We are proud to welcome the following teachers to the Magic 98.3 Teachers Who Make Magic Class of 2019!
This years teachers will be honored at the Teachers Who Make magic Banquet on Tuesday April 2, 2019 @ The Pines Manor in Edison.

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Custodian at Livingston Park Elementary School
Nominated by: Sidney Dawson, Principal

David Smith is a special custodian at Livingston Park Elementary School in North Brunswick, and comes to work each day dedicated to make the school a comfortable place to be! He keeps everything spotlessly clean and responds instantly to any concern that arises.

Dave makes sure each classroom is a clean and tidy space so every child can focus on learning. When winter comes around, Dave goes above and beyond to clear snow and ice from the sidewalks and parking lots, and often spends extra time at the school on nights and weekends to make sure everything is clean and safe. He is conscientious and dedicated in everything he does.

He greets everyone in the hallway with a smile and a fist bump, and will even send a quick to text staff members to give them a heads up if there’s traffic on the morning commute!

Every school should be so lucky to have a custodian as wonderful as David Smith, and everyone at Livingston Park Elementary appreciates all he does! He’s dedicated, thorough, and enjoys making a difference in the lives of everyone who walks through the doors. This is why he’s an “ESP Who Makes Magic!”


Learning Disabilities Teacher Consultant at Whiton Elementary School
Nominated by: Dee Sober, Principal

Heather Lilly is a Learning Disabilities Teacher Consultant at Whiton Elementary School, and her role is to support students who receive special services. This position requires gaining the trust and respect of the students, staff, and parents, and Heather does this by establishing a positive rapport with everyone.

Her job as an LDTC has many aspects to it-for example, on certain days, you’ll find her riding the school bus with the instructional aides to make sure students have everything they need on their ride to and from school.

She will also visit other schools and collect data on incoming students so she becomes a familiar face once they’re a part of the Whiton School community.

Heather is also an integral part of staff meetings, and consistently comes up with different ideas and strategies to support students in the general education setting. She shares her ideas with teachers, and will prepare visuals and charts that can immediately be used in the classroom.

Heather is always working to find creative solutions for any problems that arises, and is an advocate for all students to get what they deserve academically, socially, and emotionally. She radiates the “can do” attitude and has a special way of working with everyone. This is why Heather Lilly is an “ESP Who Makes Magic!”

Twin Sister- Spanish teachers at McManus Middle School
Nominated by: Kevin LaMastra, District Supervisor

Las Hermanas Peñaranda as they’re known, are sisters who have been teaching Spanish at McManus Middle School in Linden for the past 15 years!

These two sisters immigrated from Colombia, for opportunities in the U.S. They put themselves through college while working minimum wage jobs, and eventually not only became certified teachers, but master teachers with advanced degrees. 

Both teachers act as great resources in their school and help bridge the language barriers. Both sisters are often called in for not only their translation skills, but for their insights into the issues that new students to the US may struggle with.

Also, just last year, they began teaching a Spanish class for fellow teachers on Saturdays. The class was a huge success. Over 25 teachers signed up for the class, and this year, that number nearly doubled.

Las Hermanas Peñaranda of McManus Middle in Linden are Teachers Who Make Magic

9th-12th Grade Math Teacher at Franklin High School
Nominated by: Jennifer Jones, Co-Teacher

18 year veteran math teacher Ted Jones is adored by his students at Franklin High School because he makes learning fun.

Due to his patience, charm and love for his students, guidance counselors and administrators turn to him when students struggle in other classes.

Many students, who have had difficulty with math for years, strive in Mr. Jones’ class.

Every day after school he stays and volunteers his time to help any and all students who need assistance.

He’s also found time to coach soccer and tennis, and be the advisor for clubs.

There is no doubt that Ted Jones is truly a Teacher Who Makes Magic!

3rd Grade Elementary teacher at Van Derveer Elementary School
Nominated by: Lindsay Frevert, Co-Teacher

Joelle Kessler teaches Third Grade and has been at Van Derveer Elementary School for the past 6 years!

