Jennifer Skomial ’08 has always been fascinated by teachers, so much so that she became one. Skomial, a high school Career and Technical Education teacher at Morris County School of Technology, was named the 2018-2019 New Jersey State Teacher of the Year by the State Department of Education. For the past ten years, she has been teaching at Morris County School of Technology serving as a Vocational teacher and English teacher.
Skomial vividly remembers her childhood being filled with made up lesson plans, chalkboards, and even bribing her younger brother to act as a student. As she transitioned to adolescence, her interest to become a teacher grew stronger and stronger. Whether it was babysitting, tutoring, or volunteering as a Sunday school teacher, she sought out opportunities to work with children. In high school, Skomial spent her last two years heavily involved in the Child Related Careers program at Morris County School of Technology in Denville, N.J. It was there where she had her first exposure to lesson planning and teaching a real preschool class.
In 2008, Skomial earned her bachelor’s degree in English-Secondary Education from Montclair State University. As a college student, she further enhanced the skills she obtained from her high school program and continued to gain experience working with children. She was an active member of Kappa Delta Pi, an International Honor Society in Education. Her undergraduate career consisted of student teaching at Costley Middle School in East Orange, N.J. Skomial’s student teaching experience proved to be successful as she was hired, right after graduation, by the school to continue teaching sixth grade English Language Arts. “It was a great transition since I was already familiar with the school, students, and staff,” says Skomial.
There are two professors that left a mark on Skomial’s academic career. Dr. Nicosia provided her with real-world experiences that she would eventually have as an English educator. As she puts it, “we developed lesson plans and created projects that emulated what I would one day do as an English teacher.” Dr. Keiser was another professor that inspired her as a future educator. “He was always so engaging when he spoke of his time as a public school teacher and it was evident how dedicated he is to education,” says Skomial.
If there’s something that she remembers the most as an undergraduate, it’s the English Praxis. Skomial vividly recalls the time she learned that she and her friend, Dominique, had passed. “We couldn’t believe the great news! One more step toward becoming teachers had been checked off our lists,” says Skomial. Over the years, their love for teaching has brought the two together. “We’ve stayed friends ever since and have had the pleasure of experiencing accomplishments, achievements, or accolades”.
Her advice for current undergraduates at Montclair State? Once you identify possible career paths of interest, learn as much as you can about them. “Take as much time as you can to investigate the career path you’re looking to go into – talk with people in that field, shadow someone, and do as much research beforehand,” says Skomial.