Faculty and Administration
We believe that school is a collection of people sharing common values, and so our faculty and staff are carefully chosen for their talent, humility, intelligence, humor and capacity for learning. 96% have advanced degrees in their field, and all have chosen to be at Blue School to be part of a growing and thriving community with shared purpose. If you would like to learn more about our teachers and administrators, click on the blue text or scroll down.
From our Head of School's blog, Blue Notes from the Field:
"A masterful teacher is a person of intellect, who is engaged and excited by the prospect of understanding a child's mind, personhood, and individual nature a little bit better every day. She has chosen this vocation not to be loved by her students, but to appreciate and understand who they are and the mystery and wonder that they bring each day. A masterful teacher has fun with children and holds them in the highest regard (and thus to the highest standards), looks them in the eyes, laughs at their jokes, smiles when they succeed, and helps them get up when they fail.
A masterful teacher has a vision for the classroom that is both responsive to the children he teaches but also unwavering in his attention to what they need to learn at all developmental stages. She knows that freedom of thought comes within structure and parameters. He cherry-picks the best from great educational programs and current ideas, and makes them his own. She is inviting to families and values their partnership, and works to ensure that each child is seen and known from all sides. He is a reader of books and a person with ideas about the world.
A masterful teacher is a team player, and knows that her practice is as much about building the school as it is about her classroom. She is courageous enough to take and incorporate feedback from colleagues, and creative enough to take the suggestions farther than the giver ever intended. He is a collaborator through thick and thin, knowing the work of nurturing good citizens and people requires hearing one another out, healthy disagreement, and patience, as well as the thrill that comes with an idea better played out by two rather than one. She is exceedingly humble and curious about our work, knowing that the more she learns, the more questions she will have."
Randall de Sève received her bachelor’s degree from Barnard College and her master’s from Teachers College, both of Columbia University. She taught young children for many years at Saint Ann’s School and is a bestselling picture book author who enjoys sharing her stories in classrooms and bookstores around New York City and its suburbs. She is thrilled to be joining the vibrant community of teachers and learners at Blue School, where she imagines new stories are born daily. A longtime Park Slope resident, where she lives with her husband and two daughters, Randall plans to walk or run her beloved Brooklyn Bridge home as often as possible.
Wendy Gelsanliter has over twenty five years of experience working with young children and is happy to be joining them in the classroom again at Blue School! Wendy’s most recent positions include Associate Director of Jewish Community Project’s Early Childhood Center, Director of the Park Slope Child Care Collective and Assistant Director of Beginnings Nursery School in Manhattan. Wendy has 10 years experience teaching young children, from preschool through third grade. Music is another passion of Wendy’s. As a singer, songwriter, and guitarist, she has produced three CDs for children and their families. Wendy’s connection to the Materials Center at the Manny Cantor Center and to her work with the nonprofit, Teaching Beyond the Square, enriches her interactions with children. Wendy holds her BA in English from Hamilton College and a M.S. from Bank Street College of Education. She has one daughter in college.
Mónica Palma was born and raised in México City. She has been living in the USA since 2005. In parallel to her art studio practice in Brooklyn, Mónica works as an art educator in various programs around the city, including the Summer Program at LREI. At Blue School she is excited to bring the kids closer to her Spanish language and culture. Through the exploration of everyday objects, handcrafts, and music from México and other Spanish-speaking countries, Mónica seeks to bridge the disciplines of visual art and language. She enjoys planting seeds that will give her students a deeper understanding and appreciation of Latin culture in New York and elsewhere. Mónica earned her BA at the Universidad Veracruzana in México and her MFA at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia.
Karen Zippler is in her second year at Blue School as a teacher but her fifth year as a parent. An actor for 15 years, Karen got her first inkling that she might want to work with children while assisting in a 2s class at the Riverside Weekday School where she marveled at the intelligence, creativity and humor of young children. It would be many years before she found her way back to the classroom but she is thrilled she did. Karen holds both a bachelor's and master's degree in acting and is close to completing her Master's in Early Childhood Education from Bank Street College of Education. She has taught (and learned from) four year and five year olds at All Souls School, PS 321 in Brooklyn and for the past two and a half years at the City and Country School.
Ciara Hedderman taught Pre-K for 13 years at The Children's Aid Society, in Greenwich Village before joining Blue School. Ciara has her MS in Education, specializing in Early Childhood from Hunter College and her BA in Special Education, Elementary Education and Hispanic Studies from Mount Saint Mary College. Ciara has also worked as a SEIT (Special Education Itinerant Teacher) for 12 years, where she has helped preschoolers with developmental disabilities integrate successfully into their classrooms. As a teacher, Ciara has a passion for building community, fostering creativity, incorporating culture and developing a lifelong love of learning, all while playing and having fun! Over the years the children in her class have explored the usual interests of preschoolers such as real life heroes, outer space and dinosaurs. They have also explored some unique interests such as medieval times, urban farming, fairy houses and camping. While no two years were ever the same, all of Ciara's children have learned what it means to be a good friend. Ciara was born in Ireland and spent her childhood there before moving to the Bronx. Ciara now resides in Astoria with her bunny Cinnabun and her husband Bob.
Kristen Johnson grew up in the heart of Manhattan from the age of three. She loves being connected to the city and relishes the habitual transformation of New York. Kristen taught children ages two to four years old for twelve years at The Children’s Aid Society in Greenwich Village before joining the Blue School in 2013. If you ask her where her favorite place to be is, she will answer “the classroom!” Kristen’s earliest memories of school were rich, magical sensory experiences. In her choice to be an Educator, she strives to work cooperatively with the children to create a warm, nurturing and inspiring space that the children will remember forever. Kristen holds her BS in Psychology from SUNY Binghamton and is working to complete her Masters in Early Childhood Education/Special Education from Touro College. She lives in Nyack with her two teenage children, husband and dogs.
Alexander Kavo finds great joy in helping children develop into the very best versions of themselves that they can be. Alex earned a B.A. in Religious Studies and Anthropology from Bates College before returning to New York City to follow his passion to become a teacher. Alex has worked with children in many capacities for the past twelve years of his life. He spent two years working at the Bank Street School For Children as a part time 4/5s and 5/6s teacher. Realizing that being a teacher felt just right, Alex then enrolled in the Bank Street Graduate School, where he is currently pursuing his MsEd in Early Childhood Education. For the last two years, Alex has honed his understanding of education as an Assistant Teacher in Bank Street's 6/7s and 7/8s classes, where he has developed strong philosophies around curriculum development, classroom management, and child-teacher interactions. Alex is excited for the opportunity to join the innovative community at Blue School. When not teaching, Alex's other passions include playing the guitar, traveling, and sports.
Elizabeth Lockhart supported teacher development as an Education Coordinator at Columbia University Head Start before joining the Blue School. Elizabeth has an MS in Infant and Family development with a concentration in Early Intervention/Special Education from Bank Street College and a BS in Early Childhood/Childhood General and Special Education from Manhattan College. Elizabeth also worked as an infant toddler teacher at Bank Street Family Center for two years, where she had the opportunity to lead a mixed aged inclusive room of infants and toddlers ages 6 months to 3 years. As a teacher, Elizabeth brings curiosity and exploration to the classroom. She is very passionate about following and fostering creativity and building an emotionally safe and loving community. Elizabeth currently lives in New Jersey with her husband, Julio. Elizabeth has found joy in meditation and yoga to start and end the day. She also enjoys going on different adventures and traveling with her husband.
