The Education Report: Top Teachers 2015

Every year, we’re astonished by the number of entries we receive from kids telling us what makes their favorite teacher so awesome. But the number of nominees this year was off the charts, and narrowing down the nominees was especially difficult!

Congratulations to the numerous teachers in our community who are leading by example and inspiring SJ students to excel in the classroom and beyond. Clearly, our children are learning important lessons about the world – and themselves – from these outstanding educators. 

Grand Prize Winner


Ms. Kelly Wharton-Davis
Dr. Ulysses Simpson Wiggins College Preparatory Lab Family School, Camden
Nominated by Adriana Hernandez, 6th grade

Ms. Wharton-Davis is fabulous for many reasons. She is the best. The first reason is that she shows me leadership and courage to do the right thing. She wants to lead us to the right path to our future. She is trying to do everything in her power to help us become successful leaders of the future. We are the future, and it all started with our teacher teaching us about our little goals becoming big goals.

Even if she is busy working with another student she still takes time to help another in need of assistance. For example, she even lets us come upstairs on her lunch break to make up work, to have free time on the computer or to just have a conversation.

Finally, she is loving, caring, kind, respectful and dependable. It’s because of Ms. Wharton-Davis I am now having more confidence in myself, and I believe I can dream big because of the motivation and inspiration of my fabulous teacher.


Mary-Ann-Devine-2Mrs. Mary Ann Devine
Northfield Community Middle School, Northfield
Nominated by Bradley Ferguson, 8th grade

Mrs. Devine is not normal. She is our seventh grade history teacher, advisor to our National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) and our champion of veterans. She may be found atop a desk, dressed in colonial garb, belting out soldier’s commands during her reenactment of the Battle of Bunker Hill, “crashing” our local American Legion Post 295 on weekends, taking WWII vets on Honor Flight tours in Washington, D.C., or hosting every veteran assembly at Northfield Community School. Pick any event, and you can see she is not normal, but extraordinary.

Mrs. Devine moves mountains. Through her assemblies and activities, she singlehandedly made our school the only school in the country to be a Veterans Day Regional Site and one of only 67 sites in the country.

I am lucky enough to be a volunteer in Post Crashers, Mrs. Devine’s latest service-learning project. This is a yearlong project to refurbish our local American Legion Post 295 so it can serve as a community hub.

I am one of 70 students from NCS, parents, other members of the community and veterans to crash the post, paint it and clear the yard. We are to have subsequent crashes in the spring to add an open-shelter pavilion and picnic tables for the community and victory gardens for our local veterans and food bank. Without Mrs. Devine’s inspiration and leadership, we students certainly would not be as community-oriented and civic-minded as we are. I will always serve our veterans, first moved by Mrs. Devine, that crazy seventh grade teacher who never stops serving.


William-Tapper-2Mr. William Tapper
Eastern Regional High School, Voorhees
Nominated by Eddy Yeung, 11th grade

I knew what I was walking into when I decided to take honors physics: pain and frustration. Critically acclaimed to be the hardest honors class in my school, I have always been up for challenges. However, this challenge definitely seemed too great. I started off decent, but progressively got worse. That was when Mr. Tapper suggested I stay after for some extra help. Desperate to increase my grade, I agreed. The first time I stayed after for this help, he told me to never be discouraged. I told him about how I’m scared things won’t work out in college and that how I’m performing right now will even affect my future. He reassured me that it will always get better, and I have a long way to go. And yes, my grade did improve.

To influence another person’s life is difficult, but doing it while teaching the impulse-momentum theory is quite an achievement. I never thought such a small figure in my life could influence me so greatly. Not only did he provide a perspective I didn’t see, but the advice he has given me has greatly influenced my future actions.


Ms. Katelynn Dickstein
William Allen Middle School, Moorestown
Katelynn-DicksteinNominated by Carlie MacMillan, 8th grade

Ms. Dickstein, or better known as Ms. D, is not only the best teacher, she is an extraordinary teacher. When I was first introduced to this magnificent civics teacher, it was to the blasting tune of “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift. My first reaction was how could one person display so much energy and compassion. However, she erased my doubts as the year progressed.

Ms. D’s spunky and energetic personality rubbed off on me. With every lesson of history, she passionately engages us with persuading lessons and fun activities. She always brings our lessons back to how they relate to our civic duty as students and U.S. citizens. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, Ms. D inspired me to take action. I joined forces with her, performing community service through the Alicia Rose “Victorious” Foundation. We assembled kits for hospitalized teens. My involvement showed me how paying it forward could make a difference in our community.

Many of our projects this year have helped me dig deeper and understand why we are fortunate to live in this country that is full of opportunity. When researching our country’s founding fathers, Ms. D encouraged us to also research our founding mothers. Ms. D showed me that women had an influence in shaping our country, and this proved to me that I could make a difference today.


