Cresthaven Academy Charter School
Principal / School Leader
Monica Villafuerte is the Founding Principal of Cresthaven Academy Charter School. She has over 20 years of urban public school experience across a variety of disciplines including dance, mathematics and world language education in New York City and New Jersey. She has taught elementary and middle school grades, working with at-risk students, students with disabilities, and English language learners. Ms. Villafuerte has extensive administrative experience having served as dean of students, school programmer, staff developer, and adult high school coordinator. Most recently she served as Assistant School Leader at People’s Prep, a charter high school in Newark, New Jersey. During Monica’s tenure, People’s Prep grew from 7 teachers to a staff of 70, and from 95 to 380 students. In June 2015, People’s Prep graduated their first class with 90% of students accepted to 2 or 4 year colleges. Monica completed her undergraduate work in Dance Education at New York University. She received her M.Ed. from Cambridge College in Education and her Ed.M. in Educational Leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University. Monica is eager to bring her passion, enthusiasm, and commitment to effective school leadership and serve the children and families of Plainfield.
School Business Administrator
Meghan Pipchick is the Founding School Business Administrator/Board Secretary at Cresthaven Academy. Prior to working at Cresthaven Academy, she worked for a financial services company as a project manager and business analyst implementing various financial systems projects. Meghan holds a BS in Business Administration from Fordham University and an MBA from New York University. She is grateful to be part of the Cresthaven family and to make a difference for scholars in Plainfield.
Jazmin Gooding is the Founding Assistant Principal of Cresthaven Academy Charter School. Jazmin began her career in education as a Teach For America Corps member in Newark, NJ with Uncommon Schools. She has many years of experience and a passion for working in urban elementary education. Prior to becoming Assistant Principal, Jazmin served as the founding Kindergarten, Second Grade, and Fourth Grade Team Leader at Cresthaven. With a proven track record of transformative academic outcomes for students, Jazmin’s teaching experience spans across numerous elementary school grades, working with students with disabilities as well as English Language Learners. Jazmin’s leadership experience includes having served as a direct instructional coach, mentor, grade team leader, and lead teacher. After earning her BA at the University of Richmond, Jazmin went on to pursue her MA in Teaching at Relay Graduate School of Education, and a M.Ed in Educational Leadership from Montclair State University. A proud and active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Jazmin is thrilled to expand her impact in her new role, as she continues to instill her love, commitment, and leadership in the scholars and families of Plainfield.
Esmeralda Alcazar joins the Cresthaven family as a Special Education Teacher and recent graduate of Kean University. With a Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Education, concentrating in English writing, along with an endorsement in Teacher of Students with Disabilities, Esmeralda is excited to begin her career at Cresthaven Academy! After being inspired to become a teacher by her eight nieces and nephews, Emeralda gained experience at a Montessori school working with young learners of all abilities. She is passionate about strengthening scholars’ abilities and supporting learning through multi-sensory lessons that are relevant to their lives. She is honored to serve the scholars and families of Cresthaven Academy, and the community of Plainfield. In her spare time, Esmeralda likes hiking and spending time with her family in her hometown of Los Angeles, CA.
School Psychologist / Student Support Coordinator
Stephanie Avallone is the School Psychologist and Student Support Coordinator at Cresthaven Academy Charter School. Prior to joining Cresthaven Academy, Stephanie worked at A Starting Place, which is a preschool that services students with disabilities, and at People's Preparatory Charter School, a high school in Newark, New Jersey. During her time at these positions, Stephanie conducted a variety of evaluations, provided individual and group counseling with at-risk students, and worked closely with administration to ensure all of the students received the support they needed to be successful. In addition to working within a school setting, Stephanie has worked for a Neuropsychologist, conducting private neurological evaluations for children and adults. Stephanie is nationally certified, holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University at Buffalo, and holds a M.A. in School Psychology from Iona College. Stephanie is committed to supporting all of our students in reaching their fullest potential.
Cristina Benedicto is a Kindergarten teacher at Cresthaven Academy Charter School. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Education with a concentration in English writing from Kean University. Prior to working at Cresthaven, Cristina taught English to students living in Tokyo, Japan. Cristina looks forward to nurturing, guiding, and growing with the scholars and families of the Plainfield community. In her spare time, she enjoys reading a good book, traveling to new sights, and cherishing moments with her family and friends.
