Our Team


Parents are a vital part of the La Escuelita community, active in all facets of the school. From demonstrating proper dumpling making technique during a “Welcome to China” unit, to chairing a major school event, to lending a helping hand when time permits, parents are always welcome to contribute their time and talents to our school.

Parent Leadership Team (PLT) 

Parents are a vital part of the La Escuelita community. The purpose of the Parent Leadership Team is to centralize and lead parent involvement and input in La Escuelita. The PLT provides a forum to discuss school-life issues among families and hosts school-wide events that promote school spirit, supplement curriculum or celebrate Latin culture. Membership is open to everyone and the PLT strives to schedule meetings at times that are accessible to the majority of families. For 2020-21 we will be meeting during evenings on ZoomFor 2020-21 we will be meeting during evenings on Zoom.

The PLT will meet on the following dates during the 2020-21 school year

Thursday, October 15, 2020 at 8 pm

Thursday, December 10, 2020 at 8 pm

Thursday, January 7, 2021 at 8 pm

Thursday, March 4, 2021 at 8 pm

Thursday, May 6, 2021 at 8 pm

Book Fair

Every December, we provide our families and the greater community the opportunity to purchase high quality Spanish language books and bilingual books for children. We take great care in the selection of books to ensure that they are well-written and representative of diverse cultures. It is difficult to find quality Spanish language books via mass market retailers, so this event has been a valuable resource to not only La Escuelita families for the last several years, but to the wider community as well. Book readings, musical performances, coffee and treats add to the festivities. Proceeds benefit the STAFF DEVELOPMENT FUND.


We celebrate the children who are heading to Kindergarten in the fall with a special ceremony.


Kelley Grant leads our school as Executive Director; overseeing our operations and ensuring excellence in everything we do and directly manages finance, marketing, facilities and exmissions from our school.  Emily Marmolejos is our Educational Director and she manages teachers and classrooms, admissions and works directly with our Parent Leadership Team to enhance family involvement in our school. 

Kelley Grant

Executive Director

I fell in love with La Escuelita when I was looking for a Spanish immersion preschool for my daughter in 2011. Although my daughter graduated in 2015, I could never bring myself to leave! I welcomed the opportunity to manage the operations of the school in 2015 and am now starting my sixth school year as Executive Director and Ex-Officio Board Member.

La Escuelita is a special and unique place and I'm committed to ensuring that it continues to embody the values I cherished while I was a parent here; diversity, inclusivity, play-based education and of course early acquired bilingualism.


Emily Marmolejos

Educational Director

In my fourth year as the Educational Director, I look forward to continuing to facilitate and lead our diverse and talented group of faculty and staff in La Escuelita’s commitment to providing high quality, effective, dual-language, early childhood education. Previously, I was the Early Childhood Director at St. Charles Borromeo School in Harlem and returned to La Escuelita in Fall 2017. I worked at La Escuelita from 2011-2014 as a bilingual Special Education Itinerant Teacher (SEIT) through Los Niños Services where I partnered with families from all over New York City.

I began my journey and fell in love with early childhood education during my undergraduate studies at Tufts University, where I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Clinical Psychology and Child Development. I also earned a dual Master’s degree in Early Childhood and Early Childhood Special Education from Fordham University.

I thrive on our organic pedagogical practices of a play-based emergent curriculum, in which a child-centered and teacher-framed approach to dual-language learning is challenging yet meaningful, and seeks to promote lifetime learners. As a native New Yorker whose parents emigrated from the Dominican Republic, it was instilled in me to appreciate the advantages of growing up multilingual in one of the most diverse cities in the world. I look forward to continuing to share my passion for young diverse learners and teachers, and dual-language education.


Juleime Cepeda

Executive Assistant

As a new hire, I am excited and grateful to be a part of such a talented and passionate team! I was born and raised in Queens, New York and my parents came to the United States from the Dominican Republic. I received my Bachelors degree at Hunter College, I majored in Psychology and minored in English. I started working with children when I was 15 years old as a group leader at an after school program, throughout the years I worked with children from all grades in various after school programs and summer camps. 

