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July 12, 2013


    It was “Livingston Night” at the Freeholder Meeting
When “Essex County Teacher of the Year” Lucy Lee and Governor’s Award Winners
Lauren Magsaysay and Philip Peker were Congratulated for their Achievements

(Newark, NJ) – During last night’s meeting of the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders held at Livingston Town Hall, the spotlight shone brightly on Livingston High School as the accomplishments of Chinese language teacher Lucy Lee, and students Lauren Magsaysay and Philip Peker, were applauded by the Board.  Freeholder Vice President Patricia Sebold, herself a Livingston resident, sponsored and presented commendations to Lee for being named the “Essex County Teacher of the Year”, and to Magsaysay and Peker for being named recipients of 2013 Governor’s Awards in Arts Education for vocal music and playwriting, respectively.

Freeholder Vice President Patricia Sebold (2nd from right) presented commendations to Lucy Lee, “Essex County Teacher of the Year” (2nd from left), a Chinese language teacher at Livingston H. S., and students Lauren Magsaysay (far left) and Philip Peker (far right), winners of Governor’s Awards in Arts Education, during the Freeholder Board’s Thursday, July 11th, meeting held at Livingston Town Hall.  (Photo by Glen Frieson)

Freeholder Sebold began the evening by saying, “as a Livingston resident and a retired English teacher, I am especially pleased to make tonight’s presentations to a teacher and two students from Livingston High School, where my children went to school.”

Lucy Lee, who lives in West Orange, was named the 2013-2014 “Essex County Teacher of the Year” through the NJ Department of Education’s annual “Teacher of the Year” competition, which recognizes outstanding classroom teachers, Pre-K through Grade 12.  She was first named the Livingston School District “Teacher of the Year” before being selected as Essex County’s “Teacher of the Year” by representatives of the education community under the guidance of the Essex County Office of the NJ Department of Education, which is led by Interim Executive County Superintendent Joseph Zarra, who attended the presentation to offer his congratulations to Ms. Lee.


“Essex County Teacher of the Year” Lucy Lee of Livingston H. S. (center), is joined by Freeholder Vice President Patricia Sebold and Interim Executive County Superintendent Joseph Zarra during presentation during the July 11th Freeholder Board meeting held at Livingston Town Hall.  (Photo by Glen Frieson)

Lee is well-known as an educational leader in the Livingston, and as a strong national advocate for Chinese language education.  She began her teaching career in 1982 in Hong Kong before teaching Chinese at Ridgewood H.S., and then at Livingston H.S. since 1990 where she teaches 5 levels of Chinese, advises the school’s chapter of the National Chinese Honor Society, the Chinese Cultural Club and the Joy Luck Club.  She is also a leader with professional organizations in promoting Chinese Language education and standards, both nationally and internationally, by serving as an advisor, teacher trainer, coordinator and curriculum writer.

Lee was also named the 2012 “Teacher of the Year” for the Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, which includes 13 states; was a national finalist for “Teacher of the Year” for the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages; was named the 2013 Livingston Area Chamber of Commerce “Educator of the Year”; and has the been the recipient of countless other honors, fellowships, awards and recognitions.  She earned her B.A. degree in English Language and Literature from Soochow University in Taipei, Taiwan, her M. Ed. degree in Special Education/Early Childhood from the University of Texas in Austin, and her Ed. S. degree in Bilingual Education and Asian Studies from Seton Hall University.

“From one teacher to another”, said Sebold, “I am delighted to present you with this Commendation from the Board.  You are an outstanding teacher who demonstrates the ideals of the ‘Teacher of the Year’ award every day by inspiring a love of learning in students of all backgrounds and abilities.  We commend you for your commitment to your profession and your love of teaching, thank you for imparting knowledge and appreciation of the Chinese language to so many students over the years, and congratulate you on this well-deserved recognition as Essex County’s ‘Teacher of the Year’.”

“Thirty-some years ago, when I first came to this country, I never dreamed I would be standing here to receive this prestigious professional recognition”, said Lee.  “I love what I’m doing and it’s a great career for young people to consider.”

The Governor’s Awards in Arts Education program began in 1980 to promote awareness and appreciation of the arts.  Each year, “Governor’s Awards” are presented to students selected by national and statewide organizations for their exemplary work in creative writing, speech, dance, music, theater and visual arts, as well as to leaders for their exceptional commitment and contribution to arts education.  The program also recognizes arts educators and arts education advocates whose leadership has helped to nurture the development of students in the arts across the state.

Freeholder Vice President Patricia Sebold (right) presented Lauren Magsaysay with a commendation for winning her “Governor’s Award” in Vocal Music.  (Photo by Glen Frieson)

Lauren Magsaysay, a 2013 graduate of Livingston H. S., was selected by the NJ Music Educators Association (NJMEA) to receive her “Governor’s Award”.  This year, she was named to both the All-State Chorus and the All-Eastern Honors Chorus, which includes students from 10 northeastern states, as well as Europe.  She has been a member of the All-State Chorus since 2010, and also a member of the North Regional Chorus since 2008.

