Highland Staff Bios
Mrs. Adams has been working in Manchester schools since the year 2000. She is married and has three adult children who all attended Manchester Schools. In her spare time she likes to make quilts, read, decorate her house for the different seasons, and garden. Her favoirte place to be is the beach.
I have been teaching art in Manchester since 2001. I grew up in Miami, Florida and moved to New York to attend Pratt Institute in Brooklyn after winning the Scholastics Art and Writing contest with a full tuition scholarship. I graduated with a Bachelor's of Fine Arts with Honors for Art Education and a Minor in ceramics. I have earned my Master of Arts in Liberal Sciences from Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT in 2013. I was a giftware product designer for 6 years before becoming a full time art teacher. The medium I mainly worked with was glass. I experimented with sand blasting glass, designing stained glass, and programmed a water jet machine to cut large sheets of glass art pieces. I designed prototypes of sculptures, trophies, menorahs, and other high end gift products that sold all over the country. I love teaching art and sharing my enthusiasm of the creative problem solving process. Teaching kids to believe in the beauty of their dreams and to be brave decision makers in all things that they do.
My family consists of my husband Clement, my son Cyle, my daughter Charlize and our two loveable cats Princess Leia and Yoda. I love the creative process and apply it to everything in my life. Some of my passions are painting with all different media but lately it has been mainly watercolor. Some of my favorite things to do are: printmaking, sculpting, photography, jewelry making, ceramics, cooking, gardening, mountain biking, going to the ocean, cross country skiing and being silly with my family. Learning never stops and inspiration is everywhere. My goal is to be forever curious and explore all kinds of creative endeavors. Your job as an art student is to expose yourself to all of the wonderful things in our world. Exposure and appreciation to all of the various cultures in our world. Going to museums and seeing historical artifacts and art pieces. Experience nature, see various animals and plants. The more you experience the more you can choose from to be influenced by and apply to your work. Everyone has the creative potential!
Mrs. Blume has always wanted to be a teacher and is excited to be teaching second grade here at Highland Park School! Prior to coming to Highland Park, she taught in Vernon and for ten plus years she taught pre-school in South Windsor.
Mrs. Blume attended Eastern Connecticut State University, where she met Mr. Blume, and earned a B.S. degree in Early Elementary Education. Mrs. Blume lives in Vernon with her husband and their two children, Timothy and Allie. She also shares her home with their cat Sox. When Mrs. Blume isn’t on a sporting field cheering on her children, you can find her curled up with a good book or scrapbooking. Mrs. Blume’s favorite place to be, beside the classroom, is walking on the beaches of Maine searching for sea glass and listening to the waves crash along the shore.
Cassie Budman is currently the Remedial Reading Specialist at HPS and Buckley School. Prior to this position, she taught Kindergarten at Buckley School and third grade at Robertson School. She loves being part of the Manchester community! Before coming to Manchester, she received her Bachelor’s and Masters degree from the University of Connecticut. Most recently, Mrs. Budman received her 102 certification from Albertus Magnus College.
Mrs. Budman enjoys spending time with her husband, baking and exercising. She also has three adorable nieces!
Jamie Carey is a 4th grade teacher at Highland Park School. She previously taught 5th grade for 3 years in Watertown, CT. Jamie grew up in Glastonbury, CT with her mother, father and older sister. She went to the University of Connecticut at Storrs for her Bachelors and Masters degrees in Elementary Education (GO HUSKIES!). Jamie currently lives in Vernon, CT and is loving every minute of working at Highland Park School!
Outside of school, Jamie loves to sing and even spends her free time singing in a country band! She also loves to travel. Jamie frequently travels to beautiful Washington State to visit friends and family that live out there.
Mrs. Chenette is one of the Kindergarten teachers at Highland Park School. She received her degree from Wheelock College in Boston, Massachusetts. The four years in Boston, cemented her love of that city!
