Teachers of the Year Livingston honors exceptional educators at annual tribute.

Livingston honored 10 exceptional educators on Monday, March 13 at the Teachers of the Year recognition ceremony. This year's recipients are: Burnet Hill: Melissa De Angelus; Collins: Maureen Kane Tavis; Harrison: Deborah Craig; Hillside: Colleen Donnelly; Mt. Pleasant Elementary: Phyllis Fiore; Riker Hill: Kathryn D'Anna; Mt. Pleasant Middle: Laura Kirkpatrick; Heritage: Maureen Biss; LHS: Mary Walmsley; Educational Services Professional: Christie Giacobbe.

Livingston Public Schools, Teachers of the Year, 2016-2017.

Meet Livingston's Teachers of the Year

Burnet Hill Elementary School

Melissa De Angelus supports student learning at Burnet Hill Elementary School.
I love teaching because every day is a new journey.

“Teaching allows me to be creative and facilitate critical thinking in young minds,” said Melissa De Angelus. She has been teaching in Livingston for 15 years, beginning at Hillside Elementary before moving to Burnet Hill eight years ago as a special education teacher. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Montclair State College and earned from The College of Saint Elizabeth a master’s degree in education with certification in Special Education. “I love teaching because every day is a new journey,” she says. “I have the opportunity to work with enthusiastic students who love learning as much as I do.”

Collins Elementary School

Maureen Kane Tavis supports student learning at Collins Elementary School.
Together, we learn to celebrate all the victories in life, no matter how small.

I love teaching for a few reasons,” says Maureen (Kane) Tavis (it’s been a big year; she also got married). “I love that I get the chance to make my students feel good about themselves every day. I love watching their confidence grow.” Mrs. Tavis is a graduate of West Chester University of Pennsylvania with bachelor's degrees in elementary education and special education. Teaching at Collins Elementary for the past five years, she points to opportunities to help students discover their strengths and talents. “I love teaching my students to learn in different ways and find strategies that work best for them. Most importantly, I am fortunate to teach because I get to let children know that it is OK to struggle and important to work hard and never give up. I get the privilege to watch my students learn to believe in themselves. Together, we learn to celebrate all the victories in life, no matter how small.

Harrison Elementary School

Deborah Craig teaches fifth grade at Harrison Elementary School.
I feel like in this profession every year is an adventure ...

“I love teaching because I enjoy the opportunity to work with children and hopefully make a difference in their lives,” says Deborah Craig, a fifth grade teacher at Harrison Elementary School. She's been teaching for the past 17 years, earning along the way a master’s degree in Education. “ I feel like in this profession every year is an adventure because I get to work with new students and try out new materials that help to keep the subjects I teach interesting and hopefully make learning fun for my students, too.”

Hillside Elementary School

Colleen Donnelly is the media specialist at Hillside Elementary School.
I love teaching students how to find quality information.

Colleen Donnelly has been teaching in Livingston for the past seven years. She earned a BA in English and Secondary Education from The College of New Jersey and a master’s degree in Library and Information Science from Rutgers University. “I love teaching students how to find quality information,” she says, “and I enjoy encouraging their interests and expanding their horizons.”

Mt. Pleasant Elementary School

Phyllis Fiore teaches kindergarten at Mt. Pleasant Elementary.
Each year my students become my children and we become a family.

“Teaching is my passion,” says Phyllis Fiore, a kindergarten teacher at Mt. Pleasant Elementary. “Each year my students become my children and we become a family. We learn, grow and laugh together every day.” Mrs. Fiore has been teaching in Livingston for 16 years and holds a Master of Arts in Teaching. “There is nothing better than experiencing life through the eyes of a kindergartener.”

Riker Hill Elementary School

Kathryn D’Anna supports student learning at Riker Hill Elementary School.
What I love the most about teaching is watching my students build confidence in their abilities ...

