Learning Lessons from the 2016 Teacher of the Year

Steve Adubato sits down with Argine Safari, the 2016-17 NJ State Teacher of the Year, to discuss her musical background, immigrating from Moscow, and her work at Pascack Valley HS in Hillsdale, NJ.

2/28/17 #2018






"It is our honor and pleasure to introduce the 2016 and 2017 New Jersey State Teacher of the Year at the NJEA Convention here in Atlantic City. She is Argine Safari. First, congratulations. Thank you so much. Thank you. What was it like when you were told that you were, in fact, the teacher of the year? Oh, it was all sorts of emotions. I was super excited. I couldn't believe it. I felt truly honored and blessed and also a little scared of the amount of responsibility that this brings. Argine came to the United States with her husband in 1994. Immigrated to the United States from Moscow. Describe coming to this country in 1994. First of all, you've been in love with music since you were 6 years old. Yes. I studied music since I was 6 professionally, actually. And when I came to this country with my husband and my newborn daughter, it was a pretty scary experience because I was a refugee and I was really hoping to find freedom and all the dreams of becoming an American and taking advantage of all of the opportunities that are here. We really didn't have anything. There was no money. No connections. So, it was a challenge. It was a big challenge but I think it's all of those hard times that I had to go through that make this journey even more appealing and special to me. You told me before we got on the air that you've loved music as far back as you can remember but your love of teaching...? My love of teaching came later. I always thought I was going to be a performer. I didn't think I would be a teacher so when I came to this country, I was trying to find myself looking to do different things. I went to school to study the language. Ended up getting a degree in finance and business and while I was in school I had different gigs and jobs as a musician and I realized how much I loved doing it and after graduating from college, I actually started to work in business. Actually, I was on Wall Street for a little bit and meanwhile I was doing these different things and directing musicals and when I finally did direct a musical at the high school level, I fell in love with the experience of just working with these kids and making them feel special about themselves and that gradually transformed me into wanting to do music, teaching. But I think the final moment was when I met this young girl in 8th grade and she lost her father to 9/11 but she wanted to be a professional musician and I decided to help her to get..."