New Jersey’s newest Teacher of the Year is Lauren Marrocco, a fourth grade teacher in Perth Amboy. She has taught for the last decade and told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that she believes her love of learning has kept her searching for different ways to engage her students. Marrocco is also a contender for National Teacher of the Year.
In addition to her love of learning, Marrocco said other teachers have been role models for her. She began her career teaching first grade, which she did for seven years, and now she teaches fourth-graders at E.J. Patten Elementary in Perth Amboy.
Marrocco said her classroom is a collaborative environment where students sit in teams rather than in rows. “The dynamic in my classroom is always collaboration and support and encouragement,” she said. “And so in the very beginning of the school year it’s very important for me to establish rapport with them, to let them know that I’m interested in them not only as academic learners but as a person and where they come from and what they have to offer the classroom.”
To make the learning process more productive, Marrocco said each morning, the students greet each other and have a morning meeting where they can share a bit about themselves. “That takes the pressure off of them being so excited about having to tell me something that they tell me during an academic lesson that they’re learning,” she said.
Technology has become an increasing part of young students’ lives and Marrocco said she uses tools like iPads and laptops in her teaching. “You can still teach them what they need to know but you can include the technology like the iPads to make it more engaging and make it more something they can connect to,” she said.
Marrocco still uses textbooks in her lessons, but expands them with newer technology. “They might be able to take a science topic, get the foundation from the story and then go on the Macbooks or the iPads and look it up and create a report from it,” she explained. “Because there is some value in textbooks and learning how to read and decipher, take in all that non-fiction information still. It sets them up to be able to read a computer screen that’s full of information.”