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We are proud to welcome the following teachers to the
WCTC 1450 Teachers Who Make Magic Class of 2020!

This years teachers will be honored at the
Teachers Who Make Magic Banquet
on April 8, 2020 @ The Pines Manor in Edison.

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Crystal Auto MallMagyar Bank

4th Grade Teacher at Conerly Road School in Somerset
Nominated by: Donna Silva Burnett, Principal

Maxine Robinson is a 4th grade teacher at Conerly Road School in Somerset. Each day, she enters her classroom and makes sure students are nurtured and cared for. Her students recognize and appreciate her unique teaching style because she incorporates learning experiences that will benefit them long after they move on. She takes a leadership role on her own initiative for her colleagues and community, and never expects to be recognized for the work she does.

As a dedicated and committed leader, Maxine goes above and beyond to seek out opportunities for young people who desire an opportunity to attend college. Her strengths and abilities are most notable through the community service projects that she organizes on a consistent basis. Whenever anything needs to be done, Maxine is considered the “go to person” and she graciously accepts without hesitation!

As a mother, she is most proud of the accomplishments of her children and has always supported them in their educational and career endeavors.

Maxine Robinson always tries to see the positive side of a situation, and offers solutions to any problems presented. She gives of herself and expects nothing in return. This is what makes her a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”


The New Jersey Education Association, Sponsors of the Community Service Spotlight, is for Teachers Who Shine in their Communities, and in the Classroom. This year’s recipient is…

Special Education teacher at Franklin Park School
Nominated by Purvi Shah, Principal

Tracy Molinari is a special education teacher at Franklin Park School who has been teaching for over 22 years! She has a positive attitude and energetic approach to all she does. She has a way of making lessons fun and engaging, while also “lifting” the level of learning for her students by setting high expectations.

She’s famous for her passion of all things Social Studies, coordinating ways for students to connect to the community by encouraging them to be “active citizens” through outreach projects, including our Annual Food Drive for the Franklin Food Bank, Candy for Troops and Halloween Costume Drive for FPS students. Tracy utilizes teaching methods to actively engage students in role play and movement. She brings history to life with her famous reenactments of the Revolutionary War and important moments in American History.

Tracy is the grade level liaison for her grade 3 team and communicates to administration on their behalf. In this capacity, she’s also organized field trips and assemblies to enrich the experiences of grade 3 students. She works tirelessly so that students love coming to school and can garner new experiences. She’s a leader and trusted colleague, and someone who’s greatly respected in the school community. For all these reasons and more, Tracy Molinari is a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

8th Grade ELA Teacher at Franklin Middle School at Hamilton Street Campus
Nominated by: Nicholas Soloman, Principal

Danielle Knoeppel has been a Language Arts teacher for Franklin Middle School for the past 6 years and always strives for excellence within the classroom. Over the years she has taught a variety of Language Arts classes that ranged from In-Class support for special education students to Honors level. In all contexts, she works tirelessly to ensure her students’ success. Danielle’s instructional skills have led to tremendous academic achievement and growth within her classes and her leadership in the department has helped to make the entire 8th grade Language Arts Department successful!

Danielle is punctual, courteous and “truly gets it” when it comes to the task at hand. Fellow teachers always comment that she’s not only a great person but an excellent educator. She’s an outstanding individual that truly has the patience and the intelligence needed to strive for the best for all her students as well as helping her colleagues to do the same. Furthermore,

Danielle Knoeppel is thorough in all that she does. She is the type of person that will not leave an unfinished job; she will be there to the end, and this is why she’s a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

4th Grade Language Arts and Social Studies at Samsel Elementary School
Nominated by: Grace Aurora, Teacher

Josephine Tutela is a 4th grade Language Arts and Social Studies teacher at Samsel Elementary School, and is one of those teachers who goes above and beyond to help students learn and succeed!

She’s always willing to collaborate and try new teaching strategies to accommodate students and improve her craft. She provides varied lesson plans to take her students to the next level. Her hard work and dedication yields students receiving high state test scores.

