VCMS Unified Arts



Click Here for a Description of Unified Arts


Check out our Art Web page! Go to:

Mr. Keith Giard

Course Expectations:
Visual Arts

Current Position: Visual Arts Teacher
Years Teaching: 16 years

BS Graphic Design-Central Connecticut State University

MS Organizational Behavior Central Connecticut State University

Art Education Certification - Alternate Route to Certification

Professional History:
Mr. Giard has been teaching art in Vernon since 1999. As a former VCMS student, he enjoys teaching at Vernon Center Middle School. Prior to becoming an art teacher, he worked in graphic arts and design, various printing companies and also was a Manager of Human Resources and Training and Development.   His dream job has always been to be an art teacher, so he went back to school and received his certificate in Art Education grades K-12.
  Mr. Giard received the Vernon Public Schools Profiles in Professionalism award in 2004.

Extracurricular Activities:
In his spare time, aside from creating art, he enjoys acting and performs in various community theatre groups in Connecticut.

Mrs. Sherri Nevins

Course Expectations:
Visual Arts

Current Position:  Art Teacher
Years Teaching: 18 Years

Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Art Education from University of Colorado at Boulder,

M.S. in Art Education from Central Connecticut State University Graduate Program

Professional History:
Sherri O. Nevins is one of the Art educators at Vernon Center Middle School.  She has thoroughly enjoyed working with the teens of Vernon since 2002 at VCMS. Mrs. Nevins has been able to incorporate her love for art with working with students over this time, developing their skills and knowledge in drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, art history, aesthetics, art criticism, as well as collaborating with content teachers and exhibiting their creative artwork

Before working at VCMS she was employed at Skinner Road School and Lake Street School for two years.  While  there, her students  produced illustrated books, a skit video, collaborative work as well as many self-expressive art pieces that were inspiring to all.  However, her teaching career didn’t start in Vernon.

Before Vernon, Mrs. Nevins taught at Klingberg Family Center in New Britain, CT which is a K-12 Special Education program.  Prior to that she began her teaching career at E. B. Kennelly School in Hartford, CT from 1997 - 2000.

In 2008 Mrs. Nevins received the Outstanding Middle School Art Educator Award from the Connecticut Art Education Association.   She was so honored to be nominated and receive this prestigious award.  In 2004 Mrs. Nevins was able to work on the Hockenum Mills mural project – led by Vernon Youth Services.  The work that she did on that community based art project earned her the Profiles in Professionalism award through Vernon Public Schools.

Mrs. Nevins continues to look forward to educating the students in Vernon about the importance of an art education.  Their creative responses to assignments, both in and outside of the classroom keep her full of excitement for continuing her work with them.  She is grateful that you have shared your children with her.

Extracurricular Activities: Sherri is married to a Language Arts middle school teacher and they have two girls.  She spends her time as a working artist, reading, traveling, keeping in touch with family and friends, and participating in all fun activities with her family!  She is also a Girl Scout leader who loves teaching her Girl Scouts to be independant, free thinking girls that are ready to make their world a better place.

Computer Education

Mr. Matthew Reardon

Current Position: 6th-8th Grade Computer Education Teacher
Years Teaching: 4 years

B.A. History from Sacred Heart University

M.A. Secondary Teaching from Sacred Heart University


Professional History:
Mr. Reardon began his career after college in the retail field where he remained for about four years before returning to school to make a transition to education. Before arriving at VCMS in 2012, he played many roles in the education field, such as paraeducator, intern and substitute teacher, in all grades from Pre-K to 12.

Extracurricular Activities:
Mr. Reardon currently serves as the Executive Director of the New England Civil War Museum in Rockville, Connecticut.  He frequently contributes to the Journal of the American Revolution ( He was also a contributing author in the book, "Reporting the Revolutionary War," writing the chapter, "Raid on New London." His first book which deals with the 1781 British raid on New London will be published sometime in 2016.


