We are proud to welcome the following teachers to the WRAT Teachers Who Rock  Class of 2020.



Preschool Teacher at Red bank Borough Preschool Program
Nominated by co-teacher, Danielle Yamello

Miranda is the perfect balance of warm and fuzzy and high expectations.

She truly loves each one of her students and they know it! Miranda knows each one of her students inside and out. She can tell you what they like, what their strengths are, what their home lives are like, what she is working on with each child, and what she is doing to meet their needs specifically.

Miranda meticulously plans lessons to meet the needs of all of her students, including students with special needs, as well as dual language learners. She is well-versed in techniques and strategies to help children learn English while simultaneously learning the curriculum. Miranda is a model teacher in the district, and when new teachers come on aboard they almost all go and visit Miranda’s classroom to see a master at work!

She understands that young children learn best through play, and she is always able to find a way to authentically teach math, literacy and science skills as children interact with classroom materials.  Learning is fun in Miranda’s class, but when you really look at what she is doing you can see and appreciate how much time and dedication she is putting into all that she does. Miranda Van Utrecht is the perfect example of how great teaching is both a science and an art, making her a Teacher Who Rocks!

Athletic Trainer at Brick memorial High School
Nominated by co-teacher, Ann Marie Tarnowski

Sue Penrod has spent over 25 years at Brick Memorial HS, first as a student-athlete in the late 1980’s and presently as the Athletic Trainer to the Mustangs since 1998. Sue takes care of the physical and emotional needs of countless athletes annually and on a daily basis.

Student athletes at Brick Memorial know that Sue is their #1 fan. Her dedication and commitment to the athletes are unparalleled. Injuries and setbacks are inevitable, and Sue goes above and beyond to get her athletes back on the field, always keeping their best interests in mind. She’s not only the best trainer, but a great person too. Her office is always open and she’s there to help in anyway she can.

According to Athletic Director Ed Sarluca, Sue is a critical member of each athletic team’s staff. From taping and bandaging up athletes to physical therapy and networking medical appointments, Sue takes pride in her job and her role in Mustang Athletics. There is not a coach that walks the Brick Memorial hallways that knows life without her.

What makes Sue special is her ability to go beyond her defined role. Her knack to make relationships, both professional and personal; her aptitude to get to know families and students outside the realm of injuries or sports; her gift of making a conversation mean more than it seems on the surface makes her the kind of person that schools and programs only see once in a generation. She is respected, she is important, and she is loved, all while being one of the most humble educators to walk our halls. Sue Penrod is definitely a Teacher Who Rocks!


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…

4th Grade Teacher at Hooper Avenue Elementary in Toms River
Nominated by colleague Constance Hinkle

As a teacher of 18 years Doug is always finding ways to relate to and meet the needs of all his students while making things fun and engaging for them. Doug’s goal is to have students understand not only their school work, but also the importance of the community they live in. Every year, he reaches out to community leaders and businesses to come in and speak to the school so students have a better understanding of the importance of protecting the natural resources, especially in our local community.

Doug has spent countless hours making the school’s Veterans Day celebration one of the highlights of the year by inviting both serving and retired military members to come in and make it an educational and memorable day for all.

Doug has spent the last 16 years organizing Hooper Avenue Elementary’s food drive in coordination with WJRZ’s Share the Joy. Without fail, the ‘JRZ van always leaves the school STUFFED every which way with donations that go right back to those in need in this community.

Doug also organizes a charity softball game every May, bringing in community members and government officials to help educate students on many things that affect our surrounding community. Doug is an excellent teacher, coworker, and community member, and he’s most definitely a Teacher Who Rocks!

Special Needs Teacher at Barnegat High School
Nominated by parent Deborah Corrao

When you are a parent of a special needs child you keep your child close to you. You child usually doesn’t get to do whatever other child does but with Kevin Peters these children do it all. He makes sure that his students go to all the dances and he is with them all night, he is also a coach and when he is done with his games he comes to see his students play their sports. Most of the children in his class do not change classes each period but he has them get up when the bell rings to go out by their lockers and talk to the other students.

