When William “Chip” Junker became president of the Barnegat Education Association in Ocean County back in 2015, he knew he wanted to do something positive for his members and school community.
“I went through Barnegat Schools so I know we have a long history of dedicated and talented staff members,” he said. “We have schools named after people who worked in them, so I thought why not start a Barnegat Hall of Fame so we can recognize the contributions of more staff members?”
Junker approached Superintendent Dr. Brian Latwis about his idea.
“Dr. Latwis was on board right away,” he recalled. “He’s not only been supportive, but before COVID we were working on ways to expand our Hall of Fame ceremony to a much larger event. We talked about incorporating some of the other district awards and recognizing teachers of the year in an extensive, uplifting community event.”
Their inaugural Barnegat Hall of Fame Induction ceremony in 2019 included a dessert reception for the inductees and their families. The Hall of Fame Class included:
Like everything else in 2020, COVID presented some challenges to the last ceremony.
“In November, we rented a tent and held the event outside,” said Junker. “We had grab-and-go hors d’oeuvres and tried to make it as special as we could under the circumstances.”
Class of 2020 inductees included two retirees from Lillian M. Dunfee School. Maria Puorro who taught for 38 years and was known for her ability to differentiate instruction so that all of her students could achieve. As a staff member, she was not only a great teacher and role model but a generous colleague. While Mario Sammarco served as a dedicated custodian for 32 years, he is best known for his big smile, sense of humor, and the positive attitude he brought to school each day. He brought joy to his students and was always willing to lend a helping hand.
The association forged relationships with local businesses to provide special benefits for BEA members and these businesses helped sponsor of the Hall of Fame events.
“Irene Netzel at Glenn Denning Mortgage Corporation and retirement planner Gary Brown with NEA have been HUGE helping to sponsor our Hall of Fame Events,” added Junker. “Joe Dringus who owns Sweet Jenny’s here Barnegat has also been a great partner.”
BEA sold T-shirts of with an image of Rosie the Riveter sporting a tattoo of New Jersey as a fundraiser.
Community members, parents, graduates, staff and students are all encouraged to nominate staff members, coaches, or volunteers who have either retired or been separated from the district for at least one year. Submissions are accepted through the district website and judged by a panel using a rubric.
“As school employees, what we do isn’t always tangible,” added Junker. “These awards show our members that what they do matters.”