New Jersey Department of Education

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County Teachers of the Year 2020-21

County Teacher of the Year Virtual Award Ceremony

Atlantic County

Philip Pallitto

Philip Pallitto

  • Subject: English Language Arts
  • Grade: 5th & 6th
  • School/District: Jordan Road School, Somers Point School District

Philip Pallitto earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Wagner College, studying Arts Administration and English. He began his teaching career in middle school English language arts (ELA) at the Jordan Road School in 2011. Philip has used arts integration as his personal approach to teaching, allowing students to construct and demonstrate understanding through an art form. As a professional learning community (PLC) facilitator, Philip has led his grade level team in this work through the creation of Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely (SMART) goals to measure the impact of arts integration on students’ academic, social, and emotional growth. In addition, Philip has served as a founding member of the district’s Creative Leadership Team and Connected Action Roadmap Team. He welcomed cameras into his 6th Grade classroom for an episode of New Jersey Education Association’s (NJEA) Classroom Close-Up and filmed an episode for NJTV’s Learning Live. Philip has shared his expertise through professional learning sessions in Somers Point as well as neighboring districts, and the NJEA Teacher Convention, in addition to his role as an adjunct professor at the Richard Stockton University.


Bergen County

Megan Williams

Photo of Megan Williams

  • Subject: French
  • Grade: 9th-12th
  • School/District: Tenafly High School, Tenafly School District

Megan Williams has been a member of the world language department at Tenafly High School for the past 16 years. Her own journey to learn French first took her from The College of William and Mary to Montpellier, France where she studied at the Université Paul Valéry during her junior year. She returned back to France after graduation to pursue a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Poitiers, and finally spent three consecutive summers in Paris with New York University’s master’s program during her early teaching days in Tenafly. Since then, her journey as an educator has expanded to include new roles such as softball coach, volleyball coach, World Language Conference Presenter, Technology mentor to the high school staff, and most recently, lead teacher in world language. Even after the hustle and bustle in which Megan thrives during the year, she still fills her summers with travels, and makes it a priority to participate in programs where she can collaborate with teachers of French from around the world.


Burlington County

Michael Dunlea

Photo of Michael Dunlea

  • Subject: Elementary
  • Grade: 3rd
  • School/District: Tabernacle Elementary School, Tabernacle Township School District

Michael Dunlea became a teacher to make students feel valued, become empowered and live extraordinary lives. This is his 17th year in education. Michael received the Presidential Award of Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and earned National Board Certification in Early Childhood. He is a 2020 National Education Association (NEA) Global Learning Fellow and was also selected as a 2020 Global Teacher Prize Top 50 Finalist. Michael has served as an advisor to the New Jersey Department of Education. He is on the New Jersey Education Association’s (NJEA) state Elections Committee and serves as an NJEA state delegate to the NEA Representative Assembly. Michael founded the non-profit Stafford Teachers and Residents Together (START) when Hurricane Sandy hit where he lives with his wife and his this children. He was president of Alliance for a Living Ocean (ALO) from 2012-2019. He holds a Bachelor's Degree from Thomas Edison State College, a Masters Degree in Educational Technology from New Jersey City University and a Masters Degree in Teacher Leadership from Mount Holyoke College.


Camden County

Angel Santiago

Photo of Angel Santiago

  • Subject: Elementary
  • Grade: 5th
  • School/District: Loring Flemming Elementary School, Gloucester Township School District

Angel Santiago holds a Master of Education from Fairleigh Dickinson University. He was a member of Kappa Delta Pi. Angel began his career at Lindenwold Public School District and currently teaches fifth grade language arts in the Gloucester Township Public School District. From participating and facilitating in school events such as “Hispanic Heritage Night,” and “Donuts with Dudes,” Angel tries to make it a point to be inclusive with his families. He has participated in committees, piloted new curriculums, and administered professional development knowing the importance of investing in his school and the growth of the staff and school community. Although winning Loring Flemming and Camden County’s Teacher of the Year are the first large accolades of his career, Angel does boast a wall full of red apple letters from former students that he holds dear. Perhaps the project he is most proud of is after school club, Young People of Character (YPOC), which is a group of students from different social situations that perform different community service projects. YPOC is a club dedicated to raising leaders who are strong, empathetic, and who reflect the community in which they will one day lead.