Kevin Peters is a wonderful man and a fantastic teacher. At Back to School Night there were children that were 18 & 19 that came back just to spend time with him. Kevin was able to get bikes for the kids to learn to ride, with the kids even putting them together in class. Around Thanksgiving he took the class to Shop Rite where they bought everything to make dinner for the teachers and the Board of Ed. For Valentine’s Day the kids went back to the store so every child could buy flowers for mom.

Kevin loves these children and loves being their teacher, and Deborah is just one mom out of more than 50 that feel that this wonderful & special teacher and human being deserves to be honored as a Teacher Who Rocks!

Art Teacher at Manchester Twp Elementary School
Nominated by Principal Linda Waldron & Co-Teacher Deirdre Ensor

Alice McGlynn teaches Art at Manchester Township Elementary School, where for the past 20 years she has passionately passed on her love of art education and devotion to her craft. Her creativity and energy motivates and inspires students and staff alike.

Her many talents include painting murals throughout the school, volunteering at school functions to do face painting, making signs and banners to sponsor an event (sometimes on a day’s notice), and creating a culture of climate so everyone knows there is more to a student than his reading and math scores. Mrs. McGlynn sees the potential in every child and works with them, so they can see their masterpieces come to life. She gives students the freedom to explore their creative talent in a comfortable and nonjudgmental environment.

Last year Mrs. McGlynn started a program called Artist of the Month, where she selects one student from each grade who has produced a piece of art worthy of recognition. Their work is framed and hung in the main lobby vestibule for the month.

One of the school’s favorite traditions is the fifth grade Mask Project. Students can’t wait to begin the work on this paper mache project where they use their creativity to demonstrate an understanding of the 3-D process. Each year the masks come to life and the smiles on the faces of the artists upon completion are priceless.

Mrs. McGlynn is also dedicated to her community. She recently got all of the 4th and 5th graders (and many faculty members) to collaborate on designing and painting ceiling tiles for Hannah Donner’s “Painting it Forward” project. The beautifully decorated tiles will now be donated and displayed at K Hovnanian Children’s Hospital at Jersey Shore Medical Center.

Mrs. McGlynn believes, much like Albert Einstein, that “the true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but IMAGINATION.” Her love of art and positive professional energy are contagious, and that is why everyone at MTES is proud to recognize Alice McGlynn as a Teacher Who Rocks.

Kindergarten Teacher at Midstreams Elementary School in Brick
Nominated by: Theresa Corino, parent

Karen Leta, in her 40th year of teaching, is a kind and patient teacher who not only teaches the academics, but provides social and emotional support for each and every student through her kindness, caring and great character. She has also been a wonderful mentor to new and prospective teachers, selflessly sharing her knowledge with her fellow educators.

Karen has been honored as the Governor’s Recognition Program Teacher of the Year for Ocean County, as well as Brick Township’s Teacher of the Year in both the district and individual school levels.

Karen tailors instruction for each of her students, some of whom have had special needs and require the assistance of a paraprofessional. She participates readily in IEP meetings and provides strategies that help her special needs children. Karen strives for an inclusive environment for every child in her classroom, and she has a great rapport with parents.

Karen has kept up with the constantly changing educational requirements and trends over the years in order to give her students the best education possible. She provides an array of measurable goals and objectives for her students and keeps track of student progress.

Karen adds a positive vibe to the overall school climate, and she will be greatly missed when she retires at the end of the school year. What better way to go out than adding one more award to her shelf as a Teacher Who Rocks!

H&M Potter Elementary School/Bayville
Nominated by Assistant Principal Melissa Gallagher

Dedicated, determined, and compassionate are just a few ways to describe Gina Boyles. Aside from her daily instructional practices, Mrs. Boyles serves the school community in a multitude of ways. She is a director for the school play, spending countless hours working with the students to make sure the performance goes off without a hitch, and she coordinates the One Book One School program where students are encouraged to read with their families and share their experiences.

Mrs. Boyles is often called upon for her expertise, working hand in hand with her colleagues and building administration, to improve the school’s intervention process. She also serves on building and district based committees where she works to improve instructional practices and offer insight as it relates to her craft.

Mrs. Boyles goes above and beyond daily in every aspect of her career. She has created a learning environment where her students feel safe to take risks, and they’re encouraged by her positivity. It goes without saying that Gina Boyles is a Teacher Who Rocks!