Kathryn D’Anna has been teaching in Livingston Public Schools for a dozen years, the past 10 years in special education at Riker Hill, where she supports students in the resource center and classrooms. “I enjoy working with all different teachers and students at different grade levels,” she says. “Every year is a new challenge. Mrs. D’Anna earned a master’s degree in Special Education from the College of Saint Elizabeth. “What I love the most about teaching is watching my students build confidence in their abilities and being able to help children achieve their best.”

Mt. Pleasant Middle School

Laura Kirkpatrick supports student learning at Mt. Pleasant Middle School.
Teaching is a profession where the children are not the only ones who get to learn.

“I love teaching because of the students,” says Laura Kirkpatrick, a special education teacher at Mt. Pleasant Middle School. She dual majored in Elementary and Special Education, received a master’s degree in Literacy, and has worked for the district for the past 13 years. “Teaching is a profession where the children are not the only ones who get to learn,” she says. “As a teacher you learn so much from them. Each year that I have taught, each group of students has changed me, and made me a better listener, observer, person, and teacher.”

Heritage Middle School

Maureen Biss teaches English Language Arts at Heritage Middle School.
They may not remember everything I taught them, but I hope they remember how much I cared about them.

Maureen Biss was an actress in New York and Los Angeles before joining Livingston Public School schools as an 8th grade English Language Arts teacher at Heritage 10 years ago. “Many of my students over the years have enjoyed watching my commercials,” she joked. Mrs. Biss, who holds a Master's Degree in Literacy Instruction from Caldwell University, said it is “gratifying to see the light bulb of understanding go off when they get the humor of Shakespeare or realize how to fix their dangling participle.” Mostly she enjoys connecting with the kids. “Sometimes I see in the moment how I have made an impact on students, but there are other times when I will get an email from a former student or even from a parent thanking me for everything I did way back in 8th grade. That makes it all worthwhile to know that I have made a difference in helping my students. They may not remember everything I taught them, but I hope they remember how much I cared about them.”

Livingston High School

Mary Walmsley goes over a "crime scene" with students in Forensic Science at Livingston High School.
I love sharing my knowledge with the exceptional students at LHS. Their enthusiasm keeps me young.

Mary Walmsley, a science teacher at LHS, holds a Master's degree in Science from Colorado State University, where she studied insect parasites of the alfalfa weevil. “I am passionate about teaching Biology and Forensic Science,” she said, something she’s done for the past 19 years at the high school. “I love sharing my knowledge with the exceptional students at LHS. Their enthusiasm keeps me young.” Mrs. Walmsley will represent Livingston in the Essex County Teacher of the Year program.

Educational Services Professional

Christie Giacobbe is the Student Assistance Counselor at Livingston High School.
I really love what I do and if I help just one person I will feel like I have done something.

Christie Giacobbe is the Student Assistance Counselor at Livingston High School. In her role, Ms. Giacobbe literally changes lives, playing a vital role in a team effort of intervention and prevention of the issues confronting today’s students. A striking large percentage of youth across the nation are in crisis, and Livingston is not immune to the issues confronting students, including stress, anxiety and depression, bullying, drugs and alcohol. With school success predicated on a safe and healthy learning environment, Ms. Giacobbe has provided individual and group counseling to students in need, and has been a key player over the past four years in bringing to the township a variety of programming for parents and students that touch on these very difficult issues. Ms. Giacobbe is a graduate of Ramapo College, where she earned a degree in psychology and a minor in substance abuse. She earned a master’s degree in counseling with a focus on addictions from Montclair State University. She holds Student Assistance Counselor (SAC) certification, and is also a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Licensed Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LCADC) and Approved Clinical Supervisor (ACS). She was recently named Educator of the Year by the Livingston Chamber of Commerce.

Livingston Public Schools, Livingston, New Jersey

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LPS photos by Marilyn Joyce Lehren. Created with images by malenmonte - "classroom blackboard study"

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