Josephine’s love of teaching extends beyond the classroom, as she’s involved in many committees, groups, and organizations. She’s a big proponent of family involvement and her pride and joy was establishing a “Family Reading night!”

This event is comprised of teachers and volunteers at stations around the school, customized itinerary, and prizes for all winners! Josephine has also coordinated a school wide professional book club, and a Faculty Advisory Committee

There is no doubt that Josephine Tutela is motivated, an innovator, and works hard to make sure all students are engaged in learning. She works well with colleagues, administration, and parents, and for all of these reasons, she’s a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

6th & 7th Grade teacher at Hammarskjold Middle School in East Brunswick
Nominated by: Matt Ratcliffe, Instructional Assistant

Earl “Mike” Swayze teaches 6th & 7th graders Hammarskjold Middle School in East Brunswick, and fellow teachers always say he’s an asset and pleasure to work with! Students love having him as their teacher, and he does so much to enrich their lives.

A shining example of his hard work is something called “HMS Café.” This activity does so much more than fund the school trips for students, it teaches them skills that they will need for life. If not organizing the café, Mike is either teaching or preparing for one of his other activities.

One such activity is for the special education department called the “Buddy Sports Program.” Each week he has students play an organized game so they learn how to socially interact with one another. Mike is very supportive of the Special Ed Department, but he also cares about the rest of the school, too! During special school functions, he shows up with his Snow Cones and donates half of his sales to the PTA! Mike also helps run and coordinate the end of the year talent show.

Mike Swayze makes no student feel unappreciated, and no staff member feel insecure about asking for assistance or advice. Mike is not a subscriber to only doing the bare minimum, he’s someone who loves what he does for a living and spreads positive vibes in and out of the classroom. This is why he’s now a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

AP English III Teacher at Old Bridge High School
Nominated by: Jessica Tosonotti, Co-Teacher

Janine Arciero teaches AP English at Old Bridge HS, and has an outstanding rapport with students, parents, staff, and the community. Anyone who comes in contact with her says she’s friendly, outgoing, and inspirational!

Janine has been instrumental in bringing certain programs to Old Bridge HS, and is a valued member of the Scholarship committee. She also works as an Elementary Substitute Principal in the district, and has achieved and maintained an excellent rapport with the students, staff, and administrators.

Janine has also coordinated The Red Cross Club that collaborates with all of the schools in the district who are dedicated to making a difference. She facilitates “Guiding Knights,” an initiative that provides academic tutoring for middle school students.

Janine has made an incredibly positive impact on the Old Bridge school community, and her involvement is unending. She exudes positivity, proficiency, and professionalism, and this is why Janine Arciero is a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

3rd Grade Teacher at Thomas P. Hughes Elementary School
Nominated by: Jessica  Nardi, Principal

Melany Castellanos teaches 3rd grade at Thomas P Hughes Elementary School, and from the minute you enter her classroom, you know she’s a teacher who gets it! She instinctively knows what her students need, both collectively and individually, and always finds a way to make it happen.

Her classroom environment is fun, active and innovative. She’s won a grant to bring new technology into her classroom and her students absolutely love it. She starts each day with a quick morning meeting with every student and sets the tone for the day. She strongly believes in the importance of social & emotional learning, and her students benefit from her kindness.

Melany has been a strong advocate in honoring the memory of a student she tragically lost. She organized a school “Pet Parade” in her student’s honor and has also been instrumental in building a team to walk in an annual 5K to raise funds for organ and tissue donation in her student’s name.

Melany Castellanos understands that the role of “teacher” often extends far beyond the classroom, and her students appreciate this so much. This is why she’s now a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

Kindergarten/1st Grade Special Education at Clinton Elementary School
Nominated by: Maira Reyes, Teacher Assistant

Sevcan Abedin is a Special Education Kindergarten and First Grade Teacher at Clinton Elementary School in Plainfield, and always begins each school year by “adopting” each student as her own! Her personality shines through, and each child feels welcomed into class and are ready to learn!  

Many of her students start the year without basic language and learning experience, but midway through the year, they master the art of following a routine, reading, writing, and even some math skills! Students thrive because she focuses more on what they CAN do rather than what they can’t.  

