The Alpha School Team
John Gonzalez, Principal
John Gonzalez is the principal of Alpha School. Previously, Mr. Gonzalez was the supervisor of instruction at the Gateway School in Carteret, New Jersey. Mr. Gonzalez is a graduate of Rutgers University and New Jersey City University. Mr. Gonzalez has a Master of Arts in Special Education and brings years of experience working as a classroom teacher, head teacher, and administrator with the Jersey City and Newark Public Schools.
Diane Gray, Supervisor of Instruction
My name is Diane Gray, and I’m the Supervisor of Instruction at Alpha School. I have been in the field of education for over 20 years. I graduated from LaSalle University with my Elementary and Special Education degrees. I received my Masters of Education degree, as well as, my Guidance Counselor Certificate and Supervisor Certificate from Georgian Court University. I worked in public school special education for 15 years, while also coaching girls softball and basketball. I was the Stem teacher at Harbor School, before beginning as the RKS Supervisor of Instruction. I have had the privilege of supervising at all three of our schools, Alpha, Harbor, and Gateway. I am very fortunate to be part of this amazing team of professionals. I look forward to a productive partnership between our staff and families to ensure that our children can achieve their highest potential.
Wanda Pratola, Secretary
I first started at the Harbor School (our sister school) in 2001 and I transferred to the Alpha School in 2004, and have been here ever since. My job is diversified which makes it interesting on a daily basis. I am the first person everyone sees when you enter our doors. I have a positive attitude and I am always happy to greet all our visitors. My duties consist of answering the telephone, taking care of students’ records, scheduling all meetings, and speaking with many of our students’ parents on a daily basis. I also assist all our staff with their needs as well. I feel that being positive, compassionate and getting along with administration as well as my co-workers is very important in our setting. The Alpha School has become my second family and I enjoy coming to work every day. I feel that I make a real difference in the lives of our students and their families.
Denise Sibilia, Secretary
My name is Denise Sibilia and I am a secretary at Alpha School. I first started working part time at our sister school, Harbor School in 2020. I soon had the opportunity to work full time between both Harbor and Alpha Schools. I later transferred full time to Alpha School in 2022. In addition to the office duties, I am responsible for, I enjoy the daily interaction I have with administration, staff, students and their families. I find it fulfilling being a part of helping to ensure that the school day runs smoothly for the Alpha School family. I enjoy being there to help everyone have a successful and wonderful day. I enjoy coming to work because of the wonderful people I get to work with every day. I feel blessed being part of the amazing team at Alpha School.
Beverly Holborow, Related Services Coordinator and Speech Therapist
I began working at the Alpha School in September 1996 as a staff Speech-Language Pathologist and Related Services Specialist. As the Related Services Specialist, I am responsible for coordinating Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy for all the students that attend the Alpha School. In addition, I act as a liaison between the therapy staff and the administration. I provide information regarding our therapy programs to parents and case managers looking to place students at our school. I collaborate with therapists from our sister schools, Harbor School and Gateway School, to gain new information and ideas to keep our therapy program dynamic. As a staff Speech-Language Pathologist, I provide speech and language therapy for Elementary through High School aged students. I have mentored and supervised many students from various undergraduate and graduate programs in Speech Pathology. I developed a dog therapy program here at Alpha School. My therapy dog Vegas works with students in individual speech therapy sessions as well as larger class group sessions. Additionally, she assists students experiencing anxiety and emotional difficulties. I have attended numerous continuing education courses in the areas of augmentative communication, oral-motor/feeding and autism. I received formal training in the use of PROMPT (Prompts for Restructuring Oral Muscular Phonetic Targets) method. In 2002 I received the Ruth K. Newman award for Excellence for teaching special needs students.
I received my Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech and Hearing Sciences from Kean University in May of 1992. I went on to receive my Master of Arts degree in Speech Pathology from Kean University in August of 1993. My first job experience was as a Speech-Language Pathologist at the Children’s Center of Monmouth County. I have worked for a private practice in Monmouth County as well as for several agencies throughout Ocean County.
