View Issues Subscribe for FREE
Bringing out the Best
Area schools recognize their top teachers for giving students the tools to succeed now and into the future.

by Amy Kodrich

From a young age, teachers play such a pivotal part in one’s life. From the youthful exuberance shown at the grade school level to the high school teacher who helps a student find a deeper appreciation for academics, there’s no shortage of important educators right here in South Jersey. That’s why we reached out to several area school districts to have them nominate the teachers they feel regularly rise to the occasion and go out of their way to nurture and develop young minds so they can become the best versions of themselves. 

Amanda Perry

Lenape High School 

Perry not only sets the standard for what a special education teacher should be, she raises the bar. She skillfully teaches and effectively guides students at every learning level and has played a big role in both the history and special education departments. While known for being a caring, dedicated instructor, Perry also makes sure to find plenty of time for her students outside of the classroom as well. It’s this kind of commitment to education that has earned Perry distinct recognition as a Teacher of the Year. 

Renee Toliver

Shawnee High School 

Toliver has made a noticeable impact in the Spanish department while also becoming a leader for Shawnee High School’s teacher-led professional development program. Her involvement with the program included helping guide the school in creating an interactive learning environment as it adapted to educating in the era of COVID-19. She has been honored as Teacher of the Year by both Shawnee High School and the Lenape Regional High School District.

Shannon McKenna 

Cherokee High School 

McKenna is a business teacher who is known for being patient, resourceful and engaging while always maintaining a wonderful sense of humor. She works closely with her students to make sure they always feel welcomed and valued. Of note, she has introduced Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) to Cherokee’s special education students who now successfully compete on the local, state and national levels. The 1988 Cherokee grad’s peers nominated her Teacher of the Year in late 2020.

Michelle Poolaw

Hillside Elementary School

Poolaw, a math instructor, embraces the whole community at Hillside by making learning fun and relevant while empowering students to reach for new heights. She works to cultivate creativity and builds connections with her students and their families to help develop individualized learning plans and invites a sense of curiosity to inspire all learners. Earlier this year she was named the 2021-2022 Burlington County Teacher of the Year and received a special shout-out from Gov. Phil Murphy for her work. 

Jim Brady

Bishop Eustace Preparatory School

An English teacher and chair of Eustace’s English department, Brady leads with a quiet strength and humility and serves as wonderful role model for faculty and students alike. He often gives freely of his time, talent and expertise to support his co-workers and the pupils in his classroom, which is just one of the reasons he was chosen to be recognized by his school. He is beloved for the connection he makes with all those he encounters and for doing so with kindness and respect.

Tammy Bitting

Monongahela Middle School

This seventh-grade advanced science teacher was recognized as Monongahela Middle School’s Teacher of the Year and is passionate about incorporating real-life experiences into her curriculum. Bitting oversees her students’ participation in STEM competitions, is a leader for the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support initiative and serves on the school’s Pink and Purple Day committee. She also teaches her students about the value of giving back and has involved them in several community projects, including helping raise money to benefit the Deptford Township Veterans Memorial Fund. 

Cara Jones

Bordentown Regional Middle School

Passionate about the growth and development of every one of her students, this popular special education teacher works tirelessly and implements engaging, hands-on activities that cater to all learning styles. A former Bordentown Regional Middle School Teacher of the Year, Jones was recently awarded the 2021 Exemplary Educator Award from the New Jersey Department of Education. The award is given to teachers who possess strong knowledge and skills along with an inspiring presence that has a positive impact on students, colleagues and the surrounding community. 

Caleigh Heenan

National Park School 

Heenan, a third-grade teacher, designed a STEM program that encourages critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication. The successful program allows students to participate with hands-on experiences that further drive a newfound love for STEM. Heenan has received several accolades including the 2020 Excite Award given by the Lemelson-MIT Program; Lamar University’s Outstanding Leadership and Commitment to Innovation honor and the 2020 Olay “Faces of STEM” award. 

Frances Kyrtatas

Hamilton Elementary School 

Kyrtatas began her educational career in Voorhees in 1999 as a special education teacher and continued to teach in the district for many years before she switched gears to become Hamilton’s School Library Media Specialist in 2018. By focusing on students’ interests, she creates an environment where children gravitate toward reading and learning while utilizing the latest technology and other digital tools to better prepare children for today’s world. 

Nicole DiBonaventura

Kingsway Regional Middle School

This eighth-grade math teacher has been serving the school district for the past 25 years, working with students in both high school and middle school. As an interdisciplinary team leader, she works closely alongside her colleagues to create a strong culture and foster a love of learning. To those who know her well, it’s no surprise DiBonaventura was named Kingsway Regional Middle School’s Educator of the Year for the 2021-22 school year. 

Krissy Pesce

Oak Valley Elementary School

Pesce goes above and beyond to build strong relationships with her students. She devises creative lessons and projects to bring learning material to life and she also plays an integral role in the community as a member of the district’s Social and Emotional Learning and Curriculum Writing committees. What’s more, Pesce serves as Oak Valley’s new teacher mentor and the overall support she provides for her students and co-workers is why she was recently named Teacher of the Year.

Scott Nagele

Deptford High School 

Nagele plays an integral role in the school’s community and due to his hard work and devotion to education, he was named the school’s Teacher of the Year. Both a chemistry and AP physics teacher, his knack for making science enjoyable is one of the reasons his students appreciate being in his classroom. As the head of the science department, he was directly involved with the design and implementation of Deptford High’s new science labs. 

Bonnie Horner

Seneca High School 

A familiar face in local education, Horner has worked in the Lenape Regional School District for more than three decades and was recently celebrated with the 2022 Teacher of the Year award. After spending the first 19 years of her career at Lenape High School, she made her way to Seneca in 2004. She holds a comprehensive science certificate and has taught all levels of biology, AP biology, earth science and chemistry. Currently, she teachers AP biology, accelerated biology and college prep biology.


 Click here to subscribe to the free digital editions of South Jersey Magazine


To read the digital edition of South Jersey Magazine, click here.
Published and copyrighted in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 18, Issue 9 (December 2021)


For more info on South Jersey Magazineclick here.
To subscribe to South Jersey Magazineclick here.
To advertise in South Jersey Magazineclick here.