Age 2

Kristen Johnson (Drop-off 2s and Three Half Day 3s) Kristen 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.

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. 


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.

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.

Tara Holmes is from the New England area and moved to NYC four years ago. She holds a Master's 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 fifth year at Blue School. She taught in the 2s program for three years and was co lead floater for ages 2-4.  Tara is thrilled to be co lead 3s teacher this year!  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 her amazing husband Tyler, family and friends. She is thrilled to be a part of the Blue School community!

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.

Valerie Killen has been with Blue School since the beginning, and is very excited for this, her ninth 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 sixteen 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 20 years, and currently lives in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn with her husband, Stefan, her 4.5- and 1.5-year-old sons, and their cat. At home she can be found enjoying movement/dance/yoga/jogging, reading, and going to the playground with her kids.

Jenny Ogg attended Cornell University for her Bachelor of Science degree in Human Development, with a concentration in Inequalities. She graduated from Bank Street College of Education, where she received her Master's 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 2s 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 shares with the Blue School community. 

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.


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.

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.

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. 


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.


Marissa Blair grew up in Valley Forge, PA where she taught children’s drama for many years. She received a BS from the New School and earned an MA in Performance Studies from NYU focusing on the intersections between performance art and animal studies. She spent this past year teaching first grade in Harlem, and is delighted to now be at Blue School! During the week you might find Marissa biking over the Brooklyn Bridge, but on the weekends she could be strolling Fort Greene with her canine companion Gracie Muffin, canoeing NYC waterways with her husband Matthew, or releasing pigeons in a performance downtown.

Leigh Anne Keichline has taught and tutored in both private and public schools, working with a range from preschool to adult education.  She’s taught in Ohio, Boston, Baltimore, and New York.  Leigh Anne received a Masters in Elementary Education and Literacy from Bank Street, a Masters in Political Science from Brooklyn College, and a Bachelors in Psychology from Oberlin College. Side interests include creative writing, children’s literature, travel, bicycling, radio, and farming.  She’s worked on farms in Virginia, Ohio, and Connecticut, and most recently on a chili pepper farm on Cape Cod.  Leigh Anne has a passion for empowering children, each in their own unique learning journey, and is deeply committed to fostering joyous communities of critical thinkers who explore diverse topics, perspectives, and strategies.

Tamar MacKay, comes to Blue School after earning her Masters in Educational Theatre at City College of New York. She previously worked in education, family, and children's programming as an educator and administrator at several of New York’s most exciting cultural institutions, including BAM, Park Avenue Armory, The Moth, and more. She is excited to join Blue School’s team this year, bringing her passion for arts and creativity to the kindergarten classroom. She is also an educator in the summer working with Brooklyn families for the early literacy program Ready, Set, Kindergarten! at the Brooklyn Public Library. When she is not teaching, Tamar is always watching, developing, or performing theater for young audiences, coming up with new ideas for puppets, or relaxing on her balcony in Brooklyn.  

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 most recently at the Co-op School in Brooklyn where she has been a lead teacher for the past two years. Jenna is thrilled to become a member of Blue School so she can more fully explore the role of emergent curriculum and inquiry in a kindergarten class. Jenna loves to bring her passion for dance and movement into the classroom and is looking forward to meeting the children and families of Blue School.

Randi Reinhold is a native New Yorker who has resided in four of the five boroughs thus far.  As the oldest of 12 grandchildren, curiosity, play, learning and communication have consistently been life's key ingredients. Experiences with such a large family are at the heart of the inspiration for two life passions: teaching and writing. Randi holds a BA in Creative Writing from The College of Staten Island, and is completing a Master's in Childhood Education at Hunter College. Randi has been teaching children ages 4 to 10 for ten years, and emphasizes in his daily teaching practices the importance of children's social and emotional development as part of their learning experience. Personal interests include singing and playing guitar, drawing and writing. Randi is extremely proud to be part of the Blue School community.

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.

First Grade

Annabelle Baylin graduated from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study from New York University with a concentration in Mindfulness in Education. Passionate about constructivist approaches to education where teaching and learning are meaningful and self-reflective, she is very excited to be a part of the Blue School community. In addition to exploring the world with with first graders, she enjoys integrating traditional mindfulness practices into the classroom. Among her extensive travels she has visited Senegal, South Africa, Bulgaria, and Ghana and spent extended time in France and India. When she is not at Blue School, she can be found playing Indian music in upstate New York, meditating, composing music, and learning foreign languages. Born and raised in Brooklyn in a family of teachers, she is happy to continue the family tradition.

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. 

Samantha Gayner, is thrilled to be a part of the Blue School community!  Samantha grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and chose to return to her New York roots to follow a passion for theatre and singing.  While receiving her undergraduate degree at Sarah Lawrence College, she discovered early childhood psychology and the Early Childhood Center.  Having always loved working with children, Samantha followed this budding enthusiasm to the Art of Teaching Graduate Program at Sarah Lawrence.  There, she learned about emergent curriculum, and that children genuinely learn by partaking in education that speaks to their innate abilities to question, observe and interact.  She now holds her Masters in Education and New York dual certification for early childhood and elementary education.  Prior to joining Blue School, Samantha worked as a 2nd grade assistant at City & Country School.  Outside of the classroom, Samantha still enjoys attending theatre productions, as well as cooking vegan food, reading, hiking and spending time with her boyfriend, Jordan (a Kindergarten teacher!) 

