New England Academy is staffed by a close-knit team of experienced educational and clinical professionals who share a commitment to helping students fulfill their potential. All staff members are certified by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and have a background in working with students with social and emotional disabilities.
Ryan Plosker, M.S., CAGS, Ed.D Executive Director and Founder
Ryan is the Executive Director and founder of New England Academy. Throughout his career, Dr. Plosker has worked to bridge the gap between psychology and education to meet the needs of students—from his clinical work at Children’s Hospital in Boston to his later work as a public school psychologist, school director, and special education administrator. Dr. Plosker shares his educational and clinical insights, teaching at both the undergraduate and graduate level. He has a BS in psychology, am MS and CAGS in school psychology and completed his PhD coursework from Northeastern University before completing his doctorate in educational leadership at the University of Massachusetts.
Peggy Buscema, MSW, LICSW Dean of Admissions
Peggy has over twenty years of experience in the field of Social Work and has worked in a variety of settings. Beginning her career as a clinician at McLean-Franciscan Children’s Hospital, she moved into the field of education as Clinical Director and Program Director of Essex Academy. She is a licensed school adjustment counselor and supervisor as well as a Massachusetts licensed independent clinical social worker. Peggy received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Villanova and a master’s degree in social work from Simmons University.
Patti Bernheart, M.Ed., CAGS Dean of Educational Programming
Patti has been with New England Academy since 2009. She has over twenty years of experience working extensively in the field of school psychology and education within both the public and private school settings. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a combined Master’s and CAGS in the area of School Psychology. She is a DESE licensed Special Education Administrator as well as School Psychologist – All Levels.
Jackie Thompson, MSW, LICSW Dean of Clinical Services
Jackie has been with New England Academy since 2012, first as a school social worker and now as the Dean of Clinical Services. Jackie received her master’s degree in clinical social work from Boston College, and earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and health care administration from Stonehill College. She is licensed by the state of Massachusetts as a licensed independent clinical social worker and a school adjustment counselor. Jackie has over 15 years of clinical experience, and an expertise in child and adolescent mental health. Prior to joining the team at New England Academy, Jackie’s experience included working with children in the special education environment, outpatient mental health, and private practice setting.
Kate Hayes, MSW, LICSW Dean of Students
Kate received her master’s degree in clinical social work from Boston College, and earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Trinity College. She is licensed by the state of Massachusetts as an independent clinical social worker. In her career, Kate has developed an expertise in working with children, adolescents, adults and families.
Katie Anderson, M.A. Director of Guidance, English Department Chair
Katie has worked at New England Academy since 2006, and previously taught at a North Shore public high school. Katie taught middle school and high school English for 14 years before becoming the Director of Guidance. She received her bachelor’s degree in English and secondary education from Fairfield University, and received a master’s degree in English from Salem State University. She is passionate about working with students to find their best post-secondary path. Katie is a licensed English teacher, special education teacher, and special education administrator.
Sarah Burgess, MSW, LICSW IEP Coordinator
Sarah has over twenty years of experience in the field of Clinical Social Work. She has worked in a variety of settings including schools, inpatient medical settings and inpatient and outpatient mental health facilities. Sarah has a BA in Psychology from the University of Colorado and received her master’s degree in Social Work from Simmons College. She is a licensed independent clinical social worker in Massachusetts.
Suzanne Hynes M.Ed., Ed.D Head of School
Suzanne has over twenty years of experience as a special education teacher and special education administrator, most recently as Executive Director of Student Services for the Hingham Public Schools. Dr. Hynes has taught at the graduate and undergraduate levels and has participated in research projects focused on the mental health needs of children, specifically developing and maintaining a positive school climate so that students can succeed academically, socially, and emotionally. She has a BA in English Literature from American University, and Master and Doctoral degrees in Special Education from Boston University with a specialization in emotional and behavioral disorders.
