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Congratulations to the Following Teachers!

3rd Grade Teacher 
St. Matthew School
Nominated by: Antoinette Munar, Parent

Stacey Veras is a third grade teacher at St. Matthew School in Edison and has been teaching for 11 years. She played an important role in helping her students remain alert, eager to learn, ambitious, hard-working, inquisitive, and tuned in to school during the chaos and confusion during the past year.

Mrs. Veras is no push over, but beyond her firm exterior is the most kind, compassionate, thoughtful, encouraging, and courageous teacher. From early morning through late night, she works tirelessly to ensure that her students have every tool they need to learn. She develops innovative “morning work” that parents can print at home or pick up from the school. Her lessons are never dull, they’re always engaging and thought provoking. Additionally, Mrs. Veras stresses the importance of respecting people of all backgrounds and teaches about the importance of diversity with discussions about equality and social justice. The students were able to talk about these issues, and learn to never judge someone based on their background or appearance.

Security Officer
Franklin High School
Nominated by: Dana Karas, Director of School Counseling

For the past 10 years, Hope Richardson, or “Ms. Hope” as she’s affectionately called, has been a Security Officer at Franklin High School in Somerset, and is the embodiment of what it means to support and make a difference for all students!  She’s dedicated, reliable, and absolutely loves her chosen profession!

Hope is one of the first to arrive and last to leave.   She opens and sets up the front of the building in preparation for the arrival of students, and her kindness to all sets the tone for the day. Students adore her, and have been known to give her drawings and handmade crafts that she proudly displays around the entrance to the building, and her office.

Hope also ensures security for all, and addresses any situation by being calm and direct. She supports and keeps the school safe during various outside functions such as pep rallies and sporting events, and has the ability to stay focused and keep control of any situation!

Her small acts of kindness, professionalism, and dedication to the students and staff of Franklin High School is exceptional, and has earned her the title of “ESP Who Makes Magic!”

School Counselor
Princeton Unified Middle School
Nominated by: Kristina Donovan, Supervisor of School Counseling

Thomas Foley is a school counselor for Princeton Unified Middle School, and has been teaching for over 3 years!   He’s been an integral part of making sure Princeton Unified is a middle school that’s inclusive for all students. Since last March, he’s made sure to meet with every student via zoom, and as of recently, in person, providing comprehensive counseling services for them and their families.  

He co-founded the club SAGA (Sexuality and Gender Alliance) and has held weekly meetings at night, and even during summer months so everyone could stay connected! Thomas teaches “#choices” where he empowers every voice and challenges students to show empathy and think critically of the world around them.  

Thomas is held in high regard by students and fellow teachers. He’s always willing to collaborate and share ideas to help other educators, and will often take other courses on his own to keep him informed on new practices and innovative ways to always be on top of his chosen profession.

The students know he loves them, supports them, and also challenges them to be the best they can be. For all these reasons and more, Thomas Foley is a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”  


Math Teacher
Middlesex High School
Nominated by: Vera Vitali, Fellow Teacher

This nomination is for the NJEA Community Spotlight recipient, and is given to a teacher who goes above and beyond in the classroom, and the community!

This award goes Nadine Pietrowski, who teaches math at Middlesex High School! She’s been a teacher for over 25 years, and while math can be a difficult subject, her students are always engaged and understand everything that’s being presented, and that’s all due to Nadine’s tenacity for making learning math fun!

Within the school but outside the classroom, she’s been an advisor to the National Honor Society, Chess Club, Faculty Council, and is always eager to chaperone events. She is actively involved in the Middlesex Education Association and has held the position of building representative and secretary!

She recently organized a complimentary trip for local veterans to visit Washington DC, complete with meals and a welcome home salute with the help of Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and the Welcome Home Committee! Nadine has also been involved with the Girl Scouts, and was named Dedicated Leader due to her former troop receiving the highest honor of the “Gold Award!”

As a member of the “100th Anniversary of Middlesex Borough Committee,” Nadine organized the Applebee’s Breakfast fundraiser, Logo Contest, and assisted at the other committee events such as the parade and celebration in the park!

Nadine is also an active participant in the Middlesex Elks lodge, and through a partnership with her daughter established a “Buddy Ball” recreational sports program for Special Needs Children!

25 years is a long time to be a teacher and active participant in community affairs, and Nadine Pietrowski greets every day with the same enthusiasm she had from day one. This is why she’s now the winner of the the NJEA Community Spotlight award!

