SMHS Heroes in Education

Read about how members of the St. Mary High School family are doing their part to educate students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read about how members of the St. Mary High School family are doing their part to educate students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you know of a member of the SMHS family who is teaching during the pandemic and would like to nominate them, please email Michael Sheridan ’77 at msheridan@stmaryhs.org. Be sure to include the following:

  • Photo (in the classroom, if possible)
  • Year of graduation from SMHS (if applicable)
  • How they are teaching during the pandemic (at least 4 lines; 2 paragraph maximum)
Asst. Principal of Parsippany High School

Melissa Carucci '95

Our 2021-2021 school year began with a hybrid model. Our hybrid model consists of fully remote learners and two rotating cohorts attending every other week with virtual Fridays. Our teachers do a tremendous job teaching asynchronously (remote and in-person students at the same time). Communication is paramount to ensure the support, success, and wellbeing of all our students. We stress the importance of open lines of communication between students and teachers, teachers and parents, staff and administration, parents and administration, and students and parents. I believe we have done a wonderful job communicating, troubleshooting, and recognizing that without all stakeholders involved in the process we would not be able to create an optimal learning environment in a very challenging situation. It takes the whole team, it takes everyone’s ideas, it takes thinking outside the box. When all is said and done and we transition back to in-person learning, which we all believe is the best environment for all students, I believe we can say that we did everything we could to support our students, our staff and our families. As we work to make decisions, I continually ask myself, “Is this solution the best it can be? Have we examined every possibility?”

At the end of the day, we can say we have done the best we can today for our students knowing that there is always room for improvement. Some of our successes have been: continual support for our students and families in need, increased communication with families, Wi-Fi connectivity for each student, a Virtual National Honor Society Induction, a Virtual World Language Honor Society Induction, a Virtual Senior Awards Assembly, an in-person July graduation for the Class of 2020, a safe opening of a 2020-2021 in-person school year, a safe and much needed Fall sports season, and an In-Person 2020-2021 Honor Society Induction. With a rise of Covid cases among us, as a team, we will continue to work hard, collaborate, and develop solutions. This is not easy for anyone (students, teachers, staff, or parents) but we must learn from the past and continue to work hard to make the future better.

Principal of St. Vincent Academy

Joan Tyburczy-Rood '94

I have taught at Saint Vincent Academy for 18 years before accepting the position of Principal in the beginning the 2019-2020 school year. My first year as principal was exciting and challenging. However, no challenge riled the spread of COVID-19 and the mandatory shutdown of schools that happened almost overnight. With little time to prepare our teachers adapted our curriculum, learned new technology and supported students in brand new ways. At the end of this time our parents, students and faculty participated in an in-depth analysis of that experience in order to be better prepared for the future.

Our 2020-2021 school year has begun on a 100% remote schedule and we have created procedures that mimic the traditional school day, including ways to socialize with a live homeroom every morning and virtual extracurricular activities. The biggest challenge for me during this time was and continues to be ensuring that all of our students have devices, other than their phones, to work on and that they have reliable internet access and that teachers have the instruments they need at home to deliver personal, meaningful and challenging lessons remotely. Closing the digital divide is not as simple as securing funding with which to purchase laptops, Chromebooks and personal hotspots as most of these items are in high demand and on back order. We have to now take into account the unique family situations that are impacting our students’ educational experience because they are learning from home. My hope is that every student and parent feels that they are met with compassion and understanding and that they are receiving the same standard of excellence in their education that they have come to expect from Saint Vincent Academy.

SMHS Director of Athletics

Matt Stone '92

Last March, high school athletics changed in a way no one could have ever predicted. The entire 2020 Spring Season was cancelled and the State of New Jersey took the entire summer introducing new guidelines and protocols to return student athletes back for their Fall Seasons in a safe manner. Director of Athletics Matt Stone, who also serves on the North Jersey Interscholastic Executive Committee as President of the Meadowlands Division, has worked hand in hand with the NJSIAA, Bergen County and NJIC Conference to ensure our student athletes at St. Mary returned to play and are able to compete during this Fall Season. Temperature checks, face coverings, Covid form screening, awareness, spectator restrictions and guidelines, Covid education for coaches and countless meetings and webinars educating our community on the safe practices and protocols to get our athletes through the Fall Season and the remainder of the year have been on Coach Stone’s plate throughout the summer and into the school year. Also during the height of the pandemic in the spring and into the summer Coach Stone conducted 100 free basketball clinics through his personal Facebook page live each day and was featured on ABC Five O’Clock Eyewitness News with a story detailing his giving back to kids through the game of basketball and social media. St. Mary High School will continue to be a leader in High School sports following all guidelines put forth by the NJSIAA and continue to represent all of our alumni in a manner we all are proud to be a GAEL. WE ARE SM!

SMHS Math Department

Terry Buckley

The 2020-2021 school year at St. Mary High School only seems to have just gotten underway, but already it is set to be a test of both students and teachers alike. Teaching this year has been an exploration of a hybrid type of teaching which is completely new for all of us. It has presented with it its own challenges and obstacles, but I’ve been happy to see that we are making it work as best we can. Students both at home and in class have been cooperative and open-minded about this new type of class, and I’ve been proud to see how resilient the teaching staff has been. It has been a learning experience for me as well, as I’ve had to find abundant uses of effective technology in each class. I will say that it takes a greater amount of time and effort to do even the simplest assignments, both for students and teachers, with new hurdles to overcome each week. The hybrid class allows for students to participate in group study sessions and tutoring sessions after school, during evenings, and on weekends. Hopefully, we will all be going back to normal once we can all be safe. There is nothing I would like more than to see all my students in person after the pandemic is under control.

SMHS Science Department

Ken Tousignant

The 2020-21 school year has unprecedented challenges. One very generous Alumni has given SM brand new tech tools that will directly benefit SM’s academics and athletics programs: drones. Thank you Dr. Angelo Raccaniello for making this incredible impact on SMHS.

For the STEM Engineering Department at Saint Mary High School, the new challenges are accentuated by the fact that hands-on and group centered activities are especially tricky in this type of educational environment. This new venture will team up the department with the football program to provide our senior Engineering students the opportunity to learn first-hand how to operate unmanned videographic drones to collect game tape and aerial views of games, practices and events. This data will be used by the football team in each week’s preparations for the next opponent.

The implementation of these drones into our STEM Engineering curriculum is a welcome addition to a curriculum that thrives off the ability to work together in groups. Essential components include teamwork, patience and coachability. I think that with these generous gifts, the STEM Engineering program at Saint Mary will continue to develop creativity, innovation, and critical thinking skills of the 21st Century.

SMHS Director of Admissions

Joseph Ziaya '08

Here is an example of how SM teachers are adapting to both in-person and virtual learning. Director of Admissions and Religion teacher, Joe Ziaya ’08, is conducting one of his senior Religion classes in the SMHS Auditorium. Due to the size of some of his classes, he has to teach in the auditorium, lecture hall style. Equipped with a portable microphone and Google Meet, Joe presents his classes in a fun and dynamic way that helps his students understand the material during these tough times.