Cape May County

Rachel Krementz

Photo of Rachel Krementz

  • Subject: Special Education
  • Grade: 5th-6th
  • School/District: Ocean Academy, Cape May County School District

Rachel Krementz received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from The College of New Jersey and has taught for eight years. The majority of her career has been spent teaching students on the autism spectrum and she currently teaches fifth and sixth grade students with autism. Rachel focuses on building upon students’ strengths and teaching them academic, social, and emotional skills that help them succeed both inside and outside of the classroom. She teaches students real-life skills to help them become functional members of society. She is a fearless advocate for her students and their families. Rachel is also an exemplary teacher leader. She frequently collaborates with colleagues and mentors new teachers. She is a professional learning community (PLC) facilitator, secretary of her district’s Education Foundation, and vice president of her local school association. Rachel volunteers her time coaching track and field for the Special Olympics team with The Arc of Cumberland County. She dedicates her life’s work to making a difference for others, especially those with significant disabilities.


Cumberland County

Kristina Messina

Photo of Kristina Messina

  • Subject: Elementary
  • Grade: 5th
  • School/District: Mount Pleasant Elementary School, Millville School District

Kristina Messina is an extraordinary mentor, caring educator, and passionate leader in her field. During her sixteen years with Millville Public Schools as an elementary teacher, she has taken on many roles and truly exemplifies being a life-long learner. In 2013, she graduated with a Master of Instructional Technology from Stockton University and then in 2015 pursued her principal certification through the Foundation for Educational Administration (FEA) the New Jersey Expedited Certification for Educational Leadership (NJEXCEL) Program. Sharing and collaborating with her district and school colleagues she has continued to evolve by assuming roles not limited to being a digital ambassador, technology trainer, curriculum writer, and data coach. As the creator of Mount Pleasant Elementary School’s Summer Reading Program for the last three years, she has helped families and students close their reading gaps with the “One School, One Book Program” all by which was funded through the New Jersey Pride Grant as well as through the Parent Teacher Association (PTA). Her style is engaging and authentic. She excels in every capacity of instructional leadership, teacher training, and everything technology related.


Essex County

David Coster

Photo of David Coster

  • Subject: Mathematics & Engineering
  • Grade: 9th-12th
  • School/District: Cedar Grove High School, Cedar Grove School District

David Coster earned his first high school teaching position after graduating from Rowan University. Over the next twenty years, David served as a Supervisor of Math and Science, a vice principal and eventually a principal before returning to the classroom, a place he fell in love with so many years ago. Throughout his career, David pursued a variety of opportunities to provide additional support to his colleagues. These opportunities include presenting at Association of Mathematics Teachers of New Jersey (AMTNJ) conferences, serving as a state mentor for new teaching staff, contributing to the Essex County Curriculum and Instruction Roundtable, assisting on district Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC) and DAC committees, serving on the Northern New Jersey Math Supervisors’ Roundtable, contributing to the New Jersey High School Reform Consortium, and presenting countless in-district professional development workshops. David currently teaches Mathematics and engineering at Cedar Grove High School. In addition, David also serves as advisor to the 3-D Printing Club, the Robotics Club, and co-advisor for the Class of 2021. He is grateful for the opportunities afforded to him by this greatest of professions.


Gloucester County

Jami Centrella

Photo of Jami Centrella

  • Subject: English Language Arts
  • Grade: 6th
  • School/District: Caroline L. Reutter School, Franklin Township School District

Jami Centrella graduated from Rider University in 2013 and immediately began her career at Caroline L. Reutter School.  Throughout her seven years, she has taught learners of all levels; however, the struggling students are the ones who serve as her constant motivation to be an outstanding educator. The growth her students made in the 2018–2019 school year is one of her biggest professional accomplishments. In that academic year, 95% of students left her class reading at or above grade level, with some students growing upwards of two grade levels. She is the sixth grade Liberal Arts Team Leader at her school and a representative on her District Leadership Committee. She has also been instrumental in her school’s use of the Connected Action Roadmap (CAR) Framework. She was involved with Rider University’s Chapter of the National Writing Project, where she researched the correlation between student motivation and reading. The results of this research helped fuel her passion for encouraging students to believe in themselves as readers, writers and lifelong learners.