Physical Education Teacher
Daniel Bento is the Physical Education teacher at Cresthaven Academy Charter School. Daniel graduated from Montclair State University with a BS in Health & Physical Education. He is passionate about teaching students how to live a healthy and active lifestyle. Daniel has eight years of experience working with elementary and middle school students in Newark charter schools. Prior to teaching, Daniel also served in the United States Army as a paratrooper for 5 years. When he is not teaching, Daniel enjoys going to the gym, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.
4th Grade Teacher
Danielle Buck joins the Cresthaven family as a 3rd Grade General Education teacher with six years of experience in urban school districts. Danielle graduated with her Bachelor's degree in English from Kean University, and later earned her Master's degree in The Arts of Education. She has a true passion for working with young learners on their paths toward college, and she enjoys helping students progress in all areas of their development - academic, social, language, and motor. Believing that every child should be valued and treated with respect, Danielle strives to create a community of learners that nurtures growth in a positive, fun environment. Danielle is excited to continue her career at Cresthaven, motivating scholars toward their individual best; awakening a desire to learn day after day.
Dean of School Culture
Kaye Campanile is the Dean of School Culture at Cresthaven Academy Charter School. She has eight years of teaching experience: two as a 2nd grade teacher at Cresthaven; the others, from working in rural and urban areas of PA and NJ, where she taught every grade from Pre-K to 3rd.. Kaye completed her undergraduate work at Shippensburg University in Shippensburg, PA where she earned a B.S. in Elementary Education with a minor in Early Childhood Education. Right after she graduated in 2012, Kaye joined Teach for America and spent a summer teaching in both Kentucky and Mississippi. She is excited to start her new role, and looking forward to interacting with Cresthaven scholars across all grade levels, celebrating their success and watching them grow, year after year.
2nd Grade Teacher
Cassandra Capozzi-Smith is a General Education Teacher at Cresthaven Academy. Cassandra received her B.A. from Monmouth University in Elementary Education and English with an endorsement in Early Childhood. Cassandra has worked closely with children with a wide range of abilities and is excited to continue growing her skills in the classroom. She believes that connecting with each scholar is vital to their success. Cassandra is excited to continue to serve the Plainfield community and scholars and families of Cresthaven Academy.
3rd Grade Teacher / Grade Team Lead
Danielle Casciano is a founding 3rd grade teacher at Cresthaven Academy Charter School. She has four years of experience in charter schools working with at-risk students and students with disabilities. During these years, she has worked on developing and executing rigorous data driven lesson plans. Danielle completed her undergraduate work at Rowan University where she earned endorsements in Early Childhood Education and as a Teacher of Students with Disabilities. Danielle is honored to use her knowledge, passion, and dedication to help serve the children of Plainfield.
1st Grade Teacher
Rebekah Coleman brings six years of teaching experience to Cresthaven Academy. Holding a Bachelors’ degree in both Liberal Arts and Psychology, she loves helping children reach their full potential in and out of the classroom. Rebekah looks forward to fostering a warm and nurturing classroom environment where she can help Cresthaven scholars discover the joy of learning. When not shaping young minds, Rebekah can be found reading, baking, and spending time with her children. Rebekah grew up in Newark, NJ and currently lives in Somerset County. She enjoys traveling to new places and discovering new restaurants, hiking, and experiencing the beauty of nature.
5th Grade Teacher
Ebony Connor is a Fifth Grade teacher at Cresthaven Academy. A Rutgers University graduate, she holds both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Social Work. As a young girl, Ebony dreamed of working with students and helping them succeed. After working for the Division of Child Protection and Permanency, Ebony began her teaching career in 2016 and fulfilled her childhood dream. She loves to teach and is eager to encourage and support the scholars of Cresthaven Academy as they establish a foundation for lifelong success. In her spare time, Ebony is also a licensed therapist, and loves movies, cooking, shopping, spending time at the beach, and being with her family and friends.
Natalie Cresitello is the Cresthaven Academy School Nurse for Kindergarten through 3rd Grade. Prior to joining the Cresthaven team, Natalie worked as a substitute school nurse, and for the New Jersey Sharing Network, which is New Jersey’s Organ Procurement Organization, as an Organ Donation Coordinator. During her time at these positions, Natalie conducted a variety of medical assessments and interventions on students and patients of all ages. She has worked in the Intensive Care Units and Cardiac Care Units of many hospitals throughout the state of NJ. Natalie holds a B.A. in Mathematics with an Education minor from Susquehanna University, and an A.D.N. from Raritan Valley Community College. She completed an RN Bridge to MSN program and enrolled in Kean University’s Masters in School Nursing program. Natalie is dedicated to the health and well being of all scholars, and looks forward to establishing and maintaining a healthy school community at Cresthaven Academy.
