Jessica has nearly two decades of urban teaching and leadership experience and a strong background in literacy and cognitive development.
Her qualifications include skills in charter school planning, urban school leadership and operations and curriculum development. Before serving as the Director of School development for the NYC Center for Charter School Excellence for three years, Jessica completed the New Leaders for New Schools fellowship where she was a member of the leadership team at a small school in Harlem.
She was also selected to attend the KIPP leadership Pathways Program where she joined charter school founders from across the country while she was planning Haven Academy. Jessica is an Adjunct Professor of Education, where she teaches graduate level courses preparing new teachers for entry into the classroom. She began her career in education as a Teach for America corps member in Washington DC, where she was a first grade teacher at Malcolm X Elementary School and then became a reading specialist.
Jessica has a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in Human Development and Psychology in addition to a BA in Social Work from the University of New Hampshire. She also holds NY State certification as a School District Administrator.
Ashlyn knew that she wanted to be involved in urban education after spending much of her time as an undergraduate in an under-resourced, low-performing school in Utica, NY. Soon after graduating from Hamilton College with a BA in government and a minor in education, she joined NYC Teaching Fellows and began working at PS 79 in the Bronx where she taught kindergarten, first and second grade. During this time, she received her masters in urban education. Following her time at PS 79, she joined Haven Academy as a founding inclusion teacher.
After a few years of teaching, Ashlyn pursued her degree in educational leadership at Columbia’s Teachers College and is now an Assistant Principal at Haven Academy. She holds certification in General and Special Education as well as School Building Administration.
Courtney began her career in education as a New York Teaching Fellow over a decade ago. She spent two years at P.S 132 in the Bronx before becoming a founding inclusion teacher at Haven Academy, where she taught first, second, and third grades and acted as a Reading Specialist. Courtney is excited to return to Haven Academy after spending several years in Washington D.C. There, Courtney worked as a Reading Specialist at Key Elementary School and coached new teachers for the DC Teaching Fellows program before becoming Assistant Principal of H.D. Cooke Elementary School. While at H.D Cooke, the school won the 2015 DCPS Rubenstein Award for Excellence by an Academic Leadership Team. Courtney deeply believes that ALL children can be successful when given the right tools, and brings this belief to her work at Haven.
Courtney has a B.A in Theatre and Performance Studies from U.C Berkeley, as well as a Masters in Urban Education from Mercy College. She is certified in General and Special Education in both NY and the District of Columbia. Additionally, Courtney has had extensive training in Orton-Gillingham instruction.
Briony has taught in school systems in Paterson, NJ, Philadelphia, PA and New York, NY. As an AmeriCorps member in Paterson, she ran an afternoon preschool program. She then taught middle school in south Philadelphia as a Philadelphia Teaching Fellow and elementary school in the south Bronx as a New York City Teaching Fellow. Then she had the opportunity to become a founding member of a middle school in Harlem, and was a teacher, coach, Assistant Principal and, eventually, Principal. Briony also worked as a selector for the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, helping assure that quality STEM teachers enter, and remain in, high-need New Jersey schools.
Briony received a B.A. in Political Science from Douglass College, Rutgers University, a M.S. in Elementary Education from Hunter College, The City University of New York, and a Certificate of Advanced Study from the College of Saint Rose. She holds New York State certification in Pre-Kindergarten, Kindergarten and Grades 1-6, School Administrator/Supervisor (SAS) and School District Administrator (SDA). She also holds New Jersey State Grades K-6, School Administrator, and Principal certification.
MaNeya was born and raised in Harlem New York. At the tender age of 14, MaNeya was employed at the Harlem YMCA as a teen counselor where she learned of, and cultivated her love for children. Although she majored in Marketing at SUNY Old Westbury, every summer and Winter break, MaNeya would volunteer at the Harlem YMCA and/ or hold various positions supervising children. Upon receiving her bachelor’s degree from SUNY Old Westbury in 2004, MaNeya decided to actively pursue her passion of ameliorating the lives of children. She became a substitute teacher working in various elementary, middle and high schools while earning a dual degree in Special Education and General Education from Touro College. MaNeya taught 2nd grade for six years at a charter school in Brooklyn before making the decision to bring her talents to the Bronx at Haven Academy. She is very excited to be part of the Haven team!
