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reps behind Christine during announcement for state teacher of the year
Representatives from the New Jersey Department Education including Educator Recognition Programs Coordinator Nancy Besant, Acting Assistant Commissioner Jorden Schiff, Director Ken Bond, and County Superintendent Charles Muller stand proudly and happily behind Christine Girtain in the High School North media center during the NJDOE's virtual broadcast announcement of the 2022-2023 New Jersey State Teacher of the Year.

District Will Host Pep Rally Monday to Celebrate News

Oct. 12, 2022-- For the first time ever, an Ocean County educator has been named the state’s Teacher of the Year by the New Jersey Department of Education. The 2022 honor has been bestowed upon Christine Girtain, teacher and Authentic Science Research director at Toms River High School South and High School North.

In August, the long-tenured educator had learned she had been named Ocean County’s Teacher of the Year by the NJDOE. From that group of county winners, Girtain was selected for the state’s most distinguished recognition for education.

The New Jersey Department of Education made the announcement during a public virtual broadcast today, and state representatives joined Girtain, her family, friends, and students, and district and school administrators to watch the official announcement and celebrate the news in the media center at High School North. The NJDOE also announced the news on its Facebook page, and issued a press release.

“One of the greatest celebrations that we have in education is naming the New Jersey State Teacher of the Year,” said Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan, Acting Commissioner of Education. “The Teacher of the Year serves as an exemplar of the kinds of dynamic instruction that is occurring in classrooms throughout New Jersey, and Christine truly sets the standard for innovation. The way she ignites an interest in the sciences will benefit her students long after high school. Her students are fortunate to have her as a teacher.”

"The result of her teaching is that students believe anything is possible, and their achievements reflect that. What more can you ask from a teacher?" - Superintendent Michael Citta

This remarkable achievement, albeit in line with numerous awards Girtain has received over the years, is the culmination of an incredible career, a signature moment for an educator known, respected, and admired by all. 

“Christine Girtain personifies what it means to be a teacher here in Ocean County and Toms River, which is student-focused and with a passion to develop our children into lifelong learners,” said Superintendent Michael Citta, who has known Girtain for years and who worked alongside her while principal of High School South from 2018-2022. “Ms. Girtain operates without physical or intellectual boundaries—she has organized national and international science-based trips, and her educational approach and sheer personality challenge her students and colleagues to think beyond the ordinary. The result of her teaching is that students believe anything is possible, and their achievements reflect that. What more can you ask from a teacher? Ms. Girtain is an immense source of pride for this county, community, and me personally.”

The student-focused Girtain has not allowed the flurry of recent attention to shift that focus, and has spent the early part of the school year promoting innovative professional development, seeking funding and, of course, studying DNA. As she finds herself back in the spotlight as the state’s education ambassador, Girtain has expressed excitement while acknowledging the field of talented educators who make Toms River and New Jersey a great place to teach.

Proud Superintendent Mike Citta

Proud Superintendent: Michael Citta smiles as Christine Girtain's acceptance video plays in the background at the HSN media center Oct. 12.

“I am excited to represent Toms River and Ocean County as the 2022-2023 NJ State Teacher of the Year,” Girtain said. “New Jersey is ranked highly nationally because of the great school districts we have across the state, and all the people who help make education function.”

For 27 years, Christine Girtain has taught science at Toms River Regional Schools. A High School North graduate herself, and former student athlete, she has made it her life’s work to teach others while constantly seeking to expand her own knowledge of science, the environment, technology, and anything else she finds interesting, which is almost everything. Her efforts frequently and reliably transcend the classroom and traditional teacher responsibilities, and as such she’s become something of an expert in securing funding, hosting field trips, forging partnerships with agencies of higher education and, of course, the subject matter itself.

“I love networking different interest groups together, using their individual strengths to combine for a more robust, broader reach,” she said. “Sustainable growth, both mental and physical, means that as we grow we meet our needs without compromising the needs of future generations.”

Superintendent Citta and the district team is making plans to celebrate the momentous achievement with a pep rally at RWJBarnabas Health Arena Oct. 17, which will be livestreamed. At the event, students from North and South will lead the cheers, those who have been impacted by Girtain’s teaching will speak, and the New Jersey Education Association will present her with a car to use for a full year. Certainly, she will have plenty of places to go as the state's education ambassador, including trips, trainings, and one special venture down to Washington, D.C. to meet the President of the United States.

In the meantime, the praise pouring in from colleagues, peers, and students has been effusive and filled with pride in Girtain’s accomplishment. It’s clear that everyone who knows her well knows equally well that the New Jersey Department of Education nailed this one.

“Christine Girtain is a mosaic of inspiration as an educator, an innovator and simply a genuine person who makes a difference in our community,” said High School South Principal Kevin Raylman. “She creates a scaffolding of opportunities that enable individual students the chance to accomplish great things. Ms. Girtain has established an academic structure that pushes students and enables them to realize their untapped potential. Additionally, her educational presence impacts her colleagues as she both inspires and encourages the professionals around her. Whether it is an intense student-driven experiment or through something as mundane as a collegial conversation in the hallway, Ms. Girtain is making a positive and profound change."

“We are truly proud to have the good fortune to grow and learn from her on a daily basis.”

Watch TRSTV's video tribute to Christine Girtain: