Meet the Early Childhood @ MCC TEAM
Jacqueline Marks is the Senior Director of Early Childhood at Manny Cantor Center, and has been a passionate and dedicated early childhood educator for nearly two decades. For ten years, Jacqueline was central to the growth and development of children and family programming at the Jewish Community Center (JCC) in Manhattan. There she was a classroom teacher and then served as the Director of the Center for Family Life, overseeing programs serving families and children from birth to eighteen years old. Most recently, she served as the founding Director of Explore + Discover, an infant and toddler center in Gramercy Park. Jacqueline began her journey at Educational Alliance as the Preschool Director in 2014, expanding its capacity for children ages 0-5. She has worked to create a nurturing and inclusive environment, nestled within a downtown community center, where all children are able to come to school together, enjoying the beautiful diversity of the neighborhood. Jacqueline enjoys working alongside children and teachers to co-construct curriculum and use materials in inspired and imaginative ways. She is continuously inspired by the power of a community of parents, teachers, children and administrators to fill each day with the questions, joy, and exuberance that nurtures the growth of our children. Jacqueline holds BA’s from both Columbia University and The Jewish Theological Seminary, and a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood General and Special Education from Bank Street College. She lives on the Lower East Side with her husband and three young children.
Jessica Bieber is now entering her sixth year at our school, and taught in our inaugural toddler classroom for several years before moving into her current role as Associate Director of Education, and will now oversee our Infants + Toddlers + 2s Classrooms as Director of Education. Prior to that, Jessica spent a decade living in Washington, DC, where she was a teacher and program director at St. John’s Preschool. There, she became immersed in the Reggio Emilia approach to education. She fell in love with the values of the approach: the thoughtful use of provocative materials, the beautiful and inspiring school environment, and the image of all children as capable and powerful. In addition to teaching, Jessica has created and led workshops and presentations to educators from across the country and served on the board of a professional development organization for educators in DC. This year, Jess became a parent in the school for the first time, as her daughter Hannah was in the infant room. Seeing the school from a new perspective as a parent gave Jess an additional layer of gratitude and honor to be a part of this amazing community.
Esther Kim is starting her third year as part of our school leadership team, and her first year as Director of Education, overseeing our 3s + 4s classrooms. Prior to coming to EC@MCC, Esther was an Assistant Director at Roosevelt Island Day Nursery and taught children ages birth through five at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church Day School and Barrow Street Nursery School. She launched MAPCDS’s inaugural Infant/Toddler/2s program, and helped develop documentation practices at RIDN. She has always brought a responsive, social/emotional lens to her teaching, grounded in the principles of the Reggio Emilia approach. She is particularly committed to supporting young children’s unique strengths and ways of communicating through multiple “languages” and cultivating a lifelong curiosity and love for learning. She is looking forward to continuing to support meaningful relationships and connections with colleagues, children and families in our school. Esther holds a BA in Art History from New York University and an MS Ed from Bank Street College of Education in Early Childhood Education with a specialization in Museum Education.
Allison Tom-Yunger is our new Associate Director of Education, and continues to be a graduate Advisor and Instructor in both the Infant & Family Development & Early Intervention and Early Childhood General & Special Education programs at Bank Street College of Education. From her college years working as an assistant teacher in an infant-toddler classroom to her clinical role in an early childhood mental health clinic, Allison’s professional experiences have shaped her passion for promoting emotionally responsive, family centered, and culturally sustaining practice in the fields of education and social work. She believes access to early childhood programs that honor these practices within a child’s community is a right for all families and can be a step towards a more equitable society. This belief guides her practice in her work with children, caregivers, and teachers. In her work with teachers her goals are to strengthen educators’ capacities in developing reflective skills, assessing and understanding the individual needs of children, and deepening communication when working with families. Allison holds master’s degree in Clinical Social Work from Columbia University and a master’s in education from Bank Street College of Education in Early Childhood General & Special Education.
Andrea Dash is our new Associate Director of Education. She first found her passion for working with young children nearly 30 years ago when she began teaching in a small progressive school in Brooklyn Heights. It was there that she was introduced to the Reggio Emilia approach through intimate teacher workshops exploring new perspectives using a variety of art media and natural materials. That experience has informed Andrea’s work with children, educators and families ever since. Through the years, she has had a variety of roles in education which included classroom teaching at Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, Plymouth Church School and Beginnings Nursery, mentoring college students, coaching teachers in public and private schools, and supporting teachers and families to create emotionally responsive, intentional environments. Being a health advocate and avid nature-lover, she also spent time working as a farm apprentice on an education-based, organic rooftop farm, befriending many honeybees, chickens and rabbits along the way! Andrea holds a BA in Cultural Anthropology, an MS in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Bank Street College, and National Board Certification in Health and Wellness Coaching.
Marcia Callender believes that all children are able learners, and when embraced, can do more than we can imagine. In her work, she supports families and teachers, while nurturing children who see and navigate their world differently. When needed, she walks families through the process of securing developmental and educational support services in integrated and emerging classrooms. In her work for nearly 30 years, as an advocate, trainer, policy developer and presently Associate Director for Family and Children Services at MCC, she has the opportunity to “color outside the lines” to nurture the children, empower parents and strengthen our community by embracing the possibilities of all children.
