KENILWORTH, NJ — Teachers are often underappreciated, overworked and underpaid, but every once in awhile they get the praise they deserve. Janice Marsili aced her work as lead teacher of fine and performing arts at David Brearley High School in Kenilworth, where she has taught for the past 19 years. She was named Union County’s Teacher of the Year for 2015-2016.
Marsili began her teaching career at Bishop George Ahr High School in Edison. Prior to teaching, she worked in a department store in the visual merchandising and store planning department. Although she’s been teaching for many years, she’s still a student herself.
“I am now in my second year of doctoral studies at Montclair State University, where I will receive my Ph.D. in teacher education/teacher development,” said Marsili. “Before that I received my undergraduate degree from Drexel University in Philadelphia and my master’s degree from Kean University.”
Marsili has combined her passion for teaching and art to become successful in her career. She believes it was for this reason that she received such a prestigious award. In addition to all her dedication and education, she also contributed to the appearance of David Brearley Middle and High School, which are located on the same campus.
“I think that I was chosen as the County Teacher of the Year for the interdisciplinary work I have done throughout my career, but most recently since 2007 when I was awarded the first of eight Artist Residency Grants from the NJ State Council on the Arts,” she said. “These grants provide schools with a resident artist for 20 visits to help to carry out some sort of special project. Our grants have combined art with English, history, science and business to create various projects. Since 2010 our projects have revolved around large-scale mosaic installations within the school building and on the school grounds,” said Marsili.
Three indoor mosaics were added to the school, in addition to a 14-foot tall mosaic tree in the school courtyard with a diversity theme. A student-designed bench and tabletops dedicated to the students’ grandparents were also created. A pond with a 15-foot mosaic with a tolerance theme also spreads a positive message. A mosaiced greenhouse and butterfly garden, where students can learn to hybridize plants and then plant them in the garden, also add to the aesthetics of the school.
“These projects have been partially financed by sales projects carried out by the students,” says Marsili. “These students are from the business department, and they learned about running a business in the process.”
As the 2015-2016 Union County teacher of the year, Marsili has enjoyed the opportunity to work with other teachers throughout the state. Under the leadership of the State Teacher of the Year, Chelsea Collins, she and other teachers have traveled to schools to deliver School Teacher Professional Development presentations in each of their areas of expertise. Marsili’s presentations included topics such as grant writing and cross-curricular projects.
“I also served as a grant reader for the Department of Education and was on the selection committee for the 2017 Teacher of the Year,” she added.
After Marsili finishes her doctorate degree, she hopes to use her education and experience to make even more of a difference in her field. She looks forward to working with all the people she’s met after being recognized in her profession. Although she will only be named Teacher of the Year for one year, she will always be involved with the group.
“I didn’t realize when I was named County Teacher of the Year that this was more than a one year position. Once you’re involved with this group, you are always involved,” she said. “Teachers have a voice and I hope I can help them be heard.”