"…emboldening students to harness their own power to shape their futures and the world."

Pride Academy

Our Amazing Team

VICE PRINCIPAL of DEVELOPMENT and COMMUNITY RELATIONS : Ms. Rose Mary Dumenigo

Ms. Rose Mary Dumenigo considers being the first person in her family to graduate from college as her greatest achievement.  Ms. Dumenigo is a daughter of Cuban exiles and graduated from William Paterson College with a Bachelors in History.  After graduation, she joined Americorps, the National Service Program and later returned to Newark where she taught language arts, Spanish, and social studies to middle school and high school students over the course of thirteen years.  Along with a talented group of urban educators, Ms. Dumenigo co-founded Pride Academy Charter School and serves as Pride Academy’s Vice Principal.  Her passion is creating opportunities for community service, leadership, and empowerment.  “I am grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow along side our Pride scholars and families. They make me a better person every single day.”

VICE PRINCIPAL: Mr. Asgeir Ofstad

Mr. Asgeir Ofstad was born and raised in Trondheim, Norway. He attended a teacher academy in Norway for three years prior to finishing off his bachelor’s degree at Caldwell University in New Jersey. In 2008 he relocated to New Jersey and has worked at Pride Academy since 2010. At Pride, he has served as a math teacher, department chair, data manager, and currently as a vice principal. In addition to working at Pride, Mr. Ofstad has worked as a soccer coach both for New York Red Bulls and for Caldwell University Men’s Soccer.

DIRECTOR of SPECIAL EDUCATION: Mrs. Colleen Marash

Colleen Marash has been at Pride for the past eight years where she has enthusiastically dedicated her time teaching 5th grade math and leading the special education and mathematics department. Mrs Marash thrives on building relationships with colleagues, scholars and families and truly believes in the power of high expectations, transparent communication, and the continued desire to keep growing as a teacher and leader. She hopes all scholars and their families feel welcome and know that their children will be loved and supported to the best they can be, whatever it takes. She graduated Arizona State University in 2011 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education and then earned a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Caldwell University in 2016. Mrs Marash loves everything about data, fundraising, and writing in colored flair pens! Outside of school, she enjoys working out to get her “steps,” traveling with family and friends, reading and the beach.

DEAN of HIGH SCHOOL PLACEMENT:  Mr. Evan Geiger

Evan Geiger began his teaching career in 2008 as the 7th & 8th grade Social Studies Teacher at Pride Academy.  In 2011, Mr. Geiger became the Dean of High School Placement and later the Dean of Student Advancement. He received his B.A. in History and Education from Montclair State University in 2007 and his Masters in Curriculum in 2014 from Kean University.  Evan has been a coach on Pride Academy’s Flag Football Team since 2011 and is currently the advisor of Pride Academy’s Badminton Club.  He is passionate about assisting Pride’s 8th graders with the High School Placement process because he speaks to High School Admission Directors about the positive effect Pride’s scholars will have on their school community.  Evan enjoys having lunch with scholars to develop a better understanding of who they are as people.  In 2017, Mr. Geiger was awarded the Community Advocate Award from The Wight Foundation in Newark.  On his spare time, Evan enjoys playing with his dogs, going on vacation with his wife, cooking, and exercising.

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5th GRADE MATH CO-TEACHERS: Ms. Lora LoBello & Mr. David Paul

Lora LoBello attended Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, where she received a B.S. in Electronic Media. However, after she graduated, she realized this field is not where her passion lies. Ms. LoBello has been an educator since 2006, where she began her journey as a paraprofessional working with students with special needs. This is where her passion for teaching was set into motion. With patience, love, and understanding Ms. LoBello strives to greatly impact her students, both inside her classroom and out.

David Paul‘s favorite aspect of mathematics is problem-solving. David Paul is an innovator driven with passion. Apart from serving as Pride’s 5th grade math instructor, David is a singer, songwriter, actor, poet, and musician.  He is inspired by the Phil 4:13 verse ” I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Mr. Paul  believes success is having a goal set for yourself and accomplishing it. Therefore everyone’s success will be different and success can be measured by the amount of goals achieved.

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6th GRADE MATH CO-TEACHERS:  Mr. DiStefano & Ms. Loria

Dominic DiStefano is an enthusiastic math teacher who takes pride in his responsibility as a teacher to shape the young minds of the future. He is steadfast in his commitment to exhibit proper academic language and to continue to master his craft as a teacher. Mr. DiStefano has a B.A. in Mathematical Sciences with a Teaching Certificate for Grades K-12 from Kean University. He is committed to building strong relationships with scholars by offering his free time during lunch to spend time with students, as well as serving as the assistant coach of the flag football team. Besides school, Mr. DiStefano volunteers at his church and enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking. He truly believes success begins in the mind, and he strives daily to develop strong positive mindsets.

