ECMS Staff

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.


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.


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.


Dianne Schindler, Ph.D., Reading Interventionist

Dianne earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education (Social Studies) from the University of Maine, and has worked as a classroom teacher for elementary, middle, and high school students. She also earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Connecticut.  She has over ten years of experience as a university instructor and adjunct professor in Anthropology and Women’s Studies. She is passionate about social justice and education, and aspires to help her students both reach and exceed their goals.


Eliza 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 (Sassafras)



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.

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.


Irving Iñahuazo, Elementary Assistant (Birch)



James Erard, Erdkinder Science



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)


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 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.


Larry Simpson, Environmental Educator

Larry 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Reilly Stevens, Elementary Assistant (Pine)


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!


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 location 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 Massachusett Lowell.


Shira Engel, Erdkinder Humanities

Shira is passionate about culturally responsive and sustaining pedagogy, social justice through literacy, and educating the whole child. A lifelong New Yorker until 2020, she previously worked as a founding public middle school teacher in Brooklyn, an elementary educator in The Bronx, and as a Community Involvement Specialist through AmeriCorps.  She earned her M.A. in Secondary English Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, her B.A. in English and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Wesleyan University, and is currently pursuing her Dyslexia Specialist Certification through the Wilson Reading System program.


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. This is Tahjay’s first year at Elm City Montessori, where 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.


Tamika Toney, Elementary Assistant (Cedar)

Tamika has an Associates degree in Early Childhood Education and is finishing up her Bachelors degree in Special Education at Southern Connecticut State University. She has many years of lead teaching experience, expertise in differentiating instruction, demonstrating communication and leadership skills, and is a highly adaptable and versatile educator. These experiences have helped her blossom into a well-rounded and compassionate individual. She loves teaching and hopes to soon become a Montessori Guide!


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!


Yun Liu

Born and raised in China, Yun moved to the United States when she was 21 years old to obtain her bachelors and masters degrees. She spent five years working as a Mandarin teacher in Connecticut public high schools before joining the Elm City Montessori community. At ECMS, Yun has especially appreciated how friendly, helpful, and supportive her colleagues are. She enjoys hiking, swimming, and traveling in her free time.