Physical Education Teacher
Village Elementary School
Nominated by: Heather Varela, Para Professional

Joe Bassford is a Physical Education Teacher at Village Elementary School in Skillman, and has been well loved by both students and fellow teachers for 14 years! 

He understands that students learn and grow at all different levels, so he takes the time to modify lessons to fit students in Special Education and other classes, too!   His goal is to make all students understand why Physical Education is important, and set them up with a foundation that exercise and movement should be incorporated into everyday life.

Joe makes gym fun with his basketball tricks, awesome activities, and upbeat music! He’s really sincere with his encouragement for students to try their best, and is always positive and full of accolades. One teacher recounted a story of a student who was wheelchair bound, and Joe was teaching a lesson on how to kick a ball. He incorporated this particular student in the lesson by taking a ball, attaching it to a jump rope, and tying it to the wheelchair! He took this extra step to help the student feel like he belonged, and was no different than the others!

While some people may look at a situation and think they can’t find a solution, Joe takes the impossible and finds a way to make it happen!   This is why Joe Bassford is a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

Culinary Arts Teacher
Monroe Township High School
Nominated by: Sharon Condiracci, Parent

Amanda Docherty is a Culinary Arts teacher at Monroe Township High School, and has been teaching in the district since 2010.

Prior to the pandemic, Amanda’s love for cooking always engaged her students while teaching, and when classes shifted to remote learning she had to come up with virtual lessons. As we all know, cooking is hands on, and this was a daunting task, but Amanda rose to the challenge, and gave her students creative assignments that included coming up with their own food truck theme and menu, inventing their own ice cream flavor, food “plating” and “photography” challenges, and cleaning and organizing the kitchen!

Amanda is always available to help guide and direct her students any way she can.  If students are struggling or don’t have the tools available at home, she offers alternative assignments so they’re not left out.  She always encourages her students to think outside the box, be creative and to have fun!

Her passion for teaching builds confidence and inspires her students to succeed. When a recipe doesn’t come out right, Amanda will tell her students that mistakes are okay because they’re how we learn, and encourages them to continue trying and never give up.

Educators become teachers to make a difference in the lives of their students, and Amanda Docherty is one of these people. This is why she’s a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

4th Grade Teacher
Johnson Park Elementary School
Nominated by: Angela Siso Stenz, Principal

James Myricks is a 4th Grade Teacher at Johnson Park Elementary School in Princeton, and is one of those teachers that has tremendous energy and love for his students. He goes above and beyond to make sure his students are happy and safe because he knows this is the foundation to be able to learn.

He is creative, fun, and his classroom environment is warm and welcoming.   Students, parents, and colleagues think the world of him. He sets high expectations for his students and challenges them because he truly believes that every student will be successful in his classroom.

He works closely with parents and colleagues to make sure children are at the center of all decisions. He is a wonderful educator; constantly learning and willing to take on anything that will help make him a better teacher. He asks questions, takes risks, and is a natural leader.

James knows his students strengths and weaknesses, and provides lots of support.   He’s available after the school day has ended, and answers all emails or calls regarding students’ abilities, and is willing to help anyone who needs it.   He makes sure all students have everything they need to succeed in the classroom and beyond!

For all these reasons and many more, James Myricks is a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

6th Grade Teacher
Monroe Township Middle School
Nominated by: Kim Armenti, Parent & teacher

Melissa Rosen teaches 6th grade at Monroe Township Middle School, and has been working in her chosen profession for 17 years!   She’s inclusive, supportive, enthusiastic, passionate, and patient! Despite the challenges of the past year, she goes above and beyond for all students each and every day.

Melissa makes sure all students feel valued, regardless of their background, learning style, or ability level. Her students feel a sense of belonging through the special relationships she’s formed with each and every one of them. She’s always available to speak with them through a special “Remind App” where they can go to discuss special needs or individual lesson questions.

Melissa commends student strengths, and understands their problems and life situations. Her classroom environment is welcoming and warm, and she demonstrates the value of learning the material. She connects her lessons to the real world and her assignments are interesting and creative.

She uses an abundance of teacher created materials to drive her instruction, and the students love the games and creative resources. She offers a fresh start to all students every day, helps them work through problems, and has a willingness to adapt and try anything to help students learn and grow. This is why Melissa Rosen is a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

Special Education Math Teacher
Sampson G. Smith Middle School
Nominated by: Barbara Klinck

Jessica Ding is a special education math teacher at Sampson G. Smith Middle School in Somerset, and always works extremely hard to ensure her students have varied opportunities for success. In both the in person and virtual settings, their expectations, routines, and roles are clear and well defined.