Sheila Kukstis, Ed.D Dean of Educational Programming
Sheila brings over 35 years of education experience to NEA and is a DESE licensed Special Education Administrator – All Levels. Sheila received her bachelor's degree and Master of Education degree from Bridgewater State University, and her Doctorate of Education from the University of Massachusetts. Sheila began her career as a teacher and has assumed several leadership rules within K-12 education. Sheila most recently operated her own educational consulting practice and has served as interim principal for several south shore schools.
Dominick Vogus, MSW, LICSW Dean of Clinical Services
Dominick is a licensed independent clinical social worker, as well as a DESE licensed Special Education Administrator—All Levels. He received a bachelor’s degree from the College of Holy Cross and received a master’s degree in social work from Boston College. Before joining New England Academy, Dominick gained clinical experience by working with both children and adolescents in inpatient and residential treatment settings. Dominick has been with New England Academy since 2017.
Elyssa Gustin, Psy.D. Clinical Psychologist
Elyssa is a licensed psychologist who earned her PsyD from the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology with a concentration in childhood, adolescent, and family practice. Prior to joining NEA, Elyssa completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at The Trauma Center and Metrowest Behavioral Health Center. Her interests include the assessment and treatment of children and adolescents with social/emotional and executive functioning difficulties.
Jamie Goudreau, M.A., LMHC School Counselor
Jamie received her master’s degree in mental health counseling from Lesley University and is a licensed school guidance and school adjustment counselor. She has many years of experience working in the school environment in this capacity as well as in clinical settings, residential treatment facilities for teenage girls, and residential programs for teenagers with autism. Jamie facilitates a variety of enrichments such as Mindfulness and Meditation and Women’s Studies.
Jacky Hart, M.S., CCC-SLP Speech Language Pathologist
Jacky completed her clinical training at MGH Institute of Health Professions where she received her master’s degree in speech language pathology. She is also a certified reading specialist and has worked in a variety of clinical and school settings. Jacky has over 10 years of experience and specializes in supporting students’ executive functioning, learning, and social pragmatic needs.
Erin Boardman M.A., LMHC, MT-BC School Counselor
Erin is a licensed mental health counselor in the state of Massachusetts. She received her Master of Arts in expressive therapies, with a mental health counseling specialization from Lesley University in 2010. Erin is a board-certified music therapist and was a longstanding board member for the Massachusetts Music Therapy Alliance. She integrates music and creativity into the therapeutic process.
Amanda Riley, MSN, FNP-BC School Nurse
Amanda began her nursing career working at Massachusetts General Hospital, inpatient pediatrics, and as a pediatric clinical nursing instructor. After completing her nurse practitioner degree, Amanda worked in private practice before joining New England Academy. Amanda received her BS and master’s degree in nursing from Northeastern University and is a Massachusetts licensed registered nurse and family nurse practitioner
Dominick Vogus, MSW, LICSW School Social Worker
Dominick is a licensed independent clinical social worker in the state of Massachusetts. He received a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology from the College of Holy Cross and received a master’s degree in social work from Boston College. While attending Boston College, Dominick was a Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) fellowship recipient and received additional training in adolescent mental health interventions through the fellowship. Before joining New England Academy, Dominick gained clinical experience by working with both children and adolescents in inpatient and residential treatment settings.
Katie Quinn, MSW, LICSW School Social Worker
Katie received her master’s degree in clinical social work from Simmons University. She is licensed by the state of Massachusetts as a licensed independent clinical social worker. Katie has been doing community-based social work for several years in the areas of in-home therapy, adoption, and program development with children, adolescents, adults, and families.
Lori McKechnie, M.A., LMHC, R-DMT School Counselor
Lori received her master’s degree in dance movement therapy and mental health counseling from Lesley University. Lori is licensed by the state of Massachusetts as a mental health counselor. She is also a registered dance movement therapist. Before joining New England Academy, Lori worked as an in-home therapist with children and families as well as a trauma response clinician, supporting communities and schools that experience traumatic events. Throughout her career, she has led dance/movement therapy clinical groups for children, adolescents, and adults.