Joelle’s love of teaching shows with her passion and dedication to her colleagues and students. During her tenure she has helped plan a Pioneer event and Fairy Tale ball. Lindsay also started the annual field trips to the Fire museum.

She’s help create an ice cream social to celebrate writing, and a “Book Tasting.” She’s extremely involved in the school’s “Strawberry Festival” and stepped up big for “Read Across America.”

Just a couple of reasons why Joelle Kessler is a Teacher Who Makes Magic!

10th & 11th Grade Chemistry Teacher at Somerville High School
Nominated by: Patrick Frain, Co-Teacher

Charles McInerney teaches Chemistry at Somerville High School, and even after 22 years, still finds unique and creative ways to teach this difficult subject!

His lessons are fun, informative, and even students who don’t have a passion for science are riveted and have said how much they enjoy his class.  

Charles also likes to extend his “can do” attitude outside the classroom. A few years ago, he became the golf coach and turned the Somerville Golf Program into a fierce competitor!

He’s also the Environmental Adviser, and regularly instills the importance of conservation and preservation, and was instrumental in creating a yearly “Earth Day Cleanup.” Both students and faculty enjoy participating in this event, and while everyone has fun, they also know they’re making an impact on the community and environment.

Charles can be found at various school charity events, and his door is always open for students or fellow teachers. His willingness to help is evident, and parents and students have said how much they’ve noticed his love of teaching.   Chemistry can be a tough subject, but Charles McInerney has a way to make it interesting and fun, and for all these reasons, is now a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”.

3rd, 4th,& 5th Grade Special Education Teacher at Hillcrest School
Nominated by: Albert Fico, Principal

Lindsay Sheffrin is a third, fourth, and fifth grade special education teacher at Hillcrest School, and has been teaching for 14 years. She believes all children have the ability to learn, and she strives to teach every child who walks through her classroom door.

Lindsay is a Certified Orton Gillingham Teacher, which is a multisensory reading program. She spends countless hours creating engaging lessons using all self-made materials to teach students how to read! Lindsay will work with students on her prep period and before and after school. She works with general education teachers and administrators to ensure that each child’s needs are met, and goes out of her way to make sure all of her students are properly serviced, even creating personal schedules for students who need help transitioning from class to class.

Outside of the classroom Lindsay plays an active role in the community by attending games, practices, dances, literacy and math nights, board meetings, plays, and fundraisers. She plays an active role in the school district and is a part of numerous committees. Lindsay is a member of The International Dyslexia Association and was awarded their Balaban Scholarship for her passion to inspire and mentor fellow teachers!

Lindsay shows respect to all students and in turn gains their trust. They love to go to her class because they know how much she cares. She’s a true professional who goes above and beyond every day, and that’s why Lindsay Sheffrin is a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

K-5 Art Teacher at Conerly Road School
Nominated by: Donna Silva-Burnett, Principal

Karen Oakley is an Art Appreciation Teacher at Conerly Road School in Somerset, and for the past 20 years, she’s brought enthusiasm and passion to her classroom! She exudes a genuine and caring nature and inspires all students to appreciate art.

If you saw the hallways at Conerly Road School, you’d be amazed at how beautifully they’re decorated, and the best part is, all of the art work is done by the students! By displaying what is created in the classroom, it fosters an even deeper love of learning, and instills confidence in students ability and a bigger appreciation of art.

For the annual holiday concerts, Karen supports the music teacher by decorating the stage with various artifacts that bring the holiday spirit alive! She’s always available to help fellow teachers with classroom ideas or anything they may need, and her door is always open for students, too.  

Karen Oakley appreciates all cultures and makes sure every student, co-worker, and staff member feels important. Her love of teaching art appreciation is evident, and this is why she’s a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

High School Teacher at John P. Stevens
Nominated by: Taryn Mateyka, Co-Teacher

Regina Shapiro teaches High School Students at John P Stevens in Edison, and over the past 23 years, has excelled at everything she’s done, both in and out of the classroom!

