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NJEA Teacher of the Year offers advice to future educators

By Jake Mulick
Social Media Editor

While speaking to education majors like she would her high school music students, Argine Safari detailed her journey to becoming the New Jersey Education Association’s 2016 Teacher of the Year.

Safari spoke on Feb. 6 in the Education Building about her childhood in Armenia, specifically the transition from attending an Armenian music high school and the Moscow Conservatory to teaching music at a high school in the United States.

Safari praised the music field, saying it instills certain traits in those who pursue it.

“I believe music cultivates skills that you can’t find elsewhere,” Safari said. “It teaches creativity, perseverance and discipline.”

Safari displayed such discipline when her Moscow music professor requested that she add five pages of music to the recital she had to perform upon graduating from the conservatory, with only a short amount of time to prepare.

While an extra five pages of music is more than enough to make any student blanch before a recital, it didn’t help that Safari was expecting her first child within a week of the recital date. She was able to perform 48 hours before delivering her first born, five extra pages and all.

Safari serves as a model of determination to her students much like her own teachers before her.

Safari was accompanied by alumna and Camden County Teacher of the Year Julie Wright (’90), who has two children currently attending the College. Wright spoke highly of her experience here, and how it shaped her love of teaching, despite having faced adversity in the education field, which resulted in her not immediately landing a teaching job in New Jersey. After close to 10 years of searching, Wright found a home teaching elementary education in Gloucester Township, N.J.

Both Safari and Wright referenced the teachers they had in their past and how they influence them when they decided to pursue careers in education. Safari mentioned the music teachers that helped shape her while in Armenia as well as Moscow.

Safari and Wright broke up the prospective teachers in the audience into groups in order to study their teaching style, as well as try and pass on any lessons they could to those who were about to enter the teaching field.

Safari said there is a “distant and professional relationship” in European teaching, but the most rewarding part of her job is connecting with her students, and that she had a special empathy she didn’t think her European influences had.

An audience member asked Safari if she had any advice for future teachers.

“You should find your own passion and combine that with a passion for teaching,” Safari said. “Don’t think that you are not important. Don’t give up. It takes time.”


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