Faculty and Staff


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Ali Annunziato, Physical Education

Ali Annunziato was born and raised in Commack, Long Island.  She received her undergraduate degree in sociology from Manhattanville College in Westchester.  While at Manhattanville, she competed on the women's ice hockey team and helped lead the Valiants to three straight appearances at the NCAA Frozen Four.  Falling just short of a collegiate national championship, it wasn't until 2007 that Ali brought home the gold with the USA Hockey sponsored Minnesota Blue J's, and in 2008 with Team Long Island in the Empire State Games.  She has played all over the world, including Finland, Sweden and Canada. Her identical twin sister, Annie, was an All-American in Minnesota, and now plays for the USA National Bandy Team. 


Kenneth Behr, Health/Physical Education

Kenneth Behr was born and raised in Monroe, NY, a town about 50 miles north of the Bronx.  Upon graduating from CUNY York’s Teacher program with a Bachelor’s degree in Science, Kenneth became a part of the Newburgh City School District’s Physical Education staff at various grade levels.  He remains a Football and Softball coach for the Putnam Valley School District.  The message that Kenneth wants to relay to his students is that through hard work and determination, anything is possible to accomplish.  A self-proclaimed sports fanatic, Kenneth’s loyalties lie with the Yankees, Jets and West Virginia Mountaineers, where he attended school in 1998.  Recently married, he enjoys spending time with his wife Kim and their pit bull/lab puppy, Stella.

Elana Bell, Writer in Residence

Elana Bell’s first collection of poetry, Eyes, Stones (LSU Press) was selected by Fanny Howe as the winner of the 2011 Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets. Elana is the recipient of grants and fellowships from the Jerome Foundation, the Edward Albee Foundation, the AROHO Foundation, and the Brooklyn Arts Council. Her work has recently appeared in AGNI, Harvard Review, Massachusetts Review, CALYX Journal, and elsewhere. Elana has led creative writing workshops for women in prison, for educators, for high school students in Israel, Palestine and throughout the five boroughs of New York City, as well as for the pioneering peace building and leadership organization, Seeds of Peace. She is currently the writer-in-residence for the Bronx Academy of Letters and poetry editor of the Jewish Journal.


Amber Bennett, 8th Grade Science

Amber Bennett has been a part of the 8th grade team at Bronx Letters since 2011.  She’s an involved resident of Mott Haven and might be caught outside school hours biking around the neighborhood, canoeing on the Bronx River, or working at the community garden.  Amber studied zoology and education, and spent four years coordinating outdoor education programs at a youth camp, including climbing, forestry, and teaching with live reptiles. Before moving to the Bronx in 2009, Amber taught high school biology in Tanzania, East Africa (2006-2008).  At Bronx Letters, she is involved in the new climbing wall, and led art clubs and community environmental projects with students.  Amber happily helps out students desiring to initiate projects or clubs related to art, the environment, or the local community. 


Bryan Bickford, 8th Grade Writing

Bryan is very excited to be joining the 8th Grade Writing Team at the Bronx Academy of Letters.  A native of Ellington, Connecticut, Bryan has been living in Queens for the past three years.  He received his B.A. in Sociology in 2010 from Wagner College and his Master's in Social Work in 2012 from Fordham University. Currently, Bryan is also a Master's candidate in Education at Hunter College.


Gail Brown, Special Education

Gail made the South Bronx home in 1986 and has lived, raised a family, and worked here ever since. After attempting a career as an artist, Gail was persuaded by friends to try teaching and the kids captured her heart. Twenty-three years later, she’s taught every age group from Pre-K through college, and they still capture her heart. Gail’s philosophy is to touch as many lives as she can; if she touches one, she made a difference. Gail graduated from Pratt Institute with an undergraduate degree in Fine Arts and from City College with a graduate degree in Special Education. Her specialty is literacy and writing. When she’s not teaching, you can find her on the beach or on an adventure traveling the world.


Lindsey Brown, G Next Girls’ Empowerment Program (Health Educator in Residence)

Lindsey Brown was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio.  She earned her Bachelor’s degree at Indiana University, with a major in School Health Education.  After graduating from Indiana in 2006, she moved to New York, where she worked as a middle and high school health education teacher.  During that time, Lindsey attended graduate school in the evenings and eventually earned a Master’s degree in School Health Education.  Lindsey currently holds the position of Center Director of the G Next Girls’ Empowerment Program.  