She moved here from Atlanta, and started teaching Special Education English at JPS. A science major, she dove right in to the unfamiliar world of Literacy instruction, read every novel, became a grammar expert and then got certified in special reading programs! She makes time to modify lessons, meet with students, conference with teachers, and was also a class adviser. Students who’ve graduated have been known to come back, pay her a visit, and ask for advice on college courses and life things in general.

Her devotion to helping students is inspirational, and she strives to be an expert in every level of her profession. She is willing to try anything if it means helping a student succeed and she has always taken on the next, new and challenging task with a smile and a “can-do” attitude.

Regina’s been instrumental in creating and implementing life skills for the MD program and the new autism program at JPS, and is the definition of character, integrity and devotion. For all these reasons and more, Regina Shapiro is a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!

Industrial Arts Teacher at Dunellen High School
Nominated by: Paul Lynch, Principal

John Shimko has been teaching Wood Shop at Dunellen High School for 40 years, and in addition to showing students how to cut wood and build furniture, he is part philosopher, life counselor, parent, and a fully a dedicated, hard-working educator!

Fellow teachers and staff affectionately refer to John as “The Sawdust Sage!” He offers free advice and counseling to the students at Dunellen High School, and gives them guidance on where to attend college. All students have different wants and financial situations, and John is always available to offer support.

As a result of all his continued efforts, students always pay him a visit after graduation and share their success and ask for input on what their next steps should be! He is extremely thoughtful and always makes time for others. Many students have entered careers in woodworking or even opened their own business.

John Shimko is a valuable teacher at Dunellen High School who puts his dedication to his students, faculty, staff and the community first. This is why he’s a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

Special Education Teacher at Thomas P. Hughes
Nominated by: Jessica Nardi, Principal

Jennifer Fischer is a Special Education Teacher at Thomas P Hughes School in Berkeley Heights, and is extremely dedicated in her chosen profession. Each day, she plans with three different general education teachers to be sure that her targeted students receive maximum benefit from every lesson, and is also available to offer support and guidance. She doesn’t just have one quality that makes her special; she has the total package that makes her outstanding!

Students frequently seek her out for academic and personal support, and she goes to any length to meet their needs. She loves to connect with her students and even surprised them recently by dressing up as the Statue of Liberty for the annual Flag Day festivities! The faculty and staff are proud of her accomplishment of obtaining a grant to purchase a “Walking Classroom” to further motivate students and provide extra learning opportunities.

Jennifer is, without a doubt, a valued and trusted “go to” person for her students and a mentor to fellow teachers. She’s never too busy to help out, regardless of the time of day or personal schedule, and advocates for her colleagues and school community. Everyone who works with Jennifer says she’s left an indelible mark at Thomas P Hughes School, and this is why Jennifer Fischer is “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

Kindergarten Teachers at East End Elementary School
Nominated by: Ashley Davidson, Co-Teacher

Joanna Oliver is a caring, resourceful, happy-go-lucky, friendly and funny Kindergarten teacher at East End Elementary School in North Plainfield.  For the past 9 years, she’s gone above and beyond to ensure her students receive the care they need and the education they deserve. Joanna has an eclectic and sometimes eccentric wardrobe, and it thrills the students walking into her classroom as they marvel at how she’s dressed!

She constantly puts her students before anything else and works hard to ensure each student is met at their level, but is also pushed to excel.  Joanna inspires the students to respect each other, and her love of teaching shines through in every activity and lesson.  For example, each morning the students begin the day by singing songs that are themed for every month of the school year.  Her classroom is designed to maximize student success, but is also designed to be a comfortable learning environment.

On a school wide level, Joanna has worked to create an eco friendly environment from a recycling program, and eventually plans to create a school wide garden.  She’s constantly on the lookout for ways to enhance the schools’ carbon footprint.

Joanna Oliver is well respected and loved by students, parents and staff, and because of her unique teaching methods and willingness to share her talents with all she comes in contact with, she’s a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

3rd Grade teacher at Washington Community School
Nominated by: Lisa Biondi, Co-Teacher

Cheryl Hills teaches Third Grade at Washington Community School in Plainfield, and has been educating students for 25 years! She’s been at many different schools, both public and private, and although there have been many changes throughout her career, she still exudes lots of passion and positivity for her chosen profession.