Mairelys Alberto is a non-profit administrator dedicated to connecting people to resources. Her past experience includes spearheading musem-wide internship and volunteer programs at El Museo del Barrio, and overseeing the coordination of daily administrative functions and special events at a non-denominational congregation in the North-East Bronx. As Operations Coordinator at the Manny Cantor Center, Mairelys provided space-planning and logistical support for building-wide programming; she currently serves as the Associate Director of Enrollment for Early Childhood. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from Barnard College.
Jasmine Palmer holds a Master’s Degree in English from the University of Maryland and a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Hunter College. She is a clinical social worker who has worked in the field of child and family development for more than 15 years. Jasmine’s past experience includes providing clinical support for mothers of babies born in the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility; designing a comprehensive family wrap-around support program for the Cambridge, MA Public Health Department; implementing community arts education and wellness programing for the Smithsonian Institution and the Kennedy Center; and most recently directing the Early Childhood Mental Health and Social Work program at MCC. Currently Jasmine serves as the Senior Director of the Community Wellness and Social Work Program at MCC. In this capacity she oversees the site’s Family Resource Center and helps to lead the agency’s community education and wellbeing initiatives.
Maisie Breit comes to Educational Alliance with a background in gender-based violence, human rights, and experiential education. As the Associate Director for Family and Community Partnerships, Maisie is responsible for helping to grow the Family Resource Center, making sure it provides the services our clients need, and that our clients know about its services. Before joining MCC, Maisie was a trainer with the NYC Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence. Previously, she was the manager of an International Ethnographic Field School in Morocco, and a group leader for high-school cultural immersion programs. She received her master’s in Human Rights and Humanitarian Action from Sciences Po in Paris, and a Bachelor’s in Women’s and Gender Studies and Middle Eastern Studies from Dartmouth College. Maisie is also a native New Yorker, and grew up just north of MCC.
Kenya A. Campbell
Kenya A. Campbell has worked at the Educational Alliance for many years in many different capacities. She began her career as an early childhood educator before following her interest in health and wellness by serving as the Health and Nutrition Coordinator. She also facilitated as the NCFL parenting group for two years. She is currently the Manager for the Family Resource Center where she is able to combine her passion for family wellness and connecting community members to support and services.
Rhina Yumbla has worked in our Home-Based program for several years. Families enrolled in Home-Based receive weekly one-on-one visits from a Home Visitor, tailored to the family’s specific goals, interests, challenges, and priorities. Families are also offered opportunities to gather in-person, join other children and families in group classes, participate in parenting workshops and access mental health and social work supports. As the Associate Director, of Home Base, Rhina is looking forward to continuing her work this year in the program!
Abigail Laub has a B.S. in Health Care Management from New York University. She completed her M.S. in Early Childhood General and Special Education from Bank Street College of Education. Upon graduating Abigail taught Kindergarten at Bank Street School for Children. She also taught preschool at Packer Collegiate Institute. Abigail has worked in an ICT classroom at P.S. 87, and first grade in an ICT classroom at P.S. 234. Abigail worked for the United Federation of Teachers Welfare Fund where she began her journey to becoming an educator. Abigail will be head teacher in the 2’s classroom working with Alberta Marshall and Ruthy Effler. Abigail was born in Guyana. New York has been her home for the past 25 years. She lives on the Lower East side with her husband Sam, daughter Vashti and their dog Rosie.
Aika Martin was born and raised in Japan. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Economics/ International Trading from Kanagawa University. In her studies, she was especially interested in the impact of governmental assistance on children’s lives in developing countries. After graduating from university, Aika got married and moved to the U.S, and is a mother of two teenagers. Aika has been teaching at Educational Alliance for almost eleven years. Working with children has brought Aika so much joy, and she particularly loves the moments when children accomplish something new and she is able to share this growth with families. Aika is really looking forward to working with children and their families at EC@MCC this coming year!
Alberta Marshall has been teaching at Educational Alliance for a little over five years. Alberta believes that every day is a new day and that early learners see the world with a unique perspective. She believes that part of her role as a teacher is to build a secure line of support for families. She is planning on furthering her own education to support her own learning. Her interests outside of work include crochet, speed walking, and a love of the outdoors.
Alexandra Dine is a New York City-based teacher. Originally from Missouri and raised in Maryland, she moved to the city a decade ago to attend NYU, earning her BFA in Film and English. She has worked for non-profit arts schools as a teacher and NYC public schools through America Reads/America Counts. Trained in classical piano at the Levine School of Music from the age of 7, and later certified by them to teach, she has played in competitions all around Washington, D.C. There, Alexandra created her own piano studio and has taught children from the ages of 3 to 17. Before starting last September at Educational Alliance, she taught for three years (with a focus on early childhood programming) at Church Street School for Music & Art. She believes heavily in the importance of “process-oriented” thinking in her teaching. It allows for more exploratory self-expression. Alexandra is thrilled to be starting another new year at Early Childhood at Manny Cantor Center!
