At Novella Prep, each of our highly trained, credentialed educators bring years of relevant experience and insight, positioning them as experts in the field that are prepared to implement our Novella enrichment and college preparation programming in support of your student. Our focus on what we have coined as the “Essential Eight” focuses on a student’s life, and time, spent in the second eight hours of the school day (first 8 being school, and final 8 being sleep). We see the Essential Eight as the single largest opportunity for healthy student growth in formal education.
Our programs, expertly crafted by founder Dr. Tony Di Giacomo, position each of our students to achieve their best possible outcomes and leave no opportunities unturned. Uniquely, Novella Prep’s programs offer cohesive and comprehensive support throughout your child’s academic career and along their road to college. While others may offer “à la carte,” sporadic, hourly services from less qualified junior staff members, Novella Prep’s team of formally trained and qualified teachers and admissions experts provides unmatched, holistic guidance for your student and family. On their own, each of Novella’s staff members are capable and competent leaders in the world of education. Together, they form an unmatched constellation of experts, joined in pursuit of our mission to share the knowledge and expertise best able to support your student.
Novella Prep motivates and teaches students how to achieve their academic potential with refined and healthy study habits that lead to improved grades and helps them prepare to be considered for admission into and find success at the best-fitting colleges through proven holistic methods. We deep dive into helping students perform at their academic best by starting from the inside — before investing time and resources into academic or test prep tutoring. Our proven holistic method (Retention, Relationships, and Responsibility) empowers students to be the author of their own plan, incorporating smart tutoring in ways that are far more effective and efficient.
Statement of ethics: We believe that the student is the face of the application and therefore stand behind the mindful decision to never contact colleges on behalf of the student. We make no promises about outcomes and are guides through a complex, decentralized process in service of students and families. As members of NACAC and IACAC, professional organizations providing standards of best practices, we believe that through their hard work and our guidance, the student can earn and enjoy their own success!
We help students create a custom framework for note taking and studying to know what to remember and how to create processes to remember what matters most; to set goals and identify who in their life can help carry out those goals whether they be planning for grades, milestones, measurement, and longer-term decisions like college selection and application. With cohesive advice, a student can better plan the quarter, organize the week, and live the day on their way to college and beyond.
F. Tony Di Giacomo, Ph.D.
With 20 years of experience working in admissions, development, teaching, and researching Novella Prep founder and educator Dr. Di Giacomo brings a depth of relevant knowledge to students, families, and education professionals.
Dr. Di Giacomo pursued education-focused degrees, first At Boston University, where he majored in Secondary English Education, mastering the domain of English and was trained in teaching. Following his undergraduate degree, Dr. Di Giacomo obtained a masters degree (M.Ed) in Policy, Planning, & Administration where he learned about the intersection of the classroom with leadership and policymaking. Throughout his undergraduate degree and following his masters degree, Dr. Di Giacomo worked for the Boston University Office of Undergraduate Admissions in a number of key roles, where he gained a unique insight into the operations of the admissions program. Following this experience, Dr. Di Giacomo worked for the University of Virginia supporting their growth initiatives and working directly with students.
An application is not a stand-alone exercise that a senior completes. The application should harvest a series of decisions that goes back many years.
F. Tony Di Giacomo, PH.D.
Founder of Novella Prep
These experiences prepared Dr. Di Giacomo for his Ph.D. in International Education Policy at the University of Maryland, where he studied comparative and international education as a foundation for supporting U.S. and international education reform efforts.
Concurrent with his doctoral degree, he worked for an education consulting company founded by a former U.S. Secretary of Education. Dr. Di Giacomo then worked at the College Board, a non-profit that owns and operates, the PSAT, SAT, and Advanced Placement (AP), where he broadened his network in the higher education community. He met and collaborated with most university and college admissions directors and staff, and gained insights into the ever-evolving admissions field. in addition to presenting at numerous conferences, he is published in peer-reviewed journals. He focused his recent work in the Research Department at the College Board, where he led and managed research on the SAT, PSAT, AP, and other programs.
Dr. Di Giacomo founded Novella Prep to meet the holistic needs of students by applying his education expertise and experience working with students from many different cultures, backgrounds, and learning needs. Dr. Di Giacomo is a member of the National Association for College Admission Counseling and the International Association for College Admission Counseling (IACAC).
Novella Teacher, Study Skills & Enrichment Program Manager
Nancy holds a B.S. in Childhood Education/English, a M.S.Ed. in Special Education, and a M.Ed. in Learning & Technology. She has been a special education teacher and family consultant/advocate for 15 years, working with children of all ages, across various private and public-school settings, including specialized classrooms, resource rooms, inclusive classrooms, and gifted programs, in addition to intervention services (in-person and remote).
