ECMS Staff

Adriana Ford, Assistant Teacher


Alejandra Corona Ortega, Elementary Guide (Birch)

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.


Alex Contreras-Montesano, Upper Elementary Assistant (Pine)

Alex grew up a bit in Oregon, Tlaxcala, and mostly in Vermont. She graduated from Yale in 2023 with a BA in Sociology and was an Education Studies Scholar. For her education studies capstone she focused on youth empowerment and school reimagination. She is a lover of reading, libraries, and all things books! When she was younger she attended a free Montessori preschool and holds a passion for Montessori education cultivated through research and experience. She is excited to keep learning. In her free time she works at Possible Futures Bookspace, writes, and tries to embroider. 


Alyssa Pascual, Science Guide (Sycamore)

Alyssa has a B.S. in Health Sciences – Public Health, a minor in China Studies, and an MAT in Teaching Biology from Stony Brook University. Working initially in health care in various roles, she decided to change careers for something more fulfilling and impactful. Alyssa’s own experience as a first generation American has created a passion in her for creating an inclusive learning environment where every child feels valued, respected, and supported in their social and emotional growth. When she’s not at school, she enjoys reading, weightlifting, hiking, and trying new recipes. 


Amari Rogers, Primary Swing Assistant (Maple & Mulberry)

Amari (they/he) holds a English BA with a Concentration in Teaching English from the University of Connecticut. With a passion for individualized learning, they seek to continue their studies in earning a Master’s degree in Special Education. Outside of their profession, Amari is a nationally competitive spoken word poet with their third featured publication on the way. You can typically find them roller skating or crocheting with their two cats, Link & Zelda.”


Amy Schlank, Instructional Coach


Banashri Patra, Classroom Assistant (Sassafras)

Banashri is from India and holds a Masters degree in English from Bankura University. She is passionate about teaching and working with children, and finds it a truly rewarding experience. The innocence and joy of children always brings a smile to her face.


Bryanna Bonner, SEL Coordinator




Cristin Gress, Special Education Teacher (Primary/Lower Elementary)                        

Cristin has lived in Connecticut for most of her life. She has an undergraduate BA from Paier College of Art and a Master’s degree in Special Education from Central Connecticut State University. She has previously worked in another district managing a resource room for 7 years and a self contained classroom for 3 years. She is passionate about working with young students with disabilities and helping them gain the skills they need to become lifelong learners. She enjoys spending time with her family, going to the beach, hiking with her dogs, art projects and reading. 


Carolina Silva, Primary Guide (Maple)

Carolina is originally from Venezuela. She has lived in Connecticut for the past 25 years and has a BS in Individual Study/Child Study. Carolina has 19 years of experience working as a Preschool teacher, including 11 years at Montessori on Edgewood. In 2018 she started in ECMS as a Primary Assistant. In January 2022, she stepped in as a Primary Guide in the Maple classroom, a role that fills my life with joy and satisfaction. She is a defender of animals; wolves are my favorite.


Dave Weinreb, Magnet Resource Teacher

Dave is passionate about building effective school systems, championing adult learning and human resources, 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 and Yale’s Code Haven, served as a Board Member of the Fair Haven Community Management Team and 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.Ed. in School Leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University, M.A. from Johns Hopkins University, bilingual/TESOL cross endorsement via ARCTELL, and B.A. in History and Urban Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.


Diane Flowers, Business Manager

Diane, a native Marylander, has lived in Connecticut since 2013. With a BA in English, she pursued a career in education and taught Pre-K and middle school English and History. She eventually moved to California, where she lived for 7 years, and had the opportunity to experience working for a toy company. This gave her experience and insight into several aspects of business management. It was also a fun place to work, as you can imagine. After leaving California to be closer to family and friends, she started substitute teaching for a charter school in Washington, DC. Eventually, she became the Office Manager there, and then the school’s Business Manager. After her move to Connecticut, she worked for Hartford Schools and for a local non-profit. Now, she finds herself back in the field of education, excited to make a difference, in some small way, in the lives of children in New Haven. Fun fact: Between working and moving from state to state, she found time to attend and graduate from the Esthiology program at The Aveda Institute. She loves all things health and beauty.