In 2016 I took on the role of the administrative assistant and tutor at a tutoring center in Queens and in 2018 I became the admin. assistant of the director of an after school program. I realized that I enjoyed working on both aspects of a learning facility, the administrative side and the teaching side! I have worked in various organizations as an administrative assistant for over 5 years now but I am the most happiest when I am working in an organization for children. I am ecstatic to be working at La Escuelita doing what I love! 

Daniela Montesdeoca

Administrative Assistant

I’ve been working at La Escuelita for 3 years now and I have been blessed to be part of this amazing team. I was born in Ecuador. I started working with kids when I was 13 years old. I used to take care of my neighbor’s kids. I also helped at Manuel Gomez Abad (School), where I would help the teachers set up the classroom, help with the class and activities. After working at Manuel Gomez Abad for a few months I came to realize working with little kids can be the best experience ever. It became my passion and it fulfilled my heart.

I immigrated to the United States when I was 18 years old. I didn’t possess any knowledge of the language upon my arrival but I didn’t let that stop me from doing what I love the most. After a while, I started working at a daycare and stayed there for 5 years before joining La Escuelita. I’m excited to work in the front desk, greet and receive every student, parent and whoever comes through the door. I believe that kids learn best when they feel welcome, safe and are comfortable.


We are fortunate to have a strong, dedicated teaching staff. With an average of six years of tenure at the school, La Escuelita teachers are an integral part of the school culture. Individual observation, weekly team meetings, and ample opportunity for professional development throughout the year all build a teaching team that truly knows your child, and are an asset to your family.

Pedro Carol Hernández

Assistant Teacher

I was born in Cuba and immigrated to the United States in December 2001, upon completing the course work for my Master's degree in Physical Education at the University of Matanzas. During my time at the university, I taught baseball and Cuban dance and music, winning several awards for directing and participating as well as for my work with students. Since 2003, I have been working at AHRC as a recreation assistant, working with children as young as five through adults. I joined La Escuelita in June 2005. My approach to education is that everyone can learn and that learning should be both joyous and as efficient as possible. I agree with the Cuban philosophy that everyone has the right to be educated and must then contribute to the education of others.

Jacqueline Vasquez

Head Teacher

I am excited to be part of the La Escuelita teaching team. When I came to this country at the age of 13, I didn’t speak a word of English and did not have the advantage of participating in a Dual Language program, but instead received ESL services. I found learning English very difficult. Based on my experience, I think that exposing students to a language-rich environment that supports their home language as well as the second language is very important. Students and families feel especially welcome when their home language and culture are validated in the classroom and throughout the school. I also believe that communication between staff and families is essential to enhance the learning environment created in the classroom. There should be a connection between home and school that enables the learning cycle to flow with ease. I have several years of experience working as a lead/headteacher in the early childhood setting and some student-teacher opportunities in elementary school both in the general education classroom and the special education setting. At present, I have a Master's degree in Early Childhood Education from Mercy College and a Bachelor of Science in Bilingual Childhood Education and Spanish from City College.

Carmen Andrade

Assistant Teacher

I was born and raised in Cuenca, Ecuador where I earned my Associate's Degree in Accounting but I taught English in Cuenca’s military school. In 1999 I migrated to New York where I discovered my true passion for teaching. I worked in BWY, as a preschool teacher in Queens, NY. Then I had the opportunity to be apart of La Escuelita from 2007 to the present. My passion to be an educator motivated me to return to college where I obtained my Associate's Degree in Interdisciplinary Liberal Arts and then obtained my Bachelor of Arts in Educational Psychology from Touro College. La Escuelita gave me my dream job as a teacher to teach children my native language. Being bilingual can give one double opportunity in life!  

