From Learning to Read, to Reading to Learn

Students who come to Westbridge Academy are typically referred for social, emotional and behavioral difficulties. Many times, these same students also have a history of academic difficulties that are rooted in reading disabilities or delays.

When a new student arrives, educators begin by assessing reading levels, and designing an instructional plan to move them from where they are, to where they need to be. Most students can be supported through intensive reading instruction in the classroom, but some need more help, and that is where Academic Support Coordinator, Milena Sillett comes in.

Milena Sillett, Academic Support Coordinator

Working one-on-one with her students, Milena uses Orton-Gillingham-based instructional strategies, building skills… and confidence. She begins with a detailed assessment to identify skill levels, and then personalizes a plan that includes a combination of games, drills and repetition, and other activities to build awareness of sounds, blends and “rules for reading.” Because multisensory learning is very important for students at Westbridge, Milena also uses hands-on activities with sand, play dough and locking ‘Unitex’ letter blocks.

“Our students need a lot of modeling and visual cues. As they are learning to read, they are also learning to follow directions, use a ‘system’ for learning, and stay on task. We are with them every step of the way, and build a firm foundation before we move on – limiting the opportunities for frustration and failure.”
– Milena Sillett

The change can be transformative. One student, C.P., could read only a handful of sight words when the school year began. It was a huge source of frustration and anxiety for him. Now, he is reading 10 sentences and is incredibly proud of his accomplishments.

Many of Milena’s younger students who are close to grade level can get back on track quickly with early intensive intervention. “We can actually prevent academic failure in the future,” she said. “Once that foundation is in place, they can bring it into the classroom.”

Milena works with the classroom teacher to “pre-teach” content so students are ready for new words and concepts that will be introduced in other subjects, allowing them to experience success.

Westbridge Welcomes New Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction

John Cerniglia, Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction

John Cerniglia, Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction

Westbridge Academy proudly welcomes John Cerniglia, a lifelong educator and school leader, as the new Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction. John returns to Westbridge with three decades of experience. He began his career at Westbridge Academy in the late1980s when the school was known as the Child Development Center. He began as an aide and was quickly promoted to teacher, a position he held for two years. Then, for the next 28 years, he worked for Youth Consultation Services where he served as a teacher, Supervisor of Education, assistant principal, and principal.

John earned a B.A. in Psychology, and two master’s degrees, one in Educational Psychology and the other in Administration and Supervision. He also holds New Jersey state certifications for Teacher of the Handicapped (TOH), Elementary Education K–8, Supervisor, Principal, and a Certificate of Eligibility for Chief School Administrator.

“We are thrilled to welcome John back to Westbridge Academy,” said Dr. Viviana Litovsky, Executive Director. “He has a unique skill set and decades of experience working with children with special needs in schools and after school programs.”

In his new role, John is responsible for the implementation of Westbridge Academy’s mission, goals and philosophy. He provides leadership in collaboration with other supervisors in the development and articulation of the curriculum; plans, organizes, implements, and monitors programs and services; aligns and communicates curriculum objectives and proficiencies with student testing; and monitors instructional areas, lesson plan reviews, Standardized Assessments, and school safety and security.

Breaking the Code: Students Learn Computer Programming

Matt Dango, a social studies teacher at Westbridge Academy, has brought his own curiosity and love of coding to his students, opening their minds to a new world of ideas – and careers.

Teacher Matt Dango working with students to learn coding - Westbridge Academy

During Westbridge Academy’s club periods, students use an online “code playground” that brings a new twist to traditional group-learning methods.

“Like other kinds of play, it encourages natural trial and error learning, and invites students to be 100% exploratory without the need to plan the outcome,” said Matt.

He gave students a project – build a basic website that is all about them, with pictures, lists, drop down menus and other features. They learned basic layout, how to space, fonts (type face) and color palettes.

“Students have fun so it is an effortless learning experience. The interactive gameplay lets them work at their own pace, and engage with peers through both competition and collaboration,” said Matt.

