GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Absegami High School has named Jaime Howey its Teacher of the Year and guidance counselor Carole Higgins its Educational Services Professional of the Year.
Howey, who teaches English, was raised in Galloway Township, attended township schools and graduated from Absegami in 1994. She holds a bachelor’s of arts begree in theater/English in education from Stockton University and has spent her entire, eighteen-year teaching career in the Greater Egg Harbor Regional High School District, starting at Oakcrest High School and then returning to Absegami High School in 2001. She is married to Oakcrest special education teacher Richard Howey and has two children, Shaun and Naya, who attend Galloway schools.
“I think that I was born to be a teacher,” says Howey. “As a child in a big family, I would force my sister to play student while I hogged the chalkboard at the front of our playroom. I did a lot of babysitting when I was growing up and through those experiences I knew that I wanted to work with young minds and be a formative part in the lives of students. I worked for a year at a preschool during college and did some of my observations for my education degree at elementary schools but I have always felt drawn to work with high school students. I relish preparing teenagers for their journey out of the nest and into the wide, wonderful world.”
Howey has been instrumental in bringing the READ program to Absegami, which is a schoolwide goal to encourage independent reading for both students and staff. She has been a driving force in introducing novels to the library and creating an outside library exchange box for students and community members.
“I have had so many wonderful teachers in my life, many of whom I am now honored to teach with at Absegami,” Howey said. “I had the advantage of having teachers who encouraged me as a learner to pursue my passions and I carry that enthusiasm with me into the classroom.”
For Howey, the best part of being a teacher is the gratification of seeing so many of her students grow into successful adults.
“When my former students contact me years after graduation to say hello, I love to see them successful and happy,” said Howey. “So many of my students have gone on to be teachers and to exponentially positively impact lives.”
When asked about the challenges that educators face in their jobs, Howey said, “I believe that my role in the classroom is to support student learning but some students view the teacher's role as an opponent, an authority with whom they must battle. This mentality is the greatest struggle to overcome. When students and teachers come into Absegami, they work together to create a collaborative environment of investigation and learning, but first students have to be willing to become part of the tribe. I encourage students to play an active role in deciding on their independent reading material for my class, to engage in self reflection and analysis, and to participate in the extracurriculars that Absegami offers.”
Carole Higgins grew up in Edison and attended Edison High School. She graduated from Glassboro State College (now Rowan University) with a bachelor of arts degree in health and physical education with a specialization in athletic training. Higgins first worked with South Jersey Rehabilitation in Woodbury as a physical therapy aide before working at Novacare Rehabilitation in Northfield and as the athletic trainer for Pleasantville High School before coming to Absegami High School.
“Five or six years into my teaching career I felt ready for a change and greater challenge,” said Higgins. “I wanted to have a greater role in helping students outside of the classroom.”
Now in her twenty-fifth year, Higgins got her master’s degree in student personnel services and supervisor's certificate from Rowan and became a guidance counselor at Absegami in 2006. She believes her ability to work well with students and being empathetic and having a genuine interest in helping her students achieve their goals are reasons why she was honored. Higgins credits retired special education teacher Johna Infante and retired supervisor of guidance Bob Quinn for having an impact on her career.
“Johna Infante helped me through a difficult first year of teaching,” said Higgins. “Everything from effective lesson planning to classroom management to the importance of organization I learned from Johna. She cared about her students and it showed everyday. I aspired to be the kind of teacher she was.”
“Bob Quinn's leadership, genuine concern for his department members and passion for his work in education also inspired me. His influence is one of the reasons I've become the counselor I am today.”
Higgins enjoys working with her students on a more personal level in assisting them to reach their potential and prepare for their future. That joy outweighs some of the challenges she faces.
“Having enough time for all of my students is a challenge. I do the best I can with the time I have,” said Higgins. “Motivating apathetic students is also a big challenge. Some students simply do not want to be here for a variety of reasons. I encourage them to take advantage of the opportunity they have here at Absegami. I try to uncover the underlying reason(s) and work with the family to provide assistance or outside services if needed.”