Honorable Mentions

Jean-Marie-SuttonMrs. Jean Marie Sutton
Harrison Township Elementary School, Mullica Hill
Nominated by Alayna Meloro, 3rd grade

My teacher’s name is Mrs. Sutton. Third grade has been a great year for me. Mrs. Sutton makes me smile. She always makes things fun and interesting even though it’s a lot of work.

Last year, school was hard for me. I didn’t always feel confident in my work. This year, on my first day of third grade, I was very nervous. I thought it would be very challenging, and I would not like it. Mrs. Sutton changed my opinion. She is the nicest and funniest teacher I ever had. I feel important in her class, and she always encourages me to try my very best.

In conclusion, I think Mrs. Sutton is a Top Teacher because she makes all her students feel special. Mrs. Sutton makes me feel smart, and I think every student should feel smart.


Morah-Pnina-NahumMorah Pnina Nahum
Kellman Brown Academy, Voorhees
Nominated by Tyler Whitney, kindergarten

My teacher Morah Pnina is the best. She is nice. She teaches me Hebrew. I can say a lot of things in Hebrew.

She has a puppet named Bensi. He talks. Not really. Morah Pnina makes it talk. She is fun and silly. We play games in Hebrew.

On Friday, I hope I get the Shabbat box. We count the Tzedakah and Morah Pnina picks out of a bag who gets to take it home. You get to write in a journal what you did on Shabbat with it. Morah Pnina helps us learn Hebrew. I like her a lot.


Wesley-RoachMr. Wesley Roach
Archway Upper School, Atco
Nominated by Ni-Quawna Daniels, 11th grade

My favorite teacher is Mr. Wesley, because he shows that he cares for you. Mr. Wesley took the time out and helped me read the words I can’t read. Mr. Wesley talks to me when I feel down, and he knows how to put a smile on my face. When he is in the classroom and I don’t understand everything, he comes over to me and breaks it down so I can understand it.

I remember once when I was crying he came over, wiped my tears and gave me words to build me up. When I am having problems I can also go to him. He gives me so much self-respect. He was the first teacher who accepted me when I walked through Archway’s doors. He is more than caring, and he does more than his job title tells him to. He is always honest to every one of his students. Mr. Wesley is funny, and he makes learning awesome. I hate to miss school because he made me love Archway. This is my way of saying thank you to Mr. Wesley.


Kelly-BurnsMiss Kelly Burns
Richard Stockton Elementary School, Cherry Hill
Nominated by Jessie Gollin, 4th grade

I have dyslexia, and learning can be difficult for me. Miss Burns has helped me so much. Last year, she helped me with reading, math, writing and spelling. This year, she tutors me in math. Spelling tests are very hard for me. Miss Burns made them easier by testing me with a spelling computer program. When I had difficulty in math, she pulled me aside and taught things to me in a different way. She also read word problems out loud since I have a hard time reading them myself. She helped me pick fun books at my reading level, which is tough when you have dyslexia. Miss Burns lets me ask lots of questions, encourages me not to back down from hard work and always tells me how smart I am. She is happy, upbeat and makes learning fun. Miss Burns loves to see me do the things I love to do and even came to see me in a musical theater production at Voorhees Theater Company. Miss Burns is the most special teacher you could ever have in your life.


Mrs. Jenna Makos
Westampton Middle School, Westampton
Nominated by Gabriella Wilson, 6th grade

Jenna-MakosMath teacher, English teacher, Spanish teacher? No, music teachers top all subjects. My music teacher, Mrs. Makos, has given me the gift of music. Mrs. Makos is a spectacular music teacher. She teaches me everything about how to play my instruments. As we play in the bands, our music sounds like we are performing a classical piece in an orchestra – absolutely perfect! Mrs. Makos always pushes me to my limit, until I am proud of what plays out of my flute or violin. After about three years of learning music, every day is a different song.  Whether I am just in school or it is snowing outside, my life has turned into music. Mrs. Makos always wants us to learn whenever she has the time. Her room is always full of laughter whether it was from a musical mistake or just a joke. Mrs. Makos is the best teacher ever.


Ms. Kathryn Bourquin
Kathryn-BourquinWoodbury Junior-Senior High School, Woodbury
Nominated by Jaquan Solomon, 10th grade

My teacher is such an amazing person. Her positive attitude uplifts the spirit of the class and works diligently to fulfill our needs. Ms. BQ is a dignified teacher and coach who works to satisfy the enriching status of our school. Her amazing personality is what brightens our day and all of her students are extremely appreciative of what she does for our youth. “Leaders are created, not born” is something that embodies my teacher. She is such an inspiration to me.


April 2015
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