Ana Maria Cubero
2nd Grade Teacher / Grade Team Lead
Ana Maria Cubero is a 2nd grade teacher at Cresthaven Academy. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Kean University. Previously, Ana Maria served as a third grade teacher in Newark, NJ with Uncommon Schools. During her time as an educator in Newark, Ana Maria taught a variety of subjects to a wide array of learners. She was born into a family of educators who instilled in her the love of learning. Her dream is to continue to share her passion for learning, and her enthusiasm and dedication as an educator to the scholars and families of Plainfield. In her spare time, she enjoys baking, reading, and spending time with family and friends.
1st Grade Teacher
Holly D’Agostino is a 1st grade teacher at Cresthaven Academy. She completed her undergraduate degree at Rutgers University, majoring in psychology and minoring in linguistics. Recently, she graduated from Western Governors University with a Master of Arts in Teaching for Elementary Education. She is very excited and honored to begin her career as a teacher at Cresthaven Academy by serving the students and families of the Plainfield community. In Holly’s free time, she enjoys working out, puzzles, yoga, cooking/baking, and spending time with family and friends.
LaDonna M Damon is Cresthaven Academy’s Office Manager. Prior to joining Cresthaven, LaDonna served as Director of Branch Administration for a local YMCA. She worked alongside the Executive & Associate Directors overseeing the finances and human resources for the branch. Her passion for youth led her to pursue an education in Juvenile Justice. She holds an AS in Criminal Justice from Berkeley College, with the hopes of furthering her education in the future. She has taught youth Sunday School for many years, served as a paraprofessional for the Rahway school system, and was previously a youth counselor for the YMCA. LaDonna is honored to be a part of the Cresthaven family and looks forward to contributing to the continued success of the scholars, families, and school community.
Amanda DeBrito is a Kindergarten teacher at Cresthaven Academy. She holds an Undergraduate Degree in Elementary Education from Kean University and is very passionate about creating life-long learning for her scholars. Amanda is looking forward to guiding the scholars of Cresthaven Academy and helping each one reach success in her classroom. When Amanda is not teaching, she enjoys the beach and spending time with family and friends.
4th Grade Teacher
Erin Devlin is very excited to begin her second year teaching at Cresthaven Academy. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Education and Special Education, and looks forward to sharing her love for learning every day with her students and colleagues. In her spare time, she loves to give back to the community and spend time with her family, friends, and puppy.
Michelle Blazquez is a Kindergarten teacher at Cresthaven Academy. In her years of teaching, she has taught both Kindergarten and First Grade. She is a graduate of William Paterson University and holds a Bachelor’s degree in both Early Childhood Education and Integrated Math and Science with a concentration in Environmental Science. Ever since she was young, Michelle dreamed of being an educator who instilled confidence, passion, and the love of education in her students. In her free time, Michelle enjoys spending time with her husband, cats, family and friends. Michelle is honored to support and create motivated learners at Cresthaven Academy.
5th Grade Teacher
Jessica Farraye is a 5th Grade teacher at Cresthaven Academy. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and her Master’s degree in Elementary Education from Quinnipiac University. In her six years in education she has taught 3rd and 5th grades with a wide array of learners in her classrooms. Jessica believes in building a supportive classroom community where each scholar looks forward to learning every day. She hopes to share her passion for teaching and learning with the scholars and families of Cresthaven Academy and create lifelong learners.
Operations Support Assistant
Michelle Feliciano serves as Operations Support Assistant at Cresthaven Academy. She was born in Newark, New Jersey and raised in Puerto Rico by her grandparents. It is there that she developed a passion to serve others. Motivated by her desire to serve the community, Michelle obtained her medical assistant certification and spent over three years working with a medical practice in Puerto Rico. Michelle currently serves the community of Plainfield through her work at Cresthaven, as well as being active in community outreach, where she is a dedicated leader in youth, children, and worship ministries. Michelle aspires to continue her education in counseling to help others overcome obstacles and fulfill their personal journeys in meaningful ways. Michelle enjoys laughing, making new friends, and spending quality time building memories with family and friends.
