MARITZA ALDUENDE, School Secretary
Maritza was born in Spanish Harlem and raised in our very own South Bronx, in Moore Houses at 149th and Jackson Avenue. After eight years at Immaculate Conception and graduating from St. Pius V High School, Maritza then attended the Wood Tobe-Coburn School of Business as a co-op student, which afforded her the opportunity to work for Merrill Lynch and Sherman & Sterling on Wall Street. After Wood Tobe-Coburn, Maritza received her secretarial science certificate and moved to West Palm Beach, Florida, where she worked for architectural engineers for two years. But New York was home, and she had to return. In the city, she worked in private industry for many years, until she joined the DOE in September 2001 as a pupil accounting secretary at I.S. 184. Pupil accounting was the hardest job she’d ever had to learn, but the one she found most rewarding. Helping children, parents, and staff was so fulfilling. Maritza has been part of the Bronx Academy of Letters team since September 2009, and is so happy to be working with middle and high school students once again. She loves her job.
ALI ANNUNZIATO, Physical Education, Athletic Director
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. Ali is currently in the process of finishing her graduate degree in physical education at Manhattanville College.
AMY APPLEGATE, Health
Amy Applegate will always be a criminal. A Yuma High School Criminal that is. Born and raised in Yuma, AZ, Amy's high school started in the old Territorial Prison. Its mascot is the only one of its kind. Amy went on to play college softball and basketball in Utah. While earning her Masters degree from Utah State University, Amy taught and coached at a local high school. Since then, Amy has taught and travelled in many places, including Alaska. During her travels, Amy has visited forty-nine States. Bet you can't guess which one she's missing?
DESIRÉE BATTAGLIA, College Counselor, House Leader, Parker
Desirée Battaglia was raised in Uniondale, New York. After leaving her beloved 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 masters in secondary education in English from the same university. Since then, she's taught honors English in Arlington, Virginia, British Literature in Boston, and written stories and test questions for Scantron state exams in San Diego, and literacy at IS 171 in East New York. Though she’s now one of college counselors, in her five years at Letters, Desiree has also taught 10th grade Creative Nonfiction, 11th grade Introduction to Rhetoric, SAT prep, and her personal favorite, Advisory for the Parker House Class of 2009.
ELANA BELL, Writer-in-Residence
Elana Bell, selected as the winner of the 2004 Stephen Dunn Poetry Award, is a 2007-2008 arts fellow at the Drisha Institute. A resident artist with the louderARTS Project, Elana has been a featured poet at Bar 13, the NuYorican Poets Cafe, Hunter College, Teachers and Writers Collaborative, The Bowery Poetry Club, Wow Café Theater, Cornelia Street Café, the Bronx Council on the Arts’ First Wednesday Series, and at the Indian Institute for Advanced Studies in Simla, India. Publications include: Words and Images Magazine, Houston Poetry Festival Journal, Parse, Clamor, Poetz.com and two chapbooks: Dreaming of Doorways and Name Carvings. She serves as the writer-in-residence for the Bronx Academy of Letters and also sings with the a cappella trio, Saheli.
FRED BENTON, Physics, Science Department Chair
CHERIE BLACKWELL, Visual Arts, Arts Liaison
Cherie Blackwell moved to NYC in the summer of 2000 to attend Pratt Institute. There she thought very intensely about the art of teaching and the nature of oil paints. Throughout her undergraduate studies Cherie worked as an America Reads mentor. She also illustrated for Urban Echoes Holiday greeting cards and freelanced as an interior muralist. Cherie graduated in 2004 obtaining the Undergraduate Merit Honor. After graduation, she continued to work with Pratt in their Saturday Art School Department as an art educator/consultant and obtained a masters in early childhood education from Touro College. Before joining Letters, Cherie worked as an elementary art teacher in the South Bronx, where two of her fifth grade students were selected as semi-finalists in the 2008 City Wide PS Art competition. Cherie remains excited by her work establishing the Bronx Academy of Letter's new visual arts studio and working with its middle and high school students.
