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.
Director of Operations
Shannon Wright is the new Director of Operations of Cresthaven Academy Charter School. Prior to joining Cresthaven Academy, Shannon led the Technology Department and coordinated operations at a charter school in Newark, NJ for several years. She has a myriad of skills and passion for technology and education combined. Presently, Shannon attends NJIT pursuing an MBA, with an emphasis on Management of Information Systems. She is delighted to join the Cresthaven family to make a profound impact on the scholars and families of Plainfield.
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 graduated from Kean University in 2017 with a Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Education with a concentration in English writing. Prior to working at Cresthaven Academy, Cristina taught English to students living in Tokyo, Japan. Driven by the belief that every child has a voice to be heard, in Cristina’s classroom, each scholar will achieve their voice and grow in academic success. Cristina is enthusiastic to begin her career at Cresthaven Academy and looks forward to nurturing, guiding, and growing with the scholars and families of Plainfield. 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.
3rd 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. In May of 2020, Cassandra received her B.A. from Monmouth University in Elementary Education and English with an endorsement in Early Childhood. Cassandra has worked closely with students and children with a wide range of abilities and is excited to apply her knowledge in her classroom. In her free time, Cassandra enjoys being outdoors, reading, and spending time with her friends and family. Cassandra is eager to serve the Plainfield community and teach the scholars 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.
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.
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.
2nd Grade Teacher
Erin Devlin is a special education teacher in second grade. She graduated from Alvernia University with a Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Education and Special Education. She is very excited to be starting her career as an educator at Cresthaven Academy. Erin believes education is the solution to many of the world's problems and she wants to be part of the change the world needs to see. In her spare time she loves to give back to the community, go to the beach and be with her family, friends, and dog.
1st Grade Teacher
Michelle Ehrenkranz is a 1st grade teacher at Cresthaven Academy. She is a recent 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. Michelle is a proud sister of Delta Phi Epsilon International Sorority and most recently worked with children ages 6 weeks to 5 years at a childcare center. In her spare time, Michelle enjoys cooking, baking, yoga, and spending time with family and friends. Ever since she was young, Michelle knew she wanted to become an educator. When she was in elementary school, she struggled academically. But through the support of family and teachers, she was able to succeed academically and build confidence in herself. Michelle is honored to bring that same support to the scholars of Cresthaven Academy.
3rd Grade Teacher
Jessica Farraye is a 3rd 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 five years in education she has taught 3rd and 5th grades with a wide array of learners in her classrooms. Ms.Farraye 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 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!
4th Grade Teacher / Grade Team Lead
Jazmin Gooding is a founding 4th grade teacher at Cresthaven Academy. Her journey as an educator began 5 years ago as a Teach for America New Jersey Corps member, where she developed a passion for working in urban education. Jazmin has served as a direct instructional coach and lead teacher in grades K-1 with Uncommon Schools in Newark,NJ. She received her B.A in Psychology from the University of Richmond in Richmond, VA and her M.A.T from Relay Graduate School of Education. At Cresthaven she most recently served as the founding Kindergarten Grade Team Lead for 2 years. Outside of the classroom, Jazmin is an All Star Cheerleading Coach with Fabuloucity AllStars Gym. She is also a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Jazmin is excited to expand her impact while working in 2nd grade and looks forward to bringing her love, commitment, and dedication to the scholars and families of Plainfield.
4th Grade Teacher
Victoria Hayes is a 4th grade teacher at Cresthaven Academy Charter School. In 2015, she graduated from Kean University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and Teacher of Students with Disabilities. She has three years of experience in teaching elementary education and previously taught 3rd and 5th grade. Victoria loves working with children and is very excited to be working at Cresthaven Academy. In her spare time, she enjoys going to the beach, 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.
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. Larissa’s childhood dream of becoming a teacher has come true and she could not be more excited to continue her career at Cresthaven. She is eager to encourage and support scholars in reaching their individual goals to establish a foundation for their lifelong success. During 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.
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.
Danielle Malysa is the School Social Worker at Cresthaven Academy Charter School. Prior to working at Cresthaven Academy, Danielle worked on a crisis unit at Saint Clare’s hospital. She has worked 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 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 join the Cresthaven team and provide support for the children and families in Plainfield.
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, attending church services and spontaneously venturing out for a weekend getaway.
Brianna Norcross is a Kindergarten Teacher at Cresthaven Academy. Brianna is a graduate from Rowan University where she earned her B.A. in Elementary Education and American Studies with an endorsement of Teacher of Students with Disabilities. Brianna is currently working towards her M.A. in Reading: Reading Specialist. After working as a Cresthaven Special Education teacher during the 2019-2020 school year, Brianna is excited to continue to bring her educational and professional experience to the scholars and families of Cresthaven. Driven by a desire to instill and encourage student diversity and individual needs, Brianna is passionate about ensuring that every scholar has the foundation for success and growth in and out of the classroom. When she is not teaching, Brianna enjoys cooking, working out, and spending time with her family and friends.
2nd Grade Teacher
Lynh Nguyen is a 2nd grade teacher at Cresthaven Academy. Lynh recently graduated with a B.S. in Education from Seton Hall University, where she also majored in Social and Behavioral Sciences with a minor in Social Work. 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 is very eager to begin making 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, and travel to new places.
Angela Pereira is an Instructional Aide at Cresthaven Academy. She graduated from Rutgers University- New Brunswick with majors in Spanish and later in Linguistics. She is currently working towards her Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction at Western Governors University. Prior to working at Cresthaven Academy, Angela taught English as a Second Language to 4th-6th graders for two years and to adults for 15 years. As a Plainfield native, Angela is excited and honored to serve her community by guiding Cresthaven scholars on their journeys as life-long learners. In her free time, Angela enjoys spending time with her family, learning new things, and listening to audiobooks and 90s Hip Hop and R&B music.
Kindergarten Teacher / Grade Team Lead
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.
Enrique Silva serves as the Facilities Manager 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.
2nd Grade Teacher
Johnny Vega is excited to begin his second 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 will be furthering his education at Montclair State University this fall, pursuing his first Master's degree. Johnny’s passion is to educate, motivate, and impact scholars by empowering them to reach for their goals! Johnny truly 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 his or her successes! When he is not teaching, Johnny enjoys running, rain or shine, and hanging out with friends and family.
Rebecca Witt is the music teacher at Cresthaven Academy. She earned a Bachelors of Music Education and Masters of Arts in Teaching from Westminster Choir College of Rider University. She has five years of teaching experience in diverse settings, including teaching English abroad in Thailand. Rebecca is passionate about educating the whole child and believes that students learn best by doing. When she is not teaching, you can find Ms. Witt learning to cook new meals, going for bike rides, and traveling around the world. Rebecca is extremely honored to be a part of the Cresthaven family.
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.