Director of Operations
Erica Forrester is the Director of Operations at Cresthaven Academy Charter School. Erica holds a B.S. in Psychology from James Madison University with a minor in Human Resources Management and Mathematics, as well as an M.A. in Industrial Organizational Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. With prior experience as a Senior Talent Operations Associate for a K-12 Charter School in Trenton, Erica is excited to bring her data analysis, recruitment, administrative, and various policy and system utilization skills to Cresthven. Delighted to be a part of this school community, Erica looks forward to enhancing the Cresthaven experience for scholars, staff, and families, year after year.
Director of Curriculum & Instruction
Megan Gerity is currently the Director of Curriculum and Instruction at Cresthaven Academy Charter School. She received her B.S. and M.A.T. in Urban Early Childhood Education/ESL from The College of New Jersey as well as her endorsement for supervisor certification from Rutgers University. Megan has served as the kindergarten grade team lead here at Cresthaven. Prior to Cresthaven, Megan taught first grade and pre-kindergarten in Newark,NJ where she was also a grade team lead and instructional coach. Megan was a teacher trainer for the National Institute for Early Education Research, where she worked with K-3 teachers across the state on utilizing developmentally appropriate practices in their classrooms. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, cooking, reading, and spending time with family and friends. Megan is eager to support teachers in creating a rigorous and positive school experience for the scholars of Plainfield!
Physical Education Teacher
Sydney Harris joins the Cresthaven family as a Health & Physical Education teacher. Sydney’s passion for helping people of all ages achieve their happiest and healthiest selves inspired her to earn a BS in Health and Physical Education with an extended minor in Health from Kean University. She is excited to continue pursuing her passion as a HPE teacher at Cresthaven, where she can educate, inspire and motivate her students every day. With over 5 years experience as a group fitness instructor, Sydney looks forward to bringing her skills and passions to the Cresthaven community. In Sydney’s free time she loves to go to the gym, hike with her dog, read, paint, practice yoga, cook, and spend time with her friends and family!
Special Education Teacher
Victoria Hayes is a 5th Grade Special Education Teacher at Cresthaven Academy. In 2015, she graduated from Kean University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and Teacher of Students with Disabilities. She has been teaching at Cresthaven Academy for the past three years, and was recently trained in Wilson Reading System. Victoria looks forward to implementing the new strategies she learned into her classroom. Previously, teaching 3rd and 5th grades in Newark, Victoria has been teaching for six years in total. She loves teaching and helping her scholars grow as learners. In her spare time, Victoria enjoys going to the beach, playing board games and spending time with her family and friends.
4th Grade Teacher
Pooja Hiremath is a 4th Grade Teacher at Cresthaven Academy. She graduated from Rutgers University with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Certificate in Creative Writing. After completing the Alternate Route Program, she became certified to teach Elementary K-6. Prior to working at Cresthaven, Pooja tutored at Plangere Writing Center at Rutgers and taught Creative Writing classes at the YMCA. She was also a Preschool Lead Teacher in Avenel. Pooja is eager to ignite curiosity and passion for learning in young inquisitive minds. Her ultimate goal is to help scholars find their voice inside and outside of the classroom. In her spare time, Ms. Hiremath likes writing, enjoys print and visual storytelling mediums, and loves to cuddle with her cat Indigo.
4th Grade Teacher
Katelyn Irenski is a 4th grade teacher at Cresthaven Academy. In 2016 Katelyn received her Undergraduate Degree from Monmouth University in Elementary Education and History with an endorsement as a Teacher of Students with Disabilities. When Katelyn is not teaching she enjoys reading, going to the beach and spending time with family and friends.
Aiko Ioh is a Kindergarten teacher at Cresthaven Academy Charter School. Aiko was born in New York and grew up between Japan and the US. She has a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education and had an incredible time teaching Kindergarten using Project-Based Learning for five years at a charter school in Hawaii. Before that, she enjoyed teaching PreK for seven years at a Montessori school in Manhattan. Aiko is passionate about creating lesson plans that guide children to experience the joy and excitement of learning. She is a life-long learner and strives to instill the love of learning in her scholars. Aside from teaching, Aiko enjoys experiencing different cultures in a hands-on way. She loves living in the Tri-state area, where she can meet people from so many different cultures!
