A Career in Dance and Musical Theater

Staten Island Technical High School has a lot going for it, not least of all enthusiastic and loyal staff members like Assistant Principal Noelle Sanguinedo, a member of the Council of School Supervisors & Administrators, AFSA Local 1. Along with others on staff, she is an alum of the top-ranking New York City school, and she hopes to instill in her students the same sense of family she gained as a student at Tech.

All early signs pointed to a career in dance and musical theater. Raised by parents who appreciate the arts, Noelle studied ballet at a young age under prima ballerina Wendy Barker of the Royal Academy of Ballet. A vocalist as well, Noelle aspired to a career in musical theater, majoring in both disciplines at the State University of New York at Buffalo. But her life flipped upside down at the final showcase of her sophomore year when she dislocated her knee.

“It was devastating,” she says. “I suddenly had to change my whole life plan.”

She reached out to her high school English teacher and mentor, Dr. Marilyn Aronson, who had always encouraged her to write. The pair discovered that much of her coursework, including a dramatic literature course on Shakespeare, was acceptable to the English Department, and Noelle changed her major. 

She laughs over a personal irony: “I once said right out loud, ‘I want to be anything but a teacher!’” Right out of college she took a job as a teacher of English, social studies and religion at St. Thérèse of Lisieux, a K–8 Roman Catholic school in Brooklyn, where she surprised herself and fell in love with teaching. She stayed four years while earning her M.S. in adolescent education.

One day, when she was back at Staten Island Tech to take her content specialty test, the principal came in and announced he was looking for an English teacher because of an unexpected retirement. Amid fierce competition, she landed the job. The once-dreaded teaching career had transformed into a cherished vocation.

Two years later, her students voted her National Honor Society Teacher of the Year, in recognition of her work in the classroom, as their cheer coach and as a consistent chaperone for school events. She quickly took on such leadership roles as coordinator of student activities and coordinator of English and Russian Studies. 

It wasn’t surprising when she was promoted in 2010 to assistant principal of English, Russian, Performing Arts, Music, Student Activities and High School Admissions. Switching gears only slightly in 2012, when administrative roles changed, she became AP for Supervision of English, Multi-Language Learners, Physical Education, Performing Arts, Music and Student Activities.

At Tech, the Russian Language rules. It is the only language available to students due to an agreement made with the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation at the school's inception. However, as travel to Russia became less and less feasible due to world issues, the school partnered with the Pushkin institute in 2017 as a means to keep the connectivity through their Russian for Business Curriculum. Noelle worked with teachers to establish the school as one of only 150 hub sites for the institute worldwide.

Her role as language supervisor permeates her responsibilities, including her work with multicultural learners, now including many heritage speakers of Russian, Cantonese and Mandarin attending from all five boroughs. To aid language learning, she petitioned the Department of Education for an artist-in-residence to help those with language barriers and disabilities express themselves through art. In conjunction with Sundog Theatre Inc., this program continues to grow today.

Noelle maintains an active family life. She lives for her daughters Ava Rae, 13, and Zoe Grace, 10, as an active part of their cheer and soccer teams and taking point as coordinator of their swim and dive teams. She is immensely grateful to her husband Frank, a retired firefighter, who does so much for their family, allowing her to thrive both at home and at work.

She even holds an extra job representing eco-friendly wellness products that help her maintain a focus on health and wellness in her life after suffering the fallout of a concussion and transient ischemic attack (TIA) episode, while addressing her daughter’s allergy concerns. “We even have allergy-friendly pets, a gecko and a snake. They have no fur, but they are loveable all the same.”

The health needs of her students also concern her; those needs escalated after the pandemic. She praises her principal Mark Erlenwein, also a Tech alum, with leading the way on social/emotional health programs and for his willingness to collaborate with Noelle and Athletic Director Jim McCarthy on the renovation of the main gymnasium and athletic facilities these past two years.

Despite being a school leader, she still deals directly with students, particularly by teaching a senior English course, Public Speaking, and she notes that she never wants to be a principal because she’d have to give up the classroom. She designed the course "to help students appreciate the use of what they learn in the real world, through the interview process, college and beyond. They need to hold the attention of their audience and find their voice." One way Noelle has extended this skill outside the classroom is through the debate team, which she started in 2021, and which has won two state championships since.

Noelle Sanguinedo’s roles as AP, teacher, entrepreneur and mother call for incredible energy. She says, “I keep a lot of balls in the air so I know I can’t drop them. I work well under stress. Plus, it keeps me young.”