By Liv Meier, Correspondent
LINDEN, NJ — Union County Teacher of the Year Barbara Brady never saw herself in front of a classroom — it was a different audience she always envisioned. Before becoming Linden High School’s dance and physical education teacher, she was a professional ballerina until a career-ending injury forced her to rethink her plans.
Brady earned a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education from Kean University, a master’s degree in curriculum, instruction and assessment from Marygrove College and supervisor’s certificate, also from Kean. They led her to Linden Public Schools, and to Union County Teacher of the Year.
“I never thought I would be teaching kids my passion,” Brady recently told LocalSource. “But now I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Her knee injury was more than two decades ago and she has now been teaching in Linden for almost 21 years.
“I was devastated when I hurt myself, but I picked myself up and, luckily, I found a passion outside of my original passion,” she said.
While Brady was aware of her nomination for the award, she and her students at Linden Dance Company were surprised by several administrators with the news back in April.
“I was so thankful my students were there to experience it with me,” she added. “They are what I do and I have all that I have because of them.”
This is not the first award Brady has won.
The dance teacher, who is also chairwoman of the health and physical education department at LHS, was also named as both the Eastern District Dance Teacher of the Year and National Dance Teacher of the Year by the Society of Health and Physical Educators of America for 2018. She also previously received the former award in 2013, and was named the Dance Teacher of the Year in 2012 and 2016 by the New Jersey Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.
“In my opinion, relationships matter most of all when it comes to being an educator,” LHS Principal Yelena Horre said recently. “Barbara establishes great connections with her students and I think that’s what sets her apart from other teachers.”
Horre, who has worked with Brady for five years, said most of her students refer to her as “Mama Brady,” adding, “That nickname in itself shows the strong bond she has with her students.”
Brady also sits on the NJAHPERD Executive Board, is the ballet mistress at Metuchen Dance Centre, and is a co-founder and president of Mystic Vision Players, a Union County-based community theater company.
With a sometimes hectic schedule, she credits her “work family and home family” for allowing her to do what she loves.
“I couldn’t spend as much time at Linden with my students if it weren’t for my stellar support system,” Brady said.
The award was Linden’s second Union County Teacher of the Year accolade in three years; LHS social studies teacher Monica Goncalves won the award in 2016.
“All I can say is that we’re so tremendously proud of Barbara and the legacy that we’re building here at the Linden Public Schools,” Horre said. “We have amazing teachers in this district and it’s great to have them recognized.”
Brady is now entered into the statewide competition with the other 20 county winners to compete for the New Jersey Teacher of the Year Award. The winner is expected to be announced at the state Board of Education’s October meeting.