Gabriela Cardenas, Dance

A native Texan, Gabriela moved to NYC in 2000 to pursue her dance studies. Gabriela is classically trained in ballet, modern and contemporary dance. She brings over twenty five years of experience to her profession and has worked with a number of diverse choreographers and dancers. Gabriela holds degrees in Spanish and English from Texas Christian University and El Centro de Lenguas Modernas de la Universidad de Granada, Spain. In 2006, she completed her degree in Dance from SUNY at Empire State College and the DEL (Dance Education Laboratory) program through the Harkness Dance Center 92nd Street Y. She is a recent graduate of NYU's Steinhardt School with a Master of Arts in Dance Education and a NYS Certification for Teaching Dance grades Pre-K-12.    


Christian Clarke, English Language Arts Chair, Drama

Christian Clarke is the High School ELA department leader and teaches 11th Grade ELA as well as a Drama elective. Over the past year the ELA department has sponsored Poetry Out Loud, the English Speaker's Union Shakespeare competition, and Bronx Loaf, a writers' conference for New York City youth. In addition to teaching, Christian coaches the girls' basketball team, the Lady Ravens, and in the spring he directs the school play. This past year they produced August Wilson's Fences. Christian has been teaching since 2001. He has been at Letters since 2005. 


Ashlie Cotton, Special Education HS English Language Arts

Ashlie was born and raised outside of Denver, Colorado next to the great Rocky Mountains. A “mountain girl” at heart, she still spends most of her free time there with her family. In high school, Ashlie’s first love was the stage, as she was heavily involved in theater. She was also a Bill Daniels Scholar which led to her receive a full scholarship to New York University. At NYU, Ashlie studied at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study creating a degree in Interdisciplinary Creative Arts. This included studying film, acting, and fine arts—all with a heavy emphasis on literature. Ashlie also minored in Psychology, which influenced her decision to begin working in Special Education. Upon graduating from NYU, Ashlie worked in the Admissions Department at The School of Visual Arts. This led her to apply to The New York City Teaching Fellows program, through which she is currently obtaining her Masters in Education with a concentration in Urban Adolescent Special Education at Long Island University-Brooklyn. As a teacher, she is constantly looking for ways to integrate creativity and art into the classroom. 


Janice Dixon, 6th Grade Science

Janice Dixon graduated from Xavier University of Louisiana with a degree in political science. For years before pursuing a career as an educator, she served as Deputy Chief of Special Operations at the New York City Department of Transportation. She completed a Master of Science in Adolescence Education from Mercy College, in Dobbs Ferry, New York. Janice has taught mathematics and science courses for several urban and suburban school districts for more than a decade. She was Director of Education for the American Civil Rights Education Services in Brooklyn. She taught an American Heritage course on pre-, post- and modern civil rights era history at the City University of New York at Medgar Evers College. United Black Men of Queens County, Inc. honored her as a “Woman Who Makes a Difference.” Janice co-founded the 79th Precinct Community Council’s scholarship fund and served as its first chairperson. Honoring her commitment to youth development, Janice is a mentor.  She lives in Orange County, New York.   


Elana Eisen-Markowitz, 11th Grade Social Studies

Elana Eisen-Markowitz grew up in Washington, DC, and Takoma Park, MD. She moved to Boston for college but never liked Massachusetts very much. Ms. Eisen-Markowitz majored in American Studies at Tufts University, where she spent her time as a Neubauer Scholar working on various independent research projects around the world (Mexico, Argentina, South Africa), as well as co-teaching a course for college freshmen about racial identity, and playing soccer and Ultimate Frisbee. She took a break from college to work at a Haitian immersion middle school in Cambridge, MA, and then returned to Tufts to complete a Master’s in History for Secondary Schools. Just before moving to New York to teach Bronx Letters' lovely eleventh graders, Ms. E-M taught both U.S. and Global History at Somerville High School in Somerville, MA.