2nd Grade Teacher
Shakira Jackson is a Special Education teacher at Cresthaven Academy. A recent graduate of Kean University, Shakira holds a BA in Early Childhood Education with a Special Education Endorsement. She is eager to create a fun and positive classroom environment for her scholars, where she can encourage their love of learning. Shakira enjoys singing, dancing, and making others laugh, and she believes that everyday is an opportunity to experience something new. She is thrilled to be a part of the Cresthaven community.
3rd Grade Teacher
Larissa Junker is a 3rd Grade Teacher at Cresthaven Academy. She graduated from Kean University with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education with a concentration in English Literature. This will be Larissa’s third year teaching at Cresthaven and she could not be more excited! She is eager to encourage and support scholars in reaching their individual goals to establish a foundation for their lifelong success. In her spare time, Larissa loves watching movies, going to the beach, and spending time with her family and friends. Larissa is looking forward to continuing to serve the scholars and families of Cresthaven Academy.
1st Grade Teacher
Elena Kim is a Special Education teacher at Cresthaven Academy. She received her B.A. in Russian Language and Literature from Tashkent State Pedagogical University in Uzbekistan. After moving to the US in 2010, Elena continued her education at the College of Staten Island where she earned an M.S. In Special Education in 2017. Elena has experience working with preschool and elementary aged children, and believes that all children can be successful learners. Elena looks forward to creating a classroom atmosphere that is stimulating, encouraging, and adaptive to the varied needs of all scholars. In her spare time, Elena enjoys cooking, reading, and spending time with her family.
4th Grade Teacher
Katheryn Larkin is a 4th grade Special Education teacher at Cresthaven Academy Charter School. She received her B.A. in Art/ Art History from the College of William and Mary and her M.A.T. in Elementary Education and Special Education from the College of New Jersey. Katheryn is excited to be back in New Jersey and teaching at Cresthaven. She is passionate about encouraging student autonomy in the classroom and student growth. In her spare time, Katheryn enjoys reading, traveling to new places, and spending time with her family.
1st Grade Teacher
Thao Le is a 1st Grade Teacher at Cresthaven Academy Charter School. She attended Montclair State University and graduated with a B.A in Family and Child Studies in 2012. In 2018, she obtained her M.A.T. at Relay Graduate School of Education. Prior to teaching, Thao worked at the Division of Child Protection and Permanency. She started her path in teaching in 2016 at Newark Uncommon Schools as a First Grade Teacher. Passionate about closing the achievement gap, Thao is delighted to bring her excitement and joy for teaching to Cresthaven Academy. When she is not teaching, you can find her catching up with her past scholars, spending time with family and friends, as well as her Boston Terrier, Frank Castle.
3rd Grade Teacher
Kristen Loria is a Third Grade Teacher at Cresthaven Academy. Kristen double majored in Elementary Education and Psychology at Kean University, and has taught Pre-School, Pre-Kindergarten, Kindergarten, First Grade, and Sixth Grade Reading/Language Arts over the past 20 years. Kristen is excited about joining the Cresthaven Family and creating a new education adventure for her scholars! In her spare time, Kristen enjoys cooking, baking, dancing, traveling, going to the beach, and watching her sons play sports!
Danielle Malysa is the School Social Worker at Cresthaven Academy Charter School. Prior to working at Cresthaven, Danielle worked on a crisis unit at Saint Clare’s hospital. She has experience working with a variety of populations, including at-risk children needing assistance during a crisis. Danielle holds a School Social Work Certificate and a License in Social Work from the state of New Jersey. She is also a Certified Trauma Professional. She graduated from Rutgers University with a Masters in School Work, and received a Bachelors in Psychology from the University of Delaware. Danielle is excited to be a part of the Cresthaven team and provide support for the children and families in Plainfield.
3rd Grade Teacher
Sondra McNicholas is a general education teacher at Cresthaven Academy. After earning her B.A from Rowan University in Elementary Education with specializations in Middle School Math and English Language Arts in 2017, Sondra. moved to North-Eastern Thailand, where she taught kindergarten for three years. Her lifelong passion for working with children led Sondra to volunteer with the Girl Scouts of Southern NJ as well as the Boys and Girls Club while she was growing up. Currently pursuing a Masters in International Education through distance learning with the University of Leicester, Sondra is a lifelong learner who is excited to bring her experience and her love of teaching to Cresthaven. In her free time, Sondra enjoys roller skating with her dog Riley, reading, snowboarding, and spending time with friends and family.
