Mater Dei Prep’s teachers not only prioritize education but also the relationships they build with their students during the learning process.
And each has come to teaching along a different path, none more so than Dr. Jean Nichols-Kovacs, head of the school’s Health Science Career PREParation track which partners with Rutgers University for Mater Dei Prep’s dual-enrollment program.
Dr. Kovacs spent the beginning of her career as a licensed Chiropractor, however she entered teaching as a second career after watching the public-school system fall short for her son who is dyslexic. She supported his learning style and helped him grasp topics he once felt were beyond his reach. While helping her son reach his full potential, she realized she could “impact the education of other children,” she said.
She earned her teaching certificate at Georgian Court University (GCU) in May 2019. She now holds a certification in K-12 biology, as well as an additional certification for teaching students with disabilities. Prior to joining Mater Dei Prep, Dr. Kovacs taught numerous high school biology courses in Ocean County, one of which consisted of 10 students classified with various learning disabilities. Her acquired certifications from GCU allowed her to modify her lessons to accommodate different learning styles in her courses, a technique she strongly believes matters in the classroom.
Dr. Kovacs appreciates that not every student learns or receives information the same way, so with that in mind she focuses her teaching on the individual and on acceptance. She believes “every student possesses the innate ability to learn and be successful, but how we measure that success can vary by learner.”
She also feels it is her job to prepare young people for success after high school.
To do this, Dr. Kovacs acts as a “guide” to her students, while “imparting knowledge that allows the student to grow intellectually, socially and globally.” She also believes in offering students options to enhance learning and motivates her students to receive college credits while still enrolled in high school.
After a rigorous credentialing process, Dr. Kovacs was approved by Rutgers University to teach in their Health Science Careers Program. Mater Dei Prep partners with that program and created the Health Science Career PREParation Track, led by Dr. Kovacs.
Classes offered within the Health Science track at Mater Dei Prep, directly mirror corresponding classes at Rutgers University. Class materials, textbooks, curriculum, and final exams are identical to those administered at the college itself. “Mater Dei students are expected to adhere to the college honor code and are held to a higher standard in the classroom”, Dr. Kovacs says. By teaching these courses and enforcing college level work ethic to her students, the opportunity she provides for them is an honor.
Dr. Kovacs incorporates these points into her classroom every day, even in her current virtual learning setting.
“As an educator, I strive to create an atmosphere that is safe, supportive and promotes collaboration among peers,” she said. And her energy, passion and love for educating are evident in her teaching.
Teaching at Mater Dei Prep “has been a wonderful experience.” Dr. Kovacs said.
“I look forward to seeing my kids every day while feeling a sense of pride watching them grow and mature.”
She wants her students to feel comfortable enough to contact her when questions or needs arise. “My students and I have shared learning, laughter, frustration, and even tears along the way,” she said. “I cherish the learning, the hugs, the smiles, the notes they left on my board, and the times they stopped in my classroom just to say ‘Hi.’”