Teacher of Construction Technology Woodbridge Academy
Mr. Wiater is not only a compassionate individuals, he is a teacher who has shown great flexibility. While all teachers had to pivot and learn new ways of teaching, Mr. Wiater also had to change schools and programs, going from teaching Carpentry at Piscataway Vocational to Construction Technology at Woodbridge Academy to fill the void created by a retiring teacher. His students have nothing but high praises for Mr. Wiater. He is able to ignite the sutdents’ passion for learning and make them desire to learn more.
Mr. Wiater is able to make great connections with the students. They are always saying great things about their experience in his shop, and that’s a testament to his personality and his ability to individualize instruction in a way most of us can only hope to do.
Mr. Wiater is also a published author who uses his proceeds to support his Friends of Solo Foundation. The purpose of this non-profit is to provide safety equipment for K9 officers such as ballistic vests, trauma kits, and oxygen kits to name a few. Friends of Solo has aided dozens of K9s nationwide since its inception. He received a Civilian Recognition Award for donating a K9 ballistic vest for one of the Sheriff’s Department K9s.
Physical Education Teacher University Middle School, Irvington
Mr. Tortorella has been a P.E. teacher at University Middle School for 12 years and, since the start of the pandemic, has offered to teach multiple classes in the gym due to staff shortages. He does this because he believes children benefit from being physically active, and the P.E. can help provide an outlet for students who may be struggling mentally or emotionally. His own personal attendance for the last two school years stands at 100%. Mr. Tortorella doesn’t miss work because of his dedication to making his school setting a safe haven for students where they can engage in physical activity, socialize, and improve their self-image and self-value. Mr. Tortorella has stated, “I would feel bad missing work when we have so many students who are going through profound situations at home and socially since the pandemic started. These young people were at home on virtual instruction for over a year and didn’t get to see their friends in-person, and may have experiences the death of a loved one. If I can make their lives better in a PE setting, it’s my obligation to do so.”
Mr. Tortorella continued to be involved in Play Unified during the pandemic. Play Unified is an after school program for students with developmental and physical disabilities funded by the Special Olympics. While on virtual instruction from March 2020 to April 2021, Mr. Tortorella met with the Play Unified students virtually multiple times per week to implement physical activity lessons. When students came back to campus in April 2021, Mr. Tortorella was instrumental in ensuing the annual Irvington Play Unified Day went on. In May 2021, Mr. Tortorella and his Play Unified athletes competed in the one day event. As Mr. Tortorella often states, “this is the one day where our exceptional students are allowed to showcase their talents and growth. They didn’t get this opportunity in 2020 due to the pandemic. I wanted to have the students have the opportunity in 2021, and I’m grateful it was allowed.”
Coach Tort has also served as the Head Girls Varsity Volleyball Coach at Irvington High School since 2015. In his time as head coach, Coach Tort has earned one conference title (2017), and six state playoff berths. Coach Tort has also been the head varsity boys volleyball since 2019. When the NJSIAA cancelled the girls volleyball season in fall 2020, Coach Tort agreed to serve as the assistant boys soccer coach at Irvington High School. He agreed to fill in after another assistant was unable to coach due to the pandemic. That season, Coach Tort helped the Irvington Boys Soccer team win the Super Essex Conference Championship, and the team made it to the state semifinals. Coach Tort currently serves as the Assistant Varsity Girls Basketball Coach. He agreed to fill in last-minute after another coach had to resign due to issues related to the pandemic. Coach Tort is the most dependable, reliable person an athletic department could hope to work with, and he puts forth all of this extra effort to improve the lives of the students of Irvington.
Media Center Specialist and School Librarian Red Bank Regional High School
Mrs. Barry is described as pure sunshine to her co-workers and students. She is always optimistic, happy, and uplifting. Mrs. Barry always has a kind word, a smile, and good advice for everyone she comes across in the school halls. She organizes groups, orders books, and takes the time to greet everyone happily and sincerely. She co-found the RBR Feminist Group and always organizes the meetings, but lets the students lead and take credit for everything. She connects with individuals and always makes you feel like you are the only one and most important person in the room.
Mrs. Barry is always available for questions, concerns, events and last minute changes. This is not just her job and career but her passion. She organizes classes and events for both students and staff. Those classes are interesting, informative and beneficial. Mrs. Barry helps teachers with classes, students with material and anyone else with books and information they need to succeed. For being one of the most helpful people to walk through the doors of Red Bank Regional High School, we honor Mrs. Barry as a Teacher Who Rocks.
Chinese Teacher Seton Hall Prep
Mr. Hegedus’s ability to teach Chinese at Seton Hall Prep is exceptional. Chinese teacher peers have been blown away with his skills and technological knowledge that he has presented to them. He has shown other teachers many different websites that they could use to improve their students’ knowledge and proficiency and has provided excellent recommendations for teaching. Because Mr. Hegedus is a non-native speaker of Chinese, his insights into how to teach Chinese to students are outstanding. He provided teachers with ideas on how to help students learn Chinese characters and all the other teachers, all native speakers of Chinese, were delighted with his suggestions. They returned to the next session stating that Michael’s ideas “worked.” Since that first time some 10 years ago, Michael has presented every year at the Roundtable discussions. Each time, participants requested that he return later in the year to provide even more ideas and suggestions. Michael became a very valuable member of the Roundtable and took on a leadership role. At Saturday sessions, other Chinese teachers always asked him for advice on how to improve their teaching, and he was very generous with his knowledge and time. He is a treasured member of our group. Unfortunately, since the pandemic, we have had to cancel many sessions or hold them via Zoom, but Michael always comes through for us.
Mr. Hegedus has been teaching for the past 10 years at Seton Hall Preparatory School where he helped to design and develop the Chinese program. He was originally hired to teach both Spanish and Chinese, but his Chinese classes became so popular that the administration changed his schedule to make him become a full-time teacher in Chinese. He presently teaches all levels of Chinese and has become a strong proponent for encouraging his students to take his AP Chinese course. They always perform well on the AP exam and show increased proficiency each year, a credit to Mr. Hegedus’s teaching. His courses are so popular that last year they had to add another part time teacher to pick up the extra classes. He has an impressive work ethic and dedication to his students. He encourages them to work hard and apply for opportunities to improve their Chinese. Mr. Hegedus is the model teacher who cares about his students and helps them achieve a great deal of success. He has also accompanied his students to China in wonderful trips where they experienced local customs and were able to talk to local residents and practice their Chinese.
Mr. Hegedus is also involved in helping others who are less fortunate. He is active in Feeding America, a hunger relief organization, and encourages his students to follow his lead and take part in helping others. He is a model citizen who involves his students in many extra-curricular civic activities. He has organized activities in school that encourage his students to be active members of a productive society. He has worked with his students to fulfill their community service projects by helping to make the lives of others better.
In addition to Mr. Hegedus’s wonderful qualities as a teacher, he has developed his leadership abilities in the field of Chinese. For the past few summers, he was asked to teach in a Chinese STARTALK program in South Carolina. He is willing to share his knowledge of teaching with many different groups. He has also organized trips to China for his students and has informed other members of school communities on the benefits of learning Chinese. A glance at his resumé shows that wherever Michael goes, he becomes an active and respected member of the community. He is not only a superb teacher, he is a natural leader. In 2019, Michael Hegedus received the Outstanding Chinese Teacher Award from the Chinese Language Association of Secondary-Elementary Schools (CLASS). For his dedication to teaching the Chinese language and culture, we honor Mr. Hegedus as a Teacher Who Rocks.