Spotlight: Kimberly Moreno (NJ '15)January 25, 2016
Kimberly Moreno (NJ '15) loves her prep periods, when students drop in for "real talk" about their goals and dreams. She received her Milken Educator Award at Union City High School on October 13, 2015.
Milken Family Foundation: How did you end up in education?
Kimberly Moreno: Originally I was on a pre-med track in college, because I always knew I wanted to be someone who made a difference. I was a biology major and part of a wonderful health science program at Montclair State University. As I began my senior year of college I participated in a co-op with an orthopedic surgeon: I worked in the office, went into surgeries, and shadowed the doctor very closely. This was when I had my "aha" moment. I realized I wanted to inspire people in a different way: I wanted to lead and empower the next generation of health care professionals. I believed that I could make much more of a difference if I became an educator who focused on creating future health professionals. I have had so many students go on to do amazing things that I truly see the difference I make in their lives each day.
MFF: Who was your own most memorable teacher?
Kimberly: My first-grade teacher, Mrs. Maryann Marren, was so passionate and creative. She provided me with the background and knowledge that I could be whatever I wanted to be "when I grew up." My high school biology teacher, Ms. Orestra Ferrito, was such a fountain of knowledge and truly inspired my curiosity and love of the sciences. When I was a student at Montclair State University, Dr. Scott Kight was my Biology 2 professor, and his lectures were dynamic and interesting each and every day. Each one of these teachers made a significant impact on my academic career by inspiring me and demonstrating that if I worked hard I could truly achieve success, no matter my path.
MFF: Tell us about your first year of teaching.
Kimberly: It was eye-opening. I was an alternate route teacher and working on my master's, so there was definitely a learning curve. The most important thing I learned from my students is that we, as educators, must wear so many hats — role model, parent, counselor, coach. I learned that before I can focus on my lesson plans I need to make sure my students feel safe and comfortable. I also learned that sometimes it's okay to stray from the lesson plan and have a "real talk" session about life, careers, choices. The students need an outlet, and it's my job to help them see their true potential.
MFF: A student tells you he/she is thinking about a career in education. How do you convince him/her?
Kimberly: That a career in education all comes down to passion. You have to wake up each day ready to inspire and change your entire plan in the blink of an eye. I would explain that education is not a typical 7-to-3 job and comes with hard work, but it's by far one of the most rewarding careers one can choose.
MFF: What impact did your Milken Educator Award presentation have on students at your school?
Kimberly: It showed students that with hard work comes reward, and that in each profession you can be recognized for your achievements.
MFF: What’s your favorite time of the school day?
Kimberly: It may be ironic to say this, but I enjoy my prep periods. That's because I am never alone during a prep period. My students come to me for extra help or "real talk." These periods are when I learn the most about my students. I talk with them about their career goals, dreams and aspirations. They tell me about their family lives and ask my advice on different situations, like college. That's when I truly feel like I can inspire them and make a difference.
MFF: If someone gave you a million dollars to use in your classroom/school, what would you do with it?
Kimberly: I would love to create a health science wing and expand the CTE [Career and Technical Education] program. Health care careers are expanding, and giving my students any edge over the competition means I've prepared them to the best of my ability. I'd like to have different tracks to expose students to various health care careers. Also, I would love to expand our post-secondary articulation agreements and include medical assisting, nursing assisting, patient care technician, medical office or coding, as well as create an EMT cohort to go into a paramedic program. As for my own classroom, I would love to build a simulation ambulance and have simulation manikins so my students can have more practical hands-on experience.
MFF: When you retire (someday), what do you want former students and colleagues to say about you?
Kimberly: That I inspired them to work hard and achieve their true potential in whatever career they chose, and that I was their role model with my dedication and motivation to continue my education and constantly drive them towards success.
MFF: If you hadn’t chosen a career in education, what would you be doing right now?
Kimberly: Maybe I would have continued in health care, but I believe I would have eventually gone into teaching, maybe at a medical school or other health professions school.
MFF: Finish this sentence: "I know I’m succeeding as an educator when…"
Kimberly: "...my students have that 'aha' moment in class and grasp the topic of the lesson...my students feel comfortable enough to come during a prep period to ask questions or just talk...my students reach out to me after graduation and say 'I was prepared because of you.' "
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