Dominik Martinez, Classroom Assistant


Eliza Caldwell, Classroom Assistant


Enedelia Cruz Dominguez, Classroom Assistant


Erin Burgett, Primary Guide (Sassafras)



Esther Wallace, Primary Assistant Teacher




Farha Abubakar, Swing Assistant (Sassafras and Cherry)

Farha came from the country of Eritrea and she loves exploring different cultures. Her hobby has always been reading since she was young, and reading books in her native tongue, Arabic, brings her comfort. Her greatest joy in life is her family.


Florisca Carter, Director of Finance and Operations

Florisca Carter was born and raised in Dominica in the West Indies. She is passionate about school operations and has led school operations teams for over 17 years in NY and CT. She is the founding Director of School Operations for two charter schools in Bridgeport, CT. She has served on the Mayor’s Charter Revision Board in Bridgeport and currently serves as a member of the DEI and school climate committee in her home district ER9. She is a current board member of The Klein Memorial Auditorium in Bridgeport. Previous board member affiliations include Fairfield County Habitat for Humanity and the Stratfield Historic District. She is a graduate of Berklee College of Music where she majored in Performance Studies. She is a music enthusiast, particular interested in Reggae, Soul, Zouk, and Gospel genres.


Garrett Frye-Mason, Math Teacher (Erdkinder)

Garrett is overjoyed to be serving alongside Alyssa and Samm on the incredible Erdkinder team as the new math guide. Originally from the high desert of New Mexico, he graduated Magna cum laude from Yale University with a B.S. in Economics, where he adored learning how to apply mathematical concepts to the real world, collective struggles, and human relationships. He is currently enrolled in the Relay Graduate School of Education, as he hopes to learn more about building a long career in education in New Haven. He loves primary colors, board games, and listening to Shakira on long walks with his dog Ivy.


Heidi Crosby, Elementary Guide (Pine)

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.


Holly Stemphowski, SEL Team

Holly has worked with young children and their families in West Haven and Hamden since 2012. She graduated from Post University with a B.S. in Child Studies and is a fellow of the UCONN PreK-Grade 3 Leadership Program. She serves as a board member of the Greater New Haven Region Chapter of CTAEYC (CT Association for the Education of Young Children), and has a passion for improving young lives and encouraging their healthy social and emotional development. Holly is a long time board member and cheerleading coach for the West Haven Seahawks Youth Football and Cheerleading League. In her down time, Holly enjoys baking, reading, and beach days with her 7 year old twins, and spending quality time with good friends and family.


Jegbe Fasoranti, Environmental Educator

Jegbe has been leading young people for over a decade in a variety of activities, from creative writing to capoeira to outdoor exploration and plenty in between.  His passion is empowering inquiring minds to question, investigate, and problem solve in the most joyful way possible.


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 (Chestnut)



John Freeman, Coach (Admin)



Joshua Sloat, Special Education Teacher

Joshua is delighted to be returning to the Elm City Montessori School community as a Special Education teacher. Living in New Haven for the past twenty years, he has worked as an elementary and middle school teacher, as well as an administrator. Claiming the superpower of “making connections,” Joshua enjoys suggesting book recommendations to others, connecting colleagues to educator resources, and sharing mindfulness exercises to anyone interested in them. He recently completed a two-year training program for teaching awareness and compassion-based practices. Current pastimes he partakes in include solving crossword puzzles, walking in the woods, meeting up with friends, and watching shows with his two children and wife.


Jordan Bacon, Elementary Guide (Oak)

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. Jordan is currently training to earn his Masters in Education with a focus in Montessori at the University of Hartford. He hopes to be finished by the end of 2024.


Julia Mannarino, Classroom Assistance




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.


Kyoungsook Song, Primary Guide (Mulberry)

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 Guide (Cedar)

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.


Laura Selles, Primary Assistant



Maria Mariani, Reading Interventionist

Maria comes to ECMS with over 14 years of teaching experience and has her CT Teaching Certification in Elementary Education. She is passionate about guiding children toward strategies that help them become confident readers.  Her teaching career began in the Bronx, where she grew up, and then onto the North Shore of MA. While in MA she began a hiatus to raise her children and then moved to CT to be closer to her large extended family.  Maria found her way back to teaching by working part time as a reading tutor in the New Haven and Bethany Public Schools. She is thrilled to learn and grow within the ECMS community.


