Van Holten Teacher and Educational Services Professional are honored

Van Holten Teacher and Educational Services Professional are honored

The pride of the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District was honored at the Staff Recognition Reception on Tuesday, May 2.

The highly popular ceremony, which drew over 150 administrators, board of education members, staff and teachers as well as families from the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District, was held at the Somerville Elks Lodge.

The event was held to honor the 2022-2023 Governor’s Teachers of the Year and the Governor’s Educational Services Professionals for all 11 schools in the school district.

A total of 22 staffers—two from each school–were honored for their achievements and passion as members of the school district.

The ceremony was funded by the Bridgewater-Raritan Education Association (BREA) and was held for the first time at the Elks Lodge after the previous ceremonies were performed at Bridgewater-Raritan High School cafeteria.

Superintendent Bob Beers opened the festivities with his usual upbeat remarks.

“It is our great pleasure to honor the dedication to your craft that you do every day,” Superintendent Beers announced. “Thank you for the dedication and impact that you have on our children.”

He continued.

“Teaching is a lifestyle and you do need the support of your family. We thank your families for that support.”

Laura Kress, the President of the Bridgewater-Raritan Education Association, followed Superintendent Beers to greet the award winners and the audience.

“This ceremony is our (BREA) most pleasurable event,” Ms. Kress revealed. “Thank you to Suzanne (Klos) for putting this on.”

Ms. Klos’ title is Executive Secretary to the Superintendent but she is arguably one of the school district’s most valuable staff members.

She coordinated the ceremony and the new venue for the 2023 reception was well received by all.

Ms. Kress, a Bridgewater-Raritan Middle School Teacher, praised her peers.

“I look at our primary school teachers and what a miracle that they do to teach our kids to read. It is amazing and we teach more than the curriculum. We teach how to forgive and how to have compassion. Life’s lessons help us all grow,” she explained. “We learn from our students and you all play a key role.”

Ms. Kress added:

“You all are the best of the best.”

Each of the 11 school principals introduced their Teacher of the Year and their Educational Services Professionals of the Year.

Members of the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District Board of Education assisted with the presentation of gifts to the recipients.

 Principal Matt Lembo of the Milltown Primary School could not attend the affair but he was substituted at the podium by Dr. Dan Fonder, the Assistant Superintendent for Personnel, who introduced the two recipients from that school.

Below are the profiles of the Van Holten Primary School Teacher of the Year, Matthew Swinsburg, and the Educational Services Professional of the Year, Shawn Danus.

Matthew Swinsburg

Van Holten Primary School
Grade 3 Teacher


Mr. Matthew Swinsburg is a veteran teacher that displays the passion and enthusiasm of a first-year teacher. He has taught his entire twenty-three-year career in third grade at Van Holten Primary School. His knowledge of curriculum and instruction is deep. He presents curriculum in multiple ways that engages students in the learning process. Over the years, his teaching style and commitment to his students have earned him the greatest admiration of his students, their parents and his colleagues.The success of any school year starts in the summer for Mr. Swinsburg. He will communicate with his co-teacher (if he has one for that year) to discuss ideas, plans or strategies for their classroom during the summer months. When the school opens to begin setting up classrooms,

Mr. Swinsburg is always one of the very first teachers to arrive on campus. He begins preparing for the first day by organizing furniture, materials, and supplies for his students. New curriculum is reviewed with lessons and units developed to start the year. Mr. Swinsburg spends time examining student files to gather information to familiarize himself with his new students and their needs. He plans ice breaker and team building activities to build relationships between all members of his classroom community. When students enter the room for the very first time they are welcomed by Mr. Swinsburg. By the end of the first day, any nervousness that exists with students is gone and the excitement for what is to come builds.

Mr. Swinsburg is a leader among his third grade team. He leads the annual Chick Hatching project and has led our building Butterfly Garden. He lends a hand helping others on his team with understanding and applying new curriculum initiatives. He has had multiple co-teachers during his career. He has collaborated with each one as a 50/50 partner to create a positive professional relationship that supports student learning. Mr. Swinsburg participates with school PTO events such as our annual Van Holten Parent/Teacher Volleyball Game, Barnes and Noble Reading Night and Pasta Night.

As Mr. Swinsburg states, “It feels I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, although that’s not entirely true. When I was little I wanted to be a police officer or firefighter like many other little ones, but then it changed. I remember the exact moment. I was in ninth grade and got a part-time job working at the after-school program at John F. Kennedy School. It was then that it clicked. I knew I wanted to work with kids. Their everlasting energy and fun-loving attitude was incredibly contagious. In my high school yearbook they asked the seniors, where do you see yourself in 10 years? My response: Back here teaching your children.  Luckily enough, that statement ended up being true. Here I am, back teaching in the same district I attended as a student. While the past 23 years has had its share of ups-and-downs, I wouldn’t change a thing. Every single day, I try to bring that everlasting energy and fun-loving attitude that I discovered when I was in ninth grade to my students. I want it to be contagious for them. Hopefully, by doing this, I’m paying it forward and inspiring my students to pursue their own interests with the same energy and positive attitude that I start with every day.”

