Our People

Our Administration & Staff

bdiperna@orchardfriends.org Beth has been working with kids with language and learning differences for 26 years. A trained Speech-Language Pathologist, she graduated from Rutgers University with a dual Bachelor’s Degree in Speech-Language Pathology and Psychology. Beth went on for her Masters Degree in Speech-Language Pathology with minor focus in Audiology at New York University. She has worked in a wide variety of settings with a wide variety of populations, most recently in private practice which allowed her flexibility as a mother of four kids. This is Beth’s 8th year at Orchard Friends School. She previously served as the school’s Speech-Language Pathologist, Director of Admissions, as well as Interim Head of School.

kpentkowski@orchardfriends.org Karen moved to New Jersey from the Lake George, NY region about 30 years ago. She was the Business Manager for a local Engineering/Architectural firm for thirteen years before coming to OFS in 2001. A firm believer in volunteerism, she served on the Advisory Board for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society for seven years where she chaired a sub-committee responsible for procuring donations and promotional items for over 5000 cyclists for the Annual MS 150 City to Shore Bike Tours. She was a board vice-president for a local shelter for battered woman and children; and the PTA Treasurer for several years at her children’s elementary school. As a mother who had two of her children struggle with learning difficulties in school she understands the needs and frustrations that other children and parents experience. Coupled with her management and fund raising experience she believes Orchard Friends School is the right place to be.

dtesler@orchardfriends.org Donna Tesler is a South Jersey native. She worked in the banking field before starting a family with her husband Dave. When their three children were in school all day she attended Harris School of Business and then worked for an engineering firm providing administrative support. Eventually the business closed and Donna began volunteering at OFS. When a position opened here at school, she was excited to join the OFS community full time where she provides administrative support, assists in fundraising efforts and many other things throughout the day. She finds it rewarding to witness obstacles overcome, and the growth each child makes here at school. She especially enjoys spending time with her 3 grandkids and likes to putter in her garden and travel.

Our Teachers and Faculty

(click the names to read more!)

Pam Carpenter, MEd - Special Education Teacher


Pam Carpenter has lived in South Jersey all her life and has been a teacher at OFS for 10 years. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Drexel University. Ms. Carpenter earned her Master’s Degree in Special Education, with a specialty in Autism, from Drexel University as well. She is trained in many programs including Wilson’s Fundations and Orton Gillingham. In her spare time Ms. Carpenter enjoys spending time with her family and volunteering for the MS Society and her local Civic Association. She lives in Cherry Hill with her husband and two children.

Michelle Critelli - Occupational Therapist


Michelle Critelli, OTR/L is a registered, certified and licensed occupational therapist with 26 years of pediatric experience. In 1991, she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Occupational Therapy from Kean University, NJ.  Ms.Critelli has worked in a variety of clinical settings as the Outpatient Pediatric Rehabilitation/Early Intervention Center at JFK Hospital, Edison, N.J.,  Pediatric Rehabilitation and Neonatal/Follow Up Clinic at Jersey Shore Medical Center, Neptune, N.J. and extensively in schools throughout N.J. Ms. Critelli has also guest lectured at Seton Hall University and was an adjunct professor at Kean University teaching pediatric seminar courses. Ms. Critelli is the owner of Our Playground Therapy Services and currently works as an independent contractor with Orchard Friends School and Hainesport School District. Ms. Critelli lives in Medford with her husband of 25 years and is the proud mother of 21 year old triplets.

Kate Johnson - Special Education Teacher


Kate Johnson, a lifelong resident of Riverton, has been teaching in a variety of settings since graduating from University of the Arts in 1990. Although her initial focus was primarily Art and Early Childhood Education, she quickly realized the benefits her students with learning differences reaped from an arts intensive curriculum. More recently, she attended Rutgers University to formalize her Special Education credentials and further study the intersection of special education and the arts. She is thrilled to have a home at Orchard Friends, where teachers are encouraged to think outside the box in an effort to serve the individual needs of each student. In her spare time, Kate works as a teaching artist, specializing in community mosaic projects. She also enjoys relaxing with a book or playing board games with her family and friends.

Caroline Mackie - Special Education Teacher


Caroline graduated from Widener University with a BA degree in Early Childhood Education and Special Education.  Prior to coming to Orchard Friends School, Caroline was a Special Education Teacher at Larc School and a Teacher Assistant for the Burlington County Special Services School District in the Pioneer Autism and Sensory Center. She is a resident of Cinnaminson and graduate of Holy Cross High School, where she played varsity basketball and softball.  Caroline enjoys participating in outdoor activities, playing with her family’s two rescue dogs, Lambeau and Jordy, and spending time at the New Jersey shore.