Rachel Lowdermilk discovered her passion for working with young children while student teaching at the Barnard Center for Toddler Development in 2007, and has been working with toddlers and preschoolers ever since. A graduate of the Bank Street College and Hunter College dual degree program in Education and Social Work, Rachel is passionate about creating a welcoming and nurturing classroom environment that supports children as they develop into deep thinkers and empowered citizens of their communities. Rachel is originally from Philadelphia (but a New Yorker at heart!) and has spent the past six years teaching at Evergreen Community School, a progressive preschool in Santa Monica, California. She is thrilled to be returning to the city she loves and to be joining the Blue School team. Outside of the classroom, Rachel enjoys traveling abroad with her husband, cooking feasts for her friends, and chasing squirrels with her dog, Maynard.
Jill Sobelman's journey to teaching began in the summer of 1999. She was eight years old and boarding the bus for her first year of sleep-away camp in the Catskills mountains. There she learned about independence, comradery and resilience. Her years as a camper and counselor led her to pursue a career early childhood education, so that she could work with children in both the summer and school months. Jill received her masters from the Bank Street School College of Education in 2016. For three years she was an assistant teacher at the Bank Street School for children in the 3/4s and 4/5s classrooms. For the past year, Jill worked as a head teacher at Jewish Community Project in a 4s classroom. This experience afforded her opportunities to foster classroom community, design curriculum and mentor a team of teachers. Jill is so excited about joining the Blue School family. She looks forward to establishing meaningful relationships with other teachers, co workers, families and of course with children.
Karen Levenberg loves teaching an emergent curriculum created by children. She has taught 5s, 4s and 3s. Karen especially enjoys introducing young children to science and watching their discoveries as they construct knowledge -- up to their elbows in water, sand, glue, paint, simple machines, meal worms and paper air planes. She has also worked at the Early Childhood Center of Beth Elohim and for NYC DOE in a family literacy, early childhood program in the public schools. Karen holds a master's degree in early childhood education from Brooklyn College, a master's in public health from Hunter College and a BA in studio art/art history from Oberlin College. In her free time she hangs out with her two teenage sons and husband, trying in vain to win Settlers of Catan.
Anna Padgett is in her third year as a Blue School 4s teacher. Before joining this community, Anna spent three years teaching Kindergarten at an Expeditionary Learning School outside Baltimore. She also brings her eight years of early childhood teaching experience in independent and public schools in New York City. Anna graduated from Wesleyan University with a B.A. in Art History and Dance; she earned her MsEd from Hunter College. Anna is a songwriter and musician who currently performs and records songs and stories for young children and their families as The Good Ms. Padgett - she thanks her four-year-old Brooklyn music students for the name! Anna cannot imagine teaching without her guitar and loves to make up songs with children. Anna is continually inspired by the wide-open minds of young children; she is thrilled to be a member of Blue School's community of joyful, creative, and collaborative learners.
Amanda Pron spent three years teaching at Packer Collegiate Institute before joining Blue School, and has spent summers working at the 92nd Street Y. Originally from Asheville, NC, Amanda pursued an undergraduate degree at Bryn Mawr College, majoring in Anthropology with a minor in English. She completed her Master's in Early Childhood Education at Bank Street College, where she became extremely interested in exploring sensory integration strategies and mindfulness classroom practices. When she is not at school, Amanda enjoys playing piano, going to baseball games and jazz clubs, and exploring the city with her dog, Bailey.
Jeannine Sloane feels grateful everyday to have found her "just right" work as a teacher! She moved to NYC 13 years ago to earn her BFA in film and television production from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. Jeannine completed her MsEd in Early Childhood and Special Education at Bank Street College of Education. In addition to her studies Jeannine spent 2 years as a 4s/5s teacher and one year as a 5s/6s teacher at the Bank Street School for Children. Among the myriad explorations that bring her joy in classrooms are: storytelling with children, building with blocks, using found materials to create art, guiding community problem-solving meetings, singing throughout the day, talking about feelings, hosting weekly dance parties, and practicing mindfulness. She is thrilled to continue her journey as an educator at Blue School.
Shira Newmark (floating teacher) began supporting children when she was in sixth grade at the JCC's "special needs" camp in Miami, Florida, where she realized that she felt a special, strong connection to children with autism. Following this call, Shira continued to support children with autism throughout her high school and college career, before graduating with a Masters in Special Education. After teaching a Varying Exceptionalities classroom of two- and three-year-olds, Shira become a SEIT (Special Education Itinerant Teacher) and an Early Intervention Special Educator. As a SEIT, Shira supported children in various schools all over New York, including Beginnings Day School, Chelsea Day School, West Side Montesorri and more, while also supporting adults with disabilities at camps in Vermont and Guatemala over her summers. In working as a SEIT at Blue School, Shira discovered the school of her dreams -- amazed and inspired by all of the joy, wonder and creativity around her. Shira has since taught the two-, three- and four-year-old programs at Blue School and has also been a Floater Teacher for all grades. Shira is honored to embark upon her ninth year at Blue School, returning as the twos lead teacher and co-creator of Blue School’s Mindfulness Initiative, about which Shira was honored to present at the Omega Institute’s Mindfulness in Education Conference in summer 2014. Outside of Blue School, Shira can be found writing her book, creating music, singing, karaoking, and dancing the 5Rhythms, a moving meditation practice and practicing yoga.
Jenna Martines, after receiving her BA in psychology from Wells College in upstate New York, returned to New York City to pursue her Master's degree at Bank Street College. Jenna has taught in early childhood classrooms at the Dwight School/Woodside Preschool, Packer Collegiate Institute and at the Co-op School in Brooklyn where she was a lead teacher for the two years. Jenna loves to bring her passion for dance and movement into the classroom.
Lily Pollak is thrilled to join the Blue School community! Originally from Texas, Lily has been living in New York for seven years. For the past three years, Lily taught four year olds in DOE community-based pre-k classrooms. She holds an M.S.Ed in Early Childhood Education from Hunter College and a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Texas, Austin. Lily loves traveling, riding her bike, cooking (and eating), doing yoga, reading mysteries, listening to all music, and being outside as much as possible. She lives in Park Slope with her husband Juan and their hamster, Nibbles.
Alexis Schmidt, earned her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of California, Davis and completed her Master of Arts in Teaching at the University of San Francisco. Alexis is a native Californian and began her teaching career at Marin Country Day School, the elementary school she once attended. With a desire to try something new, Alexis moved to New York City nine years ago and has been teaching at an independent school in Harlem ever since. She taught 3rd grade for two years and finally settled into her real love – kindergarten-- for seven years at Storefront Academy in Harlem. She spends her free time traveling to visit family and friends in California, Hong Kong and London. Alexis is looking forward to continuing her work as a kindergarten teacher in the new and exciting environment of the Blue School.
Amalia Velazquez is excited to begin her teaching career at Blue School. She graduated from SUNY New Paltz with a Bachelors in Childhood Education (B-6). She moved from Mexico when she was eight and has lived here since. Growing up she knew she wanted to pursue a career working with children. Outside of the classroom, Amalia enjoys hiking, running, going to museums and writing. She has a passion for exploring new places and trying new things!
