Eliza was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest and moved to Brooklyn in 2001 to pursue a B.F.A. in photography at Pratt Institute. She discovered her interest in education while working on a photography project in which toddlers gave her makeovers. Through this project, she realized that she was more interested in the thinking processes of the children involved than in the final (and sometimes frightening) products. Eliza then enrolled in a master’s program in early childhood education at Brooklyn College and began teaching in a 3’s classroom at The Co-op School, where she taught for four and a half years. Eliza is thrilled to be part of Community Roots because of its amazing community of teachers, children, and families. In her life outside of school, Eliza loves to explore the city via foot or bike, draw, and tend to her tiny rooftop garden.
Tabitha was born just across the street at the Brooklyn Hospital Center and grew up in East New York, Brooklyn. She attended NYC public schools throughout her K-12 education. Then, she attended Colgate University in Hamilton, NY. During her time there, she spent some time living in Kyoto, Japan studying linguistics and learning Japanese. When she came back, she fell in love with the education field and interned at YouthBuild Charter School in Philadelphia. She stepped into her own classroom in 2019 at Uncommon Schools, where she taught Kindergarten for 3 years. She is excited to continue her journey teaching Kindergarten here at Community Roots!
Rebecca has lived in Brooklyn (by way of Long Island) for a really long time. She spent the first several years in New York pursuing an acting career until she realized that the teaching profession was calling to her and telling her to go back to school. Rebecca received her B.F.A. in theatre performance at Fredonia State University and attended Bank Street College for her M.S.Ed. in early childhood special education. Rebecca worked as a preschool teacher before coming to Community Roots in 2006 to teach kindergarten. She loves teaching alongside very dedicated educators who, along with her amazing little students, teach her so much each and every year. When not at Community Roots, Rebecca enjoys bicycling all around NYC, traveling, and playing in the great outdoors with Ozzy, her husband. She also lives with two cute cats, Wyatt and Virgil and a big, goofy dog named Harlow.
Allison grew up in Gainesville, Florida where she spent much of her time outdoors and discovering her love of nature. She received her B.A. in both Biological Sciences and Psychology from Wellesley College in Massachusetts. During her time at Wellesley and while studying abroad in Australia, she was involved in science youth activities and early childhood programs. Such opportunities led her to pursue a career in education. Upon graduation, she was selected to be a part of the New York City Teaching Fellows program. While teaching high school science courses in Brooklyn, she earned her Masters of Education from Pace University. After teaching in the public high school system, she decided to turn her attention and passion for teaching towards a younger audience. She has taught at Community Roots since 2008 and continually loves to be a part of its wonderful community.
John McCann-Doyle – Outdoor Education Specialist
Millen was raised in a small town in Maryland. She attended George Mason University in Fairfax, VA graduating with a B.S. in psychology. Upon graduation, Millen began interning at George Mason University for their Mason LIFE Program. It was then that Millen discovered her love and passion of working with adults with special needs. Millen then decided to move to New York where she pursued a degree in education. Millen received her M.S.Ed. in special education/inclusive elementary from Hofstra University on Long Island. During her long breaks, she enjoys traveling to Africa and visiting her large family in Eritrea. Millen has worn many hats while working at Community Roots and is excited to be part of this wonderful community.
Rachel grew up in Binghamton, New York. She pursued her dream of playing college soccer at SUNY Brockport where she earned a B.A. in psychology and elementary education. Rachel began her career working with students diagnosed with Autism and Behavioral disorders. This work led her to pursue a master’s in special education at Binghamton University. Rachel continued following her passion for educating students with special needs in Brooklyn at the Kingsley School for Child Development – a place she describes as the ideal school environment for the education of preschool students with special needs. Rachel continued her interest in behavior development by working at the League School and Day Treatment Center. Rachel is thrilled to be a part of Community Roots for her 8th year.
Naviera was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. She attended SUNY Geneseo in upstate NY, where she studied Communicative Sciences and Disorders. Upon graduation in 2005, Naviera worked as an early interventionist back in Brooklyn. For six years, she provided speech and language services to toddlers, within their homes. Although this work was fulfilling, she longed to teach within a classroom. In 2011, she chose to return to school to complete a dual M.S.Ed. in early childhood and special education at Adelphi University. After graduation, Naviera taught 2nd grade for four years in Manhattan. Naviera is dedicated to creating an emotionally safe classroom, where all students feel supported, challenged and celebrated. When she is not teaching, she enjoys spending time with her daughter Olive, reading, and taking quick weekend trips to upstate NY.
