Highlighting high school hirings: Newly hired staff members at East

Highlighting high school hirings: Newly hired staff members at East

Cherry Hill High School East welcomes several new staff members to their faculty for the 2023-2024 school year. To uncover their journeys and learn more about Mr. James Douglas-Palmer, Ms. Lisa Gilbert, Ms. Carolyn Grossi, Mrs. Lucia Ibanez, Ms. Jeanine Long, Ms. Kathleen Petti, Ms. Amanda Schott, Ms. Andrea Tierney and Mr. Harrison Weidner, read below.
Mr. James Douglas-Palmer
Mr. James Douglas-Palmer prepares for his role as an instrumental teacher by taking a selfie for the Cherry Hill High School East Music Department website. (Courtesy of www.cherryhilleastmusic)

Mr. James Douglas-Palmer, instrumental music teacher, joins Cherry Hill High School East from Texas. His classes consist of two concert bands: Freshman Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band, as well as one of the two Jazz Bands, Lab Band, Music Theory class and Marching Band. Palmer is no stranger to teaching; the last 11 years he spent teaching in Austin and San Antonio, Texas. Interestingly, Mr. Palmer’s first job was at a middle school named after his middle school band instructor. As a student of Texas Christian University (TCU) in pursuit of further education, Palmer did not initially want to teach — he instead yearned to become a symphony member for an orchestra in Texas. However, once he began his undergraduate degree and discovered the opportunities that emerged with teaching, he gave it a go. 

“I learned I like sharing musical ideas with students. My passion for playing music turned into a passion for teaching music,” said Palmer. 

Though he is not from the Cherry Hill area, his wife grew up in Mount Holly, so they collectively moved back to New Jersey. The only significant difference Palmer can account for when comparing East to his jobs in Texas is the weather. Otherwise, he says his introduction to East has felt welcoming, and adapting to the new environment has gone smoothly due to his great co-workers, students and administrative team. 

Palmer appreciates the community and campus, and he hopes to remain a musical instructor at East for a long duration. His goals at East include maintaining the award-winning status of our music programs and helping them pursue other musical opportunities, such as performing at the Lincoln Center or Kennedy Center in NY.

The ability to perform at renowned music conventions, like the Midwest Music Convention in Chicago or the Western International Band Clinic in Seattle would be a dream. Palmer’s primary goal is for his students to feel successful through their music and enable their abilities to see personal growth throughout their experiences within high school. With these aspirations in mind, Palmer is set to have a great impact on East’s music department. 

When asked to give his students a word of advice, he answered, “Never stop learning. No matter what it is, always keep learning something.”

Some things that Palmer enjoys outside of teaching music include cooking barbeque breakfast tacos, playing disc golf, cruising on his motorcycle and spending lots of time with his 11-month-old son and two dogs.

Ms. Lisa Gilbert
Ms. Lisa Gilbert prepares for her role as the English as a Second Language teacher by posing for a photograph.
Ms. Lisa Gilbert prepares for her role as the English as a Second Language teacher by posing for a photograph. (Courtesy of Ms. Lisa Gilbert)

Ms. Lisa Gilbert spends her afternoons at Cherry Hill High School East making a change for students through her teaching of English as a Second Language (ESL). After spending her mornings teaching at Bret Harte Elementary, she comes to East and devotes her time to assisting students who do not speak English as their first language. 

Gilbert helps by teaching students English skills, as well as assisting with their other classes. She feels adjusting to East has been very different than her past 15 years spent at Sharpe Elementary School.

“It’s been very cool and interesting that a lot of my former students are here,” she said.

Her goal is to get acquainted with the East community and help in any manner possible. She hopes to become familiar with the students and staff throughout her time here.

Gilbert’s inspiration to become a teacher was influenced by her family’s history of teaching. Her mother taught at Sharpe for 32 years and her aunt also taught at Sharpe for more than 20 years; Gilbert previously worked at Sharpe, teaching a variety of grades throughout her tenure.

