Faculty and Staff Directory

Karen Holstein
Karen Holstein
Preschool Teacher

My name is Karen Holstein. I became a Preschool teacher at Cedar Hill Prep School in 2009. Last year, I also took on the position as the Aftercare Director. Before joining Cedar Hill Prep, I taught various grades at Watchung Middle School, Featherbed Lane School in Clark and W.O.K. School in Hillside.

My Bachelor’s degree is in Speech/Hearing, Elementary Education and Special Education. I also have a Master’s degree in Audiology.

I chose teaching as a profession because I love being with children, watching them grow in every way. The highlight of my day is when children’s eyes light up as they try/learn something new. They are suddenly able to do something they weren’t able to previously do. I feel proud to be a part of their learning experience. It is most rewarding to be able to challenge the young children, watch them learn and love what they are doing.

marali chari
Marali Chari
Preschool /Assistant Teacher

My name is Marali Chari. I have 14 years of experience working as an Assistant Teacher in Pre-K and Kindergarten classes. This is my 7th year at Cedar Hill Prep School. Prior to becoming an Assistant Teacher, I was an Administrative Assistant/Registrar for Dover Business College. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Arts, Economics, Political Science and Public Administration.

I have always loved teaching younger children. As I help them develop a wonderful beginning to their educational journey, I am guiding them to understand and attain basic academic, social, and emotional concepts. Providing a good foundation makes a positive difference in their futures.

The students always remind me of my own children when they were young. I feel blessed and enjoy looking at their innocent faces and smiles every morning. I am also grateful to my educators for infusing values in me that I feel add to what I have learned over the years.

Ilene Davidson
Ilene Davidson
Pre-Kindergarten Teacher

My name is Ilene Davidson. I joined the Cedar Hill Prep family in 2004 as a Junior Kindergarten teacher. Prior to CHP, I was a director of a private school as well as a Kindergarten teacher in a public school.

I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education with a Pre- School endorsement from William Paterson University.

Teaching is an amazing profession. I have the privilege of spending my days with children who are eager to learn and are responsive to just about anything. I feel that I can impact children by helping them develop the tools they need to be successful in today’s world. There is no greater feeling than knowing you played such an important role in another person’s life. Many times, former parents of my students have contacted me to tell me what a great impact I had on their child.

Gita Bandyopadhyay
Gita Bandyopadhyay
Pre-Kindergarten/Assistant Teacher

My name is Gita Bandyopadhyay. For the past 12 years, I have worked with preschool age children. Since 2008, I have been with Cedar Hill Prep as the Jr. Kindergarten Assistant Teacher.

My educational background includes a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Philosophy.

I enjoy teaching and seeing the wonderful progression the students make throughout the year. It also evokes wonderful memories of an earlier time when my son was that age! I am very passionate about arts and crafts and love contributing to the development of the artistic talent within each child.

Emily Selner
Emily Selner
Kindergarten/ Assistant Teacher

My name is Emily Selner and I am thrilled to be joining the Cedar Hill Prep Family

I graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science Degree from The College of New Jersey where I double majored in the fields of Early Childhood Education and Fine Art. During my time in college, I was given the opportunity to experience working in a variety of different school environments with students ranging from preschool through second grade. I have also worked at a local arts summer camp for children ages 4-12 years old.

As an artist, I feel that it is important to allow my students the opportunity to express themselves, as well as learn and discover through hands-on experiences. I have always found working with young children to be extremely rewarding and enjoy sharing my love of art, music and learning with them.

