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June 29, 2021

Starting Strong: AHA Middle School Welcomes Faculty & Staff

This September, when the Academy of the Holy Angels Middle School opens its doors for the very first time, several core faculty and staff members will be ready to greet, teach, and guide the students in Grades 6-8. Meet the dedicated professionals who will be working with our incoming Angels.


AHA Middle School Dean Traci Koval joined the AHA community in July 2020 as interim dean of students at the high school. A graduate of Henry P. Becton Regional High School, Koval holds a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from Thomas Edison State College. She continued her education at Seton Hall, where she received a master’s degree in education leadership, management, and policy through the Catholic School Leadership Program. She is currently a doctoral candidate in school administration.


Koval has taught students in pre-K through Grade 12, and has covered nearly every subject over the years. She has served as a director of admissions, campus minister, principal, assistant principal, and dean of students. She has also guest taught at the college level.

As a college student, Koval realized that she wanted to be as influential in the lives of young people as her special teachers were in her own life.

“I look forward to working with our middle school Angels to help them know deep in their hearts that they each have unlimited potential locked within,” Koval said. “This middle school adventure will be part of unlocking personal potential and exploring the many options available to them. I am excited to be an integral part of this exploration…with lots of fun and adventures along the way!”


AHA Performing Arts Director Daniel Mahoney has shared his love of choral music, technique, and history for nearly 40 years. He joined AHA as a consultant in 2016 and was named director in 2017. He is currently moderator of AHA’s Tri-M honor society chapter. Mahoney prepares and directs the music AHA’s Masses, prayer services, retreats, and other programs. He is a long-time teacher and director of sacred music, most recently at the Church of the Sacred Heart in South Plainfield, where he established the handbell program. He will direct the middle school’s handbell choir and chorus.

Mahoney was educated at Middlesex College and completed coursework at Westminster Choir College. He has presented multiple workshops for colleagues, and directs the diocesan-level chapter of the National Pastoral Musicians. He has taught music at the Holy Savior Academy and Saint Francis Cathedral School. He has studied in Southeast Asia, the Holy Land, and throughout Europe.


AHA Instrumental Music Director Mariann Annecchino will teach a general music class/music appreciation at the middle school. Annecchino is a graduate of Holy Family Academy, where the Sisters of St. Joseph nurtured her interest in music. She graduated summa cum laude from Jersey City State College (New Jersey City University) with a bachelor’s degree in music education. She has pursued advanced coursework at Columbia University, Westminster Choir College, Hart College of Music, and various extension courses.

Annecchino provides music instruction in strings, orchestra, band, stage band, general music, and vocal music. She spent 30 years directing the children’s choir at Sacred Heart Church in Haworth and has led a number of workshops for both students and educators. She belongs to several professional organizations, including MEBCI, NJSMA, and NAfME, and sponsors qualified instrumentalists for these organizations’ honors ensembles. Annecchino is a freelance violin and viola performer and serves on The Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra Board of Directors.

She is now completing her 21st year at AHA. In addition to her responsibilities at the middle school, Annecchino will continue her work at the high school, where she teaches humanities, music appreciation, instrumental music lessons, Academy Orchestra, and the Handbell Choir.

Fine Art: Kathryn Biskup, who has been teaching art to AHA high school students since 2011, will expand her responsibilities by teaching the fine arts courses at the middle school. Biskup holds a bachelor of fine arts in art education from Pratt Institute and a master’s in art education from Brooklyn College. She is a certified art education teacher in New York and New Jersey.

Social Studies, Theater, & Computers: Sarah Chalmers is a graduate of Mount Clemens High School in Mount Clemens, Michigan, Chalmers earned her bachelor’s degree in history with a minor in theater at Eastern Michigan University.

Chalmers has always enjoyed books. She recalled participating in many summer reading programs, including a Book Bingo challenge that nudged her to read more historical non-fiction, including accounts of World War I. As a girl, she visited The Henry Ford museum, and had her picture taken next to the chair in which Abraham Lincoln was sitting when he was shot. She later became a museum employee.

“My first theatrical memory is of a production that my mom directed, and my dad was in when I was about three years old,” Chalmers said. “I love the creativity of (theater), the ability to make something out of absolutely nothing, and just how much the student who struggles in an academic classroom can really shine on stage.”

Chalmers has taught at several youth theater companies, and taught preschool drama and assisted in the pre-K classrooms at Mustard Seed School in Hoboken. She also directed a Grade 4-8 Drama Club. For the last two years, she taught performing arts in Grades 6-10 at BelovED Community Charter School and taught taught Grades 4-5 at Empowerment Academy.