Amin Fernandez, Enrichment Coordinator

Amin Fernandez was born in Salcedo, La Republica Dominicana. Since the age of 3, the South Bronx has been his home. As a kid he found solace more in video games and Goosebumps books than in the park or on the block. He attended All Hallows Institute, graduating valedictorian, while also partaking in the Experiment in International Living: Japan. At All Hallows he discovered his love for filmmaking and acting, inspiring him to major in Cinema Studies at Columbia College, graduating in the Class of 2011. He is a spoken-word poet, amateur bodybuilder, aspiring filmmaker, and a true believer that “todo tiene un porque.”


Hilary Galland, 9th grade Writing

Hilary was raised in Evanston, Illinois, and traveled extensively while growing up, spending time in Mexico, France and Kenya during high school. She attended Wesleyan University and won the Fiction and Poetry Writing Awards upon graduation. Hilary then moved to Chicago, where she spent her first year teaching seventh grade on the city's West Side. She then got her Master’s in Secondary Education at UIC, and took a job as English teacher, AVID director and English Department Chair at a Chicago public high school. While teaching, Hilary completed National Board certification and moved to Asia, where she served as English Department Chair at an international school in Taiwan. Hilary moved to Washington, DC, where she worked in charter, private and alternative schools. She is glad to relocate to New York and excited to work and write with the students at BAL.


Katie Garringer, 9th Grade Math

Katie Garringer grew up in a small town in Northern California.  An athlete at heart, Katie spent much of her youth participating in athletics.  She was a member of her high school's volleyball and basketball teams.  She went on to play basketball at the collegiate level for four years along with two years of collegiate cross-country.  After completing a B.A. in Mathematics at Simpson University in Redding, California, she was accepted into the Math for America teaching fellowship in New York City.  One month after graduating college, she moved to New York, an unfamiliar place, to begin working on a Master of Arts in Teaching at Bard College.  Shortly after completing her master’s she was hired at Bronx Letters.  She has been a member of the math team since 2010, currently teaching ninth grade algebra and pre-algebra.  She has always had a passion for mathematics and for teaching others.  In addition, she also serves as the Baker House Leader and the high school volleyball coach.  


Desirée Gascott, 12th Grade Writing / AP Composition

Desirée Gascott was raised in Uniondale, New York. After leaving Long Island, she attended college at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Though she had planned a major in Paranormal Psychology, Desiree realized her love for writing when she read Raymond Carver's "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" in one of her sophomore English classes. She switched majors and graduated with a BA in English and Creative Writing. She shared her poetry at the Folger Shakespeare Library, and her short story "Better Homes and Gardens" was a finalist in the GW Review. She then went on to graduate magna cum laude with a Master’s in Secondary Education in English, also from GWU. Since then, she's taught honors English in Arlington, Virginia and British Literature in Boston; written stories and test questions for Scantron state exams in San Diego; taught literacy at IS 171 in East New York, and taught 9th grade English Language Arts at KECSS in Bensonhurst.  At Letters since 2005, Desiree has taught 10th grade Creative Nonfiction, 11th grade Introduction to Rhetoric, SAT prep, and served as a College Counselor.  She now proudly teaches seniors, heads the Parker House, and works with AP Language & Composition students. 


Katrina Gounaris, Speech Therapist

Katrina Gounaris was raised in Indianapolis, IN and graduated from Indiana University where she received both her Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Speech-Language Pathology. Additionally, Katrina holds minors in Psychology and Spanish. She has worked in both healthcare and school settings, specializing in the pediatric population. Katrina is nationally certified by the American Speech, Language and Hearing Association and is a licensed speech-language pathologist in the state of New York.  She believes that communication is the key to success wherever one goes in life. For this reason she works with her students to achieve their goals so that they can better communicate as confident individuals in society. In her spare time, Katrina enjoys practicing yoga and cooking. 


Shahid Haque, 12th Grade Participation in Government & Economics

Shahid Haque was born and raised in Queens, New York.  Taking after his father and two older brothers, he received his BA from Baruch College, majoring in Business Management.  After working for two years, he decided to pursue education, rather than a career in the business world. Shahid started his teaching career at BAL during the 2012-2013 school year.  He is currently working on his master’s degree at Queens College.  During his free time, he can be found outdoors with his friends, cooking, taking his dog to Central Park, reading, and traveling.    