Ashley King grew up in Westchester County, New York where her fourth and fifth grade teachers inspired her to pursue a career in education. After graduating from Skidmore College with a degree in Elementary Education, Ashley came to Manhattan to earn a masters in literacy from Bank Street College. She recently finished her degree, which culminated in writing and illustrating a children's book for her masters project. At both Skidmore and Bank Street, Ashley learned to use children's innate curiosity and excitement to direct her teaching. Outside of the classroom, Ashley enjoys doing yoga, crocheting, and creating artwork. She is looking forward to sharing her creativity and excitement with the Blue School Community!
Brandi Norton taught at The Spence School and at the Washington Market School before joining Blue School. She was born and raised in Alaska and received a B.F.A. in dance from the Juilliard School. Prior to her teaching career, Brandi performed with the Trisha Brown Dance Company for nine years before starting her own dance company, OtherShore. She earned her Master's Degree in Early Childhood Education from Bank Street College of Education. Brandi enjoys spending time outside, riding her bike, and walking her dog, Gracie.
Lissy Rosner is excited to join the Blue School community! Lissy, a native New Yorker, graduated from Boston University with a Bachelor of Science in both Elementary and Special Education. At BU, Lissy was a four year member of the Boston University Dance Team, winning two Division 1 National Championships. Lissy also had the opportunity to study abroad in Sydney, Australia, where she completed one of her full time student teaching practicums. Lissy is currently pursuing a master’s degree in the Applied Educational Psychology: Reading Specialist Program at Teachers College, Columbia University. She has a strong passion for teaching and learning and is excited to share her enthusiasm with her students. As a kindergartner, Lissy discovered that she wanted to be a teacher and has not changed her mind since!
Emily Zak earned her Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction at Bank Street College of Education, and then taught Kindergarten and First Grade at Little Red (LREI). Passionate about progressive education, she brings her deep experience in early literacy and curriculum development to First Grade. In her spare time, Emily enjoys reading, cooking, and scrapbooking.
Jocelyn Benford, 2nd Grade: Jocelyn is thrilled to join the Blue School community. She has 15 years of elementary school teaching experience. For the past 12 years she has been teaching Kindergarten and then second grade at a wonderfully diverse school in Brooklyn. Prior to that she taught in a multi-age second and third grade classroom in Seattle. Jocelyn grew up (mostly) in San Francisco, where she spent her high school years performing with the Center for Theatre Training. She received a BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and she spent many years working and training as an actress in New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle. However, she kept finding herself drawn to working with young people, and she literally woke up one morning and decided to go back to school to get a teaching degree. She received her certification from Pacific Oaks College NW, and eventually went on to combine both her passions by receiving an MA in Educational Theater from NYU’s Steinhardt School of Education. Jocelyn loves inspiring and guiding children’s natural curiosity, and she endeavors to bring creativity, discovery, and a joy of learning to her classroom every day. Jocelyn spends her free time reading, traveling (her most recent trips include Amsterdam and Morocco), cooking, and exploring her Brooklyn neighborhood with her teen-aged daughter.
Katie Cheek hails from Baltimore (and visits frequently) but spends most of her time in Brooklyn with her friends and her cat Sadie. Katie holds a BFA from the Pratt Institute in Creative Writing and is finishing her Master's in Elementary Education at Hunter College. She also studied improv comedy for over five years at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. Katie comes to Blue from five years at Packer Collegiate Institute, where she spent her first three years in the after school program and substituting, and the last two years as an associate teacher in both preschool and third grade. In her free time Katie loves to draw and paint, read and write, build Lego projects, watch old sitcoms and most of all, sing karaoke.
Rhea Cumberbatch is a second year graduate student at NYU Steinhardt studying Education Leadership, Politics and Advocacy (ELPA). This summer, she traveled to South Africa to study education and social reform in higher education and NGO’s. Before joining the ELPA program, Rhea worked at the Dalton School as an associate teacher for two years. She also spent time in China’s northernmost province teaching English. Last year Rhea worked with Jocelyn in 2nd B and has subbed throughout the lower school. She is excited and looking forward to rejoining the community next year. A native New Yorker, Rhea has always been interested in learning from the diverse environment around her. Her experiences shape her work as a student, educator and continue to influence her professional choices. Going forward, Rhea continues her commitment to learning and exploring the multifaceted nature of education and education policy. She hopes to create well-rounded solutions that address the diverse student experiences in New York and across the United States.
Michelle Philippin is so very excited to join the Blue School family in the fall of 2016 after teaching for seven years at Girls Prep Elementary on the Lower East Side. Deeply compelled by the way children think and learn, Michelle’s interests within education range from classroom practice and environmental structures, to neuroscience, and beyond. Michelle has studied Elementary Education (MA) at Relay Graduate School of Education and Educational Theater (MA) at New York University, and holds a dual degree in Theater Arts and Women’s Studies from the City University ofNew York (College of Staten Island). Before becoming a teacher full-time, Michelle worked as a teaching artist in schools across all five boroughs for The American Place Theater and The Leadership Program. When she is not teaching, you can find Michelle cooking, traveling, attending theater, exploring NYC on foot with her husband, Brad, and having long conversations with good friends, old and new. One of these days, she will learn to knit.
Rachel Eisenman is excited to be a part of the Blue School community! She holds a BA in English Literature from SUNY Geneseo, and is currently studying for a dual Masters degree in General Childhood Education and Literacy at Bank Street College. She realized she wanted to teach after directing the theater program at a day camp on Long Island. She spends her free time baking (and eating) cookies, reading, and exploring the city.
Crystal Elmore moved to New York 10 years ago from her native Florida to attend NYU for a master’s degree in International Education. She has a B.A. in Elementary Education and is a few months away from completing her Master's of Education from Teacher's College. Having taught 2nd and 3rd grade in both Florida and Brooklyn, she knows that those two age groups are both inspiring and great fun. Crystal especially enjoys creating new curricular studies and collaborating with colleagues. Helping children learn to love questioning is a goal that Crystal always keeps foremost in her mind. When she's not teaching, she loves playing beach volleyball, making art, eating with family and friends, being outside, and traveling around the world!
Kristen Jayne is excited to begin her career in education at Blue School. After completing a Master of Music at the University of Oklahoma she moved to New York to pursue a career as an opera singer. When it came time to shift gears professionally, Kristen knew one thing for sure, she wanted to work with kids. Taking a leap of faith she began pursuing a Masters degree in education at Bank Street College and has never been happier. When not teaching or singing, she enjoys learning new crafts such as crochet, book binding, and sewing by watching YouTube!
Ashley Semrick is a native Californian and holds a MsEd degree in Museum and Elementary Education from Bank Street, as well as a BA in Theatre and Acting. Before joining Blue School in 2013, Ashley taught elementary school in Brooklyn. Her previous work as a theatre practitioner, museum educator, and visual artist now daily informs her joy-infused, inquiry-based classroom practice. Ashley believes the best kind of teaching happens when responding to the authentic inquiry of her students. When she’s not in the classroom, you can find Ashley waxing poetic about New York City history as a licensed tour guide, adventuring in her favorite museums, or singing and playing the cello in her rock band. She lives with her family in Brooklyn.
Keren Lilu has over eight years of teaching experience in second through fifth grade. She came to Blue School from Ethical Culture Fieldston School, where she was a second grade lead teacher. Keren holds a BS magna cum laude in elementary education with a minor in psychology from the University of Delaware. She also holds an MS in literacy education (birth-grade 6) from Hunter College. Keren has taken a number of professional development seminars, among them a Lucy Calkins writing workshop for grades 3-5, a geometry and measurement seminar for grades K-8, and a responsive classroom workshop.