“I love the moment when a student takes a bigger risk with their theater work and begins to be seen in a different light by their teachers and peers,” Chalmers said. “That confidence then begins to manifest itself in their other classes, and their gifts become more evident to the community.”


Mathematics: Mary Driscoll will teach math to students in Grades 6-8 and will serve as the Grade 7 homeroom teacher. Driscoll earned her high school diploma at Saint Catharine’s Academy, an all-girl Catholic high school in the Bronx. She received her bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Iona College. Before she joined the staff at AHA Middle School, Driscoll was teaching Algebra I at Saint Catherine’s.


“I have always loved math,” Driscoll shared. “It was my favorite subject through high school and college.” This enthusiastic educator aims to ignite this same love for math in her students. “What I enjoy most about teaching is when you reach that student who has always struggled with math and she now understands and enjoys the subject.”


Driscoll’s positive experience at an all-girl Catholic high school helped drive her decision to apply to Holy Angels.
“I know that I thrived in that environment, and I know how important it is,” the math teacher said.


English: Shabina Gillani is a graduate of Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics and The City College of New York, where she received a bachelor’s degree in English literature and a master’s in education. This educator uses written works from various perspectives to help students gain an understanding of a wide range of cultures and intellectual traditions. She has served as an English tutor for a Queens, New York, non-profit, and was assistant director at Harlem Center for Education. Gillani has also taught English at Manhattan Charter School and Our Lady of Lourdes School in New York City. She will also be the Grade 6 homeroom teacher.


“What I enjoy most about teaching is the eternal bond and everlasting relationships between teachers and students and their families,” Gillani said. “Teaching brings me so much peace knowing that I am honing the skills of tomorrow’s leaders.”

Latin: Frank Hunter is a graduate of Seton Hall, where he earned degrees in classical studies and English literature. He joined the AHA World Language Department in September 2020. In addition to his Latin classes at the high school, he will teach the introduction to the classics course at the middle school and the eighth grade Latin class.


Nurse Nancy Kelly grew up in Ho-Ho-Kus. She is the youngest of three girls, all of whom are AHA alumnae. This August, Kelly and her husband Michael will celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary. Kelly and her husband are the parents of two daughters, Caroline and Elise.

After completing her high school education at Holy Angels, Kelly attended Dominican College, where she received her bachelor’s degree in nursing. She has worked in nursing for over 30 years.

“I transitioned my career to school nursing in 2005, when my daughters were younger,” Kelly explained. “I have worked at several schools over the years and enjoy the many challenging and unique dynamics that being a school nurse entails.”

Physical Education & Health: Erin McGee, an AHA alumna, earned a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education at The College of New Jersey and completed her master’s in physical education at Montclair State University. From 2000-02, she served as AHA’s athletic director, chair of the AHA Physical Education Department, and health and physical education teacher. In September of 2018, she returned to AHA as a health and physical education teacher. This fall, she will be teaching both subjects at the high school and the middle school.

AHA Middle School Office Manager Carolyn Miller joined AHA’s front office staff as transportation coordinator in 2015. She will continue to manage the Academy’s transportation matters, and will assist AHA Academic Dean Carmen Quiñones with the international students. Miller is a graduate of Saint Peter’s University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in computer science.


Science & Religion: Linda Payonzeck (AHA ’90) will return to her alma mater as the science and religion teacher for Grades 6, 7, and 8. She will also be the Grade 8 homeroom teacher. Payonzeck received her bachelor’s in elementary education from Susquehanna University and earned her master’s in educational leadership, management, and policy at Seton Hall. She invested 20 years teaching at the Academy of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Franklin Lakes, and spent three years as principal of Trinity Academy in Caldwell.


This educator enjoys discussing her faith in class, and demonstrating direct connections between the classroom and everyday life. Payonzeck strives to help students blossom into well-rounded, responsible, and successful individuals.

“I have had wonderful opportunities to teach diverse groups of students, including those with learning disabilities, those who perform at grade level, and those who have exceeded their potential,” she added.


Counselor Michael Statile aims to help students realize their potential and go on to make a difference in the world. Statile is a graduate of Manchester Township High School in Manchester, New Jersey, and completed his undergraduate and graduate studies at Montclair State University. He holds a bachelor’s degree in family science and human development, a master’s in counseling, and a New Jersey certification in school counseling. After he received his master’s in January 2021, Statile served as a high school counselor for the Middletown Public Schools.


“I was always a student who relied on my school counselor to help me make difficult decisions,” Statile stated, adding that he seeks to help others in the same way. He will be sharing his time between the high school and middle school.

Founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1879, the Academy of the Holy Angels is the oldest private girls’ school in Bergen County. While AHA is steeped in Catholic tradition, this prestigious 6-12 school serves young women from various backgrounds.