STAFF BIOGRAPHIES

Ms. Allyson Krone, Principal
Allyson “Ally” Krone, Principal at Explore Middle School, has been a part of the Hudson County Schools of Technology School District since 2000. Originally an English teacher at County Prep High School, Ms. Krone moved into a supervisor role in the project-based Academy of Architecture and Contemporary Themes (AACT), now DFAB, in High Tech High School in 2008. In 2010, she took on the role of Assistant Principal at High Tech, where she has since helped to guide the school towards continued academic and career and technical success. A proponent of constructivist education practices, Ms. Krone strives to promote hands-on, academically rigorous learning opportunities. A believer in the value of academic risk-taking and interest-driven learning, Ms. Krone is a naturally collaborative leader whose door is open for all students, staff and parents. In addition to her role in the HCST District, Ms. Krone is an adjunct professor of Literacy Education at New Jersey City University. Beyond the school campus, Ms. Krone can be found taking advantage of the rich arts and cultural scene throughout Hudson County and New York City.
Ms. Lauren Norcia
Lauren has been with Explore Middle School as a science teacher for nine years. She is currently the instructional supervisor and teaches 8th grade science. A graduate of Montclair State University, Lauren has continued to pursue her passion for education at NJCU by receiving her master’s in special education, supervisor certificate and will graduate this year with her principal certificate. Lauren believes that students learn best through investigation, experimenting, and collaboration. In her science classroom, students learn through hands-on experiences by conducting fun experiments and participating in collaborative engineering projects through a STEAM project-based approach. In her free time, Lauren enjoys spending time with her family and friends, going to the beach, and doing yoga.
Ms. Justine Franco
Ms. Justine Franco is an Academic Coach and English literature instructor. She holds a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education from West Virginia University. Justine has been a part of the Explore Wolfpack for 4 years. Prior to Explore, she taught English literature at Infinity Institute in Jersey City for 7 years. Justine’s goals include using culturally responsive teaching to create an inclusive curriculum and classroom where students are encouraged to meet the challenges of the 21st century. She does so by making sure that her students know that their world is literary and literature must be analyzed and respected. The effort it takes to get through a worthwhile book is the same effort it takes to interact with the world. This motivation helps her young learners build the confidence to take on new experiences and expand their knowledge. Outside the classroom, Justine enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter and their dog, Atticus Finch.
Dr. James Murduca,<br />Math Supervisor
Dr. Murduca has joined Explore Middle School as a part-time mathematics supervisor. He is also a supervisor/adjunct professor of mathematics at New Jersey City University and works as a consultant with the edTPA Program for aspiring teachers. After school hours and in the summertime, Dr. Murduca coordinates STEM programs for elementary, middle, and high schools. During his earlier educational career, Dr. Murduca was a mathematics teacher and Job Placement Director with the Jersey City Public Schools for 26 years and worked as a math coach/consultant in various K-8 schools in NJ. He holds a Mathematics NJ Teacher Certificate and Supervisor Certificate, with a BA and MA in Mathematics, and a Doctoral Degree in Educational Technology Leadership.
Ms. Michele Jefferey
Ms. Michele Jefferey has been part of the HCST community for thirty-two years. During her tenure in the district she has served in various capacities, from teacher assistant to her current role of Executive Secretary at Explore Middle School, where she has spent the last fifteen years of her tenure. Ms. Jeffrey studied at St Peter’s College in Jersey City. She is active in her community, holding various volunteer positions including as a Hudson County Committee Woman and the Board of Directors for Spectrum Health Care. In 2017 she was awarded the Jersey City Woman of Action Award. Beyond her duties in the school and the community. Ms. Jeffrey enjoys interior design, entertaining and cooking, and being Mom to her children, Alton and Kyle.
Ms. Heather Bruno
Ms. Heather Bruno teaches 6th grade Language Arts and is a graduate of Kean University. She holds a Masters of Instruction and Curriculum from Kean University and has been teaching at Explore since 2011. Ms. Bruno’s goals in the classroom are to make learning fun, differentiate instruction to meet all learners' needs, and to instill a love for literacy within her students. Heather likes to maintain a positive learning environment and open communication with her students as well as their guardians. She has a love for holistic health and is an avid fan of things such as yoga, Pilates, and mindfulness. Heather loves to spend her spare time with her husband and son.
Ms. Amy Garrett
Ms. Amy Garrett is a Language Arts Literacy instructor at Explore Middle School. Ms. Garrett is a graduate of Kean University, where she completed both her BA in History and MA in Instruction and Curriculum, along with a teacher certification of Students with Disabilities and a teacher certification of teaching the Holocaust and Prejudice Reduction. Ms. Garrett joined the Explore Middle School team in 2016. As a teacher at Explore Middle School, Ms. Garrett would like to instill a passion and love for learning in her students. By creating a learning environment that fosters and promotes students’ talents and interests, Ms. Garrett hopes to equip her students with the skills needed to be successful as well as increase her students’ awareness that they have a voice and help foster the confidence and skills necessary to use those voices positively and effectively both inside and outside the classroom.
