Versatile teacher Walter Schweikardt has been selected as an Exemplary Educator by the New Jersey Department of Education.

He is one of just 93 teachers across the state who are being honored for 2020. He joins School No. 1 fifth-grade teacher Amy Maloney in being honored.

“Congratulations to Mr. Schweikardt for this wonderful honor,” said Superintendent Dr. Marnie Hazelton. “This program recognizes the best of the best from around New Jersey, and Mr. Schweikardt has shown himself to be a dedicated and skilled educator in many different roles. For Linden to have two teachers honored as Exemplary Educators is indicative of the outstanding commitment of our faculty and staff.”

Schweikardt just started a position as technology teacher at Soehl Middle School, but has filled several different roles during his 23 years in the district. He spent 18 years as a third-grade teacher at School No. 2, before becoming an elementary math coach, which he called his “dream job.” He worked primarily at Schools No. 5 and 9, but also filled in at Schools No. 1 and 2. He spent the first part of the 2020-2021 school year filling in as a third-grade at School No. 9.

“Throughout my years in Linden, and in the many schools I have worked, I have enjoyed building lasting friendships and strong bonds with staff members, administrators, students, and families,” Schweikardt said. “Those relationships and bonds have been the greatest rewards of my career.”

teacher with dog in class

Teacher Walter Schweikardt brought his dog Buster, a retired therapy dog, into school in 2019 when classes were learning about therapy dogs.

School No. 9 Principal Dr. Larry Plummer said Schweikardt’s dedication goes far beyond his assigned duties, including volunteering at concerts and other extracurricular events, and acting as a mentor and counselor to other teachers.

“Mr. Schweikardt is a true teacher-leader in the broadest sense,” Plummer said. “He dedicates himself to the success of our teachers and the school. This new honor envisions the work of more than just instructing; it presumes an expansive role in the school. It implies a go-to educator for teachers, staff, administrators and students. Mr. Schweikardt is the epitome of pedagogy, and education in Linden is enhanced because of him.”

The students Schweikardt is leaving behind at School No. 9 wanted him to know how much he meant to them. Parents and students held a drive-by parade past his house on Feb. 24, then stopped to give him balloons and a class photo collage, and to show him posters that they made thanking him for his love and dedication.

“I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of kindness and generosity from my third-grade students and their families,” Schweikardt said. “I could not be more appreciative or thankful!”

teacher with student waving in driveway

Teacher Walter Schweikardt in his driveway with his third-grade students from School No. 9. Students and their parents visited Feb. 24 to show him how much they will miss him.

Each year, the New Jersey Department of Education invites public school districts to participate in the Exemplary Educator Recognition Program. The goal of this program is to identify outstanding educators for special recognition. Exemplary Educators exhibit strong knowledge and skills, an inspiring presence, and a positive impact on students, colleagues, and the school community.

Schweikardt turns that positive impact into a lifelong commitment to his students.

“My motto has always been, and will always be, ‘Once you are my student, you are my student for life,’” Schweikardt said. “Therefore, you can always visit me and seek out any help that you may need.”

- Story by Gary Miller