Brandon Taft

Assistant Teacher

I was born and raised in New York City and live in Riverdale, The Bronx. My family consists of Dominican, Argentinian, and Irish/Italian descent. I received my high school diploma from Xavier High School on June 2015 and my Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Psychology from Fordham University in May 2019. I am currently enrolled at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Education and pursuing a Master of Science in Teaching Degree under the Early Childhood/Special Education dual certification program. My interest in early childhood education stems from my experience as a martial arts practitioner/instructor. I began Capoeira (an Afro-Brazilian martial art form) with ABADÁ-Capoeira Bronx (a non-profit Capoeira Arts Center) at the age of 13 and have served as an assistant instructor for both youth and adults for the past 8 years. I have competed and participated in Capoeira competitions and events both nationally and internationally. Some of the countries that I have traveled to for such competitions and events include Canada, Colombia, Mexico, Czech Republic, and Brazil. I have also worked with youth rock climbers as a Youth Climbing Coach at the Cliffs at Valhalla and have years of volunteer work experience at daycare centers and schools for early childhood education. I am excited to be a part of La Escuelita’s team and eager to work within such a diverse and uplifting school community. 

Erica Olivo

Head Teacher

I have experienced first-hand the benefits of a bilingual education. Coming from a Dominican family, I only spoke Spanish at home. When I came to New York, I attended PS 75 for three years. I am currently enrolled at City College in the Early Childhood Education Bachelor's program. Before joining the teaching team at La Escuelita in 2007, I worked for several years at Bank Street as a counselor at Summer Camp and later also as an assistant teacher at the Bank Street Family Center. I am very excited to work in a bilingual early childhood setting because of the energy and creativity that younger students bring to their environments. I believe in the work process rather than the product of the students.

Berenice Ruiz

Assistant Teacher

Born and raised in Colombia, I earned an Associate’s degree in Child Development from LaGuardia Community College, and continue to study for my bachelor’s degree from City College. I have more than 18 years of teaching experience working with preschoolers, both as an Assistant Teacher and Head Teacher. I enjoy reading books on reflection and connecting with nature by going on walks, as well as spending time with my family. I believe educators should have the students’ best interest at heart. With guidance and support, I focus on the whole child, knowing that students understand what they learn if it has meaning for them. I have been with the La Escuelita family since September 2006.

Zuleika Cespedes

Head Teacher

I migrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic when I was only
thirteen years old, without the ability to speak English. Today, I have a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education, with a bilingual extension in Spanish, from Hunter College. I’m a strong advocate of bilingualism; after all “knowledge is power.” Having worked with young children in formal and informal settings for over 10 years, I strongly believe that every child is a unique individual who should be supported to maximize their fullest potential by developing and focusing on each child’s qualities and interests. I believe it is important for children to have natural exposure to language through meaningful activities and interactions. Through this way of being in the world, children not only acquire a second language but also raise their cultural awareness and sensitivity. I’m very excited and proud to be part of a great team of professionals in La Escuelita Preschool who work together to foster children’s bilingualism and academic development.  

Edelyn Maceda

Assistant Teacher

I was born and raised in New York, and have lived most of my life in Jackson Heights, Queens. My parents came from Mexico City, bringing with them a love for their motherland and culture. I was raised to be proud of my roots and embrace being bilingual.

I have been working with children for 9 years as an Assistant teacher, with most of my experience revolves around Elementary School-aged students. Shortly after graduating from college, I decided to venture into Early Childhood education, as I was eager to learn about the early years of a child’s life and development. Since then, my experience working with the younger children has been insightful, rewarding and tons of fun!

I did my undergrad at Queens College with English as my Major and Art History as my Minor. Presently, I am pursuing my Masters degree at Queens College in their MAT Dual Certification in Childhood Education 1-6 and Special Education 1-6.

Dhariana Peralta

Head Teacher

I was born in the Dominican Republic, where I obtained my Bachelor of Arts degree in Childhood Education. After completing my bachelor’s, I began a master’s degree in teaching Spanish as a foreign language and I am currently completing my second master’s degree in Early Childhood Education at Mercy College. Throughout my educational career, I have studied constructivist education and bilingualism. After 10 years of experience teaching in different settings in New York and the Dominican Republic, I would say that being bilingual opens doors and provides more opportunities. Throughout the years I have seen how students are capable of learning different techniques to communicate in other languages, especially when instruction is combined with exposure to culture. I am very excited and inspired to be working at La Escuelita. I have high expectations for our little ones and my goal is not only to educate but to provide a level of comfort in the classroom in which children will feel motivated to work and to discover their talents and abilities.

