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Bright Side Education

Cherokee Announces 2021 Teacher of the Year & Educational Services Professional of the Year


Marlton, NJ – Cherokee High School honors and congratulates Shannon McKenna, Special Education Teacher, as Cherokee’s 2021 Teacher of the Year and Suzanne Connolly, Guidance Counselor, as Cherokee’s 2021 Educational Services Professional of the Year.

Shannon McKenna’s friendly and positive attitude is contagious and it is obvious her students feel welcome and cared for.

The primary reason students enroll in Retail Careers and Pre-vocational classes is for the opportunity to work with Mrs. McKenna. Shannon is patient, resourceful and engaging, while always maintaining her relaxed sense of humor.

Shannon has been active in introducing DECA to our special education students.

DECA offers programs and activities for students interested in business and hospitality careers.

She works individually with each student to discover their particular niche, then prepares them for success at DECA’s local, state and national competitions.

Shannon has been inspiring students to learn and grow for many years and we are excited to award her this deserving honor.

Suzanne Connolly is respectful, non-judgmental, empathetic and a leader in the Cherokee Counseling department. It takes a combination of many traits to be a successful school counselor and Suzanne Connolly has all of them.

Pictured are Suzanne Connelly and her family (Photo provided).

As well as being well-versed in the most current counseling theories, she has an upbeat personality and positive energy that quickly fills a room. In addition to her endless counseling duties, Suzanne voluntarily manages the Cherokee Food Pantry, providing an indispensable resource for our Cherokee families in need.

She garners donations, organizes supplies and provides for every family requesting assistance.

Suzanne is truly deserving of this award.

About LRHS

The Lenape Regional High School District’s four high schools – Lenape, Shawnee, Cherokee, and Seneca – as well as the Sequoia Alternative Program, educate approximately 6,800 students from eight communities in Burlington County, NJ.

The communities served include Evesham, Medford, Medford Lakes, Mount Laurel, Shamong, Southampton, Tabernacle, and Woodland.

The Lenape Regional District is among the highest-achieving districts in the state, with an average graduation rate of 96% and an average combined SAT score of 1144.

A leader in progressive education, the LRHSD’s mission is to develop physically and emotionally healthy students who excel in an ever-changing world.

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Education Recent News

Cherokee Music Teacher Receives 2020 New Jersey Jazz Education Achievement Award

Marlton, NJ – Cherokee teacher Earl Phillips was recognized as the 2020 New Jersey Jazz Educator of the Year. Earl directs the Cherokee High School Jazz Ensemble, Music Theory, and Music Technology departments and is an adjunct faculty member of Rowan University.

This prestigious award is given out each year to one deserving New Jersey jazz educator who has demonstrated the highest standards of teaching excellence and dedication to the jazz education community.

Earl has been commissioned to write for and work as a clinician with many local high school and collegiate programs and has also been commissioned by the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia, led by artistic director Terell Stafford.

He is a composer, arranger, educator, and bass trombonist in the greater Philadelphia area.

Earl has lead the Earl Phillips Big Band 17-piece big band since 2007 and joined the Jazz Orchestra staff in 2014. Most recently, Earl was commissioned to write music for the Philadelphia group Pat Martino.

As the leader of the Earl Phillips Big Band, Earl, as a bass trombonist, has shared the stage with Wayne Newton, Patti Austin, and Kurt Elling. He has recorded with Kid Cudi, Will Smith, Boyz II Men, and John Legend, among others.

Mr. Phillips has directed the Philadelphia Grammy Band (2005-2007), the All South Jersey Jazz Ensemble (2008 & 2012) and the All Central Jersey Jazz Ensemble (2014). He has been a clinician/manager with the New Jersey All State Jazz Ensemble (2009-2014).

Earl is a graduate, with honors, of the University of the Arts, holding a Bachelor’s Degree in Bass Trombone Performance, a Master’s Degree in Music Education and a Master’s Degree in Jazz Performance/Jazz Composition from Rowan University.

He is also a published author having articles printed in the Jazz Education Journal and Downbeat Magazine, as well as a published composer and arranger through Northeastern Music Publications.

About LRHSD

The Lenape Regional High School District’s four high schools – Lenape, Shawnee, Cherokee and Seneca – as well as the Sequoia Alternative Program, educate approximately 6,800 students from eight communities in Burlington County, NJ.

The communities served include Evesham, Medford, Medford Lakes, Mount Laurel, Shamong, Southampton, Tabernacle, and Woodland.

The Lenape Regional District is among the highest-achieving districts in the state, with an average graduation rate of 96% and an average combined SAT score of 1144.

A leader in progressive education, the LRHSD’s mission is to develop
physically and emotionally healthy students who excel in an ever-changing world.

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Bright Side Education

Seneca Announces Teacher of the Year & Educational Services Professional of the Year


Tabernacle, NJ – Seneca High School is celebrating the 2021 Teacher of the Year, Morgan Crothers, and 2021 Educational Services Professional of the Year, Deb Doolittle.

Crothers and Doolittle were nominated by colleagues, who praised each for their dedication and commitment to Seneca’s student body.