Rachel Longenecker, M.S., LMHC, ATR School Counselor
Rachel received her master's degree in art therapy and mental health counseling from Springfield College. She is a licensed mental health counselor. Before joining New England Academy as an art therapist, she gained experience in a wide variety of settings that include community based in-home therapy, an outpatient center for adults with traumatic brain injury, a college counseling center, and the inpatient center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Rachel has an extensive background in research, and has explored the benefits of mindfulness, meditation and art in a therapy setting. She recently traveled to India to immerse herself in the culture where yoga originated and has completed her 200-hour teacher training to become a registered yoga teacher.
Cecelia Tuttle, MSW, LCSW School Social Worker
Cecelia received her master’s degree in clinical social work from Salem State University and has her bachelor’s degree in social work from Salem State. She is a licensed clinical social worker in the state of Massachusetts. Cecelia previously worked in child welfare supporting families and individuals undergoing challenging life experiences. She has experience working in other special education settings with young adults on the autism spectrum prior to joining NEA.
Rebecca Snow, M.Ed, LMHC School Counselor
Rebecca is a Massachusetts Licensed Mental Health Counselor. Rebecca received her master’s degree in School Counseling from Boston University and her mental health counseling licensure from Salem State University. She has many years of experience working with children and adolescents in private practice and a variety of clinical settings.
Samantha Lienert, LCSW Counselor
Samantha is a Massachusetts Licensed Certified Social Worker. She received her B.A. in Psychology and Public Health from University of Rochester and received a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Rutgers University, in which she also specialized in Alcohol and Drug Counseling. While at Rutgers, Samantha worked with adults and adolescents struggling with addiction, mental health difficulties, and incarceration. Before joining New England Academy, Samantha gained clinical experience working with adults in residential treatment settings.
Lauren Rushton, MSW, LCSW School Social Worker
Lauren is a recent graduate from Boston College’s Social Work Program. Lauren has spent the last few years working in a private special education school for students with social and emotional disabilities.
Jennifer Lansdon, MSW, LICSW School Social Worker
Jennifer received her master’s degree in clinical social work from California State University-Long Beach and earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Northeastern University. She is licensed by the states of Massachusetts and California as a licensed independent clinical social worker (LICSW). Prior to joining New England Academy, Jennifer worked as a school-based clinician for a special education program in a public school. Jennifer has over 15 years of clinical experience, working with children in special education, and in inpatient and outpatient mental health.
Gus, Visiting Therapy Dog
Gus the therapy dog visits biweekly and is possibly our favorite "staff member". Students can sign up to spend time with Gus during their extra-curricular time.
Dan Vayda, MSW, LICSW
Dan received his bachelor’s degree from Washington College and his master’s degree in clinical social work from Boston University. Dan is licensed by the state of Massachusetts as a licensed independent clinical social worker. Dan brings years of clinical experience and leadership to New England Academy and has extensive experience working in schools and outpatient settings. Prior to joining New England Academy, Dan worked in both clinical and leadership roles maintaining a focus on child and family therapy.
Chantal DiBartolomeo, M.S., LMHC
Chantal received her bachelor’s degree from Keene State College and her master’s degree in mental health counseling and art therapy from Springfield College. Chantal is licensed in the state of Massachusetts as a licensed mental health counselor. Before joining New England Academy, Chantal gained a wide range of clinical experience, working in schools, community based in-home therapy, residential treatment programs, a youth detention center, and in private practice. Chantal has provided individual and group art therapy to children, adolescents and adults. Chantal uses art therapy to foster self-exploration, healing and growth.
Meghan Hardy, MSW School Social Worker
Meghan is a recent graduate from Bridgewater State University's Social Work Program. She received her B.A. at Curry College with a Major in Psychology and a Minor in Health and Wellness. Before joining New England Academy, she gained experience in a wide variety of settings including ABA therapy, Intensive Outpatient Therapy for adults with substance use dependencies, Outpatient Therapy and four years working in a therapeutic school, working alongside children and adolescents with social, emotional, and behavioral difficulties.
