Greater Media New Jersey Recognizes Teachers Who Rock and Who Make Magic
April 3, 2014
By Nicole Antonucci
Teachers throughout New Jersey are receiving recognition through Greater Media New Jersey’s award program for outstanding teachers.
More than 504 teachers and 21 education support professionals have been recognized since the program started in 2007, and it’s not stopping there.
Another 75 individuals will be recognized this year at an awards dinner held by each of Greater Media New Jersey’s markets—WDHA-FM and WMTR-AM in North Jersey, WMGQ-FM in Central Jersey, and WRAT-FM and WJRZ-FM in Monmouth and Ocean counties.
From December through March, each of the radio stations accepted nominations from parents, colleagues and principals for an outstanding teacher who is making a difference both inside and outside of the classroom.
Greater Media New Jersey Interactive and NTR Director Tony Odachowski said a committee in each market is formed to select 24 teachers, whose stories are told on-air. Annie Rodriguez, the Regional Events Coordinator, oversees each committee.
“This is a great program because there are so many great teachers out there,” Odachowski said. “It is great for the community and great for the profession. It has helped teacher morale.”
In addition to teachers, one education support professional—chosen from among custodians, cafeteria staff, secretaries, maintenance workers, etc.—is recognized in each market.
“They are not teachers, but they are still involved in the school system, so we thought to recognize them as well,” Odachowski said.
The program started with an idea Odachowski had after watching the contributions his wife made as a teacher for 20 years.
“I saw how deeply she cared about her work and her students. She never looked for any awards or recognition. Her friends were all teachers, so I had a good feel of what they do,” he said.
“At the time we were building our Events Department across the state, and the biggest challenge was coming up with a big idea. I thought, ‘Why don’t we do something to recognize the 200,000-plus teachers out there who are doing an outstanding job?’ ”
With a concept in hand, the next step was to work with local school superintendents to iron out the details and find out how it could work.
Then it was time to find the outstanding teachers. Through mass mailings to every school district within the vicinity of Greater Media New Jersey’s stations, along with on-air promotional announcements, e-newsletters, print ads, and a dedicated teachers’ microsite on each station’s website, it wasn’t long before the nominations began pouring in.
Since then, the program has only grown with sponsorships through the New Jersey Education Association and local corporations.
“Most of our programs generally have a short shelf life, but not this program,” Odackowski said. “It continues to grow because it’s all for the right reasons.”
The radio stations have given their own spin to the program with names such as Teachers Who Rock at WRAT-FM, WJRZ-FM and WMTR-AM, or Teachers Who Make Magic at WMGQ-FM.
While Greater Media New Jersey would like to choose every outstanding teacher and support professional who is nominated, submissions are based on specific criteria, including what the teacher has done inside and outside the classroom.
“A lot of them are doing innovative things and using new technology,” Odachowski said. “Usually we get more than one nomination for the same teacher.”
To be eligible, nominated teachers must be full-time classroom teachers at a public or nonpublic school. For the 2013-14 school year, teachers must spend the majority of their assignment time teaching students in grades pre-K to 12.
Yet even with the criteria, Odachowski said the stations receive so many submissions, that it’s still difficult to choose.
“During early childhood education, most of the students define their goals in life in consultation with their teachers,” he said. “Everyone can remember that one teacher who had a positive influence. I know I do.”
In April, each market has an awards banquet for all the winners, their families, the person who nominated them, and co-workers, Odachowski said.
The banquet has a cocktail reception followed by an awards dinner, where station personalities read each of the stories. The winners then receive a gift package, usually supplied by sponsors.
“To them, it’s like Hollywood,” he said. “When you meet them finally, we know that we did the right thing.”
The Greater Media New Jersey radio stations are currently selecting Class of 2014 honorees to be recognized at a banquet in April.