Alexandria (Ali) Frank
Alexandria (Ali) Frank earned her Infancy and Family Development Masters degree at Bank Street College of Education. She has worked with young children ages Birth- 4 for over ten years in New York City and Burlington, Vermont. She is passionate about co-learning with young children, specifically, the relationships and connections children develop with people, places, and materials in their world as they grow. She is captivated by children’s “a ha” moments when they discover or do something completely momentous! On the weekends and during her free time, she enjoys visiting the farmer’s market, the local bakery, running at the playground with her 2 year old, and seeing family and friends at Prospect Park.
Ana Rodriguez-Nelson is a Program Coordinator for EC@MCC. She sits at the first floor reception area. Ana enjoys contributing to the exciting community advances that happen every day at the Educational Alliance. She graduated from Mercy College with a Summa Cum Laude Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s Degree with Distinction in Organizational Leadership. While in school, she earned the Beta Upsilon Chapter Delta Mu Delta of Business membership for her exemplary academic performance and leadership skills, and made the Dean’s list for several years as well as earning the Psi Chi certificate, The International Honor Society in Psychology. She also earned a Family Development Credential from the University of Connecticut, Center for the Study of Culture, Health and Human Development. Throughout her career, she has held several coordinator positions, which amount to more than 25 years servicing the underserved population of New York City within the Non-Profit/Government sector. She is committed to helping families and excited to be part of the commitment to break the cycle of poverty among our families by presenting a holistic approach that addresses and assists our families’ lives. She is inspired daily by her husband, four children, and two grandchildren to give her best. In her free time, she likes to read, crochet, knit, and play with her granddaughters.
Annlady Jorge has been passionate about early childhood for most of her life; personally as an older sister, aunt to several nieces and nephews and professionally in her career. Prior to joining the MCC Early Childhood team as a social worker, Annlady worked at NYU’s Center for Early Childhood Health and Development for several years, supporting classrooms across NYC implement an evidence based social emotional learning program for children and families. Annlady also coordinated the program’s family outreach efforts and protocols for caregiver involvement in the parent program. Annlady received her BS in Applied Psychology from NYU and spent her undergraduate years interning in research labs and clinics dedicated to therapeutic services for young children. She is currently enrolled in a dual masters degree program for early intervention and Family and Child Development at Bank Street College of Education and Hunter College. As a graduate student, Annlady has experience in early childhood classrooms and providing mental health services to young children and families. Annlady is looking forward to joining the vibrant MCC community and working alongside all children, families and staff.
Astou Ngom has been working with children since she was fifteen years old and has known that a career working with children has been a long-term goal. She graduated high school in 2013. Outside of work she enjoys dancing and is looking forward to the year ahead!
Emily Chackerian is originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico and a recent graduate of Wesleyan University, where she studied English and Theater, with a concentration in playwriting. Emily has experience working with a wide variety of children, including serving as a Counselor and TA for high school students at Stanford University’s summer creative writing program and as an Assistant Elementary Music Teacher with the Young Musician’s Initiative in Albuquerque. An active performer and musician, Emily is incredibly passionate about arts accessibility and outreach for young children. She loves helping students discover and nurture new interests and looks forward to working in early childhood education.
Hanna Mosenthal is thrilled to be continuing her work at EC@MCC in the 2s! She recently finished her MA in Early Childhood Education at Teachers College, during which she taught young children at the Rita Gold Early Childhood Center. Her work there focused on documenting children’s learning through play, building relationships with children and families, and making learning visible. Before coming to New York for her masters, Hanna lived and worked in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and Shanghai, China, where she taught English as a Second Language mostly at the Pre-K level. Working with English Language Learners taught her how to make her instruction multimodal and accessible to all. She also picked up some basic Mandarin and Thai language skills, and she also speaks some Spanish and French. Outside of the classroom, Hanna enjoys cooking, baking, running, and reading.
Jacob Goldberg graduated from McGill University in 2019, where he studied literature and philosophy. Since then, he has been assisting in Dr. Beatrice Beebe’s lab at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, researching mother-infant nonverbal communication. This experience has had a profound effect on him, and inspired him to seek out work in an early childhood setting like Manny Cantor Center, a school whose pedagogical philosophy spoke to him deeply in its democratic emphasis on the innate ability of the child and the role of the teacher as a collaborator and facilitator. He could not be more excited to be joining the team as an Associate teacher, and is so looking forward to serving the children and their families.
Jazmine Paulino has been working with children since she was a teenager. This interest led her to get an associate degree in Early Childhood Education, and more recently a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Development from SUNY Empire, focusing on all aspects of development throughout the lifespan. Jazmine loves learning about children’s interests and how to bring those to the classroom, and is excited to get to know each of the children in her class and help guide them through their development. Outside of school, Jazmine has two cats, and loves playing sports.
Jennifer Gage was born and raised on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. She comes from a very big family on both sides, of Puerto Rican and Chinese descent. She was the first grandchild in her family and naturally stepped into the caretaker role growing up with so many cousins! During high school worked in the summer youth programs of NYC, and attended City College for International Studies. Jennifer worked with children in the Nurses office in public schools for the NYC Dept. of Health, then transitioned into the Health and Wellness field, honing in on her passion for taking care of people, and giving them the tools and motivation to lead more holistic lifestyles. Since becoming a mother herself, she has come to the realization that what really gives her joy and fulfillment is helping nurture and teach children, and which has led her to wanting to become an educator. She has taught at the Children’s International Workshop, working with 2s & 3s, and is excited to join the team at EC@MCC!