Stephanie Contreras

Head Teacher

I was born and raised in New York; my parents immigrated to New York from the Dominican Republic. During my early school years, I went to school both in New York and in the Dominican Republic. It was great having the advantage of experiencing both education systems and learning both languages. Early childhood education is my passion; I have been working with children for over 10 years as both a lead and assistant teacher. My
time teaching children has been extremely enjoyable and rewarding and continues to be a wonderful experience. I find so much joy in helping the little ones reach their milestones and making the learning process a fun and loving experience. I am currently enrolled in the master’s program in Early Childhood Education at St. John’s University. I like to spend my time off on family get-together, reading, dancing and creating new memories with my amazing little family; my husband and my cutie pie Emma.

Board of Directors

La Escuelita is fortunate to be able to draw upon a diverse, talented group of current and alumni parents, as well as outside experts, for its Board of Directors. The Board supports the school's three core values by hiring and supporting the Executive Director, ensuring financial stability, and developing long-term strategic vision. The Executive Director serves as an ex-officio member of the Board. Board members devote time, energy, and support throughout the school year, driven by their passion for La Escuelita's mission and excitement to see it thrive.

Kevin Woodruff

President, Board of Directors

Kevin is Morgan Stanley's Global Head of Equity Derivative Products and Structured Notes Global Product Head. He joined Morgan Stanley in 1996, was promoted to Managing Director in 2003, and has held leadership roles in New York and London. Kevin was a founding director of La Escuelita and is the father of three La Escuelita alumni. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Opera and on the Board of Trustees of the Bank Street College of Education. Kevin graduated from Stanford University in 1993 with a B.A. in Economics and an M.S. in Operations Research.

Vilda Vera Mayuga

Vice-President, Board of Directors

Vilda is the NY Deputy Secretary of State for Economic Opportunity. Previously, she served as the first Latina to be appointed Chairperson of the NYS Industrial Board of Appeals. She has also held the positions of Deputy Commissioner for Worker Protection at the NYS Department of Labor and Executive Director of the Division of Immigrant Policies and Affairs. Vilda is an attorney and has practiced in the areas of civil rights, employment and labor law, as well as immigration. She is a proud mom of Pilar and Joaquín who graduated from La Escuelita in 2015 and 2019, respectively. As a parent at La Escuelita since 2013, Vilda was Class Parent for the 3/4s class in 2013-14, co-chaired the Parent Advisory Board in 2014-15, and co-chaired the Carnaval committee in 2015 successfully leading the La Escuelita community in its first fundraiser. Vilda holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Boston University and is a graduate of the University of Puerto Rico School of Law. Vilda and her husband Enrico strongly believe in bilingualism and multiculturalism, starting with fostering in their children their own Puerto Rican and Filipino cultures.

Jacqueline Hirsch

Secretary, Board of Directors

Jacqueline is a Financial Advisor at Morgan Stanley covering high net worth clients. Prior to this role, she worked as an investment and portfolio manager at GC Group Capital and in a variety of roles at Merrill Lynch, including Director of Emerging Markets Fixed Income Sales/Trading and Structured Products. She holds a BS from Universidad Metropolitana (Caracas, Venezuela) in Electrical Engineering and an MS in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research with a concentration in Financial Engineering from Columbia University. Jacqueline is quadrilingual with fluency in Spanish, French, Portuguese and English. Jacqueline and her husband Herman are both originally from Caracas, Venezuela and speak Spanish at home with their two children aged 17 and 15.

Martha Escobar

Treasurer, Board of Directors

Martha has been a leader in the La Escuelita community since the school's inception. Her four children's tenures at the school trace the institution's history, with her oldest entering in the school's inaugural year and her youngest graduating in 2015. Martha has served on the Board of Directors for eight years and was President from 2014-2017, leading the school's project to find, finance, construct, and move into a new home. Additionally, Martha serves on the Board of the Cathedral School of St. John the Divine. Martha and her family frequently visit Mexico, maintaining close ties with her extended family in the city of San Luis Potosí. Martha graduated from Princeton University in 1994. 

