Faculty and Staff Members Honored for Contributions to Teacher Preparation

Pictured left to right: Secretary of Higher Education Rochelle Hendricks, Dean Ada Beth Cutler, Chair of the Governor's Higher Education Council John McGoldrick, President Susan Cole, Assemblywoman Riley

Montclair State University faculty and staff members were honored recently for their outstanding contributions to teacher preparation at the New Jersey Showcase of Exemplary Practice in Teacher Preparation.  The event was sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education and the New Jersey Association of College for Teacher Education on April 20 at the Chauncey Center in Princeton.

Dr. Ada Beth Cutler, Dean of the College of Education and Human Services, was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award from Secretary of Higher Education Rochelle Hendricks.  Dean Cutler has been an active contributor and leader for education policy and programs in the state of New Jersey.  She has worked with several Commissioners of Education in an advisory and leadership capacity.  Under Commissioner Librera, she served as a subcommittee chair of the Teaching and Learning Task Force, she was the keynote speaker at a Summit Meeting on Standards in Teacher Preparation, she worked on the development of New Jersey’s Professional Teaching Standards, and was a member of the NJ Quality Teaching and Learning Executive Committee.  Under Commissioner Davy, she chaired the NJ Higher Education Task Force and the NJ Committee on Elementary Teacher Preparation and she was a member of the Steering Committee for NJ High School Redesign.  She served on Transition Education Sub-Committees for Governor Corzine and Governor Christie and she has been a frequent speaker at Educational Testing Service, Rutgers Public Education Institute, and NJEA conventions and meetings.  She co-chaired the NJ Department of Education Abbott School Improvement Committee for a number of years and worked with the Education Law Center on school improvement and teacher development efforts in Abbott districts.

Drs. Ana Maria Villegas, Laura Nicosia and Danné Davis were recognized with the Distinguished Faculty Award in honor of their contributions to teacher education.  

  • Dr. Villegas, Professor of Curriculum and Teaching in the College of Education and Human Services, is the Director of the EdD in Teacher Education and Teacher Development program at the University.  She teaches courses in teacher education policy and research, and sociocultural perspectives on teaching and learning.  Dr. Villegas specializes in the preparation of teachers for a diverse student population and the recruitment and preparation of teachers of diverse backgrounds. She has conducted studies of culturally responsive teaching, policies and practices in the education of immigrant students, strategies for transforming teacher education for diversity, and policies and programs for increasing the diversity of the teaching force.
  • Dr. Nicosia, Associate Professor of English in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, was recently named the 2012 Outstanding English Language Arts Educator by the New Jersey Council of Teachers of English (NJCTE).  An outstanding instructor at Montclair State University, Dr. Nicosia brings valuable knowledge and experience as a secondary school English teacher to her preparation of future English teachers.  She is an excellent model and inspiration to her teacher education students, infusing her lessons with enthusiasm and creativity and showing an interest in every student. In addition to her teaching, Dr. Nicosia is the coordinator of the English Education Program.  She has worked closely with colleagues in the College of Education and Human Services and in local school districts to prepare English teachers fully for their work with secondary school students.  
  • Dr. Davis, Assistant Professor in Early Childhood, Elementary, and Literacy Education in the College of Education and Human Services, was recently named the 2011 G. Pritchy Smith Multicultural Educator of the Year Award by the National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME).  The award is given to a multicultural educator who is a pre-K-12th grade classroom teacher, a teacher in higher education, a community activist, or any person who serves to educate others.  As a faculty member, Dr. Davis works to articulate the meaning of multicultural education and strives to integrate its ideals and action into her work as a teacher educator, scholar, and community volunteer.  She incorporates into her teaching many activities that reflect the principles and practices of multicultural education and that promote multicultural awareness.  She serves on the Montclair State University President’s Commission on Affirmative Action and Diversity.  Her publication record of journal articles and book chapters also reflects her deep commitment to multicultural education.  


Drs. Jennifer Goeke and Jennifer Robinson were recognized for obtaining major grants in the field.  

  • Dr. Goeke , Associate Professor of Curriculum and Teaching in the College of Education and Human Services, has been awarded a five-year, $1.4 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Education for her project Restructuring Preservice Preparation for Innovative Special Education (RePPrise). The project began in September of 2011 and runs through August of 2016.  The project will restructure Montclair State University’s existing post-baccalaureate Master of Arts in Teaching Dual Certification program to prepare middle and secondary educators through three interdisciplinary strands of teacher preparation (1) inclusive pedagogy; (2) intensive content area preparation in mathematics or science and (3) integrative STEM education.  
  • Dr. Robinson, Executive Director of the Center of Pedagogy in the College of Education and Human Services, serves as the primary investigator for the Newark-Montclair Urban Teacher Residency Program.  The program is being directed by Ms. Susan Taylor.  This five-year $6,348,000 grant, the largest in University history, was developed with partners from the College of Science and Mathematics, Newark Public Schools and the Newark Teachers’ Union. Building on more than two decades of collaboration dedicated to preparing excellent teachers for high-need schools, the NMTRP seeks to improve student achievement by coupling rigorous research-based teacher preparation with the concrete needs and realities of Newark Public Schools. In the five years of the grant, 100 teacher residents will participate in full-time, paid clinical apprenticeships with highly qualified mentor teachers.


Mr. Gregg Festa and Dr. Jackie Willis were recognized with the Distinguished Staff Award.  

  • Mr. Festa, Director of the ADP Center for Teacher Preparation and Learning Technologies in the College of Education and Human Services, was presented with the Distinguished Staff Award.  He was named to Tech & Learning magazine’s list of the 10 Most Influential People in EdTech for 2011, having been selected by Tech & Learning readers and advisors. Mr. Festa was recognized for his accomplishments in renewing educators and student teachers through the innovative use of technology. The ADP Center for Teacher Preparation and Learning Technologies, the program he founded and directs at Montclair State, is a hub of innovation in pedagogy, curriculum, instructional planning, educational technology, and professional development for students, faculty, practicing teachers, and other education professionals.  He was also recognized for his work in designing “classrooms for the future” that are adaptable enough to accommodate new and evolving pedagogies, in coordinating the Verizon-funded Digital Backpacks program for K–12 educators, and in founding the Silk City Media Workshop, an inner-city afterschool program built on digital media that earned him the title “2007 Technologist of the Year” from the New Jersey Association for Educational Technology.