The department’s new English teacher, Ms. Michelle Taliento

Teacher Spotlight: Ms. Taliento

In room C-14, a brightly-painted mural at the back of the room, depicting a lineup of renowned literary figures (among them Shakespeare and Edgar Allen Poe), has always captured entering students. This year, though, it has competition: a neat row of crates and bookshelves piled high with glossy paperbacks. The conspicuous new addition – a miniature, well-organized library – was assembled by Ms. Taliento, who, in her first year at Cresskill High School, teaches English Literature I and Intro to Theatre & Performance. The Communiqué recently sat down with her to learn about her life as a student, her passion for teaching literature, and more.

Ms. Taliento grew up in New Jersey and attended Lyndhurst High School, where she found her passion for English and later conducted her student teaching. Naturally, she was inspired to enter the teaching field by several outstanding instructors — one of them being Ms. Candella, a literature teacher, who had a big smile and a vast collection of books. She hopes that she might exude the same passion and enthusiasm she received from Ms. Candella: “It always was a class that I looked forward to being in, so I wanted to create a space like that for kids someday,” she explained. “I wanted to be…talking to young adults, people on the cusp of the next part of their lives.”

When asked about her favorite book, Ms. Taliento didn’t hesitate to reply with Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. In fact, as a college student, she had even contemplated becoming a ‘Sylvia Plath scholar’. A Sylvia Plath scholar? What kind of work does it entail? “Nothing — nothing really!” she laughed. Such a career typically involves literary criticism or biographical work, which are skills that she tries to instill in students today.

Along with encouraging students’ creative writing in English class – theatre students will compose their own plays this year – Ms. Taliento is talented in the literary arts herself, having won multiple awards in college for her poetry. Currently, she is hard at work on a play.

Although juggling school and personal life isn’t easy, Ms. Taliento maintains an enthusiastic attitude. “I’m kind of teaching my dream courses: I got to design [the class and] pick all of my books — how do you beat that? Sometimes, I feel like I’m punk’d — like somebody’s going to be like ‘Hahaha, gotcha!’ That’s what I have nightmares about,” she reflected. “I’m never going to win the lottery ever, because I’m teaching… exactly the subjects that I wanted to teach, in an awesome district, I have Mrs. Krapels as my mentor teacher… it’s like all of these little domino pieces kind of fell.”

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