Gilbert’s original passion was to attend school in pursuit of becoming a French teacher. However, after traveling overseas and coming in contact with a variety of cultures and languages, she realized how interested she was in the language and culture aspect. She returned from her travels with an interest in different languages, and she dedicated it to teaching. While she initially taught as a general elementary school teacher, she now focuses on teaching students who require extra support in learning English.

Outside of teaching, Gilbert enjoys going to Sea Isle Beach and spending time with her friends, family and two dogs.

Gilbert looks forward to helping students learn English, and she hopes to make a positive impact at East.

Ms. Carolyn Grossi
Ms. Carolyn Grossi prepares for her role as a Special Education teacher by taking a selfie. (Courtesy of Ms. Carolyn Grossi)

While Ms. Carolyn Grossi continues to teach in her 30th year, rather than teaching history as previously, she begins this year at Cherry Hill High School East as a Special Education teacher. 

Grossi is an in-class resource teacher (ICR) for history classes, meaning she acts as a second teacher in the classroom. She spent the past seven years teaching at Rosa International Middle School after beginning her career at Cherry Hill High School West.

Grossi always knew that she wanted to make some sort of difference in the world; she felt that teaching was the way to make this difference. Grossi models this goal off of a line she was once told by her college professor: “If you really want to change the world you should go into teaching because that changes the future of America.” This input from her professor allowed Grossi to see the impact of teaching and inspired her to become a teacher, helping to further students’ education. 

Although Grossi is not from the Cherry Hill area, she completed her student-teaching at West and has resided here since. She believes that adjusting to the environment and pace of high school compared to middle school has been difficult. Yet, she has embraced the challenge and enjoys the adjustment and change in the atmosphere at East.

“When I was leaving [West], [East] was just still so alive that it was refreshing,” said Grossi.

Grossi has 10 classes and sees around 300 students daily; her goal is to make as many connections with these learners as she can on a regular basis. 

Her previous experience as a history teacher for 29 years at Rosa and West has also contributed toward adjusting to East by feeling as though she can pull information and learning from her career to help with being a Special Education teacher. The knowledge about history she has gathered greatly helps her with her ability to assist students.

Aside from teaching history, Grossi enjoys many outdoor activities: hiking, walking, swimming, biking and experiencing the fresh air. 

Grossi is looking forward to her 30th year of teaching and works toward making a positive change in the world through teaching and assisting her students.

Mrs. Lucia Ibanez
Mrs. Lucia Ibanez poses for a photograph as she prepares for her role as a Spanish teacher. (Photo by Landon Schuster (’26) / Online News Editor)

Mrs. Lucia Ibanez, a newly hired Spanish teacher at Cherry Hill High School East, seeks to transform learners prepared to conjugate verbs, accent E’s and roll R’s, into a class where each “hola” increases passion about Spanish and the culture that encompasses it. Regardless of whether her students pursue Spanish in their futures, she hopes that by teaching in an engaging manner, they become more appreciative of the variety of languages present within our world. 

After teaching for 18 years at John A. Carusi Middle School, Ibanez is eager to have a positive impact on high schoolers, despite the adjustments required for guiding older students. “I’ve been in the Cherry Hill district for 18 years, teaching at Carusi Middle School, but I was ready for a change,” said Ibanez. She proceeds to say how she has “always wanted to teach mature students at a faster pace — and East [fulfills] all of these desires.”

Ibanez did not initially plan to pursue teaching Spanish; she instead majored in child psychology while attending Haverford College in Pennsylvania. As a native Spanish speaker born in Peru, an internship following her freshman and sophomore years at college inspired her to transition her career toward teaching Spanish. 

“Surprisingly, I never actually thought about teaching before going to college. But when the internship opportunity [emerged], and I truly realized the opportunities and the impacts capable of being made from teaching a language I was already familiar with, I decided to go for it — and I don’t regret one bit of it,” said Ibanez. 