Marifrances Cooney, Primary Guide (Cherry)

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.


Mary Haussler, Primary Assistant (Maple)

Mary holds a BS and an MS in early childhood education and in art education, as well as a 6th year certificate in school supervision and administration. After working with young learners for 40+ years in a suburban school district, she joined the ECMS community in 2022. A native of New Haven, Mary enthusiastically supports the arts and recognizes the importance of their role in education. By day, she enjoys her time exploring and working with the pre-k and kindergarteners in Maple Classroom, and by
night, she is a potter at Creative Arts Workshop in New Haven.


Melissa Starkweather, Music Teacher




Michelle Brenes, Elementary Guide (Willow)



Myesha Knight, Social Emotional Learning Team

Myesha has her Certificate and Associates in Science in Early Childhood Inclusive Education. She is continuing her education in Elementary Education. Before joining the ECMS team, she was a head Pre-K teacher at a private preschool in the Wilton area. She was also a team lead at the school, overseeing a team consisting of eight teachers. She is excited to now be apart of the ECMS team learning and growing in the field of Montessori.

Natasha Ambriz-Villela, Elementary Guide (Birch)

Natasha is originally from the suburbs of Atlanta but has called New Haven home for the past four years. She recently graduated with a degree in Ethnic Studies and a certificate in Education Studies. Having grown up in a conservative town in the South, she is excited about education as a tool for social change. In her free time, she loves to cuddle with her cat June, go to concerts, and spend time with her sisters.

Nicola Watterson, Primary Guide (Hickory)

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.


Ramya Subramanian, Montessori Coach

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.


Reena Thakur, Primary Swing Assistant



Ryan Lajoie, Physical Education Teacher

I am Ryan is from Norwalk, CT and I joined the ECMS team as a Physical Education teacher in August 2022. I graduated from Southern Connecticut State University last May and am in the process of getting my Masters in School Health Education at SCSU now! I have been playing sports since I was five years old and started coaching softball when I was 18. I am very excited to start my teaching journey here and have been having an amazing time getting to know my students, coworkers and the parents at this school!


Samm Leska, Humanities Guide (Erdkinder)

Samm has taught for the past nine years in middle and high schools in New Haven and Westport. She loves the relationships she develops with students and watching students blossom in their thinking and learning. She has a BA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College in Boston and has minors in Philosophy, Sociology, and Political Science. After teaching for two years, she went back to graduate school at the University of Toronto where she earned a degree in Curriculum Studies and Teacher Development and an additional focus in Education Policy. Samm now lives in Westville with her husband, Brendan, her daughter, Cici, and her dog, Oscar. She loves to swim, spend time with her family and friends, and cook delicious food!


Sharon Harrison, Elementary Assistant (Willow)

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 (Primary) and AMI Certified (Lower/Upper Elementary) 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.


Sade Jean-Jacques, Director of Anti-Bias Anti-Racism 

Sade has worked as a social justice educator in higher education and with school districts across the state of Connecticut. She comes to us with over 10 years of experience working with faculty, staff, students, administrators and community members on issues related to equity and inclusion. Sade values the intersection of wellness and equity and doing work that allow for people to live well and whole. She is also an interdisciplinary doula with Earth’s Natural Touch: Birth Care & Beyond as well as a certified lactation counselor. Sade received her bachelor of science in Community Health Education and her master of arts degree in Community Social Psychology both from the University of Massachusetts Lowell.


Susan Clark, Elementary Guide (Ginkgo)

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.


Tahjay Rowe

Originally from Jamaica, Tahjay moved to New Haven in 2015, graduating from Wilbur Cross High School in 2018. He has enjoyed getting to watch each child’s unique personality emerge. Tahjay is currently working to become a veterinary assistant, and in his free time, he enjoys trying new foods, enjoying calm sceneries, going on hikes, and spending time by the water.


Victoria Rodriguez, Operations Associate

Victoria comes to us with more than ten years of experience working as a paralegal and managing an office. Originally from Mexico, she moved to the United States at five years old and identifies as a true native of New Haven! She enjoys writing, reading, working out and volunteering within the community. She is fluent in Spanish and has a passion for children and immigration rights and has children attending ECMS!