In both large and small group settings, Jessica provides all the tools to make sure her students take initiative on the task at hand, and contribute to their own learning. Additionally, she provides time for reflection and closure for each lesson.  She has a wonderful ability to see each of her students’ ability to learn, and help them meet their potential.

Outside the classroom, Jessica has served as a leader for the Technology, Multicultural and One To One Chromebook committees. Jessica’s initiatives within these various groups are evident in the school community, and her efforts have increased positive behavior. Students are always asking when the next event will be as they want to be included! Her work with the teacher recognition group is welcomed by colleagues and staff, and many have cited her as a mentor.

Jessica is passionate about her chosen profession, and will make time to help anyone who needs it. She’s always willing to learn new ways and practices to benefit students, and as a result, they’re more engaged in the lessons. While math can be a tough subject to master, her students are eager learners, and this is why Jessica Ding is a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

Social Worker
Branchburg Central Middle School
Nominated by: Matthew Barbosa, Principal

Antonia DaSilva is a social worker at Branchburg Central Middle School, and understands the challenges and difficulties that can be associated with daily classes, especially for a student who learns differently than others. She takes the time to get to know every student as a learner, and a person.  She watches them grow and mature, while at the same time builds a relationship with them and their families.

She’s been known to step in and help parents with questions on their child’s program placement. She’ll examine the students’ aptitude and current grades, and then, she’ll speak with that student about their wants, hopes, and dreams. She always says the end result is to ensure a new level of success.

Antonia continuously strives to meet all the needs of her students, whether it be academically, socially, behaviorally, or emotionally. She’s worked with her colleagues to develop formal behavior plans to support her students, and then, monitors the data and works with the staff to assure students are experiencing growth.  

She provides counseling to students who struggle with social and emotional issues in a warm, caring and understanding manner.  After a workshop on creating a more inclusive space for LBGTQ+ students, Antonia used her own money to purchase posters and signs that would make those students feel accepted and welcomed in her office.   Antonia is a wonderful staff member who is great at communicating and collaborating with everyone. She’s knowledgeable, personable, and eager to ensure success for all.   This is why she’s an “ESP Who Makes Magic!”

7th Grade Middle School Math Teacher
Princeton Unified Middle School
Nominated by Stephanie Tidwell, District Supervisor of Math and Business Ed

Latoya Waddell has been teaching for 17 years, but is in her first year working at Princeton Unified Middle School. She dedicates a lot of time building relationships with her students, and also goes the extra step to make sure there’s also peer to peer relationships among students.

There’s many challenges that arise with remote learning, so she took it upon herself to create a Friday night bi-weekly virtual game night. This small act of kindness has helped students become better learners, and she’s noticed they’re more engaged in daily lessons, and, submitting their work on time! The game nights became so big that the school PTO asked LaToya to run a schoolwide game night, and that one currently gets over 250 students and fellow colleagues to take part!

Latoya became an “Ed Tech Mentor” to help new teachers create virtual lessons, and has offered training to all her district colleagues regarding effectively using educational technology to engage students and foster a deeper love of learning. She’s smart, has a passion for her chosen profession, and is a truly dedicated teacher that goes above and beyond every day, both in and out of the classroom. For all these reasons and more, Latoya Waddell is a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

5th & 6th Grade Resource Room Teacher
Park Middle School in Scotch Plains
Nominated by: Patricia Clark, Registered Occupational Therapist

Ashley Overeem is a 5th and 6th grade Resource Room Teacher at Park Middle School in Scotch Plains, and exudes a passion for teaching that goes well beyond the “normal education mode!” She makes sure all students have meals, proper clothing for all seasons, and a wonderful learning environment.  She teaches all lessons in a fun and creative way, and has a calming and loving attitude that students adore.  

Ashley recently received her Master’s Degree in Special Education. She’s persistent, and is always looking to find unique and different teaching methods to help every child fully understand the lessons.

Outside the classroom, Ashley began to help seniors procure their Covid 19 vaccinations.  She spends countless hours scouring different websites and registering people to ensure they get their vaccines, and she’s over at 195 people [as of Feb 2021] and climbing!

Ashley Overeem is an educator who wants to make a difference, both in and out of the classroom, and this is why she’s now a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

4th Grade Teacher
Riverside Elementary School
Nominated by Keisha Smith-Carrington, Supervisor of Humanities

Gita Varadarajan teaches 4th grade at Riverside Elementary School in Princeton, and students love her because she creates a learning community that encourages risk-taking and brave conversations.

