Lauren Marracco, a fourth-grade teacher in Perth Amboy’s Edward J. Patten Elementary School in Middlesex County and an East Windsor resident, was selected earlier this month as the New Jersey 2012-2013 Teacher of the Year.
Marracco, who was chosen from among 21 county and state facility Teachers of the Year, was recognized as an outstanding classroom leader who possesses a special talent for inspiring a love of learning in students of all backgrounds and abilities.
“I absolutely love teaching,” Marracco said. “I wake up every morning excited to go to work and grow and nurture the minds of the future.”
Marracco earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and her master’s degree in educational administration and supervision from Kean University. She began teaching at E.J. Patten, a K-4, 890-student school, ten years ago, initially as a first grade teacher. She switched to fourth grade in 2010.
According to New Jersey Department of Education, Marracco was selected by panels representing a cross-section of principals, superintendents, and county education representatives.
Marracco was first chosen as School Teacher of the Year, then District Teacher of the Year, and County Teacher of the Year.
She submitted a lengthy written application and 15-minute video to NJDOE. The video was reviewed by a state-level panel of educators who made the final selection. She was then selected as one of five finalists to interview for the honor. Now that she is New Jersey Teacher of the Year, Marracco will represent the state in the national competition.
Marracco and other applicants were asked to elaborate during the application process on such topics as their influences of entering the teaching profession, their greatest accomplishments in education, their service-oriented commitments, teaching philosophy, and impact on improving education.
Demonstrating her commitment to continued professional development and growth, Marracco earned her National Board Certification in Literacy: Reading-Language Arts and Early-Middle Childhood, from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
“I talk to my students and explain that learning never ends; I give them examples of how I am still learning,” she said.
Additionally, in January Marracco became a SuperCamp Facilitator with a company called Quantum Learning. She received two weeks of intense training in July on effective teaching and facilitation strategies founded in brain-based research.
Marracco advocates Quantum Learning’s belief that strong character leads to higher levels of academic achievement. She empowers her students to help set classroom rules and codes of conduct that contain expectations that everyone treats each other with respect and that everyone is accountable for his or her behavior. She even incorporates morning meetings into her classroom routine.
“I build a rapport with my students from day one and allow them to see me as a person,” Marracco said. “This allows us to share our experiences with one another, create personal bonds, and gain trust in each other.”
To reinforce life-long learning, Marracco emphasizes how learning a specific concept will help her students in their future.
“Explaining the ‘why’ behind the instruction or importance of the material helps students accept the material–by making a connection–and internalize it,” she said.
Marracco said she loves teaching because it involves so much more than pure academics.
“Yes, I teach content, but teaching goes so far beyond that,” she said.
She said she values the chance to build her students’ character, help them see themselves in a different light, build their confidence, and help them learn problem solving and critical thinking skills that can be applied to academics, as well as real life situations.
Marracco appreciates that through her daily interactions with her students, she has the opportunity to inspire and challenge them in all areas.
“The look in their eye when they ‘get it,’ the hugs, smiles and thank yous I get–the biggest compliment or acknowledgement is when my students say ‘this day went by so quickly, I had so much fun,’" she said. "Every day I get to transform the classroom into a place of adventure and exploration.”
Educational Testing Service will sponsor a six-month sabbatical from January to June 2013 for Marracco. During this time, she will work with NJDOE on special projects. She will also give presentations around the state and participate in national activities, including meeting the President of the United States.
“As far as future goals, I am enjoying the journey that I am beginning to embark on as New Jersey's State Teacher of the Year,” Marracco said. “My intentions are to gain an even bigger perspective and bring that knowledge back to my classroom, Patten school, and Perth Amboy next year.”