Hudson County

Alicia Vilas

Photo of Alicia Vilas

  • Subject: Elementary
  • Grade: 4th
  • School/District: Dr. Maya Angelou Elementary School PS#20, Jersey City School District

For the past twenty-seven years, Alicia Vilas has been committed to growing her professional capacity to meet the needs of the diverse learners in her class each year. She is relentless in her pursuit to build her students' self-efficacy by pushing her students out of their comfort zones and challenging them beyond their own beliefs. She embraces the tension caused by change and keeps her students at the core of practice and delivery decisions. As a Google Innovator, she leverages the power of innovation to engage her students in problem-based learning, weaving in skills measured by standardized test scores and has prepared children to grow each year. As a teacher, her extracurricular activities inspire youth through hands-on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and entrepreneurial learning, such as being a FIRST LEGO League Challenge coach and creating a YouTube content creator club for second to fifth grade students. Her drive and passion not only inspire her students, but also inspire her fellow colleagues.


Hunterdon County

Angie Mikula

Photo of Angie Mikula

  • Subject: Art
  • Grade: Pre-K-8th
  • School/District: Delaware Township School, Delaware Township School District

Angela Mikula is a Penn State Alumni with a Master of Education from the College of New Jersey. She has brought her passion for art education to every age group from pre-school to high school. The majority of Angie’s teaching has taken place in Hunterdon, Bergen and Mercer County, New Jersey. As an advocate for global connections, she taught for several years at the American Community School of Athens, Greece attaining certification as an International Baccalaureate teacher. In 2018, she received the Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching which granted her a six-month fellowship at the University of London’s Institute of Education. While studying in the United Kingdom, Angie developed resources for teachers to use in addressing the unprecedented number of students struggling with anxiety and depression. Upon her return, she joined her colleagues in establishing a mindfulness practice and a mindfulness garden at Delaware Township School. Angie’s ability to bring people together around a common goal has led to extraordinary outcomes in both student and community growth.


Mercer County

Jessica Merz

Photo of Jessica Merz

  • Subject: Special Education
  • Grade: 1st & 3rd
  • School: Marie H. Katzenbach School for the Deaf

Jessica Merz graduated with a 4.0 from Bloomsburg University with her master’s in deaf education in 2007. In 2008–2010 she trained in American Sign Language (ASL) English Bilingual Education through Gallaudet University’s Language Planning Institute. In 2010, Jessica moved to the New Jersey School for the Deaf (NJSD), where she has taught students from early Intervention to third grade, including multiply disabled students, for the past 10 years. Jessica brought a change of philosophy to NJSD where she led a school wide initiative to implement an ASL/English Bilingual pedagogy. She created a professional development program for teachers and speech and language pathologists to educate them on the best practices for teaching ASL and English. This program impacted every student’s language acquisition and the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) recognized her team with a Certificate of Extra Mile Award for ASL/English Bilingual Team in 2013. Jessica dedicates herself to improving the education and language acquisition of her students. She contributes to her profession by chairing multiple professional committees on campus and is an active member on professional committees throughout New Jersey and in the deaf community.


Middlesex County

Jaclyn Terebetski

Photo of Jaclyn Terebetski

  • Subject: Business/Technology
  • Grade: 9th-12th
  • School/District: Carteret High School, Carteret School District

Jaclyn Terebetski earned a business degree from the University of Rhode Island and entered the New Jersey Alternate Route Teaching Program in 2014 to follow her lifelong dream to make a difference. Jaclyn has her master’s in instructional technology and is currently enrolled in the New Jersey Expedited Certification for Educational Leadership (NJEXCEL) Program for an administrative certification. Jaclyn has assisted countless students in finding their way and following their heart. At Carteret High School, she works tirelessly to bring a sense of community to her school district by being a Class Advisor. Jaclyn also started the Cultural Committee, which now has over 100 members, with a mission to heighten school morale and show appreciation for every employee. You can always find Jaclyn cheering on her students or lending a helpful hand with projects her district takes on. Her dedication does not go unnoticed and has been named employee of the month multiple times and feels honored to represent her district.