Jill Spinello has a BA in Early Childhood Education with a concentration in Children’s Studies from Brooklyn College. She is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Innovative Early Childhood Education at University of Colorado through a partnership with the Boulder Journey School. She was inspired to become a preschool teacher after staying home with her son for the first three years of his life and witnessing his awe and wonder as he explored the world around him. It was through that experience that Jill developed a passion for emergent curriculum and an inquiry-based approach to learning. Children are born with an innate curiosity and the role of teachers, Jill believes, is to foster that curiosity in order to cultivate a life-long love of learning.
Joe Selenow is starting his third year teaching UPK in room 306. Joe is a graduate of Bank Street College with a Master’s degree in Early Childhood and Childhood Education. He has previously worked with the 2s/3s at Purple Circle Early Childhood Program and taught Pre-K at Ethical Culture Fieldston School. Joe enjoys playing the ukulele, collecting picture books, and learning about children as children learn through play.
Kaitlin Hill graduated Summa Cum Laude from SUNY Brockport with a BFA in Dance and a BS in Interdisciplinary Arts for Children in May 2021. She has had the pleasure of working with preschool aged children in a variety of settings over the past seven years through her work as a dance teacher, community outreach organizer, and most recently as a group leader for the preschool division at a summer camp. She is constantly amazed by the boundless creativity, compassion, and curiosity of young children. Kaitlin believes that all children deserve to have access to quality education and she is so thrilled to be able to share her passion for arts integration with the students in the classroom this upcoming school year!
Krista Kang has five years of experience working with children from age 1-6 years old in a Reggio-inspired preschool in Indonesia. She is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Infant-Toddler & Family Engagement at Bank Street College. She learned the Reggio Philosophy first-hand in Reggio Emilia, Italy back in 2017 and 2019. She is very passionate to work with young children. She believes that the impact of this work is powerful, more than just the immediate impact in the life of families, but for the future lives of the children and the nation. On top of that, who doesn’t love to spend the day with adorable babies and toddlers? Outside the classroom, you can find her traveling, creating artworks, or producing creative content on Instagram.
Lisa Ann Hobbs
Lisa Ann Hobbs has been working with children, ages birth to high school since 2010. She learns from working with children every day and feels that her work keeps her young. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree at Brooklyn College in Early Childhood Special Education, with a concentration in Psychology. When she’s not teaching, Lisa enjoys knitting and immersing herself in nature.
Mayra Denise Ramirez
Mayra Denise Ramirez is excited to continue with Early Childhood at Manny Cantor Center as a 2s teacher this school year, after spending some time with her newborn at home for the first part of the school year. Her background is in Childhood Education with a concentration in Language and Literature. She is currently working on continuing her education to include an extension in Early Childhood Education. Her experience in the classroom ranges from Toddlers to 5th graders. She is also familiar with Montessori methods and Dual-Language and Integrated classrooms. This broad range of experience allows her to be flexible and adaptable in her classroom. She strongly believes her role as a teacher is to be a guiding hand and to support children through their exploration of the world. Mayra is eager to see all the curiosity and creativity this upcoming year will bring.
Miriam Farciert is returning to EC@MCC for a fifth year. Miriam is a Lehman College graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a Minor in Early Childhood Education. She is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Early Childhood at Hunter College. She has worked with children age 1 – 9 in a variety of environments, including teaching in a toddler classroom, day camp and tutoring. Miriam has spent the last few years immersed in Reggio-Emilia inspired settings. This philosophy has taught her to see all children as powerful, competent, creative and curious individuals. Miriam enjoys creating experiences that help young children reach milestones, increase their sensory awareness, promote creative thinking and problem solving, and nurture independence and self-care skills. She sees the classroom as a place where hands, minds and materials come together to create new and exciting growth opportunities.
Rachel Eshet received her Bachelors of Science in Interdisciplinary Social Sciences with a focus on Political Science and Sociology and a minor in Child Development at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida. She has great plans to eventually obtain a law degree and practice child advocacy law and then later on, open her own preschool. As young as she can remember, her passion in life was always to help children in any way she could. She comes from a very musical and artistic family which has encouraged her to always be her most authentic self – which has aided her in teaching children to never shy away from that creative side of themselves too. Every interaction one makes with a child will leave an impact for a lifetime. Rachel is honored to play such an important role in her future students’ learning development processes. Here’s to the first year and many more after that!
Rachel Scobie was raised in Massachusetts where she spent her days drawing comics and making home movies with her 5 older brothers and sisters. After working in the advertising world, she followed her heart and began working with young children. During her years at the NYC schools My Little Village and the Williamsburg Neighborhood Nursery School she loved building caring communities of confident learners. She holds her Masters in Early Childhood Education, earned at Hunter College, but deep down feels she learns the most from her students! In her spare time Rachel enjoys gardening, watching movies and eating popcorn with her husband, James, and snuggling with her handsome cat, Reggie. Rachel is delighted and honored to be joining the community at Manny Cantor this coming year!
