Tuckerton, New Jersey,
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Not All Heroes Wear Capes

New Jersey teacher receives annual Exceptional Teacher Award

“Advanced Placement.” Believe it or not, this phrase instills fear in many high school students. They think an Advanced Placement (AP) class is beyond their abilities.

Several years ago, Katherine Poerner, who teaches AP US History, set out to prove to her students they were, indeed, AP ready. She did this in a pretty unique way…

Katherine receiving the Teacher as Hero award.

Halfway through the school year, Katherine revealed to her honors class they had actually been doing AP level work the whole year! The students were amazed at their accomplishments. With a renewed sense of confidence, they agreed to let Katherine make the class fully AP.

For her spirit, dedication, and good-hearted trickery, Katherine was given a special honor. For more than 10 years, State Farm and the National Liberty Museum have recognized exceptional educators with the annual Teacher as Hero Award.

The grand prize, the 2016 Teacher as Hero Award, the Exceptional Teacher Award, was given to Katherine, a Pinelands Regional High School teacher in Tuckerton, NJ,

“What makes Katherine special is the way she opens students’ eyes to the opportunities available to them through self-confidence and hard work,” shared Assistant Principal Darren Hickman. “She does not back down and is not deterred by her students’ initial resistance.”


Katherine recognizes her classroom is a valuable platform to prepare her students for life after high school. She encourages them to immerse themselves in our nation’s government and politics. She exposes her students to different points of view. This is so they will understand the benefits of diversity in politics and the importance of civic engagement.

Pinelands Regional High School and the surrounding community were greatly affected by Hurricane Sandy. A wing of the school has been closed due to water damage and disrepair and is a constant reminder of what the community endured.

Recently, a referendum was proposed to begin the long-awaited repairs to the school. To teach her student’s about the voting process and the importance of civic engagement, Katherine challenged her students to get people to sign “pledge sheets” saying they would vote.

“The challenge generated excitement and interest within the community,” shared Katherine. “The students returned sheets full of committed, engaged voters.”

Some of her students themselves were eligible to vote. Katherine met with them personally to answer any questions they had on where to vote or what to do in the voting booth.

Heroes don’t always wear capes or flashy costumes. In fact, true heroism comes from the acts of ordinary, everyday, caring people who inspire others with their own determination. Inside the classroom and out in the community, Katherine Poerner is a hero to her students.

One of her students says it best, "Mrs. Poerner treats her class as more than just a bunch of students. She treats her class like it is a family, welcoming anyone into it that is willing to learn. She is more than just a teacher. She is an inspiration to the whole class constantly striving for each and every student to do their best.”

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