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North Ward Center Preschool Teacher Honored by NPS

Read this article as it originally appeared in Newark Patch | LocalTalkNews

Kristin Kovatch, a teacher at the North Ward Center's Child Development Center in Newark, has been named "Teacher of the Year," by Newark Public Schools.

Kovach, one of three teachers selected by the district for the annual award, was recognized for her "unbending commitment" to her students throughout her four-year tenure at the preschool.

The annual award is an open acknowledgment of a teacher's effective leadership in the classroom, but Kovatch, who teaches 4- and 5-year-olds at the school located in the Forest Hill section of Newark, sees it somewhat differently.

"For me, this is about helping other educators and being a good representative of the district and the school," she said. "I look forward to incorporating that into my teaching practices and continuing to work toward the best outcomes for my students."

And while Kovatch acknowledged that teaching involves a considerable level of hard work and self-evaluation, it's second nature for her. Hailing from a family of educators—including her mother and her older sister, Danielle Kovatch, also a teacher at The North Ward Center's Child Development Center — she said she has never considered any other profession.

"I was bred to be a teacher," she said, "and our mother was our role model."

A native of Clifton, N.J., Kovatch got her foot in the door as an undergraduate at William Paterson University when Preschool Director Michele Sceppaguercio offered her a position to work part-time as summer help.

"It gave me an opportunity to do my student teaching, but I was thrilled to come on board full-time when I graduated," she said. "They've given me a lot of opportunities to fulfill my goals here."

Sceppaguercio said making the decision to bring Kovatch on full-time was an easy one.

"We knew how special she was when she first joined us that summer," Sceppaguercio said. "She was unbelievable with the 3-year olds so it's an understatement to say that we're proud to have her."

Now pursuing a master's degree from William Paterson in curriculum and early childhood education, Kovatch said her experience at the North Ward Center continues to inform her pedagogical perspective.

"I'm always trying to improve my teaching practices and be a better educator, and this school, as well as my ongoing studies, continue to allow me to do that," she said.

But specifically, Kovatch said that as a classroom preschool teacher, she continues to emphasize writing lessons and stress what's developmentally appropriate and what best prepares students for the future.

"What ends up happening, of course, is that as I work to hone my students' skills, it positively develops me as a teacher," Kovatch said.

That development, however, is commensurate with her emphasis on parental involvement, she said, adding that whether it's through newsletters or social interaction, including the parents every step of the way is key to a child's success.

"Our parents are so busy, and getting them involved in any way possible is so important to me. I make a concerted effort to work around their schedules so they're up to speed on their child's education," she said.

Kovatch laughed when she added that parental involvement requires some level of parental homework—the fun kind, though.

"Home-school connection is so important and is a great way for The North Ward Center to establish a meaningful partnership with parents. The benefit to the students is also profound," she said.

Established in 1975 by The North Ward Center, the Child Development Center has served more than 4,000 preschoolers and has more than 40 preschool classes for nearly 700 students. It's one of the largest Abbott preschools in the state of New Jersey.

"Our schools play a critical role in our community and it's an honor to have someone of Kristin's caliber working at The North Ward Center," said Adrianne Davis, the executive director of The North Ward Center. "We are so proud of her."

Stephen N. Adubato, the founder of The North Ward Center, said preschool teachers are incredibly important to the education of a child.

"This is where it all starts," Adubato said. "A great preschool education can make such a difference in a child's life."

For Kovatch, her ability to excel is directly dependent on the Center's commitment to its teachers.

"Our teachers here are amazing, our directors are amazing and we're a family," she said. "We're all here for the same cause: To educate these children as they develop into good adults."