Our Team

 

Parents

 

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. Based on meeting attendance last year, the PLT has decided to hold meetings at 8:30AM and continue to offer free Early Drop-off for all PLT attendees during meetings to facilitate more productive child-free discussion. That said, babies and children are always welcome.

 

Book Fair/Feria del Libro

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.

 

Please join us on Wednesday December 6, 2017 for our annual Book Fair from 8:30AM - 4PM at 225 West 99th Street. Hundreds of high quality Spanish titles will be available for babies through children in 6th grade.

Reading Month

Parents take turns visiting their children’s classrooms in the month of January to share a favorite story. Stories in Spanish or in English are welcome; what is important is that it is a story that is loved and enjoyed at home. Children look forward to the day their parent comes and shares this special piece of home with their friends and Reading Month reinforces a love of reading to the children.

Health and Safety Month

April is Health and Safety Month at La Escuelita. The PLT recruits professionals that work in healthcare or public safety to visit our children’s classrooms throughout the month. Support pieces are sent home so that parents can reinforce these important messages to their children. Past visitors have included dentists, doctors, EMTs, police officers, firefighters, veterinarians, nutritionists and exercise professionals.

 

Carnaval

Carnaval is a delightful Latin inspired celebration in June. Our street is closed to traffic for a party that includes games, food, music and dancing. Current and alumni families are invited to join us, as well as the surrounding community. Proceeds from Carnaval benefit the STAFF DEVELOPMENT FUND.

 

Graduation

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

Volunteering in Class

Parents are always welcome in class, after separation occurs. Teachers routinely invite and encourage parents to work with the children, whether it is to lead a craft, a cooking project, a science experiment, play an instrument or simply read a book; children adore visits from the parents. If you do not speak Spanish, the teachers will help incorporate Spanish into your presentation.

Administration

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 am the proud mother of a La Escuelita alum who attended the school from 2012 to 2015. During my daughter’s time at La Escuelita, I was a highly involved parent, serving as Class Parent, Chair of the Book Fair, Co-Chair of the Parent Advisory Board, and Board Member. I assumed the role of Administrative Director during the 2015-16 school year and I'm excited to begin another year at La Escuelita, now as Executive Director and an Ex-Officio Board Member. Before La Escuelita, I managed advertising spending for multi-million dollar brands at agencies within both IPG and Omnicom holding companies and later evaluated agency performance at Accenture. A 1995 graduate of Southern Connecticut State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish, I value the power of bilingualism and am raising my daughter to be fluent in Spanish. As Executive Director, I am committed to ensuring La Escuelita continues to serve families who value bilingualism, play-based preschool education, diversity and inclusion. kelley.grant@laescuelitanyc.org 

Emily Marmolejos

Educational Director

I return to La Escuelita from my position of Early Childhood Director at St. Charles Borremeo School in Harlem.  I worked at La Escuelita from 2011-2014 as a bilingual SEIT (Special Education Itinerant Teacher) through Los Niños Services, where I was a valued partner to families, children and teachers alike. 

I am finishing my PhD at Fordham in Language, Literacy and Learning.  I hold two Master's Degrees from Fordham University, one in Early Childhood Education and the other in Special Education in Early Childhood. My Bachelor's Degree is in Clinical Psychology and Child Development from Tufts University. 

A native New Yorker, with parents who immigrated from the Dominican Republic, I grew up to appreciate the advantage of growing up bilingual in NYC and look forward sharing my passion for children, education and dual language education at La Escuelita.  emily.marmolejos@laescuelitanyc.org

Diana Rivera

Executive Assistant

Born and raised in the Enchanted Island of Puerto Rico. In the midst of my career, I decided to move to New York in 2014, seeking new challenges and opportunities to utilize my expertise and further develop my knowledge. I have a Bachelor's degree in Advertising & Marketing and a Master's degree in Business Administration, Global Management. After over ten years working in the field of media, making promotions and marketing for different brands, I have the opportunity to work with La Escuelita. Being bilingual gives me the opportunity to contribute to the development of bilingual education of each child. I am very excited and committed to help provide all my knowledge for the benefit and growth of La Escuelita. diana.rivera@laescuelitanyc.org

Teachers

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.