Our 6th grade math co-teacher Rachel Loria is committed to student success inside of the classroom and in life. A 2017 Honor’s graduate of Kean University, Rachel has a BA in Elementary Education and Psychology. She is currently a teacher at Pride Academy Charter School teaching sixth grade math. Ms. Loria was intrigued by Pride Academy instantly and was eager to be part of our community. She believes that student success is created through building a rapport with students, creating engaging lessons and learning in a positive environment. Ms. Loria’s hobbies include running, yoga, relaxing, watching TV and spending time with family. Nonetheless, Ms. Loria’s passion for teaching is surreal; she loves what she does and knew it was her passion since she was in second grade. She believes she has found a career where she doesn’t work a day in her life.

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7th GRADE MATH CO-TEACHERS:  Ms. Janet Manoti & Mr. Bolove Simon

Janet Manoti is a passionate middle school math teacher and dedicated to strengthening her scholars at Pride. She earned her Bachelors of Arts degree in Mathematics from New Jersey City University. Ms Manoti became a teacher in an urban school because she believes she can make a difference in the students’ lives.  Beyond Pride, she volunteers for the non-profit Global Connection in Kenya Foundation (GCK Foundation) that provides opportunities for students and educators to travel to Kenya to broaden their global perspectives.

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8th GRADE MATH CO-TEACHERS: Mr. Marc Hanna & Mr. Alexander Rose

Alexander Rose earned a Bachelor of Science in General Mathematics at The Pennsylvania State University.  He was originally headed towards a technology career, but decided to pursue his passion into mathematics after substituting for a geometry class where he immediately sensed he knew his purpose.  Mr. Rose’s favorite aspect of the school day is both the beginning and the end:  The beginning stands out as the entire Pride family walks in and prepares for something new for the students to discover, and the end resonates as Mr. Rose spends time reflecting on what was accomplished. During off time, Mr. Rose can be found running, playing soccer and video games, hiking, and reading.

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5th GRADE ELA CO-TEACHERS: Mr. Malcolm Nelson & Ms. Christine Papadopoulos

Christine Papadopoulos is a fourth year teacher, originally from New York City.  She has taught at the elementary and middle school levels in New York, teaching Language Arts and Resource Room.  She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English Education and a Master’s Degree in English Literature, both from CUNY Queens College.  In her previous schools, she assisted in writing curriculum, fundraising Box Tops and creating Creative Writing and Geography after-school clubs.

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6th GRADE ELA CO-TEACHERS: Mrs. Alexa James & Ms. Nicole Rivera

Nicole Rivera graduated in 2015 from Brookdale Community College with her Associates Degree in Education, and in 2017 from The College of New Jersey with her Bachelors Degree in English Secondary Education. A Dean List awardee, Ms. Rivera conducted research on interdisciplinary lessons in urban middle schools as a part of TCNJ’s Mentored Undergraduate Summer Experience. Even though this is Nicole’s first year of teaching, she is bringing all of herself to her students. Within the first couple of months at Pride Academy, Nicole has twice won the student-nominated Inspirational Teacher Award. She cares about her students on both an academic and a personal level, interacting with them in the classroom, recess, gym, and more. She runs the Anime and Comic Book Club which stems from her personal anime and comics passion that was born at the same age her students are in now. Nicole felt like Pride was her home from the moment she walked through our doors on her interview. She loves Pride with all her heart, as much as she loves true crime, her dogs, and naps.

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7th GRADE ELA CO-TEACHERS: Mrs. Nadine Cauthen & Mrs. Brittany Chambers

Nadine Cauthen seeks to create a learning environment that encourages critical thinking. She is also an advocate for utilizing culturally relevant content that mirrors students’ identity and lives. She loves using technology that will evoke and inspire student engagement and ideas. Mrs. Cauthen worked a corporate job for many years before becoming a teacher. She was inspired to change careers during her work as a curriculum writer. She received her certification in Elementary Education with a 5-8 Language Arts endorsement (2017) and her certification in special education (2019) from William Paterson University. Her passion is reading and sharing multicultural literature that reflects the diverse people in our lives. Mrs.Cauthen taught 4thgrade but has found her home at Pride working with middle-school students.