Math Teacher, Jackson Memorial High School
Nominated by colleague Arlene Wacha

Jean Totin brings to life the saying: “Life is a math equation. In order to gain the most, you have to know how to convert negatives into positives.”

She is very upbeat in the classroom and exudes energy as she bounces through the hallways with her Shirley Temple curls. Jean tries to help each one of her students pass math by using many different strategies. Sheis especially effective with high-risk students as teaching math helps build their life skills.

Jean serves as the advisor of the ski club, which she single-handedly created. What began with a handful of students now travels with 4 luxury buses to overnight ski locations on the weekends. The learning doesn’t stop on the trips though, as Jean uses the slopes and angles of skiing to exemplify the use of the math she teaches.

Jean lives in Jackson and her children all graduated from Jackson Schools.  Jean spends much time at school and babysitting her grandchildren. Her success in the school district has become a legacy, absolutely making her a Teacher Who Rocks.

7th Grade English Language Arts Teacher at Lakewood Middle School
Nominated by: Dr. Scott Horowitz, Vice Principal

Throughout her teaching career, Sarah Johnson has worked tirelessly to promote the success of her students and colleagues and better the field of education.

Mrs. Johnson has worked at Lakewood Middle School for 19 years. In that time she has worked as a 7th grade ELA teacher, literacy coach, and ELA coordinator. She has also served as an ELA curriculum writer and teacher for NJSLA after school enrichment program. She contributes to the school community by creating and presenting workshops to staff, participating in community events, and unifying members of the school community by participating in events to boost morale in and out of school.

For the last 19 years she has served as a member of the SCIP team, teacher of the year committee, and a mentor to new teachers. Mrs. Johnson always moves students forward academically and socially. Everythingshe does is for the good of her students and school family, never looking for or expecting recognition. And above all she makes an awesome cake!For all these reasons and more Sarah Johnson is a Teacher Who Rocks!

4th Grade Elementary School Teacher at Ocean Township Elementary School
Nominated by: Multiple people including Admin Danielle Chernoff and PTA President Alix Hayes

Richard Steckhahn is a born teacher who is thoroughly invested in the education of his students. He works tirelessly to ensure students have every resource they need to understand a concept or topic. He is kind and understanding, and he makes the children feel safe is such an unpredictable time in this world.

Rich has been working with students who may lack enthusiasm for learning by teaching them how to be a student, how to study and encouraging them to find the desire to learn. Rich knows that helping these kids succeed in elementary school will set the course on how they learn and perform scholastically in the future. He cares deeply about his students and by helping them with challenges he hopes the students will have bright futures and become productive members of society.

Outside of the classroom, Mr. Steckhahn is very involved in the school. He acts as a teacher liaison at PTA meetings and he assists with planning and execution of certain after school PTA events. Mr. Steckhahn has furthered his own education earning his Masters Degree in Educational Leadership from Monmouth University.

Mr. Steckhahn truly rocks in every sense of the word, even playing in a local band called The Soul Compound.

Mr. Steckhahn is a highly successful educator, always keeping the focus on the children, their education and well being. With all that Mr. Steckhahn does as a teacher, camp director, and a student himself, he manages to balance that with being a parent and raising a young family as well. Richard Steckhahn is absolutely a Teacher Who Rocks!

2nd Grade Teacher at Bayville Elementary School
Nominated by: Gail Salmon, Counselor

In her eight years as a 2nd grade teacher at Bayville Elementary School, Meredith Trembulak has changed the way students and staff feel about their school. Home of the Bayville Bears, Mrs. Trembulak has made it her mission to promote school spirit and celebrate students, staff, and success by creating “Care Bears.” Caring defines Bayville as a school dedicated to helping others and recognizing each other’s individual role in making it such a special place to learn and work.

Mrs. Trembulak works tirelessly to celebrate everyone and everything positive and important at Bayville School in many ways. She celebrates students with love, praise, and encouragement. Her beautiful and colorful bulletin board displays attract and inspire students and staff alike.

Care Bears celebrates the staff with a photo wall, monthly birthday cakes and surprises, a staff appreciation snack cart, pot luck dinners during conferences, showers celebrating big moments, get well wishes, expressions of sympathy, special bulletin board tributes to custodians, holiday parties, and a calendar highlighting holiday events and staff activities.

