Say Hello to East’s Newest Faculty Members
October 31, 2017
Mr. Michael Mancinelli – Math Teacher
Narrated by Ilana Arougheti
He’s taught halfway across the world and on both sides of town – he’s hosted homerooms and championed clubs – and now Mr. Michael Mancinelli has come to East to teach Geometry Honors, Enriched Algebra and Algebra II, and to impart the lessons of his varied background upon his students.
Growing up in Phillipsburg, PA, Mancinelli has known that he has wanted to be a teacher since he was in the fifth grade. He credits his interest to several of his past teachers who have come to serve as lifelong role models for him, The first of these close mentorships occurred with his fifth grade teacher Mrs. Snyderman, who still wishes him a happy birthday each year and with whom he continues to communicate with via Facebook, and another important inspiration was the recently deceased Mr. Rohm, Mancinelli’s precalculus honors teacher during his junior year of high school. Mancinelli was specifically inspired to teach math, though, by his eighth grade math teacher, Mr. Thomas Dominic, whose teaching style and status as a high school football coach wowed Mancinelli from the get-go.
“He was the first time where I was like, ‘I kind of want to be that guy,’” Mancinelli said. Mancinelli maintained a close relationship with Dominic until his recent death and continues to cite him as an inspiration today.
After studying at The College of New Jersey, Mancinelli was given the opportunity by one of his professors, Professor Evangelista, to teach abroad in Bangkok, Thailand, as part of the Student Teaching Abroad program.
“He came up to me and he was like, ‘Mike, I really think you should take advantage of going somewhere,’” Mancinelli remembers. He initially signed up to teach in South Africa, but when the trip was canceled due to civil unrest, he instead flew to the province of Bangkapi in Thailand, where he taught middle schools and high school juniors at Ruamrudee International School.
Mancinelli’s entire teaching career has been spent in Cherry Hill. After 11 years teaching sixth grade and eighth grade math at Beck Middle School, he taught special education math at Cherry Hill High School West. As the first teaching job Mancinelli ever applied for before working at Beck was for a position at East, Mancinelli’s transfer to East this year fulfills a career long aspiration.
“I thought it would be a little bit easier to hone my craft at the middle school level, but my goal was always to get to East,” said Mancinelli.
So what does he find so special about this school? “Education is really, really important to the students at East,” Mancinelli explained, “so when I’m teaching, I feel like the students are all paying attention and wanting to learn – almost like sponges. They want to learn more, where I don’t have to spend a lot of my time dealing with things that aren’t about the academics of the school.”
Mancinelli also feels drawn to the “amount of giving” that occurs at East by way of the numerous student-led clubs and service organizations currently in place around the building. He was the advisor of the Key Club at West, and while he does not currently head any extracurriculars at East, Mancinelli is very open to the possibility of taking on such a role here in the future. He’s already turned his sophomore homeroom into a club of sorts, inspired by the “activity time” concept of homerooms at West, where students can wander between several open rooms and participate in various structured activities during their homeroom periods.
“We have days,” as Maggie Balderstone (’20), one of Mancinelli’s homeroom students, puts it. “Thursdays we watch Friends, Fridays we watch Carpool Karaoke. We’re trying to get Just Dance going.”
In his math classes, Mancinelli strives to keep students focused through captivating lessons in the form of SmartBoard notes whenever possible. He tests students often, giving math quizzes every long day on top of chapter tests and district assessments, and nightly homework which is reviewed the next day on the board.
“I’d like to say I am engaging and motivated,” Mancinelli said. “I try to be a person that the students find interesting… Math can sometimes be a little dull, so I try to deliver it in a way…where I’m more interesting than their cell phone.”
Ms. Angela Capio – English Second Language (ESL) Teacher
Narrated by Ali Koenig
In room C209, a classroom with walls plastered in yellow papers that read “welcome” in various languages, one can find a teacher just as inviting. Ms. Angela Capio, an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher who last year taught at East only in the afternoon, has eagerly begun her first year at East full-time. She teaches sixteen English Language Learners (ELLs), who immediately impressed her with their eagerness to learn.
This year, Capio hopes to constantly develop new and exciting lessons, as well as educate East staff on accommodating her ELLs.
“I think that you construct your knowledge,” said Capio. “So the more hands-on and engaging a lesson is, the more memorable it will be for you.” Capio plans to incorporate this philosophy into her daily lessons.
Capio understands that learning English is no simple task, and she constantly works to give her students as many learning opportunities as possible.
“Especially when it comes to learning a language, you really have to practice speaking and writing,” she said. “Those are the most valuable ways to learn, so I always make sure that my students have chances to speak and write in my lessons.”
Capio studied English Literature at Barnard College, earned her teacher certification at Ryder College, and is currently taking classes at Rowan University. She is also a former TV producer who loves documentaries, working for both the Dr. Phil Show and TLC.
