Roselle Park resident Dr. Gerard Babo (pronounced BAH-bō) was honored as 2016’s Seton Hall University College of Education and Human Services Teacher of the Year. Dr. Babo has been teaching in one form or another since 1979, which is the same year he moved to Roselle Park the first time with his wife. He joined Seton Hall University’s teaching staff full-time in 2010.
A bassist himself who was inspired by Berry Oakley of the Allman Brothers Band and Scott LaFaro from the Bill Evans Trio as well as Jaco Pastorius and Stanley Clarke, Gerard started out his career in education as a music teacher. He shared his love of music with students for 15 years before moving into the administration side, becoming supervisor then vice principal then principal then assistant school superintendent. His journey in academics took him throughout the state of New Jersey from Union Township to Belvidere to Florham Park to Belleville to South Orange. He worked as an adjunct professor and when he retired from public schools in 2007-08, Dr. Babo began working full-time at Kean University and then Seton Hall University.
Currently teaching Statistics, one would think that it is something completely left field from music, but not to Gerard. Admitting that while he was not a bad math student in high school, it was nowhere near a focal point to his teenage years as the bass guitar. It was not until his own graduate work that he became exposed to statistics and realized he had an aptitude for it and fell in love with it. He commented, “I happen to love statistics, believe it or not. And like music, I try to pass that love onto students. I try to make it more palatable and real for them.”
At present, Dr. Babo predominantly teaches doctoral and Masters students who are going to become school administrator such as principals or assistant principals. He educates them on how they can use statistics or quantitative analysis in their job to help them make decisions.
Dr. Babo challenges himself – whenever he teaches – to see if by the end of a course a student’s fear of statistics is not only a lot less but that they might develop a respect or even the same kind of love that he has for it. He related his philosophy, “Numbers can tell us things. If we can accurately measure something – that’s always the key whether it can be validly measured – through different quantitive processes, it leads us to a better understanding of a phenomenon. It’s one piece of the puzzle. Obviously, there’s always more information – numbers aren’t everything – but it’s kind of cool how they can tell us things that we didn’t realize before.”
As for teaching, Dr. Babo is still finding the value of it, not only to his students but to himself.
“What teaching does is it makes me continue to need to learn,” said Dr. Babo, adding, “I love to see how people come to know something. I love interacting with students and no matter how many years I’ve been in it, it’s always interesting to teach something and see how each individual student is able to grasp it and in that, consequently, I learn. I think that’s the most exciting thing about the field of teaching, is that you get an opportunity to learn as you’re teaching – all the time.”
He is modest regarding being named Teacher Of The Year. He stated, “I’m very honored, kind of humbled by it. I don’t expect to be honored for something I love to do. I love to teach – always have – and being able to pass on what you love.”
Having lived in Roselle Park for around six years from 1979 until 1985, he and his wife moved around and came back to the borough in 2012. In his spare time Gerard returns to his first love – music – and performs in the New Jersey/New York/Pennsylvania metropolitan area as a professional acoustic and electric bassist. From time to time he returns to the piece that made him want to pick up the four-string in the first place, “Les Bres in A Minor” from the 1972 Allman Brothers Band album “Eat a Peach”.
Whether it is music or statistics or teaching, Gerard is still in it, still teaching, still learning, and still loving it.