Cynthia Bogdanovich (4th and 5th Grade) left her home in St. Louis, Missouri to come to New York and be an artist. After operating a design studio, she turned to more creative pursuits, teaching. She earned her Master's in Education from Bank Street College and has been an elementary teacher for more than 15 years, teaching at The Ethical Culture Fieldston School, The School at Columbia University, and Staten Island Academy. Cynthia believes in an education that honors the spirit of the child. She is committed to creating a teaching model that nurtures independent thinkers and problem solvers that are fully equipped to navigate their way through a constantly changing world. When not teaching, she spends her time lap swimming, gardening, and creating in her studio in Pennsylvania.
Carrie Klein comes to us from the Bay Area where she worked at several independent schools, most recently teaching fourth and fifth graders at Aurora School in Oakland. The parent of two independent school graduates now in college, she has an undergraduate degree in history from Hamilton College and a Masters in education from Bank Street. Before becoming a teacher, Carrie spent a decade writing speeches and working on arms control and foreign policy for the late US Senator Mark Hatfield. Carrie’s great passion (other than teaching!) is traveling and learning about new places. She was born in Worcester, Massachusetts but moved with her family to Salem, Oregon in the middle of seventh grade. She and her husband have also lived in several very different parts of the United States, including St. Louis, Missouri, Washington, DC, and Bainbridge Island, Washington. They now live just over the Brooklyn Bridge in Brooklyn Heights where they’re always planning their next adventure.
Elisa Berhaupt, Primary Learning Specialist: Elisa Berhaupt, is thrilled to be joining the Blue School community! Elisa has experience with teaching students with a range of learning styles. She began her career working with students with disabilities in upstate New York. After moving to New York City, she spent the last six years as teacher on the Lower East Side. Elisa has taught fourth grade, second grade, and most recently has been a Reading Specialist working with students in grades Kindergarten to fourth grade. She received her Bachelors in Childhood and Special Education from The College of Saint Rose and a Masters in Literacy Education from Hunter College and then returned as an adjunct. Elisa is also a certified Reading Recovery teacher. When Elisa is not sharing her passion for learning with her students, she enjoys spending time boating on the lake with her family, hiking with her dog, rooting for the NY Giants, and traveling.
Rhonda Weissman, Primary Learning Specialist, studied Elementary Education and Middle School English Education at the University of Delaware. She went on to teach reading for three years in New York City. Subsequently, Rhonda worked as a writing tutor and then as a literacy interventionist. She also earned her degree in Literacy at Bank Street College. Rhonda has experience with various research-based literacy programs including Hochman’s Teaching Basic Writing Skills, Fountas and Pinnell guided reading programs, and the Orton-Gillingham approach to teaching literacy. It is Rhonda's goal to help children find joy in reading and writing -- to see reading as a way to learn and to escape into new worlds. As you might expect, Rhonda loves reading. She also enjoys watching movies and listening to podcasts. Rhonda is so glad to be part of the Blue School team.
Sarah Yorra, Upper Grades Learning Specialist. Sarah Yorra is very excited to be joining Blue School as a learning specialist. For the past three years, she has collaboratively taught English Language Arts, English to Speakers of Other Languages, and Theater Arts to a variety of students from across NewYork City, after several years as a theater teaching artist and private tutor, specializing in expository writing and test preparation. She loves helping students explore connections between texts and their own identities and experiences, Shakespeare, and spending time with her family in Windsor Terrace. She has a BS in Performance Studies from Northwestern University, an MA in Adolescent Education from Hunter College, and a TESOL Certification from City College.
Esther Kim, Math Specialist, grew up in Philadelphia, PA and moved to New York City after completing her undergraduate studies from Penn State University. She has spent the last decade working at Trevor Day School teaching third and fourth grades. During that time, she discovered her passion for teaching mathematics. Her goal is to make math education relevant to all students by helping them see that math is something that is not just contained in the classroom, but it is all around us! Esther lives in midtown, Manhattan. She enjoys hiking, yoga, and traveling and eating her way through different cities around the world.
Meredith Lorber, Math Coordinator & Middle School Program Developer, grew up in Nashville, Tennessee and moved to New York after completing her undergraduate degree from Brown University in Biomedical Ethics. Once in New York, she earned her Masters in Teaching from Pace University. In 2005, Meredith began teaching mathematics in Brooklyn and immediately found her passion in both the development of children and math education. Meredith strongly believes that mathematics is a creative pursuit and is interested in the way that students construct their own understanding of math through investigation and proof. As an educator, she hopes to to redefine math for students as the practice of tinkering and playing with numbers, shapes, and ideas.
Caitlin Barry, Middle School Literacy, hails from sunny and sandy Los Angeles. She earned a BA in Literary Arts and American Studies from Brown University, and an MA in Teaching English from Teachers College Columbia University. Prior to joining Blue School, Caitlin worked at Westside Neighborhood School in LA for five years, teaching middle school English and social studies. Caitlin thinks that encouraging students to read for pleasure, and inspiring them to identify as writers, are two of most empowering things a teacher can do. She also believes that critically examining all forms of text—literary, visual, and media—is essential for becoming a thoughtful global citizen. Outside of the classroom, you can find Caitlin exploring every park in New York City, playing board games with friends, and eating noodle soup and dumplings at restaurants around town.
Emma Feinstein, Middle School Mathematics, has a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from Amherst College and a Masters in Teaching from Pace University. Originally from Takoma Park, Maryland, she has spent more than 10 years working in math education in the New York City area. She most recently worked as an academic dean in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Having previously taught and coached math teachers in grades 5-9, Emma has a passion for all things mathematical. She is especially drawn to a hands-on, exploratory approach to learning and is very excited to be working at Blue School. When she is not thinking about math, Emma enjoys running and playing the violin.
Meredith Lorber, Math Coordinator/Middle School Program Developer, grew up in Nashville, Tennessee and moved to New York after completing her undergraduate degree from Brown University in Biomedical Ethics. Once in New York, she earned her Masters in Teaching from Pace University. In 2005, Meredith began teaching mathematics in Brooklyn and immediately found her passion in both the development of children and math education. Meredith strongly believes that mathematics is a creative pursuit and is interested in the way that students construct their own understanding of math through investigation and proof. As an educator, she hopes to to redefine math for students as the practice of tinkering and playing with numbers, shapes, and ideas.
Megan Milas, Middle School Integrated Studies and Health, was born and raised in New England where she began working with teens as a certified Leadership Instructor with the Student Leadership Training Program (SLTP). With SLTP she helped to design and teach workshops, conferences, and overnight camp experiences aimed at empowering students to become leaders at their schools and in their communities. She began her teaching career in Houston, working with a newly founded school to expand their science and technology programs before moving to New York to continue teaching and complete her MA in K-12 Education. Megan brings over 10 years of science education and teaching experience to Blue School, and believes strongly that students learn best when they feel connected both to content and to each other. When not teaching, Megan enjoys exploring the city, US, and abroad with her husband and twin boys Brixton and Teo.