Cheryl doesn’t allow any child to give up, and the faculty remark she’s patient, kind, and empathetic. She’s gentle but tough and makes sure all students strive to do their best. Cheryl prides herself on creating leaders both in and out of the classroom. She’s a part of the basketball and soccer team, and runs an afternoon student run school store called the “Young Entrepreneurs Club.” As if all of that wasn’t enough, Cheryl found some extra time and minutes in the day to join the school’s Student Council Committee and Home School Partnership!

When you think about Washington Community School you think of Cheryl Hills. The faculty and staff say she is one of the biggest backbones of the school, and more importantly, an outstanding, positive influence to anyone she comes in contact with.   This is why she’s a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

10-12 Grade Teacher at Carteret High School
Nominated by: Karen Jones, Vice Principal

Rebecca Baker has been teaching for 6 years at Carteret High School, and fellow teachers and parents all say she’s an unsung hero in the classroom! Her care and concern for all students is evident, and everyone, from fellow teachers to students and office staff know they can count on her for anything!

Rebecca lets no obstacle get in her way. When an idea pops into her head, she finds a way to make it happen and bring it to fruition. For example, over 3 years ago, she took on the challenge of not only starting but building the “Jobs For American Graduates Program.” The program, known as “JAG,” targets “at risk” students in 4 or more areas to ensure they earn a high school diploma and have continued success after graduation. As a result of her hard work, more than 95% of JAG students have graduated, entered college or vocational school, or, are employed full time!

If you ask Rebecca about this, she says it’s all part of being an advocate for students so they’re prepared for life after high school. She helps them develop skills that future employers look for, such as communication, teamwork, problem solving, planning, and organizing. Rebecca is gifted and knows how to build strategic, meaningful relationships, and as a result, both current and former students know they can count on her!

Rebecca Baker is a teacher that all students are grateful to have, and her passion for teaching is evident in everything she does. This is why she’s a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

Computer Science and Math Teacher at South Brunswick High School
Nominated by: Peter Varela, Principal

Steven Schiff has been teaching computer science and math at South Brunswick High School for 15 years, and anyone who hears his name always says he’s one of those guys who goes above and beyond both in and out of the classroom to make a difference.

He knows computer science can be a challenging subject, so he takes the time to plan lessons that are easy to comprehend, and always leaves room for question and answer. He encourages everyone to work hard so they’re capable of understanding and excelling in the field.

Steven also goes out of his way to arrange field trips to tour different companies and learn from accomplished professionals, and arrange interviews for students seeking internships so they can get an early start in their career. He was proactive in getting 3 new courses in computer science added to the curriculum, and it’s helped students decide what subject they’d like to pursue in college.

Steven understands the workload that high school students have to do on a daily basis, and knows when to push them, and when to let them have a little fun. He’s very intuitive to all students needs, and is reasonable when assigning projects and conducting tests. He’s always available for guidance and advice, and will share ideas with fellow teachers and staff.

This is why Steven Schiff is a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

4th Grade Teacher at Hillsborough Elementary School
Nominated by Kelly Mehring, Fellow teacher and daughter

Valerie Muldoon has been teaching 4th grade at Hillsborough Elementary School for the past 18 years, and has dedicated herself to making sure her students are engaged in active learning. She spends countless hours planning quality lessons that include all the necessary components of the curriculum with a touch of fun and levity to keep it interesting!

As a life long learner, you’ll often find Valerie in New York City participating in workshops and classes. During the summer months, she attends training seminars on all subjects to learn new teaching methods and techniques so she can help fellow educators in her district. Over the past 18 years, she’s mentored fellow teachers, has run the safety patrol program, and helped organize and participate in school science fairs, plays, and parent teacher conference days.