Steven Fortunato, BCBA, CPI Coordinator
I have been with the Alpha School team since 2013. I currently hold the positions of BCBA and CPI Coordinator. In 2012 I graduated from King’s College with a Bachelor’s degree in History and Special Education, in 2016 I received my Master’s in Applied Behavioral Analysis from Georgian Court University, and I became a certified CPI instructor in 2019. I also work in the same roles at Harbor and Gateway schools. Outside of the three schools I provide in-home behavior therapy as well.
When I am not working, I enjoy family time with my beautiful wife Jennifer and my 1-year old daughter Stevie June. My wife and I both share the passion of working with students with different disabilities. I strive to provide each individual I work with the skills and tools to help them become successful in different areas of life. In collaboration with other members of the great Alpha staff I design plans and strategies for students to achieve their individual goals and progress in the classroom setting. It is important to me to give each student my best every day.
Jess Nolan, Primary teacher
Hi! My name is Ms. Jess Nolan. I have been a primary teacher at Alpha School for the past five years. I have been lucky enough to work with students with special needs for the past seven years. I was born and raised in New Jersey. In 2013, I graduated from Georgian Court University with a Bachelor’s Degree, teaching certification (K-6) and a TSWD Endorsement.
When I am not at work, I love spending time with my one-year-old son, husband, and our two dogs. I love being outdoors submerged in nature. I am an avid traveler. I have traveled to Guatemala, Honduras, Thailand, Cuba and across the United States. I love the sense of adventure when traveling and learning about different cultures. I have learned and grown with every trip that I have taken. I look forward to all of my future adventures with my little family.
I am so thankful to be able to work with such exceptional children. Being a part of my students’ journeys to achieve their goals has been one of the greatest joys of my life.
Erin Frank, Primary Teacher
Hi! My name is Erin Frank, I have worked at the Alpha School since 2018. I started as a paraprofessional and started my first position as a lead teacher in March of 2023. I was born and raised in New Jersey, in 2018 I graduated from West Chester University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor's degree in public health. After working with the students at the alpha school I fell in love with teaching and continued my schooling to receive an Education degree. When I am not at work, I like to spend most of my time at the beach or doing anything outside. I am an avid runner, I enjoy going on walks with my two dogs, and I love to travel. I am so thankful to be working with the wonderful students at the Alpha school.
Stephanie Grasso, Secondary Teacher
My name is Stephanie Grasso, and I have worked at Alpha School for 9 years. I started as a paraprofessional and have been the classroom teacher for the past 5 years. I attended Georgian Court University and graduated in 2009 with Bachelors’s in Psychology with dual minors in Elementary education/special education graduated. I love working in an environment where students feel safe and loved. My students teach me something new every day and because of them, I am a better person. I have always felt like our school is more than just a school, we are a family. I am so blessed to be able to work with the most patient, loving, and talented staff on Earth.
Outside of Alpha, I enjoy spending time with my family. I love to read, going to the beach, attending concerts, and traveling. My most rewarding travel experience was going to South Africa. I went on several safaris and even experienced a safari riding an African elephant.
Christine Spina, Secondary Teacher
Hi! My name is Christine Spina. I was born and raised in Jersey City/Bayonne. I graduated from Jersey City State College (now New Jersey City University) with a Bachelors’s Degree in Special Education. I taught for 2 years at St. Joseph’s School for the Blind in Jersey City. I moved to the shore area 20 years ago to begin working at Alpha School. The best part of working at Alpha so long has been working with the students and watching them grow through the years as well as the lifelong friendships I have made. I am a proud mom of 9-year-old soon to be 10-year-old triplets, Nicholas, Elizabeth and Robert. I love spending time with my kids and cheering on their sporting teams! When I have free time I enjoy reading, walking, going out to eat, and going to Broadway shows.
Nicole DiMeo, Secondary Teacher
Hi! My name is Nicole DiMeo. I am a special education teacher at Alpha School. I have been working in the field of education since 2001. I started working as a paraprofessional while I attended college. I graduated from Georgian Court University in 2007 with a Bachelor’s Degree and am dual certified as a Special Education Teacher and an Elementary Teacher. I am currently pursuing my Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction, and will graduate in 2024.
In my time outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my husband, our son, and our families.
