New Jersey Department of Education

2020 Honorees

Taylor Matyas

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Taylor Matyas prioritizes connection and relationship-building in Freehold Township School District, with both the fourth graders she taught until this year and the teachers she now works with. An instructional coach at Laura Donovan Elementary School in Freehold, New Jersey, Matyas mentors and supports Donovan’s teachers through modeling, coaching and professional development. Focused on improving and accelerating student achievement through quality curriculum and instruction, she observes in classrooms, collaborates with staff on collecting and analyzing data, researches best practices and contributes to curriculum.

When she taught at nearby Joseph J. Catena School, remote learning during the pandemic brought challenges, but Matyas used technology to make both academic and social-emotional learning seamless and fun. She arranged virtual lunch tables, reading circles and writing discussion groups using Zoom breakout rooms. Family members, pets and beloved stuffed animals joined the class’s online morning meetings and weekly dance parties. Students “visited” a turtle hospital while studying animals and biomes during one of Matyas’ virtual field trips. Every Friday, Matyas asked students to submit Flipgrid videos reflecting on successes for the past week and setting goals for the days ahead. Matyas’ students trust her and are eager to be their best selves in her class; it’s no surprise that they demonstrated consistent growth and top district and state assessment results in ELA and math.

Matyas takes a data-based, learning-driven approach, blending whole-group, small group and individualized instruction across each day. In her classroom, students led their own learning using data from lessons and formative assessments, as well as digital content providers like Freckle, Achieve3000 and NoRedInk. Effective best practices, including mini-lessons, direct instruction, reading and writing workshops, guided reading and math, and cooperative groups helped ensure engagement. Matyas used various modes of instruction and learning experiences to meet students’ needs through targeted intervention and enrichment, including digital content providers, adaptive learning programs and project-based learning. During “Genius Hour,” students researched and pursued subjects that resonated and inspired them: ship design, fashion, video production, history. Pupils used this time to create prosthetic limbs, teach themselves to play musical instruments, and design skateboards.

A former student in the district herself, Matyas hosted pre-certification teachers in her class and opened her doors to staff from Freehold Township and other districts. On the district curriculum team, Matyas has  designed integrated ELA units and project-based learning cross-curricular units that push students to think critically, collect and analyze information, ask questions, and tackle real-world issues. She served on Catena’s STEAM committee, planning design challenges, and demonstrating robots, 3D printers and green screen technology. Matyas serves on the district data team and technology vetting committee. As the district   transitioned to standards-based reporting, Matyas designed standards-tracking protocols and parent communication tools, which are now used across Freehold Township. At district EdCamp days, Matyas facilitated professional development on blended learning, Freckle Math, personalized learning plans and student learning portfolios. In cooperation with High Point University, she delivered a webinar to North Carolina teachers on blended learning, using print and video examples from her classroom practices.

At Catena, Matyas led extracurricular programs before and after school, including study skills, Lego and computer clubs, and the school news broadcast, helping students plan scripts, take photos, and record and edit weekly programs. In her popular Elementary Entrepreneurs program, third-, fourth- and fifth graders designed products to sell at a holiday event, raising more than $2,300 for a local pediatric cancer organization, in memory of a Catena student who had passed away a few months earlier.

Matyas earned a bachelor’s in elementary and special education in 2013 from University of Delaware.

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