She started her teaching career in Manchester school system. Her first two years were at Highland Park and Robertson School, team teaching in both Special Education preschool classrooms. She continued her teaching career at Nathan Hale School and Buckley School teaching Head Start for two years. She moved up to first grade at Washington School for five years. She finally stopped packing her things and came back to Highland Park, teaching the grade she loves, Kindergarten!
Mrs. Chenette resides in Manchester with her husband and two children. When she is relaxing, you can find Mrs. Chenette in her kitchen baking sweets. She also enjoys sewing, watching old movies and listening to her favorite band, The Who.
Mrs. Cohen is a newlywed, mother of 3, step-mom of 2 and grandmother of 1! She has worked as a school nurse at Washington, CCGC and Bentley Alternative Education and currently at Highland Park. She has also practiced nursing at the UCONN Health Center, Visiting Nurse Home Care, Manchester Memorial Hospital and Aetna Insurance. Her hobbies include going to the gym, gardening, and walking with her dog and friends!
She loves being home with her husband, children, family and friends. She is passionate about working with children, and finds happiness in both her personal life and professional life because she loves doing what she does!
John has been with the Manchester Public Schools for the past 18 years. He is the proud father of Sophia who is 6 years old and just started second grade! They are always on the move, whether it's a day trip to Watch Hill, Southwick Zoo or even Yankee Stadium...they love to travel. John is an avid reader, upwards of 15 books a year, mostly non-fiction and usually more than one at a time.
I bet you didn’t know that Ms. De Angelis originally earned a degree in Asian Studies! She spent time in China, where she fell in love with teaching.
She began teaching in Manchester in March of 1997. After spending two years in 5th grade at Washington School, she spent 14 years teaching 5th grade here at Highland Park. Ms. D. (as the kiddos call her), is now the Numeracy Coach at Highland. In this role, she works with teachers to best meet the math needs of all of their learners. She also works with Math Olympians, the School Store, the HPS Popcorn Enterprise, and the HPS Yearbook Committee. Ms. D. is the PR person for HPS, the PTA Co-President (serving with Mrs. Stokes), and a member of several other committees.
Ms. De Angelis lives in South Windsor with her partner, Erin, and their two daughters, Riley and Reagan. They all live with their two rescue puppies, Rex and Ruby, and the world’s oldest goldfish, Sally (poor Rex… the only male in a house full of females!). She enjoys watching her girls participating in their many activities (soccer, basketball, swim, cheer, CAST, Girl Scouts, tumbling, etc) and listening to them play their instruments. She is Riley’s Girl Scout Troop Leader and Riley’s cheer coach… Go, Panthers! It is her hope that her girls will continue to play and love the sport of soccer as she is the Illing Girls’ Soccer Coach.
In her free time (yeah, right???), she likes to read and relax with family and friends.
Ms. De Angelis was honored to have been recognized as the HPS Teacher of the Year during the 2013-14 School Year.
Mrs. DeLany has been teaching at Highland Park School for 14 years. She started in third grade and moved to first grade four years ago. She loves to watch the students become readers throughout the year.
Mrs. DeLany lives with her husband Dan who is an engineer, her daughter Mia who is 3, and her son Sam who is 1. She loves to be home and spend time with her family. In her free time, she loves to bake, cook and play with her kids. Mia and Sam love to sing, and Mrs. DeLany does too.
Mrs. Delissio attended St. Joseph College and Central Connecticut State University. She started at Highland Park School in 1993 teaching third grade, moved to second grade, and is now back in third grade. Her outside of school hobby is scrapbooking. She also enjoys reading at the beach.
She is married to Mr. Delissio who is a builder and avid golfer. Their two daughters love to dance. Lauren is also a volleyball player who plays the alto saxophone. Brooke is also a cheerleader who plays the flute. As a family they enjoy vacationing in Cape Cod and using their jet ski.
Mrs. Dignazio-Drost (Mrs. D) is the School Psychologist at Highland Park Elementary School. This is her third year as a School Psychologist in Manchester. She was previously split between Waddell Elementary and Highland Park, but is very excited to be only at Highland Park this year.