KATE CARBERRY, College Counselor
Born in the Washington, DC area (Bethesda, MD) Kate Carberry 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 school in the 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 issues more than grading their essays, she enrolled in Hunter College’s School counseling masters program in 2006. She is now embarking on a counseling adventure where she knows she will never be bored as long as there are high school students and colleges who need them.
MARISOL CASTILLO, Writing, Exhibition Coordinator
Gisela Marisol Castillo was born in California and raised in San Antonio, Texas. Although her first name is Gisela, she goes by Marisol for two important reasons. One, her parents incorrectly filled out an enrollment form when she registered for pre-kindergarten, resulting in much confusion for the four-year old. Two, Gisela Castillo was the name of a villain in one of the many Mexican soap operas to which Marisol was addicted during her formative years, thus bringing a permanent curse on that name. After sorting out the confusion regarding her name, Marisol got serious and enrolled in Stanford University where she earned a B.A. in comparative literature and political science with honors in education. She was then accepted into Stanford’s School of Education where she obtained her masters in education and teaching credential. Marisol completed her student teaching at a school in East Palo Alto, California, where she spent five years honing her skills and pushing herself as a teacher by applying for her National Board Credential, which she received in 2009.
KATE CEBULSKI, Writing & Literature, Seventh Grade Team Leader
Kate was born and raised in Trumbull, Connecticut as the second oldest of six children. She attended Boston University to study English education, and spent many early mornings on the Charles River as a member of the women’s rowing team. After graduation she fulfilled her desire to join the U.S. Peace Corps by accepting a volunteer position in South Africa. For two years she lived and worked in the township of Nhlazatshe helping to implement the new national education curriculum, and educate the community about HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. Upon returning to the U.S. and prior to working at the Bronx Academy of Letters she was a middle and high school English teacher at a small school in the Bronx for three years. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in school leadership at Columbia University’s Teachers College as part of the Summer Principals Academy.
CHRISTIAN CLARKE, Literature & Drama
Christian Clarke was born and raised in the Midwest. Scholars have yet to pinpoint the exact time and place of his birth but generally believe it occurred in central Illinois, in the late seventies, around the time Star Wars debuted in theaters. Star Wars would have a profound impact on young Christian, eventually providing him with the richest well-spring of educational metaphors he has encountered to date. He has taught in New York since 2001, and at Bronx Letters since 2005.
DEIRDRE DEMPSEY, Speech and Language
Deirdre Dempsey was raised in Wayne, New Jersey. She attended the University of Connecticut where she double majored in communication disorders and psychology. At UConn, Deirdre assisted in research pertaining to aphasia (a communication disorder secondary to a stroke or traumatic brain injury) and the psychology of speech perception. In 2007, Deirdre moved to Manhattan to attend Columbia University where she earned her MS in speech language pathology. While obtaining her masters degree, she worked with children and adults with speech and language disorders in a variety of settings; including preschool, elementary, high school and private practices. As a speech language pathologist, Deirdre provides speech and language therapy for the students at the Bronx Academy of Letters, helping them develop strategies to access the curriculum and succeed academically.
ROBERT DRUMMOND, U.S. History
In 2008, Robert began his second career as a social studies teacher after spending twenty-five years in the New York City real estate industry. He graduated from Hofstra University with a masters in secondary education this year. Robert is a student of history who has traveled to the ancient cities of Athens and Rome and visited many of the wonders of the world, such as the Parthenon, the Coliseum and the statue of Zeus at Olympia. He also has traveled extensively in the United States and loves to hike through our national parks. Robert has been married to his wife Donna for twenty-three years, and they are raising their four children in East Rockaway on Long Island. Robert enjoys playing guitar, basketball, skiing and producing plays at Saint Raymond Parish.
DEREK DUBOSSI, Earth Science, Tenth Grade Team Leader
Derek was born and raised in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and attended Purdue University to study atmospheric science. After graduation he decided to pursue education instead of a profession as a meteorologist. He taught earth and space science for two years at Lake Taylor High School in Norfolk, VA. A desire to be involved in comparative and international education attracted him to accept a role as a U.S. Peace Corps and volunteer in South Africa in 2003. For two years, he worked with the South African government implementing a new national education curriculum in a post-apartheid era. Currently, he is earning a masters degree in science education at Columbia University's Teachers College.