Sharon Pearl - Speech Language Pathologist


Sharon K. Pearl, M.A., CCC-SLP  has more than 30 years of experience serving children with speech, language, learning, oral motor (including Childhood Apraxia of Speech) and auditory processing disorders in private practice in the South Jersey area.  She has served as a consultant in both public and private schools in Camden County.  Sharon works closely with parents and teachers, empowering them to help their children, using the latest technologies. Language skills and learning go hand in hand.  Sharon’s language therapy addresses skills needed for academic success such as phonological awareness skills, listening skills, language based reasoning skills, reading readiness skills, oral and written narrative skills and executive function/organizational skills.  Working closely with teachers, often utilizing the student’s academic materials, supports the student’s educational process while simultaneously attaining speech therapy goals.Sharon received her training and education from Queens College, City University of New York for both her undergraduate and graduate degrees. She is a member of the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), New Jersey Speech-Language Hearing Association (NJSHA) and Academy of Private Practice in Speech Pathology and Audiology.  Sharon is licensed in New Jersey and certified by the NJ Department of Education and ASHA.

Sue Silvestri - Special Education Teacher

Sue was born in South Philadelphia and she was adopted at the age of 7. She grew up in Mt. Laurel and graduated from Lenape High School. She has a B.A. from Glassboro State College and also holds a certificate for Teacher of the Handicapped. Sue retired in 2006 after teaching Special Education for 32 years, mostly working with Junior and Senior High School students . Soon after retiring she was hired as a teaching assistant/aide by Orchard Friends School and she is presently working in the same position. She has a wonderful sense of humor and in her free time she enjoys sharing laughs with her family and friends. One thing that makes her exceptionally happy is to see positive change and growth, both socially and educationally, in the students at Orchard Friends School.

Sharon Vogel - Special Education Teacher


Sharon graduated from Rutgers University with a BA in Political Science in 1983,and returned to Rutgers in 2013 to obtain K-6 and Special Education licenses with concentrations in science and social studies. Prior to coming to Orchard Friends, she was an Inclusion Teacher at Sharp Elementary School in Camden for almost 5 years. She has taken professional development in the topics of flipped instruction, project-based learning, and assistive technology; she believes that all children can succeed when we tailor their instruction to take advantage of their individual strengths. She is very proud of her three grown children, and lives with her husband in Woodlynne for almost 30 years where she serves on the school board.

Cleveland “Sandy” Rea School Committee Clerk taught elementary school for 15 years including the final 8 of those years in Quaker Schools. He is a member of Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers). He was licensed as a psychologist in New Jersey after completing a Ph.D. in School Psychology at Temple University. Before joining the School Committee of Orchard Friends in 2005, he served on the Board of Delaware Valley Friends School for nine years.
Larue Evans’ 35 year career involved working with students and teachers from grades pre-K through to undergraduates at Rutgers College, Camden Campus. Larue spent 23 years at the Moorestown Friends School. While serving as director of the Lower School she helped the Lower School achieve the Blue Ribbon School of Excellence; awarded in Wash. D.C. by the United States Department of Education. Larue’s career continued for more than a decade in the Cherry Hill Public Schools in New Jersey –during which time, as a “Colleague Teacher” she mentored teachers on how to create and implement curriculum design based on developmental frameworks for mathematics and science.

Stan Filimon brings 25 years of business and financial experience to the Orchard Friends School board. Stan is the owner of Filimon Benefits Group in Moorestown, NJ. He was Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Child Development Center for five years. Stan served in the United States Army from 1968-1971, serving in Vietnam from 1969-1970. Stan graduated from Drexel University with a BS in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance.

Polly Kimberly has been an independent school educator for more than twenty years. She began her career at a boarding school in upstate New York, where she worked for thirteen years as an English teacher, coach, and dorm parent. When her family moved to New Jersey in 2009, she worked at Orchard Friends School as a classroom assistant, and over those two years she fell in love with the school and its students and gained a profound appreciation for the importance of special education. For the past seven years she has worked as a college counselor and diversity coordinator at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy in Philadelphia.

Mary Kinsey taught students with learning differences for over 25 years, most recently for the Cherry Hill Board of Education. She holds a BS and MS in Education from Syracuse University. When employed by Boston University, she worked with in-service special education teachers throughout New England. Previously, she has served as data researcher for a New York State Department of Education grant. Mary also worked in the publishing industry for 14 years. Since retiring from teaching in 2012, she has travelled to Turkey and New Zealand as an Ambassador with Friendship Force, which is currently active in 60 countries, promoting friendship and goodwill. As a result of its peace initiatives, the Friendship Force was nominated for The Nobel Peace Prize.

Board Member & Co-founder of Orchard Friends School since 1997, Kiyo is an advocate for hands-on, life-long learning. Growing up on her family farm many of her activities have been agricultural or ecologically based including service projects for international hunger relief, 4-H, Our Shared Ground and work for California & NJ Agricultural Extension. Past & present committee and Board service work has been for Pendle Hill Study Center, Moorestown Monthly Meeting, and Haverford College Corporation. Her work has centered around Moorestown Friends School working at the MFS Thrift Shop and as a costumer for MFS theatrical productions. Education: University of CA, Davis, MS / Wilmington College-Ohio, BA

Mr. Riggins brings a background in business and government, currently serving as Strategy Director for Riggins Oil, Inc. – one of the largest privately held companies in New Jersey – where he is responsible for the development and implementation of the company’s strategic initiatives. Matt previously worked as a management consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton, and served as Deputy Communications Director and Legislative Assistant to Congressman Rob Andrews in Washington DC. He received his MBA from Georgetown University and his undergraduate degree from Bucknell University.