Christine Girtain, a teacher and director of the Authentic Science Research program at Toms River High School South and High School North and New Jersey’s 2022-2023 State Teacher of the Year, sits down with Ray Pinney, director of county activities and member engagement at the New Jersey School Boards Association, for a wide-ranging conversation in the latest episode of Education Matters.
In the video, Girtain recalls attending Toms River Regional Schools, graduating from The College of New Jersey and landing a job with the district, where she has taught for the past 28 years.
Having come from a family of educators, she jokes that it’s “the family business.” She said, “I love the kids I teach.” She particularly loves it when she witnesses “those aha moments.”
She also talks about the district’s Authentic Science Research program, noting students in the program can earn numerous college credits.
Each of her students, she said, teaches her something new and picks their own topic to research. Right now, Girtain is helping 45 students manage 45 different research topics.
“I guide them in directions they want to explore,” she said. Once they decide on a path, she helps them find journal articles that they didn’t know how to find and dissect their topic, so they can figure out what questions to ask and how to direct their research.
She also highlights how she incorporates agricultural themes into her teaching as well as some of the innovative research her students conduct regularly, such as extracting DNA from insects.