Outside of the classroom, she has extensive experience in tutoring, enrichment, test prep, and academic/executive functioning coaching services, as well as helping families prepare for interviews and private school admissions. She is committed to helping families navigate difficult processes (including evaluations and IEPs) so that students can reach their highest potential and experience success – not only in the classroom, but in everyday life. Nancy’s teaching philosophy is that every child can and will succeed when given the right tools, patience, and understanding. Taking all of a child’s needs into consideration and teaching to the “whole child” has inspired her to be a life-long learner. She currently works as a content specialist and instructional coach, collaborating with administrators and teachers to support schools in reaching their goals, enhancing high-leverage instructional practices, as well as promoting student growth and independence.
As a High School Language Teacher, Dawn has 20 years of classroom teaching experience in language instruction. Having extensive training and a working background in special education, Dawn has worked as a Special Education Teacher in all subjects and with all levels of instruction. Her social and emotional training has afforded her the opportunity to focus not only on the academic needs of her students but their social and emotional intelligence as well. Working with a diverse group of students has allowed Dawn to develop affective and cognitive empathy skills, connecting with students and families on a professional and personal level.
Barbara brings passion, patience, and many years of teaching experience to Novella Prep.
Barbara holds a B.S. in Childhood Education and has over fifteen years of teaching experience. In that time she has educated both struggling learners in need of support and remediation, as well as the Gifted and Talented, who sought enrichment and additional ways to achieve success.
Barbara has her M.S.Ed in Educational Technology, an area of expertise that makes her a valuable asset during a time of remote learning. She confidently navigates the virtual world with the ability to encourage her students and provide different learning opportunities for them without always being face to face.
As a lifelong learner herself, Barbara has the experience of a veteran teacher while not having lost the enthusiasm that she had when she stepped into her first classroom.
Novella Teacher, Study Skills & Enrichment Manager
Dr. Erica Jones
Dr. Erica Jones joins Novella Prep with 22 years of combined experience as a K-12 special education teacher, administrator, and professor in higher education. She is passionate about nurturing social emotional development and educating students through a holistic perspective. Her goal as an educator has always been focused on establishing strong foundational relationships with students, sparking their motivation to learn, and cultivating a growth mindset.
Currently at the postsecondary level, Dr. Jones mentors teacher preparation candidates, closely advises students to achieve their highest career goals, and creates a support system to bolster achievements. In addition, she has a sincere enthusiasm and dedication for facilitating teacher professional development. Within the past 10 years, Dr. Jones has presented at over 35 local, national, and international conferences. Topics have included promoting teacher self-care strategies, cultivating students’ social emotional learning (SEL), optimizing student engagement, and embedding effective instructional strategies for all students.
Dr. Jones obtained a dual B.S. degree in Elementary (K-6) and Special Education (PreK-12) from Lock Haven University, a M.S. in Special Education from Bloomsburg University, and a D.Ed. in Educational Leadership from the Pennsylvania State University. She holds administrative certifications in the following areas: Supervision in Special Education and Principal (K-12). Furthermore, Dr. Jones is a certified Youth Mental Health First Aid Instructor and QPR Gatekeeper.
Jennifer has over 24 years of experience as an educator and is currently a STEAM Coordinator and Robotics instructor. She holds an M.S. in early childhood and elementary education with a certificate in gifted education from the College of New Rochelle. She also holds a certificate for applied behavior analysis from Manhattanville College and a Robotics certificate through Carnegie Mellon University.
Jennifer has worked with diverse students in elementary school as well as a middle and high school through many enrichment opportunities. She has worked as a cooperating teacher to college students, facilitated in the development of an engineering-based summer camp, and has passion. She believes that guiding and preparing students to be their best selves should be the ultimate goal of any educator.
Jeff has been an educator for over 18 years. He has earned an M.S. in childhood and special education from Mount Saint Mary College and has been awarded the Mid Hudson School Study Council award for excellence in teaching.
In his 18 years of teaching, Jeff has worked with and guided a diverse population of students. He has taught students both in the special education and general education settings. Jeff is a counselor for Camp Invention, a summer enrichment program that focuses on building students’ inquiry and problem solving skills through various STEAM related projects. He firmly holds that every child has the potential to go far and believes that helping students discover their individual paths to their own successes is the motivation that should drive teaching.
Victoria has been in Education for 9 years. She received her Master’s degree in Students with Disabilities Grades 1-6 from Hunter College. She is dual certified to teach General Education and Special Education. Over the years she has taught at both the elementary and middle school levels. In her previous schools some additional roles she held were: Special Education Implementation team Chairperson, IEP Teacher, Journalism and Yearbook clubs supervisor, and Track and Field coach. Over the past couple of years, Victoria also began private tutoring. Areas she’s tutored ranged from core subject areas (literacy and math) to homework help, executive functioning skills, test prep and preparing for high school and college entrance exams. Writing is her favorite subject area to teach and she also enjoys creative writing in her free time. In the summer of 2019 she was lucky enough to attend a Creative Writing program at the University of Cambridge (United Kingdom.) Not only did she get to grow more as a writer, but upon returning she had the chance to share her experience and love of writing with her students.