Seneca 2021 Educational Services Professional of the Year Debra (Deb) Doolittle Receives Congratulations from Principal Brad Bauer. (Photo provided)

“Morgan is one of the unsung heroes in our high school, especially for our most needy students,” explained one colleague. “She is one of the most caring, devoted, and hardworking teachers we have in our building. As a teacher, Morgan is a tireless advocate for our students and constantly goes above and beyond to help them find success. She works with some of our most challenging students, yet she never gives up and she finds a way to push them to levels of success that very few others could.”

As a colleague, “Morgan leads by example and always pushes those around her to be their very best. She sees a challenge and she hits the ground running to find a solution. As we know, Morgan does not like the spotlight, but she surely does deserve it. She is a quiet leader in everything that she does. Academically, Morgan challenges her students who often have many challenges of their own. She gets the most out of them and leaves no one behind in any lesson, in any classroom, on any day. And if that weren’t enough, she pushes everyone around her to be better.”

Another colleague added, “Morgan holds herself and her peers accountable by setting the bar high. Our students benefit, our staff benefits, and quite frankly, our entire community benefits from her being at Seneca High School.”

Seneca High School 2021 Teacher of the Year Morgan Crothers

Seneca High School’s 2021 Educational Services Professional of the Year, Debra (Deb) Doolittle is known throughout Seneca for her ability, as a paraprofessional, to connect with and guide the students she works with.

“The role of a paraprofessional often is overlooked and undervalued,” explained a colleague, “but the teachers that have seen Deb in the classroom can attest to her ability to de-escalate any intense situation. Deb is often given the most challenging students; however, her firm, consistent and caring personality is able to help students focus on the task at hand. She will listen to students’ frustrations, and through her nurturing and caring approach, she is able to help any student overcome those frustrations and inspire them to do and be their best.”

Doolittle is also known for embracing the class and content in the multiple classrooms she works in.

Seneca High School 2021 Educational Services Professional of the Year Debra (Deb) Doolittle

“Since Deb is in many different classrooms and varied subjects, this requires her to learn a lot about diverse content,” explained another colleague. “Deb accepts this task with enthusiasm and joy. She
works with the teachers to learn the content so that she can help all students achieve their best.”

Doolittle is also known for her involvement outside the classroom, where she is a regular at Seneca activities, cheering and encouraging Seneca’s students to shine their brightest. You’ll even find her building relationships with and encouraging students as they navigate the hallways of the building.

Her caring and commitment are a constant at Seneca.

The Seneca Family is excited to honor and celebrate Crothers and Doolittle for their contributions.

About LRHSD

The Lenape Regional High School District’s four high schools – Lenape, Shawnee, Cherokee and Seneca – as well as the Sequoia Alternative Program, educate approximately 6,800 students from eight communities in Burlington County, NJ.

The communities served include Evesham, Medford, Medford Lakes, Mount Laurel, Shamong, Southampton, Tabernacle, and Woodland.

The Lenape Regional District is among the highest-achieving districts in the state, with an average graduation rate of 96% and an average combined SAT score of 1144.

A leader in progressive education, the LRHSD’s mission is to develop physically and emotionally healthy students who excel in an ever-changing world.

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Bright Side Education

Salem County Agriscience Educator, Keely DiTizio, Wins National Innovation Award

The Curriculum for Agricultural Science and Education (CASE) has announced that Keely DiTizio, a Teacher of Agriculture at Salem County Career and Technical School in Mannington Township, is the 2020 CASE National Innovation Award winner.

The award highlights a creative classroom and teaching approach as CASE certified teachers implement and promote the curriculum.

DiTizio was honored at the National Association of Agricultural Educators Convention between Nov. 30 and Dec. 4. The convention was held virtually this year.

Keely DiTizio checks on a project looking through the microscope. (Photo provided)

“As a life-long learner, I love thinking of new ways to teach, inspire, or impact my students,” DiTizio said. “It really enriches my life, and I get very excited about implementing new ideas or programs into my school’s Academy of Agricultural Sciences.”

DiTizio founded Salem Tech’s Academy of Agricultural Sciences and revamped the program by implementing one of the first full CASE pathways in the country, which prepares students for the science, business, and technology of agriculture.

DiTizio’s innovative courses for agriscience quadrupled the average number of freshmen recruited to the program within the first five years and continues to be a popular choice for Salem Tech students.

The FFA Chapter she advises has been named New Jersey FFA’s Most Improved Chapter twice in her tenure. Her husband, Matt DiTizio is also an agriculture instructor at the school, and she finds they complement one another as educators. “Every evening after work, we go for a ‘post-game’ walk, which we coined because we discuss the highlights, the triumphs and tribulations, of our work day in the classroom,” Keely DiTizio said.

“Through our informal discussions, we identify areas of need, and we brainstorm, and problem solve together.”

In addition to her certifications to teach six different CASE courses, DiTizio participated in the National Agriscience Teacher Ambassador Academy (NATAA) and was selected as the 2015 New Jersey Advisor of the Year.