Andrew Hara, 9th Grade Social Studies

Andrew Hara was born and raised in the Bay Area of Northern California. At age seven, he tied for third place in his school's poster-making contest. As his reward, he was allotted $50 worth of books that would be donated to the school library in his name. He elected to use all of the money on copies of his then favorite book, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. According to his mother, young Andrew wanted all students at Hilltop Elementary School to avoid leading boring and meaningless lives like the book's main character, Milo.  This remains Mr. Hara's attitude today as a History teacher at Bronx Letters, and it has carried over to his experiences playing competitive basketball in Japan, working in Upward Bound programs in Santa Barbara, CA, and Burlington, VT, researching public education in indigenous villages of the South American Andes, and most recently teaching at high schools in Boston and the Dominican Republic. Mr. Hara completed his undergraduate and graduate studies at Tufts University. There, he spoke at his college graduation in 2004 and received the Ann Mulcahy Service in Education Award in 2005.


Casey Harris, 11th Grade Science

Casey Harris originally hails from New York City, where trips to the Museum of Natural History as a young boy sparked his interest in science and the environment. After graduating from Tufts University with a degree in environmental studies and anthropology, he worked on a public health study at Tufts University School of Medicine before returning to New York. After working as an environmental consultant for four years, he realized that office life was not for him and joined the New York City Teaching Fellows program. It was Casey's lifelong passion for writing that first attracted him to Bronx Letters. His other interests include music production, record collecting, and a deep love of baseball.


Patricia Huancayo, Spanish

Patricia Huancayo was born and raised in Ecuador and came to the US many years ago. She has spent most of her professional career working in the public sector as well as for multinationals such Nikon, Symbol, and Net2phone, where she was able to use her bilingual skills in the marketing department and as an account manager for Latin America. She became a teacher back in 1996 at Stony Brook University; however, she did not work in the field until 2007 when she had an opportunity to go back to teaching. She felt this was a great chance in life to do something she really had a passion for. For the past four years she has been teaching Spanish to High School students in the Bronx. As an educator, she likes to prepare students not only for college, but for the world we live in today. Patricia’s greatest satisfaction comes from seeing her students succeed and shine in life, knowing that she has contributed in some small way to their happiness and intellectual prosperity. Patricia’s earned her Master’s in School Administration from Fordham University, and her Bachelors in Foreign Languages from the Teachers’ Program at Stony Brook University. She enjoys reading novels in Spanish – especially those by Gabriel García Márquez – as well as traveling and exploring Latin America.


Kate Irving, College Counselor

Born in Washington, DC, Kate attended high school at The Potomac School in McLean, Virginia.  Shockingly uninspired by the changing seasons she ran off to St. Mary’s College in California to pursue a BA in English and a California dream.  She even sneaked in a semester at St Andrew’s University in Scotland to study the language.  Following college she worked as the educational director at the Boys and Girls Club in Martinez, California. Kate became increasingly tired of the eternal clear skies, car payments and general calm of California’s Bay Area and dreamed of a land where snow and leaves fell to the ground.  After completing her MA in English Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, Kate settled down for eight years at FLAGS High School, a small public school in the South Bronx. After four years of teaching English at FLAGS, Kate also became the part time college advisor. Once she realized that she enjoyed helping her students with their college applications more than grading their essays, she enrolled in Hunter College and earned her Master’s in School Counseling in 2008. She has now been the college counselor for five years at Bronx Academy of Letters, where she knows she will never be bored as long as there are high school students with college dreams.


Eliza Kenigsberg, 10th Grade Science

Eliza Kenigsberg hails from the southwest corner of Vermont. She loves adventures in the outdoors, and has spent many weekends and vacations exploring mountains in the Northeast and on the West Coast. This love of adventure also includes the urban jungle, where Eliza earned a degree in Environmental Studies at NYU. After college, she traveled through India and then returned to the US to coordinate an alternative education program in Vermont. There, she sent teenagers into the woods to complete environmental projects for a stipend and high school credit. This experience fueled Eliza’s excitement for education and the earth, which eventually led her back to New York City to join the Teaching Fellows Program. Now she has the opportunity to share her enthusiasm about the wonderful complexity of the Earth with BAL students as a science teacher!


