Winning Teachers Who Rock 2017

We are proud to welcome the following teachers to the WDHA Teachers Who Rock Class of 2017, presented by the New Jersey Education Association.
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MS. STEPHANIE MYERS
An ELL Teacher at North Plainfield Middle School

Ms. Myers teaches at North Plainfield Middle School, a school rich with diversity with many students coming there entering the United States education system for the first time. On their first day, many do not speak English. Luckily for these students, they are met with the beaming smile, warmth, and support of their “point of entry” teacher, Ms. Myers. She works with students from all over who are learning the English language and American culture. She is soft spoken, friendly, and the person the new students go to with questions. Her room is one where the students feel comfortable taking risks and making mistakes.

There is no way to capture the atmosphere of Ms. Myers classroom in words. It is nothing short of a wonder to see middle school students, nervous and shy on their first day, walk out of her classroom at the end of the day with smiles on their faces, heads held high, and eager to come back again the next day. Her positive personality and ability to work cooperatively with other staff members as well as her warm nature towards her students make her a Teacher that Rocks.


MS MAUREEN DONNER
a Science Teacher at Conackamack Middle School in Piscataway

Miss Donner is a teacher who stands out above the rest. Her classroom is relaxed and she makes science fun with class participation and hands on activities for students of all levels. Her students are often joking and laughing about in class experiements including velocity and gravity experiments where things may have gone out of whack.

She also goes above and beyond for her students outside of the classroom. She once went as far as going out and getting a card and chocolates for one student to give to his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day when he was trapped inside due to a snowstorm. Miss Donner students are always excited to come into class and students that do not have her as a teacher often tell her students how lucky they are to have her. She makes her students’ lives easier by being able to connect with them on their own learning curves and is able to adjust lessons on an individual level. For her ability to make a difference to each and every one of her students, we honor Miss Donner as a Teacher Who Rocks.


MS. BRENDA MORETTI
A School Counselor and Teaching Assistant At Sojourn High School in Newark

Ms. Moretti is a dedicated, diligent school counselor and teaching assistant extraordinaire. Over the past two decades, she has assisted the students at Sojourn School, located in the Essex County Juvenile Detention Center, in a professional and caring manner. Each student is treated with respect regardless of his or her present situation. As a counselor, she understands that students have personalized needs that demand customized attention.

Sojourn High School, by all definitions, is an alternative High School. Students are suffering from trauma, drug addiction, and a plethora of special needs. Ms. Moretti has often been called upon to cover classes at a moment’s notice due to disruptive behavior in the classroom. For many, this would be a challenge, but, as a result of her counseling skills, her relationships with the students, and her education expertise, Ms. Moretti is as productive in the classroom as she is with her other student related duties. Ms. Moretti goes beyond the confines of any job description and is someone who cares about her students. She offers both practical and emotional tools to survive situations children should never have experienced. Mr. Moretti offers the students hope in what often seems like a hopeless world. In the end, many students leave the school with the potential to not only succeed and survive, but to move forward in life achieving great goals.

For her dedication to these students at Sojourn High School, we honor Ms. Moretti as a Teacher Who Rocks.


MR. JOSEPH DELLA FERRA
Teacher at the Therapeutic School and Preschool in Belleville

Whenever he is not teaching, Mr. Della Ferra is rocking out to WDHA. Mr. Della Ferra is dedicated to the teaching profession; he went back to college at 50 to become an educator. Since then, he has patiently taught every grade from Kindergarten to adult courses with his unique style. He is a positive role model for the students in his hometown of Belleville. He makes learning fun as he attempts to include music in his lessons whenever he can. He even sometimes plays a kazoo for his students when the situation presents itself.

Mr. Della Ferra is an active member of his community coaching both basketball and baseball in the township recreation leagues. He is so beloved around Belleville, colleagues believe his next step would be to become Mayor. For showing that it is never too late to make a difference in student’s lives, we honor Mr. Della Ferra as a Teacher Who Rocks.


ESP OF THE YEAR

MR. JOAQUIN DOMINGUEZ
Custodian at Hillview Elementary School in Pompton Plains

Hard-working, friendly, helpful, ambitious. These are the qualities that best describe Mr. Dominguez. He works selflessly every day to ensure that the needs of the staff are met. Mr. Dominguez is one of the busiest and most relied on members of the Hillview family. He is always willing to help, no matter how big or small the request. First thing in the morning, after raising the American Flag, he walks the school ground picking up litter and left-behind recess toys, paying special attention to the playground area. He then moves inside, sweeping and picking up trash in the hallways to ensure that Hillview school is always in pristine condition for a positive learning environment.

