January 2, 2023
For Immediate Release
Jared Rumage 732.758.1507
Six Red Bank Borough Educators Recognized by the NJDOE
The Red Bank Borough Public Schools are a proud participant of the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) Governor’s Educator of the Year Program. Each year, the NJDOE recognizes Teachers and Educational Services Professionals throughout the State and honors educators based on the following criteria. Candidates must:
- be exceptionally skilled and dedicated licensed classroom teachers where teaching is the primary responsibility OR an educational services professional (ESP)
- have the latest summative rating of at least effective
- be an expert in the field who inspires students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn
- actively collaborate with colleagues, students, and families to create a strong culture of respect and success
- demonstrate leadership and innovation in educational activities
- have the respect and admiration of students, parents and colleagues
We are honored to highlight one teacher from Red Bank Primary School and one from Red Bank Middle School, as well as one Educational Services Professional for the District. George Platis is the 2022 Governor’s Educator of the Year recipient for Red Bank Primary School. Mr. Platis is highly skilled in helping students learn. His theatre/music background and degree in elementary education have provided him with a tremendous ability to engage our young learners in creative, interdisciplinary ways. Music, movement, and theatrical performances captivate his learners in the classroom. He makes learning come alive in Room 105. Beyond the classroom, he is a presence at school events and serves as the leader of our Stormy Singers, a collaboration with the Count Basie Center for the Arts. He is there whenever something is needed, big or small, such as dressing up as the Grinch for our holiday PTO event. George plays an integral role in the ongoing development of the kindergarten curriculum and is dedicated to designing engaging lessons focused on the whole child. Additionally, George is an active presence on social media where he records videos for our students and our community. During the pandemic, he created a YouTube channel, Mr. Platis Storytime, where he continues to publish engaging read-alouds for students and their families to enjoy! When connection was what we needed most, he found a way to make it happen!
Chelsey Cooney is the 2022 Governor’s Educator of the Year for the Red Bank Middle School. Chelsey is a talented educator who is energetic and engaging. She is knowledgeable in her craft and maintains positive relationships with students, families, and colleagues. Chelsey seeks out additional professional development to grow as a teacher, participating in events such as AVID Summer Institute or reading up on new teaching strategies in her free time. Chelsey is always available to discuss ideas or to share out what is and is not working in the classroom to ensure students are getting the best education and instruction possible. She works closely with her co-teachers to differentiate and modify instruction, so all students have access to a rich and rigorous experience. Chelsey can inspire students by seeing them as individuals and engage students by incorporating various technologies. She is constantly adapting and trying to be the best teacher possible, realizing that sometimes you need to shift gears mid-lesson to help students in the moment. Outside of the classroom, Chelsey is actively involved in our school community as the Cross Country Coach. She cares about her student-athletes and motivates them to be their #BestSelves. She teaches them valuable life lessons about teamwork, discipline, and hard work that extend beyond the track and overlap with the classroom and life. Her efforts helped the boys’ team complete an undefeated season this year. Chelsey is a teacher-leader and serves as the Grade 7 Team Leader and DREAM Team representative. As part of the DREAM Team, Chelsey works with her colleagues to promote the Red Bank Borough Is Best In America mindset (#RBBisBIA), so that together, we can be certain we are the best for the students, families, and community of Red Bank.
The 2022 Educational Services Professional for the Red Bank Borough Public School District is our Preschool program’s Community Parent Involvement Specialist (CPIS), Ms. Shary Ashe-Holt. Nobody is better at what they do than Shary! She has a natural ability to connect with people and make them feel cared for and safe. This is of the utmost importance in her position. Families trust her with sensitive information because she goes above and beyond for every family to ensure they are properly supported. This includes phone calls to insurance companies, sitting down and completing paperwork together, connecting them with the numerous community organizations she has formed relationships with over the years, etc. She treats her colleagues the same way. Shary can often be found in a classroom lending a helping hand. Every preschool staff member knows that Shary is there to support them in any way that she can. In addition, she has developed strong ties with the Red Bank Public Library, Lunch Break, Boys & Girls Club, Monmouth County Council for Young Children and the Salvation Army. Shary plays an integral role in not only helping families gain access to resources but also in connecting these resources to each other. While professionals in her role are confined mostly to an office, Shary is out and about in the classrooms. She has a gift for working with children who display challenging behaviors. Shary has also learned Spanish to enhance her interactions with bilingual learners and their families. She has built so many bonds with families over the years and is part of the Red Bank community … even though she does not live here! She attends community events, delivers care packages and even goes to birthday parties of our families she is working with! Red Bank is her second home. She loves this community - the children, the families, her colleagues, and community partners - and they love her!
