BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Danielle Benevento, Bloomfield Middle School seventh-grade mathematics teacher, has been chosen as Bloomfield Teacher of the Year. Benevento teaches math for three classes. Two are inclusive and co-taught with Juan Mendez. The third is a smaller special-education class which she teaches by herself.
She received her certification at York College of Pennsylvania and her master’s from Western Governors University. She has been a Bloomfield teacher since 2005. Voted BMS Teacher of the Year by her school colleagues in December, a district committee selected her for the overall Bloomfield award two weeks ago.
“Along the way, I had high school teachers who taught math differently,” she said of her own approach to instructing. “That sparked my interest. They made it fun; not straight from a book.”
Constantly looking for ways to provide the best learning experience, Benevento believes her teaching methods are innovative and her passion evident.
She is also a BMS team leader and helped to start the Chromebook initiative. She acknowledges that teaching with technology has to be learned. The challenge, she said, is how to use the technology while keeping the content meaningful to students.
“Paper and pencil will never go away,” she said. “We had a lot of training on how to use the Chromebook and make learning collaborative. We want the students to talk about math. The teacher is the facilitator of the conversation.”
Her classes are divided into groups. If there are 25 students, there will be six groups.
“We don’t jump right into content in September,” she said. “I spend time getting to know the students. When you have that rapport, you have a stronger classroom.”
She gave an example of a math activity she and Mendez devised. It was a lesson to reinforce rates of speed and angle measurements using small, spherical robots called “spheros.”
“The kids write a program to give the robot directions to move,” Benevento said. “We created mazes and had the students experiment with rates of speed and angle measures to navigate through the maze. We decided this was a different way to approach the topic. The conversations the kids were having told us this was an effective activity. They were making real connections.”
Professional development also gives her an opportunity to teach. When she learns a topic, she loves sharing it with her colleagues.
Being honored as Bloomfield Teacher of the Year has been a humbling experience because it was the fulfillment of a dream. A younger sister, Carolyn, was a special-needs student.
“She had a horrible experience in school until she had this one teacher,” she said.
At the time, Benevento was a freshman is Delaware Valley Regional High School, in Frenchtown. Seeing her sister blossom after being taught by this teacher, she said, inspired her to do the same for children.
Benevento will receive her award at the Bloomfield Education Foundation gala on May 3, at the Forest Hills Field Club, in Belleville. As district teacher of the year, she will now be considered for Essex County laurels.