A day never goes by that Mr. Dominguez doesn’t greet you with a smile and a “how are you doing today.” He is constantly helping out, even cleaning off the staff’s cars on snowy days! He is also a huge asset to the physical education teach on the annual Field Day. Mr. Dominguez sets up everything needed from the sound system, the BBQ grills, and the extra tables around the school grounds. He is also an asset to the music department, setting up the choir risers or the stages at a moment’s notice. He has an uncanny sense of knowing something needs to be done before he is asked.

For his contribution and for being a “Mr. Everything” at Hillview Elementary School, we honor Mr. Dominguez as an ESP Who Rocks!


MS. MEREDITH TORJUSSEN
2nd Grade Teacher at Midland Elementary School in Paramus

Ms. Torjussen has all the 7 E’s of Teaching: she is energetic, enthusiastic, effective, ego-less, empathetic, engaging, and entertaining. She has an endless amount of energy which helps her keep up with her 2nd grade students at Midland Elementary School in Paramus. She has a knack for keeping her class enthralled in the lessons and has her students remember and build upon each lesson no matter what the subject. She uses many different methods to get her students to pay attention in class including using music to help teach them. Her students love her class so much that they get upset when they’re sick and have to miss school!

Ms. Torjussen is constantly prepared. She always has a smile on her face and always makes learning fun for her students. For the enthusiasm and energy that she brings to the classroom, we honor Ms. Torjussen as a Teacher Who Rocks.


MS. PATTY DONNEGAN
Resource English Teacher at Linden High School

Linden Public SchoolsMs. Donnegan has been a special education teacher at Linden High School for over three decades. She teaches resource English and goes above and beyond to not only teach, but to make sure that her students get the same “senior experience” as general education students. Every year, Ms. Donegan collects money from the faculty (and donates much of her own) so that students that can’t afford the prom, yearbook, or other activities, are able to participate. After they graduate, she maintains a mentoring relationship with her students. Ms. Donegan helps whenever needed and is known to pick up students with physical disabilities and bring them back for homecoming or other school related activities. For her mission to make sure the disabled students of the school don’t miss out on their high school experience, we honor Ms. Donegan as a Teacher Who Rocks.

MR. HORACIO PATRICIO
Literacy Coach at Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Teaneck

Mr. Patricio’s colleagues are constantly impressed by his intellect and his caring nature. He has been dynamic in his time at the school, starting out by teaching the 6th grade and having a knack of keeping his students on the edge of their seat with his science projects. After 10 years of working as a classroom teacher, Mr. Patricio, who is bilingual, moved on to become a literacy coach who focused on struggling students. As a coach, he works to help students learn how to read all different text types so that they will be successful in high school. He developed a clever idea to make his students feel even more special by personally purchasing rubberized bracelets that highlight the power of reading. The only people who can have the “privilege” of wearing the bracelet are students who are in his classes. He has h ad students come and ask him for a bracelet but only students in his class can wear them. This “honor” has made his students feel even more special. For his ability to communicate and bridge the reading gap for his students, we honor Mr. Patricio as a Teacher Who Rocks.

MR. STEVEN LAKE
Physical Education Teacher at Dr. Antonia Pantoja School #27

Mr. Lake is not just your ordinary gym teacher; he infuses all styles of music into his classes, exposing his students to a variety of genres they may not otherwise be exposed to from the 80s to classic rock to disco. Mr. Lake is the resident DJ of School #27. He is always ready and willing to share his love of music with his students at after school and evening events. He has also been known to break out his guitar for “Rock and Roll jam sessions” with his students. Mr. Lake’s sense of humor relates to all the students in the school from kindergarten to the 8th grade. His smile is contagious not only to his students but to his co-workers also.

Mr. Lake also shares a love of soccer with his students. He has been known to kick the ball around not only during class but after school as well. He enjoys talking about the latest soccer news and team standings with the students. He is truly concerned about the well-being of his students and his colleagues. Mr. Lake is the teacher who you want to run into in the hall when you’re having a bad day. His compassion and dedication to his profession and the school is refreshing. For being able to infuse all that he loves into his school, we honor Mr. Lake as a Teacher Who Rocks.


