Dedicated teachers who excel in their field make a world of difference -- not only in the classroom -- but in the surrounding community.
At All Saints Episcopal Day School in Hoboken, dedication and excellence are brought forth daily by Colleen Nguyen, whose outstanding work as a Fourth Grade teacher has earned her the honor of being named the New Jersey Nonpublic School Teacher of the Year for 2016.
"Colleen Nguyen is quite simply one of the most talented and inspiring teachers I have ever met," says Jill Singleton, head of school at All Saints. "Not only does her work benefit the children lucky enough to be in her class, but because Colleen's learning experiences extend beyond the walls of the classroom, all students in the community indirectly benefit from her gifts and passions."
The award, given annually by the New Jersey Council for American Private Education (NJ CAPE), was presented on Tuesday, Sept. 27, during a ceremony in Piscataway, N.J.
It is the second time in five years that an All Saints teacher has been given this high honor. Middle School teacher Libby Vino was named the New Jersey Nonpublic School Teacher of the Year in 2011.
When announcing this year's award, NJ CAPE highlighted various innovative projects implemented in Nguyen's classroom, including the Action Research Project, in which students identify an issue in Hoboken and spend a year researching solutions to the problem. At the end of the year, students present their findings to the City Council.
"In an ever-changing world where businesses require innovative thinkers, I believe in the importance of fostering creativity in children and teaching them how to collaborate to solve real world problems," says Nguyen, who has been teaching at All Saints since 2010.
A visitor to Nguyen's classroom may find the teacher sitting in a circle with her Fourth Graders in a community meeting, or walking around while the students are engaged in various hands-on activities.
"My philosophy of education is that in order to foster authentic learning, students must be provided with environments rich with opportunities to explore, build, and create," Nguyen explains. "And when they are given these opportunities, great leaps in learning are possible."
In addition to teaching Fourth Grade at All Saints, Nguyen also leads the Saints 4-Service Club, an after-school program that promotes positive change locally and globally. Some of the club's projects include collecting materials for the Hoboken Homeless Shelter and sponsoring food drives.
“This was a particularly competitive year for this award, as the nominees for Nonpublic Teacher of the Year were extremely strong," says Carole Everett, executive director of the New Jersey Association of Independent Schools. "Colleen Nguyen distinguished herself among this extraordinary group of educators with her dedication to teaching, her students, and to All Saints Episcopal Day School.”
Nguyen has spent eight years in education, teaching in a variety of school settings. She is a graduate of the University of Oregon in Eugene with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and is certified through the Alternate Route Program at Jersey City University.