Meet JAG New Jersey Specialists

Working Closely With Students to Ensure the Successful Completion of High School

JAG NJ Specialists are certified classroom teachers who receive specialized training, support and technical assistance to implement the program.

These dedicated men and women help with the selection of students to participate in JAG NJ, engage with employers, implement trauma-informed instruction and project-based learning, work closely with students to ensure the successful completion of high school, and support participants for an additional 12 months after graduation.

JAG New Jersey Specialists

Rebecca Baker

Carteret High School
Bio

Mrs. Baker knew when she was in high school that she wanted to be a teacher.  She started teaching preschool in 2012 and took a position at Carteret High School in 2014.  Two years later, Mrs. Baker became the JAG Specialist after seeing the program in action at Barringer High School.

Since becoming the JAG Specialist, Mrs. Baker has achieved Outstanding Specialist of the Year, two of her students placed first and third place in the Employability Skills competition at the 2018 National Student Leadership Academy and Carteret High School has achieved the national 5 of 5 award in 2017 and 2021.

Mrs. Baker holds a Bachelors Degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University, a Masters Degree in Elementary Education and holds a K-12 certification in English.

Rebecca feels that JAG Specialists are extremely privileged because they get the opportunity to truly create connections with students, “When people decide to become teachers, it is usually because they want to make positive changes, inspire and motivate students, and see their students be successful. As a JAG Specialist, I get to experience all of this and it is remarkable.”

Fun fact:   While in high school, Rebecca participated in several plays and multiple chorale groups.

Alyson Beausoleil-Holt

Weequahic High School

Valaida Doyle-Smith

West Side High School
Bio

Mrs. Doyle-Smith began her teaching career after more than 30 years of working in banking, investments, retail, gaming, and insurance.  She switched to teaching in 2003 as a tribute to her father and fell in love with the profession.  Her teaching career launched at the Camden City School District and she became the JAG Specialist at Woodrow Wilson High School (now East Side) in 2017.  Mrs. Doyle-Smith’s love of the JAG program comes from the opportunity to contribute to the development of her students and become a mentor for life.  She is privileged to see her students grow into responsible adults and, in some cases, start their own families.  She made the move to Newark Public Schools in 2021 and became the JAG Specialist at West Side High School in 2022.

During her education career, she has received numerous awards and recognition including the 2017 JAG National Performance Award.

Mrs. Doyle-Smith has a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting from Saint Joseph University and a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Cheyney University.  She is a certified business and marketing teacher and also holds a comprehensive business certification as well as a supervisor certificate.

Fun fact:  Valaida loves to bake and her students are often able to enjoy the treats she makes throughout the year.

Juan Izaguirre

Passaic High School
Bio

Mr. Izaguirre is a JAG Specialist at Passaic High School and has been employed by the Passaic School District since 2002. He joined the JAG NJ team in 2020, compelled by the quality of the JAG curriculum and the numerous ways it connects with students and helps them in a non-traditional setting by allowing students to take ownership of their classroom experience. He received his bachelor’s degree in History Education from William Paterson University.

Fun fact: Not only does Juan teach at Passaic High School, he also graduated from the school.

Jovonne Jacobs

Leaders for Life Alternative High School
Bio

Jovonne Jacobs is a JAG Out-of-School Specialist for Leaders for Life Alternative High School in Newark, NJ. Her educational background is in Business Administration. She earned her Associates Degree from Essex County College, and a Bachelor’s Degree from Berkeley College Newark. She is now pursuing her Masters in Nonprofit Leadership and Management. Before becoming a JAG Specialist, she spent 14 years working for the Newark Public School District’s Financial Services Division where she gained hands-on experience in accounting and finance. Some of her accomplishments are being a founding member of the Berkeley College Entrepreneurship Club and being voted in for the Student Representative seat in the Student Government for Berkeley College. She is a proud mother of 4 boys and a mentor for many. She enjoys spending time with her friends and family and educating her sons.