Before coming to Manchester, Mrs. D. earned her B.A. degree in Psychology and M.S. degree in School Psychology from the University of Hartford. While pursuing both her B.A. and M.S., Mrs. D. worked at a therapeutic extended day treatment program at Klingberg Family Centers working with children and families.
Mrs. D. is married and currently lives in New Britain, CT. Mrs. D. has two beautiful children, Jamyson and Taylar, and two dogs, Charlie and Chloe. In her free time she likes to read, spend time with her family and friends, and go to the beach.
Mrs. Janice Foster (on the left) is 50% Native American. She has been with MFS for 17 years of which 5 have been with HPS. She has been married for 35 years and has 3 grown boys. She enjoys boating and hates cold weather and snow!
Diane Gawlinsk was born in Manchester and graduated from Manchester High School. She holds a bachelors degree in Elementary and Special education from Keene State College. She taught in New Britain for three and half years and was hired as a reading tutor in Manchester in 1997.
She now lives in South Windsor with her husband and son.She enjoys spending time with her family including five grandchildren.She enjoys spending her summers at the beach in Maine.
I have been a Manchester resident for the past 19 years, and before that I lived in South Windsor. I graduated from CCSU with a bachelor degree in Management Information System, with honors. I enjoy working with children and have been working at HPS since 2012. First as a building sub and the past 2 years as a tutor.
My family includes my husband and three boys. All my boys attended HPS. My two older ones are attending Uconn, Storrs, and my youngest is a freshman in high school. I love to learn new things and enjoy reading non-fiction books, drawing, and painting. I love to make big sand castles and sand sculptures at the beach.
Mrs. Gillis has taught Kindergarten, First, and Second Grade in Manchester since 1993.
She lives in Ellington with her husband Bob, daughters Julia and Olivia, and yellow lab rescue dogs Opie and Morgan.
She enjoys practicing yoga, walking her dogs, and traveling whenever and wherever she can.
Francine Harrell is our school secretary at Highland Park. She was born and raised in Long Island, New York, which explains her love for all New York sports teams!!!!!!
Francine worked in the insurance field as a licensed broker, prior to moving to Connecticut. She had previously worked at RHAM Middle School in Hebron, and in district at Bennet Middle School, Illing Middle School, Nathan Hale Elementary School, and now of course, at the newly renovated “Home of the Huskies”!
Mrs. Harrell is married and has two grown children in college. Her daughter is 21, and currently lives in New York. Her son is 18 and attends school in state. When not at work, Francine enjoys spending time with family and friends, even if it involves frequent trips to New York on weekends to see her daughter or sister.
Michael Hayden is the General Music teacher for all grades and the director of the 5th grade Chorus at Highland Park School. Michael was born in Manchester, Connecticut and raised on School Street, not far from Highland Park. He is a graduate of Nathan Hale Elementary School, Bennet Middle School, and Manchester High School.
He holds an Associate of Arts in Music from Manchester Community College, a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Jazz Studies from Central Connecticut State University, and a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from Wesleyan University.
Teaching is a third career for Mr. Hayden, having previously been a board certified Optician, and a full time professional musician.
Mr. Hayden has recorded for Columbia Records with the country rock band “Silverado” and toured with rock legends “Steppenwolf”. He has appeared on numerous recordings including; “Planet of the Apes”, radio and TV commercials, movie sound tracks and drum tracks for a wide variety of artists. He maintains a busy playing schedule on week-ends and vacation time.
He is the founder and President of The Ray Beller Music Scholarship, awarded every year to a Manchester, Connecticut music student.
Mr. Hayden is a former Boy Scout and was awarded the Honor Medal for saving life.
He is married to his wife Cathy. They have a daughter and two grandchildren and live currently in South Windsor.