The school year is far from over, and Mrs. Trembulak and the Care Bears are busy making sure the fun continues until the last day of school.

There is one word to describe Mrs. Trembulak – amazing! No one can figure out how she can be so involved with Care Bears, along with teaching 2nd grade and being a wife and the mother of two little girls. What makes her extraordinary is that she finds the time and does it wholeheartedly because she believes that a positive school climate is so important. Everyone at Bayville School is very proud of Mrs. Trembulak and grateful that she is Bayville School’s “Mama” Care Bear, making her a Teacher Who Rocks!

8th grade English Language Arts Teacher at Memorial Middle School
Nominated by teacher, Lauren Borack

Mrs. Thompson is an extraordinary teacher, one that goes far beyond the classroom duties of an educator. Teaching is more than a job to her; it is a passion and a life calling. Mrs. Thompson is constantly researching and seeking out the latest and best methods to use in her classroom. She often travels to conferences to meet authors and brings back those experiences to share with her students. 

In addition, she is an ever-present fixture at her students’ sporting events, various performances, and awards ceremonies. It is not uncommon to find Mrs. Thompson at the local coffee shop catching up with former students and their families. She is a like a celebrity in town; everyone loves Mrs. Thompson!

Her students always feel safe, worthy, and loved in her classroom. They know they have a safe space to discuss difficult topics, and that their views are respected and validated. Every child should be so blessed to have a teacher like Mrs. Thompson. She is truly a Teacher Who Rocks!

Culinary Arts Teacher at Lake Riviera Middle School in Brick
Nominated by colleague Gary Paxton

Ms. Cooper does more than just teach cooking, she teaches students what they will need to know in life, giving them skills that will enhance any career path that they choose. She is more like a food scientist, not only blending ingredients for amazing flavors, but demonstrating food safety and how food is really made. Ms. Cooper is always running food competitions and demonstrates the most current trends and techniques to her students. Her students get her modified instructions, so that they can easily make healthy and delicious food again, at home. She is very conscience of nutrition and focuses on healthy options for her students and their families to choose from.

Ms. Cooper puts in countless hours not only in her classroom, but is always looking for grants, competitions and experiences to give her students a very enriching and memorable experience. She also leads the school’s Youth Coalition, Relay for Life, and Green Teams. She is a role model for all of the young women in Lake Riviera and she is always willing to listen and help them whenever she can. Ms. Cooper has received many awards and recognition for all of the time and hard work that she gives to her school, students and community, and now she can add to that list the honor of being a Teacher Who Rocks.

Nicole Matarazzo
ESL Teacher at Red Bank Primary School
Nominated by colleague Cheryl Cuddihy

Nicole Matarazzo is one of those teachers who inspires her students and genuinely engages with each and every one. Her charismatic personality and joie de vivre is contagious. Currently in her sixth year of teaching at Red Bank Primary School, Nicole has grown into her role as both an educator and teacher leader.

Nicole works with students who are newcomers to both the school and country. Speaking to students in their native Spanish, Nicole helps to bridge students’ transitions to both the school environment, and their assimilation to the culture of the United States. She collaborates with her colleagues to fully address the social and emotional needs of each child.

Nicole provides an environment where students can tell the stories of their lives. Often these stories are filled with hope, inspiration, and at times fear. Nicole gives them a safe space to connect with their new school and find a haven where they can learn and grow. Students work with Nicole and their peers to develop their language and academic proficiencies, and the most important gift they give one another is that of friendship and compassion.

Just before the winter break, Nicole and her grandmother had prepared backpacks stuffed to the brim with pajamas, slippers, sweet treats, pens, paper, books, and stickers to bring joy to these students before the holidays. Knowing that some of them would not have a Christmas tree or a visit from Santa, Nicole and her grandmother brought a little Christmas spirit to these students.

Nicole’s sparking personality, sense of humor, and kindness make her a star in her students’ eyes, and certainly aTeacher Who Rocks!

Music Education Teacher at Clara B. Worth Elementary/Bayville
Nominated by Cara Burton, Principal

Mary Onopchenko has been the Music Education teacher at Clara B. Worth (CBW) for the past two years, and she is one of the most dedicated, hardworking, loving, caring, and compassionate teachers anyone could ever ask for!

