Vaitas graduated from Saint Rose with her college sweetheart, Stan Vaitas '14, who earned his BFA in Art Education and has since been working as a high school media arts teacher. The couple is now married with a little girl named Madison Rose (named after Madison Avenue and Saint Rose). Justine Vaitas has been a standout teacher at River Ridge, a pre-K-8 school, and was named its Teacher of the Year in 2020.
What do you love about your work today? One of my favorite aspects is working with the parents and to see their joy that their students are progressing. Most people do not realize the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes for special education teachers – for example, differentiation for each student, IEP meetings, progress monitoring, etc. – but the extra work is all worth it to see students progress and feel confident. Many parents have dated notions about what special education is, and I pride myself in changing their mentality to realize that we offer support to students to help close the gap.
You were selected as Teacher of the Year in your school. What did that mean to you? To be selected from such a large pool of excellent teachers is a great honor! The fact that my peers saw me as a model teacher to represent our school is one of my biggest accomplishments. Each year, I tried to take on a little more responsibility by taking on roles, such as department chair after my second year, and other titles, such as afterschool coordinator and ADEPT Evaluator of other teachers. It was my fourth year of teaching that I was nominated for top three, and my fifth year of teaching when I received this honor. This award made me feel appreciated by my peers. The kids think I am a celebrity because my picture is hang-ing in the hallway when you first enter the school!