A former high school agriscience student and FFA chapter president, she also was the Association for Career and Technical Education Region 1 New Teacher of the Year in 2017.

Currently, she serves on the New Jersey Association of Agricultural Educators (NJAAE) Member Services Committee and on the state STAR
(State Teach Ag Results) Team, where she helps plan and promote activities that inspire students to become agricultural educators.

“Mrs. DiTizio takes a creative approach when designing lessons that allow students to take ownership of their progress, while ensuring they meet the learning objectives of agriculture education,” Salem Tech Principal Jason Helder said. “Every time I visit her classroom, I see students engaged and enjoying learning. I believe that to be the mark of excellent teaching.”

Along with developing the CASE program at Salem Tech, DiTizio had a mobile chicken coop built by agriculture students on school grounds.

“Keely’s ability to integrate the CASE program at Salem Tech has given her students a great opportunity to explore various subjects included in the agriscience program at the school,” New Jersey Department of Agriculture Secretary Douglas Fisher said. “This type of the educational innovation is part of the foundation that will advance agriculture to higher levels throughout the 21st century.”

DiTizio has earned a reputation for her dynamic, student-directed lessons designed to lead students to draw their own conclusions. She ingrains project-based learning into her courses and through cross-curricular activities.

Following FFA’s model of connecting students with Supervised Agricultural Experiences (SAE), DiTizio has placed her students in work opportunities at farms, animal shelters, Rutgers University, and various facilities for the state’s Land Grant Institution.

To learn more about the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/NJDeptofAgriculture and www.facebook.com/JerseyFreshOfficial or Twitter @NJDA and @JerseyFreshNJDA.

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Bright Side Education

Monmouth County Educator Kristina Guttadora Honored for Winning Region I Award

(TRENTON) – The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) has announced that Kristina Guttadora, a horticulture teacher at Monmouth County Career Center in Freehold, is the 2020 ACTE Region I Teacher of the Year and was one of five finalists for the 2020 national honor.

The award recognizes CTE teachers who have made significant contributions toward innovative and unique career and technical education programs and shown a professional commitment early in their careers.

“I love being in the classroom and playing a part in supporting students and assisting them in reaching their academic goals,” said Guttadora, who is the FFA Advisor at the Monmouth County Vocational School. “To be the Region I Teacher of the Year is a great honor and to be considered for the national award is very exciting. The support of administration and staff have provided me with the necessary tools for success.”

Guttadora received her BS in Plant Science at Rutgers University, and Masters in Agricultural Education from North Carolina State University.

She served as a high school agricultural educator and FFA advisor in Freehold Township for 10 years, while staying actively engaged in the National Association for Agricultural Educators, attending regional conferences, and being selected for the Teacher Turn the Key and Outstanding Young Teacher award.

From 2007-2009, she served as the New Jersey Agricultural Association of Educators president.

“Ms. Guttadora is a tremendous asset to our teaching staff here at the Monmouth County Career Center,” Principal Nathan Kraemer said. “She provides a wealth of experience and knowledge and those qualities, along with her enthusiasm, have created an inspirational learning atmosphere that puts our students in an excellent position to succeed and realize their potential.”

In 2011, Guttadora shifted her career direction to serve as the Executive Director of the New Jersey Agricultural Society, where she supervised the Farmers Against Hunger, Agricultural Leadership and Learning through Gardening programs.

During her time in this position, Guttadora connected FFA chapters to volunteer opportunities with the organization. This career change enabled Guttadora to broaden her understanding of the industry and make professional connections throughout the state.

She returned to teaching horticulture in 2017 at the Monmouth County Career Center, where she networks to strengthen career and technical education and provide greater employment to her students.

“Kristina is well-known and respected in the agricultural community in New Jersey,” New Jersey Department of Agriculture Secretary Douglas H. Fisher said. “She is very deserving to have her efforts recognized on the regional and national level.”

The Monmouth County Career Center’s Horticultural program allows students to receive hands-on experience pertaining to floriculture, landscaping, and turf management. 

The school operates a working floral and garden shop open to the public where students sell crops and products grown in the greenhouse and created in class. 

Customer orders are filled for a variety of special events and holidays and provide the students the opportunity to gain retail and agricultural business skills.

Technology is integral as students are taught golf course and landscape management techniques and receive live work experience on the school’s Par 3 golf hole and the 12 acres of property on site.

In both programs, the students learn plant and cut-flower identification, pest management, fertilizer applications, and cultural techniques.

The co-curricular organization FFA plays a major part of teaching students the skills they need to be successful in agriculture and other related careers.

This is the fourth consecutive year a New Jersey Ag Education teacher has been honored with an ACTE Region 1 award.

The previous three years Salem County Technical School’s Keely DiTizio, Woodstown High School’s Deanna Miller, and Newton High School’s Jenny Allen each were the Region 1 New Teacher of the Year.

The ACTE Excellence Awards recognize individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to CTE, programs that exemplify the highest standards and organizations that have conducted activities to promote and expand CTE programs.

For more information about the ACTE Excellence Awards, visit https://www.acteonline.org.