Sevcan is a big believer in celebrating students accomplishments. She’s known to give “high fives,” and send encouraging notes home to parents. She consistently researches ideas to improve and teach special needs students so they’re able to grow in many areas of their lives. She likes to incorporate classroom activities that reflect real life events. For example, students do a monthly “Newscast Video” where they perform as anchors, reporters, and interviewers. This video is shown in class and also sent home to parents.   Twice a year she plans a performance for parents where students sing and have a short play based on a book.

Sevcan Abedin is fully invested in her chosen profession and making sure her students succeed.   This is why she’s now a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

8th Grade English & Language Arts Teacher at Franklin Middle School
Nominated by: Rosemary King, Literacy Coach

Michelle Murray is an 8th grade English & Language Arts Teacher at Franklin Middle School, and believes the classroom experience should be a dynamic learning environment! She makes all students feel they’re intelligent and capable, and in return, they respond by pushing themselves to do their best.

Michelle runs in classroom “book clubs” where students are allowed to choose their books, clubs, and topics for discussion. By allowing students to take ownership of what they’re learning and talking about, the discussions go on for hours and extend into the school week.

Michelle has also helped hundreds of struggling students through the “Extended Day Tutorial” and Summer Academy. She’s known for creating a learning space that leaves students wanting to come back, and also volunteers with the “ASPIRE” program that helps students imagine and plan for higher education.

Michelle supports newly inducted teachers by providing District Mentor Training and working on the District Mentor Plan, and is also part of the SGS New Teacher Academy! She’s the ELA Content Leader, and regularly serves on the ELA Leadership Team and Curriculum Assessment Team. She takes her role very seriously, and works hard to represent the best interests for both students and teachers. She’s been a dedicated Girl Scout Leader for eleven consecutive years, and the size of her troop is a testament to her dedication, enthusiasm, and passion for developing leadership in girls.

Michelle is one of those people who are “all in” when it comes to her chosen profession, and now can add “Teacher Who Makes Magic” to her list of accomplishments!

Science & Physics Teacher at Raritan High School
Nominated by: Ada McCrady, Fellow Teacher

Will Brownson is a Science & Physics teacher at Raritan High School, and he makes learning come alive through his fun, dynamic, and engaging approach! Over the years, Will has found that learning needs to be relevant and focused on the interests and passions of his students. He continually finds ways to personalize both instruction and assessments to better allow his students to succeed.

Will is full of school spirit, too! He volunteers for “Teacher Clash” which consists of tutoring after school in Math and Science, he’s been known to show off his dance moves in in school videos, he volunteers at the school prom, and cheers students on at sporting events! He’s a role model to all and teaches by example every day. Students strive for the best under his guidance and treat others with respect and compassion.

Will is a dedicated educator who shares a deep commitment to equality and the belief that each and every student can and will learn. He sets high expectations in his classroom and works tirelessly to help many of our students grow. He’s a master at motivating students to strive harder and achieve more in a supportive, nurturing, and structured classroom that puts student success as the most important goal.

For all these reasons and more, Will Brownson is a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

9-12th Grade Music teacher at Franklin High School
Nominated by: Jennifer Jones, Fellow Teacher

For the past 17 years, Timothy Walton has been the music teacher at Franklin High SchooI, and each day his passion for the arts is evident, both in the classroom, and beyond!

Fellow teachers and co workers rave about his enthusiasm to help with presentations and meetings. He’s also been an asset to the world language department and helped with their honor society inductions.

Students love him because he’s from the area, and also because he challenges them with tough roles that demand that they come out of their shell. During the holiday season, Tim’s “Madrigals” are extremely busy, spreading holiday cheer and performing Christmas Carols at various retirement homes and hospitals in the area.

Tim has been the recipient of many awards and accolades, and has helped his students secure roles in plays at venues all over the state, including Paper Mill Playhouse! He was also featured in a NJN documentary called “I can’t, I have rehearsal!”    

