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The Student News Site of Northern Valley Regional High School at Old Tappan

The Lance

The Student News Site of Northern Valley Regional High School at Old Tappan

The Lance

The Student News Site of Northern Valley Regional High School at Old Tappan

The Lance

Honoring Legacies

Longtime NVOT teachers to retire this year


Math teacher Jacquelyn Bonafede is retiring after 27 years. While she certainly engaged students academically, her ability to emulate a family dynamic within the classroom has proved to be an invaluable aspect of NVOT’s community. Even though she was celebrated for her work as a teacher, Bonafede is most proud of the other work she did in the classroom. She said, “I won the honor of Governor’s Educator of the Year Award last year, but my greatest accomplishment is the family I created.” 

“Though she always recognized the individuality of her students, after she became a mother, Bonafede began caring for them as if they were her own. This was where she developed and introduced her students to the theme of family into the classroom, or as she calls it, her “Bona-family.”

Bonfede said, “I grew up in a close knit family, so I brought the concept into the classroom and the kids loved it. They call each other math brothers and sisters even beyond the school year.”

Bonafede, who considers herself the “mother of math,” values kindness and shows this as she teaches. She hopes that no matter what a student was going through in life, they will remember the warmth they felt in her classroom. She also hosted festivities such as Candy Fridays, Baked Good Wednesdays, and birthday celebrations, all aimed at boosting the students’ moods with unconventional activities throughout the school year.  Senior Steve Yoo said, “I remember snack parties. It wasn’t what I expected in a typical high school class. It reminded me of elementary school and I was happy to relive that feeling again.”

Bonfede’s impact didn’t just reach students, but extended to the people she works with as well. Her colleagues recognized the warmth and comfort that she brought to the school. Math teacher Paul Capuzzo said, “She always brightened up the math department office with her laugh and her joyous approach to life. I will miss her enthusiasm and her positive attitude!”

This appreciation from students and staff alike highlights the profound influence she’s had at NVOT. When asked about the legacy that she hoped to leave, Bonafede said,I hope my students remember to carry and spread the love, respect, and kindness to other people in this world that was shown to them by me in our math class because you just never know when that single act of kindness could make all the difference in the world to someone on any given day.”


After 33 years of life of NVOT, teaching courses such as Photography all the way to AP Art History, Nicole Cole will move on to the next chapter of her life: retirement. Throughout her teaching career, Cole has taught an array of art courses while also managing to start AP Art History and created the digital photography class at NVOT.

What began as a simple request to take pictures for a student athlete’s game around ten years ago turned into her stepping into the role as the unofficial school photographer.  She said, “I decided to become a photographer and I did it on my own as I thought to myself, nobody’s taking pictures, so let me go grab a camera.” 

Since then, Cole has photographed school festivities and sports events. She’s taken general candids for the yearbook and her photographs were able to capture moments in so many Knights’ lives.

Regina Smilon, science teacher and longtime friend of Cole said, She has used her talent to beautifully showcase our school events and activities. Her photography is truly exceptional, capturing moments in a way that conveys the essence and emotion of each occasion.” 

Not only did Cole have a passion for photography, but also for so many other aspects of art. Throughout her career, she has taught classes ranging from Photography to Art History. She was featured on the television show Classroom Close Up for her innovative lesson designs as well. 

Cole managed to capture lasting photos along with the hearts of students who felt her passion for teaching. Senior Ellexa Belen, a member of Cole’s AP Art History class said, “For our final lesson, Ms. Cole was teaching us about an artist’s work (Ai Wei Wei) and as a surprise, she brought us sunflower seeds (part of the piece) and an individualized handwritten note for us.” 

Cole’s long lasting impact is felt throughout the school, and her students and colleagues will miss her. As for her final message to the school, she says, “I hope my students remember the passion I had for art. It truly shows up everywhere.”


As the History/English office buzzes with lively conversation and laughter, one voice will soon be missing: Jennifer Dee’s. After 32 years as an English teacher, she will say her goodbyes as she marks the end of her teaching journey this year.

Dee didn’t expect herself to be teaching at all; after graduating from Northern Valley Old Tappan in 1987, she had planned to say farewell to the school walls for good. She recalls telling herself after graduating high school and continuing her education at New York University, “That’s it. I am leaving. I am never coming back to suburbia.” Five years later, this all changed when she decided to come back to the same district she attended and pursue a career in teaching. Dee started at Northern Valley Demarest from 1992 to 2000, and has been at Northern Valley Old Tappan ever since, imparting knowledge across a range of courses, from American Lit to AP Literature and Composition to electives like Speech and Creative Writing. 

Beyond her role as an educator, Dee’s impact resonates deeply in the school community. She played a leading role in helping start the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) and the Women’s Issues Club in the early 2000s. English teacher Jeffrey Train said, “I am so happy to celebrate Jen on her retirement, but I am also sad, because there will be a little less laughter in the F-wing, and because we are losing a tireless advocate who champions equity and togetherness for all of our students.”

Having worked with students of various backgrounds and experiences, Dee consistently tried to challenge each individual to surpass their own expectations. She said, “I’ve always felt like I set the bar higher for my students than they thought they could meet but they always do.” 

As Dee’s career comes to an end, she leaves behind a legacy of laughter, inspiration, and dedication to her work. She said, “I worked hard and hopefully others will remember me as amusing and entertaining. Hopefully, I took my job seriously but not myself seriously.” Dee reminds us that while perspectives may evolve with time, the essence of teaching remains timeless. 


“Andiamo!” rings through the Italian classroom every now and then, giving the students an extra burst of energy to keep going. After 27 years of teaching, this year marks Anna Rubano’s final year of her teaching career. From her teaching in subjects such as Italian 1 all the way to AP Italian, Rubano’s career is defined by high spirited energy and establishing a family-like atmosphere for her students. Jeffrey Train, English teacher and colleague of Rubano said, “When I think of Anna, I think of community. Anna has always been a kind, friendly, empathic person.” Rubano’s energy is felt in the classroom but also on the school trips. Rubano said, “The most memorable experience is how fun the Italy trips were.” 

Classes with Rubano instilled within her students a sense of appreciation for Italian culture, but also a desire to continue learning more and more about it in their post high school careers. Rubano said, “I recently heard from a student who is studying at New York University…he will complete some of his coursework in Italy.” The classroom is always bustling with excitement with Rubano as she said, “I like to build a family connection with my students, making coming to class not only enjoyable but also something that they can look forward to everyday.” Spanish teacher Lisa Veit said, “She shows empathy and kindness to the students who are like her family too.”

Rubano leaves a legacy of passion for the Italian language, as well as teaching. The positives of her career here at Northern Valley Old Tappan (NVOT) is apparent to even teachers from other departments. Art teacher Celia Gollub said, “She’s like a staple. been my friend since I started here for many, many, many years. I’m going to be sad without her. She’s like a mom and a teacher to everybody. And I promised her I would look out for her daughter, and I will definitely do that next year.” Rubano’s work and her passion for teaching Italian will not be forgotten by colleagues and students alike as she goes on to leave a legacy of appreciation for the culture that continues to resonate.

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