Patrick Kauth, 7th Grade Humanities

Patrick was raised in Saratoga Springs, NY, before attending Merrimack College near Boston, MA. Studying abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland, during his junior year spurred a lifelong love for travel to match his passion for reading and history. These interests have now led him to every continent except Australia and Antarctica. An extensive trip through southeastern Africa, which included volunteer teaching in Tanzania, inspired him to switch careers from finance to education. Patrick enthusiastically joined the Bronx Letters community in 2013 after completing his Master’s degree from Teacher’s College, Columbia University. He is part of a proud teaching family that includes his sister and mother, the latter a practitioner since 1970! A longtime resident of Long Island City, Queens, Patrick enjoys both watching and playing ice hockey whenever he can in his free time.    


Anne Looser, Special Education

Anne Looser has taught in the Bronx for almost a decade.She received her undergraduate degree in Political Science and Economics from the University of Utah.  She then moved to New York City and soon graduated from Mercy College in the Bronx with a Master’s degree in Urban Education.  She began teaching literacy and English, but made the switch to teach Social Studies because it is her first love. Anne is passionate about bringing democracy to her classroom and the Bronx Letters community through Restorative Justice practices.  In addition to being a member of the Bronx Letters community,  Anne is a member of Teachers Unite.  Much of the work she does around Restorative Justice is done with Teachers Unite.  Anne loves to read. Her favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird. Anne enjoys cooking, bike riding, yoga, running, hiking, and spending as much time as possible outdoors. 


Jeff McHugh, 11th Grade Math

Jeff McHugh hails from Chicago, Illinois, home of the Cubs and the best pizza in the world.  For years, he struggled to find a comfortable middle ground for his love of mathematics and the written word, and he found it at Bronx Letters. Jeff graduated from Northwestern University with a BA in English and Economics, and he spent some time afterwards doing marketing and speechwriting for the school. Jeff is thrilled to bring his passion for math and language to the Bronx.


Laura Mercogliano, 9th Grade Literature

Laura Mercogliano has taught ELA and Writing in the Bronx for the past eight years.  After graduating from Fordham University, she joined the NYC Teaching Fellows in 2005, and has been at Bronx Letters since 2008.  For the past four years she taught 8th grade ELA and Writing in our middle school, as well as serving as 8th Grade Team Leader and coach of the Mock Trial team.   She was thrilled to watch her 8th graders express themselves in programs such as Poetry Out Loud, Cafe Raven, and Bronx Loaf, and is excited to continue reading and writing with students.  While she is sad to leave the wild and wonderful world of middle school, she is looking forward to moving to our high school this year.


Ray Miles, 7th Grade Math

Ray is a math teacher with over twenty-five years’ experience.  He has been with theBronx Academy of Letters since it first opened its doors in 2003, and hopes to be here for many more years to come.


Kelly Overton, Librarian

Kelly Overton was born in South Carolina, lived in California long enough to lose her accent, and then returned to grow up in South Carolina. At Hampshire College she studied poetry, history, literature, and education. After college she fell in love with North Carolina, where she helped start a teen-run radio show, worked as a high school English teacher, and finally found her calling as a librarian...yes, a librarian! Before coming to Bronx Letters, Kelly worked as the teen librarian at the Mott Haven branch of the New York Public Library. After much searching, learning, and working in and around the South, Northeast, and now the South Bronx, she is very happy to have found the Bronx Academy of Letters.


Fernando Restrepo, Dean

Fernando Restrepo was born and raised in New York. He is the son of a working-class Puerto Rican mother who raised him and a Colombian father who did not. Mom worked two jobs so Fernando, who was raised as an only child, was often left alone to study hard, or else, and read hundreds of books while eating hard-boiled eggs, seasoned with Goya Adobo. As a teenager in the 90’s, he cut his teeth writing on the walls of subway stations and tunnels and eventually shifted to publishing essays, articles, and photos in independent student and hip-hop ‘zines. Upon graduating from Binghamton University, where he majored in Sociology and Latin American and Caribbean area studies, he enrolled in the teacher education program at The New School and became an educator the old-fashioned way, while delivering pizza to make ends meet. He came to Letters after teaching in public schools throughout the city for many years. When he isn’t in the classroom he can be found eating out, rolling on mats with UFC types, or traveling to places that end in “uba.”


