Cassandra Papalilo, the newly appointed Director of Curriculum and Professional Learning at NEIA, has always wanted to be a teacher.
“My mom was a kindergarten teacher,” Cassandra said. “So I had always been in a classroom. I always wanted to be with young people. And as I was going through my college career, I found a love for math. So I thought, ‘Okay, how can I combine the love of the math I’m learning with the love and passion I have for educating kids and being around kids?’”
She found her calling in teaching middle school, where she embraced the energy and enthusiasm of young learners. After teaching for two years in graduate school and then another six years at another independent school, Cassandra came to NEIA looking for a different school. She was looking not just for a literal “different” school but a different kind of school: a place willing to rethink traditional classrooms, curriculums, and student experiences completely. “Another thing that brought me here was the emphasis on community and belonging… I think it creates a more accessible and comfortable learning environment for kids. That’s something I really value: being a part of this community.”
Cassandra’s commitment to empowering students to discover their own learning paths shines through her teaching philosophy. Because she was once the quiet student in the classroom, she focuses on making everyone feel like there is a place for them. Embracing a student-centered approach, Cassandra aims to facilitate learning and encourage students to take risks, make mistakes, learn from them, and discover their identities as learners.
Cassandra will work closely with J. Camp, NEIA’s Head of Teaching and Learning. He said, “Cassandra has been part of NEIA since its inception and has a great grasp on where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going.” It is vital, in Camp’s opinion, to have the teachers executing the curriculum in the classroom be the ones guiding and designing it.
Cassandra brings her passion for making connections across disciplines to her new role. She recognizes the value of integrating math, humanities, science, and other disciplines to deepen students’ understanding and spark their curiosity. By collaborating with fellow teachers and creating a centralized location for them to document their curriculum in one central location, she believes this process will only lead to even better integration in individual subjects and across the curriculum.
Cassandra is leading teachers in showcasing displays of student learning at NEIA. “Our teachers and students are incredible. It’s important that everyone in this community sees the amazing things happening.” She strives to support teachers in evolving NEIA’s innovative curriculum that prepares students for the future by emphasizing alignment with the school’s mission and pillars.
Just as important, Cassandra is focusing on supporting her fellow teachers in their growth. She will help identify professional development opportunities that align with their interests and goals, ensuring they have the tools and resources to excel. By nurturing a community of continuous learning, Cassandra believes teachers can stay up-to-date with best practices and remain adaptable in an ever-evolving world.
You can find more information about NEIA’s comprehensive curriculum on our new, redesigned webpage here.