During Ms. Onopchenko’s short time at CBW, she has been the brains, creativity, and passion behind dozens of CBW productions. Each grade level at CBW takes the stage to perform for their families and peers. Ms. Onopchenko welcomed our ambitious musical and theatrical performances with dedication, creativity, and a positive attitude.

Ms. Onopchenko is not only looked up to by her students, but she is greatly admired by her colleagues, parents, and administration. She is nothing but a team player, giving 100% effort into all that she does both in and out of the classroom. She works endless hours to prepare for each show, event, and lesson, and it shows.

Ms. Onopchenko deserves recognition for her devotion in the classroom, behind the piano, and on the stage. She works hard to provide the best music education possible for all her students. Ms. Onopchenko is not afraid to take risks, and she encourages her students to do the same. She has demonstrated the dedication, creativity, and responsibility that teaching requires and that students deserve every day. Ms. Onopchenko is always up for the challenge, and therefore the definition of a Teacher Who Rocks!

Pre-K to 5th Grade Music Teacher  at Ridgeway Elementary School
Nominated by Principal Nikki Mazur

We are proud to honor Stacey O’Connor, a music teacher at Ridgeway Elementary School in Manchester. We’re blown away: 450 students are taught by Mrs. O’Connor each week. 450. Incredible.

As you can imagine, we feel there’s a bit place for music in a student’s life and Stacey continues to make music count for her kids. But what makes it better is how she communicates with kids: On their level, with their interest in mind.

The result is an array of engaging and very special student music ventures. Earth Day, Fifth Grade Graduation and the Kindergarten Celebrations are all graced with music from her classes. And she goes beyond to work on behalf of her kids: How? Well she recently got a grant to receive new musical instruments including guitars and keyboards.

There are no barriers in Mrs. O’Connor’s class. She embraces everyone and makes learning music fun.

9-12 Grade Acting and Drama Teacher at Performing Arts Academy
Nominated by: Regina Avenoso, Teacher at Bayville Elementary

The word that describes around next Teacher Who Rocks is simply, “inspiring”. That’s Doug Bollinger, a Performing Arts Teacher at the Performing Arts Academy in Toms River. It’s part of Ocean County Vocational Technical School.

Mr. B, as the students refer to him, works with his students not only to be better actors but to also be more well-rounded human beings. Through his guidance and his enthusiasm his students are encouraged to make the world a better place. His students learn empathy through looking and reacting to the world around them… and in turn: that teaches them drama.

Students may not remember particular lessons taught, but they do remember how a teacher made them feel. And Mr. B’s kindness and patience leaves each and every student with a feeling of safety.

We’re adding Doug Bollinger of the Performing Arts Academy to the growing list of excellent educators in our area because we know that teachers who put students first are second to none!

5th Grade Teacher at Berkeley Township Elementary
Nominated by: Kevin Waldron, Assistant Principal & Corey Steinmetz, Co-Teacher

Enthusiastic, Energetic, and Creative. These are just a few words that describe Lindsay Quigley, a 5th grade inclusion teacher at Berkeley Township Elementary School in Bayville. Mrs. Quigley is part of an extremely dynamic inclusion team where true differentiation takes place. To say Mrs. Quigley is special would be an understatement. From her fun personality, infectious laugh, to her unique ideas it is easy to see why her classroom is one of the most highly requested rooms by parents.

At the heart of teaching is the ability to make positive and lasting connections with the students. This feat is something that many new and seasoned educators truly struggle with. Mrs. Quigley not only excels at this, but also is able to share this talent with other staff members. Her ability to help even the most reserved students bring out their inner excitement is remarkable to watch. Students often come back to her classroom for advice, guidance, or even some comic relief! This is when you know a true connection has been made.

Another reason Mrs. Quigley’s classroom stands apart is the “My Classmates Think I’m Awesome” Lawn Sign. Every few weeks the class votes on students in their room who they think are awesome and are doing their best work. The selected students get to take home the lawn sign and display it proudly in their front yard.

Recently her class created their own “Thanksgiving Day Parade” within in the school, and her also get to volunteer in the school garden.

If all of that wasn’t enough, she spends all of her free time with her family as a hockey Mom! Her dedication and passion for her family shines through.