Through teaching, Ibanez has embraced the importance of not only inspiring students to develop Spanish-speaking skills, but also has allowed them to grow as passionate learners, regardless of their foundations in Spanish. From her teaching experience at the middle school level, Ibanez feels prepared to accommodate her students’ needs and struggles; she acknowledges that while enhancing communication skills in a secondary language may appear to be an intimidating task, she hopes her students feel empowered by Spanish rather than intimidated by it. 

“My biggest message for students learning a second language is to be willing to make mistakes, because mistakes are building blocks to [fluency], not roadblocks. [As] I transition to [the high school level], I look forward to [encouraging my students] to feel proud of their mistakes and reflect on their growth as learners, because, in the end, that’s what makes learning Spanish so special,” said Ibanez. 

In addition to teaching Spanish, Ibanez also acts as a co-advisor of Latinos & Amigos, a club which she hopes will continue the trend of expressing culture at East. Ibanez feels being a part of this club has eased the adjustment to teaching at a high school level. 

“One of the biggest reasons why I came [to East] is because of the [positive] environment. They’re so accepting of all cultures, so I figured, what place better to be a part of this club, than here? In fact, being one of its advisors has provided me — like most of my students — with a sense of involvement and comfortableness with the East community,” said Ibanez. 

Ibanez encourages all students to join the Latinos & Amigos club in order to gain a sense of belonging within the school, regardless of whether they are proficient speakers of Spanish. “Transitioning to high school isn’t easy for students or teachers. Sometimes, I feel like I’m navigating around a school of backpacks, and you never know what may pop out when [the students] open [their backpacks]. It could be a notebook, cell phone or even a conjugation chart,” said Ibanez. “Joining a club like Latinos & Amigos can help [mitigate] the feeling of East being so crowded and allow the school to seem a whole lot smaller.”

Outside of the classroom, Ibanez enjoys working out, reading and spending time with family. While transitioning to the high school level requires her to dedicate more time toward lesson planning and grading, Ibanez still ensures she creates time for these activities as well.

Overall, Ibanez is looking forward to providing a positive impact on her students and the East community. She hopes that through her passion for teaching and ensuring all students feel excited to learn Spanish, she will provide a memorable high school experience for all.

Ms. Jeanine Long
Ms. Jeanine Long poses for a photograph during her first experience of Spirit Week with Cherry Hill High School East.
Ms. Jeanine Long poses for a photograph during her first experience of Spirit Week with Cherry Hill High School East. (Courtesy of @che_design.build)

Ms. Jeanine Long teaches the Design and Build elective course at Cherry Hill High School East this year. Born in Texas and an attendee of Texas A&M University, Long initially worked for the Texas Department of Transportation in bridges and guide rail. However, when the opportunity arose to teach design, she felt encouraged to pursue it.

Though this is her first year as a staff member at East, Long previously spent 22 years teaching at Clearview Regional High School. She says that working at East is a huge adjustment from Clearview, but she has zero complaints. 

“I have been extremely humbled and grateful for just how kind the faculty and the kids are and how they have been to me. I cannot say enough about how I’ve been treated here at Cherry Hill East,” she said.

In her Design and Build class, students embrace a unique approach to learning; they are given a project, and once their design is approved, they begin building it. Whatever they draw, they get to create; currently, the project is catapults. 

At this time, her class consists of predominantly boys. As much as she enjoys having male students in her classroom, she hopes to see an increase of females in design during her time at East.

“I like seeing girls become everything they can become to be strong, to be able to feel comfortable with a hammer and a computer. I want them to feel comfortable in everything they do. If I am a part of that, that’s exciting.”

Long loves all her students thus far and wants to see the class expand over the course of her time teaching at East. She has several big projects planned and looks forward to seeing them be brought to fruition. In the future, one idea for a project is to construct furniture that students can bring home. 

When asked to give a message to her students, she answered, “I tell them every day that life is about choices; try to make more good than bad. Always be a good human.”

When Long is not busy building in F088, she enjoys weightlifting and, therefore, strives to become an emotionally and physically stronger person every day. Thus, it is evident that the Design and Build course remains in good hands with Long.

