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Cliffside Park woman overcomes hurdles, named NJ child care group’s Teacher of the Year

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

SHOUT OUT: Before her father died, Krystle Sanchez of Cliffside Park promised him that she’d make the high school honor roll. Not only did she fulfill his wish — Sanchez overcame a learning disability to graduate college and be honored this past weekend as the New Jersey Child Care Association Teacher of the Year.

Sanchez, who attended her hometown’s school system K-12, “had struggles with learning and was evaluated and diagnosed with auditory processing difficulties,” said her mother, Mary Sanchez. “It affected her emotionally, educationally and somewhat socially.”

Her parents never gave up, however — and neither did she.

Her father was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer her freshman year, but Sanchez stuck with her studies, was a cheerleader and helped her mom with her then-5-year-old brother.

Sanchez’s father took a turn for the worse her senior year. So she wrote him a letter promising to become an honor roll student if he kept fighting, her mother said.

“They made the deal and both of them kept it,” the elder Sanchez said.

Bedridden, her father was unable to attend her graduation. He died in August 2006.

Sanchez got an associates degree from Bergen Community College and her bachelors from Montclair State, where she is taking continuing education courses.

Meantime, “Miss Krystle” continues to help her mother with her three siblings while working as a pre-K teacher at Little Scholars in Guttenberg. She also mentors children and babysits, her mother said.

Sanchez said she learned from the words of a former professor who told her: “You have to get them to love before they can think.”

“Every time I sit down to make a lesson plan, I not only correlate a lession to Ne Jersey Pre-K standards,” she wrote. “I also find ways to make the children discover a connection to appreciate the topic.”

Sanchez said she believes in comparing children against their own work and not each other. She also emphasizes fun in teaching — for instance, having children create their own penguin art projects intead of using “perfect” construction-paper cutouts.

She said she does this by showing the children books, photos and videos of penguins before giving them the raw materials to create with.

“It is valuable as an educator to demonstrate incredible patience, enthusiasm and a strong dedication in your field to encourage your students to be successful leaders of their generation,” Sanchez wrote.

“I believe that every child has the ability to succeed,” she added. “It is that belief which drives my passion.”

For her “outstanding achievements,” the non-profit NJCCA — which provides professional development, support and guidance to child-care centers in New Jersey — honored Sanchez as its Teacher of the Year during a conference this weekend at Rutgers.

“Krystle is the perfect example of never giving up, no matter how many obstacles get in her way,” her mother said. “Hard work, dedication, focus, dreams and goals are what she thrives on.

“Her daddy is gloating from above.”

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