Special Education Teacher
Farhanah Mohamad is a Special Education Teacher at Cresthaven Academy. Farhanah graduated from Seton Hall University and majored in Social Behavioral Sciences with an intense emphasis in Elementary and Special Education. Previously, Farhanah served two years as a resource room teacher in Newark Uncommon Schools. She taught a variety of students and worked closely with the Child Study Team to improve each student's learning experience. Farhanah is also an advocate for children and people with disabilities and continues to raise awareness in every way she can. When Farhanah is not teaching, she is spending time with family and friends, walking her Siberian Husky, Luca, or traveling the world.
Special Education Teacher
Christina Munoz is a Special Education Teacher at Cresthaven Academy. She graduated from Brooklyn College with a B.A. in Early Childhood and Special Education. She also holds a Masters Degree from Concordia University in Curriculum and Instruction with an extension in Special Education. Her passion has always been to teach the next generation the necessary social and academic skills to pursue their dreams. Christina believes that teaching is not just a job - it is a special interaction with a scholar who has a great purpose and talents that must be nurtured. She is eager to engage the Cresthaven scholars inside the classroom by introducing them to new concepts backed by critical thinking. In her free time, Christina enjoys spending time with her family and friends, spontaneously venturing out for getaways, and ultimately enjoying life.
Ayleen Noriega is a graduate of Kean University. She joins Cresthaven Academy with a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education P-3 with a Teacher of Students with Disabilities endorsement. While pursuing her education, Ayleen worked for Cresthaven Academy Foundation as an After School Program Family Leader, and is looking forward to continuing to build relationships with the scholars and families of Cresthaven Academy as a teacher! As a Plainfield resident, Ayleen considers it a privilege to work in her own community, helping young learners succeed both academically and socially. In her free time Ayleen enjoys spending time with her family and baking, as well as traveling and going to the beach.
5th Grade Teacher
Lynh Nguyen is a Special Education Teacher at Cresthaven Academy. Lynh graduated with a B.S. in Elementary and Special Education from Seton Hall University, where she also majored in Social and Behavioral Sciences with a minor in Social Work. She is currently pursuing her Master's degree in Special Education from Purdue University. Lynh holds a passionate belief that building an authentic connection with each scholar is the key to fostering an environment for academic growth and success. She loves to work with children of all ages and strives to make a positive impact on the scholars at Cresthaven Academy! In her spare time, Lynh loves to make memories with her friends and family, relax at the beach, try different foods and restaurants, and travel to new places.
Director of Technology
Cristofer Orellana is the Director of Technology for Cresthaven Academy. Prior to joining the Cresthaven team, Cristofer led the Technology Department for several years in Charter Schools in Newark, NJ. With a B.A in Computer Science, Cristofer plans to continue his education, pursuing an advanced degree in the near future. Cristofer is eager to implement modern educational technology that supports scholar learning at Cresthaven, and is excited to make a difference in the Plainfield community through his work here.
Angela Pereira is an ESL Teacher at Cresthaven Academy. She graduated from Rutgers University- New Brunswick with a BA in Spanish and a second in Linguistics. She recently completed a Master of Science Degree in Curriculum and Instruction at Western Governors University. Prior to Cresthaven, she taught English language learners in 4th-6th grades for two years, and adults for 15 years. As a Plainfield native and a daughter of immigrants, Angela is honored to serve her community and hopes to inspire Cresthaven scholars to become lifelong learners. In her free time, she enjoys listening to science fiction and fantasy audiobooks, spending time with her family, and listening to 90s Salsa, Rap, R&B and Alternative music.
5th Grade Teacher
Neha Punjani is a fifth grade teacher at Cresthaven Academy. She earned her Bachelor’s degrees in Economics and Education with plans to pursue her Master’s in Education in future. After completing the Alternate Route to Teaching, Neha earned her certification in teaching K-6. With experience as a preschool teacher in Edison, as well as a 1st-6th grade math tutor, Neha loves working with bright young minds and looks forward to creating a growth mindset learning environment for her scholars at Cresthaven. In her spare time, Neha enjoys family outings at the beach or enjoys cooking her favorite Italian cuisine. Neha is excited to work with the scholars and families of Cresthaven Academy to support them as they achieve their goals for lifelong success.