Ms. Kathleen Petti
Ms. Kathleen Petti poses for a photograph as she prepares for her role as a math teacher.
Ms. Kathleen Petti poses for a photograph as she prepares for her role as a math teacher. (Photo by Izzy Sobel (’24) / News Editor)

The math department gained another teacher this year; Ms. Kathleen Petti has joined the Cherry Hill High School East community as a Geometry A and Algebra 2A teacher after instructing in Burlington City and at Haddon Heights High School. 

As a graduate of The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), Petti currently lives in Cherry Hill after growing up in Merchantville, NJ. Petti reflects on her journey toward becoming a math teacher, explaining how her passion for solving puzzles at a young age played a major role in inspiring her to become a math teacher. 

“I have always enjoyed puzzles and logic and I used to help my friend with her math homework which was where my interest grew in teaching,” said Petti. 

Despite initial nerves in joining the East community, Petti’s childhood experiences in the Cherry Hill area played a significant role in easing the transition and served as a bonus incentive to motivate her toward earning this job. While transitioning to teaching at the high school level poses as a difficult adjustment, Petti also credits the warmness of the students and staff for alleviating this change.

“East has been welcoming and the students and staff have made this an easy adjustment,” said Petti. 

Outside of the classroom, she enjoys reading and spending time with her family. Petti also coaches youth lacrosse in the town recreation program.

Eager to have a memorable experience as a teacher at East by making a positive impact on her students and community, Petti is grateful for this teaching opportunity and excited to move forward in achieving her goals.

Ms. Amanda Schott
Ms. Amanda Schott poses for a photograph as she prepares for her role as an English teacher. (Courtesy of Ms. Amanda Schott)

Ms. Amanda Schott has joined the Cherry Hill High School East community after teaching Language Arts to eighth graders for 10 years in Pemberton, NJ. As a recently hired English teacher, Schott is very excited to transition to instructing high school students. 

“I wanted to teach high school because I love helping others build confidence in themselves. My goal is to make students better thinkers, writers and readers so that nothing can stand in the way of their dream,” said Schott. 

Schott’s adjustment to the high school level has been going smoothly; she looks forward to interacting with students while teaching at a faster and more advanced pace. After going through the Pennsauken school district, Schott attended Montclair State University and double majored in Theater and English. Then, she earned her master’s degree in education at Rider University. As a result, Schott feels well-prepared to set her students up for future success. 

“I just love reading and writing; I love digging deep into the layers of a text and manipulating an author’s words with peer-reviewed articles,” said Schott, reflecting on her journey toward becoming an English teacher. 

Schott is extremely excited to get more involved in the community throughout her years at East.

“I think there is such beauty in the diversity of activities, clubs and services offered at this school, so I’m excited to learn more and be a part of it all,” said Schott.

Ms. Andrea Tierney
Ms. Andrea Tierney prepares for her role as the Photography and 3-D Art teacher by posing for a photograph. (Courtesy of sites.google.com)

Ms. Andrea Tierney teaches the Photography and 3-D Art elective courses at Cherry Hill High School East this year. Photography is an introductory course that covers film and digital photography, emphasizing beginner strategies and fundamental concepts. 3-D Art gives students exposure to a variety of different methods for creating three-dimensional art.

Tierney grew up in the Philadelphia area and attended West Chester University, earning her bachelor’s degree in the fine arts. Since West Chester did not have an Art Education Certification program, she matriculated into the program at Moore College of Art and Design. This is not Tierney’s first teaching job — in fact, she has been in the district since 2004. Her first full-time teaching job was in Trenton, which began her search for future jobs in New Jersey. She first taught Photography and 3-D Art when she started working at Cherry Hill High School West in 2004. Eventually, she gained expertise in teaching almost every art course. 

When asked why she chose to teach art, Tierney traced the reasoning to her love for creativity and helping others. “First, I could never do a job where I wasn’t moving all day. I specifically chose to teach art because I love creating. More than my love of making, it is the best feeling [seeing] my students create something that they didn’t think they would be able to do or seeing them work through a challenging issue and creating work that they are proud of.”

