WARREN TWP. – Eleven staff at Watchung Hills Regional High School have retired, or will have retired, by the end of the 2014-2015 School Year.
Retiring are: Language Arts teacher Marie Geoghegan, Administrative Assistant Eva Kelley, School nurse Lee Kivetz, R.N., Payroll Coordinator Linda Mattoon, Media Specialist Vivian Swartz, Art teacher Joan Thomson, Music teacher David Udell, and Mathematics teacher Susan Van Doren.
Three have already retired. They are: World Language teacher Rosemarie Felix diFilippo, Public Relations writer Eleanor Mathews, and World Language teacher Norma Scott.
Language Arts teacher Marie Geoghegan began teaching in Connecticut and continued in New Jersey.
“After leaving the profession of teaching for a number of years to raise my children, I returned to work in a Title I Language Arts Program,” she said. “In 1983 I began my career at Watchung Hills Regional High School in the Chapter 1 Basic Skills Department, and as the need arose, I developed the curriculum for the ESL (English as a Second Language) program.”
In addition to teaching ESL, Geoghegan helped coordinate the state testing program for the MBS and HSPT (High School Placement Test) tests.
“For many years, I oversaw the SRA programs, preparing students for and administering both the Language Arts, as well as the SRA assessments in many foreign languages, ranging from Spanish to Vietnamese,” she said.
Geoghegan received her bachelor’s degree from Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I., and continued in a graduate program in linguistics at Yale University in New Haven, Conn.
She is a graduate of Sacred Heart High School in Waterbury, Conn. She said she returns for reunions on a regular basis to keep in touch with life-long friends.
“I hope retirement for me means a time to expand what I have always loved: To read, to travel , to garden, to do the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzles,” she said, “and to learn hundreds of new words to up my Scrabble game.”
She said she hopes to have more time for family, grandchildren, friends, theater, and music, “which should keep me busy and connected.”
And, Geoghegan added, she has traveled to some 40 countries in her lifetime, “A number I hope to increase soon. “
About her time at Watchung Hills, she quoted Confucius and the Broadway legends, “Rodgers and Hammerstein,” who provided music and lyrics for “The King and I.”
“Confucius said, ‘Do what you love and it won’t seem like work.’ Since I have always loved language, being able to share it with remarkable young people has been a source of ongoing satisfaction for me,” Geoghegan said. “ Anna in ‘The King and I’ said, ‘By your students you’ll be taught,’ which couldn’t ring truer, as the students I’ve had the privilege to teach here at Watchung Hills have opened up new worlds of culture and language for me.”
She left her last word to her appreciation for her colleagues on the Watchung Hills faculty.
“Most of all, I will miss the caring, supportive and knowledgeable professionals, my colleagues, with whom I have felt fortunate to share a part of each working day,” she said.
Administrative assistant Eva Kelley, who started as a custodian in February 1986, and also worked in shipping and receiving for 15 years, and in the Board of Education Office for a year, before assuming the position as administrative assistant to Building and Grounds Supervisor Roland Juliano for the past 9 years, is retiring after 29 years at Watchung Hills Regional High School.
“Working here has been such a joy and a pleasure,” said Kelley. “I have loved it. Sure there have been challenges, as with all jobs. But I would have to say that working here has been a blessing for me and my family.”
Kelley is a graduate of Battin High School, the all-girls public high school in Elizabeth. Battin opened in 1889, and became girls-only in 1929. Battin, and the boys-only high school, Thomas Jefferson High School, merged into one school, Elizabeth High School, after the 1976-1977 school year.
She also took some classes at Kean University, and had she finished her degree, she said, it would have been in English Literature.
“I wanted to be an English teacher,” she said. “As it is, I lead now the women’s auxiliary at our church. My husband is the pastor. We concentrate on reading and discussing ‘self-help books.’ We ‘study’ together, and talk about ways to enhance ourselves.”
An avid reader, Kelley enjoys reading non-fiction, mysteries and romance novels.
Her husband, the Rev. James Kelley, is pastor of the Holy Tabernacle Church, Elizabeth, and the Beulah Gospel Tabernacle Church, Bayonne, both Pentecostal churches. She assists her husband by heading up the women’s auxiliaries at the two churches.
Even though she is retiring from Watchung Hills, Kelley said, she intends to continue her work in the churches.
“I am looking forward to a new phase of life,” she said. “I am not retiring from life. There is so much of life other than work here.”
Her church work routinely takes her to women’s conferences and church conventions run by the broader organizations with which her churches are associated.
And Kelley intends to spend time with family, her son, Kevin, and daughters, Tesha, Erica, and Karla, and their children, her grandchildren, Mallie, Zoe, Zechariah and Layla.
Looking back on her time at Watchung Hills and her life so far, Kelley said she counts her blessings.