Michael was born and raised in Rhode Island and he has been living in Brooklyn for over a decade. Michael earned his undergraduate degree in Elementary and Special Education from Rhode Island College and his Masters in Literacy Education from Teachers College. He has taught grades 1-7 in various capacities including both 1st and 5th at CRCS. Michael is thrilled to be a part of the 1st grade team this year. In his free time, Michael enjoys spending time with friends and family, listening to music, and traveling.
Daina was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN. From a very young age, Daina knew she wanted to pursue a career in education. She moved to New York City in 2003 to study childhood education, special education, and psychology at New York University. After obtaining her bachelor’s degree in 2007, Daina immediately returned to NYU and received her Master’s of Arts Degree in literacy education. She joined the Community Roots family in the fall of 2008. Daina was a founding member of Community Roots’ Inclusive Practices Group. She enjoyed collaborating with her colleagues to strengthen the school’s inclusive practices through Universal Design for Learning. This is Daina’s fifteenth year teaching second grade at Community Roots Charter School. Daina currently lives in Astoria, Queens with her husband and two daughters. When she is not teaching, Daina loves exploring New York City with her family and photographing their adventures together. She also has never turned down an iced coffee.
Blair began her work with children 15 years ago at camps for kids with chronic and terminal illnesses where she began to understand childrens’ boundless capabilities and their incredible emotional depth. During this work, she was also exposed to the gross inequities that occur in our neighborhoods, schools, and healthcare systems. These combined experiences lead her to pursue a career in education. She views classrooms and schools as precious opportunities to build community, grow awareness and activism, and to slowly but surely build a new and better world. Blair obtained a dual masters degree in childhood education and childhood literacy at Bank Street College of Education. She has been an early childhood educator for the past 13 years in New Jersey and New York. This is Blair’s ninth year teaching 2nd at Community Roots.
Jennifer has been a proud New Yorker all her life. She grew up in Port Washington, studied in Manhattan and currently resides in Brooklyn. In 2006, she obtained a Bachelor of Science in childhood and special education from NYU. During her four years at NYU, Jennifer’s work-study program enabled her to work in diverse educational environments, which inspired her to pursue teaching full time. In her final year, she met the directors of Community Roots and knew their soon-to-be school was the perfect fit for her. Since then, Jennifer has been working as a teacher at Community Roots and is a proud member of the founding staff. She helped to open the first year of first grade in 2006, which she taught for two years before moving to third grade where she taught for three years. With a love for nature and the wondrous world around us, now Jennifer can be found teaching in the science lab. She is very happy to be a part of the growing Community Roots family and is honored to be serving the community of Fort Greene, where she lives.
Susan has taught elementary education for the past 17 years in both private and public schools. Every year, she hopes to help cultivate a classroom where there is a lot of laughter and joy and where her students will feel a deep sense of belonging. She is committed to anti-bias education and believes one of her greatest responsibilities as a teacher is to equip her students with a lens towards social justice and action. Susan hopes to instill her students with a desire to share their own stories and experiences, as well as, value those of others. She received her Bachelor of Arts from Bryn Mawr College and her Master of Science from Bank Street College of Education. Outside of work, Susan’s three children who are CRCS students, Minki, Mina and Mino, like to keep her on her toes.
Lorrie Balton (Family Leave)
Lorrie grew up in New York in a family of artists. She attended Cooper Union where she received a B.F.A. in art. She then worked as a graphic designer for 15 years. After having two children, Lorrie’s priorities changed. While spending many years volunteering in the schools that her children attended, she developed an interest in teaching. She pursued this interest by first teaching at a preschool and then in a pre-Kindergarten class at Beginning with Children Charter School in Brooklyn. Lorrie is proud to be a founding staff member at Community Roots where her experience includes teaching first grade and kindergarten. She feels strongly about the importance of building a creative learning environment and reflects this in her craft.
Eden was born in Buffalo, New York but spent most of her childhood in Ohio, where her family still lives. Before college, she spent a year teaching English at a school in Tanzania where her love for teaching was first ignited. Eden received her B.S. in Early Childhood Education from The Ohio State University in 2014 and continued on to complete her M.S.Ed the following year, graduating in 2015. Throughout her time in Ohio, she always longed to live in New York City and when she found Community Roots, she knew it was meant to be. The summer after graduating, she moved to Brooklyn and started her teaching career the following school year. Eden loves teaching third grade and feels very lucky to be part of the Community Roots family.
