Key Club adviser at PHS chosen tops in the state

Key Club adviser at PHS chosen tops in New Jersey
Posted on 04/18/2023
This is the image for the news article titled Key Club adviser at PHS chosen tops in New JerseyPiscataway High School teacher Laura Leibowitz has been selected as the Outstanding Key Club Faculty Adviser for the State of New Jersey for 2023.

Leibowitz was surprised to win the award at the state conference on March 24-25 because her students nominated her without her knowledge, making the win even more special.

“It’s really nice because I didn’t even know it, and they did it themselves,” said Leibowitz, who has been the Key Club faculty adviser since arriving at PHS as a special education teacher in 1988. “I’ve had a lot of wonderful, high-caliber students come through. The kids are great.”

Principal Chris Baldassano said Leibowitz’s honor is well-deserved for her 35 years of dedication to the students of Piscataway High School and Key Club.

“To see her recognized as New Jersey’s Outstanding Key Club Faculty Advisor is a testament to those years of service and the countless lives she has positively impacted,” he said. “I know I speak for the entire staff and student body when I say we could not be more proud.”

teacher in class

In putting together their nomination, current members reached out to former Key Clubbers for letters of recommendation, and they gave Leibowitz rave reviews.

“Mrs. Leibowitz was constantly in my corner, ensuring me that I was doing a great job even when I did not feel that way myself,” wrote Melissa Tomlin, a former Key Club treasurer.

“Mrs. Leibowitz is just someone who wants to see her community thrive and is always willing to help someone who has the same goal. She cared not only about her community, but her school as well,” wrote Jenna Stickel, a former president.

key club group photo

Current Key Club seniors Connor Dunham and Naren Karthikeyan said she allows students independence while offering support.

“Mrs. Leibowitz leaves the day-to day tasks of Key Club … to the board. However, whenever a Key Clubber approaches her with a question, she is happy to help out,” they wrote. “This manner of advisement helps young leaders build their planning and communication skills, while still ensuring that they have someone to fall back on.”

Key Club is a global student organization supported by Kiwanis International and dedicated to leadership and service. PHS students involved with Key Club volunteer for events run by other organizations while also holding their own community service programs, such as food drives, diaper drives, and literacy nights.

teacher holding award plaque

“I have a passion for community service myself,” Leibowitz said, “so it really means a lot to me to see so many of my kids do grow up to be in care-giving professions or at least have a passion for service and volunteerism.”

She said that selflessness fits in perfectly at PHS.

“In this high school, we have a very giving culture,” Leibowitz said. “Yes, kids have to do community service because they need it for college applications, but for a lot of them it’s not just lip service. I feel like Key Club and a lot of the other clubs create a culture of caring and service.”

key club members

Leibowitz was not the only winner from PHS at the annual conference. Among the list of student honorees was junior Aeryn Morrow, who won first place statewide for Club Website.

“Aeryn won a lot,” Leibowitz said. “She’s a rock star. There is a lot of competition for that website award.”

Morrow also was honored as a Distinguished General Member, Distinguished Webmaster, Talent Finalist, and Lieutenant Governor Installation.

key club honorees

Other honorees were:

Distinguished President: Connor Dunham
Distinguished Vice President: Nia Sharma
Distinguished Treasurer: Marley Finklin
Golden Member Award: Saksham Gupta
Oratorical 3rd Place: Tanya Melkote
Dr. Gene Napoliello Leadership Scholarship ($500): Connor Dunham

“Every year I’m very proud to be a part of Piscataway High School Key Club because the students go out of their way to make the world a better place,” Leibowitz said. “I’m very proud of the officers who achieved distinguished level because they demonstrated their commitment to the organization, and of all the students who put themselves out there for competition.”