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posted: Wed, Nov 12th, 2014

Meet our new faculty - part 2

Mount Olive Middle School has nine new faculty members this year. This is the second in an occasional series of profiles about them.

Kelly Gorton (reading specialist) – When Kelly Gorton was 5, she would line up her Beanie Babies and “teach” them. A couple decades later, Ms. Gorton’s dream of being in front of a live (and unstuffed) class has come true. 

While this is her first official teaching job, she’s been working with kids in a variety of capacities since she was in high school. She’s worked in day care centers, as the coordinator of an afterschool and summer program, and at a before and afterschool program at Joint Base McGuire–Dix–Lakehurst, a military facility located 18 miles southeast of Trenton. 

As you might expect from a reading specialist, Ms. Gorton is incredibly passionate about literacy.

“No matter what students go on to do in life, they have to possess at least a basic understanding of literacy and reading,” she said. “Education has changed so much from when I went to school. We are far away from the days when we just read a story and did a worksheet to show our knowledge. I believe that reading is alive and dynamic and should be fully explored, not just encountered. Lessons should be engaging and fun. I am not only trying to help my students ‘read,’ but to develop a love of reading so they can experience their world through words and stories.” 

Ms. Gorton holds a bachelor’s in elementary education from the College of St. Rose in Albany, New York and a master’s in reading from the College of New Jersey in Trenton.

When not at work, she and her husband of two years enjoy traveling and outdoor activities such as hiking and canoeing.

***

Michelle Piscitelli (special education) - Michelle Piscitelli was born and raised in Mount Olive. A graduate of the school system, she walked the very same hallways of Mount Olive Middle School as a student as she does now as a teacher.

Ms. Piscitelli has worked as an aide at CMS, spent time working at a private school for multiply-disabled and autistic students, and last year came back to Mount Olive and MOMS to fill in for a special education history teacher out on maternity leave position.

Getting students active in their education and having fun is a big part of her instructional style. She regularly has students working in front of the class on a Smart Board, which allows them to interact with what they are learning and provides immediate feedback.

“Seeing my students get excited about grasping a new concept they have learned inspires me to come to work every day,” said Ms. Piscitelli. “Whether it’s doing the smallest thing or a difficult task, watching students make connections is incredible. It’s the best feeling in the world to walk into your classroom and see your students with smiles on their faces ready to learn.”

Ms. Piscitelli has a bachelor’s in history from Ramapo college and a master’s in education from the College of Saint Elizabeth, along with certifications in both education and special education.

In her spare time she enjoys reading, baking, being outside as much as possible, and spending time with family.


Yohith Reddivari makes part of his team's winning presentation about San Jose, Costa Rica

Vying to host the Pan American Games

MOMS eighth-graders recently learned about cities in the Western Hemisphere through a comprehensive problem-based learning project.

The assignment: Working in a team of three or four, assume the role of an official delegate from a chosen city. Then together create a multimedia presentation that makes a compelling case for selecting that city as host of a future running of the Pan American Games (a winter and summer event held every four years that is essentially the Americas’ version of the Olympics).

Using textbooks and online resources, the teams researched the cities and the countries they are a part of. The students compiled information to include in their written reports and presentations, including such things as:

climate

gross domestic product

geography

demographic breakdowns

major industries

highways and transportation systems

literacy rate

major religions

natural resources

hospitals

existing sports venues and their current conditions 

Graphs and charts were created from the data and also used as bulleted points in the presentations. In addition, each team designed a logo for its city, developed a slogan that conveyed the unique tone that the city would impart onto the Games, and created an MTV-style video from photos and footage available online. All the materials were developed and submitted electronically using laptops or tablets.

“The presentations gave kids real world skills in finding information and using it in a relevant way,” said social studies teacher Matt Hansen. “This made learning engaging and entertaining. The students learned so much about the world around them and developed valuable skills such as collaboration and communication.”

If the research project just included the above components alone, it would have made for a thoughtful and creative assignment. However, to make the project as real as possible, students also had to address the specific challenges their cities would need to overcome in order to successfully host the games. These included factors such as a lack of sufficient government funding (as measured by the country's GDP), poor infrastructure, crime, civil unrest, an inhospitable political climate, and the possibility of natural disasters such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The manner in which these obstacles were addressed, along with the presentation skills of the students themselves, were ultimately the deciding factors in selecting the host cities.

Teachers Josh Lindeblad, Jennie Merklin, and Mr. Hansen watched the presentations of almost 150 teams before choosing the nine teams that would move on to the finals. The finalists made their culminating pitches in front of their classmates and guest judges, including retired teacher Marilyn Fredo. 

“They have really grown so much,” said Ms. Fredo, who taught one-third of the students in 2012-2013 before she retired. “I thought they did wonderfully. I’m so impressed with all of their work. It’s been a pleasure to be here.”

Cities studied included ones both large and small, familiar and not so familiar: From Los Angeles, Vancouver, and Rio de Janeiro to Bucaramanga, Columbia and San Jose, Costa Rica.

Maya Shah is all smiles as she chats with a teammate after their great presentation
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