Erika was born and raised primarily in the Northeast. She attended Syracuse University and graduated with a B.S in Inclusive Elementary and Special Education. She moved to New York City and spent four years teaching early elementary. Shortly after moving to NYC, she enrolled into Hunter College to study Birth – Sixth Grade Literacy Education and will graduate with her M.S.Ed in Spring 2021. This fall is her first year at Community Roots and she is excited to engage in a community that is committed to diversity and inclusion! In her free time, she enjoys being outdoors and exploring all the beautiful NYC parks.
Emma Weissman is from Long Island, N.Y. and knew from a young age that she wanted to be a teacher. She attended SUNY Geneseo for her undergraduate degree in Early Childhood and Childhood Education with a concentration in Theater. She then attended Bank Street College of Education to obtain her master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education. During her time at Bank Street. Emma taught in inclusive and progressive preschool and second grade classrooms. Emma is thankful and excited to be beginning her journey at Community Roots this year!
Nora grew up in New York, but left the city for college, when she attended Loyola University in Chicago. She majored in Fine Arts, with an emphasis on photography, and Women’s Studies, with a minor in Sociology. Nora has always loved working with children and learning new things. After graduating, Nora spent years traveling and working in the arts. She fell in love with teaching while working as a teaching artist at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and returned to New York to pursue her Master’s degree in Museum Education and Childhood Education at Bank Street College of Education. A Brooklyn native, Nora always knew she’d return to Brooklyn. She lives in her childhood home, with her husband, 2 kids and dog, and just upstairs from her parents. She’s so happy to be returning to Community Roots for her fourth year teaching 3rd grade.
Emily was born and raised in Setauket, NY on Long Island. She attended Ithaca College to study writing and play lacrosse. After graduation, Emily moved to Washington, DC where she received her master’s degree in Elementary Education from American University and taught 3rd – 6th grade at a bilingual public charter school for 10 years. In 2019, Emily moved to Santiago de Chile and taught 3rd and 4th grade at a British bilingual school. She is thrilled to be a NYC resident joining Community Roots. In her free time she enjoys practicing yoga and meditation, walking and exploring NYC neighborhoods, trying new restaurants and cafes, hiking, traveling, spending time with friends and family, and learning Spanish.
Kate was born and raised on Long Island, NY. She attended James Madison University in Virginia, where she studied Elementary Education for both her undergraduate and graduate degrees. After graduating, she moved to Thailand to teach for two years and traveled Southeast Asia for a year. She then moved to Brooklyn and has been teaching first and second grade at a public school for the last six years. She is beyond excited to be a part of the Community Roots family.
Haley was born and raised in southeast Virginia, where she spent most of her childhood engrossed in books, painting, and piano. She attended Virginia Tech, where her passion for the written word manifested into an English and Linguistics degree, along with a B.S. in Human Development. In her senior year, she developed a passion for education and moved to Brooklyn as a Teach for America Corps member upon graduation. There, she received her Master’s in Teaching from Relay Graduate School of Education and has taught first grade for the past 8 years in the vibrant communities of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Brownsville.
Claire Schmidt moved to Brooklyn from Los Angeles, CA in the summer of 2020 to be closer to family on the east coast. She grew up in New Jersey outside Philadelphia and completed her undergraduate degree in psychology and music at Cornell University. While at Cornell, she was involved in multiple singing groups and was a volunteer teaching assistant with the Cornell Prison Education Program, where she first started to consider a future in education. A few years later, she completed her graduate degree in childhood education at Ithaca College. She taught second grade, third grade, and reading intervention for seven years while living in Los Angeles. She loves to sew and makes almost all of her own clothes!
Chris grew up in Middlefield, CT. He attended NYU and graduated with a BA in History and Religious Studies with a minor in Comparative Literature. During his time at NYU, he worked for a literacy tutoring program in the Lower East Side. It was there he discovered he loved being in a school setting. After graduating, he pursued an alternative teaching certification program and obtained his MAT in Elementary Ed. He has taught in a K-5 school in the South Bronx for the past 8 years and is thrilled to finally be teaching in his home borough of Brooklyn. When not teaching, he is often reading, watching films, cooking new recipes, catching a new museum exhibit, or relaxing in Prospect Park.
Rebekah grew up in Sharon, MA. She spent a year in Israel volunteer teaching. She then got her B.A. in Elementary and Special Education at the University of Miami. After spending 7 months in Thailand, she moved to Brooklyn, NY in 2016 where she has been teaching second and third grade in various general and special education settings in Bed Stuy and Brownsville. She earned her dual masters in General Elementary and Special Education. She is excited to join the Community Roots family teaching 5th grade.
