HMS Educators of the Year 2024

HMS Educators of the Year!
Posted on 01/15/2024

Congratulations to our HMS Teacher of the Year Mrs. Jennifer Puritz, Teacher of Health & Physical Education and HMS Educational Services Professional of the Year Mrs. Taysha Gateau-Barrera, Library-Media Specialist.


The NJ Governor's Educator of the Year program recognizes the complex and challenging work of teachers and educational services professionals who have gone above and beyond in their dedication and service to New Jersey’s students in our public schools.


Jennifer Puritz
Mrs. Jennifer Puritz has been a Health and Physical Education teacher at Hillsborough Middle School for 22 years.  

 In the gym, Mrs. Puritz strives to create a comfortable space where students feel confident participating in a variety of activities.  Oftentimes, PE can be an intimidating place but with her humor and modifications to activities, students are consistently having a great physical and social experience in her class. With the recent pandemic interfering with a significant amount of social opportunities, Mrs. Puritz understands the importance of PE as a social part of her student’s day and makes the most of their 40 minutes in that social space by stressing the importance of winning and losing gracefully and problem solving when there is a disagreement.  

 Due to the sensitive nature of the 8th grade health curriculum, it is imperative to keep up with the changing social climate and adapt lessons appropriate for the adolescent audience.  In collaboration with her department colleagues, Mrs. Puritz is constantly adjusting health lessons to create a comfortable environment in the health room where students feel confident sharing their thoughts on several controversial topics.

 Outside of the classroom, Mrs. Puritz is a very active member of the school and community.  She has been the varsity Field Hockey coach for the last 7 years and led the team to a state championship in 2022.  She is also co-lead of the 8th grade class and organizes the end of year Gettysburg/Hershey trip for all 8th grade students.  Along with those responsibilities, Mrs. Puritz also serves as the Assistant Site Supervisor for spring sports at HMS, is a member of the school Wellness Committee and facilitates the HMS Holiday party with her colleagues.  

 Mrs. Puritz is an enthusiastic, hard-working and positive member of Hillsborough Middle School.


Taysha Gateau-Barrera

Taysha Gateau-Barrera is the Library Media Specialist at Hillsborough Middle School. With a career that spans back to 2002 within Hillsborough Schools, Ms. Gateau-Barrera has continuously demonstrated an unwavering dedication to education.

 As the Library Media Specialist at HMS, she has redefined the role by transforming library spaces into a dynamic hub of learning and collaboration. She has created a supportive, welcoming environment with flexible learning spaces that encourage collaboration among students. Ms. Gateau-Barrera's physical library redesign has intentionally made it easier for students to navigate the library independently, fostering a sense of ownership and autonomy in their learning journey. By helping students navigate and utilize library technologies effectively, she helps students to leverage library resources and technology, empowering them to evaluate and effectively use information, promoting literacy and creating a true community of readers. She also leads a robust student volunteer program, encouraging students to contribute to the school community and help make the library a more welcoming, safe space for all.

 Collaboration is at the heart of Ms. Gateau-Barrera's approach. She works closely with teachers to create engaging learning experiences tailored to meet the individual information needs of students. In collaboration with the public librarian, she ensures that students have access to resources beyond the Middle School, broadening their horizons and fostering a lifelong love for reading. 

 Her commitment to education is not only marked by her innovative contributions within the library but also by her broader impact on the educational community. Beyond her role as a Library Media Specialist, her influence extends to mentoring pre and in-service librarians. Her leadership is further exemplified through her participation in the HMS School Climate Committee, co-chairmanship of the R.E.B.E.L. peer leadership group, and the District Mentoring Committee.