Any child who enters Valerie Muldoon’s classroom immediately feels welcome and secure. Parents have told her how lucky their son or daughter has been to have her as a teacher. She’s hard working, professional, and her love of educating children is clearly evident. This is why Valerie is a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

Special Education teacher at Claremont Road Elementary School
Nominated by Dr. Brenda Sofield, Director of Pupil Personnel Services

Pamela Lack is a special education teacher at Claremont Road Elementary School in Franklin Park, and possesses a unique ability to ensure all of her students succeed academically, socially and emotionally. She took her vision for a district wide “Abilities Enrichment Day” and made it a reality, and it included Autism and Special Needs friendly activities, an ice cream truck, service dogs, bounce houses, music, crafts, and to help cover costs, enlisted the help of the PTO to solicit donations by selling T-Shirts! The look of sheer joy on the faces of all who participated was priceless and the event was a major success!

Pamela has also advocated to have a special class created to support students with behavioral difficulties. These are the students who are the most easily forgotten or deemed too challenging to support. Pamela has dedicated her time and energy to ensure this class is successful, and has formed lasting relationships with parents and fellow faculty members. She does whatever it takes to help the students become successful, be engaged in learning, and most of all, feel like they belong and are appreciated.

Pamela Lack believes in her ability and power to teach and make a difference in the lives of her students. She instills a belief that they matter, and are cared about. Her care and respect of students and fellow teachers is amazing, and this is why Pamela is a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

4th Grade Teacher at MacAfee Road School
Nominated by Bill Grippo, Principal

MacAfee Road SchoolLaurie Wells is a 4th grade teacher at MacAfee Road School in Somerset, and all of her students and fellow teachers admire her tenacity, dedication and passion to ensure the best for the earth and the environment! She founded and leads the school’s “Green Team” and it’s quite an undertaking, but if you say that to Laurie, she’ll just tell you it’s a labor of love.

Each week, her team collects and organizes recyclables, including paper and plastic. These items are then infused into her daily lessons that include instruction on how to protect and preserve the environment. Some weeks, it’s a mini lesson, and some can be staggered over a few days. The important thing is these 4th graders are learning from a young age how crucial it is to reuse and recycle for the greater purpose of preserving our planet and environment!

Laurie has been the spark for other schools to follow in MacAfee’s footsteps and become more environmentally friendly. There’s been a district wide initiative that’s happened, and the word has been spreading quickly. Students have been talking about all of the “Green Team” events with family and friends, and other teachers are talking about it, too.

Laurie Wells exudes positivity and makes a great impression on anyone she comes in contact with, and is a wonderful teacher and role model for students and the faculty. She’s clean, green, and now, she’s also a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

First Grade Special Education Teacher at Franklin Park School
Nominated by Purvi Shah, Principal

Chelsie Baakman is a first grade special education teacher at Franklin Park School, and is an exceptional educator who understands the importance of building relationships with all students. She takes the time to get to know each and every child she teaches, understands their learning capacity, and then tailors her lessons in a fun and educational way.

Chelsie believes all academic successes should be celebrated, and mistakes can be learned from. Her classroom is warm and inviting, highly organized, and all students are encouraged to partake in the daily lessons and ask questions. Chelsie recently used her skills for creating “welcoming spaces” to plan and execute her vision for a school wide “mindfulness room” so students would have a special place to cool down and reflect.

As busy as her day is, she’s always accessible to anyone who’s looking for help or guidance, and students, parents, and fellow teachers appreciate her tenacity to not only make things better for the students she teaches, but for everyone at Franklin Park School.

Chelsie is an incredibly dedicated and caring individual who shows up for work each day with a positive attitude. She’s an inspiration to all who come in contact with her, and is always willing to share ideas or lend a helping hand.

For all these reasons, Chelsie Baakman is being included in the 2019 class of “Teachers Who Makes Magic!”

4th Grade Teacher at Stony Brook School
Nominated by Randi Morin, co-teacher

Olivia McNamara teaches 4th grade at Stony Brook Elementary School in Branchburg, and many of her fellow teachers say if you google the word “efficient” her picture should directly follow its meaning! Her classroom environment is welcoming, neat, and organized! While she holds her students to high standards, she also knows that a little bit of fun is conducive to learning, and hard work is always rewarded.