Sabrina Hosmer is a speech-language pathologist working at Highland Park and Buckley this year. She was born 3000 miles away in Lima, Peru, where she learned Spanish and English. She studied at the University of Connecticut and currently lives next to the campus with her husband, the light of her life! Mrs. Hosmer enjoys running, singing, and cheering at the top of her lungs. Her favorite books include If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, the Redwall series, and the Princess Bride. She is learning how to cook meals for her family and about playing different sports. Her favorite food is anything her mom makes, including meat, potatoes, and veggies. Mrs. Hosmer is proud to be a Highland Park Husky!
Ms. Jordan is the 4th and 5th grade orchestra teacher here at Highland Park as well as four other elementary schools in Manchester. This is her first year in Manchester, and has previously taught orchestra in Massachusetts and Connecticut to students in grades 3-12. She grew up in a musical family with her parents and sister, her dad plays piano, and her older sister sings and plays cello. Ms. Jordan started playing viola in 4th grade; she also plays piano, electric violin, sings, and various other instruments. She studied Music Education at UConn and played viola in the orchestra as well as baritone horn in the marching band. Ms. Jordan also attended Gordon College where she earned her Master’s Degree. In her free time she enjoys traveling, cooking, and all things related to music.
My name is Jill Kilgus and I am in my 18th year of teaching here in Manchester! This is my 8th year in Kindergarten, prior to that I taught 2nd and 3rd grades. I have also taught at Washington, Waddell, and Buckley Schools!
I live right here in Manchester where my two children also attend school. Olivia is in 6th grade at Bennet. She loves to act, dance, swim, play soccer, and watch episodes of “Full House.” Aiden is in 3rd grade at Buckley. He enjoys all things Star Wars and building with Legos. We have so many Legos in my house, that I joke we could build an addition on our house with Lego bricks!
In my free time, I enjoy gardening. I have flower, herb, and vegetable gardens. This year my tomatoes really did well, especially my new variety of yellow tomatoes called “lemon boy.” I also have a history club with my daughter, Olivia. We visit many historical homes and sites in the area. This summer we made a special trip to the Newport Mansions in Rhode Island.
Did you know…………I LOVE TATTOOS…………..but I do not have one!
Mrs. Klemonski started her teaching career in 2005. She taught third grade for one year at Anna Reynolds School in Newington, and then she came to Highland Park where she taught first grade for one year before going back to third grade. Prior to getting her own classroom, she worked as a substitute teacher in Bridgeport, Plainville, and Bristol. Mrs. Klemonski completed an internship in Fairfield Public Schools. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and Elementary Education, as well as her Masters of Teaching in Reading, from Sacred Heart University.
You may remember Mrs. Klemonski as Miss Bialecki. It was a warm spring day when Mr. Klemonski came into her class and proposed to her in front of all of the third graders during a science lesson! Now she and Mr. Klemonski have their first son, Ryan who is their pride and joy and keeps them very busy!
Mrs. Klemonski loves spending time with loved ones, going to the beach or playing in the pool, and scrapbooking. Her favorite color is hot pink, and her favorite food is chewy, gooey brownies!
Laura Kowaleski teaches 5th grade at Highland Park School. This is her 6th year teaching in Manchester. She went to UCONN for her bachelor’s degree, and Saint Joseph College for her Master’s degree. Laura currently lives in South Windsor with her husband and two sons, Jacob and Ethan. She loves to spend time outdoors and with family and friends.
This is my 23rd year teaching. I graduated from UConn in 1992. My first teaching job was in the beautiful town of Kent, CT where I taught PE in a K-8 school for 5 years. I wanted to return to Manchester so I was hired to teach Health and Drug Education at MHS. I stayed at MHS for 10 years before returning to my true passion of teaching elementary PE. In the last 7 years I have taught PE at Nathan Hale, Bowers, Buckley, and the Manchester Preschool Building. I love teaching at HPS and feel very fortunate to be apart of the staff that re-opened the school in 2012. These past two years have been a very rewarding experience.
I was married in 2002 and have two sons, Jack age 10 and Joey age 9. They attend Buckley School. My husband Eric, teaches Technology Education at MHS. Our favorite family activities include: camping, attending UConn football games, watching the Red Sox, playing kickball and knockout, and reading Harry Potter.
