Kimberly Dickstein Hughes, a high school English teacher at Haddonfield Memorial High School, was named the 2019-20 New Jersey State Teacher of the Year on Oct. 2 during a meeting of the New Jersey State Board of Education.
In June 2018, Dickstein Hughes initiated an advocacy campaign on behalf of Garang Buk Buk Piol, a former child soldier from South Sudan, to achieve his goal of attending graduate school at Emory University. She mobilized students, teachers, and community members to embrace global citizenship, and they have crowdsourced over $80,000 toward his tuition expenses.
“I commend Kimberly for her passion, her dedication, and her commitment to helping students understand that they can make a positive impact in the world,” said Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, NJSBA executive director. “The NJSBA is proud to co-sponsor the Teacher of the Year award as a way of recognizing excellent work by teachers who inspire and motivate their students.”
The award is co-sponsored by NJSBA, the New Jersey Education Association, the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) and Educational Testing Service. NJSBA provided a “virtual goodie bag” to Dickstein Hughes and to all New Jersey local and county teachers of the year. The goodie bag contained several educational items donated by NJSBA’s partners in the New Jersey corporate sphere, including online curriculum and classroom resources, and professional development opportunities. Teachers were urged to share items with their colleagues.
Dickstein Hughes has also developed a community-based Shakespeare program of study, and she advises various extracurricular activities including Model United Nations, Shakespeare Troupe, and Stand with Camden. She has volunteered for 16 years with the Alicia Rose Victorious Foundation, a Camden County-based nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for hospitalized teens across the country, in memory of her best friend, Alicia DiNatale. She serves as the Youth Leadership Council advisor with her sister, Katie Brotz, and also serves on the Community Advisory Board to help coordinate events such as the Martin Luther King Day of Service and Teen Cancer Awareness Week.
She is a resident of Voorhees Township in Camden County.
“I have always felt the call to public service, and I can think of no better way to serve than in the classroom,” said Dickstein Hughes. “Being named New Jersey State Teacher of the Year is not only a great honor, but also a call to action. It is my hope to share this platform with as many educators as possible so that we can celebrate and recognize the great work happening in classrooms across the state.”
In her role as state Teacher of the Year, Dickstein Hughes will work with the New Jersey Department of Education and give presentations around the state highlighting her passion for education and drive for success.
Haddonfield Board of Education President Adam Sangillo praised Dickstein Hughes’s nonstop energy.
“I would get emails from her, providing updates, at 3 o’clock in the morning. I don’t think she sleeps!” he said. “Kim is a dynamic star in a group of really dynamic teachers.” Sangillo praised her for getting her class involved in helping Buk, the former child soldier.
“She would Skype him into our board meetings from Africa,” said Sangillo, “so he would update us on his progress. He came to visit, he was at students’ houses, then he came to a football game. It was so much fun to watch it all unfold.
“It’s wonderful to be able to serve a community that values a teacher who works this hard,” Sangillo said.
Haddonfield superintendent Dr. Larry Mussoline said, “The Haddonfield Board of Education works collaboratively with all of our teachers to support a culture of accountability and collaboration.
“In a high performing district like Haddonfield,” he said, “we are very proud of all of our teachers who work hard and encourage the success of all of our students. With that said, Kim Dickstein Hughes is the best of the best. We are very proud of her ‘above and beyond the call of duty’ mindset. She makes a positive difference with and for her students every day. She extends learning beyond her classroom walls into the community and the world. There are 200,000 teachers in New Jersey, and only one Kim Dickstein Hughes.”
Celebrating the 2019-2020 Teacher of the Year announcement are, from left, Mike McClure, NJSBA president; Lenora Green, executive director, Educational Testing Service Center for Advocacy and Philanthropy; Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, NJSBA executive director; Kimberly Dickstein Hughes, teacher of the year; Marie Blistan, president, NJEA; Sean M. Spiller, NJEA vice president, and NJDOE Commissioner Lamont Repollet.