While politicians debate teacher quality, Perth Amboy’s Lauren Marrocco talks about student teachers, role models, and her drive to ‘never stop learning’

By John Mooney

What makes a good teacher, let alone a great one?

Perth Amboy's Lauren Marrocco, New Jersey's latest Teacher of the Year
Perth Amboy's Lauren Marrocco, New Jersey's latest Teacher of the Year
One answer to those questions can be found in Room 237 of the Edward J. Patten School in Perth Amboy, where Lauren Marrocco — New Jersey’s most recent Teacher of the Year — spends her days with two-dozen fourth graders and a calming hint of classical music in the background.

Ten years on the job, Marrocco’s energy and purpose are evident in a classroom of bright colors and orderly lessons.

In an interview last week, the 32-year-old Marrocco talked about her path to excellence, a climb marked by a few stepping stones that are often overlooked in debates over teacher evaluation, tenure, and test scores.

A product of East Brunswick public schools, Marrocco attended Kean University, where she decided that teaching was her calling. But for all the courses in child development and pedagogy, the time she spent in the classroom observing and working as a student teacher were the most important to her growth.

That fieldwork was in the Perth Amboy school system, and she called her cooperating teachers — Mary Santana and Brandi Caboy — “the perfect role models of what teaching should be.”

“There is constant debate as to whether teaching is an art or a science, and it is important to have the knowledge and the pedagogy,” she said. “But I also saw in them the love of their students, the high fives they gave, the family dynamic they built in the classroom.”

She said the fieldwork was where a student teacher could see herself as a real teacher, the first steps in the journey. She now is a cooperating teacher herself, first leading her students and then stepping back to let them learn themselves.

“I know how important that is, giving them to the time to do it on their own and see what works,” she said.


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