The Student News Site of Tenafly High School

The Echo

The Student News Site of Tenafly High School

The Echo

The Student News Site of Tenafly High School

The Echo

THS Hosts 2024 New Jersey Teacher of the Year Joseph Nappi

On January 30, Tenafly students might have recognized an unfamiliar man roaming the school halls, peering into classrooms, and extending handshakes to administrators. What they likely didn’t realize, however, was that the unknown face was that of Joseph Nappi, the 2024 New Jersey State Teacher of the Year.

In his role as State Teacher of the Year, Nappi not only stands as a representative of the teaching profession but actively shapes educational policies. As a state ambassador, he shoulders the responsibilities of attending teacher forums, speaking at national conferences, and delivering presentations to stakeholders across New Jersey. He also serves as a liaison between educators and the NJDOE (New Jersey Department of Education), facilitating communication and collaboration to enhance educational practices statewide. One of his goals as STOY is to visit schools in all twenty-one counties of the state, which brought him to THS last Tuesday.

Mr. Whitehead and Mr. Nappi visiting Ms. Oppedisano’s Humanities class.

Having taught at Monmouth Regional High School in Tinton Falls, New Jersey for sixteen years, Nappi has left indelible marks, inspiring his students to tackle both local and global problems. It is no surprise that Nappi is such a decorated educator; his various accolades underscore his commitment to both his students and to education as a whole. Some of his various recognitions include the Ida and Jeff Margolis Award for excellence in Multicultural Education in 2005, distinction as an Educator by the US Navy, and being chosen by the Jewish Foundation of Righteous as an Alfred Lerner Fellow at Columbia University in 2015. For his dedication to human rights education, Nappi was awarded the Dr. Frank Kaplowitz Outstanding Human Rights Educator of the Year from Kean University and was selected as a Museum Teacher Fellow with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. More recently, Nappi was announced as one of the four finalists for the 2024 National Teacher of the Year.

As an educator, Nappi strives to inspire his students by sharing success stories and introducing his classes to individuals who are actively changing the world. “All of us have much more power than we give ourselves credit for, and we just need to be willing to act,” he said. Nappi aims to instill this mindset, encouraging students to realize the power they possess and feel excited about the impacts they can make. “Watching my students recognize their own power and influence is empowering and inspiring, and to me, is a fundamentally necessary part of building a thriving democratic society,” he said. Under Nappi’s guidance, students have initiated campaigns to combat human trafficking, advocate for Holocaust and Genocide education, and raise awareness about refugee resettlement.

Nappi consistently motivates his students to engage in projects within the local community, such as the “Be the Change Project.” “Last year, a group of seniors got together to make sure that no senior was unable to attend prom or the senior trips because they couldn’t afford senior dues,” he said. “So, [students] worked together and fundraised to send sixteen students to their senior activities for free.” Since then, the respective students have raised funds to send six more students and are actively seeking ways to expand their impact, he said. Ongoing pursuits led by Nappi’s students include striving to connect peers with free tuxes and dresses and finding vocational students to volunteer their makeup and hair services for prom.

While Nappi never envisioned himself as a teacher, he is thankful to have found a profession that brings him so much joy. “The most rewarding part of being a teacher is the relationships you build and the opportunity [teaching]  gives you to help empower students to follow their passions and give back to their communities,” Nappi said. “It is also a tremendous opportunity to continue learning, as it is now your job to become a subject level expert in your field.” This, he emphasizes, is a great challenge and an “awesome” responsibility. Finding solutions to everyday problems in the classroom is both challenging and exciting to Nappi, as it provides him with opportunities to think critically.

Ultimately, educators like Nappi inspire students, motivating generations to weaponize their voices beyond the classroom and strive to make impactful changes in their communities. Education is not merely about teaching a required or prescribed curriculum, as Nappi epitomizes; rather, it is about nurturing young leaders and empowering them to shape the world according to their vision and values.

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About the Contributor
Charley Levine, Managing Editor
Charley Levine ('25) is the Managing Editor of The Echo. She is an avid writer who particularly enjoys opinionated journalism. Charley spends much of her free time on the soccer and lacrosse fields as well as with her friends and family.