MRS. KAREN MOLINA
3rd Grade Teacher at Riverview Elementary School

Riverview Elementary School

Ms. Karen Molina exemplifies an effective teacher, loving colleague, and school leader. Students in her class are fully engaged in learning and she excels at helping every child find a love of math through working one-on-one and in small groups with students. Ms. Molina helps bridge the gap with her Hispanic students and their parents by interpreting in a loving and kind way. This fosters a team approach to educating a child.

Ms. Molina is a loving colleague. She plans all staff parties through the school year and is head of the Sun-Shine Committee. Each year, more and more staff members attend this committee so that they can enjoy the tasty food and awesome dancing. This creates a warm work environment that translates to effective teachers throughout the building. She is also in charge of sending flowers to staff members grieving from a loss or making another staff member smile through a small token or gift in the time of need. Ms. Molina also takes photos of all school events free of charge and provides them to teachers, administration, and even the parents. For her behind the scenes dedication to Riverview Elementary School, we honor Ms. Molina as a Teacher Who Rocks.


 MRS. MAUREEN RIVA

Behavioral Disabilities Teacher at
Stillwater Township School

Stillwater Township SchoolMrs. Maureen Riva runs a behavioral disabilities program at the Stillwater Township School and works with children with the greatest difficulties to help them to develop pro social behaviors. She has a unique way with the students that can be credited to her military background. A former marine, Mrs. Riva is focused and driven, maintains calm in the face of adversity, and is respectful of students and colleagues. She is a stand up person that the students learn a lot from both academically and socially.

Mrs. Riva motivates students extrinsically with the goal of eventually teaching them intrinsic motivation. She created the Stillwater School B-Social Lounge, which is a space for students with socialization issues to play, eat lunch, or invite a friend as a reward at the end of the day to shoot hoops or play air hockey, pool, or board games. She was able to create this space with grant money that she was awarded through the NJEA HIPP Grant, and she has been featured on the program Classroom Closeup for her work on the B-Alive program, which is a life-skills program for students that need help with performing daily tasks.

Mrs. Riva also runs a multitude of after-school clubs. She’s currently running a club where her students with social / emotional issues are learning to perform a play, and one of her former students has even returned as a mentor to help the younger students. Mrs. Riva works to help all students with behavioral issues, social issues, anxiety issues, and learning issues to become more self-sufficient. They are able to use the tools Mrs. Riva teaches them to help them build friendships, work out differences, and create a better world. For her ability to as an educator to establish real world tools into her students, we honor Mrs. Maureen Riva as a Teacher Who Rocks.


MRS. CRISTINA PURI
Guidance Counselor at
Lincoln Park Middle School

Lincoln Park Middle SchoolMrs. Cristina Puri is in a role that is one of the most integral parts of any school community – the guidance counselor. She serves as an anti-bullying specialist in the building and also heads the climate team, a group of students and teachers that work to foster a positive school climate for Lincoln Park Middle School. She helps the climate team produce PSA videos about bullying and discrimination that are aired on the morning announcements and has also brought students to a holiday outreach at a local nursing home.

Mrs. Puri is a caring, hardworking member of the school. She treats everyone with kindness and is adored b the student population. Students at LPMS clearly demonstrate that they enjoy her presence, as they pop their heads in to say hello frequently with smiled on their faces. For being a true asset to her school, we honor Mrs. Puri as a Teacher Who Rocks.


PATRICIA BELLAS
5th Grade Teacher at Hillview Elementary School in Pompton Plains

Hillview Elementary SchoolMrs. Bellas is a 5th grade teacher who works tirelessly to create engaging and creative lessons, plan interactive activities for her students, and goes the extra mile to make certain that her students are successful. Over the course of the school year, she gets to know her students and their families and becomes invested in their success. Her classroom is a place where her students are encouraged to do their best every day and to ensure this, she is often there before school and during her lunch period helping students who need a little bit of extra support.

Mrs. Bellas classroom is filled with displays of her students work. She has a knack for accommodating all students, building confidence and allowing mistakes to be learning opportunities. Pat is also a team player who is always mindful of how she can help her fellow teachers at all times by sharing techniques, games, and worksheets. She plans events for the school including the grad 5 vs. teachers in basketball, volleyball, and kickball games and also serves on many committees, often taking on the leadership role. For her investment and involvement in her students and her school’s success, we honor Mrs. Bellas as a Teacher Who Rocks.


