ECMS Staff

Ala Ochumare, Anti-Bias Anti-Racism (ABAR) Organizer

A native of New Haven, Ala is a co-founder and anti-bias organizer of the New Haven Chapter of Black Lives Matter as well as ECMS’s ABAR Organizer. Along with being a mother to a spectacular teenager, Ala is also a Life coach and practicing healer. Ala is also the youth program coordinator at New Haven Pride Center and a facilitator with CityWide Youth Coalition’s Black and Brown Queer Camp.

Alejandra Corona Ortega, Elementary Assistant, ABAR Team

Alejandra is a Mexican migrant who has called New Haven her home for over ten years. Her background is in Ethnic Studies and Education. She is currently working on her Connecticut Teacher Certification with the Relay Graduate School of Education. She is an ardent believer in education as a tool for social justice.


Amelia Allen Sherwood M.Ed., Anti-Bias & Anti-Racism Director

Amelia is deeply passionate about education especially early childhood. She has a B.S. from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and an M.Ed. in Education Leadership from Concordia University in Portland, Oregon. She is currently finishing up her Montessori training from the Montessori Teacher Academy in Dana Point, California. Amelia has been with ECMS since the school opened in 2014.

Amy Schlank, Instructional Coach

Bio coming soon!

Ariana Soto, Extended Day Team

Ariana is currently studying Social Work at Southern Connecticut State University, and wants to focus on working with young children which made Elm City Montessori a great fit for her. She also speaks Spanish, and is glad to be part of such a great community!

Carolina Silva, Primary Assistant

Bio coming soon!

Cheyenne Watson, Extended Day Team

Bio coming soon!

Dave Weinreb, Magnet Resource Teacher

Dave is passionate about building effective school systems, championing adult learning, and enriching school life with partnership and connection. Since moving to New Haven in 2015 he has taught 5th grade Spanish-speaking newcomers at the Fair Haven School, founded the City of New Haven’s LGBTQ Youth Task Force, participates as a Board Member of the Fair Haven Community Management Team, consults for Yale’s Code Haven, and serves as adjunct faculty at Relay Graduate School of Education and Quinnipiac University’s School of Education.  Previously, he worked as the founding high school placement director, staff recruitment lead, enrichment coordinator, and technology enthusiast for The Equity Project (TEP) Charter School in Washington Heights, NYC. He earned his M.A. from Johns Hopkins University, bilingual/TESOL cross endorsement via ARCTELL, his B.A. in History and Urban Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, is currently pursuing his M.Ed. in School Leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University.

ElizaHalseyEliza Halsey, Executive Director

Eliza has a BA from Yale University and a Master’s in Public Administration from New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.  She was born and raised in New Haven and attended New Haven public schools.  In 2011, she co-founded New Haven Parents, a parent group working to ensure all children in New Haven have access to excellent public schools and high-quality preschools.  This work led her and a group of parents to work together to create Elm City Montessori School. She has previous education and non-profit leadership experience as the New Haven Director for All Our Kin and the Director of Quality Assurance and Evaluation for Public Allies, a national leadership development organization whose Connecticut chapter she helped found.  Eliza began her work in youth/leadership development in 2000 at a small NGO in Nepal working with street children in Kathmandu.

Erin Burgett, Primary Guide

Bio coming soon!

Gameliel Moses, Extended Day PM Coordinator

Bio coming soon!


Heidi Crosby, Elementary Guide

Heidi has an elementary teaching degree from the Association Montessori Internationale and has been using it teaching and assisting at Elm City Montessori since 2018. When she is not living and breathing all things Montessori, she is making art, cooking and laughing with her children, or walking the family dog, Milo.

Henry Webb, Custodian

Bio coming soon!

James Erard, Elementary Guide

Bio coming soon!

Jennifer Langlois, Social Worker

Jennifer has her Masters degree in Social Work from Fordham University. She did her undergraduate work in Social Work at Southern Connecticut State University. She was born and raised in West Haven Connecticut and truly loves the neighbor city of New Haven. Before coming to ECMS  Jennifer worked at a preschool for 4 years, supporting children through developmental stages and gaining skills in social and emotional learning. Jennifer fell in love with ECMS when she learned the Montessori philosophy allows the children to guide the work. Jennifer is committed to helping the ECMS community grow in their social and emotional learning.

Joelle Rosenbuell, Elementary Guide

Bio coming soon!

John Freeman, Montessori Coach

John holds an Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) elementary diploma. He taught Montessori elementary in the Hartford Public Schools and was the founding principal of Hartford’s Annie Fisher Montessori Magnet School. John is a state-certified reading specialist and language arts consultant. Until recently, John lived for 25 years in one of Hartford’s most challenged neighborhoods. He views ABAR as a path to societal liberation, and children gaining reading fluency as an access to their exploring the world. John’s wife, Carolyn, was the founding principal at Hartford’s Montessori Magnet at Batchelder. John is a Montessori consultant for AMI and has provided guidance to public Montessori schools across several states. John’s family currently hosts two exchange students from China, who attend a local high school.