Mrs. Teresa Schmitt

Current Position: 6th, 7th, 8th grade Computer/Business Education & Digital Learning
Years Teaching: 12 years

Masters Ed. Post University

*Certificate of Online Instruction & Curriculum Post University

B.S. Marketing Research & Advertising Johnson & Wales University

B.S. Retail Management Johnson & Wales University

Professional History:
Mrs. Schmitt began her career working in retail as a store manager, regional field visual manager, national training manager, and eventually a regional manager for the northeast.  Always having a passion for training and development, Mrs. Schmitt decided to pursue a career in business and computer education. She has been teaching for over 12 years and has been a member of the Vernon Center Middle School staff for the past 11 years.

Extracurricular Activities:
Mrs. Schmitt  has been the Play60 advisor/coordinator,  the computer club advisor, and is working on creating a student based help center team in which students can valuable experience trouble shooting both hardware and software issues throughout the school.

Family and Consumer Science

Mrs. Ginny Freese



Mrs. Janice Cook

Current Position: Band and General Music
Years Teaching: 10 years

Bachelors and Masters Degrees from Hartt School of Music, Dance, and Theater at the University of Hartford

Bachelors Degree was in Music Education, Instrumental Emphasis

Masters Degree was in Music Education, Pedagogy Emphasis

Professional History:
Mrs. Cook began learning the clarinet the summer after second grade. She switched to tuba during middle school and joined the front percussion ensemble of her high school marching band as a junior to learn about mallet and accessory percussion. Although tuba was her primary instrument through college Mrs. Cook enjoys leading students through their musical journeys on a variety of instruments.

Mrs. Cook began her teaching career in Foxboro, Massachusetts where she served as an instructor at the Summer Instrumental Music Camp for four summers. In Hudson, Massachusetts she taught 4th and 5th grade band for two years in addition to general music in grades K, 1, and 2. Her responsibilities in that position also included teaching music in a self-contained special education environment and serving as the co-administrator for an after school lesson program. In 2007, Mrs. Cook was honored to accept a position in here at VCMS where she has been teaching middle school band and general music ever since.

Extracurricular Activities:
Mrs. Cook leads band students through a variety of enrichment opportunities throughout the year such as auditioning for the Eastern Region Music Festival, participating in jazz band, or preparing an program of music for the Evening of Exploration guests.

Outside of school hours Mrs. Cook enjoys tending to her vegetable garden here in Vernon with her husband and two daughters. Her kitchen is a busy place where her family loves to take on new culinary adventures week after week.

Mrs. Tatyana Samsonenko

Current Position: Chorus, Grades 6,7,and 8 General Music
Years Teaching: 25 years

Bachelor's Degree in Choir Conducting with minor in Piano Performance from Tajik Musical College; Master's Degree in Musicology from Tajik University of the Arts located in Dushanbe, Tajikistan (a former Russian republic.)

Professional History:
Ms.Samsonenko was teaching Voice and Choir Conducting at the Tajik Pedagogical College.  From 1999 to 2007 Mrs.Samsonenko was teaching music at Skinner Road School in Vernon, CT.  From 2007 till recent Mrs.Samsonenko is enjoying an opportunity to work with middle school students at VCMS.  Also, Ms.Samsonenko is teaching Piano Class at Manchester Community College since 2005.


Extracurricular Activities:

Ms.Samsonenko loves to cook healthy meals.  She is a member of a Food Club which focuses on cooking meals gluten, dairy, and sugar free.  Organic gardening is also a huge passion of Ms.Samsonenko.  She loves to babysit her neices and plays piano during free time.

Mrs. Laura Ayer

Physical Education/Health

Mr. Keith Millen

Current Position: Physical Education
Years Teaching: 15 years

B.S. Physical Education from Eastern Connecticut State University

M.A. Physical Education from Central Connecticut State University

Professional History:
Mr. Millen began his career teaching Physical Education in Vernon at Center Road School in 2000.  After that school year, he taught Physical Education at Skinner Road School in 2001.  Mr. Millen has been at teaching Physical Education at VCMS since 2002.  Mr. Millen coached varsity ice hockey at Rockville High School for 8 seasons and junior varsity baseball at RHS for 7 seasons.

Extracurricular Activities:
Keith currently coaches Little League baseball and travel ice hockey. He was a member of his college baseball team at ECSU which won the College World Series in 1998. He enjoys playing hockey in his free time.