ELANA EISEN-MARKOWITZ, U.S. History, House Master, De Burgos
Elana Eisen-Markowitz grew up in Washington D.C. 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 masters 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.
CARLA FAZIO, Dance
Carla grew up in Attleboro, MA, and has been moving and grooving since the age of two! It all began one holiday evening watching the PBS dancing reindeer on television. Since then, she has been dancing, choreographing and teaching up a storm. She completed her undergraduate work at Rhode Island College, summa cum laude and with department honors in dance performance. Following college, she worked as a struggling choreographer in Rhode Island. In 2004, she realized her dream by moving to New York City to choreograph and teach dance. She completed a masters in dance education at New York University. After a brief teaching stint in Brooklyn, she found her way to Bronx Academy of Letters. When she is not teaching, she is choreographing for her own dance company, the Carla Fazio Dance Company.
JANA FORD, Math, Math Department Chair
Growing up in Minnesota, Jana observed that mathematics did not always come easily to her. It took work both at home and in the classroom for her to understand its complexities. She would often ask many questions about why certain mathematical rules worked, and would get frustrated when no one could explain. These frustrations eventually led Jana to pursue a career in education. She graduated from Augsburg College in Minneapolis with a degree in education, and is currently working on her masters in mathematics education. Jana has taught sixth, seventh, and eighth grade math for four years in Minnesota. Three of those years were spent at Central Middle School where she helped develop a collaborative model of instruction for English language learners. When not engaged in a math problem, Jana can be found coaching or playing ice hockey, lacrosse, or soccer.
SIERRA FREEMAN, Student Enrichment Coordinator
Sierra Freeman was born and raised in the Lower East Side neighborhood of Manhattan. As a high school student, Sierra became extremely interested in both Latino studies and journalism. Pursuing her passion, she earned a bachelors degree from Hunter College, CUNY, in 2006, where she studied African/Latin American studies and English. Before coming to the Bronx Academy of Letters, Sierra worked in the archives department at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies. She also enjoys writing and has freelanced for publications like, Latina Style Magazine, The Indypendent, and Urban Latino Magazine. During her free time, she loves to watch Bollywood movies and spend time with her French Bull dog, Cassius.
ANTHONY GALARDI, History
Anthony Galardi was born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He knew he wanted to be a teacher when his high school gave him credit to run an after-school childcare program at a local school and he loved it! Anthony later on graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelors degree in Education. He's currently working on his masters. His passion for traveling has landed him in Dublin for five months and allowed him to explore other parts of Europe and Africa. In the summer of 2007, Anthony taught English, science and economics in Nkandla, South Africa. He just finished his student teaching in Detroit, Michigan. His interests include traveling, reading, eating, camping, basketball and all types of music.
DENISE GARCIA, Administrative Assistant
Denise Garcia grew up in the South Bronx. Shortly after graduating from South Bronx High School, she joined the founding Bronx Letters team, and has been here ever since. Denise has two beautiful boys, the oldest of whom – Justin – has grown up in Letters classrooms and common spaces.
ANDREW HARA, Global History, Ninth Grade Team Leader, Basketball Coach
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 fifty dollars 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 into his experiences playing competitive basketball in Japan, working in Upward Bound programs in Santa Barbara, CA, and Burlington, VM, 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, Living Environment. Recycling Coordinator, Baseball Coach
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. He is nearly finished with his masters degree in education at the City College of New York.
ANDREW HENNESSEY, U.S. History
Andrew Hennessy attended high school in Anchorage, Alaska, where he enjoyed playing sports and being outdoors. As a freshman at Tulane University, Andrew evacuated from New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina and spent a semester at the University of Alaska - Anchorage. After returning to Tulane the following semester, he majored in history and international relations and studied abroad in Budapest, Hungary. Andrew graduated from Tulane in the spring of 2009 and joined Teach for America. He joined the Bronx Academy of Letters team as a history teacher in the fall of 2009, and began work on his Masters degree in Education at CUNY Hunter.