Corey Pickering, Middle School Integrated Studies, was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. She earned a BA in Religious Studies from Indiana University and an MA in Social Studies Education from NYU. In her ten years at Millennium High School in New York City, Corey taught and developed curriculum for Global Studies, AP World History and a History of Islam elective. In her position at MHS, Corey also served as a student advisor, an Instructional Coach, and as coordinator of the Student Government and Ethics program. Corey views teaching and learning as a joyful exploration of our world, and she is thrilled to join a team of like-minded educators at Blue School. Corey lives and plays in Brooklyn with husband Stephen, and sons Bodhi, age four and Cassidy James, age one.
Karin Spitzer, M.S.W., LCSW, Middle School Health, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with an arts background. Karin grew up in Lower Manhattan and graduated from Saint Ann's School. She received her Bachelor's from Brown University in Modern Culture and Media and her Masters in Social Work from New York University. Since 2004, Karin has worked with children, adolescents and adults in schools, mental health clinics and nonprofits throughout NYC. Most recently, at The Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services, Karin offered consultations and interactive workshops to parents and educators on how to support emotional health in children from birth through young adulthood. Karin is a mother of two school aged children, maintains a private practice in the village and is excited to join Blue School.
Michele Tagliagambe, High School Placement Director: Born and raised in Brooklyn, Michele comes to Blue School from Poly Prep where she held the position of Director of Middle and Upper School Admissions in addition to being a student advisor, teacher of a Constitutional law based history course, and co-chair of the Faculty and Staff Council. Prior to joining the world of education, Michele was a practicing attorney and partner at a premier civil litigation firm. An experienced litigator, she enjoys teaching advocacy skills to her students and sharing her passion for the law. Outside of school, Michele enjoys bird watching, gardening and creating things by hand. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and daughter (a student at the University of Pennsylvania). Michele is excited to help guide students towards their next educational adventure.
Amy Zolla, Middle School Literacy, is thrilled to join Blue School to teach the sixth grade English course, Novels and Nonfiction and to lead the literacy work in the middle school. She brings with her thirteen years of experience teaching English Language Arts, reading, and writing in New York City, seven of which have been at The Anderson School. Amy earned her BA in English Literature from Washington University in St. Louis, and became a New York City Teaching Fellow in 2002. Amy believes a strong English curriculum is really a study of the human condition. Thus, her classroom is a space for students to think critically, read passionately, and write well, all while grappling with tough questions about the issues that affect humankind. In her spare time, Amy enjoys making up stories with her daughter, taking her son for walks in his stroller, baking breads and desserts, practicing yoga, and running in Prospect Park.
Caroline McAuliffe is excited to join Blue School. She has a passion for education, art, food, and travel. Caroline completed her BA at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Studio Art and Arts & Education with High Honors in Painting. Caroline developed her passion for child-centered, arts-infused education through her establishment of a free arts education program at the Boys & Girls Club in Geneva, NY during her sophomore year of college. Afterwards, she pursued her role as an artist and educator, receiving her art teacher certification in New Jersey and later her MFA with distinction from Pratt Institute in Painting and Drawing. Over the past five years, Caroline has taught art throughout New York City and New Jersey. She honed her skills as an arts educator with the Children's Museum of Art, Doing Art Together, and Wingspan Arts, Inc. teaching all ages, abilities and materials. As a paper and fiber artist, she creates embroidered paper collages and crocheted installations and wearables. She spent the summer of 2013 creating headdresses from found rope on the shores of Iceland, while in residence at NES Artist Residency. During this past July, Caroline traveled to Kenya to teach community driven art at Nkineji Primary School in the Maasai Mara. Her current projects have taken her into the kitchen as she builds goldpennyloafer, a thoughtfully made food company to share her healthful creations, one plate at a time.
Mollie McQuarrie is a parent, artist and educator specializing in aesthetic education. Over the years, she has taken on many roles: classroom teacher, freelance gallery educator, teaching artist and Director of Education for an arts integration program working with public schools and community organizations in Red Hook, Brooklyn. In 2007, with a group of parents, she was involved in founding Red Hook Playgroup, a Reggio inspired preschool for working families, eventually becoming its first Atelierista. Recently, she also started teaching art to teachers at Brooklyn College. Aside from her teaching, she is involved a few long term arts-related projects: ongoing research about multi-modal teacher/student self reflection, the production of a documentary about “trust” in schools, and Waltz Project - a band which plays only in 3/4 time for which she plays ukelele and accordion.
Rose Nestler is enthusiastic about the power of art education and is thrilled to bring her excitement to Blue School! Originally from Seattle, Washington, Rose currently lives in Brooklyn, where she just finished her MFA with a concentration in sculpture and video at Brooklyn College. She received a BA in Fine Arts and Art History from Mt. Holyoke College in 2005 and has been working as a Teaching Artist and Educator in New York City for the past 10 years. Rose believes that visual thinking brings out the inherent genius in students, that is why she loves teaching art, getting to experience her students’ creative processes is something quite magical and inspiring. Though she likes to teach a variety of artistic mediums, teaching students sculpture is her favorite because there is a lot of problem solving and fun hands on experiences involved. In 2016 she was awarded a Graduate Teaching Fellowship at Brooklyn College and continues to work as a Teaching Artist for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Brooklyn Arts Council. In 2017 she was a Dedalus Foundation MFA Fellowship nominee. Her work has been exhibited in the New York area at a variety of galleries and community organizations including, Smack Mellon, CRUSH Curatorial, UrbanGlass, Causey Contemporary and CUCHIFRITOS Gallery and Project Space. Nestler has been an artist-in-residence at Chashama Workspace Program, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, Vermont Studio Center, Supporting Women Artists Project, and Byrdcliffe Artists Colony. When Rose isn't in the classroom or art studio, you might find her in the kitchen because she loves to bake, pie is her specialty!
Valerie Killen (Early Childhood Music Specialist) has been with Blue School since the beginning, and is very excited for this, her 11th year of teaching here! The first full-time teacher and administrator at the school, Val served as the Associate Director of what was then called the Blue Man Creativity Center and helped the Founders create, develop and implement the school's founding principles, educational approach and organizational infrastructure. Subsequently, she was also the first Associate Director of Admissions at Blue School, co-constructed and taught in the first 2s program, and was the first Music Specialist. Additionally, Val taught in and helped build the first two Out of the Blue Summer Programs. Val has been an early childhood teacher and administrator for over eighteen years. Prior to Blue School, she helped to launch Citibabes in Soho as their first Director of Children's Programming. She was a Head Teacher and the Adult Programs Coordinator at the Diller-Quaile School of Music for seven years. Val has an AB cum laude in English and American Language and Literature from Harvard University, and is working towards a combined MA in General and Special Education at the Bank Street College of Education. Originally from Boston, Val has lived in NYC for over 21 years, and currently lives in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn with her husband, Stefan, her 6- and 3-year-old sons, and their cat. At home she can be found enjoying yoga, jogging, dancing, reading, writing, singing and performing songs and music, and going to the playground with her kids.
Megan Moncrief is delighted to jump into Blue School's music program this year! Megan began her teaching career with private and group music lessons after completing her undergraduate studies at New York University in 2006, and branched out from there into teaching classes and directing ensembles around the city. She is the summer music director at Brooklyn Acting Lab, and has presented at conferences including the NYU Forum on Educational Theater and the NYU Steinhardt Impact conference. She's had a fantastic time working with Blue School's clown shows for the past few years, and can't wait to explore new musical worlds with this community! Megan has a fire for learning new instruments and plays around a dozen, and counting! Her performance career has ranged from Bach to Bartok, to cumbia, to musical theater, to dream pop, to abstract electronics. She is a fixture on the New York experimental music scene, and an active composer for theater and film, collaborating with groups like Buran Theater, Torn Out, and Target Margin. When she's not making music, Megan can often be found swimming to it with the Manhattan Plaza Waterworks synchronized swim team.