Monmouth County

Christina Gauss

Photo of Christina Gauss

  • Subject: Spanish
  • Grade: 9th-12th
  • School/District: Rumson-Fair Haven Renioal High School, Rumson-Fair Haven Regional School District

Christina Gauss has taught in Rumson Fair Haven for fourteen years and has distinguished herself as an innovative educator who collaborates with her colleagues to elevate the level of Spanish language and cultural competence skills of students in the world language program. She empowers her students to explore their passions, inspires them to thrive, increases their creativity and compassion, and truly seeks to foster global citizenship. Gauss graduated from Bucknell University with degrees in Spanish and International Relations and earned a Master of Arts in Spanish from Rutgers University. Her instruction extends beyond the classroom walls; she established a sister-school relationship with a high school in Avila, Spain and has facilitated five in-country exchanges. She collaborates with teachers and families to run interdisciplinary activities in school that expose students to real world issues. A mentor and leader to her colleagues, Gauss has presented at local, regional, national and international conferences. She serves as Regional Director for the Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica and received the distinction of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese’s (AATSP) National Outstanding Secondary Teacher of the Year in 2017.


Morris County

Christopher Butchko

  • Subject: Social Studies
  • Grade: 9th-12th
  • School/District: Montville Township High School, Montville Township School District

Christopher Butchko always seeks to expand his knowledge about his class. He recently obtained his master’s degree in holocaust and genocide studies so that he can give his students the best education possible. He has taught at Montville Township High School for the past 12 years where he has taken over 100 of his students to visit the concentration camps in Europe. Chris believes that by exposing his students to the reality of genocide, he can better help future generations prevent such atrocities. His extraordinary ability to instill passion in the classroom is his greatest asset. He is also a proud class advisor for the past 10 years serving the Classes of 2014, 2018, 2019, and 2023. He feels extremely very grateful for being named Montville Township High School’s teacher of the year and is beyond ecstatic to represent Morris County.


Ocean County

Lucia Giavatti-DiLeo

Photo of Lucia Giavatti-DiLeo

  • Subject: Spanish & French
  • Grade: 9th-12th
  • School/District: Machester Township High School, Manchester Township School District

Lucia Giavatti-DiLeo has taught at Manchester Township High school for twenty-three years.  Lucia received a bachelor’s degree in secondary education with a certification in French and two minors: Spanish and Italian. She did not realize when she began her career, the impact she already made in the community from displaying her Italian heritage at a cultural fair with the Cultural Awareness Club to volunteering with the drama and world language clubs. Her compassion stands out towards English as a Second Language (ESL) Students and exchange students as well as her authentic teaching method, which she piloted with her own son. Lucia was asked to take over the Advanced Placement Spanish course, where the students have not only excelled, but have continued with their language studies in their education. She never ceases to learn, and Lucia continues to advocate for ESL students.


Passaic County

Megan Graziano

Photo of Megan Graziano

  • Subject: Science
  • Grade: 9th
  • School/District: Clifton High School, Clifton School District

After graduating magna cum laude with a degree in biomedical sciences from Marist College, Megan Graziano chose to enter the field of education and earned her teaching certificate through the New Jersey alternate route program. As a high school biology teacher, Megan always goes the extra mile to make learning authentic, meaningful, and fun for her students. Outside the classroom, Megan is constantly striving to improve as an educator; she has earned over seventy graduate-level credits in education, is a member of several professional education associations, and has been an active participant in the Wipro teacher-leader fellowship program for the past six years. With the support of this program, Megan has established collaborative coaching and learning groups among teachers at her school, completed several action-research projects focused on science education, and led the development of a summer Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) program for her district. As a club advisor, STEM academy advisor, new teacher mentor and teacher leader, Megan takes pride in her work, which both inspires students and creates positive change within her school community.


Salem County

Michelle Williams

Photo of Michelle Williams

  • Subject: Science
  • Grade: 9th-12th
  • School/District: Woodstown High School/Woodstown Piles School District

Michelle Williams is a graduate of Rutgers University with a bachelor's degree in biological sciences. Michelle has been a New Jersey public school teacher for twenty-one years and currently teaches ecology, biology and Advanced Placement Environmental Science. Michelle is an innovator in science education, as she challenges her students to not just learn about the natural environment but to become engaged with their surroundings through various field experiences on and off school premises. She has made field experience attainable for all students in her charge by forming partnerships with local organizations and by creating an outdoor learning space on school property. Her passion for teaching youth to understand and appreciate the environment extends beyond the classroom, as she leads the high school environmental club as well as local girl scout and boy scout troops. Michelle has been the recipient of the Girl Scout Spirit and Forever Green Awards, and she was Woodstown's 2019 nominee for the Princeton Prize for Distinguished Secondary School Teaching.