Ruth Sulitzer
Kindergarten/Language Arts and Social Studies

My name is Ruth Sulitzer, and I thoroughly enjoy teaching kindergarten here at Cedar Hill Preparatory School. It has been my privilege to teach at CHP since the September 2003-2004 school year. I hold a Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education with a Specialization in Early Childhood. Before coming to Cedar Hill Prep, I had the added experience of teaching grades PreK-3 – Kindergarten as well as being an administrator in teaching a Writer’s Workshop for 3rd and 4th graders. I am a true believer that experience teaches you everything. At Cedar Hill Prep, I am also the Director of Admissions

Kindergarten is my favorite grade to teach. When you engage young children in learning opportunities, they absorb like sponges all the information that you feed them. My classroom environment is an open, trusting environment where each of my students is encouraged to question, contribute and launch out. The students are encouraged individually and at their own speed to pursue their interests, talents, new experiences, insights and approaches to learning. It is completely thrilling for me to watch my students grasp new ideas and apply them to other parts of their lives! That is true learning!

Pranalii Parab
Pranali Parab
1st Grade Teacher/Math and Science

My name is Pranali Parab. I joined CHP as a course instructor for abacus training, which was an aftercare program to develop mental arithmetic skills in young children.

My educational credentials include a Bachelor's degree in Food Technology and Management from Shivaji University, India and certification as an abacus course instructor.

I discovered my teaching skills when I tutored two little girls while I was still a student. My love for teaching grew along with their love for learning. It was immensely satisfying to see their wonderful progression during those two years. They transitioned from being reluctant students to becoming excited and curious about learning. Thus began my journey as a teacher.

Being a teacher has enabled me to positively impact the learning experiences of all of my students with creativity, inspiration, and discipline. Kindergarten is an important year in students’ lives as it lays the foundation for their academic success. Helping my students build that solid foundation makes me very proud and happy.

Julie Parker
Julie Parker
1st Grade/Language Arts and Social Studies

Let me introduce myself. I am Julia Parker, and I have been a teacher at Cedar Hill Prep School since 2009.

Teaching is a second career for me. Although I worked as a Health Care Recruiter and Employment Manager for close to 15 years, I had always wanted to be a teacher. In 2000, after my third child was born, I enrolled at Johns Hopkins University to realize that dream. Balancing school, motherhood, and recruiting, I was able to graduate with my Masters in Teaching in 2007 and began teaching 4th grade in Maryland. I joined Cedar Hill Prep when my family relocated to New Jersey.

There are so many things I love about teaching at CHP. I love that every day is different and offers unique challenges. I love the school spirit. I love learning new and better ways to connect with students. But mostly, I love being a part of the students’ learning and their “Ah-Ha” moments. An example comes from a beginning lesson in 1st grade. We were reading Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes. The problem in the story is that the main character is teased because of her long name. All the other students in the book have very short names like “Jo.” It was important that our students understood this point, and a few students could not “see” the difference between the names “Chrysanthemum” and “Jo.” So, I had two students line up to “spell” “Jo.” Then all the rest of our class was needed to spell out the name “Chrysanthemum”. After all the students were standing, from the back line I heard a little voice say, “I got this!” These are the moments that continue to inspire me.

Denise Busby
Denise Busby
2nd Grade/Math and Science

“Mrs. Busby, do you really love to teach?” “Of course! Why do you ask?”

“You’re always so excited when you teach!”

It’s true. I get very excited when I teach, and I’m thrilled that it’s evident to my students! I want to make learning meaningful to them and get them excited about learning. Teaching is a second career. I first enjoyed a career in Human Resources where I spent much time in training and career counseling. I have a B.A. from the University of Albany and an M.A. in Education from Kean University. Part of my education stems from raising my own three children. I delighted in their excitement in early learning. I am intrigued by how they learn and study so differently from one another. From them, I know how important it is to differentiate instruction to ensure all students are engaged and motivated. How fortunate I am to be part of the CHP learning community where students delight me every day with their enthusiasm.

Mary Sheridan
Mary Sheridan
2nd Grade/Language Arts and Social Studies

My name is Mary Sheridan. I have been teaching second grade Language Arts and Social Studies at Cedar Hill Prep since 2011. Before joining Cedar Hill Prep, I taught first grade for two years in the Berkeley Heights School District.