Mrs. Quigley is truly an irreplaceable asset to Berkeley Township Elementary School. Her experience, positivity, and fun loving personality are second to none, truly making her a Teacher Who Rocks!

7th Grade Social Studies teacher at Southern Regional Middle School
Nominated by: Sara Cimino, Co-Teacher

Mr. Power makes history come alive through various activities. Students participate in a Model United Nations, as well as multiple “investigation” activities in which they act as detectives to make conclusions about historical events such as the death of Julius Caesar and the Bubonic Plague. With these projects, students feel as if they are living history rather than just reading about it. Each week, Mr. Power brings global issues into his classroom through discussion of current events. challenging students to consider issues through various, unbiased lenses.

In addition to interactive activities, Mr. Power helps to strengthen student writing. Through writing multiple essays, by the end of the year students are able to analyze difficult historical documents, and write an organized, cohesive argument essay. By working closely with the Language Arts teacher, Mr. Power also helps to strengthen the students’ use of figurative language, comma rules, vocabulary and varied sentence structure.

Mr. Power’s caring, professional demeanor makes it easy for students to talk to him when an adult needs to be aware of a situation in school or at home.  He is a team-player and always willing to get pied in the face when raising money for various causes.

Outside of school, Mr. Power coaches football, winter track, and spring track.  He has also volunteers with local organizations, and last year, Mr. Power was a “buddy” at a Night to Shine, helping guests with disabilities have a “prom” night they would never forget.

Mr. Power gives his all in everything he does, making him a Teacher who Rocks!

Pre-School – 4th Grade Special Education/Guidance Counselor at Wayside Elementary School
Nominated by: Amy Steckhahn, Colleague

Kristen McHugh is a beloved colleague and friend to so many. The families of Wayside Elementary cherish the relationships they have with her.

Kristen always puts the needs of students first. Recently she was able to secure generous donations to purchase and design a sensory path in the hallway. This path provides opportunities for brain breaks through sensory play, further development of gross motor skills, as well as learning to maintain and improve spatial awareness. Coincidentally, this path runs along the route to a special room in our school. Kristen had the idea to re-purpose an unused space for students with sensory needs and diets. Inside, you can find dimmed lighting, multi-sensory toys and activities, soft padding, and a quiet, private area to reflect and de-stress. Many students use this space daily and the reinforcement it provides is wonderful for them.

Last spring, Kristen received an amazing honor from NBC. They had a contest seeking individuals that are simply committed to spreading kindness in their daily lives. Mrs. McHugh came up with a project that started small, but ended up making its way around the world! “Kindness Through Compliments” was created by her to send positive messages to anyone who needed them. As people began forwarding the project along, it eventually spread to many countries all around the world. NBC was so impressed with her initiative that Kristen was named a “Kindness Ambassador.”

Now in addition to “Kindness Ambassador,” Kristen McHugh also gets the well-deserved title title of “Teacher Who Rocks.”

8th Grade Social Studies Teacher at Lacey Township Middle School
Nominated by: Kathleen Cafiero, Teacher

FDR said, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.” This quote sums up Mr. Nick Madensky. He makes sure all that walk through his doors leave with the abundance of knowledge he can instill in them!

Nick is calm, cool and respectful to all his students. He sees them as fun kids who underneath it all truly want to learn. He welcomes them each day and sets goals for all of them. Nick knows that in 8th grade these students are trying to find their way, trying to make decisions that will set the course for the next four years. He offers them advice, but never minimizes their opinions.

The students know that Nick loves Star Wars, Disney, and Hamilton and they love it when those topics infiltrate his Social Studies lessons. He is one of the teachers who may stay behind the scenes, but you know he is there ready and willing to help all!

Nick has been the head baseball coach for the past 12 years with 3 championship titles, he’s a student council advisor, as well as a cooperating teacher for new educators in Lacey.

Mr. Madensky also strives to make change in our education system. He has presented at the NJ Council for Social Studies and assisted in revising Social Studies Standards in NJ. Nick is also on the Advisory Board for Stockton University and assists in the Department Of Education for reviewing student teacher portfolios for the State of NJ.

For all of these reasons and more we honor Nick Madensky as a Teacher Who Rocks!

Do You Know a Teacher That Deserves this Honor?  Nominate them today!