Mr. Anthony Fontaine

Mr. Anthony Fontaine, fondly known as “Nurse Anthony”, is a Certified Registered School Nurse who pursued his passion for nursing at Kean University by earning a Master’s Degree in School Nursing from Nathan Weiss Graduate College. As one of Hudson County Schools of Technology’s District school nurses and the last school nurse at KAS Prep High School before closing its doors for good, Anthony joined the Explore Wolfpack Team in 2017 bringing with him previous nursing experience in pediatric, acute and sub-acute, long term, head trauma/coma, tracheotomy/respiratory ventilator, oncology, psychiatric, geriatric, and home care areas of nursing. By utilizing therapeutic communication that is supported by his diverse clinical experience, Anthony strives to treat all students with compassion and believes evidence-based practices will lead to the best possible student outcomes.

As a proud father whose daughter earned her Bachelor’s Degree in English from William Patterson University, Anthony enjoys playing guitar, listening to music, travel, finding new places to eat, spending time with family and friends. As a lifelong learner, Anthony has a genuine appreciation and respect for education; diversity, acceptance of all cultural, ethnic, socioeconomic, and religious differences; and the health and future of our students, staff, and overall community.

Mr. John W. Dunphy
Mr. John W. Dunphy has been with Explore since the days when they only occupied a room in County Prep. The HCST community has been a major part of his life ever since he was the first student from Kearny to be accepted to High Tech back in the 90's. After studying Political Science and Theater at Muhlenberg College in PA and then English at NJCU, he's come back to his roots to teach at Explore. John's teaching philosophy is that knowledge can come from anywhere. Building homes in Minecraft can lead to an understanding of the Neolithic Age. The latest TikTok challenge can build a connection to revolutions throughout history. With all that in mind though, the work still needs to get done. When not teaching, John is doing his best to wrangle a toddler and a newborn. When not doing that, he's either catching Pokemon, reading (or rereading) Sci-Fi/Fantasy novels, or trying to get platinum achievements in old games on PS.
Mrs. Anna Bontigao
Mr. Adrian Nocum had been a high school History teacher for 8 years at different schools in the JCPS district before joining Explore Middle School. Although he is new to EMS, Mr. Nocum has been part of this HCST family for over 20 years as a graduate of County Prep HS. He received his BA in History at New Jersey City University. In his spare time, he likes to travel to different historical cities in search of local eats and visit MLB stadiums to collect ice cream helmets. One of his biggest influences to becoming a teacher was a fictional character by the name of Mr. George Feeny from the hit show Boy Meets World. It was Mr. Feeny’s inspirational interactions with his students that led Mr. Nocum to want to become the "Mr. Feeny" of this generation.
Mrs. Anna Bontigao
Mrs. Anna Bontigao started at Explore Middle School in 2006; she teaches Mathematics. She is a dedicated, lifelong learner. Mrs. Bontigao earned her Bachelor's Degree in Psychology and Urban Education at Rutgers University in Newark. She holds an MA in Educational Leadership with specialization in Administration and Supervision from New Jersey City University, and another MA, also from NJCU, in Special Education (M.A.T.) with endorsement in Teacher of Students with Disabilities (TOSD). In addition to these degrees, Mrs. Bontigao also completed the Holocaust Studies and Prejudice Reduction Studies from the Human Rights Institute at Kean University. Mrs. Bontigao believes that each student simply needs one other person to believe in them in order for them to be successful in life. Her goal is to be that person for students who might have a difficult time locating their personal fan. As a result of these beliefs, it is her mission to reach as many students as possible in order to make a difference in their lives. Her approach to mathematics education is grounded in the hopes that she can help students recognize their self-worth, find their own independence, and become resourceful young people. Mrs. Bontigao’s best time is time with her family, just enjoying the simple things in life. She is happily married to Winston and a proud mommy of the most inquisitive boy, Landon, and extremely fierce daughter, Dallas.
Ms. Frances Bermas
Ms. Frances Bermas teaches Mathematics at Explore. Entering her ninth year at the school, Ms. Bermas holds an MA in Special Education from New Jersey City University where she also earned her BA in Elementary Education and Mathematics. Her goals in the classroom include developing a lasting understanding of the mathematical concepts encountered while also aiming to develop a learning environment where students feel supported to do their best at every opportunity. In addition to her mathematics background, Ms. Bermas is also deeply interested in the arts, teaching Art CTE classes while also painting and singing on her own time. Beyond her academic and artistic interests and accomplishments, Ms. Bermas enjoys completing sudoku puzzles and spending time with her friends and family.
Mrs. Mary Ellen Kettleman
Mrs. Mary Ellen Kettleman is a proud Hudson County native who got her first job in education when she was 14 years old. She has been teaching in some form ever since, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics from Stockton University in 2004, followed by a Master’s Degree in Education from New Jersey City University. She has taught at the middle and high school levels full time for more than ten years, during which she has employed a real-world, applications-first approach to mathematics to promote learning. This philosophy is informed by her experiences in banking as an operations specialist as well as working with older students in college-level courses. Mrs. Kettleman’s interests range widely from step dancing to physics; she has also worked with the National Science Foundation and the Holocaust Resource Center.