Adriane Miliotis

Board of Directors

Adriane is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst in private practice on Manhattan’s UWS. She supports families and young children with autism and related disorders using the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) through parent and caregiver training direct intervention, supervision of programs, and collaboration with related service providers. She is also the mother of two young children, one of whom is a current La Escuelita student. Together with her husband, a native of Colombia, they are raising their children bilingual from birth. Adriane is a strong proponent of early-acquired bilingualism, both from an empirical perspective as well as personally within her own family. Professionally, she supports inclusive and equitable education and works to make appropriate educational settings accessible to all learners. Adriane has formerly served on The Young Friends Board of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, the Junior Board of the Alpine Learning Group, and the Young Professionals Board of the Children’s Museum of the Arts.

Kimberly Miller

Board of Directors

Kimberly L Miller is a mother to four young bilingual children, and an advocate of meaningful spaces to learn and grow. She and her husband, Ian, have trusted their children to La Escuelita since 2014. Prior to her current, very demanding, role as a stay-at-home-mom she worked for twelve years as a health outcomes researcher for the pharmaceutical industry. Originally from San Juan Puerto Rico, Kimberly crisscrossed the country from Boston to Berkeley to Philadelphia and New York for educational and career pursuits and is proud to report that the result is a supportive network of friendships in many time zones. Kimberly also serves on the board of the Sadie Nash Leadership Project, an organization charged with supporting young women and gender-expansive youth in developing their leadership skills and social justice awareness.

Yasmin Morales 

Board of Directors

Dr. Yasmin Morales-Alexander received her Ed.D in Curriculum & Teaching with a focus on Multicultural and Urban Education from Teachers College, Columbia University in 2016. Her research interests and expertise are in young children’s development, family engagement, teacher development, and program management within sociocultural contexts. Dr. Morales-Alexander has 30 years of experience in the early childhood field. Her expertise was borne from her work as a group teacher in various daycare settings, an Early Head Start/Head Start administrator in a large social service agency in New York City, a program evaluator, and technical assistance provider for the Office of Head Start, and Instructor at Brooklyn College. Currently, Dr. Morales-Alexander is an Assistant Professor at Lehman College; working closely with pre-service teachers, and an Education Consultant for early childhood programs in the tri-state area. My commitment to ensuring that all young children; particularly children of color receive intentionally high quality early learning experiences, remains unwavering. "Based on my visits and observations, I believe that La Escuelita provides young children and their families with a uniquely authentic and family-oriented experience. I am excited to be a part of this as a member of the Board of Directors of La Escuelita. I hope to share my knowledge and expertise to support the mission and goals of La Escuelita.

Maria Teresa Peneda

Board of Directors

Maria is a head kindergarten teacher at The Cathedral School of St. John the Divine. Throughout her fourteen-year teaching career, Maria has focused her energy on developing young learners. Before her days at Cathedral, her talents were fostered at New York Center for Autism Charter School and Grace Church School. With a devotion to professional development, Maria has honed her skills to ensure her students receive differentiated learning plans that prioritize the needs of the children. She has utilized her Master of Science in Education, Early Childhood and Special Education to foster a classroom of unique growth and charisma. However, Maria’s students fall in love with her classroom for many other reasons! She truly shares herself with her students. Her passion for fútbol, baseball, cooking, Boston Terriers, and fun permeate through the classroom. Maria is bilingual. Her parents immigrated from Argentina. She spoke only Spanish in her home and learned English once she entered kindergarten. Maria shares her life with her husband who is a native Portuguese speaker and her three-year-old son whom they are raising multilingual.

James Thomas

Board of Directors

James is a Tax Partner with Ernst & Young LLP, a multinational professional services firm headquartered in London, England, United Kingdom and one of the largest professional services firms in the world. James has over 20 years of experience in tax matters related to states and their localities. James is a Certified Public Accountant with New York and the state of Maryland. He is also a lawyer where he holds legal bar licenses in New York and Washington, D.C.