Ashley is very excited to begin her teaching career at Haven Academy and will be joining the third grade team. She attended the University of Connecticut, receiving a bachelors in Elementary Education and a masters in Curriculum and Instruction. While in school, Ashley had the opportunity to study in London. Abroad, in addition to taking classes and teaching, she co-wrote a thesis that explored the idea of education for global citizenship.
As a result of the work, which largely focused on culture and diversity in education, Ashley developed a deep passion for urban education. She believes all students, regardless of circumstance, deserve access to high quality schools. In addition to teaching, Ashley enjoys traveling, playing trumpet and reading!
Anna first fell in love with social services through her work in the Dominican Republic. There she worked alongside community leaders to advocate for community needs and facilitate children and youth programs. Through this work she became especially passionate about cultural competence and bilingual services.
Anna received her MSW from Columbia University in 2016. As a part of this program, she interned at Haven Academy, providing individual counseling for scholars and support for Haven families. In her second year, she interned at the Dominican Women’s Development Center as a part of their Early Head Start program, promoting healthy attachment and development with immigrant mothers their children aged 0 to 3.
Anna is thrilled to rejoin the Haven Academy team full time as the Social Worker for pre-kindergarten through first grade. She loves working with children and families within an educational setting, paying particular attention to social emotional development, positive learning environments, and strong relationships between the school and families.
Ingrid holds a BA in Vocal Performance and a Masters in Music Education from The University of the Arts, in Philadelphia. Ingrid sang with The Chorale Arts Society of Philadelphia, performing various works with the Philadelphia Orchestra and at The Giancarlo Menotti Festival in Italy. Ingrid taught music and piano at The Universal Institute Charter school in Philadelphia from 2001-2003.
Upon moving to New York, Ingrid has worked as The Assistant Director of The Theatre Arts Center as well as being a Literacy Mentor at The Reading Team, in Harlem. Ingrid is currently working on her second masters in Literacy. She hopes to bridge music and literacy together in teaching the scholars at Haven Academy.
Samantha was born and raised in the Bronx, NY. She received a Bachelors degree from the College of Mount Saint Vincent, where she specialized in Psychology and Art. She joined the Haven team in 2012. Since then, she has worked with scholars in grades K-5. Samantha loves being constantly challenged in the Haven community and is very eager to be challenged even more while being an assistant teacher in our newly added Little Haven Pre-K program. She has enjoyed every minute of her journey here at Haven Academy. Her passion for the field as well as our scholars grows more as the years go by. Samantha is also a member of the Futures After School program at Haven Academy. In the Futures program, she is a Group Leader for the 5th grade as well as the Running Club coach for grades K-5. Outside of Haven Academy, she is the Creative Coordinator at Elite Stars Dance Academy in the Bronx, NY. She strongly believes that every child is a star in their own way and spends each day helping them develop their star qualities.
Gabriella started her Social Work career working with the OMRDD population at a group home for adults with Profound Mental Retardation. Inspired by the idea of promoting independence and the concept of resiliency, Gabriella decided to commit her life to the field. She returned to school and received her MSW from Columbia University in 2006. Gabriella joined the New York Foundling team that year after completing her second year internship with the NYF at their group home for pregnant teens in the Child Welfare System.
With many years of experience working with children and families in the Child Welfare system, Gabriella recognized the importance of educational consistency in both parents and children’s lives as well as the significance of addressing intergenerational trauma. Throughout her career, Gabriella has combined her clinical and case management skills as well as her ability and commitment to approaching situations with cultural sensitivity and awareness.
In 2009, Gabriella was thrilled to join the Haven Academy team as a Crisis Intervention Specialist. Gabriella currently oversees the Social Services department for the elementary grades. Her work at Haven Academy has included working with the scholars who have experienced trauma by providing clinical services, referrals to mental health services and coordinating care with all agencies involved as well as wrap around services to teachers. Gabriella is a core member of the Social Emotional Team and thrives in the collaborative environment Haven Academy promotes. Gabriella is responsible for recruitment and attendance efforts and is really enjoys working a programmatic level. Gabriella loves teaching Social Skills in small groups and in the classrooms and working closely with teachers to ensure we are not only focusing on academic skills but building strong citizens in our community. Gabriella is certified to supervise Social Work students and enjoys leading, training and supporting students at Haven Academy, thereby allowing us to provide preventative counseling to over 80 scholars a year. Gabriella is proud to be a long standing member of the Haven Academy community and enjoys working in close collaboration with all staff, children and families in our community and the Mott Haven community at large.
