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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Franklin Township Public Schools
Nominated by: Dana Karas is Director of School Counseling

Franklin Township SchoolsMary Ginsburg has been an Administrative Assistant at Franklin Township Public Schools for over a decade. Mary has a “can do” attitude that never quits regardless of the task and never ending new challenges that confront a large, comprehensive high school. Mary was instrumental in the successful transfer of the high school graduation from off-site to on school premises.
In addition to executing her daily duties to perfection, Mary also extends herself to support out-testing initiatives at Franklin High, and works with both SAT and ACT test administration.
Mary is simply one of the most supportive, caring Educational Support Professionals that her Director has had the pleasure of working with throughout her career and could think of no finer accolade than to nominate her for this well-deserved magical recognition.

Van Derveer Elementary School in Somerville
Nominated by: First Grade Teacher Kerry Foote

Karen Tove-Jones is an Educational Support Professional at Van Derveer Elementary School in Somerville.  Karen’s kindness, thoughtfulness and infectious laugh have forever changed the lives of too many to count.
She has worked in the Somerville School District for over 25 years as a school-based non-traditional social-worker. Karen has worked with thousands of children, her office is a safe haven for students.
Karen serves as the School Anti-Bullying Specialist, coordinates students’ 504s, is a member of the I & RS Team, and is the Red Ribbon Week, Respect Week and Violence and Vandalism Week Chairman. Karen is also the Girls on the Run Coordinator and Head Coach.
Karen listens, coaches, and counsels all. But most importantly, Karen is always there making magic.

Paul Robeson Community School for the Arts
Nominated by: Kelly Mooring, Principal

4th grade teacher James Jackson at Paul Robeson Community School for the Arts in New Brunswick was nominated by Principal Kelly Mooring.

Mr. Jackson is a proud alumnus of New Brunswick Public Schools and shares his experiences with his students about growing up in the New Brunswick community. Mr. Jackson consistently advocates for his students’ best interests as he works with school counselors, support staff and building administrators to get the needs of his students met.
Mr. Jackson has established such a strong bond with the students that they organize, plan and execute a surprise birthday party for him each year.
Mr. Jackson’s hard work, dedication to refining his instructional practice, his advocacy for his students, his proud representation of the best qualities of New Brunswick Public Schools as a student, coach, and teacher make him a teacher who helps make his school a special place. He is without a doubt a Teacher Who Makes Magic!

Thomas P. Hughes Elementary School
Nominated by: Jessica Nardi, Principal

Mrs. Lindsay Ligouri teaches at Thomas P. Hughes Elementary in Berkeley Heights and was nominated by Principal Jessica Nardi.

Principal Nardi says Mrs. Ligouri is the kind of teacher she has always wanted for her own children.  She is kind and loving, but also holds students to a high standard.  She has a very active classroom, but the students are always on-task and often engaging in differentiated work.  She has the innate ability to pull MORE out of children – more questions, more thinking, more learning, and even more kindness. She spends a great deal of time creating innovative and engaging lessons.  Mrs. Liguori is a member of the Language Arts Curriculum Committee and has helped pilot new curricula. Principal Nardi receives frequent positive feedback from parents about Mrs. Ligouri making her an obvious choice for a Teacher Who Makes Magic.

Stevens High School in Edison
Nominated by: Assistant Principal Robert Urbanovich

David Marzano is a Math teacher and Varsity baseball coach at Stevens High School in Edison. Coach Marzano is not only a fantastic baseball coach and outstanding mathematics teacher, he’s a graduate of John P. Stevens and has taught for over 20 years with an encouraging demeanor and warm personality.

Mr. Marzano teaches a variety of mathematics classes, but his strength lies in his ability to connect with students who have struggled in math. His classroom management is outstanding and he has proven extremely effective in breaking down mathematical concepts translating into student understanding. He has had great success coaching baseball, but more importantly developing young men who display great effort and character. Mr.Marzano makes magic every day.

South Amboy Elementary School
Nominated By: Principal Sean Dunphy

Georgeann Tice, is an Art teacher at South Amboy Elementary. Mrs. Tice collaborates with fellow teachers to incorporate other class lessons into her art classes.  She is the first to help with any school function and she runs an “Art Show” which displays work from each grade level collected throughout the year.  One of Ms. Tice’s lessons is having students build space stations out of recyclable goods, but they also have to plan for the cost of the items.  She creates a cost sheet for each item and gives the students a maximum budget to finish the project.

Mrs. Tice has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity Global Village each spring, including the past three years building homes and installing smokeless stoves in Guatemala.  Mrs. Tice TRULY ROCKS!

