Alumni Highlights

Listed below is just a sampling of our Alumni over the years and what they are up to today.

Philip Coco '12

Philip Coco

Teacher Education - Cert/MAT

Currently, I work as a Support Specialist for Buckingham Community Services in New London, CT.  My position of Support Specialist consists, primarily, of job coaching for DDS (CT’s Department of Developmental Services) & student clients, along with providing residential services, job development assistance for clients seeking employment, and transportation. From SHU: Griswold, I learned how to understand the various differences in people, including learning styles and the various aspects of multiculturalism. Although my course work applied to education, the foundation I received applies to my work in social services on a daily basis. Each of the clients I work with is a unique person who requires special care, which I strongly believe is relevant to "promoting a culture of excellence in a changing world.”

Evi Correia '16

Evi Correia

Teacher Education - Cert/MAT

I am currently a full time Spanish Teacher at Norwich Free Academy in Norwich CT. My duties as a  Spanish language teacher include creating lesson plans, preparing classroom activities, organizing teaching materials, evaluating student performance, maintaining classroom records, meeting with parents, teachers and other professionals, and participating in campus events and more. Ultimately, my goal as a Spanish language teacher is  to use a variety of teaching tools for the purpose of teaching students to read, write, and speak Spanish. Learning how to become a classroom teacher was challenging, rewarding, and invigorating. I believe that the process of completing the Sacred Heart University Master of Art in Teaching Program has given me the opportunity to become a focused and effective language teacher who now implements relevant and student lead lesson plans. Through this program I learned so much, how to better empower students by giving he/she more choices, freedom, and input in the learning environment. How to manage classrooms, plan effective and creative lesson plans. I learned that connection with students is essential for their progress. Having high expectations for all of my students, creating an environment where everyone can learn with rigor, relevance yet maintaining a well established relationship with my students is essential. I am glad I chose Sacred Heart’s MAT program.

Peter Diette '13

Peter Diette

Teacher Education Program - Cert/MAT/LI

After graduating from Sacred Heart with my MAT degree, I accepted my current teaching position as a fifth grade teacher in a newly created K-5 arts magnet school within the New London Public Schools district.  As a grade level teacher, I lead an inclusive classroom and am responsible for all subject matter.  In the four years I have been with Nathan Hale Arts Magnet School, I have been active on numerous committees and oversee our social media presence.  I have the opportunity to collaborate daily with other educators, including our special education and essentialist teams, and the many community partners who share our desire to infuse elementary education with the arts.  My core passion remains empowering my students to reach their fullest potential. My time at Sacred Heart – Griswold was very well spent.  I began friendships and made connections that have continued to both nurture and enrich my teaching career.  The staff and faculty were incredibly open and supportive, and the opportunities I was given helped prepare me for the many challenges faced by a new teacher.

Melissa Ettinger '17

Melissa Ettinger

Literacy Program

Ms. Melissa Ettinger reports that the “Literacy program has helped me refine my skills in working with students at all ability levels. With a focus on pedagogical methods and the latest trends in education, I am prepared for a position of leadership in literacy and will use my new skills to work with both students and teachers using more effective ways to educate elementary school students. Through the program at Sacred Heart I can utilize these news ways to make a difference in the field of literacy education with my students and my fellow teachers.”

Andrew Gonzalez '11

Andrew Gonzalez

Educational Leadership Program

I am currently serving as building principal for Lebanon Elementary School, a building of roughly 375 Pre K- Grade 4 students. This is my fifth year serving as the administrator for LES. Prior to working in Lebanon I was an assistant principal for a year at Bolton Center School. My time at SHU was memorable because of the relationships that I built with my professors and the cohort of students that I worked with. The small class sizes allowed for much collaboration and personal attention that helped me feel prepared for any administrative positon that became available. I still reflect on the experiences I had at SHU along with the things I learned to help me get through my days as an administrator.

Anne Heath '13

Ann Heath

Literacy Program

Ms. Anne Heath is employed at Huckleberry Hill Elementary School in Brookfield, Connecticut, as a Grade 2-4 Literacy Coach and Reading Interventionist. She reports that the “SHU literacy program has benefited me by providing me with an educational foundation in literacy and the skills to coach professionals and parents allowing for enhanced reading instruction. My experience at Sacred Heart has allowed me the ability to successfully pursue my passion for enabling readers to do their best."

LaShante’ A. James '15

LaShante James

Educational Leadership Program

Mrs. LaShante’ A. James is employed at Ponus Ridge Middle School in Norwalk, Connecticut as an assistant principal. She reports that the SHU educational leadership program was beneficial because “it provided me with an authentic learning experience that developed the skills necessary to be an effective leader and agent of change. The education that I received at SHU allowed me to successfully enter the field of administration and impact the lives of adults and children in a meaningful way!”