Somerset County

Micki Cobos

Photo of Micki Cobos

  • Subject: English as a Second Language
  • Grade: 9th-12th
  • School/District: Somerville High School, Somerville School District

After graduating from the College of the Holy Cross and working in public relations, Micki Cobos obtained her teaching degree through the New Jersey Alternate Route Teacher program and went on to earn her master’s degree in English as second language (ESL). She has taught both language arts and ESL at the middle school and high school levels for over ten years, and consistently wins the praise of her students, their parents, her colleagues, and her administrators. Known as a fierce advocate for her students and their families, Micki fights for the rights of her students while providing them with a top-quality education as she helps them acquire the English language and prepares them for the rigorous content of mainstream high school English classes. She also maintains great relationships with her colleagues and shares best practices to ensure her students receive a fair, equitable, and accessible education in all of their classes. Throughout the school year, she hosts a number of events to provide support and cultural opportunities for her students and their families. She also works hard as a liaison between them and the district in order to promote a sense of inclusion. Micki has received various grants, awards, and recognition for the work she does with English Language Learners who, in her time at Somerville High School, have gone on to continue their education in college with greater frequency than ever before.


Sussex County

Meghan Radimer

Photo of Meghan Radimer

  • Subject: Health & Physcial Education
  • Grade: Pre-K-6th
  • School/District: Stillwater Township School, Stillwater School District

Meghan Radimer has taught preschool to sixth grade for eleven years. Miss Radimer graduated from Houghton College in upstate New York with a bachelor’s degree in physical education and earned her health education degree at William Paterson University. She was inducted into the Sussex County Sports Hall of Fame and the High Point Regional High School Sports Hall of Fame. Miss Radimer devotes much of her time to running numerous after school clubs including the Let’s B-Social Club, Let’s B-Active Club, Morning Fitness Club, and Volleyball Club. She is the advisor for the yearbook and the Wellness Champion for the school, where she sets up wellness programs for the staff to enjoy. In and out of the classroom, Meghan shares her passion for an active lifestyle by developing and managing lessons, activities, and programs that involve not just the students and staff, but also the school community. She serves on various committees, volunteers to create decorations for the school concerts, and is quick to lend a hand.


Union County

Jamie Warner

Photo of Jamie Warner

  • Subject: Social Studies
  • Grade: 8th
  • School/District: Orange Avenue School, Cranford School District

Throughout her career in Cranford, Jamie Warner's dedication and passion for education has been admirable and inspiring. Jamie’s preparation, organization, and thoughtful planning support her strong relationship to the students and the content. Her dedication to preparing her students with the skills necessary to become thoughtful members of society is displayed through her exceptional work in Human Rights Education and her pursuit of equity in the classroom. Jamie challenges her students to look at perspectives outside their own. She engages her students in the development of critical thinking skills and encourages each and every student to strive to achieve their absolute best. Jamie has willingly taken on a leadership role as a mentor for multiple teachers by helping them develop into well-rounded educational professionals. Jamie has been awarded several fellowships including the prestigious Alfred P. Lerner Fellowship and the Bridging Cultures Global Learning Fellowship. Jamie serves on the leadership committee for Cranford’s Relay for Life and plays an integral role in Cranford’s Holocaust Remembrance Night.


Warren County

Courtney Kopf

Photo of Courtney Kopf

  • Subject: Science
  • Grade: 9th-12th
  • School/Distrcit: Belvidere High School, Belidere School District

Courtney Kopf is a graduate of Rutgers University, Cook College with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Policies, Institutions, and Behaviors with a Biological Science Education Concentration. Additionally, she holds a Master of Arts. in Science Education, Grades 5-12 Biology, and is finishing an additional Master of Arts in Educational Leadership. Courtney is heavily involved in her school community. As the anti-bullying specialist, she collaborated with Sandy Hook Promise and initiated the “Start with Hello” program and, “The Great Kindness Challenge.” She is the chair of the school safety and climate team and is a turnkey trainer for several platforms.  She also enjoyed coaching spring track and cross-country for over ten years. Courtney has an amazing ability to network with others. She leverages her ever-expanding professional learning network (PLN) to stay at the forefront of the latest educational practices. She is passionate about her content and is continually trying out new ways to keep her students engaged while focusing on equity in her lessons. She leads by example in improving school culture and is consistently working behind the scenes to ensure Belvidere High School is a star school.


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