Livingston Park Elementary in north Brunswick
Nominated by: Principal Sidney Dawson

Liz Fackelman is a kind, dynamic and talented choral teacher who loves music and her students; her passion for teaching radiates in everything she does. She has revitalized the music program at her school, and now it is thriving! Ms. Fackelman helps children discover their talents, and she can connect with any student, regardless of their ability level. Her lessons are fun, exciting and encourage children to discover themselves. Outside of the classroom, Liz works tirelessly to provide professional development for her colleagues, and to organize school assemblies. With her help, her school has developed beautiful traditions to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, local veterans and many others. Liz goes above and beyond, each and every day, to make school a special place for the kids. Liz Fackleman is a teacher who makes magic every day!

Franklin High School
Nominated by: Magie Muir, Fellow Teacher

Nominated by fellow teacher Maggie Muir, Pascale Byrne teaches French at Franklin High School in Somerset.
Pascale is constantly exploring new ways to engage her learners. She incorporates anything edu-taining to promote her students’ use of French.  When a Spanish teacher replacement was needed mid-year, Pascale took on the additional class in a new language and helped the students orchestrate their own Quinceñera party! She volunteered to help proctor the Seal of Bi-literacy exams and gave up her prep period several times to help a colleague with a challenging class and help reach struggling learners. Both students and fellow teachers learn from her. Pascale is selfless, a true team player and deserving of the honor of a teacher who makes magic.

Washington Elementary
Nominated by: Jessica Sachinwalla, Fellow Teacher

Gina Ulrich has been teaching for 22 years and is a 3rd grade teacher at Washington Elementary in Edison. She was nominated by Jessica Sachinwalla, a 1st grade teacher, and former student of Dr. Ulrich 21 years ago. Gina Ulrich is the sole reason Jessica became a teacher. In 1997 Jessica was hospitalized, Gina checked on her and cared for her like a parent, and went out of her way to make sure she wasn’t singled out. She even officiated Jessica’s wedding. Gina recently won a nationwide award from Bizworld as their Teacher of the Year. One class project she created raised over $1,000 for charity. Every student that has her, adores her; every student who doesn’t, dreams about being in her class. Gina’s had that gift since day one and is certainly a teacher who makes magic.

St. Matthias in Somerset
Nominated by: Jeanne Miller, Fellow Teacher

When you hear the words kind, compassionate, dedicated, and caring, you think of Dee Dillon. Dee has been a teacher for 12 years and first grade is challenging, which Dee readily accepts. From the moment her students walk into the classroom, they are engaged because her class is constantly in motion.

Dee is nurturing and it makes her students feel comfortable and safe. She is also there for her colleagues. Whether she is helping new or seasoned teachers or chairing a committee, her spirit, dedication and work ethic are evident. Seeing Dee Dillon in action shows you the true meaning of a teacher who makes magic.

Hillcrest School in Somerset
Nominated by: Jeanelle Panek, Fellow Teacher

Alexandra goes the extra mile every day and is a part of many committees. She is always creating incredible, engaging activities and videos to help each student’s learning style. She created a Talent Show to showcase all students. She has a positive attitude but means business when it comes to learning.

Her class reads a poem every day to start their mindset in believing in themselves, and taking advantage of their education. If you heard it, it would bring tears to your eyes. She also co-leads the New Teacher Workshops to mentor new teachers. Alexandra is a teacher who makes magic every day.

Triangle School
Nominated by: Samantha Pavon, Fellow Teacher

Nancy Knutsen was nominated by fellow teacher Samantha Pavon. Nancy has been an Art teacher at Triangle School in Hillsborough for 31 years and will be retiring this year.

Nancy has been an Art teacher at Triangle School in Hillsborough for 31 years and will be retiring this year.

Nancy has never slowed down and is still one of the last teachers out of the building each night. She works tirelessly to create innovative, creative, and inspiring art projects for her students, and makes videos to aid them with their projects.
She spends hours creating beautiful scenery for assemblies, bulletin boards, and school activities. She decorates the hallways with the students’ artwork and invites teachers to bring their classes for extension projects for Literacy and Social Studies.
Every student in the building is lucky to have learned from her, and every staff member is lucky to have worked with her. She will be missed more than she will ever know! With this being her last year, she certainly deserves to be a teacher who makes magic.

Whiton Elementary School
Nominated By: Principal Dee Shober

Eileen Szajdecki has been teaching for 23 years, and teaches 2nd grade at Whiton Elementary School in Neshanic Station; she was nominated by Principal Dee Shober.

Mrs. Szajdecki has a positive rapport with her students and advocates for all of them so that they get what they deserve, academically, socially, and emotionally.
She is a consummate and dedicated professional who regularly stays well past the end of the day and always takes her work home with her.
Mrs. Szajdecki is just one of those teachers that you never forget and that you wish your child gets.  She exemplifies what it means to teach the whole child and is truly deserving of the honor of a teacher who makes magic.

