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February Teacher of the Month attends first game

by Gordy Stillman / New Jersey Devils
Working with her school's advanced students, fourth grade teacher Linda Vivin Cabrera uses the NHL's Hockey Scholar course to make potentially intimidating topics more accessible. Cabrera attended her first NHL game and rode a zamboni after being named the New Jersey Devils' Teacher of the Month for February 2016. Photo by Patrick Dodson

The New Jersey Devils recognized Linda Vivin Cabrera, a fourth grade teacher at Jersey City’s Joseph H. Brensinger P.S. 17, as the team’s February Teacher of the Month, when the Devils team hosted the Tampa Bay Lightning on February 26 at Prudential Center. Cabrera teaches students in the school’s “HOPE” program, with curriculum including the NHL’s Hockey Scholar course, developed by Everfi.

A lifelong resident of West New York, N.J., Cabrera works with the more advanced students who are already ahead of the curve. “My job is to nourish and further blossom their knowledge and their hunger for learning things,” Cabrera said. Cabrera has taught fourth grade for the last two years, and served in various other roles at the school since she first became a substitute teacher in 2003, including seventh grade Language Arts, second grade and English as a Second Language. “Every year, it feels like I’m a new teacher. I get so excited,” Cabrera said.

Cabrera’s drive to teach came from her parents, who stressed the value of education. “My parents are from Columbia, and on my mother’s side, most of her sisters were teachers…Having parents that came from another country and didn’t speak English, education was a huge drive for us.” Cabrera explained that her parents emphasized the value of education regularly. She was also inspired by her first grade teacher, Rita Mendez. When Cabrera reached eighth grade, she had the opportunity to assist Mendez with grading and test preparation. “I got fascinated to see how easy she made it seem to teach.”

At Brensinger, students from fourth grade and up use the Hockey Scholar course in school and at home. Bringing together Science, Math, Engineering and Technology, collectively called STEM, the course uses hockey to make the topics more accessible. “For example, children see engineering and they get freaked out, and I say ‘no, it’s easy and fun.’ When they start doing it, they see how easy it is,” Cabrera said. Before coming to the weekend game, Cabrera and her students discussed how they studied kinetic energy, the weight of equipment and how players come to stops after skating fast.

Cabrera mentioned that students are currently learning about heat and energy in science class, even telling the science lab teacher how they learned the topic through hockey. Within heat and energy, topics include the temperature of the ice, how much a player may sweat and how much water a player needs to drink to stay hydrated throughout a game.

“Although I’m here, I wish my whole school was here being acknowledged, because it’s a group effort,” Cabrera said of being honored. Cabrera added that it was her first time at an NHL game, and plans to come back, sharing the experience with her children.

Cabrera brought her daughter, Nadia, to the game with her, and while Cabrera she knew she’d get to ride a Zamboni during the second intermission, the team surprised both mother and daughter with the chance for Nadia to ride as well. “I felt so privileged. Not every kid can get this opportunity,” Nadia said. “It was really fun.”

The Devils will recognize a New Jersey teacher on a monthly basis through the end of the 2015-16 season. For more information on the Hockey Scholar program, please visit Hockey Scholar and Future Goals, along with the team’s “Stick With It” reading incentive system, encompass the Devils’ Achievement in Academics initiative, which supports thousands of New Jersey students through hockey each year.

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