New Jersey schoolteacher begins 49th year in classroom

For 48 years, Bessie Ames has been shaping and changing lives as an elementary school teacher in New Jersey. On Wednesday morning, she arrived at P.S. 10 on Mercer Street in Paterson and began Year No. 49. 

What has motivated her to keep coming back at the start of every school year for nearly half a century?

"Because I really loved what I was doing — I would go to the classroom every day, I would come early and get my class together," Ames said at a ceremony honoring her service. "And I always try to motivate each and every student — I look for the key to get them to learn and I try very hard to understand each and every student in my room."

Superintendent Eileen Shafer presented Ames with a certificate of commendation on the first day of school in the district. The certificate cited Ames' 48 years of "commitment and service to the children of the district," which makes her the district's longest-serving classroom teacher.

"She loves what she does, she loves the people she works with and the community in which she works," Shafer said. "Miss Ames loves her students, and considers that a necessity to get the job done."

Shafer said that children know when someone cares about them and loves them.

"And that's a really important ingredient in urban education," the superintendent said. "You have to love what you do and you have to love the children, the community and the parents and the staff that you serve."

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Schoolteacher Bessie Ames speaks at an event honoring her 48 years of service in the classroom, Paterson, N.J., Sept. 7, 2022. (FOX 5 NY Image)

Ames began her teaching career in September 1974 as a fifth-grade teacher at Paterson's P.S. 6, where she taught for 36 years. She moved to P.S. 10 a dozen years ago. This year, she is teaching third-grade science and social studies.

Ames said she didn't even realize how many years she'd been teaching until her principal told her that the district planned to honor her service.

"So I was like, 'Wow, it's been that long?'" Ames said with a laugh. "But I enjoy every moment that I'm in the classroom.