With school just getting underway, Patch will be introducing readers to some of Fair Lawn School District's reigning "Teachers of the Year," as well as district educators who are moving into new roles in the district or who are simply new to the district.
Each has been kind enough to answer a few questions we've posed to them about their teaching philosophy and what has informed their approach over the years.
Fair Lawn native Debbie SanJulian is a third grade teacher at Milnes Elementary School and its 2011-2012 Teacher of the Year.
SanJulian received both her bachelor's and master's degrees from William Paterson College, and also holds a real estate/mortgage license. She's married with three children.
SanJulian began teaching in a preschool when she was just 18 while attending college. Upon graduating from William Paterson in 1986, SanJulian was hired by the Fair Lawn Community School's Pre-K program.
The following February, SanJulian was brought on by the Fair Lawn Public Schools and took over for a retiring third grade teacher at Milnes.
She's been teaching at Milnes ever since, at the kindergarten, first, second and third grade levels. She's also a member of the Milnes PTA.
In her 25 years in the district, SanJulian has served on a wide variety of committees including technology, math, science, health, full-time kindergarten research, teacher training, pilot programs and more.
This year she'll serve on the district's technology committee, the district's evaluation advisory committee and the district's 21st Century committee.
Did you always want to be a teacher? What is it about the job that
attracted you to the profession?
I initially wanted to obtain an Art degree. I always loved drawing, but I equally loved children as well. I decided to combine the two by becoming a teacher and rewarding the students with my drawings on their work papers or whenever I could! I also try to incorporate numerous hands-on creative learning activities into all my classes.
What's your favorite part of being a teacher?
The children and the reward of watching them grow and catching the pivotal moment when they say, “WOW I get it! I CAN DO THIS!!!!!” Because yes, they can, and I always knew that!
How would you describe your approach to teaching and how has it evolved over the years?
My class is a very warm, nurturing environment that maintains an element of creativity, motivation and excitement! It has evolved over the years from my own on the job experiences and through the use of technology.
What has been your biggest challenge in the classroom?
Time to share EVERYthing I want to share with them. But somehow you can always make it happen.
What's the most valuable advice you've received as it relates to
teaching? What's the most valuable lesson you've learned from teaching?
Always keep an open line of communication with the families of your students past, present and future. It is extremely fulfilling to connect the triangle of education. The triangle being: the teacher, student and family all working together to educate our children.
What techniques have you found most effective for teaching and engaging students? Have you tried anything unique in the classroom that you feel has been especially effective?
Be Happy. Share your love of learning and the children will feel the inspiration and enthusiasm.
What's been your most rewarding experience as a teacher?
Becoming a teacher is my most rewarding experience. I have the rare opportunity to have a positive impact on the lives of all the students in my classroom. I am able to see firsthand the tangible effect I am having on the education of my students. The overwhelming feeling of success I can obtain when I see my students succeed and enjoy the process of learning is unlike anything anyone can experience in the corporate world.
What's new with you, if anything, going into this school year -- both
personally and professionally?
New house, new driver in the house (daughter got her license).
Will you be taking on any new roles or trying out anything new in the classroom this year?
I always have something new up my sleeve to try out but that is my secret. I like to surprise the students.
Have you set any goals for yourself this coming year? If so, what?
My goal this year is to try to be at school earlier in the morning now that I have a new driver in my house who can drop her siblings off at school. LUCKY ME!
What are some of your hobbies and interests outside of teaching?
Bike riding, working out, reading, researching new ideas in technology to bring back to my students/class.
What would people be most surprised to know about you?
For my day to be complete, I need my daily dose of ice cream.