Brittany Chambers is passionate about educating students in underserved populations. She believes that exposure and access to information are the foundations to building personal affluence and generational prosperity. She is committed to helping students identify academic, economic and social justice barriers that impact their learning and providing supports to overcome them! She has taught in various classroom settings including co-teaching in an inclusion classroom for six years and also teaching independently for five. Mrs. Chambers has served on various teacher leadership teams and is currently the English Language Arts Department Chair. She enjoys connecting with her students and developing a personal relationship, with the aim to help them thrive not only academically, but also personally as they grow into adulthood.

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8th GRADE ELA CO-TEACHERS: Mrs. Laurissa Solar & Mr. Peter Zabor

Laurissa Solar is an educator committed to collaborative learning that pushes student boundaries and lifts the level of learning in the classroom. She has been teaching at Pride Academy for four years. She has Bachelor’s Degrees in both Special and English Education from Kean University (2012) in Union, New Jersey and a Master’s Degree in Inclusive and Special Education from the University of Edinburgh (2013) in Edinburgh, Scotland.  As a special education teacher, she provides inclusive and small-group instruction to students with special needs.

Peter Zabor is a 2nd year ELA teacher currently teaching our 8th grade. He is a graduate of Rutgers University and TCNJ where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature with a minor in Psychology and a Master of Arts in Secondary Education. He has dedicated himself to becoming a life-long educator and learner, and he strives to instill a similar desire in all of the students with whom he works. Mr. Zabor coordinates the Young Director’s Club, in addition to coaching the Boy’s Basketball team to the playoffs in the 2019 season. Besides reading and teaching, he has a love of languages and has studied Mandarin Chinese for many years.

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5th & 6th GRADE SOCIAL STUDIES TEACHER: Mrs. Elizabeth Bender

Elizabeth Bender has been teaching for 10 years and is very passionate about her social studies! She aims to infuse creativity and movement into her lessons daily and seeks to be culturally responsive in her topics and units. She believes that as students learn to analyze the past, they will be better equipped to make decisions in the future that help make our world a better place.  A graduate of Gettysburg College with a BA in History, Elizabeth completed a year of service with Americorps City Year New York before deciding to become a teacher. Elizabeth has a special place in her heart for social history, women’s history, and prehistory.

6th & 7th GRADE SOCIAL STUDIES TEACHER: Mrs. Aimee Brown

An 11-year social studies teaching veteran who has been at Pride since its opening year, Aimee Brown currently teaches 6th grade world history and 7th grade early American history. Mrs. Brown has history and education degrees from Kean University and works hard to infuse literacy skills in all lessons. She teaches about historical eras and events from a variety of cultural perspectives. By relying heavily on primary sources to teach about the past, Mrs. Brown is able to make these eras and events come to life for our scholars.


5th-8th GRADE ELA RESOURCE ROOM TEACHER: Mrs. Patricia Valatka

Patricia Valatka has a B.A. in English Literature from Rutgers University, an M.A.T in Secondary English and Teacher of Students with Disability, as well as a M.A. in English Literature from Montclair State University. Ms. Valatka was a Paul Robeson scholar during her time at Rutgers and graduated Cum Laude. She is passionate about English education and considers it a social justice issue, especially for students of color. She is an avid gamer, lover of anime, and a dedicated reader. She also loves writing short fiction and watching and analyzing plays. Ms. Valatka chose Pride Academy because so many of Pride’s Core Values, and its mission in general, align with her own beliefs and values about public education. Pride’s focus on student empowerment, celebrating diversity and students of color, and social justice in school embody what Ms. Valatka values most and wants to see expand in public education. Ms. Valatka became a teacher, specifically a Special Education teacher, because of the struggles of her friends and family members who received Special Education services in school. She saw how hard it was to find quality educational opportunities and Special Education services for those close to her. She believes that students who receive Special Education services deserve the best and most highly trained teachers.  Ms. Valatka’s favorite aspect of the school day is the Enrichment period. In this highly focus period of small group and one-on-one learning, Ms. Valatka gets to delve into topics and subjects that expand students’ and her own knowledge of various academic subjects. She also has a chance to get to know students on a more individual level during this small group instruction period. Ms. Valatka is passionate about all of her activities and interests, whether it be 18th- Century Literature or her three cats.