Each year, Tim runs “Cabaret” where alumni come back to Franklin High to showcase their talents!

Simply put, Timothy Walton is a giving, helpful, talented young man who has a lot to offer Franklin High School, and this is why he’s also now a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

Kindergarten & 1st Grade Teacher at Harry S. Truman Elementary School
Nominated by: Laura Mihalenko, TAG & STEM Teacher

Kim Thornton teaches Kindergarten and First Grade at Harry S. Truman Elementary School, and is widely recognized as as someone who goes above and beyond, both in and out of the classroom. She’s earned the respect and admiration from students, parents, administrators, and colleagues. She expects the best from her students, but in return, she gives her best back to them!

Kim is a master teacher, whose professional knowledge allows her to meet the needs of her students. Each morning, they’re welcomed with a smile and personal greeting. She’s developed a classroom climate where the children are considered family and are respected individually. Due to Kim’s exceptional skills, students feel safe, secure, loved, and embrace learning!

Kim takes the time to learn about her students, both professionally and personally, and celebrates their dance recitals, new siblings, and soccer victories, but also helps them through some difficult times, such as the loss of a pet or a parents divorce.

Kim has been known to use her own money to purchase books for students to read, coats to keep them warm, and anything else they may need to succeed and flourish both in and out of the classroom. She recognizes the diversity among her students, and plans lessons to celebrate different holidays and traditions that may otherwise not be acknowledged!

Kim Thornton does whatever it takes to reach the children entrusted in her care, and her wealth of knowledge is a gift to her peers. Being in her classroom is an experience that every child should have, so for all of these reasons, and many more, Kim is a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

9-12th Grade Music Teacher at Carteret High School
Nominated by: Karen jones, Vice Principal

Kason Jackson teaches music at Carteret High School, and possesses a unique ability to not only teach the subject, but bond with students, identify their talents, and help them grow and foster a love of music! His classroom is filled with students who love to sing and play instruments, and exude passion for the lessons being taught.

Kason has worked hard to build the high school’s musical program from the ground up. Under his vision, guidance, and direction, they now have award winning ensembles to include Varsity Vocals, and Honors Chamber Choir. These choirs have traveled throughout the state to compete with other schools, and for the first time, will be adding international travel to their itinerary as well! Kason’s choir has also been out in the community, singing at local elementary schools, hospitals, and senior centers.

Kason Jackson is a role model for his students and has exposed them to a world of music that has opened many doors. Many credit Kason with shaping and changing their lives and giving them a vision for the future. This is why he’s a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

6th Grade Special Education Teacher at Soehl Middle School
Nominated by: Michael Damato, Co-Teacher

Michael Manning teaches Special Education Math to 6th graders at Soehl Middle School, and is known as the unsung hero who has an influence on virtually all important matters of school life! From the school’s Pep Rallies to Poetry Slams, and Academic Team Competitions to Instructional Leadership Team, it’s Michael who’s always willing to take a key role in developing and leading.

Being chosen as one of the few members of the school’s elite Instructional Leadership Team is probably the biggest compliment you could give a teacher today. It means you have been tasked with being a “Teacher of Teachers.” As an ILT member, Michael thoroughly examines the latest academic research and methods, then helps determine and implement the practices that will best move their students and teachers forward.

Michael possesses a strong demeanor with considerate compassion. It’s this combination of unwavering commitment to education and understanding of diverse educational needs that allows him to take a gentle self-esteem building approach with his students. If you ask him what his most important role is, he’ll tell you it’s helping his special needs students, many of whom regularly make the school’s honor roll, develop the confidence and desire to aim for a seat in mainstream classes.

Michael also strives to create a culture that emphasizes the link between leadership and learning. His vision for Soehl’s community is for the education process to be guided by the desire to empower students of all abilities to embrace the idea that leadership and a “life of learning” are bound together.

For all of these reasons and more, Michael Manning is a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

Kindergarten Teacher at Whiton Elementary School
Nominated by: Rebecca Gensel, Superintendent

Linda Abey teaches Kindergarten at Whiton Elementery School, and is everything a kindergarten teacher should be, and more! She welcomes her students to her classroom with the expectation that they’ll learn, make friends, and develop into kind and compassionate children. Linda has created a classroom atmosphere where each one of her students secretly believes that they’re her favorite!

