East Orange educator nominated for national Teacher of the Year Award

EAST ORANGE, NJ — Theresa Maughan, a social studies teacher at East Orange STEM Academy and a 2021 Essex County Teacher of the Year Award finalist, has also been nominated for the Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year Award in the senior division of the National History Day national contest. The award is sponsored by Behring in recognition of the pivotal role teachers play in the lives of young scholars.

Each of the 58 National History Day affiliates may nominate one high school teacher for this award, and Maughan is the senior division nominee from New Jersey. Every nominee for the $10,000 award is a teacher who demonstrates a commitment to engaging students in historical learning through innovative use of primary sources, implementation of active learning strategies to foster historical thinking skills and participation in the National History Day Contest. All nominees will receive $500 as a result of their nominations.

With a career that has spanned more than 33 years, Maughan’s commitment to cultivating young historians is filled with a zeal that transcends the classroom. Maughan has been involved with National History Day since 2012, when she served as a mentor to a scholar who was not only a 2012-2013 state contest qualifier, but the bronze medal winner of the 2012-2013 National History Day Contest in the senior individual performance category. 

In her first year of participating as a National History Day mentor, Maughan’s scholars completed projects that were selected as state and national contest qualifiers. Since then, Maughan’s dedication to National History Day has surpassed the role of a mentor to becoming a lead judge at the New Jersey History Day regional and state contests, and she has mentored a total of 11 projects that were state and/or national qualifiers. 

In addition to National History Day, Maughan continues to fuel her passion as a history educator by continuous learning through professional development. Since 2013, Maughan has spent a portion of each summer attending the New Jersey Amistad Commission’s Summer Curriculum Institute. The aim of the institute is to teach additional methodological and pedagogical techniques, while looking at special topics in history in order to fulfill the mandate of the Amistad Bill, which became law in 2002 and requires N.J. schools to infuse African American history into the K-12 social studies curriculum. 

“The Amistad Commission is thrilled to congratulate Theresa Maughan, an East Orange educator who is a longstanding Amistad Scholar and exemplary teacher. We are ecstatic but not surprised by this phenomenal recognition as a nominee for History Day Teacher of the Year,” said Stephanie James-Harris, who has served as the executive director of the Amistad Commission since 2005. “For many years, I have watched Mrs. Maughan eloquently expand and reframe students’ understanding of our collective contributions to history. Her teaching goes beyond the confines of the schoolhouse and she is an educational exemplar on guiding student-led inquiry. Mrs. Maughan is a passionate educator who seeks to be a lifelong learner — attending Amistad Curriculum Institutes for Educators and numerous professional developments for more than 10 years, all in the effort to discover new research and resources that would enliven her classroom discussions. She always seeks to bring back and incorporate new and diverse historical content and innovative teaching methods while opening herself up to challenging her own ideas about history. 

“As an educator she demonstrates a genuine interest in and concern for students and she has the innate ability to convey a love and appreciation of history in all her interactions,” she continued. “Mrs. Maughan uses teaching strategies that birth students’ historical thinking skills and expands student engagement; in her presence,student voices are amplified and encouraged. Her students’ hypotheses frame their intellectual thoughts, personal opinions and their creative research aspirations that match the modalities of their unique gifts and talents. This has led to many award-winning History Day submissions from East Orange students over the last few years. Mrs. Maughan cultivates an expectation of excellence from everyone, and has a core belief that her role is to help students uncover the past rather than cover it. Her rich curriculum content introduces many primary sources to encourage the students of East Orange to stretch themselves as they engage in further research and participate in N.J. History Day. For these reasons, it goes without question that Mrs. Theresa Maughan deserves this recognition and many more.”

“Mrs. Maughan is a dedicated teacher who is committed to building relationships with students, which is seen in the way that she enhances the curriculum to ensure that it’s culturally responsive,” East Orange Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Anita Champagne said. “Mrs. Maughan ensures that the curriculum is relevant to their needs, and it’s through these relationships that students are successful, which makes it clear why she’s at this moment in her life right now as a successful teacher.”

“Mrs. Maughan’s personal view of student achievement extends far beyond her classroom. She sees all students at STEM Academy as future young leaders of this nation,” East Orange Superintendent of Schools AbdulSaleem Hasan said. “Mrs. Maughan accomplishes this by modeling highly effective examples of the Connected Action Roadmap initiatives with a center focus on student learning. She truly values a systematic approach to strengthening teaching, leading and learning. She also mentors new teachers by enabling them to observe her Danielson-aligned instruction, effective classroom management and positive character development.”

Maughan’s quest for historical knowledge continues. As a self-proclaimed history geek, she frequently attends seminars sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute and is currently working on a second master’s degree. 

“Mrs. Maughan is a passionate, meticulous and outstanding educator,” said Shea Richardson, East Orange supervisor of social studies. “Her scholars have engaged in every historical initiative, panel discussion or contest sponsored by the district. She believes in the power of historical inquiry, and creating authentic and innovative learning opportunities that enable our scholars to draw parallels from the past to the present, in hopes of using their historical knowledge and activism to make this world and their community a better place. I am truly thankful for Mrs. Maughan’s dedication to historical scholarship, and most importantly, to her scholars.”