I love to exercise and being physically fit. I start off each day by going to the gym before school. By taking care of my body and mind each day, I feel better prepared to be the best mother, wife, friend, and PE Teacher I can be for all the important people in my life. My hope is that I can pass on the desire to be physically fit to Jack and Joey and HPS's students so they can enjoy a long healthy life with family and friends.
Mrs. Kathy Luko is one of our special education paras. She has been a para in Manchester for 25 years and has been at Highland for the last 20 years.
She grew up in East Hartford and moved to Manchester 28 years ago when she got married. She lives with her husband, Rick, and her cat named Silly. In her spare time she likes to draw and read. In the summer, she likes to swim and do work in the yard.
Laurie Ochnio has been a special education teacher in Manchester for 35 years. She started her teaching career at Highland Park in 1978. When Highland Park closed for the first time, she was transferred to Nathan Hale School. When Nathan Hale closed, she came back to Highland Park!
Mrs. Ochnio was born and raised in Manchester. She attended Bowers School, Illing and MHS. She graduated from Central Connecticut State University with her Bacholers of Science and Master's Degrees.
Mrs. Ochnio is married and has two sons. Her oldest son is 28 and works in New York City. Her youngest son graduated from college in 2013. He just started his first job after graduation.
When she is not teaching or working on school work she loves to read and go out for long walks. Mrs. Ochnio's favorite vacation is going on a cruise with her family!
Mrs. Papsun lives in Ellington, CT with her husband and very mischievious cat, Waldo. She has been teaching in Manchester for four years and loves fifth grade! Before coming to Manchester, she got both her Masters and Bachelor’s degrees at the NEAG School of Education and the University of Connecticut. She enjoys anything artsy, music, singing and gardening. She also loves to read with a nice cup of tea.
Mr. Michael Pearce
Michael Pearce, our curriculum coach for literacy, has a bachelor’s degree in finance from Iona College and spent close to 9 years on Wall Street before making the transition to education. He earned a master’s degree in elementary education also from Iona and began his teaching career as a fifth grade teacher on the lower east side of Manhattan.
In his tenure as a teacher, he has taught third, fourth, and fifth grade. Michael received his sixth year certificate in educational leadership from Central Connecticut State University and completed course work at Albertus Magnus College to obtain his certification in remedial reading.
13 of his 16 years in Manchester have been here at Highland Park; he had a brief stint as assistant principal last year at Buckley and Nathan Hale Schools.
Married with two children, Michael enjoys walking to school from his home right on Porter Street.
Ms. Pont is the newest Kindergarten teacher at Highland Park, and is very excited to be a Highland Husky! Ms. Pont joined Manchester schools for the Summer Advantage Academy, and returned to join the Kindergarten team this fall. She earned her Bachelor's and Master's degrees at UConn and loved attending UConn basketball games. Ms. Pont previously worked in Newington schools.
When she is not at school, she can be found watching football, spending time with her family, or shopping at Target (her favorite store). Ms. Pont also enjoys traveling, especially to visit family and friends.
Mrs. Randazzo is an enrichment program teacher in the C.O.R.E. program. C.O.R.E. stands for: Creativity, Opportunity, Resources and Engagement and it is a district wide program for gifted/talented students in grades 3-8 in Manchester Public Schools. Mrs. Randazzo teaches at both Highland Park and Bennet Academy. She is also a trained Future Problem Solving Coach. Future Problem Solving is an academic competition which develops analytical and creative thinking skills while exploring futuristic scenarios.
Mrs. Randazzo is the proud mother of triplets, two girls and one boy who are currently in 6th grade. Her hobbies include bodybuilding, running, crossfit, obstacle course races, ice hockey and triathlons.
I was born in Hamburg,Germany and came to the United States with my family when I was 10 years old. I grew up in Lebanon, CT and attended schools there.
