Trenton, NJ – The New Jersey Department of Education today announced that Christine Girtain, a Science Teacher and the Director of Authentic Science Research at Toms River High School North and South, has been named the 2022-2023 New Jersey State Teacher of the Year.
Christine, a graduate of Toms River Schools herself, has been teaching science for 28 years, including Earth Science, Biology, and Authentic Science Research. The Authentic Science Research program at the Toms River Regional School District is a three-year elective program that allows students to pursue and conduct independent research on a specific science topic that interests them. As the director, she has guided student projects ranging from the effects of fruit seed extracts on bacteria, to bioengineering E. coli. Her students have connected with Penn State researchers to learn about microbes that may block the spread of the Dengue and Zika viruses, and they have been to an immersive research program in the rainforests of Costa Rica.
Christine credits her parents with instilling a love of learning and a sense of adventure in her and her brother, Paul, who is a history teacher at Toms River High School North – the school where their mother worked as a secretary for years.
Christine’s career path began 32 years ago when, during a teacher shortage, she received a Governor's Teaching Scholarship from Governor Jim Florio. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in biology with a concentration in education from The College of New Jersey, and a master’s degree in earth science instruction and curriculum from Kean University.
She was twice recognized as her school’s Teacher of the Year, and is the New Jersey science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) Pathways 2019 STEM Teacher of the Year. She is also a 2021 state finalist for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. In addition, Christine has brought in more than $185,000 in grant funds to fund student research projects and STEM camps.
Christine and her husband Andy enjoy traveling and visiting Barnegat Bay, and she also enjoys doing ancestry research. She has a daughter, Jamie, and a son, Josh. In her role as State Teacher of the Year, Christine will work with the New Jersey Department of Education and give presentations to colleagues and stakeholders around the State, speak with aspiring teachers, and visit classrooms to advance the teaching profession and inspire interest in the STEM fields. She will also take part in national conferences with other State Teachers of the Year. Christine was one of four finalists for New Jersey State Teacher of the Year. The finalists received the highest scores on their applications and their interviews with a distinguished panel of representatives from the State’s education associations and other stakeholder groups. The other three finalists are: Daryl Detrick, a computer science teacher at Warren Hills Regional High School in the Warren Hills Regional School District, Warren County; Ian Evans, an English teacher at Hillsborough Middle Schools, Hillsborough Township School District, Somerset County; and Leana Malinowsky, a second-grade teacher at Private Nicholas Minue School, Carteret School District, Middlesex County. Additional information can be found on the Governor's Educator of the Year webpage.