MS. LISA TREAMONT and MS. LAURIE CACCIABEVE
East Hanover Middle School

East Hanover Middle SchoolIt’s not often that we honor two teachers in the same story, but Mr. Calomino, the Assistant Principal at East Hanover Middle School, believes that he has one of the most dynamic teaching pairs in the state. Ms. Treamont and Ms. Cacciabeve are a paired regular education and in-class resource team that are amazing at delivering differentiated instruction to their students. Observing their inclusion model classroom, you are unable to determine the difference between the regular education teacher and the special education teacher. They have mastered this and their students shine all the brighter thanks to their dedication and their ability to blend their teaching styles in such a way so as to make all students feel valued and included in the learning process.

Ms. Treamont and Ms. Cacciabeve shine outside the classroom as well. They frequently chaperone school trips including the annual three-day excursion to Washington, DC. Additionally, they teach morning and after school enrichment programs in order to strengthen students’ math and ELA skills. Finally, they serve as formal and informal role models to their colleagues, many of whom have profited enormously from their guidance and support. As a team that help guide the students and staff members towards continued growth and success, we honor Ms. Treamont and Ms. Cacciabeve as Teachers Who Rock.

Congratulations to today’s winners and all our winning teachers! They will receive their special awards at WDHA’s Teachers Who Rock banquet on April 4th at Casa Bianca in Oak Ridge.


CATHY VELARDI
2nd Grade Teacher at Watsessing Elementary School in Bloomfield
  

Ms. Cathy Velardi is a 41 year veteran of teaching at Watsessing Elementary School in Bloomfield. Ms. Velardi has had many children with special needs in her classroom and does an exceptional job managing each and every child. Her dedication, work ethic, resourcefulness, and responsiveness to the needs of the children and families are the qualities that make her so special.

She has cultivated an inviting atmosphere in her classroom, furnishing it with small benches, chairs, pillows, stuffed animals, and books for reading and learning. She establishes jobs and routines for her students and when one of them is out, another student has the job of taking down their chair and placing the days work in their folder that is decorated with a heart and says “ we missed you.”

Ms. Velardi never stops thinking about her students. She makes time to show them her appreciation and has even gone apple picking to give her students an apple wrapped in ribbon with a note for each one of them. Over the holidays, Cathy has music with animated images on her smart board for the students each morning and each spring, she has a butterfly project where the children learn and watch the metamorphosis of butterflies. Tables are setup in the hallway for the whole school to follow with magnifying glasses and pamphlets are set out explaining the process. It is a schoolwide event when the butterflies are released outdoors.

For going above and beyond for over four decades of teaching, we honor Cathy Velardi as a Teacher Who Rocks.


 CAROLYN MOSCHELLA
4th Grade Teacher at Durban Avenue School in Hopatcong

Students in Mrs. Moschella’s classroom are held to high expectations that they have no problem meeting. She takes the time to get to know all of her students, focusing on their strengths, in order to foster each student’s self-esteem. She hones in on each student’s needs and works with each one of them in order to make progress.

Mrs. Moschella’s spunky personality and sense of humor motivates her young 4th graders. She understands her student’s need to constantly move around and be their own individuals. She lets each student express him or herself, and makes every effort to make each child shine in his or her own way. Mrs. Moschella takes the time to not only provide academic support but also social and emotional support too.

She also does a lot for her school’s community. She organizes the school’s Veteran’s Day activities since she currently has a son in the military as students participate in a variety of activities in which they are taught the value of respecting our Veterans. In addition to this, she also serves in other school-wide committees including their Love Of Reading, Author Visit, and Election Day Committees. For all the extra activities that she organizes at the Durban Avenue School, we honor Mrs. Moschella as a Teacher Who Rocks.


KIMBERLY TOTA
6th Grade Science Teacher at Columbia Middle School in Berkeley Heights

Mrs.Tota’s students are constantly engaged and excited by her lessons at Columbia Middle School. Her students take a “hands on” approach to their lab assignments, working in small groups and learning about the course material through unique methods, including blowing up a small balloon using a mix of vinegar and baking soda.

Mrs. Tota makes sure that each student in her class is comfortable and treats them as important individuals. Her teaching methods ensure that her passion for science is transferred to her students. For her dedication to her students, we honor Mrs. Tota as a Teacher Who Rocks.