RACHEL HUDELSON, Math, Sixth Grade Team Leader
Rachel Hudelson is originally from Minnesota and moved to New York City to join the Teaching Fellows. She previously taught violin in Minneapolis and fifth and second grades at P.S. 89, an elementary school in Queens. Rachel has studied in Cuba and Nicaragua. In her free time, she likes to run, hike, cook, and make pottery.
ANTOINE JUMELLE, Special Education ELA, House Master, Thomas
Antoine joined the Bronx Academy of Letters in 2006. As a graduate of Yale University with a degree in political science, Antoine has always found few things to be as thrilling as arguing. He has a passion for debate and was a member of debate teams in both high school and college. In addition, Antoine loves to entertain others, whether it is through dance, comedy or writing. He also loves to talk, which made becoming a teacher a natural choice for him. Antoine was born in Louisiana and raised for most of his life in Oklahoma, though his accent, strangely, does not sound southern at all. He previously held a position as a mentor in Boston, MA, and now works with the New York City Teaching Fellows earning his masters in the art of teaching. He one day hopes to achieve a doctorate in education.
MAGALY LAINEZ, Science
A cottage, a building across the railroad, and a “house” situated directly across from horse stables-What do these places have in common? They are all places Magaly has taught. Magaly first started her teaching career almost ten years ago as an intern at Stony Brook University’s child care center. She changed her career aspirations from scientist to early childhood educator after completing the internship her junior year in college. Upon graduating from Stony Brook University, she worked for Bright Horizons Family Solutions for eight years, first as a teacher then as an assistant director. After working as the assistant director at Anna House child care center located directly on the grounds of Belmont Racetrack on Long Island, Magaly decided she missed the classroom and joined the NYC Teaching Fellows where she is currently combining her two passions: science and teaching. She has had the pleasure of traveling to many places this past year, including Hawaii, California, Kentucky, Virginia, Florida, and her most cherished trip-a visit to El Salvador-her birthplace, where she spent Christmas with her family. Magaly is finally glad to be home again in NY and looks forward to working with the students, families, and staff at the Bronx Academy of Letters.
ERIN LENAHAN, Writing & Literature, Eleventh Grade Exhibition Leader, House Master, Baker
Erin Lenahan grew up in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, and moved to New York in 2003. She started out in the fashion industry, but later decided to join the New York City Teaching Fellows program. This was clearly the best decision she ever made. Before teaching at the Bronx Academy of Letters, Erin spent five years at the High School of Graphic Communication Arts as an English teacher and the coordinator for the Academy of Journalism. She earned her B.A. in English from the University of Michigan and her M.S. for teaching at Pace University. In her spare time, Erin enjoys playing sports, running, shopping, drawing and painting, kayaking and watching Michigan football.
LATOYA MALCOLM, Special Education History
Latoya Malcolm hails from Westmoreland, Jamaica. In her teens, she migrated with her parents and younger brother to New York. She attended high school in the South Bronx and then went on to attend Hamilton College with the dream of being a historian. She switched majors after taking one Africana Studies class. She graduated from Hamilton with a Bachelors in Africana Studies and an unofficial minor in Women’s Studies. She then went on to work with the AmeriCorps program as a case worker for teenage mothers in Hartford, CT. After a six year hiatus, Latoya has returned to NYC as a New York Teaching Fellow. She is currently working on her masters degree in Education at the City College of New York.
TIFFANY MARRERO, Paraprofessional
AMY MATTHUSEN, Writing & Literature
Amy Matthusen studied comparative literature and anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she graduated magna cum laude and was awarded a Hilldale Grant and the Jane Goodard Award for Academic Achievement. She has an MA in English literature from the University of Oregon, where she taught college composition. She also earned a masters in teaching from Pace University. Amy previously worked in publishing as a marketing manager at Routledge and was a fiction editor at The Northwest Review.
