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Phyllis Pitale

Phyllis Pitale

Director, 5th- 8th Grade Math Teacher

Phyllis' educational journey and passion for teaching first blossomed at a private school in Absecon, where her dedication to her students' growth and development shone brightly. This commitment led her to an ambitious endeavor in September 2001: founding Highland Academy. Starting with just seven students, Phyllis' vision of a nurturing educational environment has flourished, now welcoming hundreds of students from preschool through 8th grade into its large extended family over the years.

With her background in child care development and elementary education, Phyllis regards her certification in Choice Theory/Reality Therapy as a cornerstone of her educational philosophy. This approach underpins the nurturing and individualized learning environment at Highland Academy, emphasizing relationship-building and recognizing the unique needs of each student. It's a methodology that Phyllis not only champions professionally but also personally, as seen in the positive impact on her own children, both Highland Academy graduates, with her daughter, Tori, returning as a teacher.

Beyond the classroom, Phyllis is deeply invested in community service, integrating it into Highland Academy's curriculum to foster a sense of civic duty among students. Her dedication extends to her involvement in the local community as an active member and past president of the Absecon-Galloway Rotary, where she currently chairs youth initiatives. Her contributions to education and community service have not gone unnoticed, earning her a spot among the top 40 under 40 by the Press of Atlantic City.

As the current president of the Highland Academy Board of Trustees, Phyllis continues to lead with a vision that education is not just about academic achievement but about building character, community, and compassion.

 

Tammy Pleydle

Tammy Pleydle

Language Arts , Computer Technology Teacher & Business Administrator

Tammy has been an integral part of Highland Academy since 1999, embodying the spirit of dedication and versatility that defines our community. As a cherished Language Arts teacher, she has ignited a love for reading and writing in countless students, guiding them from their first stories to becoming confident authors. Her commitment to fostering an appreciation for literature is matched by her enthusiasm for teaching Computer Technology, embracing the challenges and rewards that come with guiding students through the ever-evolving digital landscape.

Beyond the classroom, Tammy has seamlessly transitioned into the role of Business Administrator in 2016, offering her unique perspective on the operational intricacies of Highland Academy. Her ability to understand and contribute to both the educational and administrative sides of the school underscores her invaluable role in our community.

Tammy's talents extend to the stage, where she has made memorable impacts as the stage manager for Highland's annual school plays, creating experiences that students and faculty cherish. Her involvement doesn't stop when the academic year ends; as the Director of Highland Academy Summer Camp at Stockton University, she continues to enrich students' lives during the summer months.

Her dedication to Highland Academy is further demonstrated through her active participation in the Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO), where she serves as Treasurer, and her recent appointment as Treasurer on the Executive Board of Highland Academy II. In these roles, Tammy has shown exceptional skill in managing finances and raising funds, contributing significantly to the academy's growth and success.

Certified in Choice Theory/Reality Therapy, Tammy brings a thoughtful and effective approach to both teaching and administration, ensuring that the principles of respect, responsibility, and personal growth are woven into the fabric of Highland Academy.

Tammy's multifaceted roles at Highland Academy showcase her passion for education, her commitment to the school's mission, and her unwavering support for the next generation. We are grateful for her contributions, which have left an indelible mark on our community.

Lea Tripoli

Lea Tripoli

Art and History Teacher

Lea Tripoli has been a cornerstone of Highland Academy since 2001. She began her journey at Highland Academy teaching preschool, then transitioned to the Kindergarten - First grade room. Lea then  expanded her expertise to specialize in art and social studies for students from kindergarten through eighth grade. She currently enlightens third and fourth graders with her knowledge of math.  Lea is also responsible for teaching spelling.  

 Lea holds a Bachelor of Science in Interior Design from Drexel University and attended the teacher’s education program at Stockton University, where she focused on elementary education. Her dedication to advanced teaching methods is evident in her certification in the Wilson Reading program and her training in Choice Theory and Reality Therapy. 

Outside the classroom, Lea's creativity is showcased through her role as the set designer for the school plays, and her leadership abilities are recognized in her position as Vice-President of the PTO Executive Board. 

 When the school year winds down, Lea directs her energy towards the Highland Academy’s Summer Camp. In her leisure time, she is likely to be found soaking up the sun at her favorite spot on Sea Isle City Beach or cherishing moments with her grandchildren, Mia and Leo. Lea resides in Absecon, New Jersey, with her husband, Keith.

