Tara Holmes is from the New England area and moved to NYC two years ago. She holds a Masters degree in Education with a concentration in Integrated Arts from Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. She also holds a BA in Dance Performance Studies and Secondary Education from Roger Williams University in Rhode Island. Tara is in her third year at Blue School and is excited to be teaching the youngest grade. Prior to joining Blue School, Tara worked with toddlers through Kindergarten-age children and was an Adjunct Dance Professor at Colby Sawyer College. She believes in integrating the arts into her classroom and encouraging children to become part of a positive enriching community. Tara enjoys dance workshops, running, spinning, traveling, and spending time with family and friends. She is thrilled to be a part of the Blue School community!
Jenny Ogg is entering her first year here at Blue School. She attended Cornell University for her Bachelor of Science degree in Human Development, with a concentration in Inequalities. She recently graduated from Bank Street College of Education, where she received her Master's degree in Infant and Family Development, Early Intervention, and Early Childhood General and Special Education. Prior to Blue School Jenny spent several years in the classroom working with children ranging in age from twelve months to three years. She most recently spent two years teaching 2’s at The Children’s Aid Society in Greenwich Village. She enjoys collaborating with children and families as they experience their first school experience. Jenny has a passion for lifelong learning through exploration and discovery that she hopes to share with everyone in the Blue School community.
Ciara Hedderman is excited to be in her second year teaching the 3s class at Blue School. Previously, she taught Pre-K for 13 years at The Children's Aid Society, in Greenwich Village. 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 new husband Bob, who she married this past summer in sunny Aruba!
Rachel Kirby is in her first year teaching at Blue School. She is enrolled at Fordham University and is one course away from obtaining her dual Master’s in Childhood and Childhood Special Education. This past year Rachel was the Assistant Teacher in a first grade classroom at Arts & Letters in Brooklyn, and she spent this summer student teaching in a 5th grade special education classroom at The Parkside School on the Upper West Side. She has worked with children since she was 12 years old! Rachel has been a babysitter, a swim instructor, a coach, a nanny, and a tutor. When she is not teaching or studying, you can most likely find her at the gym or playing with her new puppy, Kadyn, on the Upper East Side. Rachel is looking forward to a fun-filled year with two classrooms of 3-year-olds!
Valerie Killen has been with Blue School since the beginning, and is very excited for this, her 8th year here and 7th year of teaching the 3s! 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. A singer and songwriter, she has recorded songs and voiceovers for Blue Man Group, and has been a lead singer in the Blue School All-Star Band. Val has been an early childhood teacher and administrator for over fifteen 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 19 years, and currently lives in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn with her husband, Stefan, her 3.5 year-old son, Lee, her 6-month-old son, Artie, and their cat. At home she can be found enjoying movement/dance/yoga/jogging, reading, and going to the playground with her kids.
Jennifer Mañón is in her first year teaching with the full day 3s class at Blue School. After 6 wonderfully formative years teaching 3 and 4 year olds at the Williamsburg Neighborhood Nursery School (WNNS), Jennifer is excited about spreading her wings. She brings a creative viewpoint to the classroom, drawing from her previous experience as a professional make-up artist on music videos and independent films. This background, her enriching teaching experiences and her own two daughters, Sadie in the 4s class at WNNS and Uma, 20 months old, contribute to Jennifer's goal as a teacher to foster a life-long love of learning. Outside of school, she enjoys spending time with her family upstate at Shadow Mountain visiting our donkey, mini-horse, goats and chickens. Jennifer has her M.S. Ed specializing in Early Childhood Education from Hunter College and a BA in Psychology from UW-Madison.
Kristen Johnson was born in Tennessee and was raised in the heart of New York City. Kristen taught children ages two to four years old at The Children's Aid Society in Greenwich Village for over twelve years. Over her many years of teaching, she brought a hands on approach to daily explorations with the children, incorporating 'everyday' household and natural materials into learning and emphasizing the all of the senses in the world of the classroom. Kristen holds her BS in Psychology from SUNY Binghamton and is completing her Masters in Early Childhood Education/Special Education at Touro College. She has two children: Jack, age 12, and Olivia, age 15, and was recently married. She is thrilled to be joining the Blue School Community.
Rachel Kirby (see bio in 3s A above)
Heather Jupiter is a native New Yorker and has lived in the city for most of her life. She has been teaching early childhood education for 15 years, working in a variety of settings, ranging from a daycare center serving low-income families to independent schools in Manhattan. Heather’s most important title, however, is Mother. Her daughter, Daisy who will be turning two in October, is one of the brightest lights in Heather’s life! Prior to her maternity leave, she was teaching at The Calhoun School, where she developed and solidified her commitment to progressive education. Heather believes that education should be a slow brew, saturated with experience, conversation, negotiation and imagination. It is her goal to help students develop a sense of self-awareness and the deeper confidence that allows one to question and engage in truly critical thinking. Heather is very excited about joining the Blue School community this year!
