By Daniel Winner | AC JosepH Media Correspondent
HAMMONTON — Last month, Front Runner New Jersey covered the annual Puerto Rican Festival in Hammonton and met Cindy Scardilli, a long-time member of the Puerto Rican Civic Association and daughter of President Edwin Negroni.
The current first-grade teacher at Hammonton Early Childhood Education Center instructs her students not from some educational concepts she learned in college, but from her own personal experience from being right where her students were when she was a child.
Scardilli was born and raised in Puerto Rico before moving to Hammonton with her parents in her childhood. She started 2nd grade in 2001 and graduated from Hammonton High School in 2012. From there, she attended Stockton University and received her degree in criminal justice and childhood studies.
“Originally, I wanted to go for criminal investigation,” said Scardilli. “I took a course called ‘Childhood and Crime’ and I completely changed the direction of what I wanted to do with my degree, which was to work with students in the system who had mental health issues.”
After graduation, Scardilli worked with different agencies in New Jersey, providing at-home services for troubled youth, specifically those who were already caught up in the judiciary court system.
“I did that for about six or seven years,” she said. “I became pregnant with my daughter, and by then I was supervisor for some of these cases. With the behavioral system, I would make my own schedule. Oftentimes, I wouldn’t be able to see the children until after they were home from school.”
“Scheduling was difficult,” Scardilli continued. “So I said, ‘Well let me take a break from this, maybe until my daughter is older and I find something else.’ That was until my dad let me know that they were looking for bilingual paraprofessionals here in the district. I said, ‘Alright, let me do that and see where it lands.’ I ended up working with the same teacher for three years in 1st grade as her bilingual-bicultural instructional aid.”
During her first year teaching, the other teacher approached her and asked, “Why have you never thought of being a teacher?” Scardilli answered, “I don’t know. I never thought about it.”
But she recalled genuinely enjoying her job in education and took her colleague’s words to heart.
She is now enrolled at Fairleigh Dickinson University in the hopes of getting an MAT (Master of Arts in Teaching) degree in secondary education, which includes middle school and high school. Upon completion, she will be fully certified to teach throughout the state of New Jersey.
Scardilli currently holds a CE (Certificate of Eligibility) in precative therapy and education, which allows her to seek and accept employment at New Jersey public schools that require certification.
For the past two years, Scardelli has taken full advantage of her certification, working with first grade students as a teacher in RTI (Response to Intervention) and ESL (English as a Second Language).
“This year, I’m pulling out students who have been mainstreamed, which means they passed the required state testing to exit out of the ESL program,” explained Scardilli. “However, we still provide them with that ESL support. We don’t just let them go.
“That’s really what I’m doing. I’m coming into their classrooms and just making sure I push them a little more, just so that next year when I go into second grade, we’ll be ready to go.”
On Sept. 15, Scardilli and her class began learning about Hispanic Heritage Month. “Me and my students have a lot in common,” Scardilli said. Most of her students come from Spanish-speaking households. Hammonton has been home to several migrant farmworker families, many of whom come from Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Daniel Winner has a double major in Religious Studies and Japanese from Penn State University and has traveled internationally to the Far East on several occasions. His insights on Buddhism and Asian culture give a unique view of historical and modern trends. He will be serving as a contributor for Front Runner New Jersey.
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