Tori Pitale

Tori Pitale

Kindergarten- Second Grade Teacher

Tori Pitale is not just a teacher; she is a lifelong member of the Highland Academy community. Beginning her journey at just 14 years old as a counselor in training at Highland's Summer Camp, Tori’s dedication to education and development was clear from an early age. She ascended to the role of head Camp Counselor before transitioning to a year-round position as a Preschool Teacher’s Aide after graduating from the Gloucester County Institute of Technology, where she pursued Performing Arts.

In the 2015-16 school year, Tori was promoted to Head Preschool Teacher, where she demonstrated exceptional skill in nurturing and educating 3 and 4-year-old students. Her exemplary performance led to her next role as a Kindergarten to Second Grade Teacher in the 2018-2019 school year. Tori passionately refers to her students as "Her Kids," a testament to the deep connections she forms and the significant impact she makes in their lives.

Tori's academic credentials include an Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Development from Atlantic Cape Community College and a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology with a concentration in Education from Rutgers University in 2018. Tori is committed to providing each of her students with a loving and enriching educational experience, celebrating every step of their growth and learning with heartfelt enthusiasm.

 

Christine Culligan

Christine Culligan

Front Office Supervisor

Chrissy has been a part of the Highland Academy family since her two eldest children started attending in 2006. She is the proud parent of 3 childen. Through the years, Chrissy and her husband Mike have been active Highland PTO parents, always willing to help out where needed. Chrissy volunteered working the front desk in the mornings and afternoons when needed, and when offered a position with the school, was happy to accept. Chrissy officially started working at Highland Academy in 2015. Chrissy loves her days  with the kids. She is currently pursuing her Associate’s degree in Special Education from ACCC. Outside of school and work, Chrissy enjoys going to the beach and vacationing in Disney World.

Miss Maddy

Music

Madeline is a proud alumna of Highland Academy, having attended from Kindergarten through Eighth grade, graduating in June 2016. Madeline began working for Highland Academy at the age of 14 when she started working as a counselor-in-training for the school's Summer Camp Program. Over the years, she became a senior counselor. After her time at Highland, Madeline pursued her high school education at Charter Tech High School, where she specialized in Performing Arts and Vocal. She then continued her academic journey at Stockton University, graduating in 2024 with a Bachelor's Degree in Health Science, concentrating in Pre-Communication Disorders. Madeline continued to volunteer at Highland, helping with events like the annual musical and aftercare. In 2024, Madeline returned to Highland Academy as the Music Teacher. Madeline will continue her education by attending graduate school at Stockton University in the Fall of 2024, where she will pursue a Master's Degree in Speech-Language Pathology.
Madeline is deeply grateful for the opportunities and support that Highland Academy has provided her over the years. Born with a genetic illness called Cystic Fibrosis, Madeline often credits Highland for equipping her with the skills and encouragement needed to overcome the challenges she faces. She views Highland as her extended family and is thankful to be part of the children's journey, just as others have been a significant part of hers.
 Theresa LaNave Bankes

Theresa LaNave Bankes

Theater Arts & Science Teacher

Since joining Highland Academy in 2011, Theresa has been an influential force in both the theater and science departments. With her vibrant energy and deep expertise, she not only teaches but also directs the school's eagerly anticipated annual musical productions. Her portfolio includes well-received renditions of classics such as "The Little Mermaid," "Into the Woods," "Shrek the Musical," "Peter Pan," "The Addams Family," and "Annie."

Theresa's passion for theater is rooted in her academic background, holding a Bachelor’s degree in Theater. She is currently advancing her education further by pursuing a Master’s Degree, enhancing her teaching skills and artistic direction.

Her personal connection to Highland Academy is enriched by her daughter Madeline, who attended from Kindergarten through her graduation in the eighth grade in 2016. Theresa's dual role as an educator and a parent has given her a unique perspective on student development and community building within the school.

Melissa Snyder-Vila

Melissa Snyder-Vila

PreK - Kindergarten Teacher

Missy began her teaching career at Highland Academy as a Pre-K assistant in 2002. After a year of assisting in the class, she was promoted to head Pre-K teacher and worked in the classroom with the 4 & 5 year olds for 11 years.

In 2013, Missy decided to take some time off to raise her children and came back to work at Highland in 2019. Missy’s son attends Pinelands Regional High School and her daughter Jasmine attends Highland Academy. 

Aside from enjoying her time in the classroom with her students, Miss Missy loves vacationing and being with her husband and 2 children. Miss Missy has an Associates Degree from Ocean County College , is trained in Choice Theory and CPR certified. 

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