GSE Alumna Named New Jersey State Teacher of the Year 2019-2020

December 02, 2019

GSE alumna Kimberly Dickstein Hughes has been teaching at Haddonfield Memorial High School since 2009. She graduated from the GSE’s 5-Year Teacher Preparation Program with a Master’s in Secondary English. Dickstein Hughes went on to win Camden County Teacher of the Year 2020 and New Jersey State Teacher of the Year 2019-2020.

          

Kimberly Dickstein Hughes started at Haddonfield Memorial through her student teaching internship and was hired the following year. She currently teaches a variety of English language arts courses including public speaking, world literature, Shakespeare, and Greek drama as she has a love for the classics. As an educator, Dickstein Hughes cherishes her ability to learn something new every day from her students, “You can learn as a teacher with your students, you just have to be open to it. I take a lot of risks in my classroom and enjoy exploring texts I haven't read before with my students because I know there's a lot of opportunities for discovery and real growth.” She is truly humbled and energized by how her students responded to the awards as they want to hear about her platform and understand it, “It has been an incredible experience to have your students nurturing you in that way and believing in you. That doesn't always happen to you every single day.” Dickstein Hughes has such a great bond with her students that she wanted them involved in her wedding as she had her ceremony at Haddonfield Memorial High School.

Dickstein Hughes has been inspired by many who helped her get to where she is today. She has always followed her grandma’s precepts from a young age, “The more you know the more you grow, listen to learn and learn to listen, knowledge is power, and smile and the world smiles with you.” She has had extremely supportive teachers throughout elementary, middle, and high school where she was placed in a gifted and talented program in ninth through twelfth grade.

As 2019-2020’s New Jersey State Teacher of the Year recipient, Dickstein Hughes feels incredibly honored, but more importantly, acknowledges her power and influence, “I believe the responsibility of being a county teacher of the year or state teacher of the year means you give back and you serve the people that serve you. I think that's a really important reminder for anyone who is recognized for the work they do because we never accomplish anything alone.” She plans on using her platform to lift the voices of New Jersey’s educators, stakeholders, students, and their families. “My vision for the future of education is no matter what direction our stakeholders take us in, is that we celebrate the everyday victories happening in our classrooms. We win every day within our classrooms and we must start sharing our stories and bring our communities back to the belief that schools are the heart of a community because they truly are. I think we've forgotten the foundation of our future.”

The GSE prides itself on our focus on social justice, however, Dickstein Hughes has created a classroom that not only discusses social justice but has taken action to help a former child soldier get into the education pipeline. After connecting, Dickstein Hughes's class began to Skype with Garang Buk Buk Piol. She recalls, “he was really vulnerable and took a risk and modeled to my students that it's really important to share your story because if you don't who will.” Dickstein Hughes and her students raised $50,000 through an advocacy campaign to supplement his tuition and expenses. She knew the value of mobilizing her classroom as she believes “you can't just lament the world’s woes from a desk or read a book and say that is really sad and do nothing about it. You can start by informing yourself, we had the opportunity to help someone who did not have the kind of access to power that we have. By sharing our access to power, we were able to accelerate his education goals and help him achieve them.” Dickstein Hughes proudly shared that Garang Buk Buk Piol will graduate with two master’s degrees from Emory University within three years and has earned a fellowship on his own to supplement the remaining tuition expenses.

As a GSE alumna, Dickstein Hughes has experienced immense support and was inspired by her professors at Rutgers. She recognizes many professors that played a critical role in her journey as a teacher, she mentions Drs. Jennifer Rowsell, Cheryl Mclean, Brian Hayes, Nora Hyland, and Beth Rubin. She is especially grateful for Dr. Emily Bartels as Dickstein Hughes explains, “She is a brilliant human-being and she made Shakespeare come to life for me. Through the course Shakespeare and Race, Dr. Bartels really shifted my understanding of how to read and taught me the best critical lens we can bring to a text is our own identity.” Additionally, through Dickstein Hughes’ GSE cohort, she met a friend, Dr. Crystal Chen Lee, North Carolina State University, who she has recently co-published an article with. In their article, Beyond the Book: Taking Global Action, Lee and Dickstein Hughes discuss, “crucial global literacies, how to get students to move from empathy to compassion as a result of reading, and teaching students to be activist and advocate for what they believe”.

“I had such a good experience at the GSE. I love Rutgers dearly and it has given me so many gifts. I am a proud product of public schools and public institutions.” We look forward to hearing more about Dickstein Hughes’s accomplishments for years to come as she plays an essential role in our mission of Advancing Excellence and Equity in Education.

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