Over the years, Mr. Swinsburg has connected with so many of his students. Whether it be a 5th grader or a senior in high school, every year students return to visit their special third grade teacher. They come back for many reasons ranging from Mr. Swinsburg made learning fun, special activities in his classroom, taught them multiplication or helped them overcome a specific challenge. They all come back to say “Thank you” and wish Mr. Swinsburg well.

Good teachers can teach anybody. The great teachers can reach and teach the most difficult. They change people’s lives. Mr. Swinsburg is a great teacher! He has changed the lives of many students in his career, especially those that have needed him most. Mr. Swinsburg frequently rises to the challenges to change a child’s life forever, and the Van Holten School community is proud to recognize him as our Governor’s Teacher of the Year recipient for the 2022-2023 school year.


Shawn Danus

Van Holten Primary School
Intervention Specialist

 Mrs. Shawn Danus has taught fifteen of her twenty-four-year career here in the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District. During her career, she has taught kindergarten, first grade and reading recovery. She is currently an intervention specialist teacher who is exceptional in providing instruction to students who need targeted language arts and/or math skills remediation. Her warm, caring approach helps her to connect with students quickly. This is not always an easy task for students who might not see themselves as smart or find learning hard. Each day, Mrs. Danus focuses on each student having success. Each success becomes a building block for the next lesson. She cheers for them when they meet a target while reminding them there is still hard work ahead.

Her students are motivated by her approach and gain the confidence to take on the next challenge. Students go home to share with their parents about their success in Mrs. Danus’ class from that day. Many times students share a book that they read on their own for the very first time.

Mrs. Danus is a highly-trained teacher. She has a deep understanding of district curriculum and state standards. Having been trained as a Reading Recovery teacher earlier in her career, Mrs. Danus is well versed in literacy instruction. Since that time, she has expanded her understanding of literacy instruction through her work and training with Leveled Literacy, Sonday and Wilson reading programs. Her lessons are focused based on a specific objective(s). These objectives are clearly communicated to her students so they know the purpose of any lesson. Learning activities are multi-sensory, progress from the simple to the more complex, and provide multiple avenues for student practice.

Mrs. Danus is a staunch advocate for students for both their academic needs and well-being. Academically, she participates in MTSS meetings to discuss interventions and services that would benefit a student. She asks questions for further information or will share her own collected assessment data to help develop the next steps to support the student. Mrs. Danus has a couple of students with food insecurity issues. The students often come to school hungry. She immediately reached out to the school counselor, nurse and building administration to share and find solutions for these students. In the end, a solution was determined to help these students.Last year,

Mrs. Danus had a student where the parent requested the child be retained. The classroom teacher supported the idea to a certain extent. Mrs. Danus disagreed with that recommendation. It was not that she advocated that the student should not be retained that was special. It was her tireless work and effort that she devoted to supporting this student through Tier 3 interventions on a daily basis that was remarkable. A plan was developed, followed and evaluated on an ongoing basis. Mrs. Danus collaborated with the student’s classroom teacher regularly so that the two could maximize their instructional time. She also communicated with the student’s parents to share progress as well as provide further practice that could be done at home. At the end of the year, the student made huge gains in their learning. The suggestion of retaining this student for the next school year was never brought forward by any individual again. 

Mrs. Danus is a vital member of Van Holten’s Intervention Specialist team. She works with that team, our ETS and the building administration to discuss student services. She will collaborate with teachers to share advice, suggestions or interventions to try in the classroom. As the school year progresses, so do the needs of the students. Our intervention specialists often have to adjust their schedules and student caseloads in order to meet the needs of the students requiring services. Mrs. Danus never blinks. She just responds with “Let me know what you need me to do.”

Mrs. Danus is a gifted teacher who has and will continue to significantly impact students in need of support. She works tirelessly in each student’s best interest so they never fall through the cracks. The Van Holten School community is proud to recognize Mrs. Danus as our Educational Services Professional for 2022-2023 school year!


Our award winners from each of the 11 schools in the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District are listed below. Their teaching/staff position is listed after their name.



Meghan De La Rosa, English as a Second Language



Kathryn Kaye, Special Education Teacher



Abigail Goldstein, Grade 2 Teacher



Tammy Miller, Grade 4 Teacher



Robert Cirino, Health and Physical Education Teacher



Danielle Caulfied, Grade 1 Teacher


Matthew Swinsburg, Grade 3 Teacher



Deborah Ronning, Grade 5 Teacher



Carmelina Geiger, Grade 5 Teacher



Sarah Martin, English/Language Arts Teacher



James Olivola, Teacher of Mathematics




Maryellen Filep, Learning Disabilities Teaching Consultant



Katherine Rayburn, Media Specialist



Gretchen English, School Nurse



Sharon Fargo, Speech Language Specialist



Linda O’Brien, Intervention Specialist



Theresa Torraca-Sheats, Instructional Specialist



Shawn Danus, Intervention Specialist



Alice Piscadlo, School Counselor



Kinjal Barad, Instructional Assistant



Kelley Beahan, Learning Disabilities Teaching Consultant



Erin Lowman, School Psychologist

Below is a link that contains the Staff Recognition Reception program, which includes the bios on all 22 award winners, 

2022-2023 Staff Recognition Award Booklet