Joseph Kriete

New Brunswick C.A.R.E.S. Adult Learning Center
Bio

Mr. Kriete joined the JAG NJ team in 2016 at the New Brunswick C.A.R.E.S./ Adult Learning Center when his District Curriculum Advisor and building Principal thought he would be a great fit for the position. He started teaching in 2003 after spending some time in the private sector.  Mr. Kriete left teaching in 2006 to pursue a business venture but returned to the profession in 2013.  He obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Rutgers University and NJIT and he also earned his MAEdL from Thomas Edison State University in 2021.

In addition to earning the district Teacher of the Year Award and JAG NJ Specialist of the Year in 2019, Mr. Kriete has received national recognition from JAG including the coveted 5 of 5 performance award for the classes of 2019 and 2021.

Fun fact:  Joe loves to swim.
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Hillary Lawton

Carteret High School
Bio

Hillary Lawton is excited to be welcomed into the JAG family as a new specialist for Carteret High School. Mrs. Lawton has spent most of her time studying musical theater and performance arts. She received her Associates Degree in Theater from Raritan Valley Community College and completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Theater Education from Emerson College. Before she found her role at Carteret High School (CHS), she worked as a paraprofessional in Montgomery School District alongside students with disabilities. After one year in Montgomery, she found her home as the Theater Teacher at Carteret High School. At CHS, Mrs. Lawton is very involved. She is an advisor for the drama club, directing a fall play and a spring musical, as well as the Class of 2023 advisor. She is looking forward to this new opportunity to work as a JAG specialist!

Maureen Neuner

Pinelands Regional High School
Bio

Mrs. Neuner started as a JAG Specialist in 2018 and joined the JAG NJ team in 2019 at Pinelands Regional High School in Little Egg Harbor Township. The program appealed to her because she loves working with young adults and wants to treat her students the way she hopes her own children are treated. Her goal is to give her students the social and financial skills needed to work smarter, not harder, and to give them the social and financial skills to reach their fullest potential.  Mrs. Neuner obtained her bachelor’s degree in accounting from Montclair University and a Comprehensive Business Teaching Certification. She has also completed all the courses to be certified as a Cooperative Education Coordinator. Mrs. Neuner has achieved 5 of 5 status for her JAG NJ program for the classes of 2020 and 2021 and has also been awarded JAG Specialist of the year twice.

Fun fact: Maureen parachuted with the US Army Golden Knights parachute team!

Stacey Ragin

Central High School
Bio

Ms. Ragin began her career in education in 2004 as a Project Director with a national dropout prevention program, but did not start teaching until 2021.  She is a certified Social Studies teacher with a degree from Rutgers University and has taught in the following Newark Public Schools:  Miller St. Academy, West Side High School, and Newark Vocational High School (as a Community Engagement Specialist/Parent Liaison).

Ms. Ragin was drawn to the JAG program because she believes that a positive interaction with a student can impact their family over several generations–JAG is that positive interaction.

Fun Fact:  Stacey watches sports analyst shows on a daily basis.

Bob Rush

Vineland High School
Bio

Mr. Rush has been employed by Vineland School District since 2006 and joined the JAG NJ team in 2015. He received his bachelor’s degree in business administration / accounting from Thomas Edison State College and his master’s degree in special education from Rowan University. Mr. Rush is also a business owner and entrepreneur. He received JAG national recognition in 2019 by receiving the coveted 5 of 5 performance outcome award.

Rafeeza Shahabudeen

Malcolm X Shabazz High School

Charles Shepherd

Barringer High School
Bio

Mr. Shepherd became a JAG Specialist at Barringer High School in the spring of 2020 when another JAG Specialist saw his “JAG-ability” and recruited him for the position.  He earned his degree in History Education from Clark Atlanta University and has taught in high schools in both Georgia and New Jersey.  Charles has a passion for helping others prepare to reach their goals which started when he launched his career in fitness and personal training and continues through JAG and his work as an instructor and mentor at Seton Hall University’s Upward Bound program.

Fun Fact:  Charles was on Fit or Flop-The Search for America’s Next Fitness Star 2014-2015 and was ranked 10 out of 20 best trainers in America.