FLENJ Teacher of the Year

FLENJ Teacher of the Year
Photo: Ms. Elena Spathis, Pascack Valley High School World Language Teacher

We are delighted to announce that Ms. Elena Spathis of Pascack Valley High School has been selected as the Foreign Language Educators of New Jersey 2021 State Teacher of the Year. 

Photo: Ms. Elena Spathis, Pascack Valley High School World Language Teacher
Photo: Ms. Elena Spathis

Each year, FLENJ identifies an exemplary world language teacher who personifies and promotes the best in the profession. The FLENJ Teacher of the year is honored at the Annual Conference in the Spring and competes on the regional level the following winter at the Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (NECTFL). That winner then competes to become the ACTFL Teacher of the Year at the national level. 

Alumni of Pascack Valley High School, Isabella Tjan, shared about her experience in Ms. Spathis’s classroom. An essential aspect of Srta. Spathis’ instruction was the use of materials  that connected the classroom to the real world. I enjoyed this immensely; in an Honors Spanish  class, one does not normally expect to learn about artists such as Picasso or Dalí, consider  immigration policy through the lens of a family from Nicaragua or Honduras, or explore climate  change throughout Chile and Spain. However, this is exactly the realm of what we covered in  Honors Spanish IV. It was enlightening. Not only did it make me care about the subject, but the  global perspectives that I gained through this class that I still carry with me have permanently shaped my way of thinking. The goal of her instruction is not limited to memorization of  vocabulary and conjugation forms; she aims to develop fluidity with the language that the student is then able to apply to current topics through a global lens. Therefore, I have not only  been educated in the Spanish language, but I have been educated about the Spanish-speaking  world, and there is no other way to have gotten that other than through this incredible teaching  style. 

Photo (left-to-right): Ms. Pollinger, Ms. Rodriguez, Ms. Spathis, Mr. Puccio, Dr. Bachenheimer
Photo (left-to-right): Ms. Pollinger, Ms. Rodriguez, Ms. Spathis, Mr. Puccio, Dr. Bachenheimer

District Supervisor of World Languages, Ms. Noemi Rodriguez, shared, “Ms. Spathis consistently pushes her own growth as a world language educator, this has led her to share her own ideas through a variety of professional development workshops, published articles and webinars. She has presented at the local, state and national levels year after year. In my opinion, Ms. Spathis is a truly “connected” educator, sharing her insight on different social media platforms and maintaining her own blog with a tremendous wealth of resources and strategies for immediate application. With the change to hybrid instruction, Ms. Spathis continues to strive to deliver engaging lessons with comprehensible input at the heart of each class meeting. She has found unique, engaging ways to maintain a positive {virtual} classroom environment with all of her students & classes.” 

Her colleague, Ms. Ivica Kanova, shared, In addition to maintaining high standards in her classes, Ms. Spathis also understands the importance of collaboration. It is an undeniable fact that collaboration among colleagues is important to achieving student success in speaking the language and understanding the culture. Whether a novice teacher at the beginning of her teaching career several years ago or now an experienced teacher, Ms. Spathis has always actively sought feedback from her colleagues in an effort to improve planning and delivery of her instruction. She absolutely recognizes that by cooperating with colleagues, our students will reach curriculum outcomes and thus become fluent speakers of Spanish using the language beyond the classroom.”

The Pascack Valley Regional High School District is incredibly proud of Ms. Spathis on this achievement and we congratulate her as she represents our state this year in World Languages! 


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