in our district. She is an exemplary educator in our learning community, and highly deserving of this honor and recognition. Congratulations Ms. Fontana. We appreciate all that you do!