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Educator Recognition

2010 New Jersey Distinguished Student Teacher Awards

Click on a name to see a short biography.

Jonathan Chia
Rosemarie Colao
Emily DiPaolo
Jason Gerrick
Alison Hassman
Genevieve Kotzas
Michael Mahadeen

Margaret Neggers
Robin Nehila
Thomas Ng
Francisco J. Ocasio
Rebecca Ringwood
Carolyn Robertson
Ms. Shari Wejsa

 Jonathan Chia

 Mr. Jonathan Chia was raised in West Orange, New Jersey, and had been a student of the public education system for most of his life, eventually graduating from West Orange High School in 2002.  He continued on to higher education at Stevens Institute of Technology, where he received B.E. and M.E. degrees in Electrical Engineering in 2006. After graduation, Jon worked for two-and-a-half years in private industry for British Telecommunications. During this time, his desire to give back to the education system that he had the privilege to take advantage of as a student grew. He opted to leave and return to public education at Rutgers University, enrolling in their Masters of Education program and pursuing a concentration in Physics Education.  In the past, Jon had regularly filled the role of an instructor, working as a tutor and teaching assistant. Now, Jon plans to graduate this May and pursue a career as a Physics Educator as an official, full-time member of the Education profession.

Rosemarie Colao

 Ms. Rosemarie Colao graduated from Bucknell University with a Bachelor of Arts in English. Upon graduation, she worked at C-SPAN Cable Network.  Rosemarie became interested in teaching and children’s literature while working as a tutor in Brookdale Community College’s Reading Department and volunteering in the library of her children’s middle school.   Rosemarie graduated from Monmouth University with   a Masters of Arts in teaching in 2010 with a K-5 certification and Middle School Language Arts/Literacy certification.  Over the years, Rosemarie has volunteered extensively for the Little Silver P.T.O., the Education Foundation of Little Silver, and the Junior League of Monmouth County. Rosemarie lives in Little Silver with her husband and three children.

Emily DiPaolo

Ms. Emily DiPaolo graduated summa cum laude from Rider University in May 2010 where she earned bachelor degrees in Elementary Education and Integrated Sciences and Mathematics as an Andrew J. Rider Scholar.  She received entry into the College of Liberal Arts, Education, and Sciences Honor Society.  Other awards include Rider Certificates for Outstanding Achievement in Elementary Education and for Excellence in Middle School Education.  She student-taught in second grade at Toll Gate Grammar School in Pennington, NJ, where she enjoyed the challenge of motivating children and creating authentic learning experiences.  Partaking in a service trip to Belize during her sophomore year was another memorable experience where she taught children and helped construct a playground.

Jason Gerrick

Mr. Jason Gerick graduated Summa Cum Laude from Kean University in 2010 with his BA in Art Education. He is the recipient of the Teaching Performance Center’s 2010 Outstanding Professional Intern Award at Kean University and is also a member of Phi Kappa Phi. Jason has grown up with a passion for art and a desire to help others. In 1994, shortly after graduating high school, he postponed his acceptance into the Columbus College of Art and Design and instead pursued a life of renunciation and austerity as a monk. In 2002, after seven years of living in various monasteries and performing humanitarian services in India and West Africa, he returned to the path of becoming an art educator. He looks forward to the opportunity and challenge of enthusing, empowering and assisting others through the power of art, creativity and imagination.

Alison Hassman

Ms. Alison holds a BS in Elementary Education and Spanish K-12 from The College of New Jersey. Alison studied abroad in Spain and was also one of twenty five recipients of a national scholarship to study in Mexico through the Spanish Honor Society Sigma Delta Pi.  She has had the opportunity to publish two articles; one reflecting on her experiences abroad and one a case study on Amish culture.  Alison presented the ladder at an international conference in Valencia in the spring of 2010.  Alison has been actively involved in her school and Philadelphia’s theater community, and is using her arts and education experience to bring theater to students.  In the fall, Alison will be joining McCarter Theatre’s education program, through which young children are exposed to and participate in music, dance, and performance, and high school students are given the opportunity to write, develop, and see their own scripts performed.

Genevieve Kotzas

Ms. Genevieve Kotzas graduated Magana Cum Laude from New York University in May 2008 with a Bachelors degree in Classics. During her time as an undergraduate Genevieve pursued an array of interests and opportunities that have shaped her as an individual and have contributed to her confidence and knowledge in the classroom such as first hand exposure as an excavator on an archaeological dig in Greece, interning at the Museum of Modern Art, and living and traveling abroad in Europe. Desiring a more tangible, positive impact on her community she enrolled in Georgian Court University to pursue a Masters in Education and to obtain her New Jersey Dual Teaching Certification   in K-5 Elementary Education, Middle School Social Studies, and Teacher of Students with Disabilities. Genevieve completed her student teaching at Brielle Elementary school in a 6th grade Social Studies inclusion classroom and a Gifted and Talented program where she worked with students in grades 3, 5, 7, and 8. Her inspiration for teaching lies in both the intellectual and the emotional in her desire to preserve and transmit knowledge and the personal fulfillment that she derives from her potential to better the lives and futures of the children of her community.