Kirsten Earle, Secondary Teacher
Hi! My name is Ms. Kirsten Earle. I have been teaching at Alpha School since 2021. Previously, I have taught preschool and then worked many years for the Early Intervention Program as a teacher and social worker. I received a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Rutgers and a Master’s Degree in Teaching from Monmouth University. Currently, I have a Provisional Teacher of Students with Disabilities (TOSD) Certification and am finishing the additional graduate work at Stockton University to obtain the Standard TOSD Endorsement. I am on track to complete this coursework in 2024. I also currently hold Elementary and Psychology teaching certificates as well a Certificate in Social Work.
Working at Alpha School is a great fit for me. Not only do I have many years of experience working with children with special needs but it hits close to my heart. One of my 2 amazing daughters is on the Autism Spectrum and has mild learning disabilities.
Both of my young adult daughters, Jenna and Molly, and our goofy dog, Zoey, live at home with me. For leisure I enjoy spending time with friends and family, going to the beach, boating, and going on road trips. Exploring every state in the country is on my bucket list.
Shannon Janicki, Teacher
Shannon Janicki is an eccentric, charismatic teacher who uses love and compassion to help children overcome obstacles and accomplish goals. She was raised by her loving parents in Lakewood, NJ with her two brothers and one sister. Compelled to help children with special needs, she acquired her degree in special education from Georgian Court University with a Teacher of the Handicapped certification.
She gained experience in the field by first being a paraprofessional at Lakewood High School in a medically fragile class. In her almost 20 years of being in the field, she has worked with multiple populations from medically fragile to behavioral/emotional disabilities to down syndrome to autism. During her college days, Shannon did observation hours at the Alpha School. Years later, when the opportunity arrived for her to run her own classroom at the Alpha School, she happily accepted the position.
Her lessons are focused on gaining the skills to navigate real-life scenarios that her students will encounter. By utilizing demonstrations and creating a vibrant atmosphere, she empowers colleagues in gaining repour which allows them to teach independence and communication. Her students strive for excellence and are treated with respect as if they were her own.
Jessica Duda, Secondary Teacher
Jessica Duda is a Secondary Teacher at Alpha School. I have been in education for 6 years. I graduated from Monmouth University in 2017 with my Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education and a Teacher of Students with Disabilities. I have a personal connection to this field as my youngest sister is Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. It is my passion to encourage and help students grow both academically as well as in life. I am truly honored to be able to work with our students here at Alpha School.
When I am not working with these wonderful students, I enjoy spending time with my two dogs, my family and friends, or enjoying a good book with a nice cup of tea or coffee.
Sara Stockton, Art Teacher
Hello. My name is Sara Stockton and I am a primary teacher at the Alpha School. I joined this exceptional school community in November of 2016. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Douglass College at Rutgers University in 1997. I received my Teacher of Art certificate from Georgian Court University and my Teacher of the Handicapped certificate from New Jersey City University. I was a paraprofessional and an Art Teacher for a combination of 9 years and took a 10-year break to stay home to be with my two daughters. I love every day at the Alpha School. The students are such a big part of my life and the people I work with are caring, dedicated and unlike any others. In my free time I enjoy spending time with my family, especially my daughters, my sister and my cousins as well as friends. My favorite pastimes include going to the beach, cooking and drawing.
Geoff Szeto, Teacher
Hi! My name is Geoff and I am a Special Education Teacher at Alpha School. I love creating a fun and nurturing environment so students look forward to coming to school. I take pride in teaching students' self-acceptance, self-love, respect for others, and the importance of being authentic. I teach real life skills to deal with real world problems. As an advocate for lifelong learning and independence, I focus on teaching life skills that extend beyond the classroom. From basic daily routines to practical job-related skills, I equip my students with the tools they need to navigate the world confidently.
Amanda Latham, MT-BC, Music Therapist
Amanda Latham received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Therapy and her minor in Psychology from Montclair State University. She completed her internship at the Center for Discovery in Harris, NY; and went on to receive her Music Therapy Board Certification in December 2012. She was hired as the Music Therapist at Alpha and Harbor School in September 2014, where she uses music to address goals such as increasing socialization skills, communication, and self-expression. Amanda is currently a member of the New Jersey Task Force for Music Therapists, working toward state recognition for music therapists in New Jersey.
