GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Absegami has named its Teacher of the Year and its Educational Services Professional of the Year for the school year. Winning the honors are world languages teacher Zach Mack and school nurse Theresa Sartorio.
Fourteen-year teacher Zach Mack began his career at Absegami before serving as a crossover teacher between Absegami and Cedar Creek High School when Cedar Creek first opened. Since then, he has been at Absegami full-time teaching classes in Latin and AP European History. He has also taught classical Greek. In addition to teaching, he is the head boys' tennis coach, assistant girls' volleyball coach and adviser for the Latin Club and Senior Class Council. In the past he have also served as adviser for the academic team and assistant editorial advisor for the Yearbook Club.
Mack grew up in Defiance, Ohio, a small town in northwest Ohio and attended the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana with a bachelor’s degree cum laude in Greek and Roman civilization and gender studies. He is married to John Morris and has two dogs, Hektor and Nero.
At first Mack wasn’t sure if he wanted to make teaching a career. “I did not know that I wanted to be a career teacher until the second half of my first year,” said Mack. “I thought that I might teach for a few years before going to law or graduate school.
"However, after a few months I began to feel both the impact I was able to have on my students and the impact they had on me. I also saw the wonderful programs which we have at Absegami, and thought that I could contribute to the school community in a much more significant way. By the end of my first year, I knew that I had found my place,” he said.
Mack’s role models for teaching include his parents and former professors. “I think my first role models as educators were my parents, who were both teachers. Growing up I saw how much time and energy they put into the ‘behind the scenes’ aspects of being a teacher, and from that I knew from the outset of my career that the time spent in the classroom is just one component of what makes a great educator,” Mack said. “Another was Dr. Catherine Schlegel, a professor of classics at Notre Dame. She taught me classical Greek as a freshman in college, and for the next four years I took every class which I possibly could with her as an instructor. She showed me how a dynamic and engaging instructor can set the tone for a vibrant and productive classroom, which is the environment I hope that I am creating for my students.
“I think that my greatest accomplishment has been convincing students across a wide variety of classes, sports and activities to raise the expectations they have for themselves.” said Mack. “My job as an educator is to show my students that they can overcome the challenges in front of them, and then use the new skills they acquire to continue reaching higher and higher.” Mack pointed to both his classes and the extracurricular programs he advises as examples. “Students in honors Latin 3 and honors Latin 4 are doing analysis of primary Latin texts that is on par with the work of students in university Latin literature courses, and they are able to be recognized for that through our dual credit program with Stockton University. Being able to reach that level of academic performance after just two years of learning a language shows what our students can achieve when they believe they have the skills to do it. In volleyball, when girls join our program they usually have no volleyball experience. I think the sustained level of excellence our program has shown since it began comes from getting each new class to buy into the philosophy of high expectations, which begins with head coach Kerry Flukey and I giving them the skills and confidence necessary to be successful.”
For Mack, watching his students succeed is his favorite part of being a teacher. “There is no better feeling than seeing the excitement when students achieve their goals. I also enjoy that being a teacher allows me to be a lifelong learner. Each new class I teach and new activity I undertake presents fresh challenges for me and an opportunity to develop a new set of ideas and skills which I can pass on to my students.”
Theresa Sartorio grew up in Egg Harbor Township and went to Absegami High School when it shared a building with Oakcrest High School. Sartorio received an AAS degree in nursing from Atlantic Cape Community College and a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Delaware, all while working full-time and raising three children.
She received her certificate of school nursing from Monmouth University. She has worked at AtlantiCare in oncology, hospice, pediatrics and home care. She has also worked as a school nurse in Egg Harbor City, Oakcrest and Cedar Creek high schools.“ Contrary to popular belief, my job responsibilities are much more than giving out bandaids and ice packs,” Sartorio laughed. “I provide care to students for any type of illness or injury they may have, educating about an illness or injury if needed, and having them return to class, if able, so they can fully participate in their classes.” She also handles state-mandated screenings for every student, reviewing and recording sports physicals for all student athletes, administers daily and prescription medications and contacts parents as needed. In addition, she spends time educating students, parents and staff on chronic medical conditions and required care. This is Sartorio’s fifth year at Absegami. She has been married for thirty years with three children. Her daughters attended Absegami and are now teachers at Cedar Creek High School and in Spragg Elementary School in Egg Harbor City. Her son attended Cedar Creek and is a senior at Stockton University.
"I try to treat every student and staff member with kindness and a caring attitude no matter how busy my office may be,” Sartorio said. “The questions a student has or the care they are asking for may be the only medical care they are receiving. Often, a little bit of attention can solve many of their small concerns, but will build their trust in me if they should have a larger medical need in the future. I try to be a positive influence in any way I can and often one kind word can change someone’s day.”
When asked what the most challenging part of her job is, Sartorio said, “I never know what the next person walking in my office is going to need. It can be anything from someone saying hello to someone telling me there is an emergency somewhere in the building. It’s also challenging at times, but I try to remain calm no matter the situation because I feel that can keep many situations less chaotic and helps keep everyone else calm. Working alone can also be a challenge at times, but I truly appreciate all of the staff, teachers and administrators that offer to help whenever needed. There are some days I never leave my office, so receiving this honor is nice because it shows that people do notice what you are doing, even though I don’t interact with them on a daily basis."
“The best part about my job is that I have the opportunity to help someone every day. I often see a student using the care and information I give them to make positive changes or better choices for their health, or telling their friends what they have learned. School nursing is a position that often goes unnoticed until there is an emergency, so I truly appreciate that someone does notice what I am doing and chose to recognize that.”
Sartorio wanted to thank everyone who nominated her for this honor.