I hold a bachelor’s degree in Community Health Education from Rutgers University and received my Elementary

Teaching Certification from Kean University. Teaching at Cedar Hill Prep is very rewarding. I enjoy working with the students and watching them grow into confident readers and writers. Every day is a new and exciting experience for both the teacher and the students. I like to make learning fun and enjoyable for all my students.

Sumedha Kotasthane
Sumedha Kotasthane
3rd Grade/Math and Science

My name is Sumedha Kotasthane. I have been a member of the dedicated parent and teacher community at Cedar Hill Prep family since 2007 and currently teach Math and Science to the third grade. I have a Master's Degree in Electrical Engineering and a Bachelor's Degree in Electronics and Telecommunication. Before joining Cedar Hill Prep, I worked in the IT industry.

I love teaching because helping children learn and grow provides the greatest satisfaction. It is rewarding to see students put the learning pieces together to take on more complicated assignments. I enjoy teaching them organizational and study skills to help them become independent learners. The world is full of opportunities to learn, and I hope to give the children in my class the desire to become enthusiastic learners for a lifetime.

Barbi Higinbotham
Barbi Higinbotham
3rd Grade/Language Arts and Social Studies

Hello! My name is Barbi Higinbotham. I am the 3rd grade Language Arts and Social Studies teacher. Prior to teaching at CHP, I was a 3rd grade teacher in the Highland Park school district.

I am a state licensed certified teacher in preschool through sixth grade elementary education, as well as being state licensed certified highly qualified in social studies for all grades. My educational background includes a bachelor of arts degree in History from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Additionally, I completed my early childhood education program at the College of Saint Elizabeth in Morristown, NJ.

I am originally from beautiful, sunny southern California. However, after meeting my wonderful husband, I quickly became a Jersey girl! I am a world traveller, filling up two passports, and have been on every continent except Antarctica. The birth of my twins Owen and Avery were my greatest joy! They are growing up right before my eyes and are now big 4th graders!

It wasn't until I became a mother that I realized my calling to become a teacher. It started small with visiting the twins' preschool classes. Before I knew it, it became my obsession. I quit my pharmaceutical job and went back to school. I fell in love immediately and since then, there has been no turning back! I look at my students as individual children, each with their own special needs and abilities. I want to see them each reach their own best potential. When I teach, I look through the lens of teacher and a mother.

Carol Gadaleta
Carol Gadaleta
4th Grade/Math and Science

My name is Carol Gadaleta. Since 2009, I have been teaching 4th Grade at Cedar Hill Prep. I graduated from Kean University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education. My work experience includes teaching in both public and private schools from preschool to 8th Grade.

As long as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a teacher and find this profession to be challenging and very rewarding. My goal as an educator is to reach all of my students, equip them with the necessary skills, and guide them so that they can make a difference in the world. At the end of each school year, I hope that I have touched their lives in a positive way and that they will be able to do the same for others.

Karen Yurman
4th Grade/Language Arts and Social Studies Teacher

My name is Karen Yurman. I joined the Cedar Hill Prep Family in 2012 as the 4th grade teacher of Social Studies and Language Arts. Prior to CHP, I served as an administrator and 4th grade teacher at a private school. Before my children were born, I served as a teacher in a New York City Public School.

My educational background includes a Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education with a specialization in Social Studies and a Masters Degree in Elementary Education. I have dual certifications in New York State and New Jersey to teach Early Childhood and Elementary Classes.

Teaching is inspirational! As an educator, I am incredibly fortunate to have an opportunity to create an environment in which students are motivated to tap into their creativity and curiosity; where they can develop the confidence needed to welcome new challenges; and where they can begin to appreciate the value of becoming productive and contributing members of their communities.

Diane Steiner
Diane Steiner
Middle School Teacher/Language Arts

My name is Diane Steiner. In 2010, I joined the Cedar Hill Prep Faculty and currently teach Middle School Language Arts. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Math and German and a Master’s Degree in Educational Technology. My work experience includes teaching in both public and private schools. I have taught 4th and 5th grades (all subjects) as well as 5th and 6th grade math.

