Winning Teachers Who Make Magic 2018

We are proud to welcome the following teachers to the Magic 98.3 Teachers Who Make Magic Class of 2018, presented by the New Jersey Education Association.


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Sampson G. Smith Intermediate School
Nominated by: Rosemary King, Literacy Coach

Sampson G Smith School

 Nominated by Rosemary King, Jill Santoni is a 5th English Language Arts teacher at Smith Intermediate in Somerset.

Behind the scenes, Jill works tirelessly to develop her skills, feed her passion, and make a difference in many children’s lives. She is known as a kind and understanding teacher.  She embraces all children as they are and helps them find the best in themselves. She is also a teacher leader, she shares her work and opens her classroom for professional development and Instructional Rounds. She has piloted new curriculum, and has taken on the position of Parent Involvement Coordinator.
Students rely on teachers like Jill to welcome, embrace, and help them find the best in themselves.  Teachers rely on her to support and inspire them.  Parents rely on her to foster collaborative relationships. Just a few reasons why Jill Santoni deserves this honor.

Conerly Road School
Nominated by: Donna S. Burnett, Principal

 Nominated by Principal Burnett, Grisel Panchery is a 4th grade Teacher at Conerly Road School in Somerset . Throughout her 21 years of teaching, she has taught all academic subjects.

Grisel always finds creative ways to teach students the importance of showing others respect, as well as letting her students know how special they are to her. She organized the annual African-American Living Wax Museum, Science Fair, and other school wide events.

What has made her an outstanding candidate for the Teacher Who Makes Magic is the sincere spirit of love and gratitude for all students. She goes above and beyond to ensure that the learning environment is safe for all students to take risks when academic challenges arise. Just a few reasons why Grisel Panchery deserves this most prestigious award.

Van Derveer Elementary
Nominated by: Lindsay Frevert

Jen Setzer is a 1st grade teacher at Van Derveer Elementary in Somerville. For the past several years Jen has been very involved with the Morning Reading Program and assisted in writing the school curriculum. Jen is also an active part of the school community. She’s assisted during the Strawberry Festival, the Sun Fish Committee, birthday celebrations, the Cookie Exchange, Literacy Night, the Blank Canvas Program and several other school events and activities.  She is always willing to give a helping hand.

Her patience is incredible and she encourages her students to take risks which creates a comfortable atmosphere In her classroom and makes every child feel loved and accepted. She is a great resource for her fellow teachers, a fabulous collaborator and always shares tips, ideas and tricks that help meet each student’s needs.

Jen is inspiring.  She loves what she does, and it’s evident.  Her students love her, and there is always so much positive energy when she’s around.  Jen Setzer is a PERFECT candidate to be chosen as a Teacher Who Makes Magic.

Bartle Elementary School
Nominated by: Rachel Pasichow

Ms. Pecora is not only an outstanding educator, but a friend and mentor to her students. She is in her classroom from 6am until 6pm each and every day, helping students, colleagues, administrators and many others who rely on her to help improve their instruction as well as revise misconceptions and attitudes about special needs students.

She is an ardent advocate for her students and designs curriculum to not only meet their needs, but allow them to work cooperatively, effectively and confidently with their regular education peers. She does not allow her students to be satisfied with mediocre, and encourages them to reach beyond their potential. She has enrolled them in unique and creative opportunities such as performing arts programs with George Street Playhouse, publishing their poetry and art work, and successfully acquiring grants to get special adaptive furniture and to help improve and beautify her school.

She’s a master teacher and phenomenal human being who values her students above all. Deborah Pecora’s exceptional qualities earn her the honor of being Teacher Who Makes Magic.


James Madison Intermediate
Nominated by: Monica Ulisse-Landrove, Co-Worker

Marta Neri is a 5th grade ELA special education teacher at James Madison Intermediate in Edison and was nominated by fellow teacher Monica Ulisse-Landrove.

Mrs. Neri always greets everyone with a smile and a "Good Morning." She counts each day as a fresh beginning and demonstrates this in her approach, guidance, praise, and support of all students. Her personal mission is to meet each child where they are academically and hold them to the highest of standards. She demonstrates the importance of teaching life skills that continue to build character and fortitude in each child well beyond the 5th grade. She also inspires fellow teachers to raise the bar in every aspect of teaching.
Mrs. Neri creates and shares her materials with her colleagues and assists them in using new resources. She reaches out to the families of her students and keeps a constant communication with parents to not only respond to inquiries, but to praise their child for going above and beyond as she does every day. She never stops learning, researching, or looking for ways to improve her craft. She leads by example in every aspect of her profession and is truly a teacher who makes magic for students.

Soehl Middle School
Nominated by: Michael Damato, Co-worker

Kimberly Leight is an 8th grade Science teacher at Soele Middle in Linden and was nominated by fellow teacher Michael Damato. Kimberly Leight takes a "discovery learning" approach so her students learn through action not lecturing. As a Peer Leader advisor, she organized a students versus police basketball game helping hundreds of teens meet, interact and form ongoing friendships with the officers.
Over the past few years, she has helped her students develop interactive art activities with kindergarteners at nearby elementary schools. Ms. Leight has also helped run several school trips for her eighth graders, including a visit to a science laboratory to inspire future STEM leaders and exploring a natural sanctuary to see a mix of forest and wetland environments.
She is a member of her school district’s Instructional Leadership Team and was chosen to be one of the two Team Leaders for the implementation of PLCs (Professional Learning Communities).
Last year, Ms. Leight conquered one of her own lifelong fears by performing her "Poem of Gratitude" in front of hundreds of students and colleagues during the school’s Poetry Slam event.