ELISE COSENZA
6th Grade Teacher at Mount Arlington Public School

Ms. Consenza has been a rocking teacher in the Mount Arlington Public School District for the past 23 years. Ms. Consenza (an avid WDHA listener), has an engaging personality and teaching style that brings the classroom to life. She teaches 6th-grade language arts, provides basic skills instruction, and is the district’s reading specialist. As an Orton-Gillingham trained professional, she uses a multi-sensory approach to teach struggling learners, especially students with dyslexia, how to read.

Ms. Consenza takes tremendous pride in teaching her students, but it’s the personal connection she makes that is truly special. She is completely vested in her students’ lives, even outside of school. Whether it’s tutoring her students during the summer,

taking them fishing with her own children, or just pumpkin picking with student’s family on the weekend, she is all in. She continually provides support, guidance, and empathy for any student who struggles academically, emotionally, and socially.

For her dedication to her students no matter what the situation, we honor Ms. Cosenza as a Teacher Who Rocks.


ALLISON MENARD
Middle School Math Teacher at Beloved Community Charter School in Jersey City

Allison Menard has proven to be an educator who goes the “extra mile” for her students and makes it her life’s work to ensure all Beloved scholars experience academic and social achievement. Mrs. Menard arrives each morning to offer tutoring sessions to struggling students prior to the beginning of first period. She often works with her students during her lunch breaks to prepare them for tests, have them make up missing assignments, or to provide one-on-one tutoring for students who are having difficulty with certain concepts.

Mrs. Menard also serves as the girl’s head soccer coach and has worked with student-athletes in all sports to help them maintain their academic eligibility. She has offered tutoring sessions to student athletes who are in danger of being suspended from competition because of their academics and is in constant communication with the Athletic Director and coaches on each student’s current grades.
Mrs. Menard is constantly working with students who come from troubled home lives or struggle with maintaining a positive self-image, and reminds them of their value in the school community, in their family, and how they are capable of achieving great things. Because of her dedication to every student at the Beloved Community Charter School, we honor  Allison Menard as a Teacher Who Rocks.


Dr. Kenneth Piascik
Band Instructor at Black River Middle School in Chester

Dr. Piascik sets his bar high for his students, not only to make them better musicians, but also to encourage them to be exemplary people. Dr. Piascik believes it is his calling to instill joy for all musical genres into his students. Because of this, he offers specialized instruction such as honors, jazz, sting, and percussion groups where students can explore artists and techniques that go beyond their regular lessons. He has also developed a music level rating system, an individualized program for students who seek to further their musical development at their own pace. The voluntary system incorporates cognitive, affective, and psychomotor challenges which benefit students overall development and highlights their achievements at performances.

Given his innovative teaching style, it is not surprising that many of his students have been recognized by the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown as “Music Students Of the Month” and that his band has been a multiple recipient of the coveted Esprit de Corps award at the annual “Music In the Parks” competition.

For his dedication to his students and his band, we honor Dr. Piascik as a Teacher Who Rocks.


LENNY MYERS
Math Teacher at Morris Knolls High School

mkhsMr. Lenny Myers, a math teacher at Morris Knolls High School, has his influence go beyond the the classroom. He dedicates his times to numerous school initiatives including being the SGA advisor, the emcee for all school pep rallies, a video producer for school events, a soccer coach, a softball coach, and the annual powderpuff flag football game coach.

Mr. Myers devotes countless hours to the school’s student government and teams, promoting not just competition and school spirit, but also camaraderie, sportsmanship, and maturity. Mr. Myers doesn’t know how to say “no” to students, often appearing in student videos on MKTV and being the emcee and performer at Faculty Night shows, school concerts, and functions including the 50th anniversary picnic.

Because of Mr. Myers energy and enthusiasm towards his school, we honor him as a Teacher Who Rocks for 2017.


MICHELE GUERRIERO
3rd and 4th Grade Math Teacher at Mountain Park School

Mountain Park ElementaryMs. Guerriero, a 3rd and 4th grade teacher at Mountain Park School in Berkley Heights, is a fun loving, musical teacher who often breaks out into song while teaching. She often creates songs to help her students remember math procedures (her estimation song to the tune of “To The Left, To The Left” is a class favorite). She also can be found during her lunch hour teaching her 4th graders the newest dance moves she has taught herself from YouTube.

Ms. Guerriero’s infectious laughter, giant smile, dedication, and love of music and dance make school fun for her students and for the staff she works with. For always having a song to sing, we honor Ms. Guerriero as a Teacher Who Rocks.