May Lee Watase
May Lee grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She attended Wesleyan University and graduated with a BA in American Studies. After college, she taught English through a Fulbright grant in a small town in Germany and then moved to San Francisco to coordinate a literacy tutoring program at an elementary school. She realized through these experiences that she loved being in the classroom, leading her to earn her MA and teaching credential at the University of San Francisco in an equity/social justice focused residency program. She taught 5th grade in SF public schools for 3 years, and then moved to Berlin, Germany to teach 5th and 6th grade at a bilingual international school from 2019-2021. May Lee just recently moved to Brooklyn and when not teaching, she is often cooking elaborate meals for friends, learning to bike in the busy city streets, or spending time outdoors in the sun. She is very excited to join the CRCS community!
Shéba was born and raised on Long Island. She moved to New York City to continue her education and pursue a career in a diverse, urban environment. Shéba received her bachelor’s degrees in early childhood education, special education, and psychology from New York University. She also majored in psychology in education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Shéba came to Community Roots in 2007 as a kindergarten teacher, but she has spent most of her time here as a first grade teacher. Each year, Shéba enjoys witnessing her students’ eagerness to learn and watching their rapid growth in first grade. When she is not teaching, Shéba enjoys spending time with her two sons, Amiel and Shamir, and taking in all that New York City has to offer. Most of Shéba’s family resides in three different countries. They live in Haiti, Belgium, and The United States.
Laura Magaw grew up in New Jersey with a big garden in the backyard so she truly grew up in “The Garden State”. She attended The College of New Jersey where she studied Sociology and Elementary Education and later on got a masters in Curriculum and Instruction focusing on Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages. After graduating Laura taught Kindergarten at the American School of Madrid and Dubai American Academy. Eventually her love of New York City brought her home to the east coast. Laura loves teaching Science because she believes in hands-on learning that leads to new discoveries.
Jaquetta’s created the music program at Community Roots and has been at the school since 2008. A pianist since childhood, she is a multi-instrumentalist and performs as a singer with Accord Treble Choir. At Brown University, Jaquetta earned degrees in music and comparative literature, followed by a master’s in music and music education at Teachers College, Columbia University. She began teaching in NYC public schools soon after, and has been a music educator for over twenty years with experience in public and private schools and community music schools. Jaquetta is continually excited by the joy that her students bring to music-making. She loves having her days filled with music, whether singing and playing at Community Roots, or improvising and learning new instruments with her family at home.
Liz grew up on Long Island. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in studio art and art history at Binghamton University. She spent most of her undergraduate years in the studio just painting away! Her passion for art and the need she felt to further challenge herself artistically led her to study abroad in Florence, Italy. Her interest in teaching grew from her experiences as a teaching assistant in painting at Binghamton as well as her experiences teaching art to kids during the summer. Liz understood that she was meant to be a teacher and went to pursue her master’s in art education at Teachers College, Columbia University. After graduating, she taught art at Bank Street School for Children. During her free time Liz continues to work on her art, creating paintings and mixed med
Allidah grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, where she spent many an afternoon in after-school art club. She received her undergraduate degree from Harvard, majoring in art history. Working as an assistant in the drawings and prints study center of the University art museum confirmed Allidah’s passion for art education. Upon graduation, she moved to New York City to begin work in the education department at the Whitney Museum. While leading school groups and young children through the galleries was generally fulfilling, Allidah yearned for more meaningful engagement with students through art and art making. She moved to Philadelphia (where her husband was in graduate school) and sharpened her classroom teaching skills, teaching second, third, and fourth grades at a Quaker day school. In 2010 she returned to New York to enroll in the art education graduate program at Teachers College. A passionate printmaker and fiber artist, Allidah loves being a part of the Community Roots family.
Patrick grew up in Middletown, NY. A devoted athlete, Patrick played four years of varsity basketball before attending Orange County Community College. While completing an associates degree in liberal arts, Patrick continued to play basketball at the collegiate level. Patrick continued his education by attending State University of New York at Cortland. Through his studies, he developed a passion for educating youth through physical activity! Patrick graduated from SUNY Cortland in 2019 with a Bachelor’s degree in Physical Education. In addition to his university studies, Patrick was able to further expand his knowledge and experience by working as a basketball coach at Stack sports. Physical education has had a beneficial and enduring impact on Patrick’s life that he hopes to bring the same impact to today’s youth.
Bridget Foley – Director of Special Education
Barry Rust – K-5 Math Coach
Barry grew up in Illinois and went to school at Carleton College in Minnesota. After graduating, he worked for a year as an AmeriCorps volunteer, building homes, cutting nature trails, and tutoring kids. Imagining that he would soon begin a career in journalism, Barry moved to New York City. He worked as a writer and editor on one of Scholastic’s classroom magazines, and he began volunteering in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. He eventually realized that a desk job wasn’t for him. He thought about how meaningful his work with children in AmeriCorps and in BBBS was, and he decided to go to Bank Street College to get a master degree in elementary education and literacy. Barry taught 2nd and 4th grades at Community Roots for six years before becoming the Math Specialist. He also holds a masters in Math Leadership from Bank Street.
