The State Board of Education honored 2017-2018 New Jersey State Teacher of the Year Amy T. Andersen, an Ocean City High School teacher of American Sign Language, at its October meeting.

The state’s other six finalists, in the State Teacher of the Year program, were also recognized by the State Board.

Andersen, who was named the 2017-2018 Cape May County Teacher of the Year last month, grew up in Cape May County. She earned a bachelor’s degree in flute performance from Indiana University and a master’s degree in deaf education from McDaniel College. She also achieved national board certification as an exceptional needs specialist: deaf/hard of hearing.

Andersen began the American Sign Language (ASL) program at Ocean City High School with 42 students, and under her tutelage, the program has grown to more than 130 students. Andersen engages her students in community-oriented activities, such as ASL socials at local coffee shops and evening performances that raise funds for scholarships. Her program immerses students in deaf and hard-of-hearing culture, which helps them build confidence.

In the past three years, more than 85 percent of her students have achieved the NJ Seal of Biliteracy. A unique feature of Ocean City’s ASL program is that Andersen connects her students to the deaf community nationwide. As a result, Ocean City has become a strong community that is now accessible to hearing and deaf visitors, because of her students. More about Andersen and her ASL students can be found in this 2016 School Leader profile.

In her role as State Teacher of the Year, Andersen will work closely with the New Jersey Department of Education, give presentations around the state and participate in national activities, including an opportunity to meet the president of the United States.

The six other finalists for the State Teacher of the Year, who were also recognized, achieved the highest scores on their written applications and videos, and then reported for an interview that consisted of a performance assessment and a question-and-answer session. They include: Mimma-Marie Cammarata, an Italian teacher at Sterling High School, Sterling; Kristy DeFazio, a fourth grade elementary school teacher at James J. Flynn Elementary School, Perth Amboy; Nicole Petrosillo, an English Language Arts teacher at West Milford Township High School, West Milford Township; Diane Phares, an art teacher at Mount Olive High School, Mount Olive Township; Kristina Phelan, a kindergarten through second grade reading teacher at Mahala F. Atchison Elementary School, Tinton Falls; and Domenick Renzi, a basic skills mathematics teacher at Wedgwood Elementary School, Washington Township (Gloucester County)

Additional information can be found on the Governor’s Educator of the Year webpage.