Ms. Mary Norcia
Ms. Mary Norcia has been a science educator for six years. Having earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology, with a concentration in elementary education and middle school science, from Montclair State University, Ms. Norcia is currently studying to obtain a Master’s Degree in School & Mental Health Counseling from New Jersey City University. Her ultimate goal at Explore is to help students develop a passion for science. She approaches this by keeping students engaged in an array of hands-on activities that deepen their understanding and enhances their retention of knowledge. She encourages her students to “think outside the box,” challenges them to investigate their world through inquiry, and equips them with critical thinking and process skills. Outside of the classroom, Ms. Norcia can be found spending time with family and friends, as well as trying out new restaurants in the Hoboken/Jersey City area.
Ms. Mariel Teschlog
Ms. Mariel Teschlog is proud to be entering her fourth year as the School Counselor at Explore Middle School. She teaches School Orientation to all students in the Wolfpack, as well as Grade 7 Science. Ms.Teschlog strives to create an environment where each student feels valued and safe to be themselves. It is her goal to help every student discover what makes them unique, as well as how to use these traits to build the foundation for a happy life. Prior to coming to Explore, Ms. Teschlog spent seven years as a teacher and school counselor at Trenton Catholic Academy and the Bayonne Board of Education. She received both her BS and MA from The College of New Jersey, as well as additional certifications from Saint Peter's University and Kean University. Outside of school, Ms. Teschlog enjoys reading about current events, attending concerts, watching college basketball, and traveling.
Ms. Martha Rand
Ms. Martha Rand, LCSW, SSW, has worked for the HCST district for 18 years. She earned: her MSW from Fordham; provisional administrator certification through NJEXCEL; MA in Psychology from The New School Graduate Faculty; and BA in Art and Theater from CUNY. Prior to school social work, Mrs. Rand worked in clinical settings and private practice specializing in women's issues, adolescent, and family therapy. She uses creative arts therapies and body mind modalities to lead professional development for mental health professionals. Also a member of the Child Study Team, she has facilitated afterschool enrichment in visual arts, theater, fashion, organizational skills, and leadership programs. Her outside interests include her booth at the NYRenFair; writing which has been published in anthologies and online; art and participating in gallery shows. She draws techniques from her many interests to support students in character development/social emotional skills at Explore MS. Martha is especially interested in helping students identify their personal strengths and values and co-creating a compassionate and empathetic learning community.
Mr. Kiran Aziz
Mr. Kiran Aziz has been an Educational Technologist at Hudson County Schools of Technology since 2003, and a part of the district since 1995. He has taught K-12, post-secondary, alternative high, and adult school technology courses, as well as providing support and training to faculty. Mr. Aziz holds a B.A. in Computer Science from NJCU, and is NJDOE certified Teacher of Computer Science Technology, and Computer User Support Specialist (4148 and 4151, respectively). In his spare time, he enjoys reading and researching emerging technologies and finding ways to incorporate such concepts into the learning environment. Among his achievements are; the development and implementation of the k-5 technology curriculum, and NJDOE approved 3 year technology plan for the Schomburg Charter School district. Mr. Aziz will continue to facilitate technology courses and further the integration of technologies such as; robotics, 3D printing, digital fabrication (CAD/CNC), and multimedia production at Explore Middle School.
Ms. Angela Marie Cirillo
Ms. Angela Marie Cirillo teaches Vocal Arts at Explore, where she is entering her fifth year of instruction. A graduate of the Music Education program at Caldwell University where her primary instrument of study was voice. Ms. Cirillo also obtained her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Saint Peter’s University. While in Caldwell she was a part of the flute ensemble as well as Choir, Children’s Opera, and Musical Theatre. Ms. Cirillo feels that one of the greatest joys that come with being a music teacher is watching her students become musicians in their own right. To accomplish this, Ms. Cirillo creates a classroom environment that is safe and fun so that students can express themselves while learning to appreciate and create music.
Ms. Norrey Benito
Norrey has been an educator for more than half a decade. She earned her graduate degree in Health Science and Special Education from Saint Peter's University and New Jersey City University. Norrey is passionate about encouraging her students to engage with and learn to value the practice and application of civil discourse, tolerance, and teamwork to become functional citizens in society. She believes these skills, rooted in empathy and acceptance, are vital to her vision for her students. When Norrey isn't teaching, she is often on an adventure with her family and their pet dog, Whiskey.
Ms. Shannon Mattern
Ms. Shannon Mattern teaches Physical Education at Explore Middle School. A native of Harrison, New Jersey, Ms. Mattern earned a B.A. in Health and Physical Education from Kean University and an M.A. in Educational Leadership from Saint Peter's University. Entering her fifth year in the Hudson County Schools of Technology, where she also leads staff fitness and instructs intramurals after school. Ms. Mattern’s goal is for all students to take away lessons from her class regarding teamwork, specifically communication, social interaction, and knowledge of unique and fun ways to exercise and stay healthy throughout their lives. Beyond the classroom walls, Ms. Mattern enjoys traveling, exercising regularly, and being outdoors.