Six new teachers at RES share their insights

New teachers at Redding Elementary School: Back row, from left, Sarah Peronace, Jennifer Marandola, Leigh Anna Kamin, and Nicole Eckardt. Front row, from left: Erica Ambrogio and Michaila Emonds.
New teachers at Redding Elementary School: Back row, from left, Sarah Peronace, Jennifer Marandola, Leigh Anna Kamin, and Nicole Eckardt. Front row, from left: Erica Ambrogio and Michaila Emonds.

Six new teachers have joined the Redding Elementary School staff this year.

Erica Ambrogio and Michaila Emonds teach first grade, Nicole Eckardt teaches third grade, Leigh Anna Kamin and Jennifer Marandola teach fourth grade, and Sarah Peronace is a media specialist.

Erica Ambrogio

I live in Greenwich with my family. I have a younger brother and older sister. When I’m not teaching, my interests include playing — coaching — and watching sports. I love being outdoors and spend a lot of my free time being as active as possible.

I graduated from UConn with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s in curriculum and instruction. UConn basketball and the New York Yankees are two of my passions (I’m working on converting all of my students as well). School was always a place where I felt safe, confident and challenged growing up, so I’ve never really considered a career outside of the classroom.

Every day, my students keep me laughing and smiling while managing to give me so many reasons to scratch my head. A frequent aha moment in our classroom is when I’m reminded that the curious minds and wiggly bodies sitting in front of me are 6 years old. These aha moments sometimes can even halt the lesson in order to do some much-needed community building. They help me to remember that while it’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind of moving through curriculum and standards, our kids are people — full of excitement, worry, and a laundry list of other things that can eventually occupy their thinking enough to make learning impossible. A more simple aha moment was when I realized you have to laminate any and every thing you want to last longer than a day.

Michaila Emonds

I was born and raised in Glastonbury. I am the middle child of five kids. I have two sisters and two brothers, so my house closely resembles indoor recess at times. I received my bachelor’s degree in education and my master’s degree in curriculum and instruction at the University of Connecticut.

Outside of school, I love to travel. I spent a summer teaching English in Italy. During that summer, I lived with a host family and traveled to a new school every two weeks. Then, I spent the first semester of my master’s year teaching in England in a second grade classroom. Through these experiences, I was able to travel to many countries and learn how to live among different world cultures.

One of my goals at RES is to use my experiences to help my students understand each other’s differences and similarities. This helps build a strong, open-minded classroom community.

Something that I love about teaching is the aha moments I encounter every day with my students. For example, how can I fit a duffel bag’s worth of snow gear into a cubby? A lot of times I will ask the kids to come up with a solution to help us with some of these problems. It is incredible to watch 5- and 6-year-olds come up with solutions for day-to-day problems and hold themselves accountable for the problem solving.

Nicole Eckardt

Originally from New York, my family and I have lived in Trumbull for 14 years. My daughter is a freshman at St. Joseph High School and my son is a freshman at the University of Connecticut at Storrs.

After an early career in finance and then staying home with my children, I decided to take the leap and pursue a life in education. All the signs were pointing me in that direction, from teaching CCD and leading Girl Scouts to teaching after-school enrichment classes. I just love working with children and I am always striving to learn and grow. So I went back to school and earned my master’s and certification in teaching from Sacred Heart University in 2014 — and I haven’t looked back.

What an adventure it has been. Creating a place where my students feel loved and safe, and where they can be themselves and risk making mistakes in their pursuit of knowledge, is key for me. And let me tell you, I feel the love in this room! The class recently sang Happy Birthday to me and were kind enough to include the “How old are you now?” portion of the tune. When we finally stopped counting, a few exclaimed how I was so much older than their parents. They then assured me not to worry, I didn’t look that old! From the mouths of babes … how I love my class!

Leigh Anna Kamin

One of my primary goals is to build my relationship with the community of Redding through its families and students. Prior to coming to Redding Elementary, I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Connecticut. I later went on to earn my master’s degree in elementary education from Sacred Heart University, where I graduated from this past May. I completed a yearlong internship and conducted my student teaching at East Elementary School in New Canaan during the 2016-17 school year.

Outside of the classroom, I love to read and spend time with my family and friends. My family recently expanded to include Cranberry, a Lhasa Apso puppy, so we have been enjoying spending time with her.

One of my favorite parts of the day at RES is our morning meeting time. This time of the day gives me the opportunity to connect with my students. It’s an opportunity not only to practice showing kindness, respect, and listening skills for the people around us, but it’s also a time where we can share personal experiences and build our connections and relationships. This is a great time for me to get to know students and who they are, both inside and outside of the classroom. It is also a time where my students can build strong friendships with their classmates and find new things that they have in common.

 Jennifer Marandola

I’m married and I have two daughters. I live in Wilton. My interests include design, decorating, nonfiction reading, dining out, travel, and watching movies. Teaching is a second career for me. Prior to teaching, I spent 15 years in finance.

I became interested in education when my two daughters were in elementary school and I volunteered in their schools. This connection to educating young people led me to a job as a paraprofessional at Cider Mill Elementary School in Wilton. That experience solidified my desire to become a teacher.

After obtaining my credentials, I accepted a third grade long-term substitute position at South Elementary School in New Canaan. As that position was ending, I was offered a teaching position at The Mead School, a private school in Stamford. After spending three years there, I returned to public school last March at RES as a fourth grade long-term substitute teacher.

My goals as an RES teacher are to cultivate a strong, safe and supportive classroom community that recognizes effort, perseverance, good character, and the uniqueness of each student. By creating this environment, children are more likely to take risks, embrace challenges and fully engage in learning.

One of my aha moments in teaching was discovering that it’s less about what you are teaching and more about the way you make students feel. Students may forget all the thoughtful lessons you’ve painstakingly prepared, but they will never forget the joy and comfort they felt from having a teacher who cared about them.

Sarah Peronace

My teaching career began in Ridgefield as a first and second grade teacher where I taught for 19 years. I hold Connecticut certification in K-6 elementary education. In June of 2017, I completed a yearlong program to attain Connecticut certification as a K-12 library media specialist. I hold a master’s degree in reading from Western Connecticut State University and have been trained in Columbia Teachers College’s Reading and Writing methods.  My husband and two children enjoy spending time with family and friends and traveling to Maine and North Carolina.

In my role as the library media specialist, I teach students to be effective users of ideas and information using print and digital media resources. I have also developed learning opportunities that embed Next Generation Science Standards, STEM opportunities, and student collaboration.

Students in fourth grade have just completed a collaborative Makerspace experience where they designed and created fidget spinners after learning about angular momentum and velocity. This was an authentic opportunity to test the design process by applying scientific ideas to design, test and refine a device. Students as young as preschool have had opportunities to utilize iPads in the Library Learning Commons to learn about shapes, and students in grades K-4 have consistent opportunities to use Chromebooks to practice the skills necessary to become fluent users of technology. These skills are imperative to help students become 21st-Century learners.

At the heart of everything, I share my love of literature and my enthusiasm for learning to keep kids excited about reading and learning.

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