Mrs. Crystal Pierce

Current Position: 6th-8th Physical Education and Health
Years Teaching: 9.5 years

B.S. Physical Education/Health from Southern CT State University

M.A. in Physical Education from Central CT State University

Professional History:
Mrs. Pierce began her career working at a childcare center and running gymnasium activities at summer camp.  She was a substitute teacher and paraprofessional for a year before coming to VCMS to teach P.E. and health.

Extracurricular Activities:
Mrs. Pierce is the advisor of the VCMS Play 60 team and also runs many after-school intramurals throughout the year.  She is also an active member of the School Climate Committee (PBS).

Mr. Charles Russell

Current Position: 6th, 7th and 8th grade PE
Years Teaching: 15 years

B.S. Health & Physical Education from Fort Valley State University

M.A. Physical Education from Central Connecticut State University

Professional History:
Mr. Russell started teaching Physical Education at VCMS in August 2000.

Extracurricular Activities:
Mr. Russell coached the VCMS baseball team from 2000-2008, 2013.  He also was an assistant football coach for Rockville High School from 2000-05, 2010-12.  He is an assistant coach for Tolland High School football team from 2006-09, 2013-present.

Mrs. Joanne Stavens-Martin

Current Position: 6-8 Health and Physical Education
Years Teaching: 18 years

B.A. Liberal Arts, Psychology, from the University of Connecticut

B.S. Physical Education from Eastern Connecticut State University

M.A. Educational Leadership from Central Connecticut State University

Professional History:
Mrs. Martin began her teaching career here at VCMS in September of 1998.  Prior to teaching at VCMS, Mrs. Martin coached the middle school girls' basketball team as well as the RHS junior varsity soccer team. For many years, Mrs. Martin worked as a counselor at summer camps and after school programs.

Extracurricular Activities:
At VCMS, Mrs. Martin has organized the Relay For Life Team.  The VCMS Relay Team helps to raise money for the American Cancer Society.  Students in all grades are welcome to join this family event.  Over the past 10 years, Team VCMS has raised over $70,000 for cancer programs and research.
Mrs. Martin also runs many intramural activities after school, including, Runner's Club, Walking Club, and a variety of fitness activities.  She also organizes evening family and student Activity Nights for the VCMS community to enjoy games, activities and food together.

In her personal life, Mrs. Martin coaches her three daughters in a variety of sports.  You can find her on the basketball sideline or running drills on the soccer field.  She also likes to spend time outdoors with her family hiking, zip-lining, and riding bikes.

Technology Education

Mrs. Jennifer Strong

Current Position: 6th, 7th & 8th grade Technology Education
Years Teaching: 11 years

B.S. Technology Education K-12 from Central Connecticut State University

M.A. in Education/Curriculum and Instruction from University of Phoenix

Professional History:
Mrs. Strong began her career in 2004 as a Technology Education Teacher at Vernon Center Middle School.  Mrs. Strong received Vernon Profiles in Professionalism Award in 2007.  Mrs. Strong was also named the 2012-2013 Vernon Teacher of the Year.

Extracurricular Activities:
Jen serves on several committees at VCMS.  She is a member of the Advisory Committee and a Co-Chair on the PBIS/School Climate Committee


Mr. Stephen Sylvestre

Current Position: 6,7&8 Technology Education
Years Teaching: 15 year

Assoc. degree Southern Maine Vocational Technical Institute

B.S. Charter Oak College

M.A. Central Connecticut State University

Professional History:
Mr. Sylvestre started his career as an auto mechanic, he moved into the construction field were he was building houses. Mr. Sylvestre has also worked at Electric Boat building subs for the goverment. Mr. Sylvestre has also done cable audits and worked as a gaming commissioner for one of the csinos in the state. Mr. Sylvestre started his careerin eduction teaching 6,7,&8 grade technology Education at Vernon Center Middle School.

Extracurricular Activities:
Mr. Sylvestre belongs to an outdoors club, and has a small work shop at home were he loves to build furniture for the house and family.


Vernon Public Schools Mission Statement

The Vernon Public Schools, in partnership with family and community, is committed to provide a quality education, with
high expectations, in a safe environment where all students become independent learners and productive contributors to society.