JEFF MCHUGH, Geometry & Algebra, House Master, Pinero
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. He is currently pursuing his masters in math education at the City College of New York. Jeff is thrilled to bring his passion for math and language to the Bronx.
LAURA MERCOGLIANO, Writing & Literature, Eighth Grade Exhibition Leader
Laura Mercogliano hails from a family full of teachers, and was born and raised right outside the Bronx in New Rochelle, New York. After attending Fordham University, earning a bachelors in English, and holding down some not so interesting jobs, Laura returned to what she felt was always her calling – a career in education. She completed her masters at Lehman College as part of the NYC Teaching Fellows program, and taught English and history in the Bronx for four years at I.S. 125. While at I.S. 125, she coached the student Mock Trial team, and loved it! Although she is a New Yorker at heart, Laura is obsessed with traveling. Her coolest journey was to base camp at Mount Everest in Tibet. She loves to read about anything, from ancient history to quantum physics, but her real passions are poetry and music.
RAY MILES, Algebra, UFT chair
Ray is a math teacher with over twenty-five years’ experience. He has been with Bronx Academy of Letters since it first opened its doors in 2003, and hopes to be here for many more years to come.
JEANNINE MINORT-KALE, Math
Jeannine joins the Bronx Academy of Letters as a New York City Teaching Fellow and proud math "dork." Born three days after pi day and raised in the neighborhoods of New York, she received her BA and MA in economics from City College and is current pursuing her MS in adolescent education at Pace University. In her spare time she enjoys reading satirical writings, sudoku puzzles and intense but friendly debate.
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 together whenever possible. Lisa always had a love for children, and now has two of her own – her youngest is just four months old! Currently Letters’ parent coordinator, she plans to become an English teacher after finishing her bachelors degree at Mercy College in the spring. 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.
WALTER MORALES, Paraprofessional
MOLLY O’CONNELL, Science
Hailing from the heart of Red Sox territory (and proud of it), Molly O’Connell grew up just outside of Boston in Brookline, Massachusetts. Molly graduated from Wesleyan University in Connecticut, where she adored her time competing on the varsity field hockey and softball fields and majoring in religion and African American studies. Currently, she is completing her masters in science education as a New York City Teaching Fellow, and finds her seventh graders exhilarating. Every summer, Molly looks forward to an exciting year of solving puzzles and unearthing wonders, from the tiniest nerve endings in our fingertips to the fiery craters of the world’s most explosive volcanoes. Investigations, concoctions, inventions, competition and accomplishment await!
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 associates 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. He got married in 2008, and is always ready to meet new friends.
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, U.S. Government, Politics & Economics
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 comes to us after teaching in public schools throughout the city for as many years as Bronx Letters has been open. 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.”
SULAY ROLDAN, Paraprofessional
RACHEL SECREST, Writing & Literature, Tenth Grade Exhibition Leader
Rachel Secrest has lived in many places, but most recently in Norfolk, Virginia for nine years. Prior to joining the Letters team, Rachel taught tenth and twelfth grade English for seven years at a large urban high school in Norfolk. Rachel has a bachelors degree in English from the College of Charleston and a masters in teaching from the Citadel. Her prior employment includes working for American Funds and Walt Disney World Resorts, so she brings a combination of business and customer service experience to the classroom. Rachel spends her free time reading any kind of book and exploring this great city!
KRISTEN SILFIES, Algebra & Geometry, House Master, Saddler
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 in the Upper East Side where she spends her free time reading, visiting museums, and playing tennis.
SARAH SNYDER, Science, Science Department Chair
Sarah Snyder comes to Bronx Letters from the Teachers College at Columbia University, where she earned an MA in secondary science education specializing in earth science. Her love of geology has taken her from dating billion year old rocks in the Blue Ridge Mountains to mapping the rocks of Sardinia, Italy to educating students in Acadia National Park. Ms. Snyder is thrilled to combine her love of teaching and science in the classroom here at Bronx Letters.