James Manzano – Math Specialist
James is a born-and-raised Angeleno, but left LA for the East Coast after high school. They received a B.A. in Japanese Language, Literature, and Culture from Swarthmore College, where they taught Japanese to elementary school students as part of their degree program. It was that experience that inspired them to teach and pursue a M.A. in Inclusive Education at Teachers College. James is very passionate about anti-bias education and nurturing an environment where all students feel included and bring their whole selves to school. When not teaching, you can find James weaving, cuddling their cats, playing Dungeons and Dragons with kids and adults, or baking all sorts of pies and tarts.
Maia D’Egidio – Learning Specialist (K-2)
Maia began her career by working with not-for-profit agencies specializing in the care of children and their families, with a focus on mental health and Autism Spectrum Disorders. During this time, she continuously found her experiences with children to be the most fulfilling and decided to further her career pursuits in education. Maia has a Masters in Special Education and Behavior Disorders from Hunter College along with a second Masters in Literacy K-12. She has been working with Kinder and 1st Grade students, classroom teachers and families at Community Roots since 2008. Maia collaborates daily with classroom teachers to differentiate instruction in small and whole group settings to ensure that her students’ academic, social and emotional needs are being met. She is committed to having a positive effect on student achievement and is dedicated to reaching and influencing children to meet their goals. Maia enjoys working closely with teachers, families and support teams to plan and discuss the best ways to support the unique learning needs of children.
Nikki Ladopoulos – Learning Specialist (2-3)
Nikki’s undergraduate coursework at the University of Michigan School of Art and Design, focused on graphic design, however, inspired by her work in after-school art programs in Detroit’s public schools, she moved to New York to join the New York City Teaching Fellows Program. She studied elementary education at Mercy College while working in a DOE public school in the South Bronx, where she was a lead teacher in both integrated co-taught classrooms and self-contained special education classrooms in kindergarten through sixth grade. She then went on to work in charter schools in the South Bronx and Lower East Side, starting in 2006, in the role of Learning Specialist, Special Education Coordinator, and eventually Director of Special Education. In 2009, she completed her coursework at Bank Street College’s Leadership for Educational Change Program with a focus in special education. In 2013, Nikki joined Community Roots as the Director of Student Supports to collaborate with families, classroom teachers, paraprofessionals, the support provider team and the Committee on Special Education in the service of a strong and supportive inclusive environment. Most recently, in 2018, Nikki made the exciting decision to return to teaching as the 2nd/3rd Grade Learning Specialist and she couldn’t be happier about the change!
Chanel Hill – Learning Specialist (4-5)
Chanel was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. She attended George Washington University in Washington, DC graduating with a B.A. in human services. Moving back to Brooklyn upon graduation, Chanel worked as Program Director at a non-profit organization for 4 years. Although she enjoyed this work, she yearned to be in the classroom. In 2009, Chanel chose to return to school to pursue a degree in education. She attended New York University and received a dual M.A. in early childhood and special education. Chanel has taught 2nd, 3rd and 4th grades and she is very excited to be a part of the Community Roots family.
Nicole Keltai – LCSW, Social Worker
Nicole was born and raised in New York. From a young age Nicole talked to people everywhere she went wanting to know more about what makes them tick and as soon as she was in high school she started volunteering with different populations; it was clear she wanted to work with people. Nicole went on to obtain her Masters Degree in Social Work. Nicole has worked in various therapeutic milieus including youth trauma work, substance abuse treatment, senior services and schools. Prior to working at Community Roots, Nicole was living in California and worked at a therapeutic boarding school, she transitioned to the role of Clinical Director in their United Kingdom program. In 2008 Nicole returned to New York and began working at Community Roots. Nicole feels very lucky to have built strong relationships with kids and families through the years.
Natalie Ginsburg – LCSW, Social Worker
Natalie is originally from Dallas, Texas and received a Bachelor of Arts from Colby College in Maine. Prior to becoming a social worker, she was an elementary and middle school teacher in rural Mississippi and Austin, Texas. She received her Masters in Social Work from Columbia University and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has been a social worker at CRCS since 2015 and feels lucky to be part of the Community Roots family.
