Rider honors four educators with Cooperating Teacher Excellence Award

The award recognizes educators who provided exemplary mentorship to a Rider student teacher
Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Rider University’s Teacher Leadership Community has named four recipients of this year’s Cooperating Teacher Excellence Award and honored them at a ceremony held on the university campus.

The award, currently in its third year, recognizes educators who provided exemplary mentorship to a Rider student teacher.

Suzanne Gespass, Ph.D., director of Field Placement at Rider University, said student teachers nominate the award winners “for being truly instrumental in their development as a professional.” She added, “We are proud to recognize the important work teachers do. These individuals have been strong mentors to new teachers, and have made a lasting contribution to the field of education.”

This year’s Cooperating Teacher Excellence Award recipients include:

Blair Eiseman, Brooks Crossing Elementary School, Monmouth Junction, N.J.

Denise Santucci, Carusi Middle School, Cherry Hill, N.J.

Megan Steigerwald, Sharon Elementary School, Robbinsville, N.J.

Randi Maskery, Marlboro Memorial Middle School, Morganville, N.J.

Eiseman was nominated for the award by Rider student teacher Jessica Manka. In her nomination letter, Manka wrote, “On my very first day, I knew I had a special experience and teacher awaiting me. She created a desk for me with a poem that the children wrote. Next to it was a card and a bamboo plant for luck. She insisted that ‘the only way to learn it is to live it.’” 

Manka went on to say that Eiseman supported her every day and involved her in the school community, taking her to meetings and after-school activities. “Stressful experiences were always made easier knowing that I had her support,” Manka said.

“On my last day, we were both crying and she gave me a big hug. When the children asked why we were crying, Ms. Eiseman explained how student teaching was the last step of my college career and it was emotional for me and rewarding for her to be a part of this journey. I know that I had the most supportive cooperating teacher anyone could ever be lucky enough to have,” Manka wrote.

Eiseman and her fellow award recipients were presented with a plaque at the Rider University Student Teacher Wrap-Up Celebration, attended by staff, students, family and friends.

Eiseman is also a Rider University alumna, graduating in 2005.

Santucci was nominated for the award by Rider student teacher Amanda Schott, who herself received the 2013 Distinguished Student Teaching Award from the New Jersey Department of Education. In her nomination letter, Schott wrote, “The kind and warm welcome Ms. Santucci showed me from my first day grew exponentially throughout the student teaching process. She is much more than a teacher for her students and for me; she is a role model.”

Schott went on to say, “Ms. Santucci epitomizes all the things Rider has instilled within me as to what it means to be an outstanding educator. She is someone I truly admire and, without her, I would not be ready for a full-time teaching position, nor would I be so proud of the educator I have become.”

Steigerwald was nominated for the award by Rider student teacher Jessica Castronovo. In her nomination letter, Castronovo wrote, “Thanks to Ms. Steigerwald’s encouragement and support, I recently created a workshop based on a science review game that I created for my third graders. She helped me set up a date, time and location for the workshop, and developed questions for a review game that would serve as the opening for the workshop to engage teachers. Following the workshop, we received a lot of positive feedback from those who attended. Through this experience, Ms. Steigerwald taught me the value of both collaboration and giving back to those who have taught me so much.”

Castronovo added, “Ms. Steigerwald has become one of my greatest role models as an educator. Her greatest strength is her ability to realize students’ individual potential and differentiate her instruction accordingly. This, along with her constant dedication, hard work and love for continued learning, is something I plan to emulate in my professional career.

Steigerwald is also a Rider University alumna, graduating in 2004.

Maskery was nominated for the award by Rider student teacher Michelle Penny. In her nomination letter, Penny wrote, “From my very first day, I knew I was in great hands. I could immediately see that Ms. Maskery created a classroom atmosphere that was warm and comfortable. With a relaxed learning environment, fantastic modeling, and comprehensive assessments, it was clear that the students were being given the best education possible.”

Penny added, “As I took over more class lessons, Ms. Maskery continued to support me at every turn. She allowed me the freedom to make decisions, but was always ready to make suggestions when I needed them. She would deflect questions to me and involve me in everything she did with the students. This made me more comfortable and confident in front of the class and really provided an opportunity for me to grow as a teacher.”

Heather Lerch, chair of Rider’s Teacher Leadership Committee, said, “We offer our sincere congratulations to this year’s award recipients, and thank each of them for their dedication to our programs and our student teachers. The quality of their mentoring is representative of the highest levels of our profession, and we are proud to work together as we prepare tomorrow’s educators.”

Rider University’s School of Education prepares undergraduate and graduate students for professional careers in education, organizations and agencies. Rider was the first private New Jersey institution to hold the highest accreditation possible in teaching from the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).

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Student teachers nominate the award winners “for being truly instrumental in their development as a professional.”