Jonah Lichtash was born and raised in New York City. He studied Early Childhood Education at Vassar College and Bank Street College of Education. After two years teaching at Barnard College’s Center for Toddler Development, he spent two more at Packer Collegiate Institute’s preschool. Having written his graduate thesis on folklore and children’s literature, he developed an avid interest in storytelling with preschoolers, and has incorporated tales from the oral tradition of myriad countries into his early childhood curriculum. In his spare time, Jonah teaches piano lessons and tutors high school students. He is eager to dive into the world of Blue School, and looks forward with great anticipation to the start of the new school year!
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 Masters degree in early childhood education from Brooklyn College, a Masters 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 second year as a Blue School 4s teacher. Most recently, Anna spent three years teaching Kindergarten at an Expeditionary Learning School outside Baltimore; she also brings her eight years’ 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.
Katie Traynor is happy to be in her fifth year of teaching at Blue School. She loves her work as an early childhood educator and has a strong background in the use and exploration of materials in the classroom. Katie earned her Masters Degree in Creative Arts Therapies at Pratt Institute and her undergrad degree at Skidmore College with a focus on visual and fiber art. She has seen first hand how valuable a supportive, creative, and imaginative learning environment is to a child’s social and emotional growth. Early literacy, picture book making and composition, and block building are just a few things that fuel her love of teaching. Katie is thrilled to continue to work with the staff, families, and children of Blue School. She lives in Brooklyn where she enjoys baking, reading for fun, yoga, and eating People's Pops.
Sophie Laird's grandmother told her she should be a teacher when she was 5-years-old. Twenty years later, Sophie is thrilled to be fulfilling this prophecy at Blue School. She received her BA in Psychology with a minor in Art History from Vassar College in 2010 and completed her MA in Early Childhood Education at Teachers College, Columbia University in 2013.
Mara Pauker is starting her 7th year at Blue School. She was a Co-Lead Teacher in both the 3s and 4s classes her first year at Blue School, and continued to teach the 4s program for four years. Last year Mara joined the Kindergarten team, and she looks forward to co-teaching Kindergarten with Nancy for a second year. Before coming to Blue School, Mara attended the University of Vermont where she studied Early Childhood Education, Human Development, and Family Studies. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree upon program completion. During her time in Vermont, she completed two full-time student teaching experiences. For the first, she worked at the University of Vermont Campus Children's Center with three- and four-year-olds. The second was with Kindergartners at Georgia Elementary School in St. Albans, Vermont. In addition, she volunteered as a reading mentor at Edmunds Elementary School in Burlington, Vermont. Mara has worked at Temple Sinai as a camp counselor to three- and four-year-old children and at the Dalton School Summer Camp with four- and five-year-olds. Mara is currently working towards completing her Masters degree in School Administration at New York University.
Nancy Simko grew up in a family of teachers. After graduating from the Pennsylvania State University with a BA in Speech Communications, she moved to New York City to experience the corporate worlds of advertising and graphic design. A brief move to Hawaii provided an opportunity to change direction, and an introduction to teaching young children. Returning to New York, Nancy completed a Masters Degree in Education at Bank Street College of Education, and began a 15-year career in early childhood education. She has worked in several private schools in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and currently is thrilled to be continuing her career at Blue School. In 2009, she was awarded the New York City Early Childhood Professional Development Excellence in Teaching Award.
Molly DeGesero earned her Bachelor of Arts in Dance from Sarah Lawrence College and completed her Master of Science in Early Childhood Education at Bank Street College. In 2009, Molly joined the Blue School team as a kindergarten teacher. She is passionate about sensory learning and finding multiple modes of expression in the classroom. Molly is native New Yorker and lives in Harlem with her dog Uno and husband Randy.
Richard Jenkins 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.
1st Grade A
Jonathan Farmer is very excited to be joining the Blue School community this year as a first grade teacher. He has taught first and fourth grade at the Packer Collegiate Institute and Brooklyn Friends and has been writing and directing youth theatre since 2001. Jonathan brings to his classroom teaching a passion for constructivist learning and education through the arts, and he is continually amazed by the cool stuff kids can do. When he is not in the classroom, Jonathan enjoys taking photographs, writing plays, puppeteering, and taking his puppy for walks around his neighborhood in Brooklyn. Jonathan received his MsEd from Bank Street College and a BFA in Theatre from Syracuse University.
Amanda Pron is thrilled to be joining the Blue School Community! She has spent the past three years teaching at Packer Collegiate Institute, 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 recently completed her Masters 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.
1st Grade B
Emily Weger is looking forward to joining the Blue School community in first grade. After pursuing her Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction at Bank Street College of Education, Emily taught Kindergarten and First Grade at Little Red. Passionate about progressive education, she is excited to bring her experiences in early literacy and curriculum development. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and scrapbooking.
Maggie Young is originally from New Jersey and received her Bachelor's degree from University of Colorado. After completing her undergraduate degree, Maggie began working at Alaya Preschool in Boulder, Colorado. It was here that Maggie fell in love with teaching. After two years at Alaya Maggie decided to move back east and pursue a graduate degree. She received a Master's in Early Childhood and Special Education from Teachers College at Columbia University. In her spare time Maggie enjoys practicing yoga, skiing, reading, hiking and being outdoors. She is thrilled to be a part of the Blue School community!
2nd Grade A
Cynthia Bogdanovich 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 Masters in Education from Bank Street College and has been an elementary teacher for more than ten 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.