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Q&A with 2020 Teacher of the Year, Amanda Bordogna

The Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Newark have recognized Amanda Bordogna as the 2020 Teacher of the Year.

Since 2017, Amanda Bordogna has taught Middle School English, Social Studies, and Religion at St. Cassian School in Upper Montclair, N.J. Her career began as a Kindergarten and First Grade teacher at the Young World Day School, where she worked from 2011 to 2015, before joining the Archdiocese of Newark at Christ the Teacher School in Fort Lee. As an active member of her parish, Amanda has volunteered as a CCD teacher, helping to prepare students for their First Holy Communion and assisting with the annual Christmas Pageant.

Apart from her teaching responsibilities at St. Cassian, Amanda has been actively involved in the school community, graciously sharing her time to chaperone school dances, supporting after school events, and assisting with fundraising initiatives. Her contributions to school committees have been substantive as well, from sitting on the School Security Task Force and Emergency Response Team, to participating in both the St. Cassian and archdiocesan Curriculum Committees. She proudly and enthusiastically mentors teachers new to St. Cassian, with the hope of sharing her passion for Catholic school teaching. In her recommendation of Miss Bordogna, St. Cassian School Principal Maria Llanes cites her high expectations, empathy and care, together with her expert ability to craft engaging hands-on lessons in inspiring her students to reach their maximum potential.

As the archdiocese’s teacher of the year, Miss Bordogna will compete statewide for the distinction of New Jersey’s 2020 Nonpublic School Teacher of the Year, to be named later this year. In celebration of her accomplishment, we had the opportunity to interview her and learn more about her service to the ministry of Catholic education.

What inspired you to choose teaching as a career?

I have always known that I wanted to teach, I can’t remember a point in my life when I haven’t wanted to teach. Some of the people I have admired the most have been my teachers. My favorite teacher was my second grade teacher, Mrs. Ralph. She helped me to realize that a teacher can make an impact on a student’s life. I knew then that I wanted to have that opportunity as well.

How has your role as a teacher evolved over the 10 years you’ve been in the classroom?

I started my career as a teacher in Kindergarten, which required me to teach how to read and write. Four years ago, I transitioned to upper elementary/middle school, where I am now teaching how to love reading and writing. I have a passion for teaching literacy to children of all ages. I often volunteer to work on curriculum committees on both the school and archdiocesan level, because I enjoy being part of the scaffolding process.

How do you emphasize involving families in your students' education?

It is a partnership between me as their teacher and my students’ parents to ensure that each student succeeds. I believe consistent communication, both positive and negative, is key to insuring parents are aware of their students’ progress in the classroom. I email parents on a regular basis to keep them informed of what is happening in our classroom and where we are heading in our curriculum. I often assign students interview projects to include their family members in our studies and for them to become active participants in our lessons.

How has technology changed the way you teach?

Technology has allowed me to bridge gaps in what is accessible to students. Being able to have textbooks online, scan and upload PDF’s, and have class subscriptions to apps has made it easier for me to be assured that all students have the same materials. Technology has also helped me to make accommodations for my special-needs population. Another way that technology changed the way I teach is by providing me with endless resources to expand my curriculum and personalize lessons to the needs of every class. I have also been connected with a great community of teachers to share ideas with and gather inspiration from.

What would your students say you are best known for?

Letting them know they have an essential place in the classroom and that I value their thoughts and contributions. Secondly, I think showing my own motivation and engagement in the novels we read helps the students to find reading enjoyable.

What have your students taught you?

I am constantly learning from my students. They have inspired me to have trust in others, and I have learned through their example that hard work and determination paves the way to success. Last year, specifically, I learned how to adapt gracefully when we were thrust into full remote learning in March. My students didn’t miss a beat. I was inspired by their resilience and engagement in the new process of schooling.

Why is teaching in a Catholic school important to you?

Being able to teach my faith to my students, as well as spend time teaching about the miracles of Jesus and all the wonder God has in store for them in their lives. Most importantly, I value them growing their knowledge of our faith and in their own personal relationship with God.

What advice do you have for teachers new to the classroom?

Ask for help, listen to experienced teachers, take their suggestions. Teaching is not a solo sport. If someone else’s style of teaching doesn’t work for you, then don’t do it. If it feels forced, the students are going to feel it too. Listen to your gut. Make sure to put your students first; don’t lose sight of their success being your primary goal.

For 26 years, the Nonpublic School Teacher of the Year award has been conducted under the auspices of the New Jersey Council for American Private Education (NJ CAPE). Each member of NJ CAPE, which represents all major nonpublic school constituencies in New Jersey, is invited to submit a nominee for the award. That nominee has already competed within the sponsoring organization’s schools to achieve finalist status. Additionally, individual schools with no representation on NJ CAPE are invited to nominate members of their own staff. The award is significant because almost one out of every eight students in New Jersey is educated in a nonpublic school, clearly a higher percentage than the nation as a whole. The statewide winner is expected to be announced in December.