In 2014, after her second daughter was born, she moved to the elementary level at Joseph D. Sharp Elementary School. She also taught at Horace Mann Elementary, James Johnson Elementary, Bret Harte Elementary, Clara Barton Elementary and Kingston Elementary schools in later years. In fact, quite a few of the students she has now at East are students that she also taught as elementary students, which she finds exciting. Due to this, Tierney does not necessarily feel new to East, as she already has built relationships with the students and staff. 

Outside of working with her students, Tierney has her hands full with her three daughters, who are active in sports and activities. She was an assistant coach for their lacrosse team last year and hopes to fit it into her schedule again. She is an active member in their school’s Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) efforts. As an art teacher, she makes an effort to offer her own unique, creative skill set to their events and endeavors. As she continues her time at East, Tierney hopes to attend more school events with her kids, allowing her to see her students in a different setting.

When asked to give a message to her students, Tierney says, “I was once a student learning all of this for the first time, too. Mastering any skill takes time and effort. If they don’t give up, they will be so proud of what they wind up accomplishing.”

Mr. Harrison Weidner
Mr. Harrison Weidner poses for a photograph as he prepares for his role as a math and robotics teacher. (Photo by Landon Schuster (‘26) / Online News Editor)

As a newly hired teacher within the math department, Mr. Harrison Weidner hopes to plot his point on Cherry Hill High School East, whether on a graph or on the impact he has on his students. Entering his first year of teaching upon graduating from Rowan University and after spending a year as a student-teacher at Kingsway Regional High School, Weidner looks forward to being a memorable educator of math and robotics through his enthusiastic approach to teaching. 

Growing up in West Deptford, Weidner knew he wanted to become a teacher. “In high school I had a lot of fantastic teachers. Their unique teaching styles influenced me to educate future students in a similar way. I felt that if I was deserving of such great teachers, [current] students are too,” said Weidner, while reflecting on what inspired him to become a teacher. 

As a result, Weidner felt the desire to teach students, but his preferred subjects of focus did not present overnight. Weidner’s joy in solving logic puzzles and passion for camping in the wilderness as a Boy Scout encouraged him to embrace teaching math and robotics due to their similar hands-on approaches. 

“I think math is very important, because part of math is learning how to think logically and follow through problems…A lot of real-world problems are [derived] from trying to navigate problems, and I think math can help train us to work with that. For robotics, I’ve always been outside building stuff with my dad at home,” said Weidner, reflecting on the catalysts for his pursuit of teaching math and robotics. 

When entering his first year of full-time teaching, Weidner initially felt unsure of how he would embrace this role, as he possessed no prior experience in teaching robotics. However, the welcoming environment of East students and staff eased any nervous feelings, particularly concerning robotics and our school’s intimidating size. 

“It has been a good experience, since all of my co-workers have been warm-welcoming and helping me find my way around the school. I very much enjoy the culture, and the students are all very open-minded…they want to get to know me better the [same] way I want to get to know them better,” said Weidner. 

Now that Weidner feels acclimated to his first teaching job at East, he plans to stimulate his students’ abilities by establishing a positive learning environment. In doing so, Weidner advises that none of his students allow deficiencies to deter them from accomplishing their goals. “Whether you’re working in the math classroom or another class, or you’re doing something for a hobby outside of school, don’t let failure put you down,” said Weidner. 

Apart from teaching math and robotics, Weidner enjoys camping, bowling, golfing, playing video games and playing a variety of musical instruments — including clarinet and bass guitar, which he played in his high school marching band.

Weidner’s plan for imparting a positive impact on East revolves around more than solely the sum of his lesson plans. As a result of his zealous and open-minded teaching approach, Weidner appears to have found the right solution to educating students. Similar to other staff members hired this school year, Weidner’s teaching formula looks to provide an exponential addition to students’ learning at East.

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