For her time teaching full day, Capio is delighted by East. She has received a lot of support from her colleagues and she adores her students and classroom. Capio is most excited to have her own homeroom, as well as the opportunity to shadow her ELLs throughout the day.
“[This year I hope] to educate the staff on how to accommodate an ESL student,” said Capio. “It’s really challenging when somebody doesn’t speak any English and they’re suddenly in your high school-level class… I have a lot of confused teachers.”
As an ESL teacher, Capio wants the East community to understand that her students work hard both to understand and to be understood.
“We can work together,” said Capio. “Even somebody with very limited English can succeed and learn something in your class. In fact, they can make it more interesting.”
Mr. Jacob Weingrad – Chemistry Teacher
Narrated by Ilana Arougheti
For Mr. Jacob Winegrad, a new chemistry teacher here at East, teaching is both a combination and culmination of many passions.
Winegrad’s interest in chemistry began in high school and grew tremendously due to the professors he had in college. He discovered that his passion for education during his time as a teaching assistant in his graduate program; this experience caused him to switch career paths and become a teacher.
“I like interacting with lots of young folk.…I like [teaching] because [it is] a very social job.…[it is] a really gratifying feeling to know that you taught something to someone,” said Winegrad.
Winegrad loves feeling energized by the people around him, and he actively seeks opportunities to get others interested in his passions. For instance, he is currently trying to bring a rock-climbing club to East because he believes it is a great alternative for students who shy away from more traditional, competitive sports.
He also enjoys the gratification of teaching. He believes his job will have been worth it even if only one student shows they have understood the lesson.
“One of the best things about teaching is when somebody has learned something and they make this face like, ‘woah, I get it,’” said Winegrad.
One of Winegrad’s main teaching principles is that his classroom has to be a secure environment for all of his students.
“That’s one of my top goals because you can’t learn in an environment where you don’t feel safe and comfortable,” said Winegrad, who wants students to be able to approach him with questions without any feeling of intimidation.
This is partially accomplished through his flipped-classroom style of teaching. Many students feel uncomfortable participating in class, and they often have questions that never get answered. Students are assigned to watch lectures at home, and they are able to submit any questions they have through google classroom. The questions that students submit are only viewed by Mr. Winegrad himself, so the fear of public speaking is removed. He then takes those questions and answers them in class the next day. He is also able to see if multiple students share the same questions so he can cover that topic in greater depth.
In addition to his flipped classroom, Winegrad tries to incorporate as much technology as he can.
“I go for a lot of technology…no paper stuff as much as possible,” said Winegrad.
He utilizes google classroom among other resources in order to digitalize his lectures and worksheets.
Because of his flipped classroom method of teaching and his emphasis on using technology for education, his class meets the needs of all types of students.
“Our day to day is fairly varied…” said Winegrad, “[work] might be in groups, [work] might be [independent], [work] might be on worksheets, [or work] might be some sort of competition.”
This way, various types of learning preferences are all represented within the classroom. In addition, Winegrad does everything from telling jokes to playing the ukulele to brighten his student’s days.
So far, Winegrad feels that his experience at East has been a tremendously positive one. He loves the principles and philosophies of the administrators and the incredible teachers he gets to work with. He is amazed away by how hard-working and how driven the students here are, and wants to make sure he is doing his best for his students and the East community as a whole. He eagerly awaits working with his students every day this year and for many years to come.
Ms. Heather Vaughn – Music Teacher
Narrated by Ali Koeing
“I’m a Double Hoosier, at least that’s what I call myself,” says new teacher Heather Vaughn. “I’m from Indiana and I went to Indiana University.” Before this year, she has taught in five states, including a high school student teaching program in Indiana during her senior year of high school. For one semester, two hours a day, Vaughn taught a music program to elementary school children, which, according to her, is how she knew she liked working with children. Although Vaughn always knew she liked working with children, she did not always want to be a teacher.
It was the suggestion of her choir director that Vaughn first considered teaching as a career. While in college working toward her music major, Vaughn’s choir director saw that she was not only good with music and suggested that she major in education with speech, theater, and English. Vaughn took this advice, changed her major and became a teacher, but has not been teaching consistently.
Vaughn took a sixteen year break from teaching. During her break, Vaughn directed a music camp, as well as the extracurricular drama program for Haddonfield High School for five years. Vaughn even worked at a container store for six years.
In the years she has been teaching, the Indiana hoosier has acquired a varied background, teaching in five different states including Indiana, Virginia, Texas, Pennsylvania, and now New Jersey, adding to her experience working a variety of other jobs. Now back in the classroom after sixteen years, Vaughn incorporates her broad experiences into her classroom for her students.
“When I came into school on the first day I felt like I never missed a beat,” said Vaughn.
In addition to her steady reacclimation to teaching, Vaughn is enthusiastic to be a part of the East community and especially excited to be working with students again.”
