Stacey O'Connor is a music fan as well as a music teacher. Her ability to use the art in teaching her first-grade classes has earned her the 2015 "Excellence in Education" Award, bestowed on the Manchester Township Elementary first-grade teacher by lawmakers in the shore's 10th Legislative District.

Sen. Jim Holzapfel (left) and Assemblyman Greg McGuckin (right) with honoree Stacey O'Connor (Kate Cocozza)

Senator Jim Holzapfel and Assemblymen Dave Wolfe and Greg McGuckin (R-10) conducted the presentation at the school this morning.

The Toms River resident is an alumna of the College of Wooster, with music certification credits from Georgian Court University in Lakewood.She is certified to teach K-8, and certified to teach music in K-12.

The award is a longstanding tradition in the district, presented annually to an elementary, middle-school or high school instructor who demonstrates high standards, commitment, and dedication to helping young minds develop.

"It's an honor to present this award to an educator who has won the hearts of her students and the admiration of her colleagues for her enthusiastic and creative teaching style and leadership skills," said Holzapfel. "Mrs. O'Connor is a reflection of the outstanding level of education we have in the Manchester Township School District and throughout New Jersey."

Wolfe, a former teacher, said that he understands the difficulty in motivating students. "By incorporating music into her classroom lessons, Mrs. O'Connor has stepped outside the box and discovered a very successful teaching technique which resonates with her students," Wolfe said. "She exemplifies excellence in teaching."

McGuckin also highlighted Mrs.O'Connor's abiility to incorporate her love of music into her curriculum, and to apply it in innovative ways that create lasting impressions.

"Her passion for teaching and her love of music make learning fun, which is essential especially when teaching youngsters," McGuckin said. "She's a role model for others who desire to make a difference in our children's future."

Mrs. O'Connor acknowledged the "collaboration of the entire school community" and added that the award reflects on more than one individual.

"I am privileged to be part of Manchester Township Schools and work among such dedicated and talented colleagues," she said. We all bring unique skills to our classrooms and work to the best of our ability to meet the needs of our students."