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Student Wins Essay Contest, Lauding “The Great Gaspar”

By most measures, Jennifer Resti is not the model student a professor would like to see walking into math class.

“I hate math,” she says.

She hated math the first day she took Algebra I with John Gaspar. And then a transformation happened.

“When I began his class I was absolutely terrified,” she said. “But the very first session we had I knew this time it would be very different.”

And it was. Ms. Resti became inspired, and, while she is still not a big fan of mathematics, she is a fan of John Gaspar. So much so that she wrote an essay that was accepted as one of the top 10 in the Community College Week/National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development contest. There were more than 800 entries. She called it “The Great Gaspar.”

“On the first day of class, he said, ‘we are going to question everything,’” Ms. Resti said. “He made everything simplified and he was always available to help.”

Professor Gaspar taught at Colonia High School for 34 years before starting full time at MCC in 2002. He says Ms. Resti’s writing touched him.

“I’m humbled by her essay,” he said. “I was really taken off guard. Sometimes as educators, we need a pat on the back. It really energizes you.”

Ms. Resti took Algebra I and Algebra II with Professor Gaspar. An education major, she plans to graduate in January of 2013 and transfer to Rutgers. She’d like to get a master’s degree and teach fourth and fifth graders in Perth Amboy, where she grew up.

“I sincerely hope I can emulate him in several ways when I become a teacher,” Ms. Resti said. “First is his ‘question everything’ philosophy. Second, I learned the importance of creating a learning environment in which there are no stupid questions.”

In her essay, she wrote: “Professor Gaspar motivated me to complete the course; he also provided me with a great deal of motivation to understand that math is not something I am doomed to fail. It’s a lesson I will be forever grateful for learning.”