Matt’s students are taking their curiosity home with them. Using resources he learned in school, one student taught himself Ruby, a beautiful and artful programming language used for web and other applications.

“This club activity introduces our students to computer careers that are portable and creative. And there are a million ways to use coding skills across the curriculum– it draws on math, science, language arts, reading, and art.”

Social and Emotional Learning Prepares Students to be Global Citizens

At Westbridge Academy, educators know they have a responsibility to prepare students for the future, and that means they must teach students to understand a diverse, complex and changing world.

“We want our students to grow up to be global citizens and learn to be part of a democracy,” said Dr. Viviana Litovsky, the school’s executive director. “We have found that through character education, our students grow beyond ‘tolerance’ to a true appreciation of diversity,” she added.

There is a strong relationship between character education and social and emotional learning. Students at Westbridge Academy learn and practice the six pillars of character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship.

To help students develop the essential social skills they need, educators use Project Achieve, a nationally-recognized curriculum that uses evidence-based techniques and strategies to teach students how to solve problems, strengthen their own resilience, and develop effective self-management skills. Used at all grades, lessons are incorporated into the curriculum throughout the school year, to help students improve their ability to listen to others, ask for help, deal with teasing, manage anger and differences, and learn to apologize.

“We teach skills to build a ‘civics disposition’ – character traits essential to participating in group discussions and group decision-making in ways that are respectful and honor differences.”

Pastabilities IV is Coming!

Bridges to Home Family Partnership Program

Pastabilities Event Flyer thumbnailPresents:



Family Dinner Night

Including dessert and “Drum Circle” with Rich E. (WA Music Teacher)

Wednesday, February 8, 2017, 6:00PM—7:30PM
Westbridge Academy, 60 West St., Bloomfield, NJ 07003


*Registration Required* due to limited seating
Families of Westbridge Academy students ONLY
Please contact Joan Bardi @ 973.429.8110 Ext. 114.
RSVP by February 6th.

Download the event flyer.

Workshop: Developing An Emotionally Intelligent Classroom

Workshop: Developing an Emotially Intelligent Classroom

Workshop: Developing An Emotionally Intelligent Classroom

Featuring Dr. “Buzz” Mingin

Friday, December 9, 2016, 8:30 a.m. – 3:45 p.m.

Westbridge Academy Auditorium
60 West Street, Bloomfield, NJ 07003

3 FREE CEU CREDITS for each session

Total 6 Free CEU Credits

Refreshments and lunch will be served.

Register Now

Presentation Description:

PART 1: 9:00 am – 12:00 pm

Attendees will learn:

  • Reasons for troubled behavior
  • The 4 functions of behavior
  • The 3-Term Contingency Model
  • How to develop a predictable classroom
  • How to build a collaborative effort among staff to meet IEP goals

PART 2: 12:45 pm – 3:45 pm

Attendees will learn:

  • How to prevent a debate among non-compliant students
  • How to combat “the extinction burst”
  • How to use a “calming/thinking” space
  • How to access interventions and resources for students in crisis

About Our Presenter:

Dr. Buzz is a recognized national speaker specializing in children and adolescents with Behavioral and Emotional Disorders. He has several published books, is the president of Buzz’s Bookworm, Inc., a comprehensive support center for students with behavioral and emotional afflictions, and the director of World Karate Studio, a comprehensive martial arts program that teaches social skills and behavioral management to disabled children and adolescents. Dr. Buzz has his Master’s Degree in Psychology and his Ph.D. in Education, is a New Jersey Certified School Social Worker, a professional development provider for New Jersey Department of Education, a qualified expert witness for New Jersey Superior Courts, a Certified Forensic Counselor by the American Board of Forensic Counselors International and contracted with many public and private schools throughout New Jersey.

Register Now
For additional information contact Jessica Dunston 973-429-8110 ext. 110, or email