Jordan Bacon, Elementary Assistant

Jordan grew up in Milford and has lived in CT all his life.  He graduated in 2018 from Fairfield University with BA in Studio Art with a double Minor in Education and Classical Studies. He is an active painter, loves learning and teaching and is very passionate about ABAR work.

Julia Webb, Principal

Julia Webb has a BA from Dartmouth College and an Ed.M. in Curriculum and Teaching from Teachers College Columbia University. She attributes her passion for teaching and learning to her own experiences as a child in a Montessori School and later as a student in New Haven Public Schools. Julia has spent the last 15 years as a teacher and leader in public schools in New York City and New Haven. In this work, Julia has developed systems for coaching teachers and for student social emotional growth and mastery of skill and content. Julia is committed to creating meaningful and challenging learning environments for adults and children to grow.

Katabba Muhammad, Primary Assistant

Bio coming soon!

KyoungsookKyoungsook Song, Primary Guide

Kyoungsook Song holds an LLB from Seoul National University in South Korea and AMI diploma in Primary education from the Montessori Training Center Northeast (MTCNE). She is currently taking the course of Master of Education in Early Childhood Education through University of Hartford. She has been with ECMS since the school opened in 2014. She has also worked as a Sunday School teacher for 1-5 year-old children at the New Haven Korean Church and as a Korean language teacher at the New Haven Korean School since 2008.

Laura Salazar, Elementary Assistant

Laura, originally from Mexico, moved to the U.S. about 12 years ago to learn the English language, experience American culture, and seek opportunities beyond those available to her in her hometown. Laura fell in love with the Montessori Method while volunteering at a local school in her community in Boston MA and has passionately pursued broadening and enriching her own explorations of the Montessori method since. She holds her Early Childhood Education Montessori Certification from The American Montessori Society and an Associate Degree in Education from Bunker Hill Community College. Laura has been working as an assistant and guide in Montessori schools for a decade while continuously attending Montessori related workshops and events throughout the country. She has also taught Spanish in schools, public libraries, and parenting groups. Laura is currently working on getting her B.S. in Child Studies and Connecticut Teacher Certification with Charter Oak State College.

Liz Fernandez, Office Coordinator

I was born and raised here in New Haven, CT.  My parents were both born and raised in Puerto Rico, my mom was born in the beautiful town of Ponce and my father was born in Arecibo Puerto Rico.  My parents met here in the states and married young and had two daughters. I am the oldest of the two.  I studied and graduated at Hill Regional Career High SchooI & I have had the opportunity to work throughout my youth to be a part of internships ( Yale patient transportation and The W.I.C. Department and also work with non profit organizations and private sectors.  I’ve worked for the City of New Haven Youth Services and also have worked with New Haven’s subsidized housing.  I went off to study at Gateway Community Technology College right after high school to pursue a degree in Human Services.  I’ve had the pleasure of working with many great people throughout my adult years and throughout this part of my life I also had three amazing sons, Michael Elijah, Josiah and Mathias ( 22, 16, & 10 ).  I am a single mom and work really hard to give off the best message to them and many that things can be hard but it’s not impossible. I find great pleasure in working with families and people from all walks of life no matter the story.  I believe that connecting with people and families and being able to identify with them on any level allows us to be much stronger as a people and that allows us in turn to help others.

Marifrances Cooney, Primary Guide

Marifrances has been involved in Montessori education since 1994. She holds an AMS Early Childhood certification for the Center for Montessori Education/NY, a B.A. in Psychology and Child Studies from Charter Oak State College, and an M.Ed. in Montessori Early Childhood Education from the College of New Rochelle. Marifrances is the Early Childhood Practical Life presenter and a field consultant for the Center for Montessori/NY. Previously she was a founding member of Great Beginnings Montessori school in Fairfield, and a head teacher and assistant primary coordinator at Hudson Country Montessori in Danbury.

Melissa Mcclain, Reading Specialist

Bio coming soon!

Melissa Cardoso, Primary Assistant

Melissa obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in 2019 for Education at Charter Oak State College. She also has an Early Childhood Degree from Gateway Community College. Before joining the team at ECMS Melissa worked at Lulac Headstart Inc. Where she was a head teacher in a preschool classroom for 9 years. Melissa has always believed that children learn best when the learning environment is designed to meet the developmental needs of each child and one that encourages exploration, creativity and independence. Melissa had been dedicated to working with young children throughout her entire career. She is a native Spanish Speaker.

Michelle Arias, Operations Coordinator

As the Operations Coordinator, Michelle works on supporting the day-to-day systems of ECMS with responsibilities in three primary areas: finances, human resources and operations. Her experience as a classroom teacher helps inform her work daily, as well as her love for creating and sustaining systems and processes. She holds a B.S. in Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting from Northeastern University, and is a certified Elementary teacher who is deeply committed to racial and educational justice. Interesting Fact: Michelle visited four continents in the span of two weeks!

Michelle Brenes, Elementary Guide

Bio coming soon!

Myesha Hermitt, Primary Assistant, Extended Day Team

My name is Myesha Hermitt, I have my Certificate and Associate’s in Science in Early Childhood Inclusive Education. I’m continuing my education in Elementary Education. Before joining the ECMS team, I was a head Pre-K teacher at a Private preschool in the Wilton area. I was also a team lead at the school, overseeing a team consisting of eight teachers. I am excited to now be apart of the ECMS team learning and growing in the field of Montessori.