“I didn’t get rich,” she said, repeating the sentiment that so many repeat at retirement, “but I was blessed. Yes, I was blessed.”
School Nurse Lee Kivetz, R.N., who started working at Watchung Hills Regional High School in January 2001, had worked before that for 25 years as a charge nurse in hospital labor, delivery, neo-natal and pediatric intensive care units.
Among her 25 years as a charge nurse, she worked some 10 years at Overlook Hospital, Summit.
During her first year on staff, Kivetz taught health education classes for all four high school grade levels, and since then has acted as a school nurse, managing all facets of the health office. Among her responsibilities have been: Health records maintenance; communication with parents and doctors; development of nursing care plans; completion of state health screenings; providing for and processing sports physicals; development of nursing service plans; maintaining monthly reports of health office activities; preparing faculty and students to meet health requirements for field trips; training faculty on diabetes, severe allergies and classroom emergencies; training epinephrine and glucagon delegates; and communicating with faculty regarding student injuries, medical excuses and accommodations.
Kivetz also developed the health office Web page, implemented standards and protocols for the treatment of students with severe allergies, and implemented a school-wide program for Head Injury Awareness Day in 2011 and Cancer Awareness Day in 2012.
She also served as a member of the Intervention and Referral Team, the CORE Team and Crisis Management Team.
Kivetz received her nursing degree in 1976 from New England Baptist Nursing School, Boston, Mass. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Nursing in 1995 from Kean University, Union. She earned her school nurse certificate from Caldwell College, Caldwell.
She is a graduate of Dedham High School, Dedham, Mass.
Her husband, Robert, retired in January as a vice president at New York University, New York City, N.Y. They have a home in Sandwich, Mass., on Cape Cod, and plan to retire there.
“I am looking forward to being retired, and to traveling,” Kivetz said. “We plan to travel to California and Chicago, Ill., to visit our sons, Jeffrey, Michael and Gregory, and our granddaughter, who is 19 months, and lives in Chicago.”
Kivetz said that she has enjoyed working at Watchung Hills.
“It has been an interesting journey,” she said. “I had not been working in education before coming here 15 years ago, and it has been interesting facing all the challenges of working in a health office of a high school. I will miss the students. They keep you young. It has been a great working environment here at Watchung Hills. It has felt like a family.”
Payroll Coordinator Linda Mattoon is retiring after having worked at Watchung Hills Regional High School since 1998. Before becoming Payroll Coordinator in the Business Office, she had worked for six months as confidential secretary in the office of the high school’s Board of Education.
Mattoon started at Watchung Hills after having been Deputy Clerk for Long Hill Township. She worked for the township from 1992 to 1998, having been first hired as a secretary by former Township Administrator and Mayor, Lynne Combs.
She is a 1969 graduate of Taylor Business Institute, North Plainfield. She has also taken classes at Union College, Cranford.
Mattoon is a 1968 graduate of Watchung Hills.
She is the mother of four children and seven grandchildren, who live across the country in several different locations.
“So travel will fit into the equation,” she said.
In thinking of retirement, Mattoon quoted Zadie Smith, “The end is simply the beginning of an even longer story.” She plans to pursue drawing and painting, knitting hats for cancer patients, and volunteering. She has reconnected with an old boyfriend from high school, who is a filmmaker and songwriter, and she plans to relocate to Upstate New York, where his business is located.
Media Specialist Vivian Swartz, who along with Mathematics Teacher Susan Van Doren, has been named Teacher of the year for the 2014-2015 school year, has been on staff as a media specialist at Watchung Hills Regional High School since 1998.
During her time at Watchung Hills, she has also been co-advisor of the Watchung Hills chapter of the National Honor Society, and co-chair of the Curriculum Committee.
Before teaching, Swartz worked as a speech pathologist and audiologist.
Swartz began her career in education in 1989 at Valley View Middle School, Watchung, where she provided supplemental instruction in language arts and math, taught language arts and reading, and from 1994 to 1998, was the media specialist.
She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Speech Pathology from Queens College of the City University of New York, Queens, and completed post-master’s work in Audiology at Queens College, as well. She received her post-master’s certificate as an Associate Educational Media Specialist from Montclair State University, Montclair. She also completed her post-baccalaureate work in elementary education at Kean University, Union.
Swartz is a graduate of Jamaica High School, Jamaica, Queens.
She has been married to her husband, Allen, for 41 years, and they have one son, Jonathan.
Upon retirement, she and her husband plan to retire to a 55-plus community.
“I plan to catch up on reading, and do some traveling in retirement,” she said.
In speaking about her time working at Watchung Hills, she quoted a Latin proverb, and gave insight into the perennial educator’s challenge, “Learn something new each day.”