She’s been teaching long enough to see the pendulum of education swing from one philosophy to another, but continues to greet each school year with enthusiasm and the understanding that nothing matters more than helping her students flourish and believe in their own capabilities and possibilities.

Linda is at the point in her career where she’s now teaching the children of former students. When these parents entrust her with their children, they do so with the memory of their own time in her class!

There’s many charismatic teachers who work with students and whose light shines brightly and illuminates the world around them, but Linda’s light provides a warm glow and offers students the reassurance that everything is gonna be okay, and she’s by their side to help them learn, relax and simply be themselves.

This is why Linda Abey is a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

First Grade Teacher at Amsterdam Elementary School
Nominated by: Mary Ann Mullady, Principal

Jamie Angosto is a first grade teacher at Amsterdam Elementary School, and is known for transforming her classroom into a safe and spell binding place for children to learn, love, and grow!

She takes the responsibility of providing the very best instruction seriously, and maintains a critical balance with each student and their emotional well being. She fully understands what is developmentally appropriate at their young age, and her classroom is a place where each child is valued, heard, and respected. Students are encouraged to work individually, in small groups, or in pairs, and the classroom at atmosphere is always calm and productive.

Jamie’s classroom captivates and fascinates students, and there’s so many special things to encourage a love of learning, such as handmade crafts, colorful walls, games, book nooks, and more!

Her compassion for children extends beyond the walls of Amsterdam School as Jamie not only has two beautiful daughters of her own, but she also fosters needy children until they’re able to be placed in a home of their own.

Jamie Angosto has passion for her profession, compassion for students and co workers, and a willingness to help others in and out of the classroom, and this is why she’s now a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

Kindergarten at South Amboy Elementary School
Nominated by: MaryAnne Lewis, Co-Teacher

Lori Cannon teaches “inclusion kindergarten” at South Amboy Elementary School, and is extremely caring and kind to every student in her class. She goes out of her way to individualize lessons so each student can feel successful. She’s constantly online learning new ways to reach and teach her students, finding new strategies and sharing them with fellow teachers. She also uses a lot of her own money to purchase supplies so students can enjoy learning and make projects they’re proud to take home and show parents!

She’s always buying coats, jackets and other clothing for needy students in her classroom. Not only does she buy things for her students, she attends games, recitals and plays, and often attends student birthday parties outside of school so her classroom kids feel special!

Lori Cannon is an example of what all teachers should be, because she puts her students first! This is why she’s a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

6th,7th, & 8th Grade Art Teacher at Branchburg Central Middle School
Nominated by: Matthew Barbosa, Principal

Randy Kupcha is the art teacher at Branchburg Central Middle School, and has dedicated his teaching years to ensuring art is a big part of school culture!

He arrives early before the school day begins to conduct “Morning Art,” where students are provided extra time to complete a class assignment or extra credit project. He also makes himself available during his lunch or the school’s “resource period” to provide students with more time or support, and his days end late as he guides students through the process of crafting murals around the building!

Randy’s classroom is structured more like a studio, because everywhere you look, you SEE art in all different forms and stages of completion! There’s Glass mobiles, sculptures, digital art and more!

The hallways at school school are decorated with art that’s done by the students, and the displays constantly change and highlight different ideas! Permanent installations are mounted in the cafeteria and even stenciled on the exterior of the building.

Randy’s impact isn’t only on the physical space and surfaces of the school, because he’s also the lacrosse and soccer coach, and has the ability to take a group of middle schoolers and create a cohesive and ferocious team that not only enjoys winning, but instills the value of sportsmanship.

Since becoming the art teacher at Branchburg Central Middle School 45 years ago, Randy’s students have taken what they’ve learned and started on their own careers as architects, web designers, artists and teachers.

For all his hard work, dedication, and love of Art, Randy Kupcha is now being painted as a “Teacher Who Makes Magic!”

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