Caitlin holds a B.S. in Early Childhood & Elementary Education, as well as an MSed in Literacy & Special Education, from Iona University. Caitlin joins Novella Prep with over 14 years of teaching experience. During her time in the classroom, Caitlin has worked primarily with students with a wide range of learning disabilities. She has implemented a variety of research based strategies, along with the benefits of technology, to help her students meet grade level standards.
As a SETSS provider for the NYC DOE, Caitlin supported Middle School students in becoming lifelong, independent learners by developing appropriate time management and study skills. Through this role Caitlin became proficient in helping learners develop attainable academic goals, as well as clear plans to achieve these desired goals.
Caitlin is excited to utilize the skills she has developed as an educator with the students of Novella Prep.
Study Skills Teacher
Ray LeCara Jr.
With over three decades of experience spanning all grade levels, adult education, and learners with special needs, Ray is a seasoned educator, author, and Master Certified Life Coach. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master of Arts in Learning & Thinking—a philosophy of education that underscores the importance of relationships, holism, and meaning. Over the course of his career, he has taught students across public and private institutions, both in traditional classrooms and online, reaching learners in 20+ countries. He consistently inspires his students to discover their authentic selves to find meaning, purpose, and passion in their educational experiences, fostering lifelong learning and more meaningful relationships with their peers.
Study Skills Teacher
Elizabeth holds a Bachelors of Science in Elementary and Special Education from Grand Canyon University in Phoenix Arizona. With many years of experience teaching high school special education, her career has focused on preparing secondary students with unique learning needs to successfully transition into their next steps and achieve their post-secondary goals. Elizabeth has worked to this end at the local public school level, the state education department as well as the post-secondary university level. As an educator, she believes in student’s innate ability to achieve their highest potential, given the tools to do so. Elizabeth is passionate about individualizing education to empower students to succeed and employing state-of-the-art teaching techniques and tools in order to enhance student learning and achievement.
Study Skills Teacher
Nafisa Khan is a dedicated educator with a profound commitment to the art of teaching. She holds a Master’s degree in Adult Education and is currently pursuing her second Master’s in Childhood Education, aiming to inspire a love for learning and develop students’ analytical thinking skills. With over eight years of experience, Nafisa has excelled as an online instructor, serving learners of various levels. In the last three years, she has focused on working with at-risk academic students in the dynamic educational environment of New York City.
For Nafisa, teaching is not just a profession but a heartfelt calling. Her greatest satisfaction comes from guiding her students to unlock their full potential. Central to her teaching philosophy is the belief that each student possesses a unique learning style and requires tailored inspiration. This belief drives her unwavering dedication to her craft. Nafisa Khan’s ultimate goal is to empower her students to become self-directed and self-motivated, helping them realize their aspirations. Her educational journey reflects her unwavering dedication and passionate commitment to shaping a brighter future through teaching.
Novella College Advisor, College Advising Program Manager
Mariel comes to Novella Prep with over fifteen years of experience in higher education and most enjoys her work serving as a college advisor helping students find their best fit education. Mariel began her career at Columbia Business School working to improve the Executive MBA Experience and continued in student affairs with an interest in ensuring the best experience academically and socially for students at The Earth Institute and the University of Washington School of Medicine. Mariel was also Associate Director of MBA Admissions at the University of Oxford. Her move to Princeton University is where she found her passion working with college-bound students as associate dean for undergraduate admission. This role helped to inform her work as a college advisor. She especially enjoys helping students find what they are most passionate about and then setting about to identify universities where they will thrive. Working as a college advisor enables her to put into practice everything she learned while at Princeton and to help students realize their goals.
Mariel holds a bachelor of arts degree from Smith College and a master of arts degree from Columbia University. She is a member of the International Association for College Admissions Counseling.
Novella College Advisor, College Persistence Program Manager
Lorelle Babwah Brennen
Lorelle has served as a college advisor for several years, helping students all over the world to find and attend their best-fit university. She began her career in education while still a student herself, serving as a mentor and then eventually director of a college preparatory program for low-income students in North Carolina. Lorelle has worked in higher education for many years since then, serving as an advisor at the University of North Carolina and as the Assistant Director of Student Services for Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering. Most recently, she spent several years as an American college counselor working with families in the U.K. and on staff at Westminster School and Wellington College.
Lorelle holds both a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a law degree from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. She is a published author in the field and completed a graduate certificate in Counselor Education from North Carolina State University. Lorelle is also a certified mindfulness and meditation instructor, specializing in emerging adults. She is a member of the International Association for College Admissions Counseling and the Southern Association for College Admissions Counseling.
Novella College Advisor
Novella College Advisor