Christine Kochefko Higgins '14

Christine Kochefko Higgins

Educational Leadership Program

Mrs. Christine Kochefko Higgins is employed at Wilton High School in Wilton, Connecticut as a grade 9-12 German teacher. She reports that the Educational Leadership Program has “enhanced my current teaching practices by giving me a comprehensive look at the workings of a school. It has given me the chance to take on leadership opportunities within the school community and has continued to focus my attention on the alignment of classroom practice to the vision of the school and beyond. It has also helped me to shape my educational philosophy: now, more than ever, we should promote empathy in our schools and the importance of interconnectedness and preparedness for an increasingly globalized world.”

Edward Kolnaski '14

Edward Kolnaski

Teacher Education - Cert/MAT/LI

Currently I teach 7th and 8th Grade Humanities at Sheldon Elementary in Sheldon, Vermont. We are a small school located in rural, Northern Vermont not too far from the Canadian border. I can’t say how grateful I am for the education I received at Sacred Heart because it truly prepared me for the work I do everyday here. Thanks to my education at SHU I was able to find this opportunity and now I get to live and work in a beautiful part of our country doing something meaningful and fulfilling.

Sheldon Elementary School looks at students as more than just machines to comprehend and retain information. We understand that our students have other needs that need to be met throughout the day along with their instruction if they are to be successful and develop into healthy young adults. As teachers we develop into our programming intentional breaks and activities to promote their physical wellbeing and recharge their minds for the rest of the day. They also, thanks to the kindness of local farms, get fresh breakfast, a healthy snack (usually a fruit or vegetable) and lunch with a variety of meals each day and other healthy options available.

One of the best parts about working about Sheldon for me is our emphasis on the environment and our appreciation for nature. We are fortunate enough to have on our property over 80 acres of forest that we can access anytime we want. Students can be seen in this huge outdoor classroom building primitive shelters, writing poetry, taking walks, snowshoeing in winter and tapping maple trees to produce syrup. Sugaring, is a huge part of our students’ academic experience and the middle schoolers really look forward to it every year.  

As the humanities teacher I work closely with my other middle school colleagues to plan co-curricular units and lessons for our students so that they may develop a better, more comprehensive understanding of the content or skill we are teaching. Over the course of the year we have explored our ancient past studying paleolithic and neolithic cultures and tracking the migration and evolution of human society. We also spent time covering the general election, looking at our government, our electoral process, and the candidates at the local, state and federal levels. Most recently the students spent several weeks exploring social, environmental and political issues affecting our world. I really cannot say enough about Sheldon, my students and how much I am enjoying my time here.

My experience at Sacred Heart was invaluable to say the least. I’m not really sure how to articulate how important the time I spent studying in Griswold was to my development as an educator. Not only the instruction from great educators like Professor Terry Neu or Doctor Christensen (Dr. C) but the opportunity to experience first hand what being an educator is like through my internship and student teaching. Both aspects of my SHU experience are huge factors in the work I do as an educator today. By taking courses in the evening and interning at a local middle school during the day, I got to study educational theory by night and by day experience the reality of education as practice. At Teachers Memorial in Norwich, where I was placed for my internship, I didn't just make copies and cover classes, I got to teach and plan my own lessons, giving me valuable experience and critical feedback from the teachers and students I worked with! Here I got to practice my classroom management skills and establish relationships with my students before ever having to think about preparing for an interview! Real life experience, along with personal stories and the instruction given by extremely professional, true experts in their craft is what I got from Sacred Heart.  

Sacred Heart is what got me where I am today. I can’t emphasize that point enough. Getting the opportunity to work in school during the day and study in classes at night was an incredible combination that gave me so much perspective on education and who I have become as a History Teacher. I owe a debt of gratitude to everyone at Sacred Heart Griswold who exposed me to the educational theories that shape my perspective. Thanks to those who helped me plan and select classes, gave me feedback, both critical and constructive, and most importantly inspired me to become the best teacher I possibly can.

Sara Leisten '16

Sara Leisten

Educational Leadership (092)6th Year

I am currently a biology teacher at Norwich Free Academy in Norwich, CT. I teach biology, paleontology and prehistoric earth, and veterinary science. I serve as the leader of a 10th grade regular education intervention program that uses a team approach to work on executive functioning skills such as organization and study skills. I organize biweekly meetings with teachers in other disciplines, administration, support staff, and various other members of the school community to provide appropriate interventions and supports for our students. Sacred Heart University provided me with a versatile program that allowed me to obtain my administrative certification and 6th year degree at my own pace, and while working full time. The campus at Griswold offered me the opportunity to  choose courses and attended classes with ease. The faculty assigned work that was not only relevant to my certification, but also provided me with a foundation for advancing my career in the future. Faculty at SHU were supportive, caring, and above all, knowledgeable about their craft. Their first-hand experiences helped me to better understand the current challenges faced by administration in the state and helped provide me with the materials necessary to select an area of administration that interests me.

