Initiatives to Support Teachers Already Benefiting Students


A group of Stockton student-teachers are joined by President Joe Bertolino, in front, and HESAA Executive Director David Socolow, right.

Galloway, N.J. — For Ariana Ramirez and Emily Loeb, teachers are so much more than just people handing out worksheets in front of a classroom.

“We are parents in school. We are nurses. We even have to be comedians at times,” said Ramirez, a Stockton University senior who wants to be an elementary school teacher. “You have different learners in class, and you have to address all their needs.”

“They are role models, mentors, and, of course, educators, all wrapped up in one,” said Loeb, a 2023 Stockton graduate who teaches environmental and marine science at Atlantic City High School. “I am able to have such a large impact on the lives of my students.”

But it’s not easy being a teacher, and it’s not necessarily the highest paying job right out of college, which has led to a shortage across the country. Two new programs announced Wednesday in a Stockton classroom by the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA) are trying to help grow the state’s educator workforce.

As part of the New Jersey Teacher Loan Redemption Program, teachers can receive up to $5,000 per year up to a maximum of $20,000 in student loan redemption. The educator has to teach in a pre-K through 12th grade class in either mathematics, science, special education, English as a second language (ESL) and/or career and technical education at one of a select number of schools. The program was expanded this year to include both public and private loans and the application period will close on Feb. 1, 2024.

The other initiative discussed during the news conference was the Student-Teacher Stipend Pilot Program, which starting this fall provided $3,000 stipends to student-teachers during their full-time clinical practice semester. The stipend is designed to offset the rigorous demands of student teaching, which leaves little time for another job and helps future educators with cost-of-living expenses, such as housing and health care.

Stockton President Joe BertolinoStockton President Joe Bertolino speaks at a Nov. 29 news conference on campus about the new New Jersey Teacher Loan Redemption Program and the Student-Teacher Stipend Pilot Program.

“This will help make life more affordable for educators in an effort to grow our state’s K-12 workforce,” said David Socolow, HESAA’s executive director. “These two programs address the challenges of recruiting and retaining teachers. We are tackling the problem both on the front end and on the back end of the education workforce pipeline.”

Stockton President Joe Bertolino, who started his career as a high school teacher, praised the new state programs and added that 37 Stockton student-teachers received the stipend this fall.

"As educators, we recognize the value of strong teachers and the transformative experiences they provide their students each day," he said. "We are pleased to see their importance highlighted by these two programs. The stipends and loan redemption program provide tangible support to Stockton's student teachers as they embark on their teaching careers."

Stockton’s Dean of Education Claudine Keenan added that these new benefits are critical since current and future teachers are being asked to devote more of their talent, time and energy than any previous generation of educators.

“We know that schools are seeing fewer candidates overall, and fewer still at schools where needs are highest,” she said. “Therefore, we are grateful for every supportive measure that is available to continue encouraging new candidates to choose the profession, and for rewarding the teachers who fill these highest needs with financial support.”

Ramirez was one of the 37 Stockton students who received the $3,000 stipend this fall and she plans to take the money and put it right back into her education by returning to Stockton to get her ESL and middle school math certifications. She’s been student-teaching third grade this fall in her hometown of Atlantic City at the Pennsylvania Avenue School and is graduating in December with a degree in Liberal Studies with minors in Disability Studies and Childhood Studies.

Ariana Ramirez and Emily Loeb

Stockton senior Ariana Ramirez, left, is a recent recipient of the $3,000 student-teacher stipend. Stockton graduate Emily Loeb '23 is a teacher at Atlantic City High School and has applied for the loan forgiveness program.

“When I first started applying to colleges, I knew I wanted to stay in the community,” she said adding that her career goal is to return to Atlantic City to teach. “I love Stockton University. They have an amazing teaching program. They’ve made sure we have the experience of being ready to go out there and teach full time.”

Teaching is such a personal career choice for Ramirez, who now lives in Absecon. As a child she just loved being in school.

“It’s not that I didn’t have a good home life, I just loved being surrounded by my friends and teachers,” she said. “It felt like a safe community, as we were one big family.”

That sense of family became even more clear after Superstorm Sandy hit her home in 2012. Ramirez said her family lost nearly everything and two of her teachers were there for her outside of school by supplying blankets and clothes.

“Just seeing the amount of love the teachers provided me, I wanted to give back to my community because I saw the struggles in Atlantic City,” she said. “I know the teachers truly cared about us, and I wanted to be that role model to the kids in Atlantic City who don’t have a lot of things. They need to know that there are people out there, besides your family, that truly care about you.”

-- Story by Mark Melhorn, photos by Susan Allen