Anjoli Rodriguez, Special Education MS, Arts

Anjoli Rodriguez will complete the New York Teaching Fellows program in May 2014 with a Master’s in Special Education from City College. Hailing from Philadelphia, Anjoli graduated with a B.A. in Theater from Temple University. Determined to challenge herself, she became an accomplished artist with experience in film, theater, playwriting, and directing, in addition to being a commissioned and published poet. She piloted many theater education programs in Philadelphia, propelled by her fervent belief in making theater accessible to the community by promoting creativity in classrooms. At Bronx Letters, Anjoli’s high school theater students have submitted original plays to the New York Young Playwrights Festival, performed in the Poetry Out Loud competition, and published their poetry. Her middle school students have performed original and student written work, and also published their poetry. 


Elizabeth Sampson, 10th Grade Literature

Elizabeth Sampson got her start on the cobblestoned, coffee shop-lined streets of Portland, ME. She earned her BA in English and Art History from the College of the Holy Cross in 2002. Upon graduation, she worked on a Senate campaign and on Capitol Hill, but was soon lured to the NYCTF in 2003 by the excitement of big city life and the possibility of affecting change in schools that needed it most. As a Fellow, she earned her MS in TESOL from Long Island University—Brooklyn and spent five years teaching ESL at IS 162 in Bushwick, Brooklyn, while perfecting her risotto technique and exploring far-flung parts of NYC in her free time. In 2008, she took a hiatus from New York to pursue an MA in English at the University of Massachusetts, where a posthumous crush on George Orwell was given free reign. She joined the Letters team in 2010 and since then has taught ESL and ELA in both the middle and high school. She is thrilled to work with such a talented group of people in a place where her main interests — literary and cultural theory, social justice, keeping her slang fresh, and happy hour — all come together.


Katie Schuff, 8th Grade Math

Katie Schuff was born and raised in Albany, NY. She was a competitive softball and basketball player throughout her high school years. Now she stays involved in athletics by coaching in summer youth leagues. She is a graduate of Union College where she completed her B.S. in Mathematics and discovered her love for teaching. While at Union, she studied abroad twice, teaching Math in Barbados and English in Cambodia. Following graduation she received a Fulbright Fellowship to teach English in Indonesia for a year. Now as a part of Teach For America, she will be joining the team at the Bronx Academy of Letters as the 8th grade Math teacher. Over the next two years she will also be pursuing a Master’s of Arts in Teaching at Relay Graduate School of Education.


Kristen Silfies, 10th Grade Math

Kristen grew up in a small town outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and went on to study finance and accounting at Lehigh University.  After spending some time at Goldman Sachs and Ernst and Young, Kristen grew tired of Wall Street and began searching for a career that truly inspired her.  Her instincts led her to education.  Kristen joined Teach for America and began working at Middle School 331 in the Bronx.  In 2008, she joined Bronx Letters, excited to share her passion for mathematics with her students.  She currently resides on the Upper East Side where she spends her free time reading, visiting museums, and playing tennis.


Kate Sullivan, Grade 6 Math

Kate Sullivan grew up many miles north of New York City, in a small town outside of Saratoga Springs. Drawn to both mathematics and invention as well as literature, she attended SUNY Albany where she explored both paths. Ultimately graduating with a degree in English, she moved to New York City in 2005 to join NYCTF.  From there, she began teaching math at IS 162, in Brooklyn. In her free time, she likes to build things, fix things, and figure things out. She is new to Bronx Letters this year and is proud to join such an esteemed and dedicated team of educators. 


Jake Thomas, 8th Grade Humanities

Jake Thomas hails from Florida where he was a community planner and neighborhood organizer. In 2008, he moved to NYC and entered into the NYC Teaching Fellows program and received his master's degree in education with a concentration in special education from Hunter College. Since 2009 he has been living and teaching middle school literacy in the South Bronx and joined the BAL middle school literacy team in 2013. Jake enjoys reading great literature on his own or with his students, especially historical fiction (recommends Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor to students and adults alike). Outside school, Jake is an activist for environmental conservation and and community rights in Mott Haven. For fun, Jake enjoys cooking, road biking, and playing board games with friends. Fun fact: Jake grew up living on a little sail boat with his parents and younger sister!