Gino LoRicco

Gino LoRicco

Educational Leadership Program

Mr. Gino LoRicco has been a teacher, mentor and a coach in public schools for the past 30 years, the last sixteen of which he has served as an administrator, first as an assistant principal of Tolland Middle School (2001-2004), then as principal of Parker Memorial School in Tolland CT (2004-2008), and has served as the founding principal of Quinebaug Middle College in Danielson Connecticut since 2008. He has taught history, philosophy, psychology, sociology, geography, civics, and creative writing during this time. He graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst with a B.A. in history. He earned a sixth-year degree in school administration from Sacred Heart University in Fairfield Connecticut. He is a folk musician who has a passion for writing songs and lives in Coventry, Connecticut with his wife Marcia and his 8 children. 

Dr. Main '07


Educational Leadership Program

Dr. Main is employed as the Director of Academics/Principal at Booker T. Washington Academy in New Haven, Connecticut. She credits the educational leadership internship and the thesis project as being “incredibly helpful in developing my skills as an instructional leader.”

Dr. Maureen McSparran Ruby '12

Maureen McSparran Ruby

Educational Leadership Program

Dr. Maureen McSparran Ruby is Assistant Superintendent in the Brookfield Public Schools in Brookfield, Connecticut. Following her tenure as a dentist, elementary teacher, and full time professor of literacy, she reports that the Educational Leadership program “provided her with the opportunity to study in a structured cohort of like-minded learners, while also working full time.” Upon completing the 092-certification program she served as a central office administrator - first in New London and then in Norwalk - before returning to the Brookfield Public Schools where she oversees K-12 curriculum, assessment, and instruction and the Human Resources Department.

Robyn Notaro '16

Robyn Notaro

Literacy Program

Ms. Robyn Notaro is a recent graduate of the SHU Literacy program, where she obtained her 102 and 097 certificates. She currently works as a Reading Specialist at Middlebrook Middle School in Wilton, Connecticut. Robyn helps service struggling readers in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. She reports that the “Literacy program ensured that I was sufficiently prepared to be successful in my field and that I would be a confident literacy leader.”

Iuliana Roata '15

Iuliana Roata

Educational Leadership Program

Ms. Iuliana Roata is employed at Hillmeadow Elementary School in Stamford, Connecticut, as a Scientifically Research-Based Intervention Coach. She reports that the “Sacred Heart has enabled me to advance my professional educational aptitudes and enhanced my learning experiences and opportunities. After completing the Sixth-Year Degree in Advanced Studies in Literacy, CLSP, I was offered a Reading Consultant position for grades K-5 in the Stamford Public Schools. In this role, I have presented professional workshops for teachers and administrators at the National and Regional Literacy and Science Conferences, with an emphasis on English language Learners. In my roles as reading coach and district professional developer, I have contributed to the development and implementation of a new content based district curriculum for grades K-5 that aligns to the Common Core standards and the related instructional shits, and prepares all students for the 21st century global learning. My ultimate professional goal is to be an educational leader that prepares all students to reach their full potential as life-long learners and socially responsible contributors to our global community.”

David Sabilia '15

David Sabilia

Teacher Education - Cert/MAT/LI

I am currently a 5th grade teacher in the district of Groton, CT at Pleasant Valley Elementary School. I am the JV lacrosse coach at Fitch High School and I assist with the Charles Barnum Hiking Club which will take our annual three day four night trip to New Hampshire this May. SHU Griswold gave me an opportunity I thought I would never have. SHU allowed me to experience firsthand what it was like in a classroom on a daily basis. My graduate intern experience gave me insight to all functions of teaching and left me feeling confident in facilitating today’s youth.

Brenna Santos '14

Brenna Santos

Teacher Education - Cert/MAT/LI

Currently I am teaching 8th grade mathematics at Griswold Middle School. This is my third year of teaching and each year gets better and better as I develop my curriculum and grow as an educator. This would not have been possible if I hadn’t began the Masters teaching program at SHU: Griswold. Through this program, I gained a wealth of knowledge and experience. The internship component was invaluable for providing me with opportunities to experience every aspect of a school system and helped ready me for the transition into student teaching. Along with my internship, I took several classes at the Griswold campus which guided me on how to create and implement a lesson plan, differentiate instruction and manage a classroom environment. The professor’s support and guidance throughout this program set me up for success in my career. I am happy to be fulfilling my dream of being a teacher and look forward to the many years ahead.