Sandy Lee – Director of Operations
Sandy moved to the U.S. from Seoul, Korea at the age of 5 and grew up in 4 of the 5 boroughs of NYC. She is a hardcore Brooklynite for the past 20 plus years with her husband and son. Sandy attended Pace University and Baruch College while working full time in the international shipping industry. After 20 years of shipping goods and humanitarian aid resources and circus animals (!) all over the world, Sandy made the switch to education and helped to open Community Roots in 2006. Sandy has discovered the logistics of “shipping” children home safely on buses is not at all easier than the complicated logistics of international shipping, but definitely much more rewarding.
Richard Gilman – Director of Afterschool and Restorative Practices
Richard was born and raised in the Boston area, and is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin – Madison, where he majored in Anthropology and English. He received his M.A. in Creative Writing from City University New York. Richard has worked with youth and adults in a variety of contexts, including education, recreation and counseling. He has lived and worked in Spain and has traveled in Central America, Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. He now lives in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn with his wife and two children.
Xiomara Vasquez – Operations and Teaching Assistant
Xiomara was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. She spent most of her life living in Fort Greene, growing up only two blocks away from P.S 67 which now houses Community Roots Charter School. Prior to joining CRCS, Xiomara serviced at-risk families through her work at Dr. White Community Center located minutes away from CRCS. While working there, she learned of a new charter school in need of a home within Fort Greene. Moved by this school’s mission, Xiomara educated her neighbors and petitioned this school for her community. She had no idea that this school, Community Roots, would later become her second home. She became a founding member of CRCS’ staff in 2006.
Raheem Anderson – Community Coordinator
Raheem was born and raised in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY; spending his early childhood in Saint Andrew, Jamaica. Upon graduating from high school in Brooklyn, Raheem attained his Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn. During this time, Raheem worked as a paraprofessional at Brooklyn Ascend Charter School, alongside a teacher who would go on to Community Roots, Molly Nestor. Their partnership inspired Raheem to focus his professional efforts within schools and he became a paraprofessional at Community Roots. One year later, Raheem became a Dean of Students at Brooklyn Ascend Charter School and worked in that capacity for three years. During that time, Raheem also worked at Community Roots’ after school program. Raheem officially became a full-time member of CRCS’ operations team in August 2019. When not working, Raheem creates music, hones his photography skills and practices social work throughout his community.
Kinte Serrant – Administrative & Accounting Associate
Kayla Flores – Operations and Student Support Assistant
Elizabeth Bidart – Humanities
Elizabeth grew up in Bakersfield, California in the San Joaquin Valley where her family farms. She pursued a career in the arts in New York after receiving her B.A. in Art History, and worked for a variety of galleries, artists, and museums. After taking the time to dream about a career that aligned with her values, she attended Bank Street College for her M.S.Ed. in childhood special education. She hoped to find a school community that she realized was missing in her own early education and luckily learned about Community Roots as a student teacher. Elizabeth taught 5th grade at Community Roots Elementary School for several years before teaching 6th grade ELA at Community Roots Middle School. She loves being a part of this community and delving into the CRCS anti-bias framework with her colleagues, students, and their families.
|Flávia Napoli – Humanities|
|Flávia was born in Brazil and at ten years of age moved to California, where she often found herself agreeing with Mark Twain’s quote, “the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” Nevertheless, she stayed in the Bay Area throughout her college years and received a B.A. in Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley. Shortly after graduating college, Flávia moved to New York City to pursue her architecture career but found herself wishing she was a teacher while working on a school building in Queens. Not long after, Flávia decided to return to school and get her M.A. in early childhood education from Teachers College, Columbia University. She began working at Community Roots in 2010 and has taught kindergarten, 3rd, 5th, and now 6th grade. Flávia loves teaching and learning from her students and she is grateful to be a part of the CRCS family.|
Kevin Mejia – Humanities (Family Leave)
Julie Samuels -Math/Science
Julie was born in upstate New York but before the age of 2, moved to Columbus, Ohio. There, she attended The Ohio State University where she majored in Human Development and Family Science. Being the proud Buckeye she is, she stuck around an extra year to earn her Masters in Middle Childhood Education. Craving a change of scenery, Julie made the move this fall, back to the state where it all began. When not teaching, she enjoys trying new foods, exploring nature, and spending time with good friends and family. Julie is very excited to share her love of science with the students at Community Roots.
Anna Schneeberger – Math/Science
Anna was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio before moving to Pennsylvania when she was 8. Always knowing she wanted to be a teacher, she went to Mercer University in Georgia where she received her B.S. in Middle Grades Math and Science Education. After a summer internship in Brooklyn, she fell in love with the city and moved there to pursue an M.A. in Cognitive Science in Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. While pursuing her degree, she continued to teach Science and part-time Math to 5th through 8th grade at a charter school in Brooklyn. She’s so excited to continue her second year here at CRCS, teaching her two favorite subjects. When not teaching, she loves to travel, watch movies, and most importantly, spend time with her dog Gus.