James' industry experience is within the financial services area where he serves many clients in the wealth and asset management sector. James is responsible for over 200 tax professionals nationally and globally situated in many offices including, New York, Boston, Los Angeles/San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Minneapolis, Florida as well as Bangalore, India. James leads thought leadership on new legislation, judicial and administrative rulings, key audit issues and related tax technical topics for management companies and complex funds. In addition, he leads industry targeted efforts with outside agencies in support of member initiatives. James has lectured and taught on several topics impacting the finance services industry. James is an Adjunct Scholarly Practitioner Lecturer at Binghamton University where he teaches at the School of Management, Accounting Program.

James also serves the Board of Education in the Mount Vernon City School District on the Audit Committee as a Public Representative. James and his wife, Jennifer currently reside in Westchester, NY with their four children, Jessica (17), James III (14), Jonathan (11) and Joliene (4).

Justin Tyack

Board of Directors

Justin is the Chief Operating Officer at Bank Street College of Education. In this role, he oversees the Division of Strategy and Operations, which includes budget and finance, human resources, IT, facilities, the kitchen, and the Bank Street Book Store. Justin also oversaw the development of the 2015 Strategic Plan and is responsible for implementing its various initiatives and monitoring the outcomes associated with that work. Prior to joining Bank Street as the Chief Operating Officer, Justin held several leadership positions during his eight-year tenure at the New York City Department of Education. Justin holds a JD from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law and a BA in Sociology from The Ohio State University. During his legal studies, Justin focused primarily on child advocacy which informed his desire to pursue a career in education.

Kristian Blair Stiles

Board of Directors

Kristie is a Managing Director in Mercury Public Affairs’ New York City office. Prior to joining Mercury, she founded her own political consulting firm where she advised and oversaw fundraising and management for city, state and federal candidates, as well as progressive causes, and capital campaigns. She has served on the Presidential campaigns of Vice President Al Gore and Congressman Richard Gephardt, as well as the Gubernatorial Campaigns of New York Governors Eliot Spitzer and David A. Paterson. Kristie is an alumna of The American Council of Young Political Leaders, participating on their 2011 delegation to Indonesia and Malaysia, and is a founding Board Member of “Making HERstory,” an organization dedicated to the advancement of women’s empowerment. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Political Science from Southern Methodist University. Kristie and her husband Marius Muresanu are the proud parents of Aurelia, a graduate of the La Escuelita class of 2019.

Jennifer Weiss Friedman

Board of Directors

Jennifer is co-founder and former director of La Escuelita. Both of her children graduated from La Escuelita. Prior to founding La Escuelita in 2002, she worked as a bilingual speech-language pathologist in the public schools as well as for Early Intervention services and in private consultation. Jennifer taught and supervised graduate students in the Edward D. Mysak Clinic at Teachers College, Columbia University. She has served on School Leadership Teams and as a volunteer in her children's public schools and as a pro bono consultant with New York Appleseed Network, an organization that promotes diversity in New York City Public Schools and focuses on equity in admissions to public schools. Currently, she is the Project Director for Trauma Smart in New York City, which is, through the NYC Thrive initiative, providing professional development to all subsidized early childhood providers throughout the five boroughs to become more trauma-informed.

Jennifer Woodruff

Board of Directors

Jennifer is a co-founder and the parent of three La Escuelita alumni. As a monolingual parent, her primary motivation for opening the school was to find a way for her children to experience the many benefits of early acquired bilingualism. Prior to working with La Escuelita, Jennifer served as a middle school principal, an elementary school assistant principal, and a teacher in both preschools and elementary schools. Jennifer is currently working as a Project Director for a professional development collaboration between Bank Street College of Education and the New York City Department of Education Pre-K for All initiative. She is an international early childhood consultant specializing in early childhood math and has led workshops and conference presentations in several countries. Jennifer has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with honors in Education from Stanford University, a Master of Science in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Bank Street College, and an Ed.D from Teachers College, Columbia University.