New Jersey School Boards Association staff members heard from two special guests at Trenton headquarters Aug. 10 – their summer interns.

Joanna Guaimano teamed up with fellow intern Kevin Leach to share some highlights of what they learned over seven weeks working for the Association.

Guaimano, who will start a job as a sixth grade sheltered English teacher at Monument Elementary School in Trenton in September, earned a Master of Arts in urban elementary education from The College of New Jersey. She was mentored by Dr. Beverly Plein, a consultant with NJSBA’s Professional Learning Division who previously served as the director of the Office of Standards with the New Jersey Department of Education.

In her role with the Professional Learning Division, Guaimano provided support for training programs and events, assisted staff members with event logistics, conducted research, performed data analysis and completed a variety of other tasks.

Leach, a Rutgers Law student who graduated from American University with a bachelor’s degree, double majoring in physics and justice and law, was mentored by Katrina Homel, legal counsel at NJSBA who formerly practiced school and labor and employment law at a mid-sized New Jersey-based law firm. Homel provided much of the impetus to start the intern program, which was run on a pilot basis.

“The program showcases possible career paths in education and related fields and develops valuable relationships and growth opportunities for the students as well as the organization as a whole,” Homel said.

In his role, Leach teamed up with NJSBA staff to write a variety of articles for School Board Notes, reported on public agency meetings related to school law, conducted legal research, provided support for presentations and performed a variety of other tasks, including serving as a co-presenter on a webinar on school ethics as his culminating project.

Both interns expressed their appreciation to NJSBA staff for helping them further their careers in their respective fields while learning more about how boards of education work.

“I never expected NJSBA to offer so many opportunities to learn and grow professionally,” Guaimano said. “My time with NJSBA was short but certainly not lacking in opportunity. The Professional Learning Division provided the perfect balance of guidance and independence in the projects and tasks I worked on. The climate was conducive to team communication, yet also encouraged me to make my own choices regarding my work.” She added, “The skills I acquired from this position combined with the professional advice gifted to me from my colleagues have prepared me well to enter the workforce.”

Leach said, “A crucial goal for all law school students should be to learn as much as they can, and the internship at NJSBA comprehensively taught me school law and gave me valuable experience. I had the opportunity to discover school law by reading cases from the commissioner of education, the School Ethics Commission, the Office of Administrative Law and more. Writing articles from the perspective of a lawyer was a challenge, but with the guidance of the NJSBA team, I improved my writing skills. The culmination of all I learned was presented in a webinar on the School Ethics Act, which was a blast!”

Homel noted that throughout the summer, interns had hands-on opportunities to deeply engage with pressing issues impacting students in New Jersey. “By the end of the summer, they produced a culminating project that had a meaningful impact on NJSBA’s outreach and strategic goals,” she said.

Plein said it was her pleasure to serve as a mentor with the program. “As an educational association, this internship program helps to develop the next generation of public education leaders,” she said. “It also enables us to learn from the experiences of students who have recently graduated from New Jersey public schools.”