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Drew University Hosts NJFEA Winter 2024 Conference

Welcoming over 350 future educators to campus

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Keynote speaker Joe Nappi addresses the 350 visiting students

January 2024 – Drew University hosted the New Jersey Future Educators Association (NJFEA) Winter 2024 Conference, welcoming over 350 high school students to Drew’s campus for a day of education and inspiration. 

This conference, open to official NJFEA members in grades nine–12, is designed to introduce high school students to colleges and universities in the state of New Jersey. They also provide students the opportunity to network with peers and learn from leaders in the field of education. 

The group was welcomed by Executive Director of the Center for Future Educators Jeanne DelColle. “As educators, you make a difference in this world,” she said. “You are working with the changemakers of the future. It is an optimistic profession that impacts all other professions.”

Chair of the Education Department at Drew, Director of the DrewTEACH professional network and Drew Writing Project and Digital Literacies Collaborative Kristen Turner looked towards the future. “You will be leading classrooms of tomorrow,” she said. “You are the generation to take on the future, whatever it holds. Drew is happy to be a place where you can connect, explore, and learn in the here and now—and maybe even in the future!”

Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies Ryan Hinrichs offered the students words of advice. “Education is one of the best ways to change lives and change the world,” he said. “To be a lifelong educator, you need to be a lifelong learner.”

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Assistant Professor of Education Cathryn Devereaux leads students during a breakout session

Joe Nappi, the 2024 NJ State Teacher of the Year, provided the keynote address, “Lessons From a Nightmare Student.” Nappi shared a harrowing true story of his own middle and high school journey that consisted of detentions, suspensions, drugs and alcohol, multiple schools, and legal troubles—all a result of a troubled and misunderstood child without support in the education system. “I was a child in crisis,” he said.

After graduating from high school, his path took an unexpected turn and he considered becoming an educator. Nappi’s goal was to discern how he could do things differently. “How could I reach a kid like me?” he asked.

Through relationship building, Nappi strives to connect with his students who are dealing with difficult situations. “I ask myself, ‘Who am I teaching? Who is this person? What is their story? How can I be the most help to them?’ Understanding what those situations are and making those connections are so valuable,” he said.

The visiting students were able to participate in breakout sessions throughout Drew’s campus, providing the future educators with a taste of Drew’s academic offering. More than 20 Drew faculty members participated in the breakout sessions that ranged in topics from photography, biology, environmental science, education, writing, civic engagement, and much more. 

The event closed with a pre-service panel discussion featuring Drew’s Master of Arts in Education students Natalya Cespedes G’24, Skylar Patricia C’23, G’24. Sarah Perry C’23, G’24, and Alexa Thomas C’23, G’24.

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