I’m passionate about what I do – teaching children. I love to find new and exciting ways to engage students in developing a love of literature. In my classes, students are exposed to a wide variety of fabulous texts. I love guiding them to continue to develop as writers. They have the opportunity to develop speaking skills through acting. My goal is to pass along my passion for learning, as well as a work ethic based in honesty, perseverance, empathy, and respect for my students and their families.

Michelle Whalen
Michelle Whalen
Middle School Teacher/Language Arts

My name is Michelle Whalen, and I am proud to join the Cedar Hill Prep community. My first impression of Cedar Hill Prep left me feeling enthusiastic and energized. I knew this was a place where children are thriving as they develop the lifelong learning skills that will help them make a difference in our world.

Prior to joining the Cedar Hill staff, I taught at Saint James School and Sundance. Since 2007, I have been a Middle School teacher, working with grades 5 through 8 in Language Arts.

My academic background includes a B.S. from Centenary College. I completed my teaching certification through Jersey City University.

I love working with children and watching the world change with them and around them. I believe all children can make a difference and that it is our job as fellow human beings to give them what they need to discover, succeed, and contribute to society. I strive to be patient and allow children to make their own paths as they grow along the journey.

Oumama Belkhayat
Oumama Belkhayat
Middle School Teacher/Science

My name is Oumama Belkhayat. I am the Middle School Science teacher at Cedar Hill Prep. My educational background includes a Bachelor’s Degree in Geology from the University of Meknes in Morocco, a Master’s Degree in Engineering from Drexel University in Philadelphia, and a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Concordia.

My teaching experience is diverse and extensive, including Middle School Science at Princeton Academy, Middle School and High School Math and Science at Noor-Ul-Iman School in Monmouth Junction and St. Mary’s Hall Doane Academy in Burlington, and College Undergraduate and Graduate Science and Engineering courses at Burlington County College and Drexel University. My work experience also includes nearly ten years at Albayan Academy in Trenton as the School Principal. There I was responsible for developing the curriculum, reviewing lesson plans, and organizing school events including the Spelling Bee, Science Fair, fundraisers, and all other extracurricular activities.

I am very happy to return to the classroom where I can work directly with the young students and encourage their interest in Science. Recently, I coached my Middle School Science students to a first place finish in the Solar Car Competition of Private Schools in the Princeton area.

Denise Galiano
Denise Galiano
Middle School Teacher / Science

My name is Denise Galiano. I am excited to join the Cedar Hill Prep faculty as the teacher of Science for 5th and 6th grade!

Before Cedar Hill Prep School, I was a 5th grade teacher at Woodbrook Elementary School in Edison, N.J. for several years. Previous to Woodbrook, I was an educator for over ten years in the East Brunswick school system. I have also been an adjunct instructor at Middlesex County College for Developmental Reading and Writing.

My academic background includes a B.S. from Kean University as well as a M.S. from Walden University. I am presently a doctoral candidate in the phase of my dissertation at Walden University. You can certainly say I am a lifelong learner.

Personally, I have a wonderful and creative husband for twenty-six years now, and we have two children who are now grown and away from home. My husband and I share interests in art. He carves marble and paints. I practice pottery on the wheel, stained glass painting, and glass blowing. We are both avid beekeepers, and we harvest our bees’ honey every year. Our large garden thrives with plants such as banana trees, olive trees, figs, and other delights. I am excited to bring aspects of our garden into the science classroom to share with the students.

I look forward to being part of the extraordinary team of students, parents, teachers, and staff at Cedar Hill Prep School!

Neetika Bhalla
Neetika Bhalla
Middle School Teacher/Math

My name is Neetika Bhalla. I have been a member of the Cedar Hill Prep faculty since 2012. My educational background includes a Bachelor’s Degree in Physics and a Master’s Degree in Merchandising and New Jersey Teacher Certification for High School Math.

