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.
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.
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 thirteenth 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 10 years in New Jersey and New York. Blair has spent the last 6 years at Community Roots teaching 2nd grade.
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.
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.
Maggie was born and raised in a small town outside Cleveland, Ohio called Chagrin Falls. Maggie 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. She taught third grade for three years in a public district just outside Columbus, Ohio. Maggie moved to Brooklyn, New York in 2018 and fell in love with Community Roots Charter School. She continues to teach third grade. When she isn’t teaching, Maggie enjoys exploring Brooklyn on her bike- finding new parks, bakeries, and coffee shops to support. She is close to her three sisters who live in New York City, her twin brother who lives in Madison, Wisconsin, and her parents who still live in Chagrin Falls. Maggie feels grateful to be part of the Community Roots family and loves learning and growing together to make a more just and equitable world.
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!
Ellen grew up in the live-music capital of the world, Austin, Texas, and spent most of her childhood and high school years as a musician. She attended Northwestern University, where she studied clarinet performance and English. While in college she fell in love with poetry, and now enjoys the chance to bring her love of literature to the classroom. While traveling in Guatemala, a visit to a school convinced her to pursue a career in education. She later returned to Guatemala to learn Spanish and teach in an elementary school, which bolstered her passion for teaching. She moved to New York to complete an M.A. in elementary education at Teachers College, Columbia University. She previously taught third and fifth grades in Queens and is thrilled to work at a school in the borough she now calls home.
Liliana hails from the mitten-shaped state of Michigan, which she proudly likes to tell people actually has more coastline than California! She studied English Literature at the University of Michigan, and minored in Spanish (Liliana is also a native Spanish speaker—her mom is from Colombia). She then taught in Ulsan, South Korea for a year, before heading to El Salvador where she served as a youth development volunteer with the United States Peace Corps for three years. Bizarrely, her third year in the Peace Corps, she also competed on El Salvador’s version of Dancing with the Stars, (Bailando Por Un Sueño), literally broke her neck on live television (She is totally fine now), and the whole ordeal led to two bridges being built in the rural community in which she was a volunteer, and now a bunch of kids don’t have to swim to school anymore. Long story. Anyway, then got her Masters from Columbia Teachers College, and is now entering her tenth year of teaching in NYC. She also has a Masters from Bank Street’s Progressive Leadership program. She taught at CRCS middle school for four years, and is so excited to be joining the Elementary School in 2021!
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.
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 – Math Specialist
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.
Michelle Harris – Director of Social Work
Michelle is a licensed clinical social worker from Northern California who joined the CRCS social work team in January of 2011. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Cognitive Science from Georgetown University, Michelle moved to Brooklyn, NY where she joined a team facilitating therapeutic playgroups for children; these groups focused on fostering children’s social and emotional development as well as parental attachment. In the years that followed, Michelle received her Masters in Social Work from New York University and Masters in Child Development from Sarah Lawrence College. Since beginning her social work career, she has worked with children in a variety of therapeutic environments, including outpatient mental health clinics. Michelle appreciates that each child is unique and is grateful to be a part of a community that values seeing children through a holistic lens. Michelle is thrilled to be a part of CRCS and looks forward to working with the students and families in this wonderful community.
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
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
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.
Flavia – Humanities
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.
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.
Helen Waters – Math
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.
Kelly Palmatier – Math/Science
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. Although she loves teaching ELA, she also 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!
Megan Janke – Science
Claire Chatinover – Science
Molly Dunbar – 7th grade Humanities
Molly was born and raised in a small town outside Philadelphia where almost everyone seemed to be a member of her Irish Catholic extended family (great step-aunt? second cousin once removed?). She moved to New York to attend college at Fordham University, where she majored in Psychology, Spanish, and Political Science. When she graduated, Molly began work as the project director of a study on race, sleep, and well-being in adolescents. Her desire to be closer to the classroom first led her to a data-focused job at a network of public schools and then ultimately to join the NYC Teaching Fellows. The Teaching Fellows allowed her to get her masters at The City College of New York while working at a growing 6-12 school on the Upper West Side, where she provided ENL and Special Education support. She was delighted to join the CRCS community in 2019 as one of the 7th-grade humanities teachers.
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
Sylma – Art
Eva Burgess – Performing Arts
Camille Connor – Spanish
Christine Raffo – Physical Education
Christine was born and raised in New York. She attended high school on Long Island and worked very hard in her studies and athletics to earn a full athletic scholarship to Boston University. At BU Christine was the starting point guard on the women’s basketball team for four years. After Christine completed her undergraduate degree at BU, her head coach offered her a position on the women’s basketball coaching staff. Christine gladly accepted and stayed in Boston for another two years completing her graduate degree in physical education. She really enjoyed coaching and traveling with the team, however her love for both the city of New York and teaching brought her back to her favorite state. Christine now lives in Brooklyn and can bike/walk to work! She is the youngest of three and loves to spend time with her wife, siblings, parents and friends!
Nicole Keltai – Director of MS Social Work & K-8 Community Programming
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.
Jillian Morgan – Social Worker
Jillian is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has lived in New York all her life. After receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from New York University, Jillian went on to obtain her Masters in Social Work from New York University. From a young age, Jillian loved working with people and as a teen she assisted in running therapy groups for peers her own age. In her graduate program at NYU, Jillian was able to directly apply her passion for working with adolescents into her clinical internships. Since then, Jillian has worked with teens in different capacities ranging from community-based organizations to school-based therapeutic work. Jillian strongly believes in collaborating with both children and families, recognizing their unique strengths. Jillian is dedicated to working with teachers and school staff to help support the whole child. Jillian has been working at Community Roots since 2013 and loves being a part of this amazing community.
Natasha Osamwonyi – Social Worker
Natasha was born in Queens, NY and raised in Lagos, Nigeria. She attended Iona College in New Rochelle, NY graduating with her BSW in Social Work. She then went on to Adelphi University in Garden City, NY to obtain her Masters in Social Work. Natasha worked at a Crisis Hotline NYCWELL for 3 years then transitioned to Care management for 2 years. Natasha is currently covering for Jillian who is on Family Leave and feels very lucky to be with the Community Roots family.
Noel Sayers– 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.
Ksenia Parris – Operations Supervisor
Ksenia Parris was born in Kazakhstan and moved to Brooklyn at the age of 7. She completed her BA and MA in Economics with a concentration in Finance from the City College of New York in under 4 years. After college Ksenia lived in Buffalo and Chicago and found her way back to Brooklyn in 2013. Since then she has started a family with 3 wonderful children. She has been working in education since 2013 having spent time in a high school, elementary school and middle school setting. Ksenia loves working at CRCS and is so happy that her children are a part of the loving and nurturing community here.
Ian MacDonald – High School Guidance Manager
Lavel Johnson – Operations Assistant
Darryl Egad – Operations Assistant
Hallie Iannolli – Director of Student Supports
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 provides day-to-day management of all financial, accounting, audit, and human resource functions for the organization. Additionally, he creates the overall financial strategy for the organization, in collaboration with the Co-Director’s and Board of Trustees.
As a vital member of the management team, he plays a critical role in the organization’s overall strategic management. His mandate was to set the financial strategy for and control of Community Roots’ $10M+ operating budget while also designing and delivering active operations systems across the organization. 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 many schools she’s attended, Danielle is deeply honored to work at Community Roots.