New teachers looking forward to a new year

Written by Mary Beth Peabody
Monica Potito had a successful career in pharmaceutical sales, but something was missing. “I didn’t want to make money. I wanted to make a difference,” she said. So she put it in God’s hands and people kept asking her if she was a teacher. Now she is. Potito returned to school for a master’s degree and is starting her full-time teaching career in fifth grade at Sacred Heart School in Camden.

Gloucester Catholic’s new chemistry teacher, Andrew Staub, is pursuing his master’s degree through the Alliance for Catholic Education at Saint Joseph’s University (ACESJU). Students in the ACE program teach in schools located in the Diocese of Camden and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

A few of the new high school teachers are pictured. Andrew Staub and Connor Smith, both are new faces at Gloucester Catholic High School. Photos by Mary Beth Peabody

Staub has already taught high school and middle school biology through ACE and at his alma mater, Saint Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia. He is eager to meet his Gloucester Catholic students. “It seems like a really tight knit community. Everyone knows each other and really wants to support each other,” said Staub.

When principal Sister Nancy Kindelan, IHM asked school parent Natalie Usilton to become a Pre-K teacher’s aide in 2017, Usilton didn’t know it would lead to a full-time head teacher position at Saint Teresa School in Runnemede. With a degree in education, Usilton had put her career on hold to be home full-time with her daughter. “There is a plan,” said Usilton, acknowledging her belief that God has her exactly where she was meant to be.

Potito, Staub and Usilton are among the nearly 50 teachers who attended orientation at Saint Vincent DePaul Regional School in Mays Landing on Aug. 23. The group included experienced and new teachers in Pre-K to high school, with backgrounds in Catholic, private and public school education.

The day was spent exploring what it means to teach in a Catholic school — from Catholic identity, to working with families, to discipline guidelines, to professional conduct.

As she spoke about what it means to teach in a Catholic school, Superintendent Mary Boyle said, “You are the face of God and the face of the Church. You may be the only Gospel that some of your students will ever read.”

Most of the teachers returned to Saint Vincent de Paul the next day for VIRTUS Protecting God’s Children.

“The program teaches us how we can work together to prevent abuse. It empowers adults to know when to speak up on behalf of a child,” said Rod Herrera, director of the Diocese’s Office of Child and Youth Protection. The three-hour session includes videos that feature interviews with sexual abuse survivors and predators. Participants learn to recognize warning signs and changes in a child’s behavior. Teachers who were unable to attend the session may choose another time or location, provided training is complete within 60 days of the start of school.

Fifth grade teacher Debbie Van Pelt brings eight years of experience to her new position at Saint Mary School in Williamstown, where she will be teaching in a Catholic school for the first time. She said she sensed a strong community atmosphere and an encouraging, supportive environment during orientation.

With the added faith component, Van Pelt also said, she liked the idea of teaching the “whole child” and not teaching to a test.

“Giving up on a child isn’t an option in Catholic School,” she said.