Magsaysay has studied both Voice and Piano since 2000 and assisted as an Assistant Musical Director for the Livingston Community Children’s Theater.  She has also participated in Township events since 2009 such as the 9/11 Ceremony and an All-Township Concert as a member of a select chorale group.  At the high school, she was a member of choral groups, a piano accompanist for its choir, and a member of the Color Guard.

Outside of school, she has been involved in Ministry programs since 2004 with the Children’s Choir at Our Lady of Mercy Church, as the Cantor and a soloist at St. Philomena Church, and as the leader of the Filipino Community Choir.  She is the daughter of her proud parents, Maria and Neil, and will attend Seton Hall University in the fall to study Nursing.

“Lauren, you are a very talented young woman, and your family, the Township of Livingston, and this Freeholder Board, are very, very proud of you”, said Sebold.  “I wish you all the best with your future career in Nursing, but certainly hope you will continue with your music, because it will be a terrible loss for all of us if you don’t!”

Magsaysay thanked the Board for the recognition, her mentors Marilyn Fiordaliso and Joshua Salzman, “because I wouldn’t be here without them”, as well as her friends and family, especially her mother (Maria), who took her to every music activity she ever participated in… “it was a lot of work!”  She also demonstrated her vocal talent for the attendees by offering an a cappella rendition of “My Funny Valentine”.

Philip Peker, a rising senior at Livingston H. S., received his commendation from Freeholder Vice President Patricia Sebold in recognition of his Governor’s Award in Playwriting.  (Photo by Glen Frieson)

Philip Peker, who will be a senior at Livingston H.S. in the fall, was selected to receive his Governor’s Award in Playwriting by Playwrights Theatre and its New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival.  His play, Blues-Berries, was one of 4 winning plays in the High School Division, and was performed by professional actors at Kean University on May 21st.  He also received Honorable Mention for the play from the Young Author contest at Columbia College in Chicago.

In 2012, Peker won a Silver Key Award for Personal Essay from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the longest-running and most prestigious recognition program for creative teens in the United States.  This year, that same organization awarded him a Gold Key Award in Persuasive Writing, as well as Silver Key Awards in both Poetry and Dramatic Script.  He is also a talented guitarist who has studied classical, jazz and other music genres, and is a member of a band, Castles, for which he composes original music, and with whom he recorded at Soundwaves Studios in Union and released an E.P. in January 2012. 

At Livingston H. S., Peker is a High Honor Roll student active in a broad range of activities from music to debating, from soccer, tennis and swimming to Model UN, JSA and Student Tutoring, and from the National Honors Society to the Spanish National Honors Society.  He also volunteers at Care One Assisted Living in Livingston, and this summer he is working at a golf course and interning and teaching a songwriting workshop at the Writopia Lab in New York City.  He is the son of his proud parents, Lana and Alex.

“Philip, on behalf of the entire Freeholder Board”, said Sebold, “it gives me great pleasure to present you with this Commendation for winning your Governor’s Award in Playwriting, and for being the true ‘Renaissance Man’ you are.”

“It’s a huge pleasure for me to be here and to represent my town in a good light”, said Peker, who also thanked Freeholder Sebold and the Board for recognizing him.  “I don’t know where to begin, it’s like a mini-Oscars to me, but I want to thank my parents and my teachers at Livingston H. S. for supporting me and driving me to succeed in the arts and in whatever else I’ve wanted to do.” 

Robert Wirth, the Visual and Performing Arts Supervisor at the high school, attended the presentations and spoke of how special the Governor’s Awards are, and how impressive the May Ceremony in Trenton for all the Governor’s Award winners from across the state was, saying, “To sit there and hear what all these high school students have accomplished is awesome… to see such an array of creativity and talent all in one place is amazing.”  He went on to say how gratifying it was for him, as an arts supervisor, to see students like Lauren and Philip rise to the top.  “I am very fortunate to work in a community like Livingston, and a school system like the Livingston Public Schools, that really supports the arts.”

The program concluded with Freeholder Sebold’s introduction of Livingston H. S. Principal Mark Stern, who described him as “my former, favorite student”, when she was a teacher at West Orange H.S.  Expanding on the comments of the honorees who’d thanked those who’d helped and encouraged them, Stern spoke about the importance of mentors “who encourage us to pick up a pen, or to sing, or to sing louder, because you never know how your gift might affect others”, and reminisced, humorously, about his time as the “loud-mouthed kid” sitting in Freeholder Sebold’s English class, and of the teacher who’d encouraged him and inspired his love of the English language and reading and writing, “…and that’s why I became an English teacher.”  He congratulated Lee, Magsaysay and Peker for being so special and said he had “the best job in the world” working at Livingston High School.

Honorees (center, from left to right) Lucy Lee, Lauren Magsaysay and Philip Peker, are joined by Livingston H. S. Principal Mark Stern and Freeholder Vice President Patricia Sebold.  (Photo by Glen Frieson)

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For Additional Information:
Gary Kroessig, Public Information
Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders




Board of Chosen Freeholders, County of Essex
Hall of Records - Room 558, 465 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd., Newark, New Jersey 07102
Tel: (973) 621-4486 Fax: (973) 621-5695