Distinguished Early Career Educators
Krystal Barrera is finishing up her first year at Southbridge Middle School. This past year, she worked with grades 6 through 8 as a Reading Intervention teacher. Prior to joining the SMS team, she earned her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education and Visual & Performing Arts from Worcester State University. Krystal is currently working on her Master's of Art in Teaching through the UMASS Dartmouth partnership with Southbridge Public Schools. She also has worked in Southbridge in collaboration with the Latino Education Institute creating and leading theatrical summer programming both in person and virtually.
In Southbridge, Krystal has made the most of her first year by supporting students in the classroom and outside of the classroom. Overall, her students have shown her a lot of resiliency. Each of them has grown both in their academic skills and interpersonal skills. She is proud of the gains they have made and looks forward to encouraging their journey of improvement.
Kaitlyn Dean has been working at Southbridge Public Schools for one school year. She currently teaches in a fifth-grade classroom at West Street School. In the spring, Kaitlyn was also a coach for Girls On The Run. Kaitlyn graduated from Roger Williams University, where she majored in Elementary Education with a dual minor in STEAM Education and Photography. She student-taught in a second-grade classroom in Middletown, Rhode Island.
Dean says that “I went into teaching because I wanted to make a difference in my students’ lives. I love teaching and watching their faces when they get the ‘aha’ moment of understanding. I enjoy being a positive role model for my students and helping them grow into the wonderful individuals they are. As a first-year teacher, I was nervous but excited to start my career. Reflecting back on the year, I have become more confident in my abilities to reach the needs of all of my students and teach effectively”
Demetra Edwards is a fifth-grade Dual Language Spanish teacher at West Street Elementary School. She is from Milford, Massachusetts, and received her Bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College in English and Hispanic Studies. After graduating from Wheaton, Demetra spent one year teaching English in Spain. Upon her return from Spain, she began her career as an editor for various technology publications. During the pandemic, Demetra enrolled in a certificate program at Worcester State University to teach English as a Second Language. She is now enrolled in the Masters in ESL program at Worcester State University. She decided to become a teacher because she wanted to provide students with a positive educational experience, especially after the pandemic. She believes all students should feel loved, supported, and challenged every day at school and she wanted to provide this for her students.
In her current position as a dual language Spanish teacher, Demetra has spent the last year learning and growing as both a teacher and a person. She has learned so much from her fifth-grade team and is thankful for all of their support. As a Spanish teacher, she aims to foster the same love for language learning that she has developed over the years. She loves to see the students take risks and push themselves to do their best every day.
Kimberly Fallon is in her second year working in Southbridge as a school psychologist. She works primarily work at West Street School and Eastford Road School. She also took on the role of Tier 2 PBIS Coach this year and she is excited to continue with this work. Prior to working in Southbridge, Fallon completed a year-long internship in the Hudson Public School District and a year-long practicum in the Wachusett Regional School District. She earned a master's degree and education specialist degree in school psychology from Worcester State University and is recognized as a Nationally Certified School Psychologist. She completed her undergraduate experience at Westfield State University, where she obtained a bachelor's degree in special education and a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She previously worked in early intervention in her hometown of Worcester before attending graduate school.
Fallon appreciates this recognition as a Distinguished Early Career Educator and feels lucky to be among so many quality educators.
“Right from my first day in Southbridge, I have felt welcomed, valued, and respected as a team member. Being early on in my career, it can be easy to doubt myself and wonder if I am doing enough. This recognition is a meaningful reminder that the work that I do in Southbridge is so important. I look forward to continuing my work as a school psychologist alongside the incredible staff, families, and students of Southbridge,” Fallon remarks.
Allison Fedors grew up in Ledyard, Connecticut where she lived the majority of her life. She moved to Massachusetts and graduated from Westfield State University, class of 2019, with a degree in Business Education. After finishing college, Ms. Fedors worked in a school district in Connecticut as an Educational Assistant, working in both a General Education setting and an alternative setting. Her experiences in these positions allowed her to develop strong classroom management techniques and deepened her passion for teaching.
In the Fall of 2021, Ms. Fedors joined Southbridge Public Schools as an 8th-grade math teacher. She loves her job and she is devoted to teaching math. Ms. Fedors’ school day does not end with the last bell. She teaches an after-school MCAS prep program and attends most school events such as plays, art shows, and sporting events to support Southbridge students. Ms. Fedors’ main goal is to make math accessible and exciting for all students by intertwining fun and relatable topics into the curriculum. Coincidentally enough, Ms. Fedors’ enthusiasm towards teaching began in her very own 8th-grade math class; it was the start to a magnificent adventure.
Sara Gardella was born and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts. Sara attended Worcester State University where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and Psychology. She has been teaching for 9 years and has had the opportunity to work with many diverse groups of students. Sara points to her father, Paul as her inspiration to pursue a career in education. He was a middle school Math teacher for 33 years before his retirement.
Sara is in her second year of teaching third grade at Charlton Street School. Sara enjoys collaborating with her team and is looking forward to seeing what next year brings (after summer vacation, of course!).
Sean Houlihan is excited and honored to finish his first year in Southbridge Public Schools as a Distinguished Early Career Educator. He describes working at Charlton Street School as a wonderful experience. As a Special Education teacher in the Positive Academic and Social Skills classroom, he has been able to work with a dedicated staff to ensure that student needs are being met.
Prior to working in Southbridge, Houlihan spent time teaching internationally in Brussels, Belgium, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Belize. He has also taught in the United States in Minnesota and most recently Mississippi. Houlihan says that, “Arriving in Southbridge, I have been thrilled with the focus on diversity and inclusion. I love coming to school each day knowing that I will have the educational tools and support that I need to ensure that all of the students that I work with are included, challenged, and successful.”
Kate Stoica joined the district in 2021 and currently teaches chemistry and physics in addition to being the PBIS Tier 1 coach at Southbridge High School. Prior to joining Southbridge, Ms. Stoica taught chemistry at a public high school in the Bronx for nine years. In New York, she was a two-time recipient of the Math for America Master Fellowship. She facilitated teacher learning teams to improve conceptual understanding of science and worked with other science and math teachers to improve teaching skills.
Ms. Stoica became a teacher because she was inspired by her high school math and chemistry teachers in Chicago. She loved the academic challenge and the critical thinking required in solving science and math problems. She is particularly drawn to science because there is a continual expansion of knowledge. She hopes to inspire curiosity and a love of learning in her own students. In her classroom, Ms. Stoica uses mastery-based learning to help students adopt a growth mindset, set academic goals, and meet them. Her classes are focused on discovery, discussion, and collaboration. She looks forward to continuing to work with others to use practices that make science accessible to everyone.