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Bloomfield College Education Students Meet NJ Teacher of the Year

Amy Andersen

By Alicia Cook

On February 14, New Jersey State Teacher of the Year, Amy Andersen, visited Bloomfield College to speak with education majors. At the time of this article, Andersen is also in the running for the 2018 National Teacher of the Year, marking the first time since 1972 that a New Jersey teacher has been a finalist for National Teacher of the Year. The winner will be announced the spring.

“Our aspiring teacher candidates benefit from meeting and learning from experienced teachers like Ms. Andersen since they get to learn what it takes to become successful educators as well as become inspired.,” said Dr. Amy Eguchi, Associate Professor of Education and Chair of the Division of Education at the College. “It is not an easy path to become a teacher. There are many ups and downs that our students will go through. I hope the stories they hear from inspiring educators will keep them motivated to move forward to make their dream come true in the future.”

Andersen shared her journey from aspiring musician to teacher of the deaf with the future educators.

When she was a child, Andersen’s mother worked as a teacher’s aide with a deaf student. In order to facilitate this student, an educator fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) taught Andersen’s mother how to communicate with her, and Andersen participated in the lessons.

Later, while studying in the prestigious orchestra program at Indiana University, Andersen began taking classes in sign language. Over semester breaks, she substituted at the Cape May County Special Services School District where she was mentored by people such as Kathy Fillipo, a teacher of the deaf. She also worked as an interpreter for a student who was losing her hearing due to lupus.

At the same time, Andersen was still pursuing a career as a professional musician. She was accepted into Temple University’s graduate program to continue her music education, but she realized she wanted to be an American Sign Language teacher.

“My dad told me, ‘You couldn’t have figured this out $100,000 ago?’” Andersen quipped, and the class laughed.

On this new path, Andersen began a master’s program at Western Maryland. A few years later, Andersen was back in New Jersey at Ocean City High School in the special education department where she worked with one deaf student. A board member sought for a proper ASL class, so Andersen established the program there in 2004. In one year, the ASL program jumped from 42 students to 138; the program now has six classes, three levels, and a waitlist.

“What a wonderful opportunity for our students to have the opportunity to meet the Teacher of the Year from NJ, Amy Anderson. She was so outgoing and engaging,” said Margaret Adams, Coordinator of the Office for Students with Disabilities. “The students hung on her every word! It is especially wonderful to have a special education professional honored, and to have our students hear from the field, from the best, how rewarding a career in education can be.”

Following the presentation, Dr. Karen Pezzolla, Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education, shared that students from three of her education classes told her they now feel inspired and wished that Bloomfield College offered ASL courses.

According to, Andersen will spend a six-month sabbatical working with the New Jersey Department of Education. In addition, ETS supplies the teacher of the year with a laptop. NJEA will provide Andersen with a car lease for the year equipped with EZ Pass, a $500 clothing allowance, media training, communications support, and funding for the trip to Washington, D.C. to meet the President. She also has free access to all NJEA statewide trainings. At the end of the year, NJEA will present Andersen with a ring to commemorate her achievement.

“As the teacher of the year, I hope to focus on spreading awareness of ASL, deaf culture, and language equality for deaf children in New Jersey, but I also want to help teachers be mindful of what we are modelling as a priority for our students,” Anderson told “If I show students that my only priority is for them to be great signers and interpreters, then I can only reach a small number of them. But I want to show them that my priority is the indisputable guarantee that every one of us has value, and it is our human right to communicate, to have a ‘voice’.”

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