Kathy Moore, Health and Physical Education Teacher
I began teaching at Alpha School in 1985, as the Health and Physical Education instructor. My responsibilities include developing, strengthening, and implementing the health and physical education curriculum. I enjoy helping my students strengthen appropriate social interactive skills with their peers during activity. I have established a strong rapport and respect with my students, which I am very proud of. In addition, I have established athletic programs for our students to participate in Special Olympics competitions – both bowling and bocce. Beginning this year, I have established an Alpha School Alumni bocce team for participating in Special Olympics. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from Trento State College(presently the College of New Jersey), and I hold a New Jersey teaching certificate to teach Health and Physical Education – grades K-12. I reside in Brick Township with my husband Tony, and have three wonderful children, Amy/husband TJ, and twin sons Michael and Ryan.
Denise E. Kumpel, M.A. CCC/SLP, Speech and Language Pathologist
I have been a licensed Speech-Language Pathologist since 2002. I initially earned an A.A degree through Ocean County College and a B.S degree in Speech from Stockton University, before going on to acquire an M.A. degree from The College of New Jersey in the area of Speech and Language. I was employed on an emergency certified basis in a special needs school in N.J., while continuing to pursue my education. Following the completion of my Master’s Degree, I joined the Alpha School family, and have provided speech and language services to children and students from the ages of Preschool-21. I primarily service the High School students at Alpha, and enjoy focusing on increasing social and pragmatic skills, and further transferring those skills over into community settings. In addition, I work for Early Intervention servicing the birth-3 population, and also do part-time private therapy work as well. When I am not working, I enjoy spending time with and taking walks with my dog, drawing, exercising, and cooking/baking.
I received my Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech and Hearing Sciences from Kean University in May of 1992. I went on to receive my Master of Arts degree in Speech Pathology in August of 1993. My first job experience was as a Speech-Language Pathologist at the Children’s Center of Monmouth County. I have worked for a private practice in Monmouth County as well as for several agencies throughout Ocean County. I currently have a part-time private practice.
Jessica L. Gurry M.S. CCC-SLP, Speech and Language Pathologist
Hi! J I am Jess Gurry! I am one of the speech therapists here at Alpha School! At a young age, I knew I wanted to do something to help others. I was a rather social child growing up and realized that I loved making connections and communicating with others, so I attended East Stroudsburg University and graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in Speech and Language Pathology in 2009 and with my Master’s degree in SLP in 2011. I dabbled with out-patient rehab and public-school positions; however, a private school setting is where my heart lies. Before obtaining my Speech–Language Specialist position at Alpha School in 2013, I was a paraprofessional during my college breaks at a Children Center of Monmouth County and School for Children (now Hawkswood School). I really love my job and thoroughly enjoy what I do! I love my students and treat them as if they were my own. I try to make therapy fun and engaging! I am not sure who is more excited when goals are reached! My students definitely know when I am so proud of them! To me, there is no greater super power than being able to give my kids a "voice" and help them communicate with their families and connect with their friends and community.
In my free time, I love to hang with my family and friends, make Cricut crafts, listen to music, have dance parties in my kitchen, and go to the beach! I am also an 80-year-old at heart and obsessed with Hallmark Movies, so I volunteer at the Hallmark Christmas Con every year in Edison- since they started in 2019!
Tziporah Silberman, Speech Therapist
Hi! My name is Tziporah Silberman, and I am a speech language pathologist at the Alpha School. I received my bachelor's degree from Excelsior College, and my master's degree from the University of Cincinnati. I first joined the Alpha school in 2020 while covering a leave, and am very excited to be back! I have worked as a speech therapist in multiple settings, including private practices, public schools, private schools and hospitals. My favorite thing about being a therapist is helping my students find a voice, watching them progress and making a difference in their lives! I feel very fortunate to be able to work in such a setting!
Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends cooking, baking, and hosting parties. I also enjoy spending time with my son- hence I can say that my life is one big speech therapy session!