JACLYN SPENCER, Global History, History Department Chair
Jackie Spencer was born and raised in Dearborn, Michigan, and moved to New York City to attend Columbia University, where she studied political science and was a varsity swimmer. After graduation, Jackie spent time in the Peace Corps in Mauritania, West Africa, then in Nantes, France, to work on her French, and finally in Chicago, Illinois, to work with refugee women from Africa and the Middle East. She returned to NYC to pursue a masters degree in international educational development, and also joined the New York City Teaching Fellows program and earned a second masters in education. She began teaching at MS 45 in the Belmont section of the Bronx and most recently taught at HS 141 in Riverdale. In her spare time she likes to run and swim, travel, and read about world history, politics and religion.
SAMANTHA THORNHILL, Writer-in-Residence
Samantha Thornhill, a Trinidadian-born writer, has performed her work, lectured, and delivered writing workshops all throughout the Americas and in South Africa. A published poet and author, Samantha is a rising star in the world of children’s literature. Her performance poem, Little Odetta, inspired by the late folk legend, is forthcoming from Scholastic Press in the form of a picture book for children and adults. In addition, her young adult novel Seventeen Seasons is being published by Penguin Books. Samantha earned her Masters degree (MFA) in poetry from the University of Virginia while coaching Virginia’s slam team, leading them to two consecutive victories. A sought-after educator of creative written expression, Samantha’s philosophy is that inside each person exists a lover of words. In New York City she fulfills her position as professor of poetry and performance at the Juilliard School. She has presented her work in educational institutions, places of worship, festivals, conferences, museums, coffeshops and hair salons. Down to earth and diverse in both subject matter and writing style, Samantha has received enthusiastic reception in every place she has touched.
MEGAN TRIERWEILER, Music
Originally from Michigan, Megan received a bachelors in music education from Western Michigan University. She then spent two cold winters in Minneapolis, Minnesota teaching elementary music to a group of wonderful children. From there she came to New York and discovered the joys of middle schoolers and graduate school. Megan taught middle school general music and choir in Nanuet, NY, while getting her masters degree (also in music education) from Teachers College at Columbia University. Most recently, she spent a year teaching English to energetic five year-olds in Bogota, Colombia. With a great love of music and a spirit of adventure, Megan is delighted to be able to bring an amazing musical experience to the scholars at the Bronx Academy of Letters.
MARLENE TRONCOSO, Paraprofessional
ROSE WEIXEL, Sixth Grade ELA
Rose Weixel was born and raised in New York City. She studied sociology at Queens College and at Barnard College, where she received her bachelors degree. While in college, Rose worked at various New York City non-profits including the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, and traveled to Malawi as an intern for Save the Children’s HIV/AIDS in Schools Initiative. She earned her masters degree in childhood education as a New York City Teaching Fellow while teaching fifth and third grades at P.S. 89 in Elmhurst, Queens. She is very excited to join the staff of the Bronx Academy of Letters.
VANESSA WINGERATH, Spanish
Vanessa Wingerath spent most of her life in northern New Jersey, just a stone's throw away from the George Washington Bridge. Although she always saw herself as a performer, she earned a bachelors degree in psychology from Skidmore College with and additional major in Spanish language and literature. She lived in Madrid in 2004 and cultivated a love for jamón serrano, Picasso, and Spanish fútbol. Vanessa has also earned an MS in teaching from Pace University. Before joining the Letters team, she taught Spanish at I.S. 162 in Brooklyn. In her spare time Vanessa enjoys cooking and singing.
REBECCA ZIESEL, Chemistry
Rebecca Zeisel was born outside of Boston and moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina when she was eight years old. After escaping from the heat of the South, she spent her time during college playing with the wolves and antelopes at the St. Louis Zoo. Upon graduating from Washington University in St. Louis with an animal science and zoology degree, Rebecca moved to New York to join the New York City Teaching Fellows program. Prior to working at Bronx Letters, she spent five years teaching at Herbert H. Lehman HS in the Bronx. In addition to her responsibilities at Bronx Letters, Rebecca is a Selector and Fellow Advisor for NYC Teaching Fellows. When she is not teaching, she can be found traveling the world, exploring new countries and having adventures in the great outdoors.