Meg is very excited to join the Haven Academy team. Originally from Maryland, Meg moved to New York for college and never left. For almost a decade, Meg has worked in the Bronx as a middle school English teacher, STEM and Grant Coordinator, and teacher leader. Meg is passionate about social-emotional learning, student choice, and use of technology in the classroom. Meg believes that all students deserve equal access to inspiring 21st Century learning opportunities. Meg is also a firm believer in the explicit teaching of social-emotional skills such as reflection, empathy, and never giving up. When she is not teaching, Meg enjoys reading, cooking, and being outside.
Zennea was born and raised in New York. She taught 1st and 4th grade before moving on to do Professional Development, in the area of technology, for teachers in NY area schools. Zennea trained hundreds of teachers during a three-year period on integrating technology into their classroom instruction to foster student learning. Zennea was asked to join the Haven staff to offer teachers the opportunities to integrate technology successfully in their classrooms.
Zennea also brings her data-driven instruction expertise to the Haven team, and works with the instructional staff to use data effectively to drive student instruction. In her free time, Zennea enjoys spending time with her family and practicing photography.
Eileen Fitzgerald has been teaching elementary school for the past decade in a public school in the South Bronx. Originally from the Midwest, Eileen earned a Bachelor of Science in Child Psychology and Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. An accomplished violinist, Eileen began her career in education as a registered Suzuki violin teacher. In 2006, she joined Teach For America and moved to New York City to begin her tenure in the New York City Department of Education. At this time she also attended Bank Street College of Education where she learned about progressive education. Upon graduating with a Master of Science in Childhood Education, Eileen hoped to incorporate all that she had learned over the years into her work with students.
By 2013, Eileen began pursuing an interest in school leadership. She was awarded Lead Teacher status by the NYC Department of Education and focused on leading professional development, mentoring new teachers and participating on various leadership teams. In 2016, Eileen graduated from the Summer Principals Academy at Columbia University – Teacher’s College While at Teacher’s College, her New School Design team won the Most Innovative New School Design Award from The Mind Trust organization. Eileen is excited to be on the Haven Academy Team as an Academic and Behavioral Specialist.
Bio coming soon!
From early on in her childhood, growing up in Spanish Harlem, attending New York City’s public schools, and living in the Bronx as a teen mother, Gwendy understood the challenges in her surroundings and knew she wanted to serve children who have experienced trauma in underserved communities. As a Social Work Intern with the New York City Board of Education, she provided an array of services to high school teenage mothers who experienced many barriers to their education. Shortly after, she obtained her Bachelors in Social Work from CUNY’s Lehman College. She also holds a Masters in Social Services from Fordham University.
Committed to her lifelong dream, she has experience with not-for-profit child welfare agencies such as Cardinal McCloskey where she ensured services were provided to children in foster care and The New York Foundling, where she worked closely with families from their Bronx teen prevention program. Some of her work encompassed providing services such as parenting skills, independent living skills, counseling, day care assistance and advocacy to obtain housing, public assistance, special education, medical, legal and immigration services.
Always being aware of the impact traumatic events can have on a child’s learning, Gwendy is excited to be the Director of Middle School Social Services and core member of the Social Emotional Team. As a founding team member, she assisted with developing and always strives towards Haven’s approach of creating a traumatic sensitive culture by maintaining a safe and nurturing climate for all of the scholars. She ensures wrap around services are provided to alleviate any barriers that may get in the way of their academic success. Gwendy loves music, poetry, zumba fitness, going on vacations and spending time with her kids.
Bio coming soon!
Jessica has wanted to be a teacher for as long as she can remember. Being a lover of math, she graduated from the University of Maryland with a B.S. in Finance in 2002. Jessica worked as a Financial/ Legal Recruiter for three years. While working, Jessica pursued her dream of teaching and began her Special Education Master’s degree program at CUNY Lehman College. In 2009, Jessica embarked on her first teaching position at the Reece School. Reece is a school that specializes in serving students with social, emotional, and learning challenges. During her three years at Reece, Jessica taught students, ranging from second to fifth grade, in a self-contained classroom. This is Jessica’s fifth year at Haven Academy. For the past five years she has been working as a Second Grade teacher in a Collaborative Team Teaching (CTT) classroom. She truly loves being part of the Haven team, and working closely with the Haven scholars and families!
