I became a teacher for the same reason most did, I wanted to make a difference. Mrs. Finn, my 3rd grade teacher at Saint Agnes Grammar School in Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey, made a profound impact on me and I wanted to be a Mrs. Finn for children who needed her as much as I did. I just didn’t know this is what I wanted until I was already married and had children of my own. I became a teacher via the alternate route
I am currently teaching 2nd grade in Tabernacle Elementary School in Tabernacle, NJ. Prior to Tabernacle I taught in Stafford Township, NJ for 14 years where I live with my wife and children. Stafford is a coastal community that was devastated by Hurricane Sandy in October, 2012. Following the storm I witnessed students, colleagues and complete strangers all suffering enormous loss. Motivated by the simple philosophy of, “There but for the Grace of God go I”, I founded a non-profit, grass roots organization of teachers and school staff to go out and help the victims of the storm. This movement quickly gathered momentum and by four months post storm we had over 2,500 volunteers clean out over 800 homes. It is estimated that the group I created, Stafford Teachers And Residents Together, S.T.A.R.T., saved residents more than $3,000,000.00. More importantly we brought our community back from a devastating event and forged tight bonds that continue to this day. S.T.A.R.T. continues to function as a community based volunteer group thanks to Joe Mangino, who was the owner of the first home we helped clean up and the husband of a teacher I work with.
The leadership skills I needed to direct the storm relief were acquired from my experiences in and out of my classroom. In 2011 I was the Teacher of the Year for my building and was entered into the state selection process for State Teacher of the Year. I went on to be the 2011 Ocean County Teacher of the Year and a finalist for the NJ State Teacher of the Year. Being recognized for my work in the classroom set me on a path of teacher leadership that included becoming a Teacher Fellow with America Achieves in 2012 and Hope Street Group in 2014. These fellowships elevated me to the national conversation of education in America and beyond. I now serve as an adviser to the NJ State Department of Education while maintaining a full time classroom teacher position. I am also a member of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year, NNSTOY. One of my greatest accomplishments was becoming National Board Certified in Early Childhood Generalist in 2015.
The policy world has introduced me to the professional side of teaching and I am extremely happy to participate in the meetings and conversations where I advocate for my students and fellow educators. I have found my voice and the courage to use it.
Few things make me as happy as a day at the beach. I am incredibly fortunate to live so close to the ocean. I am so enamored with the sea that I have taken the post of President of the Alliance for a Living Ocean, ALO. ALO is a watch group that protects the natural habitat of the bays and oceans around Long Beach Island. My family and I spend countless hours enjoying our time on LBI. When we aren’t on the beach we love visiting nearby Philadelphia, New York or Washington, DC. Traveling the world is something I would love to do more of.