I graduated from Eastern Connecticut State College with a degree in Education. I received my Masters Degree in Reading from the University of Connecticut. I taught in South Windsor for 30 years as a classroom teacher and also Reading Consultant. After retiring I missed teaching and became an ELL tutor/cordinator in South Windsor and now ELL Tutor in Manchester for the past 3 years.
During my time off I love to read, go for long walks and do gardening. My husband and I have two adult children and 2 grandchildren who attended Highland Park School.
Michael Rizzo completed his master in education at the University of New Haven in 2013. During the fall of 2013 he was a student teacher in third grade at Highland Park School. Upon completion of his degree he worked as a tutor at Washington School in Manchester.
Prior to beginning a new career in education Mr. Rizzo worked in the insurance industry and owned a small property casualty agency in Manchester. He and his wife Karen have lived in Manchester for 25 years and have one son, Dennis, who is a graduate of Manchester High School and is also an English teacher at a high school in Hartford.
Mrs. Jeanette Ruff has been at Highland Park since 2012. She started her time here as the building substitute and has been teaching first grade since 2013. Before coming to Manchester, she taught kindergarten at a private school in Glastonbury. She went to Eastern Connecticut State University for her bachelor’s degree in History/ Social Science as well as Elementary Education. After graduating she continued her education by receiving her Master’s Degree in Reading and Literacy. She recently got married and lives in Manchester. When she is not teaching, she enjoys being able to read with a cup of coffee/tea, attend sporting events with her husband and enjoys going to beach with her black lab, Maya.
Donna Samborski is the library para-educator at both Highland Park and Buckley Schools. This position is perfect for her because two of her favorite things are children and books. Prior to this she was a substitute teacher and PTA volunteer for many years while her children attended school here in Manchester. She, her husband, and their four dachshunds reside in Manchester.
Jennifer is currently teaching first grade at HPS. She has been teaching in Manchester since 2007. She previously taught 3rd, 2nd, and 1st grade at Washington school. Before coming to Manchester, Jennifer taught in Hartford Public Schools for 6 years in grades 5 & 2. She went to Wheelock College in Boston for her Bachelors degree in Elementary education and Humanities with a focus in Literature. Jennifer returned to CT to pursue her Masters degree at ECSU in Reading and Language Arts. She is married and currently lives in Manchester. Her boys Jakob & Jonah attend HPS. When she is not working with students, Jennifer loves to read, spend time at the beach and bake.
Mary Thieling taught third and fourth grade at Nathan Hale School for many years and transferred to Highland Park School in September. She is enjoying our beautiful new school! Mary is a graduate of Eastern Connecticut State University and the University of Hartford. She was born in Denver, Colorado but has been a resident of Manchester since she was in third grade.
Mrs. Thieling has two grown children. Eric and his family live in Columbus, Ohio and Karen and her family live in Glastonbury. Her favorite activities include spending time with her three grandchildren, reading, and vacationing at the beach.
Terri (on the right) has worked with the Manchester Food Services since 2008. Prior to that she was a cafeteria manager for Frisco Independent School District in Texas. Teri has three daughters and four grandchildren, the youngest being 10 months old. Teri enjoys camping at her seasonal site with her husband and grandson.
Mr. Sean Webster is the Family Reseource
Center Site Coordinator at Buckely and Highland Park.
He has worked extensively with students in need. His previous position provided him with experience facilitating group therapy, managing behaviors in crisis, and mentoring. Mr. Webster is sincerely interested in providing others with
opportunities and resources to assist them in their quest to succeed.
Sharon Willhelm has been a Library Media Specialist in Manchester since 1996. She graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in History from Gordon College. After working as a substitute teacher, a day care teacher and a clerk in a High School Library, she pursued a Masters in Library Science at Southern Connecticut State University. Sharon started her Library Career at Verplanck and Washington Schools and is thrilled to have been involved with the renovation of the Highland Park Library.
She enjoys Myrtle Beach, tap dancing, and is at level 150 in Farm Story! She collects penguins and all things Wizard of Oz. One of her favorite children’s book is Mick Harte was Here!