West Orange educator named Essex County teacher of the year

Kristen Dunleavy

WEST ORANGE, NJ — Redwood Elementary School special education teacher Kristen Dunleavy has been named the 2022 Essex County Governor’s Educator of the Year recipient. The announcement came Aug. 11 from the New Jersey School Boards Association in partnership with the New Jersey Department of Education.

“Of the 23 districts that comprise public education in Essex County and of the 44 educators who submitted applications, Ms. Dunleavy rose to the top,” interim Superintendent of Schools C. Lauren Schoen said. “Ms. Dunleavy is described by her colleagues as selfless and a true advocate for her students and their families while proudly serving as a special education teacher at Redwood since 2006.”

“I have been serving West Orange students and families for 16 years as a special education teacher. I teach math and English/language arts resource and inclusion classes in grades K-5,” Dunleavy said. 

Dunleavy earned her undergraduate degree in special education and a master’s degree in counseling from The College of New Jersey. She is certified as a supervisor in education and contributes her leadership in various roles that include technology development and creating a thriving schoolwide digital learning environment, according to the district.

“My teaching style is greatly influenced by my background in counseling and social-emotional learning,” Dunleavy said, “and I am also a Google-certified educator that enjoys bringing my lessons to life through the research and incorporation of constantly evolving virtual learning tools.”

Dunleavy explained how her own experiences as a person with a physical disability set her apart from other teachers.

“As a lifelong wheelchair user, I have always known that my physical disability gives me a unique perspective on life and learning,” she said. “I experienced life lessons about perseverance at a very young age, and I am determined to pay it forward to empower future children, especially those who live with physical and learning disabilities. This is what ultimately influenced me to pursue a career in special education, where my representation of disability on the teaching staff serves as another layer of our district’s diversity.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to have spent my entire career at Redwood, thereby fully investing in the success of our school community as it evolves each year,” Dunleavy continued, “and I am truly honored to be named this year’s Essex County teacher of the year. I’m looking forward to representing West Orange with pride. Our district is full of dedicated and talented educators, and I have learned so much from the collaboration of my talented colleagues. We all work passionately to help our students achieve success.”