Seventh Grade and Eighth Grade
Angel Umpierre – Math
Angel was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and went to NYC public schools. After graduating from James Madison High School he went to the Rochester Institute of Technology where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in psychology. After graduating Angel completed a year of AmeriCorps in Paterson, New Jersey where he was part of a team that helped convert 5 public schools into community schools. It was during this time that Angel developed a passion for education and enrolled in St. John’s University where he received his Master’s in childhood and childhood special education. After completing his graduate program, he then went on to teach special education at a charter school in Bedford Stuyvesant before joining Community Roots. In his free time Angel enjoys reading, traveling, walking his dog Blue and biking around NYC.
Walter Paton – Math
Walter was born and raised in Michigan. He lives in Yonkers with his fiancee (we are getting married in December) and dog, Cooper. This is Walt’s 17th year teaching and having began at Community Roots in 2015. He has a Bachelor’s degree from Wayne State University and Master’s degree from Marygrove College. Math has been a passion since an early age. When he is not teaching, Walt enjoys reading, playing trivia, and watching sports.
Kevin Mejia – Math (Family Leave)
Megan Janke – Science
Megan Janke grew up in a quiet suburb of Philadelphia, PA. She attended Penn State University and graduated with a B.A. in Psychology and a B.A. in Communications. After graduation, she worked in marketing and advertising and managed a small business. However, she felt she wasn’t helping the world become a better place so she joined the NYC Teaching Fellows Program. She earned a Master’s Degree in Education: Childhood Special Education from Hunter College. She taught grades 1,2,3, and 5 before joining the Community Roots middle school staff in its inaugural year as the Learning Specialist. She was recruited to co-teach science during the following year and that’s when she found her passion: teaching SCIENCE! She taught science for 3 years at Community Roots before a brief leave when she worked as the Manager of Education Programs at the New York Aquarium. She returned to the middle school in 2018 to continue teaching 7th and 8th grade science. Megan has presented at the NSTA National Conference. She continues to work with the New York Aquarium where she teaches science teachers for the Urban Advantage Science Initiative. In her free time she loves being outside with her husband Andy, playing with her daughters Cecelia (a CRCS student) and Luna (soon to be CRCS student) and snuggling with her dog Tug.
Claire Chatinover – Science
Lisa Martin – 7th grade Humanities
Maggie Shufelt – 7th grafe Humanities
Maggie was born and raised in Columbus, OH. She attended Miami University of Ohio, graduating with a B.A. in marketing and art history. After college Maggie moved to Dallas to work as a 6th grade reading teacher for 2 years. During their time in Dallas, Maggie earned a M.Ed. in Late Literacy Education at Southern Methodist University. While she truly enjoyed the delicious food and warm weather Dallas had to offer, she moved to Brooklyn to be closer to family. In 2020, Maggie joined the Community Roots family to teach 6th grade humanities and now teaches 7th.
Elizabeth Casey – 8th grade Humanities
Elizabeth is a Virginia native who grew up outside of Washington D.C. With a background in High School Social Studies education, Elizabeth is excited to help prepare Community Roots Middle School students with the skills and a social justice conscious mindset for high school and life beyond. She has a passion for making the classroom interactive through discussions and multiple ways to engage with material as well as allowing students to use what they learn in class in an authentic way to make a positive difference in their communities.
Jillian Clark – 8th grade Humanities
Sylmarie Santos Santori – Art
Eva Burgess – Performing Arts
Camille Connor – Spanish
Brandon Barnet – Physical Education and Health
Brandon Barnet was born and raised in New York. He attended SUNY Binghamton for undergraduate before joining Teach for America and relocating to St. Louis in 2012 where he received his Master’s Degree in Secondary Science Education. Brandon taught middle school science in St. Louis for four years before moving to Chicago to take on the role of Athletic Director and Health and Fitness teacher for a high school in the Noble Network of Charter Schools. After two years in Chicago, Brandon moved back to New York to be the founding Athletic Director at Brooklyn Ascend High School. The following year, Brandon transitioned to the role of Dean of Students for one year and then as Assistant Principal for the following year. Most recently before joining Community Roots in 2022, Brandon was the Interim Principal at Brooklyn Ascend Middle School. Brandon is beyond excited to return to the classroom and teach physical education and health at Community Roots.