I accidentally discovered my love for teaching while working as a Teaching Assistant during my pursuit of a Master’s Degree. With the encouragement of my students, I decided to pursue teaching as a career. I love math and am constantly energized by the words, "Oh, now I get it !" I hope to instill the same love for the subject in my students.

Sangeeta Lekhi
Middle School Teacher/Math

My name is Sangeeta Lekhi, the Middle School Math teacher at Cedar Hill Prep. I started my career in Accounting and Business in Miami, after a Bachelor's degree in Accounting and MIS, and an MBA in MIS, both from Florida International University. While working in the business sector, I found my true calling was helping others and teaching students. Luckily, NYC was looking for Career changers to go into the field of Education. Through a NYC Teaching Fellowship, I earned my Masters in Education degree in Mathematics, while teaching at-risk students in Manhattan, NYC.

I look forward to working with the Middle School students at CHP and teach Math in a way that they understand, challenge them, integrate it to the real world, and love the subject!

Stephen Eck
Stephen Eck
Middle School Teacher / Social Studies

My name is Stephen Eck. I am the middle school Social Studies at Cedar Hill Prep. I have a BA in History from Rutgers University and a MA in Social Studies Education from the Rutgers Graduate School of Education. I’ve taught United States History and World History at Franklin High School and James Caldwell High School. I also have five years of experience in the business world that has included brokering OTC Crude Oil and Natural Gas derivatives.

For me, teaching history is a great passion, and I am very excited to teach in such an intimate yet diverse environment as Cedar Hill Prep. I love the vision the school has for education and hope to have a rewarding future here.

Dr. Andy Wiginton
Middle School Teacher / Theatre | Social Studies

My name is Dr. Andy. I am excited to be joining the Cedar Hill Faculty to teach Social Studies and begin a theater/drama program.

I began my professional journey working as a teaching artist in the Bronx and Yonkers. After that, I was privileged to teach students of all ages in many different countries. Since 2007, I have been the program director for Savvy Theatre Works, an organization that shares the teaching power of drama with children who would not otherwise have access to it.

I graduated from the University of Michigan Residential College with degrees in Drama and LGBT Studies. I went on to earn an MFA in Theatre from Sarah Lawrence College and later a PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Theatre for Youth with a Doctoral Minor in Education.

While finishing my PhD, I realized my true vocation is teaching. It occurred to me that good theater and good teaching work towards the same goals: to help someone see something familiar in a different way or to learn something new for the first time. To make learning accessible, relevant, and fun, I use techniques borrowed from the world of theater and drama. Studies show that this kind of teaching is more efficient and effective, helping students to retain much more of what is taught. I spent several years teaching pre-service teachers and educators in dramatic methods but found I missed the energy and creativity of young people. I look forward to making magic at Cedar Hill for many years to come!

Arwinda Pattani
Arwinda Pattani
World Languages | Spanish & French

"Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success... Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm" - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Bonjour! Hola! My name is Arwinda Pattani. I was born in Kenya and grew up in London, UK. I have a Bachelor of Arts Degree in French and NJ Teacher's Certification from Rutgers the State University; B.ED in French and Art from London University (UK); Certificate in Spanish from Don Quijote Institute in Salamanca; Certificate in German from Goethe Institute in Frankfurt; Certificate in ESL from University of Cambridge. My work experience includes teaching in both public and private schools, here and abroad (UK and France). I have taught Preschool/Kindergarten/ Elementary grades/Middle school/ High school and Adults.

I joined Cedar Hill Prep in 2010. It was a privilege to introduce the World Languages program, French and Spanish, to PreK-8th grade at CHP.

