English Teacher from Newark’s Science Park High School Makes Global Impact with Student Memoirs


[Newark, NJ, October 12 , 2023] Shawn Adler, an English and AP Psychology teacher at Newark’s Science Park High School is among the shortlist of nominees for the $1 million Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize, in partnership with UNESCO.

Identified as the “Nobel Prize of Teaching,” the Global Teacher Prize serves to underline the importance of educators and the fact that, throughout the world, their efforts deserve to be recognized and celebrated. It seeks to acknowledge the impact of the very best teachers – not only on their students but on the communities around them. Principal Gearhart excitedly shared, “I am extremely proud to call Shawn Adler my teacher at Science Park High School. His character and work with students as well as his advocacy are inspiring.”

Since 2020, Adler has empowered over a thousand students to share their profound experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic through three gripping collections of student memoirs collectively titled "The Class of COVID-19." The impact of these memoirs has been monumental, transcending accolades to inspire students to become authors, advocates, and agents of change.

"The Class of COVID-19" offers a poignant insight into the lives of teenagers navigating the challenges posed by a global pandemic. The stories are personal, vulnerable, heart-wrenching, and reflect both tragedy and resilience. In their stories, students heal, take control of an uncertain world, and show resilience in the face of adversity.

However, the significance of this endeavor extends beyond literary accomplishments. Students face barriers that were compounded by the pandemic. Some shoulder the responsibility of supporting their families. Through "The Class of COVID-19," Adler and his students have raised tens of thousands of dollars for scholarships in support of disadvantaged youth in need of support. The program has provided a platform for students to engage in political advocacy and secure college admissions they might have otherwise missed.

Given the project's success, the state of New Jersey has partnered with Adler to expand similar opportunities to more students across the region. Most recently, Adler, in cooperation with Ramapo College of New Jersey and Newark Science Park High School, completed work on a fourth collection of student stories titled "The Helpers." This volume celebrates those who have facilitated student self-actualization and features stories from over a dozen school districts in New Jersey and New York, sourced from more than 300 student submissions. The collaboration, training, and resource-sharing among teachers statewide have been instrumental in this endeavor.

As Adler continues to make a positive impact on the lives of his students and the broader community, his dedication to amplifying their voices and advocating for their well-being remains unwavering. If he wins the Global Teacher Prize, Adler aims to work with Newark to craft first-of-their-kind memoir collections centered on immigration and teenage mental health.

For More Information: https://www.nps.k12.nj.us/SCI/

About Newark Public Schools
The Newark Public Schools is the largest school district in New Jersey and dates back to 1676. The District currently enrolls over 39,000 students in 63 schools. After more than two decades of state operation and upon return to local control in 2018, the District has opened 9 new schools under Superintendent León’s leadership with an additional portfolio of new options to be announced in the coming months and years. The Newark Board of Education serves as a beacon of educational excellence, dedicated to nurturing the potential of every student. With a commitment to innovation, inclusivity, and fostering a love for learning, the District continues to shape future generations and make a positive impact within the community.