NEWARK, New Jersey (WABC) -- Newark on Wednesday announced the winner of the annual Teacher of the Year award, Jessica Tavares, of the Lafayette Street School.
Tavares was surprised by the news in her classroom Wednesday morning, and members of the school board, administration, students, and family joined in on the festivities.
"Every year, it is with pride that I introduce the Newark Board of Education Teacher of the Year, and this year is no different," Superintendent Roger León said. "It is an honor to have Ms. Tavares, who personifies what it means to be committed to ensuring that students receive the lessons that will make them successful if life."
Tavares has been teaching middle school science at Lafayette Street School since 2014.
"Jessica is not just a teacher in this class, she's a teacher leader in the school," Principal Maria Merlo said. "She has worn so many hats throughout the year to make things possible and I thank her from the bottom of my heart."
She was nominated and selected based on her interdisciplinary approach to teaching that centers on student growth are both challenging and engaging.
Officials said she is highly respected by her peers and students, and she consistently gives back to the profession by sharing her expertise and knowledge of teaching and learning through interclass visitations, sharing of instructional materials and mentoring new teachers.
Her compassion and sensitivity allows her to connect with her students on a personal level, and she was elated by the recognition.
"I really do appreciate the opportunity to teach here," she said. "I truly do love what I do each and every day. My students are getting ready for high school, so I try to encourage my students to keep going and keep learning inside and outside the classroom."
Tavares, who was bestowed with the distinction of district-wide teacher of the year, an honor she accepted with joyful tears while her school community beamed with pride, joins 65 other teachers who have been recognized for their outstanding efforts in the classroom.
"To know that we have the absolute best is heartwarming," Board President Dawn Hayes said. "May your light shine on all the teachers around you so that they can strive to be the district-wide teacher of the year in the future."