Marlene Troncoso, Paraprofessional

Marlene Troncoso was born in the Dominican Republic. She moved to the United States when she was 13 years old. She graduated South Bronx High School in 1996 at 16 years old. Marlene has two beautiful children that keep her very busy between school duties, sport activities (soccer, basketball, lacrosse, etc. – you name it, they probably play it), and everything else they throw her way. She recently graduated from Mercy College with a Bachelor’s in Behavioral Science. She is currently pursuing a Master's degree in childhood education from Mercy College.

Lisa Wong, 7th Grade Science

Lisa was born in Hong Kong and emigrated to Queens, New York, at the young age of one and a half.  She grew up a Yankees fan in Astoria, playing stick ball. She played softball and volleyball throughout high school and college.  Her teaching career began in the South Bronx, teaching 4th grade, moving up to 5th grade the following year. She has since taught grades six through eight, both in Science and Writing, all over the city, and has helped to found an Urban Assembly school in Throggs Neck, Bronx. Lisa’s hobbies include watching crime dramas, and reading science fiction, action and adventure, and fantasy novels, as well as playing with her cats Tiki and Telly.


Rebecca Zeisel, Science Department Chair

Rebecca Zeisel studied Animal Science and Zoology at Washington University in St. Louis.  After graduation, she moved to New York to join the New York City Teaching Fellows.  Prior to working at Bronx Letters, Rebecca spent five years teaching at Herbert H. Lehman High School in the Bronx. In addition to teaching science at Bronx Letters, Rebecca is the faculty adviser for House Council, the student government.



Alexandra Figueroa, Paraprofessional

Alexandra was born and raised in the Dominican Republic with my four siblings. She attended UTESA university in Santiago, DR, where she studied medicine, but then was granted the opportunity to start a life in New York City. She moved to New York in April of 1990 and has loved it ever since. She have two wonderful daughters named Samantha (19) and Andrianelys (15).  She is thrilled to be a full-time paraprofessional, and counts working at Bronx Letters as a real privilege.


Latisha Weekes-Howard, School Secretary

Latisha Weekes-Howard was born and raised in the Bronx, New York.  She attended Elmira Free Academy and then went on to receive her Associate’s from Corning Community College in Corning New York.  In 1996, she moved back to the Bronx and began working as an Executive Receptionist for several firms throughout Manhattan, until she became a paraprofessional in 2007.  In 2008, after receiving her Secretarial License she began working as a school secretary and has gained extensive knowledge in various aspects of the role throughout the years. She looks forward to continued growth within her career at Bronx Letters. In her free time, Latisha enjoys going to the movies, bird watching, reading poetry, arts and crafts, spending time with family and friends, and overall helping others in any way she can.


Lisa Monge, Parent Coordinator

Lisa Monge was born and raised in Syracause, NY.  Her dad was in a salsa music band.  When Lisa was only four years old, her mother died of epilepsy and she and her sister had to move to the Bronx to live with their paternal grandparents.  They haven’t left the Bronx since. She inherited her passion for music, dance, and her outgoing personality from her dad, who still to this day wants to go out dancing with her whenever possible. Lisa always had a love for children, and now has two of her own. Lisa believes that there’s nothing better than to become part of a group that can educate, inspire, and motivate that inner Einstein in every child. Lisa likes spending time with her family, going to the movies, dining or hanging out with her girlfriends, shopping, reading a good book, and playing Scrabble.


David Ortiz, Technology Coordinator

David Ortiz was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to New York city  in September, 1999.  After graduating from William Howard Taft high school in 2000, he attended Bronx Community College where he earned an Associate’s degree in Computer Application and Programming. Before joining the Letters team in the fall of 2009, David worked with both East Side House Settlement and Mott Haven Village Preparatory High School as a technology manager.  He spends his free time playing baseball, basketball and dominoes.