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.

Emily Weger 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.

Maggie Young is originally from New Jersey and received her bachelor's degree from the 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! 

Second Grade

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.

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.

Third Grade

Hope Fried is excited to be joining the Blue School community! Raised in Andover, Massachusetts, Hope has pursued her interests in arts education, archiving, and material culture. She holds a BA from Smith College in art history and religion with a concentration in museum studies. Outside of the classroom, Hope enjoys attending museums and concerts, watching the great silent comedies, getting lost in bookstores, and cooking brisket and other forms of barbecue.

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!

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. 

Dot Woo is excited to be in her sixth year at Blue School! Dot received her BFA from Marymount Manhattan College in acting, and after several years as a professional actress, fell in love with teaching. Dot has her MA from the Steinhart School of Education at NYU and has previously taught grades 2nd – 4th in addition to middle school, grades 5th - 8th.  When she is not in the classroom, Dot appreciates trying a new sport, getting lost in a good book, or surfing Netflix.  She enjoys bringing her sense of humor and love of dramatic activities to the classroom and community. 

Fourth Grade  

Cynthia Bogdanovich (floating teacher) 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 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.

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 second and fourth grades at the Packer Collegiate Institute and children of all ages at the Rubin Museum of Art. Her previous work as a theatre practitioner and visual artist now daily informs her joy-infused, inquiry-based classroom practice. When she’s not in the classroom, you can find Ashley adventuring throughout New York City, tucked away in a museum, or making music with her Brooklyn-based band, After School Special. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, their seven-year-old daughter, and a one-eyed dog named Jack.

5th Grade

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.

Sandy Lewin has been teaching 5th and 6th grades for over 15 years. Originally from California, Sandy earned her Masters of Fine Arts in Dance and Theater from the University of California. With her husband Jack, a physician, she has lived on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona and also on Maui and Oahu in Hawaii, in both Northern and Southern California and in Washington DC. She decided to enter teaching as a second career and pursue a degree in education, which turned out to be a very satisfying decision. Sandy has built solid learning relationships with many young people in both public and independent schools over the years. Most recently, for 7 years, she taught 6th grade at National Presbyterian School in Washington, DC. Sandy loves watching children grow in all subject areas. She especially enjoys bringing artistic responses to the curriculum through integrated studies.

Reading Support

Rhonda Weissman, Reading Support Teacher studied Elementary Education and Middle School English Education at the University of Delaware. Before studying Literacy at Bank Street College, she taught reading for three years. As an America Reads Tutor, she provided writing support for fourth-graders at Manhattan School for Children. Rhonda spent the next two years working as a literacy interventionist in New York City. It is Rhonda's goal to help students find joy in reading and writing. She wants her students to see reading not only as a way to learn new information, but also as a way to escape into worlds of new characters and people. As you might expect, Rhonda loves reading. She also enjoys watching movies and jogging. Rhonda is excited to join the team at Blue School and to continue supporting students' literacy development.

Middle School

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.

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.

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. 

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.


Studio Arts

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. 


Anne Cohen loves working with Blue School's pre-primary through middle school students. Previous teaching positions include band/chorus/general music/early childhood music throughout NYC's five boroughs and the greater New York area. In addition to her work at Blue School, Anne performs with Columbia Summer Winds, serves on the Kodaly Organization of New York board of directors, and appears as a guest conductor/workshop clinician throughout the region. Bachelors of Music in instrumental music education, Bucknell; MA in music and music education, Columbia University Teachers College; Kodaly certification, NYU.

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 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.


Esther Kim 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.

Physical Arts

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.

Dramatic Arts

Clare Hammoor is a theater practitioner, playmaker and performer. He has directed, designed and collaborated on musicals, plays and a number of theatrical works with thousands of children and adults. Clare is delighted to engage learners through a multimodal approach to theater and drama in workshops that range from postmodern movement to dramatic storytelling to process dramas on Mars. Clare holds a B.A from Indiana University in Theater & Drama and Religious Studies and an M.A. from NYU in Educational Theatre. Clare is currently earning his EdD in Educational Theatre at NYU. 

Drew Petersen has been teaching arts to children for over 11 years. In additional to being the Blue School Dramatic Arts teacher, he is currently a teaching artist with the New Victory Theater and the Park Avenue Armory. Drew is also the Associate Artistic Director of Trusty Sidekick Theater Company, a theater company devoted to making high quality theater for young people and their families. In the past, Drew has worked artistically and educationally with Cleveland Playhouse Square, Roundabout Theater, The Public Theater, The Kennedy Center, Brooklyn Arts Exchange and People's Light and Theatre Company.

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.