Rosario Loyola Rosario
Rosario Loyola Rosario was born in Oaxaca, Mexico and raised in New York city. This is her second year teaching at EC@MCC. She has also worked as a teacher at the Columbia University Early Head Start program, where she was a parent, and was given the opportunity to take the CDA-Child Development Associate courses in 2010 to later in 2016, becoming part of the center for three years. Her passion for teaching began as a mother. Her two sons and daughter opened her eyes to the rewarding life of working with young children. She finds joy in witnessing a child learn something new, knowing she was an important influence in their doing so. The impact she makes in their lives makes for an even bigger and completely gratifying impact in her own life. Some of her favorite hobbies include visiting museums, and taking walks in the park. In the summertime she enjoys going to beach and relaxing in the sand and playing in the water with my children
Ruthy Effler is so excited to be returning to Manny Cantor Center! She has worked with children in many capacities over the years including as a nanny, a swim and diving coach, and a camp program director. She considers children to be “ambassadors of joy” and has always been inspired by their natural creativity. In her spare time, Ruthy loves swimming, writing, cooking, reading, and all things NYC.
Scharisse Sierra has been working with very young children for about 10 years. This will be her seventh year in an infant room. Scharisse really loves working with our youngest children–she finds it so rewarding to be there for the many changes that babies go through during their first year. Scharisse has been in NYC for almost 18 years, but grew up in southern California, with English and Spanish spoken in her home. She has a Child Development Associate Certification in Infant and Toddler Care from Bank Street and is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education through CUNY. Her ultimate goal is to earn a Master’s Degree in Speech and Language Pathology with a Bilingual Extension. Scharisse’s hobbies include collecting LPs, cooking, reading, and going to art shows.
Sherry Yang majored in Childhood Education at City College of New York. She has spent time volunteering and working at NYC daycares and public schools since high school. Ever since middle school, she had her eyes set on becoming a teacher. She believes that teaching is very fulfilling work because one learns and grows alongside students. In her free time, she likes to read books of all genres, paint with watercolors, and try new cooking recipes.
Sophia Bien-Aimé has served young children and families in NYC for over a decade. She is intentional and conscientious in her work with young children and is committed to providing quality early childhood education to all children. Sophia has experience working with children ages 5 years and under, and believes in partnering with families to support their children’s development and learning. Sophia values collaboration and making connections with those she meets. Service and quality of care are at the core of her practice. Sophia’s purpose is to enrich the lives of the children and families, with whom she encounters. Sophia is a recent graduate of City College of New York, where she obtained a BA in Interdisciplinary Liberal Arts and Science and plans to pursue a Master’s degree in early childhood education. Sophia’s creativity and love of nature are reflected in her interests. She paints and draws in her spare time. Some of her other interests include creative writing, travel, creative arts and gardening. With her appreciation for nature and its beauty, Sophia enjoys spending much time outdoors. She is free spirited and enjoys the little things in life!
Sydney Radkoff is excited to be joining Early Childhood at the Manny Cantor Center! Sydney has a Bachelors of Science in Social Work from Skidmore College, and is looking forward to making the social work to early childhood education connection. In her work thus far, she has spent time with humans of all ages, from preschoolers to Seniors, and has witnessed the long lasting impact of having a strong foundation during the early childhood years. Sydney loves children for their curiosity and openness, and she cannot wait to witness the incredible conversations and creations that come to life this year. In her free time, I enjoy baking, cooking, playing the bass, and taking care of her houseplants.
Yanet Rosario has worked at Educational Alliance for twenty two years! She began her career teaching in the Early Head Start program. She is currently working on her Child Development Associates and is looking forward to a new year with children and families!
Alyssa Bales is an Ecuadorian, Puerto Rican artist born and raised on the Lower East Side. She graduated from The High School of Fashion Industries in 2019, and while attending she began the Brazilian martial art known as Capoeira at The New York Capoeira Center. Starting as an initially very shy person, Capoeira helped her branch out as a person and opened new opportunities. She began volunteering in the children’s classes (from ages 3-12 years old), and got to meet new faces and different personalities. Each day she would have fun conversations with the children and help in what they wanted to improve in, building trusting relationships. Alyssa never thought that she would work with children or teach them, but as her skills improved overtime she was promoted to officially assist in teaching at the center and public schools, and teaching children fascinated her because with determination, positive affirmations, and confidence anything is possible for children to accomplish. Teaching continued throughout her time in college at The Fashion Institute of Technology, which she attended until the fall of 2020, majoring in Illustration. But during the summer, deciding to try something new and leave teaching Capoeira, Alyssa volunteered with Leticia Perelstein, our art specialist, preparing art materials for the children in our school. While now pursuing a major in English Literature to become an English Teacher, this is Alyssa’s first year as an Associate Teacher at EC@MCC and she is looking forward to new and amazing learning experiences.
