“Working as a teacher in a special services school district has always been a dream of mine.”  Rachel Krementz has long known what she wanted to do with her life, and she followed her calling to the Cape May County Special Services School District’s Ocean Academy, where she teaches sixth and seventh grade children on the autism spectrum. Her passion for the work has resulted in one thing she didn’t plan on: recognition as the 2020/21 Cape May County Teacher of the Year by the NJ Department of Education.

“Finding out that I was named one of this year’s finalists for State Teacher of the Year was completely unfathomable,” said Krementz.  “I am so incredibly honored to represent my district, my county, and the teaching profession.”

Krementz, who is in her ninth year of teaching, was selected for being a fearless advocate for her students and their families. She, like other special education teachers, focuses on teaching students academic, social and emotional skills that help them succeed in the classroom and in life.

“Part of my platform this year as Cape May County Teacher of the Year is to bring awareness to our special services school districts,  not only to highlight the amazing students we work with,  but also to shed light on my colleagues and all of the hard work and dedication that goes into making every day a meaningful one.”

For Krementz, teaching special education is much more than a career. It truly is her calling. While the job comes with a unique set of challenges, especially during a pandemic, it also comes with great rewards. “The small things that we all take for granted become the biggest accomplishments. Not every day in our world at Cape May Special Services is easy, but watching these kinds of successes makes all the challenging moments worthwhile,” she said. “When you walk around the building and see all of the magic that happens with our special students, you are just in awe and inspired about the learning that is happening around you.”

It’s that kind of “magic” that Krementz is hoping to capture in a series of short videos she is creating with support from Jamie Moscony, assistant superintendent of CMCSSSD. The videos, which will be showcased on the district’s website and Krementz’s social media platforms, will feature staff and students along with their parents, sharing real experiences and breakthroughs that have happened thanks to the dedicated and innovative professionals who work as a team and in highly customized spaces within county special services schools.

“I feel as though our special services school districts, as a whole, are not only misunderstood, but they also are not as well-known as our sending districts, and I feel it is my duty to help change that narrative,” said Krementz.  “The more we can shed positive light on our students, staff, and our district, the better.  I also feel as though while I happen to be the individual who has been designated with this honor, I look around our hallways every day and can choose dozens of my colleagues who are just as deserving.”

“We are very proud of Rachel and her Cape May County Teacher of the Year designation,” said Moscony. “She is a strong advocate for her students and ALWAYS goes the extra mile to ensure their success.”

“It’s absolutely wonderful to see Rachel getting this much-deserved attention, as she truly embodies what it is to be a special services educator,” said Dr. Howard Lerner, superintendent of  Bergen County Special Services School District and chair of the New Jersey Joint Council of County Special Services School Districts. “I know she will use this platform to represent us well and help share the strengths of our districts, including the continuum of services offered and the teams of highly qualified and compassionate professionals who dedicate themselves to helping students with special needs reach their greatest potential throughout our state.”