For example, if students complete a project or lesson ahead of schedule, they have the chance to earn a little extra recess! Olivia knows how to engage students with special activities, and as a result, learning becomes fun and lessons are absorbed quicker. She teaches her students routines and procedures that instill important life skills such as responsibility and independence.

For the past several years, Olivia has been a part of a collaborative teaching effort, working closely with a special education teacher in a class made up of general and special education students. All students are given the chance to shine as they work closely with their peers. When new curriculum directives are issued, she takes the initiative to develop resources to help her colleagues, and is always willing to share ideas, knowledge and materials!

Olivia McNamara leaves a positive and lasting impression on anyone she comes in contact with, and possesses the skills that make her a highly effective educator. This is why she’s a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

9-12 Grade School Counselor at Franklin High School
Nominated by Dana Karas, Director of School Counseling


Chance Summerer has spent the last two years as a school counselor at Franklin High School, and anyone who’s in his company feels his positive impact in very large ways. He’s known as the mentor, cheerleader, and sounding board for students, families, and the entire Franklin High School staff!

Each morning, Chance greets students and offers encouraging words to help motivate them through the day. Once he’s in his office, he’s busy sorting out the academic, personal, college and career needs of close to 300 students! As busy as he is though, his door is always open, and he’s easily accessible to anyone who’s looking for help or guidance.

Chance has a keen ability to recognize a need and take appropriate action. For example, one of the elementary school counselors expressed interest in having high school mentors work with students. Chance dove right in and immediately identified, met, and trained the students to serve as mentors and role models. Anyone who’s watched these students in their expanded roles immediately realizes how successful this program has become, and it’s because of Chance’s attention, care, and dedication that it works!

Chance Summerer also serves as the school’s Anti Bullying specialist and leads the Safety Committee. His genuine care and respect of students and fellow teachers sets him apart from the rest, and this is why he’s a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

Spanish Teacher (Grade 6-8) at Soehl Middle School
Nominated by: Michael Damato, Social Studies Teacher

Eliana Penaranda teaches Spanish at Soehl Middle School in Linden, and each morning, you’ll find her greeting students with a smile, while making sure she tells them the importance of a balanced breakfast! Her greeting to students is as unique as her teaching methods, and this is why she’s loved and adored by all!

One of her favorite classroom projects is called “Senora Penaranda’s Wax Museum.” Instead of assigning a traditional research paper, Eliana spices up the curriculum by asking students to dress as the historical figures they’ve chosen to research. Students then stand in place on the auditorium stage until a fellow student taps their shoulder to hear some fascinating facts in either Spanish or English!

Eliana serves as a translator during guidance meetings, takes students on class trips to diversity conferences at area colleges, and, gives up precious weekend time to teach fellow colleagues “Conversational Spanish.” The first time she told friends she was going to do this, they told her no one would show up. They were wrong! The classes are always full, and the lessons have helped fellow teachers understand newer students, and remove language barriers so learning becomes more engaging and fun.

Eliana’s message to all graduating 8th graders is “Buena Suerte En La Vida” which means, “Good Luck In Life.” She’s obviously a big part of that good luck, and this is why Eliana Penaranda is a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

Library Specialist at Branchburg Central Middle School
Nominated by: Matthew Barbosas, Principal

Wendy Michels is the media specialist at Branchburg Central Middle School, and thanks to her passion and determination, she’s made the media center the hot and happening spot for teachers and students to learn, create and connect with the world!

While most people take time off to enjoy a summer vacation, Wendy used that time to update the space, move the furniture, and reorganize the existing fixtures. When school resumed in the fall, the media center had been transformed to include two classroom learning areas, a green room for filming, and a cozy meeting room!

All students who enter the media center are greeted by Wendy, and no task is out of her realm of responsibility! She’ll help with everything, from gathering information to co-teaching classes, to recommending a good book to read!

The Media Center has become the place to go to connect with people on a local or global level. Students have been given the opportunity to skype with people featured on TV shows, authors of books, and more importantly, with each other. Wendy took her vision for the media center and made it come to life. She knows the power of connection and how to make learning fun and interesting.

This is why Wendy Michels is a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”