Rancocas Valley ‘newspaper geek’ named Burlco teacher of the year
A Rancocas Valley Regional High School teacher has been named Burlington County’s 2022-23 Teacher of the Year.
Sarah Sherman, from Collingswood, has been teaching English in Rancocas Valley for seven years. Her goal as an educator is to prepare students to make the world a better and friendlier place.
“Teaching should encourage students to face the world not as a series of obstacles, but as a series of experiences and relationships waiting to unfold,” she said.
Sherman is known among students as an unwavering source of support and guidance, according to Principal Joseph Martin. Her energetic commitment to student success and her passion for teaching have “only intensified” since she started at Rancocas Valley in 2015, he said in a Press release.
Even with her two young children, she is “always ready and willing to do more,” said senior Joshua Oludoyi.
But her contributions to the school community don’t stop when the bell rings at the end of the day.
Over the past two years, Sherman has overseen the creation of Rancocas Valley Black Student Union and the revitalization of the student newspaper, the Holy Spirit. She emerged as a leader the district needed during a traumatic and tumultuous time, Martin said. Throughout the pandemic and times of political turmoil, she remained dedicated to supporting her students.
“Sarah has made raising student voices an integral part of her pedagogy,” said Theresa Maughan, New Jersey State Teacher of the Year 2022, in a video announcing this year county teachers of the year across the state.
“His Rancocas Valley Black Student Union foundation has created a model for other South Jersey high schools looking to develop their own groups to support and celebrate students of color,” she said.
One of the Black Student Union’s most successful events so far has been its June 19 celebration. More than 600 people gathered in Rancocas Valley to not only recognize the new federal holiday, but also to celebrate “what it means to be an American,” Sherman said.
A self-described “newspaper geek,” her leadership of the Holly Spirit helped the publication quickly become an important source of information and connection for the Rancocas Valley community. For years, the student-run newspaper was inactive, but it now boasts a strong online presence and a team of over 50 student contributors since last school year. In 2021, the newspaper also received five awards and two honorable mentions from the Garden State School Press Association for his social media presence and coverage of topics such as the exclusion of teachers from blended learning planning and why “the Grammys don’t matter.”
“Even more gratifying than these awards is how our school’s newspaper has been read by staff, students and members of the community during each week of a very unusual school year,” said William Connolly , former program director.
Just as she advises the Holly Spirit press team to prioritize truth and objectivity and the opinion team to “learn the value of listening to opposing points of view at a where social media creates echo chambers,” she brings those same lessons to her English classes. Students must learn to examine the historical and cultural contexts in which media exist, she said. It is also important for them to discuss history and identity with their peers.
“In my classroom, I try to promote opportunities for students to investigate their own preconceived ideas about the world around them and to listen to other students, even those who may challenge them – and me,” a- she declared.
While she makes sure her students have the reading and writing skills they need, she’s also “serious about supporting her students’ growth as citizens and human beings,” Connolly said.
This summer, she also helped new educators create lesson plans as part of Teach for America. Previously, she taught explanatory writing to freshmen at Rutgers University.
“Teaching writing is what Sarah loves the most,” Maughan said. “And his experience as an explanatory writing instructor at Rutgers University continues to guide his work in the classroom and with college-bound students as well.”
As Burlington County Teacher of the Year, she is eligible for New Jersey State Teacher of the Year. This price is usually announced in the fall.
“To my students, thank you for constantly reminding me why I got into teaching. The laughs and the moments we share together are worth seeing,” Sherman said in a video accepting the award.
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