Call it a “three-peat” for Rider’s School of Education.
For the third consecutive year, a Rider graduate has been named a New Jersey Distinguished Student Teacher by the Department of Education, an honor recognizing the 15 most outstanding prospective teachers in the state. ToniAnne Mizzi ’12 of Colts Neck, N.J., became the latest to earn the prestigious nod after earning distinction as an 8th grade earth science student-teacher at Monroe Township Middle School.
“One advantage I had in the classroom was my real-world experiences,” said Mizzi, who earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in microbiology at Wagner College before spending 13 years working for a medical devices company, and conducting research in vaccines, pharmaceuticals and clinical trials. “I have been fascinated in science for as long as I can recall.”
Mizzi, who recalls creating experiments in her mother’s kitchen as a child when most of her female peers were playing with dolls, said her career in science actually led her to the front of the classroom.
“I had a life-changing opportunity to mentor a group of students from Biotechnology High School in Monmouth County,” she explained of the chance she had while employed by Vaxinnate of Cranbury, N.J. “I was actually teaching them for a three-week period, and a light came on for me. I wondered if it was too late for me to become a teacher.”
Mizzi soon discovered that it is never really too late to answer such a calling, and enrolled in Rider’s graduate level teacher preparation program to earn her certification.
“Rider’s reputation for teacher preparation is impeccable, and I was also attracted by its credibility with NCATE (the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education), she said of the School of Education. Over the past year and a half, Mizzi successfully integrated her penchant for science with her new-found passion for mentorship and instruction, and is now fully qualified to teach in New Jersey.
“Serious about becoming a teacher and committed to becoming an excellent teacher, ToniAnne epitomizes the best of our post-baccalaureate teacher certification program – a mature, reflective idealistic career-changer,” said Dr. Kathleen Pierce, associate professor of Graduate Education, who taught Mizzi in two of her certification courses. “ToniAnne loves science, but loves teaching science even more. I have no doubt that her teaching will always been distinguished.”
As evidence of her creative determination, Pierce points to a periodic table of successful teaching elements designed by Mizzi to mimic the more familiar period table of elements that is the foundation of modern chemistry. It depicts some of the profession’s key characteristics as elements: Lesson plans (Lp), Collaboration (Co) and Differentiated Instruction (Di).
“My student-teaching experience in Monroe allowed me to incorporate all that I’ve learned from my mentors in the field,” Mizzi explained. “I embraced every moment with my knowledgeable co-operating teacher, the nurturing atmosphere of the district, the expertise and compassion of my field adviser, and, above all, 120 amazing students.”
Since 1985, the presidents of New Jersey’s teacher training institutions have been invited to submit the dossiers of their five most outstanding prospective teachers into competition for this award. An independent panel of esteemed New Jersey educators evaluates these dossiers to select the award recipients.
This marks the third consecutive year that a Rider graduate has been recognized as a New Jersey Distinguished Student Teacher. Angela DiFranco ’11 of Bordentown Township was recognized as a 2011 award recipient, and Emily DiPaolo ’10 of Newton was honored in 2010.