“I’m excited to be here, to be a part of [the students’] community…For me, teaching is all about the kids … it’s about them, inspiring them, having fun with them. That’s what teaching is all about.”
In addition to her student-first philosophy, Vaughn believes in teaching not through memorization, but in application.
“[Teaching] should not be lectures, it should not be doing this because I said so, it should be interactive, it should be dynamic,” said Vaughn.
Her students seem to like her philosophies as well. Nicole Benson, one of Vaughn’s students in her public speaking class said “I like [Vaughn], [she is] nice. I feel comfortable with her. [She is] approachable and easy to talk to.”
This Double Hoosier will surely be a hoot to have at East!
Ms. Deborah Bjornstad – French Teacher
“I was an unremarkable French student in high school,” new french teacher Ms. Deborah Bjornstad said when asked about how she developed her passion for the language. It was not until she traveled to France and fell deeply in love with the country that she realized French and francophone culture was what she wanted to study.
“It made all the difference,” said Bjornstad. “It really helps to go.”
Bjornstad visited Normandy, Paris, and the south of France over the summer between her freshman and sophomore years of college, which she describes as a life-changing experience. Whilst reminiscing of her time in France, she talked about one of her favorite parts of the culture: the food. When she was living in the suburbs of Normandy she would walk to the bakeries in town every morning.
“I’d eat… napoléon, croissant, and pain au chocolat. I gained, like, five pounds,” said Bjornstad.
Mme. Bjornstad acquired her undergraduate degree in french from Oberlin College. Then, she attended the University of Iowa and got her masters degree in both 18th Century French Literature and Francophone Literature of Africa and the Caribbean. This is just her second year teaching at the high school level; she was inspired to come to teaching through her husband, who has been a teacher for fifteen years. Last year, she taught at Delran High School before taking the position at East. She had always heard great things about Cherry Hill’s reputation and was “super excited to come and teach.”
“I just love the energy here,” Bjornstad said. Though she dislikes having to move from room to room to teach, she feels that the atmosphere and the students definitely make up for it.
What might Bjornstad be doing if she wasn’t teaching? “I think I might try to write a novel,” she imagined. “I think my main focus would be the quirky humor of everyday life.” If Bjornstad ever does write that novel someday, she will surely have no shortage of great anecdotes to share from her time here at Cherry Hill East.
Ms. Lisa Powelson – Biology Teacher
Ms. Lisa Powelson walks into the Biology lounge at 7:10 a.m. sharp and unlocks the door to her classroom. As she casually takes a seat at one of the front desks, one cannot help but get the impression that she feels right at home at Cherry Hill East, despite this year being her first teaching here.
For Powelson, an alum of Shawnee High School, teaching at East is a natural transition. She has spent the last 19 years of her teaching career across town at Cherry Hill West and has worked closely with East biology teachers to create the district’s biology curricula. Powelson will only teach at East for one period, D-block, and teaches at West for most of the day.
“[Splitting between East and West is] interesting…” said Powelson. “Having worked at West for 19 years…and having worked on common curricular issues with teachers from East all through those years…I just thought it would be neat to see what it was like on the other side.”
Powelson, a graduate of University of Delaware, spent nine years at Paulsboro High School before coming to the Cherry Hill School District. She originally based her career around industry, but changed courses after discovering that her passions lay elsewhere, in teaching. She enrolled in what is now Rowan University’s teaching program and became certified as a science teacher.
“I had a [teacher’s assistant] experience in college that I really liked so I decided to explore the career of teaching,” said Powelson.
As a student, science was always Powelson’s favorite subject, although it was the help of one of her high school science teachers that pushed her toward pursuing science.
“I had an inspirational teacher…Mr. Long, he was my Advanced Bio teacher and I absolutely loved it and I just continued down that path from there,” said Powelson.
In the classroom, Powelson emphasizes critical thinking and learning through discovery and experience, as opposed to lecturing.
“I’m not a big lecturer…I like the kids to be active, and I like to be more like the coach,” said Powelson.
One of Powelson’s favorite things about East is the dedication of her students toward learning and succeeding in the classroom.
“The students are, in my experience so far…the students really seem eager to learn; they’re very conscientious about their grades and that makes some aspects of my job very easy,” said Powelson.
In her first year, Powelson is determined to help East students realize their academic goals, whatever they may be. However, she intends to try and show her students that her class is about more than just grades, but about learning new things and preparing them for the big, wide world.
“I do strive to enlighten my students that what really matters is what they learn, and certainly…to empower students if [their grade] is the end-all be-all for them…to show them the pathway to get to whatever it is they desire,” said Powelson. “I want to make sure that my students don’t lose sight of gaining knowledge.”
Sitting in the same position her students will fill in just two short hours with a smile on her face and a comfort in her new environment, one gets the sense that Powelson will do just that.
Thanks for Reading
Thanks for reading News/Features’ coverage! Stay tuned for more profiles and videos on other new teachers and faculty members.