Amanda Benner, BSN, RN School Nurse
Amanda received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions and is a Massachusetts licensed registered nurse. Amanda has spent the past 10 years working in the Signature Healthcare Brockton Hospital Emergency Department before joining New England Academy.
Aspen Visiting Therapy Dog
Aspen and Autumn are NEA’s two visiting therapy dogs and visit biweekly. They both have been voted most likely to make you smile. Students can sign up to spend time with both Aspen and Autumn during their extra-curricular time.
Autumn Visiting Therapy Dog
Aspen and Autumn are NEA’s two visiting therapy dogs and visit biweekly. They both have been voted most likely to make you smile. Students can sign up to spend time with both Aspen and Autumn during their extra-curricular time.
Abigail Adams, M.Ed. College Writing and Tutorial
Abigail received her master’s degree in special education from Gordon College. She serves as co-advisor of the Student Council at New England Academy. Abigail taught French in public school prior to joining NEA and has over a decade of teaching experience. She is a licensed special education and French teacher.
Christine O’Hara, M.Ed. Writing/Tutorial Department Chair
Christine began her teaching career working in large public schools as a middle school English and History teacher in Lawrence. Christine has a variety of teaching experiences working with diverse populations of students and families. Christine has a master’s degree in special education from Endicott College.
Wes Chittick, M.Ed. History
Wes received his master’s degree from Endicott College in special education, moderate disabilities. Wes completed his undergraduate degree at Gordon College where he majored in history and education. Outside of the classroom, Wes is the head boys’ lacrosse coach of Danvers high school. He also sponsors NEA’s Model United Nations club.
Stanley Eaton, MAT Science
Stanley is known as the “Science Master” as he has held his teaching license in almost every area of science including General Science, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. Stanley taught for seven years in public schools before joining the NEA staff in 2006. He has a passion for teaching students with different learning styles. Stanley has a bachelor’s degree from Bowdoin College and master’s degree in teaching from Marshall University. He is licensed in special education, biology, and general science.
Jonathan Griffiths, M.Ed. Mathematics
Jonathan is a graduate of Salve Regina University with a BA in elementary and special education and a MEd degree as a mathematics specialist. Prior to working at New England Academy, Jonathan taught special education at the elementary and middle school levels. Jonathan is a licensed special education and math specialist teacher.
Mike Lane, M.Ed. Mathematics
Mike is a graduate of Gordon College with a BA in secondary education and history, and a MEd in special education. Prior to working at New England Academy, Mike taught general special education and applied behavior analysis. His true passion is helping students to learn to use their strengths to succeed in any class or activity. Mike is a licensed special education teacher.
Kate Perry, M.S. English
Kate is a veteran public school special education teacher, having taught for years the Quincy public schools as a resource room teacher before joining NEA. Kate earned her master’s degree in education from the State University of New York and her bachelor’s in Sociology with a minor in Education from Hobart and William Smith College. She is a licensed general and special education teacher.
Sarah Rouba, M.Ed. History Department Chair
Sarah, a native Australian, obtained a degree in elementary education from Newcastle University, Australia, and a master’s degree in special education from Endicott College. Sarah has taught a variety of subjects both internationally and in the U.S for the past 18 years. Sarah has worked at NEA since 2008. Experienced in all levels, Sarah is a licensed elementary, special education teacher K-8 and 5-12, and has her special education administrative license.
Thomas Walsh, M.Ed. Mathematics Department Chair
Tom graduated from Trinity College with a double major in mathematics and religion. Tom graduated from Endicott College with a master’s degree in special education. He has worked with high school students for many years as a track and cross country coach. He is a licensed mathematics and special education teacher.
Adam Pieroni, MA, MAT English
Adam began his teaching career at New England Academy after completing his Master of Arts in English. Prior to entering the field of teaching, Adam was a copy editor, graphic designer and creative director. Adam earned a BA in English from Indiana University Bloomington and a Master of Arts in Teaching English/English Literature from Salem State University. He is a licensed English teacher.