3rd Grade Teacher
Roushan Rahman joins the Cresthaven team as a Third Grade Teacher. She has experience teaching 3rd grade Math and Science for the past two years, and holds the NJ Standard Teaching Certificate (Grades K-6). She received her Master’s Degree in Teaching K-5 from Fairleigh Dickinson University and holds Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in English from the University of Chittagong. Coming from a long line of educators, Roushan gained a passion for teaching early in life. She loves fostering her students’ learning, curiosity, and perseverance. Roushan is eager to influence the young minds of Cresthaven Academy. When not in the classroom, Roushan can be found baking, gardening, and reading.
5th Grade Teacher
Caroline Reilly is a Special Education Teacher at Cresthaven Academy. After graduating from Seton Hall University with a Bachelor's degree in Elementary and Special Education as well as a Master's degree in Special Education with a Concentration in Applied Behavior Analysis, Caroline went on to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst in 2020. She believes in the importance of acknowledging that all students are able to learn when given the appropriate supports, and her goal is to create a nurturing environment where all students believe they have the ability to succeed. Caroline is excited to join the Cresthaven team, and looks forward to working to ensure her scholars are prepared academically, socially, and emotionally. In her free time, Caroline enjoys baking, reading, and playing with her family dogs Milo and Pebbles.
Maciel Rivera is an Office Manager at Cresthaven Academy Charter School. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration and Management from Pillar college, and has experience in management positions in marketing, ministry, and now here at Cresthaven Academy. Combining her passion for children, charter schools and family advocacy, Maciel is excited to be a part of the Cresthaven family, and she looks forward to building strong relationships with our families.
Jessica Saunders is a kindergarten teacher at Cresthaven Academy Charter School. Previously, Jessica has taught Pre-K for one of North Plainfield Public School District’s contracted agency schools and has also taught in Westfield. Jessica holds a BA in Early Childhood Education and a MA in Special Education from Kean University. She enjoys reading, spending time with family and friends, and scrapbooking. Jessica is honored to be an inspiration to each scholar at Cresthaven Academy Charter School.
Mily Salgado-Cardenas is an Instructional Aide at Cresthaven Academy, who recently graduated from Union County College with an associates degree in Early Childhood Elementary Education. Mily is continuing her education at Kean University in Elementary and Bilingual Education, and looks forward to learning and growing with the scholars and families of Cresthaven. Over the course of her five years experience working in childcare, Mily has learned as much from her scholars as they’ve learned from her, and she is excited to be a part of the Cresthaven community.
Enrique Silva serves as the Facilities Director at Cresthaven Academy Charter School. He was born in Newark, New Jersey and graduated Barringer High School. After a tour as a Marine during Desert Storm/Shield and, through a combination of life events, Enrique joined Newark Public Schools as a security officer. He later worked at People's Preparatory Charter School in Newark overseeing the food service program and facility maintenance. Enrique also attended Bloomfield College where he studied Education, and plans to one day complete his undergraduate degree in Physical Education.
Christina Sullivan is excited to join the Cresthaven Family as a 3rd Grade Instructional Aide. She holds an Associate's Degree in Liberal Arts Physical Education & Recreation from Middlesex County College and has ten years of experience working with scholars of all ages in many different academic environments. Most recently, Christina worked with 2nd-6th grade students in Hillside, NJ. She is eager to meet and connect with the scholars and families of Cresthaven Academy, and looks forward to learning and incorporating new skills into the classroom. When not in school, you can find Christina at the beach or Six Flags, or spending time with friends, family, and playing games!
1st Grade Teacher
Darcel Torres-Diaz is excited to join the Cresthaven family as a Special Education Teacher. Darcel has her Masters Degree from Tuoro College in Early Childhood Education Birth-Grade 2 and Students with Disabilities. Originally from Brooklyn, NY, Darcel spent the last 5 years working in Charter schools in Flatbush and East New York with K-2 scholars. Now that Darcel and her family are New Jersey residents, she is eager to share her creativity and experience with the Cresthaven community. Deeply passionate about supporting all learners, Darcel believes that each scholar is unique and deserves to be taught with developmentally appropriate methods that will empower them to achieve success. When not teaching, Darcel loves spending time with her family, especially her two young sons, and shopping.
