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First Grade

Miss Kirstyn Masiello

Hello! My name is Kirstyn Masiello. This will be my fifth year teaching first grade and fourth year at St. Mary School. I have a bachelor’s degree in Education and English from Keene State College and a Master’s degree in Elementary Education from Southern Connecticut State University. Teaching is truly my passion and I love creating new and exciting lessons for the classroom. My favorite subject to teach is reading. I thoroughly enjoy teaching first graders and watching the progress they make, as readers, during the course of the school year. I look forward to another great year!


Second Grade

Mrs. Heather Heidtman

This is my sixth year teaching second grade at SMS. I graduated from Southern Connecticut State University with my degree in psychology and continued on to the University of New Haven where I received an MA degree in elementary education. I am happily married and have two beautiful children. I believe in educating the whole child starting with their faith in God. Our classroom becomes a cooperative environment where everyone takes responsibility, learns from one another, and explores all that God’s creation has to offer. Even as an adult I still believe in educating myself as much as possible! I enjoy learning new ways of teaching and love collaborating with my peers. I look forward to working with both my students and their families!


Third Grade

Miss Margaret Smith

Hello! My name is Peggy Smith. I have been teaching at Saint Mary School for the past 16 years first as a fourth grade teacher and now as a third grade teacher, and feel blessed to be part of such a faith-filled community. It is a joy teaching in such a loving and caring environment.
Previously, I taught 3rd grade for ten years at St. Rose of Lima School and 4th grade for three years at St. Aedan School, both in New Haven. I began my teaching career as a fifth grade teacher in North Branford.
I received my bachelor’s degree in elementary education at St. Francis University in Pennsylvania and my master’s degree from Southern CT State University.
I enjoy music and being by the water. My favorite quote is “No act of kindness is ever wasted.”
My goal as a teacher is to provide a happy and positive experience so that each child can meet with success in all areas of the curriculum. In our third grade classroom we learn how to work together in a positive, cooperative group setting, emphasizing respect for self and others, with God as the center of our life. Our class goal is to learn how to make good choices, and to live by out Gospel values.


Fourth Grade

Mrs. Donna Pecoraro

My name is Mrs. Donna Pecoraro and I am honored to be a member of the St. Mary School family as the Fourth Grade teacher. For the past seventeen years I have worked with all types of learners, from pre-school through fourth grade, and have developed a rich background of experience. My professional development includes Columbia University’s Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, Nancy Boyle’s Teaching Literature Response, and Investigations Math Consortium. As a participant in the Seedlings Educators Collaborative I have collaborated with some of the best educators in the New Haven area. I hold a Masters Degree in Elementary Education from the University of New Haven and a Bachelors Degree in Sociology from Southern CT State University, where I graduated Magna Cum Laude. In addition I hold an Associate Degree in Criminal Justice from St. John’s University in New York. I am married to my high school sweetheart and have two grown children. Education is my passion, but I also enjoy music, reading, and the blessing of living on the Connecticut Shoreline. My years in the service of children have been truly rewarding, and I am excited to continue that service in the warm and welcoming Catholic environment that is Saint Mary School.


Fifth Grade

Mrs. LaRee Delahunt

Mrs. Delahunt teaches the fifth grade. She has taught a variety of ages and grades, from infants to eighth grade, including seventeen years teaching fifth graders! In her free time she loves to read, practice yoga, bake, listen to music, travel, take gentle hikes, and try her hand at various crafts. Mrs. Delahunt earned a B.S. in Elementary Education from the University of Virginia and a Masters in Elementary Education from Southern Connecticut State University, and holds a Connecticut State Teachers Certificate. She is married and has three grown children, and one grandchild.

Mrs. Joanne Fresco – Religion

Mrs. Fresco teaches 5th grade religion and has been a member of St. Mary School and Parish Community for over forty years. She has three children, all who are graduates of St. Mary School. She is the former Director of St. Mary’s Parish Faith Formation Program and member of the Greater New Haven & Shoreline Directors of Religious Education. Currently, she is a Pastoral Associate at St. Mary Church/St. John Bosco Parish. She is an Archdiocesan trained facilitator for both the Child Lures Prevention Program; “Think First & Stay Safe” and the “Rainbows for all God’s Children” Program. She is a graduate of the Archdiocese of Hartford’s four-year Biblical Program and holds a certification in Advanced Bible Studies. She also completed the Archdiocese of Hartford’s two-year Lay Ministry Program. She is a graduate of the Spiritual Direction Program at Mercy Center in Madison and is certified as a Spiritual Director. Mrs. Fresco also serves as an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist. She is a daily communicant and each year coordinates the annual Parish weekend Retreat for Women.