Teaching World Languages is my passion and teaching at CHP, where students come from culturally diverse communities, is very rewarding. It is wonderful to teach languages to children because they come with enthusiasm, a lot of energy and some knowledge, which is then transformed into a wonderful learning experience, a joy for both. I enjoy teaching because each grade level presents its own challenges, and I want to make a positive difference in students’ lives through an exciting and challenging curriculum which helps them develop confidence in learning and encourages critical thinking. The success of the program is reflected in students’ appreciation of another language and culture, ability to speak in the target language with confidence and continuing further in HS at advanced level.

Cari Cerasa
World Languages | Spanish

Hola! My name is Cari Cerasa. I am very excited to join the Cedar Hill Prep faculty! My educational background includes a Bachelors of Science Degree in Management Science and a Bachelors of Arts Degree in Spanish from Kean University. Since 2009, I have taught Exploratory Spanish and Spanish Levels I and II in grades 2-12.

Because education is very important to me, I have always felt a strong desire to teach. I believe that learning a second language is one of the most valuable assets you can possess, and that it opens the doors to so many new experiences whether they be cultural, educational or business related. Being bilingual has been an asset to me in life and work. I enjoy sharing my enthusiasm for learning the Spanish language and culture with my students...and creating a safe and relaxing environment in which to do so.

My goal as a Spanish Instructor is to have students interact with me in Spanish. I enjoy using a variety of activities that help my students achieve competency in Spanish through the five language skills (i.e. reading, writing, speaking, listening, and culture awareness). Ultimately, my goals are for my students to appreciate different cultures and develop the ability to express themselves in the target language.

Stephanie Battistoni
Art and Technology Teacher

My name is Stephanie Battistoni. I am very excited to join the Cedar Hill Prep family as the Art and Technology teacher. My educational background includes a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design and Multimedia and an Associate of Applied Science in Digital Animation and 3D Design. Currently, I am working on attaining my Master of Education Degree in Instructional Design and Technology. I have over 7 years of experience in education teaching animation and video game design, as well as industry experience.

My favorite aspect of teaching is showing students how to express themselves creatively and explaining how art applies to everyday life. Art and technology involve thinking beyond traditional boundaries and connecting different disciplines. For example, the thought of 3D usually equates to movies or video games. However, 3D is now being used by many industries including jewelry designers, the fashion industry, science and research, the medical field, and space travel.

Helping students to reach their full potential and exceed their own expectations fuels my passion for teaching.

William Condit
Music/Preschool-8th Grade

My name is Bill Condit. I am ecstatic to join the Cedar Hill Prep community as the music teacher. Before joining Cedar Hill Prep, I taught drama, band, chorus and music at Farmingdale Public School.

I believe that good teaching begins with creating positive, genuine, and honest connections with students, regardless of age or ability level. In music or any creative art, students are encouraged to create, experiment, improvise, perform and grow. It is a true joy to watch children work hard and then light up as soon as their dedication and effort pay off.

I received my Bachelor's of Music Education from Temple University and am certified in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania. I have taught students aged 3 to 19 in urban, suburban, and rural environments.

Courtney Tierney
Courtney Tierney
Physical Education and Health Teacher

I am Courtney Tierney, the Physical Education Teacher for Preschool through Second Grade at CHP. After graduating from Franklin & Marshall College with a BA in Psychology, I have had the opportunity to teach Pre-K as well as Health and Physical Education to students in grades 6 -12.

Teaching young children is such a rewarding experience as I get to help the children develop their knowledge, confidence and skills. I love their creativity and enthusiasm for learning!

Anjalee Patel
Anjalee Patel
Guidance Counselor / Character Education Teacher

My name is Anjalee Patel. I have a Bachelors Degree in Psychology and a minor in Literature. At the graduate level, I have achieved a Master s Degree in Counseling Psychology with a specialization in counseling children and adolescents. My work experience includes in-home intensive counseling, crisis counseling, college counseling/academic advising, and school counseling. I love working with children of all ages and truly making a difference in their lives. It is refreshing how children can teach us to perceive things in new ways. They truly are amazing!