Ben Krieger has a MA in Elementary Education from City College of New York and has been teaching in New York City for over 20 years. He began his career as a public school Grade 3 classroom teacher, eventually working as an adviser and adjunct professor for New York City Teaching Fellows in the Bronx. A musician, painter, and child of two art teachers, Ben’s journey as a progressive educator truly began to flourish as he took on the adventurous role of caregiver and homeschooling parent for his two daughters. During this 10-year period Ben founded and led an arts co-op for homeschooled children ages 2-8, ran a play-based math class out of his apartment, and collaborated with various progressive and alternative educators around the city. Ben took the helm of the largest, longest-running open mic in NYC at the Sidewalk Cafe and ran it as MC for 7 years. His children’s song “Watertight” has been embraced by the Reggio Emilia yoga organization, Yo Re Mi, and is performed regularly in their public school programs. Ben plays a large number of instruments, recording his own songs, film compositions, and experimental sound collage podcast. He loves painting with watercolor. His favorite restaurant in the neighborhood is Hop Kee. Ben is thrilled to be working within a Reggio Emilia-inspired community that values the voices and choices of young children.
Carolyn Abrams Dyer
Carolyn Abrams Dyer has been teaching children in early childhood and elementary classrooms for 16 years. She holds a BS in Exercise Science from Hofstra University and a Master’s degree in Childhood Education from Long Island University. She is NY State certified to teach general, special and early childhood education. Carolyn has raised three children and now has two grandchildren, Roo and Minnie. Carolyn loves to travel and meet new people. She has played the guitar since she was a young child and is passionate about bringing music into the classroom.
Catherine Rodriguez is beginning her third year at EC@MCC and is pursuing her B.A. at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She has worked with young children for many years, including at Preschool Du Monde and Explore and Discover in Gramercy. She has a particular passion for supporting children’s social emotional development and building trusting relationships with families.
Chanel Lewis has worked at Educational Alliance for over twenty years with young children, in various roles. She has an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education from Borough of Manhattan Community College. She loves working with young children and learns so much from the relationships she builds with them. She is a mother of an 11 year old son. Outside of teaching, Chanel loves to read and listen to music. This coming year, Chanel will be one of our Floater teachers at EC@MCC.
Chloe Lin has joined our team two years ago and is one of our program coordinators at MCC Early Childhood. She is able to speak English, Chinese Mandarin, Wenzhounese, and some Cantonese. Prior to joining our Early Childhood team, she worked at a major airline as a supervisor specializing on pricing analysis, revenue and travel production management. Her past work background gave her full experiences and understandings of customer services, event planning, coordination and office administration. She is a problem solver and loves seeing the smiles on people’s faces after issues/questions getting resolved or answered, and she also enjoys being around lovely children, so this is why she decided to join our team. Outside of school she loves photography, art, architecture, cooking and hiking.
Colby Smith is an elementary and early childhood educator starting his third year at EC@MCC. He joined us after two years of teaching preschool and after school at the 14th Street Y, as well as a lifetime of working summer camps in West Virginia and his home state of Maryland. He graduated from the University of Maryland’s English Department and loves to share the joys of reading with children and adults alike. He also plays the piano (when it won’t bother his roommates) and hosts a monthly comedy show (when it won’t bother the venue)
Danna Sanchez is a Puerto Rican, Dominican native New Yorker. She graduated from BMCC with an Associates degree and is now pursuing a Bachelors degree in early childhood special education and early childhood education at Medgar Evans College. Working with children in afterschool programs, learning labs, summer camps, nannying preschools, and even her family has etched one core belief in her as an educator. Children who are our future doctors, reporters, artists, archaeologists, etc. and it is her responsibility to nurture and guide each child individually as she was once by her own teachers. When she is not working, Danna enjoys playing the drums, engaging in water and adrenaline sports, watching movies, DIY projects, and of course shopping. She also loves her city and giving back to her community by working with children. She has always had a passion for children since she was young.
Deborah Yu completed her Masters degree in Early Childhood and Special Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Debbie is particularly interested in bilingual education and how language and identity are connected and is excited to work alongside children and their families to create a community where all feel welcomed and included. This will be Debbie’s second year teaching 3s at EC@MCC after two years of teaching UPK.
Elijah Juri is so excited to get to know everyone’s friendly faces over the course of the school year. He has been working in childcare for 10+ years now, and has fully committed himself to working alongside youth that will someday shape our future. He is constantly in awe with the different perspectives that young minds bring into the world every day. Having the ability to aid in creating a safe space for youth to thrive brings him so much joy and peace. He enjoys being outside in the fresh air whenever possible, whether it be playing basketball in the park, walking his dog, or reading a good book. He also finds comfort in lisrening to music both old and new throughout the day, and is always searching for new movies to watch with his family. Here’s to making the 2021-22 school one to remember forever!
Esneidi Peguero is returning for her third year at MCC. She has worked with children for the past 6 years and couldn’t be happier with her profession! Children are truly a gift and Esnedi thinks it’s wonderful seeing them grow and learn in front of our very own eyes. As a floating teacher this past year, she is looking forward to building relationships with more children as well as guiding them through milestones and providing a comfortable and nurturing environment for them. When not in the classroom, Esneidi enjoys spending time with her dog, Lucio, and traveling! She hopes that we will make this upcoming school year successful and come out stronger than ever before.
