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Faculty & Staff

Hilltop Country Day School is committed to hiring a high quality faculty who is able to bring a rich background in both educational and personal experience. Teachers draw on their experiences as they supplement the curriculum and bring their subject matter to life. The Hilltop Country Day School faculty is our greatest asset. From our new teacher mentoring program to our reliance on the many years of experience among our veteran teachers, Hilltop is proud of this valuable resource.

A Hilltop teacher demonstrates:

  • A strong connection with children
  • Dynamic and current pedagogical strategies
  • Camaraderie with colleagues and a strong voice about curriculum and pedagogy
  • Demonstration of a desire to grow as an educator and as a learner

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Janet Vigeland

Grade 4

Mrs. Vigeland holds bachelors degrees in Elementary Education and Psychology from William Paterson University and has been teaching at Hilltop since 2001. During her tenure at Hilltop, Janet established an environmental literacy curriculum, developed the Outdoor Classroom, and taught environmental science classes to grades K-4. She was instrumental in attaining several butterfly habitat certifications and the New Jersey Wild School site award. As a result of her passion for birds, she attended Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology Summer Retreat for Educators and added Project FeederWatch to the fourth grade curriculum in addition to organizing an early morning bird watching club. Janet won a Project Habitat scholarship from Cornell for developing a bird habitat outside the third grade and assisted colleagues in the develop of bird habitats with their students. As an avid gardener, Janet completed her training as a Master Gardener with Rutger’s Cooperative Extension. She designed the herb and vegetable gardens, supervised the native plantings in the Outdoor Classroom, and established the pollinator gardens around the school campus.

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Michael Umstead

Grades 4-8 Science, Grade 5 Homeroom, and Upper School Student Council Adviser

Mr. Umstead graduated from Rutgers University in 1975 with a bachelor’s degree in Geology. In 1998 he joined the faculty at Hilltop where he teaches science to grades four through eight and teaches woodshop as an elective. He has been the Student Council Advisor for 18 years helping the students develop leadership skills and encouraging community service guiding them to achieve the Gold Council of Excellence Award from the National Association of Student Councils every year since 2009. He frequently presents and lectures at the New Jersey Science Teachers Association convention.. He is a member of the New Jersey Science Teachers Association, the National Science Teachers Association, and New Jersey Earth Science Teachers Association.

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Daniel Timmermans

Vocal and Instrumental Music

Mr. Timmermans is a graduate of the University of Toronto with a B.A. in music performance. He also holds a teaching degree from Windsor University, and a Jazz education/performance degree from Humber College of the Applied Arts. Mr. Timmermans has 18 years of teaching experience in vocal and instrumental music, and in addition to teaching, he is a professional trumpeter. Most recently, he was the music instructor at the Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales School in Bennington, Vermont.

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Sean Thorne

Grade 3

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Karen Snyder

Grade 1

Karen Snyder joined the Hilltop community in 2005 and has taught both first and third grade. She received her bachelor degrees in elementary education and biology from Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck.

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Samantha Rush


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Lynn Rogers


Mrs. Rogers is a graduate of William Paterson College with a B.S. in nursing. For the past 40 years, she has worked as a medical/hospital nurse, family practice office nurse, insurance field nurse, home health nurse, and most recently as a substitute school nurse for Newton, Andover, and Sparta. Mrs. Rogers is a licensed professional registered nurse for the State of New Jersey and holds a BLS certification for healthcare providers and certifications for CPR and AED.

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Nicole Petrillo

Kindergarten Teacher

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Laura Petrie

Upper School English; Grade 8 Homeroom

Mrs. Petrie joined the Hilltop faculty in 2012 after 30 years of teaching experience. She holds a degree in Secondary English Education from The College of New Jersey and a Master of Literature from Centenary College. Mrs. Petrie also serves as the director of Hilltop’s dramatic and musical productions.

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Suzanne Pacala

Art / Art Appreciation

Mrs. Pacala graduated summa cum laude from Felician College with a bachelor’s in Art and English. She joined the faculty at Hilltop in 2005. Her professional art career includes work in design, graphics and production, art coaching, and mural painting. In 2014, Mrs. Pacala was nominated for “Teacher of the Year” for the New Jersey Council for American Private Education.