Kathleen grew up in Philadelphia where she began working with children with at a young age. She earned a degree in Early, Elementary and Special Education from Temple University and a MSEd in Early Childhood Special Education from Fordham University. After graduating college, Kathleen began teaching children with a variety of special needs in the School District of Philadelphia. Since 2005, Kathleen has taught in the South Bronx. She has had professional opportunities to develop curriculum, advocate for children with special needs, and continuously refine her craft as an educator. Kathleen’s driving force and passion remains rooted in the relationships created with students and their families.
Bio coming soon!
Erin always knew she wanted to be a teacher. After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a B.A. in Psychology, Erin attended Lehigh University and received an M.Ed. in Special Education. She worked at Centennial School of Lehigh University. There she served students having specific learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, emotional disturbance, and speech and language impairments while also receiving intensive training in positive behavior support, research-based interventions, and data based decision-making. Erin continued her passion to serve students with social, emotional, and learning challenges at the Reece School in Spanish Harlem. There she served as a special education teacher in a self-contained classroom for two years.
Helena is an Academic/Behavior Specialist at Haven Academy. She attended the University of Rochester, receiving a B.A in Linguistics and Psychology. In 2014 she received her M.A in Applied Behavioral Analysis from Columbia University. Helena received a dual certificate in Childhood Education & Students With Disabilities (Birth – Grade 6). While completing her Masters, Helena taught Kindergarten and Preschool in an ICT classroom. Through this experience, she became passionate about academic and behavior interventions. In addition to teaching, she enjoys traveling, cooking and yoga.
Erin is very excited to be a founding teacher at Little Haven! Before becoming a teacher, she studied Dance Performance at Wright State University, in Dayton, OH. After a career in dance that included performing on the Disney Cruise Line, she decided to return to school and earned her Masters of Science in Teaching at Pace University in New York. After a year at P.S. 7 in Queens, she worked at Bronx Charter Schools for the Arts for five years, teaching second grade and Kindergarten. While teaching Kindergarten here at Haven, she earned her National Board Teaching Certification. Erin is looking forward to spending her tenth year as an educator preparing the “Littles” for their academic careers.
Emily has wanted to be a teacher for as long as she can remember. She received her B.A. in Communications from Loyola Maryland. After spending three years in advertising sales, she was searching for work that was more fulfilling. Emily received an M.S. in General and Special Education from Bank Street College of Education.
In 2013, she began her journey as an educator at a charter school in Brooklyn. During that time, Emily taught kindergarten in an ICT setting and managed the after school reading program that served over 100 students. She is driven by the belief that all children can reach their full potential when given access to the right tools. Emily is thrilled to be joining the Haven team!
Tamara was born and raised in Bronx, NY. She earned her Bachelors in Sociology and minored in Childhood Education from CUNY Lehman College. It has always been her passion to teach. She has also earned a Masters in Literacy at Teachers College Columbia University. Tamara has previously taught at a charter school in Brooklyn, NY but decided to bring her talents closer to home. She is very excited to learn and grow as an educator at Haven. She enjoys cooking exotic meals, listening to indie music and photography.
Theresa is very excited to join the Haven Academy team this year as a fourth grade teacher. She grew up in New Jersey and attended college in Virginia. She earned a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in Spanish and Elementary Education from the University of Richmond. After graduation, Theresa moved across the country to begin her teaching career as a 2009 Teach for America Corps member in the Bay Area. She taught high school Spanish for three years in Richmond, California, before deciding to return to the elementary school classroom. While living in Northern California, Theresa also spent a year teaching kindergarten and sixth grade. Theresa returned to the east coast this year and looks forward to working with the students and staff at Haven. In her free time, Theresa enjoys traveling, reading, zumba, spending time with friends and family, and being outdoors.
Bio coming soon!
