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 Middle 8” 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 Middle 8 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.
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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 Psychometric Advisor
Dr. Bethany Fishbein joined Novella as Psychometric Advisor in 2019. An experienced education researcher, psychometrician, and data analyst, Dr. Fishbein specializes in developing psychometric instruments for cognitive and non-cognitive aspects of student learning and development, creating and managing complex database systems, and producing readily-interpretable measurement scales using item response theory scaling and equating methodologies. She holds expertise in using technology to enhance teaching, learning, and assessment, with additional research experience in education policy, developmental psychology, and mathematics learning cognition. Dr. Fishbein works full time for an international study center housed at Boston College’s Carol A. and Peter S. Lynch School of Education and Human Development.
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.
Elira Mushkola holds a M.S. in special education from Touro College and a B.S. in secondary education with a concentration in biology from Manhattan College. She has been working with high school students of diverse learning skills for over ten years, with experience as a content teacher for biology and biology-rooted electives as well as a special education teacher in Integrated Co-Taught settings.
Elira has also served as a mentor to her students in the current school she teaches, helping them build their resumes, apply for college and navigate personal and academic challenges. Elira has also supported her school community by founding and operating the school newspaper, which includes an array of different writing, from short stories to editorials and artwork.
At Novella Prep, Elira hopes to support students with improving their executive functioning skills, intrinsic motivation and confidence in discovering and fostering their academic and personal talents.
Erica R. Moore, D.Ed.
Dr. Erica Moore 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 strongfoundational relationships with students, sparking their motivation to learn, and cultivating a growth mindset.
Currently at the postsecondary level, Dr. Moore 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. Moore 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. Moore 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. Moore 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.
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
Partnerships & Outreach Coordinator
With over 10 years of experience in professional office Executives Assistant positions and a track record of strong performance in high-volume, high-pressure environments, Irida skillfully manages administrative duties and client relations at Novella Prep. Working in different industries such as reinsurance, private equity, and also a school setting has given Irida the knowledge to analyze and interpret high level documents and facilitate key administrative responsibilities across disciplines.
As Novella Prep’s Executive Assistant, she ensures the smooth operation of the company with her robust knowledge of management and efficient handling of client inquiries, consultations, and timely dissemination of important information while also providing support to all staff in fulfilling their ongoing professional development, training, and more.
Manager of Operations & Production
Film & Media Manager
Albert P. Antomattei
stories through moving images and sound. He specializes in digital video
editing, videography, producing, and graphic design. Albert is scheduled
to earn a BA in Film and Media Studies from Columbia University in the
Spring of 2022. Following this, he endeavors to obtain an MBA in
Marketing from Montclair State University. Albert currently operates a
small video production company with an emphasis on helping other
businesses step forward. In addition, he has volunteered in the non-profit
sector of youth empowerment and leadership development. Albert is a
strong believer in social-emotional learning and helping youth recognize their own
capacity to learn and grow every day.