As a published author, Gita understands the importance of writing as a means of engaging in deep thought and expression. She brings important events and occurrences into the classroom and encourages students to ask the questions circling through their minds; questions others often shrink from when posed by children. In her room, these critical conversations move into research projects of varying length. Her students have tackled topics like Civil Rights, climate control, and voting with questions shaped by current events in our world.

Gita is a teacher that students find years after they have left her class. On many mornings and afternoons prior to the pandemic, students could be found in her room. Sometimes the students were there to get support with challenging homework. Often, they were just engaging in conversation knowing hers was a listening and caring ear. Now, her current students are welcomed to join her online and often opt to spend their snack and recess times in her Zoom room, listening to music together or chatting. These times are only some of the ways she gets to know her students and show each of them that her heart’s desire is to know each of them individually.

With the information Gita gleans from time spent with her students she personalizes instruction for each of her learners. As a result, each student gets what they need and thrives. Gita Varadarajan is a valuable asset to all at Riverside Elementary, and for all the reasons noted here and more, it’s why she’s now a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

Olivia Edelman
Somerville Middle School
Nominated by: Allie Edelman, Fellow Teacher

Olivia Edelman is an English Teacher at Somerville Middle School, and is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of her students and the community.

She created the  “I Care Club” and “Comfort Closet” programs to immerse students in fundraising for various charities, and since these initiatives began, she’s raised over $3,000!  She’s a mentor to fellow teachers and has spoken at various educational seminars and workshops.  She makes her colleagues and students feel comfortable speaking with her about school and home life.

So many students who’ve graduated stay in touch with Olivia, and have told others she’s the reason their academic life was even more enriched.  Her lessons are creative and thoughtful, so students are engaged, active learners!

Olivia Edelman is a master at her craft, but doesn’t shy away from sharing her expertise with fellow teachers and colleagues.  She’s always willing to go the extra mile to ensure learning is fun, and her students are ready for the next step in their academic career.  For all these reasons and more, she’s now a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

Stacy Schiller
Raritan High School
Nominated by: Ada McCrady

Stacy Schiller teaches History at Raritan High School in Hazlet, and is an outstanding example of excellence in the teaching profession!  She eats, breathes, and sleeps all things History, and is compassionate, kind, and dedicated to all who enter her classroom.  She knows all the students, and not only talks, but really listens to them!   She’s an excellent role model, and shows each student what it means to be hard working, courteous, respectful, and an all around wonderful human!

As the co-advisor for the School’s Student Council, Stacy helps students realize their potential as leaders, and encourages students to give back to the community.  She sponsors numerous activities to promote school pride, and has helped students find their voice in support of their beliefs.  She’s spent summers training students and fellow advisors on how to be better leaders, and has also organized trips for the Student Council members to attend leadership conferences at Kean University.  During these trips, the council met with experts, fellow students, and teachers and discussed what changes they could make in their schools to promote empathy, community, and positivity!

With her wisdom and guidance, Stacy empowers her students, and at the end of the year, they leave her classroom with more knowledge, respect, and self confidence.  For all these reasons and more, Stacy Schiller is a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

Franklin High School
Nominated by: Tara-Lynn Walter, Teacher

Michael Pinnix is a shining star at Franklin High School!  For the past 16 years, he’s exposed his students to his award winning video and editing skills!  Anyone who’s ever had him as a teacher, or who’s worked with him, will tell you he’s got a love and passion for his chosen profession.

 He’s involved with the “Aspects of Video Awards” which celebrates the amazing accomplishments and productions the students create.  The awards, which were created in collaboration with the students, is the equivalent of the Oscars. Students handle the pre and post production, and it’s a fantastic celebration for the entire community.

Despite the pandemic, the 2020 seniors had memories from their graduation, as Michael filmed and edited the multitude of ceremonies held at the Franklin Athletic Field.  His devotion to teaching a new generation about video brought him to create a junior video program, too!  Outside the classroom, Michael also films weekly mass at his church, which is then uploaded to their Youtube channel!

Michael Pinnex loves to help students be creative through video artwork, and will extend his expertise about video production to anyone who asks.  This is why he’s “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

5th Grade Teacher
Hillcrest School
Nominated by: Tara-Lynn Walter, Teacher

Jared Sheffrin teaches 5th grade at Hillcrest School in Somerset, and is the type of teacher that serves as a role model for not only students, but colleagues, too. 

When Covid first hit, Jared helped everyone navigate the various online platforms, and not only found but actually delivered second computer screen monitors to colleagues so that they could see their students while teaching remotely.