Science and Sustainability
Carly Sullivan Cox, Primary Science Teacher: Carly has a Bachelor's degree in Environmental Biology from Colgate University and a Master's degree in Environmental Education from NYU. Originally from Virginia, Carly returned to the Mid Atlantic region following college to teach high school science. Upon moving to New York City, Carly began working with the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and discovered her love for teaching younger students. She has since worked in a number of elementary science settings and roles, most recently with the NYC Audubon for NYU's Wallerstein Collaborative. Carly believes that all students are natural scientists and is inspired by their curiosity and energetic pursuit of answers. Carly is very excited to join the Blue School community!
Carrie Vaughn, Middle School Integrated Studies Teacher, works with young people and faculty across the School on science of all kinds, and maintains the Bio Lab as a materials area and the Terrace as an outdoor science classroom complete with plants and other living things. She will also be works with our food program to help children think about the food they eat, where it comes from and where it is going. Carrie has worked in schools and at the Botanical Gardens, NYC Audubon, NYU Hudson River Education and Stewardship Program, and the Food Trust. She is also adjunct faculty at NYU and Pace.
STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math)
Rob Gilson, has been teaching since 2000, exploring student interests and community needs in order to engage children in their worlds. Notably, he helped develop and coordinate projects for children to beautify their communities with IMPACT OTR in Cincinnati, transforming vacant lots into organic gardens and blighted buildings into canvases for works of art. Rob earned an MA in Educational Studies at the University of Cincinnati and an M.Ed. in Secondary Math Education at City College of New York, and is also certified in Vedic Mathematics Teaching by the Vedic Maths Institute in the UK. In 2013 he established the Tinkering Club to empower children in using hand tools and design drawings to build everyday items and experience viscerally the Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Design, and Mathematics (STEAM) of simple constructions. By blending traditionally separate content areas, children see the world as the amalgamation of all aspects of their understanding; the learning arises organically from the activity. Rob adores his wife Lynne, his daughter Shanti, kind people, sustainable living, kimchi, yoga, and bluegrass music.
Erin Hunkemoeller (K-8 Spanish). Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. Erin earned a B.A. in Spanish and a B.S. in Spanish Education at the University of Dayton. While teaching at Northmont High School in Clayton, Ohio, Erin taught and developed curriculum for Spanish Levels 1-4. While at NHS, Erin was color guard director, Spanish club advisor, and co-founder of Catalyst, the school's a cappella group. She believes in teaching language and culture through hands-on experience and need-based communication. She believes that the goal of education is life-long learning and curiosity, and that language and culture learning are key components to success in our ever-changing world. Erin has presented at language conferences in different states around the country, and has led groups of students in educational travel abroad. She is "muy emocionante" to be joining the staff at Blue School who share the same pedagogical values.
Mónica Palma (Pre-Primary) was born and raised in México City. She has been living in the USA since 2005. In parallel to her art studio practice in Brooklyn, Mónica works as an art educator in various programs around the city, including the Summer Program at LREI. At Blue School she is excited to bring the kids closer to her Spanish language and culture. Through the exploration of everyday objects, handcrafts, and music from México and other Spanish-speaking countries, Mónica seeks to bridge the disciplines of visual art and language. She enjoys planting seeds that will give her students a deeper understanding and appreciation of Latin culture in New York and elsewhere. Mónica earned her BA at the Universidad Veracruzana in México and her MFA at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia.
Val DuVal has been with Blue School for several years, and beloved by everyone at Blue School. In addition to running programming during the school day for all ages, age 2-grade 5, Val offers several popular after school classes including Tumble Bugs, basketball and soccer. A highlight of last year was Val leading our community cheer at Field Day on Governor's Island, which he also helped plan.
Rachel Evans is thrilled to join the faculty at the Blue School. She is an educator, actress and writer. She has been teaching for various organizations/non profits and theater companies since 2006. Rachel has taught acting, playwriting, devising, improv and more, from elementary school to senior citizens. For three years in a row, she received the SU-CASA grant from the Brooklyn Arts Council to teach senior citizens at a senior center in Brooklyn. As an actress, she has worked off-broadway and across the country in various theaters. Her one-woman show, Jew Wish, which she wrote, starred in and produced premiered at the NY International Fringe Festival. Her one-act plays and monologues have been performed with Primary Stages, Project Rushmore Theatre Company, and Elevator Up Theatre Company. She holds a BA in English and Theatre from Tufts University, and an MA in Applied Theatre from CUNY.
Benjamin Weiner and his backpack are delighted to be at Blue School. After studying theater at Columbia, Benjamin taught for three years at Saint Ann's School. There, he discovered Princess Backpack, a sassy character who has become his life-long teaching partner. Together, they use music and dramatic play to help children explore stories, emotion, and communication. (They are also releasing an album of children's music, visit PrincessBackpack.com to learn more.) He is the co-Founder of "Hey, Let's Make a Musical," an after-school program that teaches 1st-4th graders the fundamentals of musical theater, and helps them craft their own show. He frequently collaborates with the Onassis Foundation, developing workshops for children to explore Greek mythology. As a playwright, Benjamin has received grants and support from the Playwright's Center, the HBMG Foundation, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. He is the Playwright in Residence with the Upstream Artists Collective, committed to developing theater with an environmental conscience.
Movement and Dance
Mariangela Lopez, a native of Caracas, Venezuela, has been teaching movement and dance since 1999. She has built an extensive experience teaching movement to different communities and settings, from public schools Pre K-12 and high schools, domestic violence organizations, youth at risk organizations and AIDS organization such as Aid for AIDS, Latino Commission on AIDS, and Exponents among many others. Previously, Mariangela has been the Associate Director of Community Programs for Gina Gibney Dance, a teaching artist at the Tisch School of the Arts, NYU Undergraduate and Graduate Summer School, and a teacher of master classes in different universities across the country as a company member of Gina Gibney Dance. Mariangela has been presenting her work as a choreographer in different venues around NYC, Europe, Australia, and Latin America since 2001. She continues creating work under her company name, Accidental Movement, and has taught workshops in places such as Movement Research, Dance New Amsterdam, Brooklyn Arts Exchange and 92 Street Y among many others. Most recently Mariangela was the Coordinator of the Adventures in Dance Program and Modern Dance teacher for the pre-professional program at Ballet Hispánico School of Dance (2010-2013). Mariangela is a Certified Movement Analyst (CMA) from the Laban Institute of Movement Studies (2001), a Certified Yoga Teacher from Yoga Union, NYC (2003) and holds a Certification in Foundations of Dance Education from Dance Education Laboratory (DEL), NYC (2009). Mariangela was Movement Research Artist-in-Residency 2009-2011 and Brooklyn Arts exchange Artist in Residency 2011-13. In her teaching Mariangela applies her knowledge in Modern Dance, Composition, Improvisation, Yoga, Creative Movement, Ballet, Laban Movement Analysis, Bartenieff Fundamentals and Motif Writing (Language of Dance). Her most important goal as a teacher is to provide an experience in class where each participant can feel validated as a unique individual with the ability to make choices and celebrate the joy and empowerment of Movement.