In addition to these honors, we also received more exciting news from the NJDOE – three of our staff members were recognized as 2022 Exemplary Elementary Educators. This year’s recipients include Preschool Master Teacher Morgan Cassella, Primary School Teacher Megan McGann, and Middle School Teacher Toni Merritt-Graham. Every other year, the New Jersey Department of Education recognizes outstanding educators throughout the state with the Exemplary Elementary Educator Award. Through a rigorous selection process, the program identifies educators who are valued by their school and community and have exhibited strong knowledge and skills, an inspiring presence, and a clear vision for quality teaching and learning. We are fortunate to be the home of 13 Exemplary Educator Award winners here in Red Bank since 2016!
As the Master Teacher/Coach, Morgan specializes in preschool special education. In this role, she supports our instructional staff with the use of Positive Behavior Supports (PBS). Utilizing the Preschool Teaching Pyramid Observation Tool (TPOT) in each of the preschool classrooms, she and her colleagues can assess and support the use of PBS firsthand. Continuously seeking ways to improve her practice, she is integral to improving daily instruction and program implementation. Morgan serves as the Preschool Intervention and Referral Team Case Manager which is somewhat unique as it leverages her skill sets as both a coach and case manager, allowing the district to provide a comprehensive and collaborative approach when addressing student and family needs.
As a case manager, Morgan manages all PIRT referrals, cases, CST referrals, and Early Childhood/CST articulation. Her organizational skills, knowledge, and experience form the foundation of a highly effective PIRT team. Working collaboratively with the Child Study Team to assess and support students, teachers, and family needs, Morgan exudes compassion, empathy and understanding. Due to her success in this role, students and their families are supported in a positive and caring manner. She is so dynamic, that the NJDOE Division of Early Childhood Education (DECE) has reached out for Morgan’s support to consult with other districts seeking a similar model. Morgan is exemplary in her development and execution of professional development. She works collaboratively with her colleagues as well as independently to provide district professional learning to staff. This year, Morgan and a colleague were invited to serve as presenters for the NJDOE Division of Early Childhood Education’s new Master Teacher Seminar.
Megan McGann is a true advocate for all her students and her love and caring go beyond the classroom. She continually collaborates with the Child Study Team, related services, the BCBA, and meets with therapists to plan, support, and set goals for her students. She works tirelessly to communicate and stay connected to her families taking time to learn who they are, understand their challenges, and make them feel welcome in her classroom. As a result, she is loved by her students and respected by their parents. Megan is a dedicated and reflective professional who strives to continuously develop herself as an educator. She has mentored new staff and is a teacher-leader in her professional learning community. She shares her expertise and provides input and ideas that foster a positive, supportive, and family atmosphere within the Special Education team. She has been a leading member of the PTO and always volunteers and collaborates to promote and showcase our students and school. Megan’s thoughtful teaching and planning allow her to build lasting relationships that change her students’ lives forever.
Megan’s instructional practice is consistently at a highly effective level, and she demonstrates superior knowledge in her role. Megan identifies and always takes advantage of opportunities that allow her students to increase their skills using their communication devices. These are used daily to develop comprehension and reading skills but to also enhance language and communication skills. Megan is constantly taking the pulse of her class and assesses student progress to drive her instruction and lesson planning. She draws on a broad repertoire of strategies that help support her students and allow them to celebrate their successes.
Any person entering Toni Merritt-Graham’s classroom immediately feels the positive and supportive environment she cultivates. Each student has their own set of unique challenges and needs, but in Toni’s room, each student is made to feel loved, empowered, and part of an amazing community classroom. Toni has been utilizing social-emotional learning well before it became a buzzword in the field of education. Through morning meetings, lunch bunches and a focus on soft skills, Toni has successfully embedded these daily practices in her classroom for many years.
Throughout her time at the Red Bank Middle School, one of Toni’s most notable attributes is her commitment to viewing instruction through a cultural lens. Over the years, she has orchestrated Black History Month activities and recently, she worked in conjunction with our music teacher to create informative and incredibly entertaining videos that showcased leaders in Black History. Additionally, Toni has served on school leadership teams, facilitated department articulation, and served as an advocate for students with IEPs as part of their annual review. Ms. Merritt has also shared her enthusiasm and school pride as an advisor of the cheer squad and in leading school talent shows and cross grade level productions. Toni has proven many times over where her passion lies and makes pointed steps to make her voice heard. She is always the first person to volunteer to share in a large group setting and after many years is continuously seeking professional learning opportunities. As a result, Toni continues to effectuate positive change all around.
We are proud of our staff for so many reasons, but especially for striving to be the best in America so that we can rest assured we are the best for Red Bank. Our educators, including the 2021-2022 Monmouth County Teacher of the Year, exemplify that mindset by continuing to inspire our students to Dream BIG and then helping them get there. Visit our website www.rbb.k12.nj.us for more information.
Red Bank, NJ – January 2, 2023