Gabriella Ruskay-Kidd grew up in New York City and graduated in 2020 from Washington University in St. Louis, with double majors in Psychology and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Gabriella has always possessed a deep interest in providing young people with the tools they need to thrive, and believes in an inclusive, empowering, and affirming approach to teaching. She has had extensive experience engaging with youth from a variety of backgrounds, having worked as a day camp counselor for many summers, a dance instructor, and as a lead teacher at a religious school. She has also worked closely with youth in several non-profit spaces, most recently as a case aide at a social services agency, providing therapeutic support to children and families who have experienced trauma. Through all of these experiences, she has honed skills in communicating meaningfully and effectively with youth. She is drawn to this work because she has seen firsthand the power of fostering joyful, trusting, and nurturing environments for young people. She is eager to begin this new chapter at MCC and looks forward to meeting everyone!
Galena Cox has always loved being around children. While earning her BA in Sociology, Galena worked at both a public-school kindergarten and with the preschoolers at the childcare center on campus. Galena has a passion for social justice and was drawn to MCC as it combines her love of working with children and her interest in making the world a more equitable and inclusive place. In her free time, Galenaenjoys spending time outdoors, hiking, listening to music, and spending time with friends and family.
Jiwon Choi has been an early childhood educator for almost twenty years. She believes strongly that school must be a place where children are given time and space to work out their feelings and ideas in order to be the most engaged and proactive learners they can be. Jiwon holds a Masters degree in Early Childhood Education from Bank Street College and an M.S. degree in Information & Library Science from Pratt. She is excited for a dynamic and collaborative school year, and will be returning this year in a hybrid role as part-time floater teacher and library and media specialist, working with our Education team to revamp our children’s libraries, and collaborating with teachers to co-create meaningful curriculum using children’s literature with special attention to an anti-bias lens.
Justin Gutterman began at EC@MCC as a teacher in one of our toddler classrooms and is currently enrolled in the Infant and Family Development program with Bank Street and Hunter Colleges and will be specializing in ages from infancy to three years old. In his current role in our school as part of Early Childhood social work team, his focus will be on early intervention and child care based on the Developmental Interactive approach, encouraging close observation and engagement through play to help children learn and grow. Justin has lived in Brooklyn for the past 12 years and has a wonderful five year old and 2 month old son of his own. Previously, he worked in office and project management after receiving his Bachelor’s in Fine Art in 2006. In his increasingly sparse spare time Justin enjoys gaming, the gym as well as drawing and painting and is quickly becoming an expert in reproducing children’s cartoons.
Ilia Panganiban was born and raised in Sacramento, CA before moving to New York City. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Language Arts from Hunter College and a Master of Arts degree in Elementary Inclusive Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. She has experience working both as a classroom teacher and a science teacher. She loves working with early childhood students because of their imagination, creativity, and curiosity. In her spare time, she enjoys watching movies, going to museums, and traveling.
Lucy Wen is from China, and has two children. Lucy has been an assistant teacher at Educational Alliance since 2003. She began as a volunteer in the classroom and through those interactions, she was able to recognize the importance of giving children an environment that encourages play, exploration and learning. As a teacher, she enjoys seeing each child develop intellectually, socially and physically. Lucy is proud to be attending a CDA course and hopes to pursue an Associates Degree in early childhood development. She has adopted a philosophy that teachers are the best facilitators of learning. Lucy believes that it is very important to have children in an environment that is consistent and secure. Outside of teaching, Lucy loves to sing, play ping pong and badminton and travel!
Maggie Ferra has been an early childhood educator for 19 years, working with children 2-5 years old. This will be her 20th year teaching at MCC. Maggie holds a Bachelor of Science in Human Services with additional course work in Early Childhood Education. Maggie is originally from Puerto Rico and has lived on the Lower East Side since she moved to New York 35 years ago. She has three beautiful children and six grandchildren, ages 3 to 14 years old. Maggie sees all children as competent, capable learners and is looking forward to a wonderful year of collaboration with families.
Maritza Hernandez has been working with children for twenty six years. She has been a teacher at Educational Alliance for twenty years, working with infants and toddlers as an assistant teacher. She holds a Child Development Associates degree with infants and toddlers, her commitment to working with children having begun when she became a mother herself.
Michelle Li has a Bachelor’s degree in elementary education and English from Hunter College, and is working towards obtaining a Master’s degree in early childhood education at Hunter. Since childhood, Michelle always knew that she wanted to be a teacher, and loves seeing the spark in a child’s eyes when they discover something new about the world. Before joining EC@MCC last year, Michelle worked as a counselor at toddler summer camps, as a teaching assistant at public elementary schools, and as an English teacher in China. Aside from teaching, Michelle enjoys photography, eating, and traveling. This is Michelle’s second year at EC@MCC and she is excited for her year ahead!
Mira Shaar is beginning her fourth year teaching at EC@MCC. Before coming to Educational Alliance, Mira taught at the Brotherhood Nursery School for twelve years and the JCC of Manhattan’s Zabar Nursery School for five years. In addition, she has taught at the 92nd Street Y Parenting Center and the Two-by-Two Program at the 14th Street Y. Mira holds an M.A. in Early Childhood Education, a B.A. in art, and is certified to teach preschool through sixth grade. Mira lives in the East Village with her husband Eldad and their two wonderful children, Maya and Alon.