Jennifer Ardizzone-West, Executive Director of Business Development, worked at Blue Man Group for 13 years prior to joining Blue School, most recently as the Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Organizational Development. In addition to developing the Human Resource and Organizational Development functions for the organization, she grew the company infrastructure to support what started as a small company with two productions to an international phenomenon with 5 domestic companies, a record label and recording studio, and separate international and special appearances divisions (from 200 to over 650 employees). Throughout her tenure with BMG, she developed multiple organizational structures and processes to meet the ever changing goals of the organization, created the foundation for BMG as a learning organization, oversaw the creation and implementation of the BMG’s mission, vision and strategies, oversaw multiple different operational functions, served as chief spokesperson for labor negotiations, and led the organization through a difficult reorganization in order to ensure the survival of the Blue Man Group brand and its work in a dramatically changed economic environment. Passionate about learning and improving education, Jeni took on a special project in 2006 partnering with the founders to develop the business models and infrastructure for Blue School.
Prior to joining Blue Man Group, Jeni worked with a variety of organizations including The Juilliard School, Lincoln Center Inc, and Playwrights Horizons. Jeni received a master's degree from Brooklyn College in Performing Arts Management, and is certified by NYU as an Executive and Organizational Coach.
Marc Bogursky, Chief Financial Officer, was born in Brooklyn, grew up on Long Island, attended college and taught math in Manhattan, and after a long sojourn in the midwest, is very excited to have returned home to New York City. Marc has worked in independent schools for over three decades and his experience includes 12 years at The Dalton School, the last six as Director of Student Activities, and 16 years at The Blake School in the Minneapolis area where he served as Upper School Director for the first eleven and Director of Business and Finance for the last five. Marc is married to Ethel (also a native New Yorker) and they have two children, Eli (who attends the University of Chicago) and Katrina (who attends Trevor Day), and one dog, a Havanese named Chester (whose school plans are still undecided).
Sherika Campbell, Advancement Coordinator, is so excited to join the Blue School! She is a Queens native and Brooklyn Friends School Alumna. She graduated from UNC- Chapel Hill with a BA in Sociology and returned to NYC after arguably the worst case of home sickness. She previously worked for Math for America and The Kew-Forest School. Outside of the Advancement Office, Sherika can be found enjoying good food, Reggae music and the Far Rockaway Boardwalk.
Linda Chang, Director of Learning Center, has more than 20 years of elementary teaching experience, including considerable teacher coaching and administrative responsibilities. She has served as the director of curriculum and instruction at Mott Haven Charter School in the Bronx. Linda holds a B.A. in ethnic studies at the University of Colorado and a Masters of Arts in Teaching for elementary education from Simmons College (Boston) and holds extensive training as a Reading Recovery teacher and a primary literacy coordinator from Lesley University (Cambridge). She has served as the early primary resource specialist and also as the co-facilitator of S.E.E.D. (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Wanda Frankel, Pre-Primary Child Development Specialist, is a licensed clinical social worker and early childhood educator who has over 25 years experience working with children, families, teachers and administrators in schools and clinical settings. In addition to Blue School, she is the developmental specialist at Brooklyn Friends School and a childcare center in Park Slope. Wanda taught preschool children at Lexington School for the Deaf for many years and then facilitated professional development experiences for early childhood teachers through Bank Street College. Most recently, Wanda was on the administrative staff at a special education preschool in Harlem run by the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services. She has a Masters in Special Education and a Masters in Social Work from CUNY Hunter College and has trained as a play therapist. Wanda is passionate about promoting the connections between families, teachers and administrators in order to enhance children’s growth and well-being.
Allison Gaines Pell, Head of School, is a native New Yorker, a K-12 alumna of Saint Ann’s School, a graduate of Brown University and the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Allison has been working in educational innovation since graduation from Brown. She has been a teacher in public and private schools in both elementary and high schools. As co-founder of New Leaders for New Schools, she helped build a highly successful national non-profit organization focused on training urban school principals. Following her work at New Leaders, she became Director of Partnerships at PENCIL (Public Education Needs Civic Involvement in Learning), where she created private-public partnerships on behalf of New York City public schools.
In 2005, she participated in Mayor Bloomberg’s Leadership Academy, and developed a proposal to start Arts & Letters, a small, progressive public middle school in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, founded on the notion that a great school transforms children into young adults who can successfully use their voices critically and creatively. Over the past seven years, she has built Arts & Letters into a thriving and innovative K-8 school that receives over 1,000 applications each year. It has been featured in Clara Hemphill’s New York City’s Best Public Schools, awarded a Blackboard Award, and highlighted in a recent Chancellor’s address as a model of excellence.
Allison has authored articles for Educational Leadership and presented at panels and conferences sponsored by Harvard’s Graduate School of Education and Project Zero. She has been featured in articles about school leadership in the New York Times, and in Harvard’s Ed. Magazine. She lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn with her husband Ben, an architect and Yale professor, her two children Miles, age nine and Hannah, age six and Charlie.
Ashley Hughes, Director of Operations, is in her ninth year with Blue School. Prior to joining the administrative team, she worked as a director, stage manager and production manager on theatre projects throughout the city. She holds a BFA in Drama from New York University and an MFA in Theater, Contemporary Performance from Naropa University in Boulder, CO. Her son is a life-long Blue Schooler - busy exploring in Kindergarten.
Richard Jenkins, Education Technology Coordinator, received his BA from The New School in Creative Writing and English Literature. Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Rich is an avid reader, writer, hiker and a passionate naturalist – his expeditions have taken him from the Appalachian Trail to the wilds of the Canadian Yukon. Rich joined Blue School in 2010 after teaching at Beginnings: A Toddler Program, a Reggio-inspired pre-school. He currently lives in Manhattan with his girlfriend Chelsey and cat Leo.
Laurie Kardos, Middle School Director, has spent nearly two decades working to create and lead innovative and inspiring educational experiences for children. Grounded in her classroom teaching and school leadership experience, she comes to us with a lifelong love of and appreciation for middle school students, their ideas and their enormous capabilities. She has extensive knowledge of new school startup, innovative curriculum development, and inquiry learning. In her most recent role as the Deputy Executive Director in the NYCDOE Office of New Schools, Laurie led a team to recruit, select and train new leaders for over 100 new schools, and to collaborate on creating several new middle and high schools. Prior to her work at the DOE, Laurie was a founding assistant principal at an innovative New York City high school that integrates academics, personalized learning, and design thinking. She began her work in education as a teacher and instructional leader at the Institute for Collaborative Education, a small, progressive middle and high school. Laurie holds a bachelor’s degree from Brown University and a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Laurie lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children: Simon, age four and Josie, age two.
David Levin, Controller. For the last five years, David has served as the Director of Finance and Administration for Legal Momentum, a women´s legal defense and education fund (originally founded by NOW in 1970), and before that, he worked for over a decade at the Fashion Institute of Technology as their Controller. Those who met with him during his visit to Blue School were impressed with David's deep experience with non-profit accounting, steady demeanor, and positive attitude, all attributes enthusiastically endorsed by his references. At FIT, David enjoyed the creative energy and dynamic programming, and he is looking forward to getting a chance to work closely again with dedicated faculty and staff in support of an inspiring educational mission.