Franklin Park School
Nominated by: Principal Purvi Shah

Miss Courtney Collins teaches Kindergarten at Franklin Park School.
Miss Collins recognizes that children develop and learn in a variety of contexts and therefore provides opportunities that support their intellectual and social-emotional development.  She adapts and modifies instruction to accommodate their special learning needs; partnering with her colleagues to create a learning environment that encourages positive social interaction, active engagement in learning and self-motivation.  She uses knowledge of effective verbal, non-verbal and written communication techniques to foster the use of inquiry, collaboration and supportive interactions.
Miss Collins engages in frequent and sensitive communication with families that help them to take an active part in their child’s studies.   She displays a strong commitment to the success of every student and takes on leadership opportunities inspiring her team and colleagues to come together for the betterment of her students. Courtney Collins is a teacher who makes magic!

Raritan High School
Nominated by: Ada McCrady, fellow teacher

Melanie Taylor is a 20 year veteran who teaches at Raritan High School.

Melanie stands out as a true unsung hero, one who has built an incredible program and has had great impact on her students. Ms. Taylor stands out for her leadership, her passion and her commitment to engaging all students so they can reach their potential. She is extremely passionate about the Performing Arts and shares her enthusiasm with every student. She embraces the complexity of educating young minds and has a gift for creating an environment where each students’ abilities are highlighted.

Ms. Taylor truly is one of those rare teachers who has had an impact on everyone she’s instructed. Ms. Taylor is a remarkable and inspiring individual who deserves recognition for her dedication to her profession and her students and deserves to be a Teacher Who Makes Magic.

Eisenhower School
Nominated by: Laura Mihalenko, fellow teacher

Stephanie Gottdenker is the ELL (English Language Learners) teacher at Eisenhower School in Parlin and was nominated by fellow teacher Laura Mihalenko. Mrs. Gottdenker’s students come from all over the globe; these children are not only facing a new school, but a new language, a new country, and a new culture. Within moments, she makes them feel at home and safe.
Mrs. Gottdenker ties their experiences in their native countries to the content she is teaching. She has a wonderful way of honoring her students’ backgrounds, introducing new concepts and traditions, and respecting every culture.
She has also presented professional development workshops for other teachers and has more than earned their respect and admiration.
In Mrs. Gottdenker’s class, students will receive exactly what they need to succeed, and much more. She is truly a teacher who makes magic.

North Brunswick Township High School
Nominated by: Patty Van Langen, Supervisor of Special Education

Nominated by Patty Van Langen, Supervisor of Special Education, Marcy Marx has been a teacher of students with disabilities for sixteen years in North Brunswick. She currently teaches Specialized Reading, and 10th grade English and Theater at North Brunswick Township High School. In addition to her teaching she is the Coordinator for the Positive Behavior Supports initiative and the Director of the Alchemist Theater Club.
Mrs. Marx teaches a theater elective for students in a behavior disabilities program and has extended this popular elective to the self-contained learning and language disabilities program.
Mrs. Marx also coordinates an annual show that generates enough revenue to fund the program for the 1800 students all year.
She always includes many students with special needs and coordinates the needed supports to have them participate.
To look objectively at what Mrs. Marx accomplishes in a day, one could only conclude that Marcy Marx truly is a Teacher Who Makes Magic.

MacAfee Road School
Nominated by: Principal Bill Grippo

MacAfee Road SchoolJay Hooper teaches second grade at MacAfee Road School in Somerset.

Jay is an amazing and an inspirational teacher who is a fantastic role model for his students.  Jay participates in every facet of the school community. He founded, trains and oversees the school’s 20 member safety patrol, he volunteers for all school events, helps conduct many fundraisers and is the leader of the school Positive Behavior Incentive program. Jay is also a leader in the school’s math team and attends ongoing professional development for math best practices.
Jay is a positive force, encouraging all staff to get involved in school activities.  Jay has a roll up the sleeves attitude and that is why Jay Hooper as a teacher who makes magic.

Branchburg Central Middle School
Nominated by: Principal Matthew Barbosa

Lisa Leibowitz is a 7th grade language arts teacher at Branchburg Central Middle School.  Lisa is an amazing teacher who is constantly working to improve her craft and increase student learning.  Lisa excels at planning, developing and modeling lessons that will not only inspire students but engage them in ways that encourage a positive student outcome. She collaborates with her colleagues to create lessons that integrate content, are differentiated, provide student choice, and are tied to the lives of her students. Lisa also co-chairs the arts-integration committee at the school where she works to use the arts to help students learn, express and celebrate.

Lisa Leibowitz is an amazing educator, an outstanding professional and a teacher who makes magic.

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 Sampson G. 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.