Alejandra Corona Ortega, Upper Elementary Guide (Birch)

Alejandra (she/her) 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 (she/her) 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, Erdkinder Science Guide

Alyssa (she/her) 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. As a first generation American, Alyssa has a passion 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/them) 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, Director of Student Support

Amy (she/her) grew up in Bethany, Connecticut. She holds her B.A. in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Connecticut and her M.A. in Elementary Education from the University of New Haven. She also holds her Sixth-Year 092 Administrative Certification in Educational Leadership from Southern Connecticut State University. She has always believed in the mission of this school and in the ability of purposeful education to have an impact on communities. In her free time, she enjoys quilting, hiking, photography, and cooking!

Bryanna Bonner, SEL Coordinator

Bryanna (she/her) grew up in Brooklyn, New York. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Criminology from SUNY Old Westbury and is currently pursuing a Masters in Social Work at Southern Connecticut State University. By working here, she hopes to gain a better knowledge of students and their different struggles coming into schools, which will hopefully set her up to start a non-profit herself for at-risk youth. She enjoys working with kids and collaborating with families for the success of their children. Some of her hobbies include cooking and dancing!

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

Cristin (she/her) 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 (she/her) 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 (he/him) 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 (she/her), 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, Primary Assistant (Cherry)

Dominik (he/him) grew up in Texas, lived in Arizona for some time, and then moved to New Haven last summer. He currently goes to school at Gateway Community College, studying liberal arts and sciences. At Elm City Montessori, he appreciates that he is able to talk about gender and race without these topics being taboo. While working in the classroom, he loves seeing the looks on his kids’ faces when they are proud of themselves. Outside of school, he likes to crochet and do other arts and crafts.

Eliza Caldwell, Lower Elementary Assistant (Cedar)

Eliza (she/her) grew up in Bethany Connecticut. She has a Spanish teaching license from Southern. Since 2011, she has worked in various roles with children: summer camps, after school programs, language instruction and improv classes. She loves working with the Cedar students and seeing them learn and grow every day. In her free time, she enjoys identifying plants, admiring insects, and doing improv comedy.

Erin Burgett, Primary Guide (Sassafras)

Erin (she/her) is a native of New Haven who has been teaching for nearly 20 years in the US and abroad. Her passion for education was strengthened during her earliest teaching experiences in Connecticut (in 1997!!). After receiving her Bachelor’s degree in English Literature, Erin moved to Florence, Italy where she earned her TEFL certificate and began teaching English to children of ages spanning pre-K to high school. Additionally, during her seven years in Italy, she worked as a lead teacher in an early childhood center in Florence and participated at several Reggio Emilia educational conferences. After concluding her working and living experience in Florence, Erin returned to the United States to pursue her graduate degree in Education from Bank Street College of Education in New York, where she graduated Cum Laude with a dual Master’s in Early Childhood and Childhood education. Upon finishing her graduate degree, Erin accepted a position at Cold Spring School in New Haven where she taught in a combined second/third grade classroom. In 2017 Erin joined Elm City Montessori, and began a new educational journey. She completed her Montessori training and received her AMI certification in 2020.

Esther Wallace, Primary Assistant (Hickory)

After over a decade at a top tier investment bank, Esther (she/her) fell in love with the Montessori method while looking at childcare options for her twins. It quickly became an obsession and so, a lifelong learner, eager to put her passion to work, she attended AMS Infant Toddler training which led to Assistant and Lead Guide roles at private Montessori schools. She is currently pursuing her AMI Primary Certification and holds a BS in Information Technology and an MS in Finance. Outside of ECMS, she enjoys family life, walks at the beach, and dabbling in her various hobbies. She is an ECMS mom and teacher who ardently believes in self directed education and the inherent potential of ALL children.

Farha Abubakar, Primary Swing Assistant (Sassafras and Cherry)

Farha (she/her) 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 (she/her) 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, Erdkinder Math Guide

Garrett (he/him) 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, Upper Elementary Guide (Pine)

Heidi (she/her) 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 (she/her) 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 (he/him) 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 (she/her) 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, Lower Elementary Guide (Chestnut)

Joelle (she/her) grew up in New Haven, CT.  She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a Master’s degree in Teaching from Clark University. After working in traditional public education, Joelle found Montessori and her passion for teaching was reignited. The joy for learning and creating in the Chestnut classroom makes each day feel new and exciting! She now has the pleasure of also being an ECMS parent and watching her own child blossom in the Montessori environment.  Joelle enjoys spending time with her family out in nature, crafting, sewing and reading a good book.