2nd Grade Teacher
Johnny Vega is excited to begin his third year as a 2nd Grade Teacher at Cresthaven Academy. Johnny completed his undergraduate education at Bloomfield College, where he earned a Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education with a concentration in Mathematics. He is currently furthering his education at Montclair State University, pursuing his first Master's degree. Johnny’s passion is to educate, motivate, and impact scholars by empowering them to reach their goals! Johnny believes that there is no such thing as a dream too big, and he desires that each of his scholars will dream big and work for their successes! When he is not teaching, Johnny enjoys running, rain or shine, and hanging out with friends and family.
Rebecca Witt is thrilled to embark on her second year as the music teacher at Cresthaven Academy. She earned a Bachelor's degree in Music Education and a Masters of Arts in Teaching from Westminster Choir College of Rider University. She has six full years of teaching experience in diverse settings, including teaching English abroad in Thailand. Rebecca is passionate about teaching the whole child and inspiring scholars to become lifelong musicians. When she is not teaching, you can find Miss Witt learning to cook new meals, going for bike rides and travelling as much as possible.
Andrea Zarrouk joins the Cresthaven family as an Instructional Aide. A graduate of Rogers State University-Oklahoma with a Bachelor's Degree in Social Science and a minor in Sociology, Andrea is a certified Paraprofessional who has several years of experience mentoring elementary age scholars. She has a passion for working with young learners, and her goal is to help them progress in all areas of development. She believes that the key to progress is establishing relationships and a nurturing learning environment for all students. In her free time, Andrea loves spending time with her husband and family, helping others, and traveling worldwide.
Cresthaven Academy Foundation
Steven A. Colson
Steven A. Colson is a businessman, philanthropist, Lead Founder of Cresthaven Academy Charter School, and currently serves as Executive Director and Board Chairman of Cresthaven Academy Foundation. Steve has dedicated his life to empowering less fortunate individuals and families. His past work has included providing shelter for international and political refugees, teaching English to local Central American immigrants, deep involvement with the Rutgers University Future Scholars Program, and personally sponsoring athletic scholarships for NJ inner city youth. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Clemson University, served as president of Phi Delta Theta fraternity, co-owns several major companies with his brother, and was the recipient of the Rutgers University Human Dignity Award in 2010. Steve’s lifestyle of service to others has established him as a friend, mentor, brother, and father to countless individuals and families within Plainfield and beyond.
Dean of Enrichment & Programming
Andreali Dharampaul-Bajnath is the Dean of Enrichment & Programming for the Cresthaven Academy Foundation. Her journey as an educator began 10 years ago in Brooklyn, New York where she was born and raised. Andreali started as a Universal Pre-K teacher for four years. She then branched off into a charter school where she taught 1st grade for another four years. Andreali was a founding Kindergarten and 1st Grade teacher for Cresthaven Academy Charter School and will now transition into her new role as the Dean of Enrichment & Programming for Cresthaven Academy Foundation. She will continue to build relationships with our scholars and families and is eager to be part of a team that continues to provide an After School Enrichment Program where scholars can show grit, courage, and self-control.
Director of Development
Nick Mederos joins the Cresthaven family as the Director of Development for Cresthaven Academy Foundation (CAF). Originally a teacher in Union City, Nick left teaching to pursue a career in non-profit fundraising. Nick spent 3 years at the Archdiocese of New York, working for the Renew and Rebuild Capital Campaign, and later serving as the Planned Giving Manager. Nick holds a Bachelor's Degree in English with a concentration in Secondary Education from St. Peter’s University and is excited to be able to combine his passion for education with his commitment to service in this new role at Cresthaven Academy Foundation.
After School Program Director & Director of Special Projects
Savannah Nesmith joined the Cresthaven family as a founding member in 2016. With ten years experience in the private business sector as an Account Manager and Product Development / Design Director, she combined her project management expertise with her lifelong passion for youth, children, and social justice to develop and launch the Cresthaven Academy Foundation After-School Enrichment Program. Serving as the Dean of Enrichment & Programming was the fulfillment of a dream for Savannah that was first born in 2002 while pursuing her undergraduate education in Sociology and Race & Social Justice at the University of Michigan. Entrenched in the belief that every child deserves unrestricted access to quality education and the resources to support it, Savannah is excited to leverage her experience and utilize her skill sets to step into the role of Director of Special Projects for Cresthaven Academy.