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5th-8th PERFORMING ARTS DANCE TEACHER: Ms. Jayne Gendreau

A student of dance for over 20 years, Jayne Gendreau has been teaching multiple forms of dance for 8 years. Her training has primarily focused on ballet, modern, contemporary, jazz, and musical theatre, but Ms. Gendreau has experience in most dance styles including tap, African Dance, ballroom, and acro. In 2015, Ms. Gendreau graduated from Montclair State University with a BA in Dance Education with cum laude standing. While attending Montclair, she performed works by Martha Graham, José Limon, Christian Von Howard, Anna Sokolow, Maxine Steinman, and Lynne Grossman. Along with her vast performance background, Ms. Gendreau has taught children 3-18 years of age of all different skill levels, including children with special needs. Recently, Ms. Gendreau developed Pride Academy Charter School’s first Dance Program.  Ms. Gendreau enjoys hiking, practicing yoga, fitness, and continuing her own dance education.  She believes the Fine Arts and Performing Arts should be accessible to all children.

5th-8th PHYSICAL EDUCATION/HEALTH TEACHER: Mr. Ozzie Altamirano

As Pride Academy’s Physical education/Health instructor, Ozzie Altamirano commits himself to inspiring students of all skill levels to be as physically active as possible. Ozzie earned his B.S in Exercise and Movement Science from William Paterson University along with a certification in Health. Ozzie has taught Physical Education/Health for the past 10 years at the middle school level. He has coached various sports/activities, has served as a mentor to young men in years past, and bonds with students during his lunch period. Ozzie is passionate about fitness and strives to spread the 5 components of fitness to his students as well as building strong social skills and sportsmanship along the way. Mr. Altamirano enjoys to spend his free time exercising and running early in the morning, searching for new food recipes, listening to podcasts, and spending his time with his wife and two kids.

5th-8th SPANISH TEACHER: Ms. Lisa Charussilapa

Lisa Charussilapa is an 8-year veteran Spanish teacher and 6th grade homeroom teacher. She earned her undergraduate degrees at Pennsylvania State University in World Languages, Spanish, and International Studies. She recently earned her Masters Degree in Special Education at Montclair State University. Besides teaching Spanish, Ms. Charussilapa is committed to instilling routines, structure, and discipline within all of her classes and interactions with every single student to enhance their futures.

5th-8th TECHNOLOGY TEACHER: Mrs. Sue Becker

Sue Becker, one of the founding teachers of Pride Academy, has served as technology teacher and Director of Technology at private and public schools for 20 years and at Pride since its inception ten years ago. Prior to teaching, she worked in film and television production. She holds a BA from Clark University and a Certificate in Media Management from the New School. She is interested in the impact media has on people, and on helping people of all ages use technology well. Her favorite spare time activities include biking, kayaking, reading and making pottery

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7th & 8th GRADE SOCIAL WORKER: Tiffany Walker

Tiffany Walker began her career creating, implementing and evaluating youth development and health advocacy programs for non-profit organizations, public school districts, and major universities. As a result of her deep personal commitment to advocate for mental health literacy in vulnerable communities, she later shifted her career focus to counseling. Tiffany completed her Master’s degree from Columbia University School of Social Work and is licensed to practice Social Work in the state of New Jersey. Tiffany is also a certified Mental Health First Aid Instructor. She enjoys working with youth providing individual and group and family therapy. She is also the founder and Executive Director of Pathways Toward Peace, a NJ based non-profit whose mission is to provide mental health training to faith and community-based organizations.

PARAPROFESSIONAL: Mrs. Amy Aracena

Amy Aracena has been a special education support staff at Pride Academy since September of 2017 and is also a Social Work intern at our school. She will be earning her bachelor’s degree in May at Rutgers University Newark and is majoring in Social Work and Sociology, with a minor in Psychology. She is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, and the Tau Sigma National Honor Society.  Mrs. Aracena was the Newark Teacher’s Union Presidential Scholarship recipient in 2016 and was awarded the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and Newark Chancellor Scholarships from 2017-2019. She will be attending Fordham for a master’s degree in Social Work in the fall.

ACADEMIC SUPPORT: Mrs. Amanda Quinn

After spending time home with her young children, Amanda Quinn is back with Pride Academy serving as a full-time substitute teacher.  A co-founder of Pride, Mrs. Quinn began her teaching career in Newark as a language arts teacher via the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. During her subsequent 14 year teaching career in Newark and East Orange, she has served as a 5th, 7th, and 8th grade ELA teacher, Director of Curriculum, Coordinator of Professional Development, and Coordinator of Outdoor Education. She graduated from St. Joseph’s University as a member of the Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society, the Alpha Sigma Nu Jesuit Honor Society, and the winner of the Clinton Presidential National Service Award. She is thrilled to be able to support the Pride family of students, parents, and teachers onsite once more.