Jared has the uncanny ability to relate to all students,
regardless of their economic status or cultural background.  He’s purchased coats or supplies for students who can’t afford them, and empowers students to perform to their highest potential.  He’s always willing to lend a helping hand, and despite a busy schedule, he attends meetings, advocates for all, and is active in the community. 

He rarely misses Hillcrest events because he knows how much being there means to his students.  He’s an excellent communicator with parents, and has proven to be one of the most generous and selfless teachers.  For all of these reasons and many more, Jared Sheffrin is a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

7th Grade English Language Arts Teacher
Bridgewater Middle School
Nominated by: Mindi Gilmurray, Teacher

Phillip Solomon is a seventh grade English Language Arts teacher at Bridgewater Middle School, and is one of a kind! He’s a dedicated professional who goes above and beyond each day! He helps students feel comfortable taking risks, asking questions, and expressing their thoughts.

Phillip knows there is a balance between the importance of academic success in middle school and social acceptance. He advocates in the best interests of each individual, communicates openly with parents, and carefully paves the road to success for each young adult who walks into his classroom.

Phillip is a firm believer that relationships matter. Not only does he know what his students’ strengths and weaknesses are, but he also realizes the importance of knowing who each student is as a person. He provides the overall emotional and academic support that students need, and cultivates new adventures and wonderful friendships both in and out of the classroom setting.

He opens up a world of possibility through reading and writing. He encourages creativity in expression, and weaves his love of “getting lost in a book” into every lesson. He always says it’s just the “little things” that make teaching special, but he doesn’t realize they morph into the bigger things, and this is why Phillip Solomon is a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

K-3rd Grade Art teacher
Whiton Elementary School
Nominated by: Dee Shober, Principal

Christopher Boehm is a Kindergarten through 3rd grade Art teacher at Whiton Elementary School, and is known for building positive relationships with everyone he encounters! He knows 600 students by name, including their likes, dislikes, and learning abilities, too! He’s a true role model and advocate and makes sure the students get everything they deserve.

As you can imagine, this year turned “specials classes” upside down, especially art class! As the “specials” team leader, Christopher worked regularly with the other teachers to ensure their programs were running smoothly. Last September, he supported his team as they pushed into classrooms to teach in a hybrid learning environment and created ways that they could provide learning opportunities for their students that normally would be hands-on and group work. He transitioned from working with his students in the art room, to bringing the art room to the students in their homeroom!

Christopher is a consummate and dedicated professional who’s always “thinking school.” He often works past the end of the school day and on weekends! He supports the staff and students in any manner possible, and has a special way of working with the school community, his peers, students, and parents. He’s passionate about creating a zest for learning and looking at things differently, and this is why Christopher Boehm is a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”


10th Grade Teacher
JP Stevens High School
Nominated by: Gena Shapiro, Teacher

Jodi Ann Gordon teaches 10th grade at JP Stevens High School in Edison, and for the past 24 years, has worked hard at her chosen profession to make sure both her students, and peers, get what they need!

She usually co-teaches within the “in-class support setting,” and over the years, she’s found herself advocating more frequently for the students.

Jodi always goes the extra mile, and an example of this was from last year, when she accepted a last-minute switch in her schedule to teach an extra class for a colleague who was on leave. Jodi took on the extra work so the students in this program had less disturbance and an easier transition.

Before she began teaching this class, Jodi had to attend extra training sessions, and learn several new programs. After the training, she developed new materials and shared them with other teachers in the self-contained programs who teach a similar curriculum.

Jodi serves on various committees, and always reaches out to the teachers she represents to make sure their voices are heard.

Jodi is smart, caring, kind, and always puts others needs ahead of her own. This is why she’s now a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

English Teacher
Carteret High School
Nominated by: Karen Jones, Principal

For the past 22 years, Judee Dunn has taught English at Carteret High School, and not only has she made this school her home away from home, she’s a graduate, too!

She’s humble, never brags about how much she advocates for students, and always goes above and beyond. Students often seek her out for academic help and assistance in finding jobs. She allows students to spend their study hall and lunch periods in her room for tutoring, or to catch up on their missing assignments.

Last school year, Carteret adopted the AVID program (Advancement Via Individual Determination) and an academic support system that accelerates student learning and prepares them for success in terms of  career readiness or college. Judee gladly accepted the challenge of becoming the first teacher to work with this specific group to ensure they are achieved the highest level of academic success possible!