Emily Garcia, Occupational Therapist
Hi! My name is Emily Garcia, and I am an Occupational Therapist at the Alpha School. I received my bachelor's degree from Montclair University, and my master's degree from Salus University. I am passionate about working with the pediatric population. I have worked as an occupational therapist in public schools, early intervention, and an outpatient pediatric clinic. My favorite thing about being a therapist is helping my students reach their goals and increase their independence, whether it is in functional living skills, fine motor skills, pre-vocational skills, etc. I enjoy helping them reach their fullest potential. I am grateful to work with such amazing students!
In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my family (especially my niece and nephews), baking, and spending time at the beach.
Samantha Wagensommer, Occupational Therapist
Samantha Wagensommer earned her Bachelor of Science in Health Science from Stockton University and continued on to receive her Master of Science in Occupational Therapy. She has a passion for working with the pediatric population, assisting them in achieving their highest level of independence, and inspiring confidence within themselves. Her clinical approach is centered around the strengths of each child, recognizing their unique qualities, and tailoring her care accordingly.
Whether it is skilled handwriting interventions, to fine motor and hand strengthening modalities, or practicing daily living skills such as tying shoelaces, Samantha aims to support her students however she can. She also excels in providing recommendations for adaptive equipment in the classroom, ensuring optimal support for a child’s academic participation. She greatly enjoys the process of problem-solving to assist her students in overcoming any barrier that may be present to help them achieve their maximum potential.
In her free time, she enjoys playing guitar, reading books, and spending time with friends and family.
Beth Mulholland, Physical Therapist
Beth Mulholland has been working at Alpha School as a Physical Therapist for more than 15 years. Her previous experience includes working in pediatric and adult inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation as a therapist and supervisor, and in-home care. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Therapy from Russell Sage College in 1982, and her Masters in Public Administration from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 1994. She enjoys working with her students at Alpha, focusing on improving their motor skills, balance, fitness and functional mobility in the school setting. She has extensive experience in evaluating and recommending orthotics and has developed an orthotic program here at Alpha School. She has assessed many students for durable medical equipment, strollers, and adaptive bicycles. Her goal for her students is to help them maximize their movement potential and develop healthy movement and fitness habits that they can carry on after they complete their schooling.
Kevin Nussbaum, Social Worker
Kevin Nussbaum is the Social worker at Alpha School , and is a licensed
Social Worker in the state of New Jersey. Mr Nussbaum obtained his undergraduate degree in psychology and political science from Long Island University in Brooklyn, NY. He received his Masters degree in Social Work from Hunter College School of Social Work in New York.
Kevin primarily uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is a solution focused therapy that empowers clients to challenge unhealthy thought processes, and use more effective behavior patterns. Through the use of talk therapy , therapeutic games and activities, and “homework” in which students can practice healthy coping skills outside of sessions, Kevin utilizes CBT to help students work toward their various social-emotional goals.
Kevin also works with students using a holistic approach that integrates the mind, body, and , spirit., in order to help students better deal with anxiety, depression, conflict resolutions, and a myriad of other situations.
Kevin also incorporates coping strategies such as deep breathing, techniques, guided imagery, yoga, meditation, and breath work in sessions. Holistic therapeutic approaches can help students move toward achieving their goals using natural innate skills.
Katherine Frustieri, Job Coach
I started working at the Alpha School in September of 1998. I was a Para-professional for three years in the High School before taking on the position of Job Coach. I take our students, ages 16-21 to a variety of local businesses for job sampling. Our students volunteer for these work experiences. I train the students on how to complete the tasks and appropriate social skills needed for job placement. Since acquiring this position, I have added several new businesses that participate in our program. I believe that my enthusiasm for this program translates to our student’s performance and their eagerness while on the job sites. I also run the weekly pizza program and the annual Mother’s Day plant sale. All proceeds are used for the end of the year luncheon to reward our students for all their hard work.
Brenda Valle, Nurse
As the Certified School Nurse for Alpha School, we are responsible for offering support, care, and education throughout the spectrum of age and illness. At the School Nurse's office, I take pride in caring for our students and provide medical assistance with privacy and compassion. No two students are ever alike; however, all are treated with kindness, compassion, and respect. Our team relies on each other while providing the opportunity to educate the staff and each other throughout the year. As the CSN, every attempt is made to maintain an open-door policy to assure everyone that we are here for you. We are always present to ensure good health, safety and educate everyone.