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.
Rozanne Rosenberg is extremely excited to be joining the Blue School community! Rozanne has been studying at Bank Street College of Education and looks forward to completing her program in childhood and special education this fall. She has worked at Earth School and at Brooklyn New School, and in the magazine publishing industry prior to finding her voice in the classroom. Rozanne continues to pursue her passion for writing as a freelancer (you can catch her byline in amNewYork every week), and she can't wait to be with us next year.
2nd Grade B
Randi Reinhold is the oldest of 12 grandchildren and loves spending time with family. Experiences with such a large family are at the heart of the inspiration for two life passions: teaching and writing. Randi earned a BA in Creative Writing at The College of Staten Island in 2001, and is working on completing a Masters in Childhood Education at Hunter College. Randi has been teaching children ages 4 – 10 for the past ten years. Personal interests include singing and playing guitar, drawing and writing. Randi is extremely proud to be part of the Blue School community.
Diana Pisani is thrilled to join the Blue School community this year. Diana has a Bachelors degree in theatre from Fordham University and a Masters degree in elementary education from Dowling College. Before her teaching career, Diana worked as a dresser on Broadway. Diana began teaching in 2000 and spent 10 years teaching first and second grade in Brooklyn. For the past few years she has been living in London, England with her husband Dan. Diana and Dan returned to the states in July with their baby daughter Josie. When she isn't teaching you can usually find Diana in her kitchen channeling Julia Child!
Dot Woo is excited to be in her 4th 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 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade in addition to middle school, 5th - 8th grade. When she is not teaching, Dot trains Muay Thai at The Wat in downtown Manhattan. She enjoys bringing her sense of humor and love of dramatic activities to the classroom and community.
Gil Grimmett Jr. received his MS Ed. from Bank Street College and his Bachelors degree from Rutgers University. In addition to his 12 years of classroom experience in Japan and the United States, he also runs a summer arts and science camp for children in Woodstock, NY and teaches ceramics in Brooklyn. As an artist and an educator, Gil strongly values creativity and expression in all of its manifestations and believes that children need to enjoy the process of serious learning. When he is not teaching or making art, he can be found on his bike exploring the mountains of upstate New York of the vast, sprawling canyons of the city.
Jennifer Cain is delighted to be joining Blue School this year. A native New Yorker, she has enjoyed studying, working and traveling abroad but somehow always lands back in the Big Apple. Jennifer holds a Bachelor of Arts from Middlebury College, Vermont, and a Masters of Elementary Education from Boston University. Learning foreign languages and travel are themes throughout her teaching career. She has taught business English to professionals in Paris, France and beginning English to young students in Yokohama, Japan. These experiences and others have given her insight into pedagogical practices across cultures and countries. Inspiration in the classroom, she believes, should come as much from teachers as their students. Jennifer lives in Park Slope with her husband Glenn, a French translator, and their two boys who are in 9th and 11th grade. If she’s not in a classroom, she’s probably on her bicycle!
Maureen Reilly loves working with children and thinks she has the best job in the world. She brings a decade of educational experience with her to the Blue School, having taught in both public and independent schools. Prior to entering the world of education, Maureen worked for the LEGO Company, where she developed a love for open-ended play and robotics. In her free time she loves to tinker with robots, write songs, see theatre, and play the ukulele. She is very excited to be joining the Blue School community and making magic this coming school year!
Ashley Semrick DesRochers 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. Her previous work as an actor, director, and visual artist now daily informs her joy-infused, inquiry-based classroom practice. She has spent the past several years teaching both 2nd and 4th grade in Brooklyn. In addition to teaching, Ashley loves photography, museums, dogs and trying to learn new musical instruments. She lives with her husband and her five-year-old daughter in Park Slope.
Keren Lilu has over seven years of teaching experience in 2nd through 4th grade. Most recently, she served as a 2nd grade head teacher at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School. Keren holds a BS magna cum laude in elementary education with a minor in psychology education 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.
Shira Newmark began supporting children when she was in sixth grade at the JCC's "Special Needs" camp in Miami, Florida. There she realized that she shared a special and strong connection with 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 Degree in Special Education. After teaching a Varying Exceptionalities classroom of 2-3 year olds at Easter Seals in Miami, Florida, Shira moved to New York to 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. She is amazed and inspired by all of the joy, magic and creativity around her. In the following years, Shira was thrilled to become Blue School's 3s, 4s and then 2s teacher before becoming Blue School's floater teacher, with the incredible opportunity to connect and learn with the entire Blue School community. Shira is honored to embark upon her 7th year at Blue School, returning as the school wide floater again. Outside of Blue School, Shira can be found writing her film/book, revealing how all is connected in love, creating music, singing, karaoking, practicing yoga and dancing.
Lauren Monaco discovered her interest in constructivist teaching at Kent State University’s Child Development Center while working toward her Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Sculpture. There she was introduced to the work of the infant toddler centers and preschools of Reggio Emilia, and a new passion was born. After graduation, Lauren held the position of Studio Teacher/ Atelierista for the World Bank Children’s Center in Washington, DC for 6 years. She is honored to be a contributing author to In the Spirit of the Studio, one of the first books dedicated to this unique role. Her desire to continue her professional development in the field of education led her to pursue a secondary degree. She completed her Master of Arts in Teaching from Kent State University in 2006. Since then, Lauren has worked as a kindergarten teacher, mentor teacher, and Adjunct Instructor at Kent State University. Some of Lauren’s passions and interests include playing ukulele, illustration, and book collecting. Lauren is currently illustrating a nutritional cookbook for young children. Lauren is delighted to join the Blue School community.
Anne Cohen loves working with Blue School's primary and pre-primary students. Previous teaching positions include band/chorus/general music/early childhood music at Bronx House, Grand Concourse Academy, Leadership Prep Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Portledge School. She writes curriculum and online teacher trainings for ABC Do-Re-ME!, a NYC-based music and movement program for children from newborn through five years old. Bachelors of Music in instrumental music education, Bucknell; MA in music and music education, Columbia University Teachers College; Kodaly certification, NYU.
Science and Sustainability
Carrie Vaughn will be working with children and faculty across the School on science of all kinds, as well as bringing life to the Bio Lab as a materials area and developing the Terrace as an outdoor science classroom complete with plants and other living things. She will also be working 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.
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.
Drew Petersen has been teaching arts to children for over 10 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.