Hilary Whitney – LMSW, Social Worker
Hilary grew up in the woods and hills of Vermont. She comes from a big family where education was always emphasized and nurtured. She developed a strong passion for justice, advocacy, and service at an early age and those values continue to guide her life. She graduated from Bennington College with a self-designed major focused on the Brain, Mind, Education, and Public Life. For over a decade, Hilary has worked in schools in various roles, ranging from classroom teaching to leading a regional education asset mapping. Through the years, it became clear that school social work was her calling and so she earned her Masters of Social Work from University at Albany. She has worked with students and families in Kenya, Vermont, Rochester, Albany, and New York City. After traveling and moving many times, Hilary feels most at home here in NYC with its unparalleled diversity and vibrancy. Nothing makes Hilary happier than contributing to the wellness of others, helping people feel heard in a loud world, and belonging to a loving school community. Oh, and spending time with her rescue dog Koko!
Noel Sayers– LMSW, Social Worker
Noel was born and raised on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. After beginning his college career at Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC), Noel was encouraged by a professor to continue to pursue social work by completing his undergraduate degree at New York University. As a social work student, his first field placement was at a high school in Manhattan. There he realized that school social work was his calling. Since then, Noel has continued working with young children, adolescents and adults in educational settings. Noel completed his MSW at Fordham University in 2017. He loves spending time with his sons Niko and Primo.
Nafeesah Rahman – Operations Supervisor
Ian MacDonald – High School Guidance Manager & Operations Coordinator
Lavel Johnson – Dean
Darryl Egad – Operations Assistant
Hallie Iannolli – Director of Student Supports
Hallie Iannoli grew up in the roller skate capital of the world, Venice, CA. She studied dance and theater and sold organic produce before she realized that her passion was education-based. She took a very circuitous route to finishing college and earning her BA in Arts and Social Change. She studied teaching at Sonoma State University in northern California. She and her not-yet-wife moved to Brooklyn in 2003 and Hallie has been teaching middle and high school (or teaching teachers how to teach at Relay, GSE) in New York City ever since. In 2018, she and her wife were graced with a daughter, Dasia. All 3 of them live in Queens with their dog, Tuesday and cat Alfred.
Beatriz Montilla – Literacy Specialist (6 – 8)
Kelly Palmatier – Math Specialist (6-8)
Kelly grew up on Cape Cod in the town of Sandwich, MA. She attended Syracuse University and received a B.S. degree in Inclusive Elementary and Special Education. Kelly also worked at the Elementary school as a maternity leave replacement in a Kindergarten class with the wonderful Rebecca. She has a passion for teaching and making sure all students feel included and part of a community. She loves teaching ELA and enjoys learning/teaching science, especially involving nature and space. She loves going camping with her family in New Hampshire as well as hanging at the ocean, reading a good book, and playing with her cat. Kelly loves Community Roots and is excited to see what the future holds!
Jayne Sohn – Coordinator of Equity Practices and Anti-Bias Education
Jayne was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Although she loved the Midwest, she needed a change and decided to move to Los Angeles to earn her Bachelor of Arts degree at Occidental College. During and after her undergraduate years, she worked and advocated for young people through several community-based organizations. Soon, her passions were somewhat rerouted, and she decided to become a teacher. She attended Teachers College, Columbia University, and earned her M.A. in elementary education. Jayne taught 5th grade in New York City, and then 6th through 8th grade for 7 years in Los Angeles. Although she sometimes misses the West Coast, she is thrilled to be in New York teaching at Community Roots.
Andrew Ngeseyan – Chief Financial Officer
Andrew joined Community Roots as Director of Administration and Finance in February 2010. He serves as a strategic partner to our leaders and the Board of Trustees, providing robust and accurate financial guidance to drive decisions and leading long-term economic forecasting, budgeting, analysis, and strategy setting. He brings a track record of building and leading effective teams, thinking critically and creatively, building an outcomes/data-driven team culture, and coaching and developing others to maximize their potential. Andrew holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance from Montclair State University, a Diploma from Makini College in Accounting, and a Certification in School Leadership and Management from Harvard Business School.
Danielle Forsythe – Director of Development and Recruitment
Danielle grew up in Northern Virginia and graduated from high school in Providence, Rhode Island. She received her Bachelor of Arts cum laude in English and Spanish from Mount Holyoke College. There, Danielle participated in local and international community engagement work within schools and non-profit organizations. She later obtained a Master of Science in Higher Education Administration at the University of Pennsylvania. Danielle has worked in education fundraising and recruitment in both charter and urban parochial sectors throughout her career. With some of her fondest memories taking place in and around the schools she’s attended, Danielle is deeply honored to work at Community Roots.