Additional Elementary School Teachers

Mrs. Lori Hamilton – Physical Education and Library Grades 1 – 5

My name is Lori Hamilton and I have been the Physical Education teacher at St. Mary School for the over ten years. As a lifelong resident of Branford, I myself graduated from St. Mary School. Knowing first-hand the benefits of a Catholic education, I was thrilled that my three sons were also able to graduate from St. Mary’s. I received my Bachelor’s degree from Fairfield University. I am SPARK certified and a member of Shape America. St. Mary School has always been a part of my life, and I look forward to continuing to make fitness fun for all!

Mrs. Gloria Nilsson – Art Grades 1 – 5

Mrs. Gloria Nilsson is very excited to begin her first year as your art teacher at St. Mary School. She has been teaching art for the past eleven years to students from 4 to 100 years of age. She enjoys teaching all ages but especially appreciates teaching art to children and teens. “Helping young people create art helps them to express themselves, gives them a purpose and becomes very meaningful in their lives. In all of my teaching experiences, the true gift is what I get back from my students which is so much greater than what I could ever imagine.”
Mrs. Nilsson is a professional teaching artist. She is a graduate of Pratt Institute with an Associate’s degree in Graphic Design and has worked full time, as well as a freelance designer, for over fifteen years. Her career has since transitioned into the fine arts, where she has been honored with several awards, including the Tassy Walden Awards New Voices in Children’s Literature, Illustrators Portfolio. She has exhibited her work in numerous juried shows, galleries, public venues and outdoor exhibitions. Mrs. Nilsson has been invited to give classes and workshops at art centers, public and private schools, retirement communities, galleries and art studios as well as demonstrations in Connecticut, including Spectrum Art Gallery in Centerbrook, Chester Village West Retirement Community, the Cheshire Art League and the Madison Art Society. “My professional art background has allowed me the freedom to explore a variety of mediums and I bring all of that experience to the lesson plans that I am inspired to create.”
She has taught many art disciplines and has created quality art lesson plans, which include The Elements of Art and The Principles of Design. Her lessons encompass many skill levels to cultivate self-expression and a desire to learn. “I am committed to challenge myself and I continue to enrich my diverse art background as I am constantly learning new genres and mediums of art. My intention is to continue on with what the very talented Mrs. Corina has begun, and I look forward to pass down my artistic knowledge. Reinforcing the connection of art with other disciplines and the interaction with our world around us, to encourage self-expression and to inspire enthusiasm for the arts.
Mrs. Nilsson is married and has two grown children. She has been a Connecticut resident for over thirty years and is a parishioner of St. Lawrence Church. She finds the shoreline extremely inspiring and a constant reminder of the beauty and grandeur of God’s creation.

Mrs. Traci Rhodes – Resource Teacher

Hello, my name is Traci Rhodes. This is my first year at St. Mary’s School. I graduated from Southern Connecticut State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and hold my Connecticut State Initial Educators certification in Kindergarten – Sixth grade. I have many years of experience in both regular and special education. I have taught Prek-Sixth grade with most of my experience falling in the third, fourth and fifth grades. I also have a number of years working in special education as a paraprofessional. During this time I have worked with a number of abilities, challenges and a wide assortment of disabilities. I feel that everyone is capable of learning, but we all have our own way to gather information. As a teacher it is my job to understand the best way to access a student’s learning and help them reach their potential as a student.

Mrs. Dorota Xeller – Music Grades 1 – 5

Dorota Xeller, has an MA in English literature and a BA in voice (soprano). She has music training in opera and piano. She spent 12 years in Schola Cantorum Opoliensis performing in Europe, two years in St. Cecilia’s Chorus performing at Carnegie Hall. Mrs. Xeller has been an ESL teacher in Manhattan, a preschool teacher at NMS and an early childhood teacher at NMS. She is a Certified Parent Educator that worked at Indian Neck School in Branford for four years. She has also studied guitar for two years and ballet and modern dance for five years. She is currently a Co-Chair at the Women And Family Life Center in Guilford helping many shoreline families in need. Mrs. Xeller is a founder of Twinkletoes Music company that provides music and movement to six schools on the shoreline.
She resides in Madison with her husband Rob, children Mya and Ryan, and a dog named Floyd.


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About Us

Since 1961, Saint Mary School has been providing the Branford, Connecticut community and neighboring towns of New Haven, East Haven, North Branford, Northford, Madison and Guilford with a quality Catholic education.  Whether you are a current student, parent, faculty member, alumni or interested in becoming a part of our community, welcome to the online home of Saint Mary School!

 As witness to our Catholic faith, Saint Mary School of Branford strives to develop every child in a nurturing, academic environment, emphasizing religion, respect and responsibility.

NEASC Accreditation

Saint Mary School is fully accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) and welcomes children and adolescents of all faiths, ethnic groups and backgrounds. 

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) - The Nation’s Report Card - shows that Catholic school students achievement in Math and Reading are higher than national averages.