NEIA’s New Director of Curriculum & Professional Learning – Cassandra Papalilo

“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.” - J. Camp, NEIA’s Head of Teaching and Learning


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.


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After our first full week into summer, we want to look back on a year-long project that yielded impressive results for three of our amazing rising 12th graders.

This past fall, NEIA 11th graders pitched products that could add value to people’s lives by curing diseases or ailments. This is part of the BioTrek Program: a joint initiative by ARMI (Advanced Regenerative Medical Institute) and BioFabUSA. Students pitched their amazing ideas to Tim McCauley, their peers, and a panel of judges made up of NEIA staff members. 

Throughout these presentations, our students walked through all phases of the Biotrek journey. First, identifying a problem. Second, engineering a solution using bio-manufacturing techniques. In the third phase, they developed a business and financial model for their product. The final phase was this event: pitching to their peers and judges. They are trying to solve real medical issues, such as endometriosis, chronic lung disease, color blindness, and osteogenesis (just to name a few). 

The winners moved on to the Final Presentations judged by representatives from ARMI and Biofab, which decided
who would represent NEIA against other schools in the Biotrek Championship. The winning group chosen to go to the championship was Endopexy, created by Milena, Lila, and Max H.

Milena, Lila, and Max’s hard worked paid off as they were the winning team of the championships. We are so proud of these three innovators for working hard the whole year and being recognized in such a highly competitive program.

This project-based learning program continues to be a very valuable experience for our innovators. You can clearly see the intersection of subjects like science, math, entrepreneurship, and communications. It is the perfect example of how integrated academics lead to exciting projects and connections.

#NEIA #BioTrek #Innovation #entrepreneur #entrepreneurship #integration

This weekend, three of our 11th grade students: Vicki, Owen, and Langston, won first place at the Entrepreneurship for All - EforAll All Ideas Pitch Competition for their idea around the NEXTGEN Summit, a conference that Langston initiated this spring at NEIA.

Owen explains the idea to execution as follows, "My mother is an alum of the Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll) Business Accelerator Program. One night while scrolling Instagram, she found a post by EforAll about an All Ideas Pitch Competition happening. She sent me the post at 11:20 p.m. and we were signed up for the event by 12:15 a.m. A few weeks later we were selected to table at the event with the potential of being able to participate in the final pitch competition. We landed a spot in the pitch competition, and it was a huge success as we not only won the first place prize of $1000, but also won the Fan Favorite prize for an additional $500. We were by far the youngest attendees at the event and were pitching with people who were already well removed from college."

We are so proud of our innovators and commend them for their efforts to not only seek new opportunities each and every day but to thrive within them.

#NEIA #PitchCompetition #EForAll #NEXTGENSummit #NEXTGEN #FutureOfEducation #Innovation #Entrepreneurship

That’s a wrap! We will see you soon, innovators. We miss you already.

#LastDayOfSchool #Summer #NEIA #innovators #summerbreak


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