Natasha Bhagwanani has been teaching in a variety of settings for the last 10 years, from after-school programs to summer camps and community art classes. She has loved being a teacher at Manny Cantor Center. She is an artist, and loves painting, sketching, and crafting with lots of different supplies, and looks forward to creating with families. One of her other favorite things to do is to read, and she especially loves children’s books. She can’t wait to share stories together and to begin our adventures in learning and growing!
Nina Li is excited to continue her work at EC@MCC with her fellow colleagues and incoming families. She has worked with children of different ages throughout her college years. She believes that every child is a unique individual with his/her own personality and it’s essential to build collaborative relationships with families in order to help our children explore the world around them with confidence. Learning happens in multiple ways and there’s always something to learn. Nina enjoys listening to music, crafting, and learning new words in different languages.
Rachel Baron is a native New Yorker, originally from Bayside, Queens. She went to college at SUNY Albany before earning her Master’s degree in General and Special Education from Hunter College. She has experience teaching in various settings and with different ages. Rachel has recently become a new mom, and will be spending some time with her newborn son before returning to EC@MCC as a floater teacher. This is her sixth year working at EC@MCC and prior to being at our school, she spent nearly two years living and teaching preschoolers in Chiang Mai, Thailand, an incredible experience which shaped her approach to teaching.
Sadie Schu received her Bachelor of Fine Arts with a minor in Art Education from Alfred University in upstate New York. She is continuing her educational journey by working on her Masters’s in Early Childhood/Special Education at Hunter College. Being with the children and encouraging their growth is not the only thing she is passionate about. Sadie is a practicing studio potter, which helps her remember the importance of play, imagination, and exploration in all areas of life. Children’s active imaginations, playful energy, and expressive nature are all things that drew Sadie into the early childhood classroom. This is Sadie’s fourth year in the classroom and she is excited to keep learning and being inspired by the children.
Sarah Toles has her BA in Linguistics from UC Santa Cruz and an MS in Infant Family Development at Bank Street College of Education. Sarah moved to New York four years ago from California where she worked as an Infant/Toddler teacher in an Early Head Start classroom in Berkeley. She previously worked with an early childhood education organization in Sonoma, California, that specialized in working with preschoolers with special needs as a group teacher and adaptive technology specialist. Sarah enjoys working with parents to find ways to meet all of their child’s needs and she is committed to helping create an inclusive classroom environment that feels warm and inviting to children of all abilities.
Shakira Zaman graduated with a degree in Community Health Education in the Fall of 2020. It has always been her dream to work for the community and its people. The thought that Shakira can make a difference in people’s lives gives her great joy. She believes that teaching is an extremely rewarding profession and, in her work, she aims to encourage children to express themselves and teach them that no dream is too small. Shakira’s work at AHRC NYC supporting adults with mental and developmental disabilities opened her eyes to a community of adults who were intelligent and viewed the world differently. She is excited to continue her work supporting young children at EC@MCC this year!
Stephanie Rios has been working with young children for 13 years and counting. She is returning for her fourth year as a teacher at EC@MCC, where she has mostly spent her time with toddlers. She really loves working with children, and loves seeing the world through a child’s perspective. Stephanie has lived in NYC for most of her life, where she now has a young child of her own. She is a bit of a hobbyist, and she also likes going on adventures with her child who is entering Kindergarten.
Taylor Haniff has always had a strong passion for working with children. Some of her past experiences working with children include working at a summer day camp for about 4 years and working at a science camp for third graders. She is drawn to teaching because not only is she able to help expand the curious minds of the children she works with, but she also learns so much from them while doing so and can see the world how they do. It’s very fascinating to her! During her free time, she loves painting, playing volleyball and spending as much time with her family as possible.
Yaneysi Rivas is looking forward to continuing to teach in the 3s classroom after spending previous years teaching 2s Together here at MCC, floating between the infant and toddler classrooms and teaching in the 3s classroom this past year. She is thrilled to build great relationships with children and their parents. She has completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology at Hunter College (CUNY) and is now pursuing her Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Special Education. She has worked with children of all ages, in home settings, therapeutic settings, classroom settings, and in after-school programs. Yaneysi is from Ecuador and speaks Spanish fluently. When not working with children, Yaneysi enjoys spending time with her family, watching movies, traveling, cooking and photography.
Yvette St. John
Yvette St. John has been teaching for 16 years, working with infants through UPK and has been active in volunteering for over 20 years. She lives in Brooklyn and is married with four children. She loves interacting with children, seeing them get excited about learning. When Yvette is not teaching, she loves to take walks and loves music and going to the movies.
Yuna Shi has three years of experience in children’s art training. Yuna has also volunteered at a special education school to teach craft lessons to children. She believes in providing the basic materials for learning, then supporting children based on their curiosity that was built in preschool and early childhood. She believes we should let children learn through play, and allowing each child to challenge themselves at their own pace. Yuna received her Bachelor’s Degree in fine art from Luxun Academy of Fine Art in China, and recently graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design as a graduate student in the Fiber Art Design field. Yuna enjoys nature and artistic activities. She is a person who likes to take risks and challenge herself with new areas of study.