Get to know The Teacher of Year 2019-2020!

Madison Sondermeyer, Out and About

Ms. Gwinnett’s “Quick 5” (Madison Sondermeyer)

  Who do we know that loves the Giants and the Yankees, loves her dogs and chicken wings, and can now add Teacher of the Year to the list? It’s none other than your favorite, Ms. Gwinnett, West Milford High School’s 2019-2020 Teacher of the Year.  She is more known as “G”, which is her nickname. 

  Even though she is well-known as a soccer and softball coach and is a physical education teacher here, G did not set out to be a teacher at first at all. She had wanted to be a Physical Therapist or an Athletic trainer, but after she felt her courses had been repetitive, she wanted to try something different and enrolled in an education class. She fell in love with the idea of working with kids and teaching them about more than just sports. Never one to be on the sidelines, G has always stayed active and wanted to blend this passion with her career,  “I want to be the person who teaches students good decision making [in life],” she says. G wants them to learn the rules of tennis, but also that it is important “to pick up a tennis racket and go play for fun [and] to stay healthy.”  In this way, G is able to share the health and nutrition aspects of physical fitness as well, not just the activities. She believes the best thing about being a teacher is passing on fitness and activities and the right way to play them. That way, students can be able to play these sports outside of school. Or they could even teach other people how to play.

  Mike Blakely, a former teacher at the school, once told Ms. Gwinnett, “You have to have fun, but be firm, while at the same time loving your job.” She thanks him, and says that his advice sticks with her to this day. She was also asked to name something that nobody told her about teaching. Gwinnett said, “No one tells you that you can’t teach classroom management; it’s just something you have or you don’t [have]. You can’t expect everyone to know what to do. It’s also about how much respect people give you– and discipline.” G says that if you respect her, she respects you, “I never yell, because my relationship with my students is usually neutral, with the respect going both ways; but if I ever yell, people know to stop immediately.” She noted that you never fully know what to expect in the classroom because all classes are different.  

  I asked Gwinnett what advice she would give to her past and future self; knowing what advice an award winning teacher would give might help someone else with his or her success. Gwinnett’s response to what she would tell her past self is, “No class could ever prepare you for what to expect [in teaching], and I wish I knew then what I know now”. The message to her future self is: “Have fun! You have to let things go!  Not everything will go the right way or the way you plan it.” Gwinnett’s goal is to be remembered as a teacher who prepared her students not just for sports, but for life decisions as well. “It’s not all about sports, but good decision making for the future — to determine who you will become.” 

G has a special connection with her team and her students that makes them comfortable to go to her when they need advice or just need to talk to someone. Gwinnett is in her ninth season as the WMHS varsity softball coach, but has been involved with softball for 20 years, which she admits is her favorite sport of all to coach. She now coaches JV soccer, but she was the varsity soccer coach for 12 years and she has previously coached freshman basketball.