NakishaNakisha Cadore, SEL Coordinator

Nakisha Cadore holds a B.A. in Elementary Education with a concentration in English from Johnson C. Smith University. She has worked as a student teacher intern in New Haven and in Charlotte, NC, where she also taught literacy through Freedom School Partners. Nakisha also brings to ECMS a wealth of experience in youth mentoring and political canvassing.

Nemesi Ayala, Primary Assistant, Extended Day Team

Bio coming soon!

Neslin Iyilikci, Primary Guide

Neslin has B.A. in Psychology from Istanbul Bilgi University and an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from T.C. Dogus University in Istanbul and is certified in Early Childhood Education through the Maryland Center for Montessori Studies in Baltimore. Before joining the team at ECMS, Neslin worked as a co-teacher and intern at Bridges Montessori in Towson, MD. Neslin also brings to ECMS her extensive background and experience in developmental psychology.

Neva Caldwell, Extended Day Team

Neva trained as part of the first class of Elm City Montessori’s AMI Primary Assistants before joining the ECMS team in 2014. She has worked with children as a Teacher’s Aide at Ridge Hill School in Hamden and through extensive volunteer work throughout the New Haven community including the Yale New Haven Hospital, New Haven Healthy Start and the PACK Program.  She also worked with the New Haven Board of Education for more than 13 years and with Special Education programs.

Nicola Watterson, Primary Guide

Nicola is excited to bring her passion for education and dedication to children to the new Hickory classroom this year. She has experience working in private Montessori schools both in her native Scotland, and her adopted home here in Connecticut, and was an assistant within the ECMS primary program last year while she completed her state certification. Nicola earned a BSc in Psychology from University of Stirling (Scotland) and a primary AMI diploma from MTCNE in Hartford. She is committed to providing an authentic Montessori experience to the children who join the Hickory family.

Patrick Whitney, Primary Assistant

Patrick earned his BA in anthropology from Southern Connecticut State University, spent time working as an archaeologist in Ethiopia and New Haven, and has been working with Elm City Montessori since 2016 as a Primary Assistant. He loves learning about psychology and child development, and is currently pursuing his 0-6 teaching certificate from Charter Oak State College. He enjoys living in New Haven.

Polite Wilson, Elementary Guide

Bio coming soon!

Ramya Subramanian, Elementary Guide

Ramya is excited to bring her practice of the Montessori method to the public sector, after having taught at an independent Montessori school in Milford since 2009. Her passion for the method stems from having watched her daughter thrive in a Montessori school, and her own continued love of learning.  She holds a BA, MA, and M.Phil  in English Literature and Linguistics from Madras University, and an MLS from Rutgers University.  Her Montessori credentials include AMS Certification in Primary and Elementary I and II. She also holds Connecticut State Certification in Elementary Education. When she is not at school or making materials, she is out hiking in the woods with her dog, Tulsi.

Richard Lennon, Extended Day Team

Richard is a School Health Assistant for the New Haven Board of Education. Through this work, he has had the opportunity to work closely with children in grades K-5 throughout the NHPS system, while conducting vision and hearing screenings and administering fitness tests. He holds a B.S in Exercise Science from Southern Connecticut State University. Prior to his work with the NHPS, he was a strength coach for Yale University’s football and lacrosse teams. In addition, Richard enjoys coaching kids as a volunteer basketball coach for Hamden Fathers; he has a passion for promoting youth development and growth through sports and physical activity.

SharonSharon Harrison, Elementary Assistant

Sharon has dedicated her career to creating and nurturing a lifelong love of learning in children. An enthusiastic and dynamic teacher, Sharon is AMS Certified and holds certificates in Early Childhood Education and Child Psychology. Before joining the team at ECMS, Sharon was a Head Teacher at both the New England School of Montessori in Milford and the Hudson County Montessori School in New Rochelle, NY. She has also taught in Kingston, Jamaica.

Shefau Dabre, Dean of Social Emotional Learning & Wellness

Shefau’s connection to ECMS began in 2014, when she was its founding Magnet Resource Teacher. Shefau became an educator in 2000, and holds Bachelor of Arts and Master of Science degrees in Education from Southern Connecticut State University. Her studies focused on Psychology, Studio Art, and Music. She is also a certified CT Professional Educator (K-6) and a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT200) with the Yoga Alliance. She incorporates these experiences into her curriculum design, classroom instruction, and support to educators through Professional Development. Shefau is the founder of Zen Zilla Yoga and Wellness, LLC where she offers free community-based wellness programs and affinity healing groups to support Black womxn and girls.

SusanSusan Clark, Elementary Guide

Susan Clark is an AMI trained Elementary guide with 24 years of classroom experience. She has worked as a consultant at several area Montessori schools and is a Course Assistant for the Montessori Training Center Northeast. Susan is holds a Masters of Education with a Montessori Concentration from  the University of Hartford. Helping to grow the Elementary program at Elm City Montessori right now feels just right.