OCEAN CITY — New Jersey teacher of the year Amy Andersen hopes her time in the national spotlight will yield some good for students across the country who may feel different from their peers.

Andersen, 45, of Cape May Court House, has been teaching American Sign Language at Ocean City High School since its program began in 2004. Last week she was named one of four finalists by the Council of Chief State School Officers for the national title.

Sharing a message of inclusion, Andersen was honored at a pep rally Wednesday before a crowd of more than 1,200 students and faculty members from Ocean City High School.

“Nothing thrives in isolation, and I think that this pep rally is a real testament to that,” Andersen said.