Erica Olivo

Head Teacher
I have experienced first-hand the benefits of a dual language education. Coming from a Dominican family, I only spoke Spanish at home. When I arrived in NYC, I attended P.S. 75 for three years. I am currently enrolled at City College in a Bachelor's degree program in Early Childhood Education. Prior to joining the La Escuelita teaching team in 2007, I worked for several years at Bank Street as a counselor in the Bank Street Summer Camp and then also as an assistant teacher in the Bank Street Family Center. I am very enthusiastic about working in a dual language early childhood setting because of the energy and creative characters that younger students bring to their environments. I believe in the process of the students’ work instead of the product.

Jacqueline Vasquez

Head Teacher
I am excited to join La Escuelita. 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 in order 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/head teacher 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 the present time, 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.

Mariangelica Kohn Romero

Assistant Teacher
I recently moved back to New York City after a few years of teaching in my native Venezuela. There I taught 2nd through 6th grade students in a private K-12 joy-filled school on Margarita Island. I come from a long line of teachers and my greatest role model is my father who has been teaching for 50 years. I love to teach children through dance, song and play, because I firmly believe that learning is a gift and it should be enjoyed. I like to develop dynamic lesson plans to motivate my students no matter what level or age they are. I also have learned through the years that teaching is never a one-size-fits-all endeavor, as a teacher I must work to the individual needs of my diverse students’ learning styles. I have raised my daughters in a bilingual home and I know through experience that learning two codes of language and culture simultaneously expands children’s horizons and future possibilities.

Lina Rodríguez

Assistant Teacher
I grew up in a bilingual home, and have over three decades of experience as a preschool assistant teacher. Through the years, I have continued my own education, attending workshops and seminars to stay current on the latest techniques and theories. Much of my work has been influenced by my love for the arts. I received my certificate in fashion design from the French Fashion Academy School of Design, and have achieved success in helping children develop their own creativity as well as fine motor skills by teaching arts and crafts. I have a wide variety of interests, including doll collecting, travel, knitting and sewing, and bring these interests to the students through a well-balanced approach employing a broad range of activities to teach a particular concept. I am proud to be on the staff of La Escuelita, as it places an emphasis on becoming bilingual through play based activities, two aspects of early education in which I firmly believe.

Carmen Andrade

Assistant Teacher
I was born and raised in Cuenca, Ecuador where I earned my Associate's Degree in Accounting. In Ecuador, I taught English in Cuenca’s military school, but in 1999 I migrated to New York where I discovered my true passion in teaching. I worked in BWY, as a preschool teacher in Queens, NY. My passion soon motivated me to return to college where I obtained my Associate's Degree in Interdisciplinary Liberal Arts. Then I became part of La Escuelita and afterward obtained my Bachelor of Arts in Educational Psychology from Touro College. In La Escuelita I was given my dream job so far in my teaching career. I was given the opportunity to teach children my native language. Being bilingual can give one double opportunities in life.

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.

Karen Chong

Assistant Teacher

Zuleika Cespedes

Assistant 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 am currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education, with a bilingual extension in Spanish, at 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 the past seven years, I strongly believe that every child is a unique individual who should be supported in order 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.

Mayra Licera

Head Teacher

I was born in Lima Peru and migrated to the United States at the age of 5. I was raised in a bilingual household and come from a family of teachers. My love for teaching came from an early age when I would play teacher and my brothers were my students. After college, I decided that being a teacher was something that I really wanted to do and began teaching preschool. I have been teaching preschool for six years. I am currently enrolled in an Early Childhood Education and Special Education Master’s Degree Program at Manhattanville College. I’m excited to join La Escuelita this Fall and to be able to teach children Spanish and my love for my native language. I believe that being bilingual is important in today's world because it gives our children more opportunities.

Stephanie Contreras

Head Teacher

I was born and raised in New York, my parents were immigrants 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 a lead, and assistant teacher. My time teaching children has been extremely enjoyable and rewarding, it has been 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 like to spend my time off on family get-togethers, reading, dancing and creating new memories with my husband.

 

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.

