Hillside Teacher of the Year and Educational Services Professional are honored at ceremony

Hillside Teacher of the Year and Educational Services Professional are honored at ceremony

A celebration of the commitments and dedication of staff members in the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District was presented on Tuesday, May 4.

The Somerville Elks Lodge served as the venue for the school district’s annual—and highly acclaimed—Staff Recognition Reception.

The event was held to honor the 2023-2024 Bridgewater-Raritan Teacher of the Year and the Educational Services Professionals for all 11 schools in the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District.

A total of 22 staff members–two from each school–were honored before an estimated crowd of 175, which included administrators, board of education members, staff, teachers, and families of the honorees.

The reception was sponsored by the Bridgewater-Raritan Education Association (BREA), while the ceremony was coordinated by the energetic and valuable Suzanne Klos, the Executive Secretary to the Superintendent.

She was assisted in preparing for this elite ceremony by Terry Brown and Kaitlyn McGhee, who are Administrative Assistants in the Office of the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction.

Laura Kress, the BREA President, opened the ceremony with her remarks that cited the faithfulness and devotion that are exhibited by the 22 honorees as well as the entire school district.

Superintendent Bob Beers followed Ms. Kress and touched on how “Bridgewater-Raritan is unique in that we are able to hold an event such as this.”

He applauded the honorees and the school district for “a high level of commitment to excel’ and described the teaching profession as a calling rather than a job.

Each school principal was given the opportunity to speak and introduce their two distinguished staff members–Teacher of the Year and Educational Services Professional of the Year.

Each honoree received a commemorative gift that was handed out by the Board of Education Vice President, Jennifer Loughran, and a Board of Education member, Stacey Friedlander.

Here is a summary of each Hillside honoree presented by Principal Dr. Tali Axelrod.

Taryn Prince
Hillside Intermediate School
Grade 6 Special Education Teacher

With great respect and appreciation, Hillside Intermediate School recognizes Taryn
Prince as our Teacher of the Year. Mrs. Prince has been teaching at Hillside School for
the past 16 years, the entire length of her career. Throughout her journey as an educator,
Mrs. Prince demonstrates a profound passion for connecting with students and
fostering a safe, engaging, and inclusive learning environment.
When asked to describe her teacher, one of Mrs. Prince’s students said: “She is really
kind and looks at the good side of things. Like when I was having an argument with
another student, she helped us both to calm down. She always makes sure everyone has
a chance to answer a question, and she doesn’t have any favorites. She makes everyone
feel special.”
Mrs. Prince is committed to Social and Emotional Learning and incorporates those
practices into her daily teaching routine. She has participated in Hillside School’s
mentorship program and is doing so again this year. In Taryn’s words, “As a teacher in
the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District, I am fortunate to experience the joy
and fulfillment that comes with shaping young minds every day. My teaching
philosophy revolves around the belief in the power of personalized education to unlock
the potential of each student.”
Mrs. Prince builds meaningful connections with students and creates a space where
students feel comfortable learning and expressing themselves authentically.

Maria Giardella
Hillside Intermediate School
Learning Disabilities Teacher Consultant

Ms. Maria Giardella is an experienced and dedicated LDT/C with nearly 30 years of
expertise in special education and a focus on students with Individualized Education
Programs. She has spent the last 18 years at Hillside Intermediate School, where she is
proficient in case management, educational assessments, and special education codes
and regulations. Ms. Giardella demonstrates a comprehensive understanding of various
disabilities and effective strategies to support her students.
Maria is a highly respected member of our school community. She prides herself on the
relationships she has developed with her students, their families, and her colleagues.
Maria also works closely with the teachers and students in the HAP classroom and helps
build social partnerships for our students with autism.
Maria says she finds joy in her daily interactions with these exceptional students. She
has advocated for peer role models for them, with general education peers volunteering
during their lunch/recess periods to support their peers. These typically developing
peers not only learn to model social skills but also help their peers with autism to
improve their skills like sharing and taking turns. Witnessing the success of this initiative
is truly remarkable.
Maria is personable, approachable, and caring. She hopes her students gain a better
understanding of who they are and how they learn which will carry them throughout
their lives. Maria is an asset to Hillside’s learning community; we are happy to honor
her as our Education Services Professional of the Year for Hillside Intermediate School!

Listed below are the 22 staff members who were honored.

Teacher of the Year Award - 2023-2024
Alexandra Pelligrino, Adamsville, Special Education Teacher
Susan Winters, Bradley Gardens, Grade 2 Teacher
Kimberly Kaminsky, Crim, Special Education Teacher
Paige Hering-Boehme, Hamilton, Grade 1 Teacher
Angela Randazzo, John F. Kennedy, Grade 3 Teacher
Bryan Smith, Milltown, Physical Education Teacher
Megan Rutkowski, Van Holten, Grade 1 Teacher
Jaclynn Hurley, Eisenhower, Grade 5 Teacher
Taryn Prince, Hillside, Grade 6 Special Education Teacher
Ashlen Udell, Middle School, Teacher of Music
Hsiao-yu Lin (Sherry) Griggs, High School, Teacher of Music
Educational Services Professional Award - 2023-2024

Deborah Calabrese, Adamsville, Speech Language Specialist
Puja Arora, Bradley Gardens, School Counselor
Monica Hammond, Crim, Elementary Teaching Specialist
Kathleen Hughes, Hamilton, School Nurse
Holly Gibson, John F. Kennedy, Intervention Specialist
Stephanie Campisi, Milltown, School Counselor
Sarojini Panwar, Van Holten, Instructional Assistant
Tara Rutkowski, Eisenhower, Instructional Assistant
Maria Giardella, Hillside, Learning Disabilities Teaching Consultant
Rosalia Finazzo, Middle School, Instructional Assistant
Lauren Amisial, High School, Student Assistance Counselor
 Linked below is the program that features the background of each of the 22 honorees.


BRRSD 2024 Staff Recognition Reception Program