People on the Move: Karen Ginty
As I sat down in a tiny chair and looked around at the brightly covered walls full of letters, numbers, and the magical artwork of small children, I felt as if I was actually back in kindergarten. Sitting before me in her kindergarten classroom at Monmouth Beach Elementary (MBE) was New Jerseys Teacher of the Year. Now lets get this straight: Karen Ginty is not teacher of the county, nor is she New Jerseys kindergarten teacher of the year, but rather she was chosen Teacher of the Year (TOY) for New Jersey, and represented our state for 6 months, from 2006 to 2007, all over the United States. She and 55 other teachers, one representative from each state and the U.S. territories, traveled all over the country, meeting President Bush in the Oval Office, socializing with George W. and Laura in the Rose Garden, talking to Governor Corzine about the importance of full-day kindergarten, and attending symposiums and conferences in Dallas, Washington (DC), Atlanta, and, locally, in Princeton. This half-year sabbatical was paid for by the Educational Teachers Service, the same group that works with the Governors Teacher Recognition Program to find and acknowledge teachers who exhibit outstanding performance in any given teaching year kindergarten through high school. The TOY award is bestowed by each states Department of Education.
It didnt take long to see why Karen had been chosen. Sure, she has been teaching [mainly] kindergarten at MBE for 35 years; and yes, she is an outspoken advocate for full-day kindergarten, helping to make it happen at MBE 5 years ago and certainly every student we passed in the hallways gave her a big smile and greeting; and yes, she said herself that character education is paramount in her teachings, but its more than that. These children are hersthey are her family. She gets to mold their minds in their first formative year of school and then has the opportunity to watch them grow, right there in the same building, for the next 8 years. She has even had the occasion to teach the children of several former students. She loves it and loves the kids. I love them and know them from the minute they walk into my class!
Karen has a family of her own, and she and her husband, Tom, have lived in West Long Branch for many years, raising a son, Matthew, and a daughter, Allison. Her children, who both attended public school in West Long Branch and graduated from Shore Regional High School, chose careers in the world of finance, not teaching. I think they maybe got too much of it at home, she says. I used to bring lessons home and practice with them. But growing up in a working-class family in Middletown, Karen always knew that she would be a teacher. As young as I can remember, I always wanted to be the teacher. I had this chalkboard that had been given to me when I was 5 years old, and I used to try to get my sisters to play school with me. She took that chalkboard with her wherever she went, and only recently parted with it!
It is her own kindergarten and first-grade teachers whom she remembers most fondly. Miss Rosengartenshe just made learning so much fun. I remember painting and skipping and wearing my cowgirl costume at Halloween. And Miss Mullinshe helped me get over my fear of reading in front of the class. It was terrible. I was so shy that I would just cry and cry. But because Miss Mullin worked slowly and gently to help her overcome her apprehension, and in doing so, built up her confidence, soon little Karen Ginty was sitting in the teachers swivel chair (she still has a fondness for swivel chairs), reading aloud to the class and actually giving the lesson! It always brought the best out of me when a teacher was positive and rewarding and not scolding. In fact, Karen has implemented this very principle in her own teaching philosophies. Kind words go further than anything negative, for all children.
Now that she is an empty nester, Karen is enjoying the extra time she has, though not just for herself as one would expect; she truly enjoys having more time to devote to the school, and even considers coming in on Saturdays a treat! Monmouth Beach is lucky to have such a wonderful educator in their midst, and New Jersey is most fortunate to have had such an exemplary woman representing our teachers!
Favorite restaurant: Turning Point
Favorite musician: Bruce Springsteen
Favorite Movie: Moonstruck
Pet peeve: dishonest people
Three people you would like to have dinner with: my mother, my father, and my best friend, who now lives in Arizona