 

Andrés Varon

Secretary, Board of Directors

A software developer at the Jane Street Group, Andrés writes and maintains a variety of programs for trading. Before joining Jane Street, Andrés received his PhD in Computer Science from the Graduate Center, The City University of New York, and conducted bioinformatics research at the American Museum of Natural History. He received a Bachelor's degree in Biology from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia. As a Biologist, he worked in the Colombian Biodiversity Information System, as well as studying the evolution, diversity, morphology, and anatomy of neotropical grasshoppers. Andrés and wife Paola are parents of 2 current La Escuelita students; a daughter in the Class of 2018 and a son in the Class of 2020.

Maria Teresa Peneda

Board of Directors

Maria is a head kindergarten teacher at The Cathedral School of St. John the Divine. Throughout her eleven 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’s 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 futbol, 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 two year old son whom they are raising multilingual.

Britt-Louise Gilder

Board of Directors

Britt-Louise Gilder is a native New Yorker, graduate of Brown University and proud parent of four children currently attending or recently graduated from La Escuelita. Following a decade’s long career in the arts, she spent eight years working alongside her stockbroker father, managing the transition process of his clients as part of his retirement. Upon the project’s conclusion in 2011, she became a co-director of the Ft. Lauderdale, FL based Taft Foundation, a new grant-making institution with over $200m in assets. She left the organization in the fall of 2014 to be a full-time mom.

She’s been an active participant in non-profit work ever since the fifth grade when she joined her school’s social service club.

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. Currently she serves as a volunteer for her daughter’s elementary school and son’s middle school, both public schools in Manhattan. She is also 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.

David Folkenflik

Board of Directors

David Folkenflik is the media correspondent for NPR News, serving such newsmagazines as All Things Considered and Morning Edition as well as the network's digital platforms. Previously he was a reporter for the Durham, N.C. Herald-Sun, and the Baltimore Sun. Folkenflik is also the author of Murdoch's World: The Last of the Old Media Empires and the editor of Page One: Inside the New York Times and the Future of Journalism. A graduate of Cornell University, Folkenflik lives with his wife and daughters in New York City.

Brian Gurski

Board of Directors

Brian Gurski is a proud parent of a La Escuelita alumnus. Being bilingual himself and part of a multicultural and bilingual household along with his wife (from Venezuela), he joins the board with a strong personal value for La Escuelita's mission. Professionally, Brian is a management consultant primarily focused on strategic planning and change management for large-scale nonprofits. He is a member of the part-time faculty of Parsons The New School for Design where he teaches Strategic Design & Management and is also a co-instructor for a nationwide program training financial counselors working in low-income communities through human services organizations. Brian completed his MBA at Baruch College and his Bachelors at Lewis & Clark College.

Vilda Vera Mayuga

President, Board of Directors

Vilda is Chairperson of the NYS Industrial Board of Appeals. Previously, she was 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 proud mom of Pilar who graduated from La Escuelita in 2015, and current Class of 2019 student Joaquín. 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.

Jennifer Woodruff

Vice-President, 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 Manager for a professional development collaboration between Bank Street College of Education and the New York City Department of Education Pre-K for All initiative. 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.

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. Martha additionally serves on the Board of the Cathedral School of St. John the Divine, and is a member of that school's Capital Campaign Committee. 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.

Ana-Maria Wheatcroft

Assistant Secretary, Board of Directors

Ana-Maria is the mother of three La Escuelita alums who attended the school from 2007 to 2014. She recently served as co-chair of the P.S. 87 Dual-Language Committee. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor’s degree in mathematics and economics. After spending 10 years working as an information technology programmer in the financial services sector, she joined the New York City Teaching Fellows in 2003 and completed her Master’s degree in secondary math education. Ana currently works for a quantitative hedge fund manager as a talent acquisition & culture specialist.

Peter Marchese

Board of Directors

Peter's professional background is in broadcast news. After working at CNN and FOX, Peter opened a communications consulting company focusing on book publicity. Having served in the Peace Corps in Mali, West Africa, Peter learned first hand the importance of language and is committed to raising his daughter, Lucia, through bilingual education. Lucia attended La Escuelita from 2012-2015. Peter received his BA in Political Science from Trinity College in Hartford, CT before receiving his Masters in International Affairs from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. He and his partner, David Thomas, choose to spend the summers in the Dominican Republic to help support their collective language skills.