William Seddon '15

William Seddon

Teacher Education - Cert/MAT/LI

I am currently teaching social studies at Norwich Free Academy. I teach 10th grade Civics/Global Studies and 11th grade U.S. History. I am also working as the assistant coach to the boys golf team. Griswold prepared me to step into the classroom on the first day of school without any doubts on how to carry out my professional duties as a teacher. The internship and student teaching programs provided me with a pragmatic and hands on approach to education that went beyond mere theory. At the completion of my program I had the confidence and disposition of a veteran teacher because of the genuine experiences provided by the faculty.

Philip Trostler '14

Philip Trostler

Teacher Education - Cert/MAT/LI

Drama teacher/director at Norwich Free Academy. In addition to teaching classes concerning acting, theater, film, & Shakespeare I run NFA Playshop, a popular extra-curricular program that puts on three productions a school year. As NFA is my alma matter and theater is my background, this is my dream position and I'm thrilled to have it. I enrolled at Sacred Heart unsure of how I would be able to transition from the world of performing arts to the world of education. Luckily, Sacred Heart was full of professors who made the process straightforward and interesting, but also challenging enough to ensure I would leave ready to enter the classroom. From the very beginning up until student teaching, I felt supported and therefore was able to grow in confidence in regards to my teaching skills. Within one month of completing the program, I had an elementary job which I held for 1.5 years before acquiring my current high school position.

Penny Walczyk '07

Penny Walczyk

Teacher Education - Cert/MAT/LI

I have been a business teacher at Norwich Free Academy for 9 years. I teach Accounting I, II and Honors Accounting, Business and Operations Management and I am the adviser for the school store. Since I have worked in the business world prior to becoming a teacher, I try to incorporate as much hands-on, "real-world" learning in my classroom as I can. I know what is important to businesses and try to ensure my students leave NFA with those skills. In Business and Operations Management, students not only learn material in the classroom, they get to use it in the school store. They also work on real problems given by local business, develop solutions and then present them back to the businesses. This hones their teamwork, problem-solving, communication, innovation, collaboration, and technology skills. I have also been the secretary of our teachers union for several years, am on the Financial Literacy Data team, started a business club on campus and initiated several new classes during my tenure at NFA, including Intro to Business, Honors Accounting, Business and Operations Management and Business Management Projects. I am also the treasurer of the Gamma chapter of the Delta Kappa Gamma women's education sorority, who's essential mission is to promote education throughout the world.

I have never for a moment regretted choosing SHU-Griswold! While I had experience teaching adults through my job, teaching children is very different! I would highly recommend participating in the internship opportunity. My internship and student teaching was an amazing experience that meshed well with what I was learning in my classes. I received hands-on experience in dealing with what I would experience on my own later, but in a more controlled environment. I was able to immediately take what I learned and apply it. The support I received at my internship and at SHU-Griswold was stellar and helped me to develop an understanding of what I needed to do in order to be an organized teacher that understood the needs of my students so I could develop comprehensive lesson plans that were also fun and interesting. The faculty and staff at SHU-Griswold were always available to answer questions or provide guidance. My experience as a mentor was also wonderful. Not only did I help a new teacher learn and grow, but I felt this was a learning experience for me as well. She made me really reevaluate some of the methods I use and made me a better teacher. All in all, my experiences at SHU-Griswold have been overwhelmingly positive and life changing experience!

Julia Wrighton '15

Julia Wrighton

Teacher Education - Cert/MAT/LI

I currently teach science at "the Arts Magnet Middle School" in New London, CT. As a founding member of the faculty in its pilot year, it has been the opportunity of a lifetime to collaborate with community leaders, educational professionals and community partners to build a new school that is thoughtfully designed to help develop students into creative, successful, contributing member of our society. Using the HOT (Higher-Order Thinking) Schools approach and focusing on three components: Strong Arts, Arts Integration and Democratic Practice, I work with her students to develop "hands-on", "arts-integrated" science lessons. The program and the faculty at SHU Griswold were second to none. Having begun my Masters Degree at Teacher's College in New York, I was blown away by the opportunities and attention provided to me as a student at SHU. Transferring to SHU Griswold was one of the best decisions I ever made. My internship experience at Clark Lane Middle School in Waterford, helped me to develop valuable professional contacts as did my university supervisors and professors. In addition to the support I received from the faculty and staff, I made lasting connections with my peers which continue to prove invaluable as I grow in my career as an educator.