“It has been a pleasure to work as a media specialist at Watchung Hills,” she said, “and I have enjoyed working with the students and teachers. There is a Latin proverb, ‘By learning you will teach, by teaching you will learn.’ Indeed, one of my favorite things about teaching students how to do research and assisting them with their projects and assignments, is there is rarely a day that I, myself, do not learn something new.”
Art Teacher Joan Thomson, who was selected Watchung Hills Regional High School Teacher of the Year in 2009 and Star-Ledger Field Hockey Coach of the Year in 1987, is retiring after having taught at Watchung Hills since 1983.
During that time, she has taught Fine Art I, II, III, IV, and AP (Advanced Placement), Studio Art, Ceramics I, II, and Advanced Ceramics, AP 3-D, Sculpture, Crafts and Photography I.
Thomson was Field Hockey Coach, Freshman and Varsity, from 1983 to 1988.
Prior to teaching at Watchung Hills, she taught for one year each at North Plainfield High School and Bernards High School, Bernardsville. During college, she held miscellaneous sales and waitressing jobs.
Thomson received her master’s degree in 1983 from Kean University, Union, and her bachelor’s degree in 1981 from Glassboro State University, Glassboro, now known as Rowan University.
She is a graduate of South Plainfield High School.
Thomson, and her husband, Kerry, have three daughters, Amy, Ally, and Laura.
“During my retirement,” Thomson said. “I’d like to travel, spend time on Long Beach Island, paint, and get involved in art galleries.”
Thomson said it has been a pleasure teaching at Watchung Hills, where the art department has grown significantly since she first arrived.
“It has been a pleasure to be part of the Watchung Hills Visual Art program as it grew from two teachers in 1983 to the current staff of seven,” she said. “I have many great memories of the students I have worked with and it has been a privilege to work with so many amazing teachers.”
Music teacher David Udell, who started teaching music at Watchung Hills Regional High School in 1984, is retiring after 31 years as a member of the faculty.
During his tenure here, he has served as director of the Concert Band, Wind Ensemble, String Orchestra, Jazz Ensemble, and Marching Band, and as music director of the school musicals. At Watchung Hills, he taught Music Theory, AP Music Theory and Music Appreciation, and has helped students with special needs actualize their potential.
During 10 years prior to teaching in New Jersey, Illinois and Wisconsin, he was a percussionist with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, Madison, Wisc., and created music compositions for percussion that were selected as required music for state contest lists and college recital requirements. His compositions are published by Udell Publishing and Music for Percussion, Inc.
He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and earned his certificate for Education Supervision from Rutgers University.
He is a graduate of Sun Prairie High School, Sun Prairie, Wisc.
He is married to Diantha Clark, who herself earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Music from the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md., and a doctoral degree in Music from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. They have two children. Their daughter, Ashlen Udell holds a bachelor’s degree in Music from Montclair State University, Montclair, and a master’s degree in Music from Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill., and is the Band Director at Bridgewater-Raritan Middle School, Bridgewater Township. Their son, Nathanael Udell, holds a bachelor’s degree in Music from Julliard, New York City, and a master’s degree in Music from Rice University, Houston, Texas. He is a doctoral student at Indiana University, Bloomington, Ind. He plays “Natural Horn,” an historic instrument, with Mercury Baroque in Houston.
“My wife and I are looking forward to following the development of our kids’ careers,” Udell said, “and working with our real estate holdings in New Jersey, New York and Vermont.”
He said he has thoroughly enjoyed teaching at Watchung Hills.
“I have had the good fortune of working with the finest students at Watchung Hills for the past 31 years, and the finest parents any teacher could hope for,” he said.
Susan Van Doren
Mathematics Teacher Susan Van Doren, who has been selected Teacher of the Year for Watchung Hills Regional High School for the 2014-2015 along with Media Specialist Vivian Swartz, has once before been selected for the honor.
She was named also Teacher of the Year for the 2001-2002 school year.
Van Doren, who began working at Watchung Hills in 1990, said that she has taught many Mathematics courses at many levels at Watchung Hills, and most recently she has taught Geometry Honors and PreCalculus/Trig accelerated. Prior to teaching here, she taught at Green Brook High School for six years, as well as at St. Peter’s High School, New Brunswick, and at Bound Brook High School.
She received her undergraduate degree in Mathematics from Douglass College at Rutgers University in 1971. She completed graduate level courses in Mathematics and Mathematics Education at Rutgers.
Van Doren is a graduate of New Brunswick High School, New Brunswick.
She and her husband, Jack, have two children, and three grandchildren.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed 25 years at Watchung Hills,” Van Doren said. “I have had the privilege of working with two phenomenal department chairs – first, Bill Peiffer, and now, Mike D’Alessio. The support and guidance given by these two men has made my job very easy. My immediate colleagues in the Math Department make coming to work each day a pleasure. The students have kept me young and challenged. How could there be a better blend? I have spent my career teaching a subject I love to wonderful young people.”
