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The New Jersey Council for American Private Education (NJ CAPE) has named Eastern Christian School’s Jesse Wright as the New Jersey Non-Public Teacher of the Year for 2021!

Wright joins former EC teacher, the late Paul Beverly as EC colleagues who won this prestigious award (Herald feature story here).

“Mr. Wright is truly an artist–by profession, but also in the way he impacts his students. Whether in the classroom or the WINGS program, he tailors the learning to meet the needs and passions of each student,” said Mr. David Intlekofer, Mr. Wright’s principal.

Eastern Christian Head of School Ruth Kuder echoed the congratulations and gratitude to Mr. Wright, “Mr. Wright exemplifies the core values of Eastern Christian School.  He leads by example, encouraging his students to share their artistic and technological gifts in meeting our mission to, ‘act as Christ’s transforming agents in a global society’.  He represents many other Eastern Christian School faculty members who work alongside him daily.”

Mr. Wright has spent 14 years in education, all of which have been at Eastern Christian High School.  He possesses a Bachelors in Fine Arts, from The School of Visual Arts in New York and has been part of an exchange program at Middlesex Polytechnic in London, England.  He also is working on his Masters in Visual Arts.

Mr. Wright has taught a variety of course in the years he has worked at Eastern Christian including Foundation Arts, Painting, Drawing, Sculpture, Media Production, Advanced Placement Art Portfolio, Advanced Ceramics, Graphic Design, Web and App Design, Design Tech, Coding, and Printmaking.  He serves as program sponsor for the Filmmaking Club and the Art Club.  Mr. Wright has been a teacher artist in number of galleries in towns in New Jersey, such as Frenchtown and Jersey City, while serving as a presenter at the Steam Conference involving interdisciplinary collaboration among students. 

His additional activities global mission trips through Touch the World Ministries; Bridgehope CDC in Paterson, New Jersey which provides mentor programs to at-risk students; a teaching consultant for Amerinda (American Indian Artists, Inc) nonprofit organization; and his work in Kings of Kings Ministries in Paterson involving food, clothing, and construction outreach.  

Mr. Wright’s philosophy of education involves inviting students to identify their unique giftings, as they gain awareness of self and increase their voice.  He believes this occurs through inspiration and exposure to diverse perspective, as well as fostering areas of innate student interest.  He gets the greatest satisfaction when students gain an increased sense of ownership, voice, and purpose, thus engaging with the community in applying their new skills in the real world.  David Intlekofer, Principal at Eastern Christian, notes that as Jesse became an exceptional educator, he has emerged as a leader on the campus of the Eastern Christian and district-wide.  As an active professional artist, he brings an inspiration and an authenticity to his work with students.

The Nonpublic School Teacher of the Year Finalists for 2021 was Jessica Valdes, a sixteen-year educator currently teaching at Saint Joseph’s School in Oradell, NJ.  According to her Chief Administrator, Dr. Paula Valenti, Ms. Valdes has engaged remote learners with original videos that she created during the pandemic.  Her lessons are child-centered and serve as models for other educators in the Archdioceses of Newark.   

The Nonpublic School Teacher of the Year Award has been conducted under the auspices of NJCAPE.  All major nonpublic school constituencies in New Jersey are invited to submit a nominee for the award.  This award is significant because almost one out of every eight students in New Jersey is educated in a nonpublic school, a substantially higher percentage than the nation as a whole. 

Dr George Corwell, Director of the Office of Education of the New Jersey Catholic Conference and Chairperson of the Selection Committee for the award, commented on the experience of selecting this year’s winner:

“Nonpublic school teachers play a key role in preparing their students for the challenges and needs of the 21st Century.  Their efforts contribute to the advancement of parental choice in education so that parents may have their child attend the school that best suits the child’s needs.

‘In attempting to meet the challenges of maintaining face-to-face instruction during the current pandemic, the winner and the finalist have responded to the needs of individual students in cases where face-to-face instruction is not possible.  Their dedication and the dedication of so many other teachers in nonpublic schools enhance the lives of both nonpublic school children and the communities in which they live.”

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