Michael Mahadeen

Mr. Michael Mahadeen, a graduate of the John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University, and double major in Music Education/Music Theory and Composition has been studying piano, clarinet, saxophone, and flute for a number of years.  Locally, Michael plays with the Bloomfield Youth Band, serves as music director for several ommunity theaters, has performed off-Broadway in the orchestra of After the Storm’s New York production of Once on this Island, and appears in the documentary film by the same organization. As a composer, Michael has had work performed by the Czech Radio Orchestra (2007), is the winner of the 2008 Colonial Symphony Composition Contest, is known internationally for his scores to video games in the Wing Commander series, and    has his music published by Bandworks Publications. Michael is an Eagle Scout and member of Phi Mu Alpha, MENC, and ASCAP.

Margaret Neggers

Ms. Margaret Neggers, as president of Kappa Delta Pi, the International EducationalHonor Society, graduated from the College of Saint Elizabeth with a Bachelor of Artswith Highest Honor in Elementary/Early Childhood Education and Psychology with aconcentration in Special Education.  As a member of Kappa Gamma Pi the National Catholic College Graduate Honor Society she shares a commitment to use her special talents and abilities in service to others especially those on the autism spectrum. As sheenters her calling, teaching, she wants to create democratic and holistic learningenvironments, which meets the behavioral, social, and emotional needs of all children. 

Robin Nehila

Ms. Robin Nehila, while raising her family and leading her daughter’s Girl Scout troop,realized her desire was to pursue a career in education.  She graduated summa cum laude in December 2009 from Kean University with a Bachelors of Arts degree in     Elementary Education K-5/5-8 specializing in mathematics. She earned a place on the Dean’s List each semester and is a member of Kappa Delta Pi, the international honorsociety in education.  During her internship, Robin learned the importance of differentiating instruction and in having high expectations for all of her students.  Hergoal is to continue to learn ways to give her students the very best education that eachone deserves.

Thomas Ng

Mr. Thomas Ng graduated Summa Cum Laude from Ramapo College, where he studied history, music, and earned a teaching certification. At Ramapo, Thomas served as the SGA President, Student Trustee, an EMT, an Orientation Leader, and a member of the Honors Program. In addition, he was awarded the Distinguished History Student Award, membership to the student leadership, history, education, and freshman leadership honor societies, and the college's highest honor, the Dean’s Award. Thomas firmly believes in diversified instruction, giving students of various interests and backgrounds the opportunity to achieve and realize their unique personal strengths. In the fall, Thomas will be working as a social studies teacher at Arise Academy in Philadelphia, PA as a 2010 Teach For America Corp. Member. 

Francisco J. Ocasio

Mr. Francisco Ocasio, as a striving teacher, Francisco views education as a gateway of opportunity.  As a young, urban student, he was classified with a literacy disability.  He strived to rise above his classification with determination and hard work.  Diligently, he made opportunities through education and overcame his learning disability.  Currently, Francisco is a member of the English and Educational honor societies, and as well as the National Council of Teachers of English.  He will continue his education and earn a Master of Education as a reading specialist.  Francisco has overcome every challenge within his life and he believes that every student can do the same.

Rebecca Ringwood

Ms. Rebecca Ringwood is a 2007 graduate of The Pennsylvania State University with a    Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations.  She went on to complete the Post-Baccalaureate Teaching Certification Program at Caldwell College in New Jersey and is currently enrolled in their Master of Arts in Literacy Instruction Program.  As a former athlete and       current coach, sports play an integral role in shaping her beliefs on education and   teamwork. Rebecca believes that education and teaching are essential parts of all children’s lives.  She is honored to be receiving the New Jersey Distinguished Student       Teacher Award and is looking forward to starting her career.

Carolyn Robertson

Ms. Carolyn Robertson left a lucrative career in marketing management two years ago to pursue a second career in teaching in search of a more personally rewarding profession.  She completed Caldwell College’s Post Baccalaureate Teaching Certification Program in May 2010 with a 4.0 GPA and is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Literacy.  She previously attended Fordham University, where she graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications.  Carolyn views teaching as a true calling that is motivated by the desire of an individual to change the world, one student at a time, coupled with the willingness to take on an amazing responsibility – the responsibility to inspire and educate children in way that is fun, engaging, hands-on, and that has lifelong consequences for the learner. 

Ms. Shari Wejsa

Ms. Shari Wejsa graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, with a 4.0 GPA from Rutgers University with Bachelor of Arts degrees in History and Spanish Literary and Cultural Studies. She received the Helen Prager Miller Prize in History after researching in London for her honors thesis which examined photojournalism during the Spanish Civil War. While a student at Rutgers, she lived in the Middle East Coexistence House, a living-learning community that examines conflict resolution and peace negotiation.  Academic opportunities in Turkey and Spain helped cultivate her commitment to global awareness and exploration of individual and cultural diversity, and inspired her pursuit of a Master’s degree in Social Studies education from the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University. She believes educators must encourage students to embrace differences in perspective and act to improve their world.