Last year, Judee was the class advisor and was actively involved in helping them navigate through a strange time of remote learning and an alternative graduation. She believes in giving students a fighting chance to pursue their goals and dreams, and for all these reasons, Judee Dunn is a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”


Franklin Middle School
Special Education Teacher
Nominated by: Rosemary King, Literacy Coach

For the past 10 years, Jesseca Gonzalez has served as a special educator in the English Language Arts Department at Franklin Middle School on the Sampson G. Smith Campus.

Jesseca goes above and beyond in her care for students, not just in their education, but in their well being, too. Her students know she wants them to succeed, and she strives to help them achieve their goals. Jesseca has co-taught in an inclusion setting, taught in resource rooms, and pulled studentsout for specialized instruction services, but regardless of the setting, she is the teacher whose relationships are so strong that there’s rarely a discipline issue or a student who isn’t engaged.

Jesseca is part of the Resiliency Team, which is a series of professional development workshops offered to teachers and administrators throughout the district.  Topics included how trauma affects the brain, how students display trauma, how to connect with students despite cycles of conflict, and different ways the school can provide touch points for students. This work is much needed in these times of pandemic and hybrid learning.

Jesseca has been instrumental in launching new programs that allow students to receive everything they need at SGS so they don’t need to attend an alternative school. She shows dedication to her profession, exudes teamwork and flexibility for the good of all students, and this is why Jesseca Gonzales is a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

Franklin High School
Special Education Teacher
Nominated by: Jennifer Jones, Teacher

Dashaun Gourdine is a Special Education Teacher at Franklin High School, and from the first day on the job 16 years ago, he’s been respected and revered by fellow teachers and students!

Whether teaching geometry, science, or Spanish, his students know they’re valued and mean the world to him.   Several years ago, Daushawn was chosen by his supervisor to take on the project of being the lead teacher of the Cognitively Impaired (CI) program, where he works with students who need the most help, and creates a welcoming environment that nurtures and educates. In order to help fund the CI program, Dashaun runs the “Warrior Cart” where students learn speaking and business skills while selling coffee and breakfast items to faculty members!

Daushaun is not only an incredible teacher, but a renowned coach, too! He currently serves as the head boys track and field coach, and players rave about him! Daushaun takes students under his wing, and they know he’s got their back!

Daushaun knows academics comes first, and he listens to any concerns brought to him, and if anything is wrong, he’ll work with that player and their teacher until everything improves.

Dashaun is very professional and a beloved figure at Franklin High School, and this is why he’s now a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

Stony Brook Elementary
Special Education Teacher
Nominated by: Randy Morin, fellow teacher

Emily Williams, is a special education teacher at Stony Brook Elementary School in Branchburg, and possesses many qualities that make her a highly effective teacher!

Her classroom environment is welcoming, neat, organized and conducive to learning. As an extremely efficient person, Emily teaches her students routines and procedures that instill important life skills such as organization, responsibility, and independence!

For several years now, Emily has been in a collaborative teaching model, working closely with another a fellow special education teacher to give students extra life skills. She has tolerance, compassion and understanding of children with special needs and learning differences.

Emily is a team player who goes out of her way to help other teachers and is always willing to share her ideas, knowledge, and materials. When new curriculum directives come along, she takes the initiative to develop resources for the benefit of her colleagues.

For all these reasons, Emily Williams is being included in the 2021 class of “Teachers Who Makes Magic!”

Van Derveer Elementary School
3rd Grade Teacher
Nominated by: Christine Birnbaum, Literacy Coach

Salvina Cilento teaches 3rd Grade at Van Derveer Elementary School in Somerville, and like many in her profession, was challenged with having to teach her lessons virtually.

She went over a few scenarios in her head, put the pen to the paper, wrote down some ideas, and consulted with fellow teachers to see what would work. She took all the suggestions and her own thoughts, and made it her mission to have her students feel like they were a part of a classroom community!

One idea she had to make virtual learning fun and engaging was “Wacky Wednesday” where she wears funny costumes, and uses music and dance routines to make her students smile.

She also uses “break out” rooms to work with students one on one so their individual needs are met. Salvina knew this would be a challenge, but her students responded positively and appreciate all the time and effort to make virtual learning work.

Salvina is always ready to support her colleagues and works collaboratively with the third grade team to ensure everyone’s success. She is a role model to her students and to fellow teachers at Van Derveer Elementary!

For all of her efforts to make virtual learning a success, Salvina Cilento is being included in the 2021 class of “Teachers Who Makes Magic!”


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