Three Kean alumni awarded County Teacher of the Year
By Monica Sudfield | Published Jan. 29, 2018
Three Kean Alumni received nominations for the New Jersey Department of Education’s (NJDOE) teacher of the year award. A total of 21 teachers were nominated.
Kristy DeFazio of Middlesex County, Teresa Muzzo of Sussex County, and Victoria Sasso of Union County, were each awarded County Teacher of the Year for their dedication and contributions in the field. Every county in the state appoints one teacher as County Teacher of the Year, which puts them in the running for Teacher of the Year.
DeFazio, early childhood supervisor for Jamesburg Public Schools, has been nominated for her previous position as a fourth-grade teacher at James J. Flynn Elementary School in Perth Amboy. She graduated from Kean in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, which was followed by her master’s degree from Kean in educational leadership with principal and supervisor certifications.
Muzzo has been recognized for her efforts as a special education teacher at Halstead Middle School in Newton. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Kean in 1989 as a teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing, in addition to certifications in special education as a teacher of the handicapped.
Sasso received the nomination for her position as an English and language arts teacher at Carl H. Kumpf Middle School in Clark. She earned her teacher’s certification from Kean in 2002 and her master’s in instruction and curriculum a year later. She then received her supervisor’s certification in 2007.
Their time at Kean not only shaped them into the professional women they are today, but guided them by providing support, a student teacher preparation program and professors knowledgeable in the field of education.
“Through working with a phenomenal network of professors and adjuncts, I was able to elevate my teaching performance by crafting authentic lessons and applying research-based teaching strategies,” said DeFazio.
While attending Kean, all three teachers changed their career paths. None of them imagined themselves to be where they are today.
“I entered Kean hoping to pursue a career as a physical therapist, however, to fulfill a language requirement, I registered for a class in sign language,” said Muzzo. “I immediately left the first class, walked to my advisor, and changed my major. I never regretted it.”
While at Kean, Sasso was a psychology major who knew she wanted to work with children in some capacity. It wasn’t until her senior year when she taught a class as a substitute teacher that she realized teaching was the route she wanted to take in her career.
“I found I loved my time in the classroom. It felt very natural to me,” said Sasso. DeFazio knew her calling was education, which is why she planned on opening a daycare center directly after graduation. Once she began student teaching in a former Abbott School District, her goals changed.
“My entire mindset shifted to making every effort centralized around supporting the diverse needs of the students of Perth Amboy,” said DeFazio.
According to the NJDOE, all teachers nominated are first selected through the Governor’s Educator of the Year program. Administrators, teachers, parents and county education association representatives come together to make the final decision of which teacher will represent which County.
“[This] gave me a platform to showcase my devotion for instilling a love for learning,” said DeFazio. “The children and professionals I encounter have made me a better mother, wife, daughter and educator.”
Muzzo looks at this honor as a way to make a change in her community. She attends events, workshops and training sessions to become more informed about education policy, which she can pass down to other teachers.
“I am a member of the 2017 County Teacher of the Year cohort. Our group is strategizing ways to increase new teacher retention,” said Muzzo.
Sasso is thankful for the nomination and is excited to serve with the other County Teachers of the Year as ambassadors of education.
In addition to her nomination, her husband Dennis, who is also a teacher, was named Essex County Coach of the Year for baseball.
“It was a busy year for us,” said Sasso.
The New Jersey’s State Teacher of the Year was announced in October at the State Board of Education meeting. Amy T. Anderson, an American Sign Language (ASL) teacher at Ocean City High School, received the award, according to NJDOE.