Genevieve Little, Assistant Director of Admissions, is thrilled to be entering her second year at Blue School. Having first joined the community through the after school program, she is so glad to have found her permanent home in the admissions office. She loves to spend her days exploring Blue School classrooms and meeting new families through the application process. She has previously worked in education and publishing, most recently running an after school tutoring and writing program. Genevieve holds a BA in Liberal Arts from The New School, where she studied Creative Nonfiction Writing and Religious Studies.
Patricia Lynch, Primary Program Director, moved from Michigan to New York City after college. She knew immediately that she was meant to stay forever. Her college years were frequently interrupted by travels throughout the country dabbling in improvisational theater and social activism. However, once she stepped into a classroom as a teacher of young children, she never looked back. Education has been an exciting quest branching into many areas. Pat has worked as a literacy consultant, independent school administrator, graduate school adjunct and most importantly a teacher of children K-12. Working with the visionary Blue School community is a dream come true for Pat. The boundless potential and energy of the community is palpable and brings with it unique challenges and inquiries that could not be found in any other school. Pat has an undergraduate degree in English Literature and Theater Arts from Western Michigan University and a Masters in Elementary Education from Hunter College. In her spare time Pat loves to garden, read, watch tennis and build birdhouses.
Dr. Alice Mangan, Consulting School Psychologist, holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the CUNY Graduate Center and a master’s degree in special education from Bank Street College of Education. Formerly a member of the graduate faculty at Bank Street College of Education, Alice combines her passion for progressive, child-centered education with her training in psychology to thoughtfully respond to complex issues that arise in the life of a school community. In addition to her psychological and educational consultation in schools, Alice works clinically with children, adolescents, and young adults as well as parents and families providing assessment and evaluation, consultation, intervention and remediation, and psychotherapy. Alice’s research interests center on relationships between schools and families and the influence of learning disabilities on the psychological and relational life of the child, parent, and family system. Alice has a strong commitment to sensitively addressing concerns related to learning and learning disability, autism spectrum disorders, the interplay between disability and social/emotional development, parenting, and other crucial dimensions of identity such as gender, sexuality, race and ethnicity.
Lauren Miller, Operations Coordinator, joined Blue School as an administrative assistant in 2013. Lauren came to Blue School from the Metropolitan Opera Guild where she worked in finance, education, and for the magazine Opera News. Prior to that, she worked for Kirkland and Ellis LLP as a Case Assistant. Lauren holds a BA in Psychology and Theater from Oberlin College.
Kendra Pettis, Assistant Director of Admissions, is an independent school graduate turned independent school admissions professional with a background in cultural criticism. After graduating from Oberlin College with a BA in Anthropology and Cinema Studies, she joined the non-profit Prep For Prep and worked three years there as an admissions officer. After spending last year in New Jersey at the Elisabeth Morrow School as their Associate Director of Admissions, Kendra is thrilled to be back in New York with Blue School. The vibrant, unique personalities of NYC kids have always made coming to work each day an exciting prospect. When not doing admissions for Blue School, Kendra volunteers for the Oberlin College admissions office, coaches figure skating locally, blogs about pop culture, and honors her theatre kid roots with the occasional costume design project.
Harriet Richards, Child Development Counselor, started her professional path in working in higher education as a career counselor. Passionate about the arts, she worked with both undergraduate and adult students who were considering careers paths in the arts. While raising a family and working part time, she chose to pursue a Masters degree in Counseling at Villanova University. Moving into elementary and secondary education, Harriet spent nearly ten years working as a school counselor in both public and private schools, most recently at Princeton Day School. During this time, Harriet developed a keen interest in neuroscience and learning. She went on to earn a Masters degree in Mind, Brain and Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Harriet brings a deep commitment to supporting the emotional lives of children and thrives on being able to partner with parents, teachers and administration in this endeavor. Harriet has two grown sons and enjoys visiting friends and family whenever she gets the chance.
Domenica Ruggieri, Staff Accountant, joined Blue School in August 2014. Prior to joining Blue School, Domenica worked as an accounting associate at the Pontifical Mission Societies, a non-profit organization in NYC. She has more than 10 years of experience working within the accounting department and is currently pursuing a degree in Accounting. Domenica is thrilled to join Blue School and to be able to give back to the community. She lives in Staten Island with her husband and two young boys, and enjoys traveling, exploring different neighborhoods, baking, and spending time with family and friends.
Laura Sedlock, Pre-Primary Program Director, grew up in New York City, where she attended the Bank Street School for Children and the Fieldston School. She has a BA in English from Wesleyan University and a Masters in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Bank Street College. Laura has fourteen years of experience in the field of early childhood education, having taught at the Bank Street School for Children, City and Country School, P.S. 321 in Park Slope, Brooklyn and Beginnings Nursery School. Most recently, Laura has been the Educational Director at Beginnings since 2008. She has also been an adjunct lecturer in the department of Early Childhood Education at Hunter College. Before entering the field of childhood education, Laura taught English to adults in New York and Indonesia, where she lived for four years. Laura finds the world of early childhood to be endlessly fascinating and engaging, and is thrilled to be part of a community with such an energetic and thoughtful approach to children and education. She lives in Brooklyn with her spouse and two daughters.
Maria I. Serrano, Human Resources, has worked in Human Resources for 13 years. For the last nine years, she has served as the HR Manager of a NYC multi-site non-profit organization. She was responsible for all Human Resources functions including recruitment, on-boarding, payroll processing, employee relations, compliance and implementation of policies and procedures. She has a Master of Science degree in HR Management. Maria is thrilled to join the Blue School community. She currently resides in Queens along with her son, Christian, who is her pride and joy.
Jill Teitsworth, Program Coordinator, has been working in both independent and public schools for nearly a decade. Throughout those years, Jill assembled an eclectic background working both directly with children and behind the scenes. She has spent much of this time as an early childhood educator, but has also worked as a counselor and after school coordinator. She is a graduate of Skidmore College and Teachers College, Columbia University, holding degrees in Social Work and Developmental Psychology. Outside of work, Jill enjoys learning things, making things, and spending time with her dog, Trudy.
Jessica Vanderberg, Associate Director of Communications, graduated from Fordham University with a BA in Comparative Religion and has a MA in International and Multicultural Education from the University of San Francisco. Her graduate work focused on identity development for new Americans coming from culturally religious backgrounds. She’s previously worked in schools (teacher/curriculum developer) and for international educational non-profits (program coordinator). She has spent the past eight years working in sales and marketing for international and boutique luxury retail brands. Jessica was called back to education when she began searching for an inspiring, engaging and community-building space for her son’s Pre-K experience. She is excited to support Blue School’s vision. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, James, and two children, Julian and Alice.
Dawn Williams, Director of Admissions, has been a part of the Blue School community for the past 8 years. She came to Blue School as a parent first (of a then 3 year old who’s now a Blue School middle school student!) and shortly thereafter found her home in the admissions office. Dawn loves getting to know children and their families throughout the admissions process—from tour to interview—and answering any and all questions along the way. She also sits on the NYSAIS Admissions Conference Planning Committee. Prior to her work at Blue School, Dawn worked as a theatre director regionally and throughout the city. Over the past 20 years she has worked exclusively with non-profits including The Museum of the Moving Image, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, the Watkinson School, the Women’s Project, and the McCarter Theatre in educational, creative and administrative capacities. She has been a teacher of theatre, film, vermicomposting and children’s gardening and cooking. Dawn lives with her husband and son in Astoria.