John Freeman, Montessori Consultant

John Freeman (he/him) has taught public Montessori at the lower elementary level and has been principal of a public Montessori school. In addition, John has worked as a reading specialist and as a central office based language arts consultant. In addition to ECMS, John currently works through a CT SDE grant as a reading coach to multiple CT public school districts.

Joshua Sloat, Special Education Teacher

Joshua (he/him) 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, Upper Elementary Guide (Oak)

Jordan (he/him) 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 (they/she) has spent most of their life in Connecticut and currently lives in East Haven. They are majoring in University Studies with a concentration in Elementary Montessori with a minor in Psychology at the University of Hartford. Julia has spent the last 5 years working in Montessori classrooms at the primary and lower elementary levels and is very passionate about Montessori education! In their free time they enjoy rollerblading, yoga, sunsets, and spending time with their bird, Sage and other loved ones.

Julia Webb, Principal

Julia Webb (she/her) 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 (she/her) holds an LLB from Seoul National University in South Korea and AMI diploma in Primary education from the Montessori Training Center Northeast (MTCNE). She has her Masters 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, Lower Elementary Guide (Cedar)

Laura (she/her), 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 (Mulberry)

Laura (she/her) was born in Danbury, Connecticut but was raised in Brazil. She attended the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and graduated with a degree in music education. She is passionate about teaching at ECMS because to her, Montessori schools make complete sense. Students receive the freedom and the material they need to learn. She also supports the philosophy of learning rather than focusing only on grades. Her hobbies include taking walks, dancing, and drawing.

Maria Mariani, Reading Interventionist

Maria (she/her) 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 (she/her) 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 (she/her) 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.

Michelle Brenes, Lower Elementary Guide (Willow)

Michelle (she/her) grew up in Kingston, New York, and received her Bachelor’s degree at Gettysburg College, Pennsylvania. She also received her Master’s degree at Hunter College in New York City. She attended a Montessori school during her pre-kindergarten years and was always interested in that particular type of education. So, it was exciting to move to Connecticut and find the Elm City Montessori School. Prior to her current position, she taught in New York City from 2000 to 2017. In her free time, she likes hiking, cooking, and spending time at the beach.

Myesha Knight, Social Emotional Learning Team

Myesha (she/her) 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, Upper Elementary Guide (Birch)

Natasha (she/her) 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 (she/her) brings her passion for education and dedication to children to the Hickory classroom each year. She has experience working in private Montessori schools both in her native Scotland, and her adopted home here in Connecticut, and has worked at ECMS since 2018 first as an assistant as she earned state certification and then as a lead guide when our newest primary classroom opened in 2019. Nicola earned a BS in Psychology from University of Stirling (Scotland) and a primary AMI diploma from MTCNE in Hartford. She is proud to be an ECMS parent and teacher and is committed to providing an authentic Montessori experience to the children who join the Hickory family

Ramya Subramanian, Montessori Coach

Ramya (she/her) 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 (Hickory)

Reena (she/her) grew up in Varanasi, India. She has been living in New Haven since 2005. She holds a Masters degree in Hindi language. She is passionate about working with children and loves cooking and going on long walks.

Ryan Lajoie, Physical Education/Health Guide

Ryan (she/her) is from Norwalk, CT and joined the ECMS team as a Physical Education teacher in August 2022. She graduated from Southern Connecticut State University and is in the process of getting her Masters in School Health Education at SCSU now! She has played sports since she was five years old and started coaching softball when she was 18. She is very excited to start her teaching journey here and has had an amazing time getting to know her students, coworkers and the parents at this school!

Samm Leska, Erdkinder Humanities Guide

Samm (she/her) 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, Lower Elementary Assistant (Willow)

Sharon (she/her) 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 (she/her) 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, Lower Elementary Guide (Ginkgo)

Susan Clark (she/her) 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, Lower Elementary Assistant (Ginkgo)

Originally from Jamaica, Tahjay (he/him) 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 (she/her) 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!

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