Van Doren said she expected to be busy in her retirement.
“My husband and I love to travel,” she said. “Now we can travel in the Fall and the Spring when it is less crowded and better weather. And, we can go for as long as we want. I have grandchildren in San Diego, Calif., and McLean, Va. I will be able to read again. I love to cook. Stacks of recipes await me. Maybe I can take a cooking class in Italy. We live in a house that is almost 200 years old and needs our attention. I will be able to spend more time with my mother who just turned 89. The list goes on.”
Staff Who Retired During the Course Of The School Year
Retired Public Relations writer Eleanor Mathews, who was inducted into the Watchung Hills Regional High School Hall of Fame in 2010, has been described as the “heart and soul” of the school.
Mathews retired after the 2013-2014 school years, and was honored by the Watchung Hills Regional High School Board of Education on June 15, 2014. The board’s resolution acknowledged her contributions to the school and the community since 1972.
She wrote stories about the achievements of Watchung Hills students, faculty, administrators and supporters for distribution to local media under six superintendents.
“She captured the Watchung Hills Warrior spirit and conveyed it to the broad Watchung Hills communities of Warren Township, Long Hill Township, Watchung and Green Brook Township,” said Superintendent Elizabeth Jewett. “To do so, she also successfully built a strong working relationship with the editors, reporters and staff photographers of numerous local newspaper and media outlets.”
Her selection to the Hall of Fame acknowledges her contributions as a community volunteer.
“Her participation, leadership and persistence were instrumental in preventing the loss of the Great Swamp to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s plan for an international airport,” reads her Hall of Fame induction citation. “It is now preserved forever as the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.”
Legend has it that she was one of a number of women who, in the public interest, volunteered and gathered around kitchen tables to use a letter-writing campaign to gain support from the public and elected officials to protect the Great Swamp from development.
Jewett said that local editors have told her how much they relied on her articles down through the decades about Watchung Hills because they were accurate stories, were well-written, were written in Associated Press-style, and had broad community interest.
“Eleanor’s writing style combined a reporter’s eye for detail mixed with a feature writer’s eye for human interest,” Jewett said. “Her stories championed the wonder of witnessing quality education transforming students, helping them grow into remarkable young adults. Her enthusiasm for education was unwavering.”
She received her master’s degree from Columbia University, New York City. Her bachelor’s degree was from Hunter College, New York City.
Retired World Languages teacher Norma Scott first started working at Watchung Hills Regional High School in 1978 as a part-time teacher of Spanish and Italian.
In addition to her work in the classroom, Scott was a member of the Curriculum Committee, advisor to the Spanish Club for more than a decade, advisor for the band front, which included drill team and twirlers, and advisor to the K Pop Club.
“She instilled a love of world languages and the spirit of cultural diversity in her students while motivating them to exceed their expectations,” according to the resolution adopted by the Watchung Hills Regional High School Board of Education at its meeting on Monday, June 15. “Her commitment to her students and colleagues went beyond the classroom, as a mentor to several new teachers who have benefited from her support and experience.”
Rosemarie di Filippo
Retired World Languages teacher Rosemarie di Filippo, who was an educator for more than 30 years in the states of New Jersey, Maryland, and West Virginia, including at the University of West Virginia, first came to work at Watchung Hills Regional High School in 2003. She was a teacher of Italian and Spanish.
During her time at Watchung Hills, she coordinated and chaperoned five successful educational exchanges to Italy, four of them to Terni, Italy, and the fifth to the island of Sardinia.
Among the highlights of her career at Watchung Hills, di Filippo introduced her students to the classic Opera, “La Boheme,” which was composed by Giacomo Puccini.
The students were “pleasantly surprised that they could learn to like a new form of music originally thought to be unpleasant to young ears,” according to the resolution adopted by the Watchung Hills Regional High School Board of Education when all the retiring staff were recognized.
Also under her tutelage, “her students learned about Italian fables: organized and celebrated an Italian wedding; read ‘Il Piccolo Principe,’ ‘The Little Prince,’ in the original Italian; and experienced a myriad of authentic Italian cultural events and customs,” according to the resolution celebrating her career.
Subsequent to her retirement, di Filippo was voted “most unforgettable teacher” by the Senior Class, an honor she cherishes, she said.
“Retirement brings the possibility of traveling and seeing more of the world, with plans for visits to colleagues in Argentina, and relatives and former exchange students in Italy,” de Filippo said. She was a host mom for three Italian exchange students for their senior year, di Filippo said.
“Also, I have plans for a cruise to Alaska and a return visit to Australia,” she added.