Ian Richards, B.A. English
Ian has a bachelor’s degree from Saint Michael’s College with a major in English and secondary education and a minor in creative writing. Ian served as a writing coach at Saint Michael’s and has received recognition for his non-fiction writings. He is a licensed English teacher and is working on his master’s degree in special education.
John Gray, M.Ed. History
John has been teaching special education and history in the Boston Public Schools for the past 5-years. He has extensive special education teaching experience. John received his Masters in Education from University of Massachusetts, Boston and his undergraduate degree from Suffolk in History and Business. Additionally, he has led both Mock Trial and Model U.N.
Eric Benvin, MAT Science
Eric is an experienced science teacher with over 10-years of teaching Biology and Zoology. Eric has participated in the AMGEN Biotechnology experience at Harvard and brings advanced science techniques to the classroom. He is a proponent of hands-on activities that help enable students to apply what they are learning to the real world. Eric has a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science and master’s degree in teaching from University of Delaware. He is a licensed science teacher.
Haley Boudreau, B.A. Science
Haley is an experienced science and special education teacher with several years as an inclusion teacher, department chair, and curriculum lead. Her passion is making science accessible and fun for all students by incorporating projects and hands-on learning experiences. Haley completed her BA in Psychology from the University of New England and is completing her master’s degree in Leadership and Policy at Boston College.
Ray Crossman, M.Ed. Tutorial
Ray has his Master's in Education from LeMoyne College, N.Y. Ray comes to NEA after 20+ years of teaching special education in public schools at various levels and ages. Ray has expertise in working with students with executive functioning weaknesses and will teach High School Tutorial.
Paul Brennan, M. Ed. Mathematics
Paul received his bachelor's degree from Keele University (UK), and his Master of Education from Lesley University. Paul brings with him more than twenty years of teaching and special education experience and takes pride in his student-centered approach to teaching. Paul is a licensed special education and math specialist teacher.
Kelly Gentile, MAT, M.A. Tutorial
Kelly received her bachelor’s degree from Emmanuel College and her dual master’s in teaching and English from Simmons College. Before joining the team at NEA, Kelly taught English and organizational prep at the middle school, high school, and college levels. Kelly takes pride in her individualized approach to education and is passionate about supporting students with their executive functioning.
John Gray, M. Ed. History
John received his bachelor’s degree from Suffolk University and his master’s in education from University of Massachusetts, Boston. Before joining the team at NEA, John taught special education and history in the Boston Public Schools. He has extensive special education teaching experience, and he has led both Mock Trial and Model U.N.
Judy Britton, M.S. English
Judy has taught a diverse range of students at the middle and high school levels in Georgia and Pennsylvania and is now happy to have this opportunity to teach at NEA in her home state of MA. She also has experience with curriculum writing, reading intervention, and gifted instruction. Judy has a sheer enthusiasm for literature and enjoys motivating her students to be active readers and lifelong learners.
Stephanie Cruz, B.S. Science
Stephanie received her bachelor’s degree in geosciences from Southern New Hampshire University. Before joining NEA, Stephanie gained valuable experience teaching science curriculum and special education at the middle and high school levels. Stephanie is passionate about using scientific reasoning to help students develop a deeper understanding of the world around them.
Justin Silva, M.Ed Writing Teacher
Justin received his bachelor’s degree in history from Southern New Hampshire University. He earned his master’s degree in moderate disabilities from Worcester State University. Justin has worked with grades PreK-12 and coaches basketball. He is licensed in early childhood education as well as moderate disabilities.
Melody Aquaro, M.Ed. Tutorial Teacher
Melody is an experienced special education teacher who has taught in both public and private therapeutic school settings. In addition to teaching students of all education levels, Melody has experience working with adults with disabilities. Melody obtained a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education from Bay Path University, and a master’s degree in Social Emotional Learning from Endicott College. Outside of the classroom, Melody works as an Executive Function Coach, and a PRIDE Therapeutic Mentor.