As a graduate of Barnard College’s Childhood Education Program, Gleendy Marte brings to the classroom a passion for learning, the needs of diverse learners, and creating a supportive and intellectually stimulating classroom community that allows all learners to succeed. Prior to joining Mott Haven, Gleendy gained a diverse wealth of experiences — living, studying and working in and around New York City, and in Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic. She has taught in dual-language Spanish-English classrooms at P.S. 75 in a 4th grade classroom and later in a 2nd grade CTT classroom. For 2 years, she mentored high school students as an advisor with Columbia Presbyterian Lang Youth Medical Program, engaging them in everything from essay writing and study skills to college preparatory work.
Using the knowledge she has gained in her travels, studies and personal experiences as a multicultural individual, Gleendy strives to cultivate in her students a genuine love of learning as well as a global lens rooted in both self and community awareness and responsibility.
Luina began her path towards education while studying at Barnard College. While pursuing her degree, she worked for America Reads, an organization whose goal is to ensure every child can read independently upon completing third grade. After graduating in 2006, Luina began working for a charter school in the South Bronx, and spent five years teaching kindergarten and first grade. She has worked as a Kindergarten teacher at Haven Academy for five years and is now the Reading Recovery teacher. She received her Masters in Early Childhood Education at City College of New York. Luina has an unwavering commitment to helping students achieve academically, socially, and emotionally and is excited to continue to be part of the Haven team!
Nicole Nelson has taught dance throughout the five boroughs, the United States, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico. She teaches at numerous public and private schools, and has also taught at MindBuilder’s Creative Arts Center, Harlem School for The Arts, Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre, Musical IQ, CenterStage, and Pathway to The Arts.
Ms. Nicole started teaching at Mott Haven Academy four years ago through Centerstage Performing Arts Center. She feels that working with the Haven community makes her a better teacher. She is honored to get to to enrich the lives of the scholars within the Haven community.
Bio coming soon!
Toni Lynn Palmer was born in Baton Rouge, LA, and was raised in Harlem. She recognized her desire to teach at eight years old and began working with children as a summer youth counselor at the age of fourteen. In her youth, she earned a scholarship to attended art classes at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Toni pursued her art study and graduated from Music and Art High School (now Laguardia) with honors. She worked in corporate America for twenty years before realizing her dream of teaching. As a single parent, she entered CUNY Lehman College to earn a Bachelor of Arts in English with a focus in creative writing and a minor in African-American Studies. She graduated from Lehman with honors, Magna Cum Laude in the Spring of 2006.
Toni joined the New York City Teaching Fellows and was employed as a middle school ELA instructor, but she found true joy in teaching younger children. She began substitute work for the Department of Education prior to joining School Professionals as a substitute teacher in private and charter schools. Prior to joining Haven, she worked as an assistant teacher for a South Bronx charter school.
Toni is committed to a holistic approach to education and is extremely grateful to join the Haven community as a kindergarten teacher. She is the proud mother of two sons, and one grandson. Toni is an active member of her church and enjoys reading, cooking, volunteering and is especially fond of spending time with her grandson.
Berelize Portorreal has a Bachelors Degree in Behavioral Science from Mercy college in Bronx, New York and is currently pursuing her Masters Degree in Counseling at Mercy College. Berelize has extensive experience in customer relations and administration, which makes her highly qualified for assisting in managing the school’s main office responsibilities. It has always been her dream to work with children, while constantly being challenged and gaining more knowledge on the operational side of maintaining a school. She is proactive within the community and continues to show her eagerness for learning new approaches to conquering tasks.
Berelize is excited to join the Mott Haven Academy team and strives to be one of the school’s key players. During her personal time she enjoys being in the company of close friends and family.
Bio coming soon!
Bio coming soon!
Andrea was born and raised in San Diego, California. Even though her Bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University was in classical archaeology, teaching was always her passion. She is now earning her dual Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education and Special Education from Hunter College and is very excited to be at Haven Academy!
As a newcomer to New York and Haven Academy, she is glad for the opportunity to learn from those around her. In her free time Andrea enjoys boxing, listening to live music, and eating with friends.
Chelsea has many years of experience teaching and also has an M.S. in Education from Fordham University. She loves teaching primary grades for the opportunity to work with students as they “crack the code” of reading and writing, and explore the world around them through books, numbers, and language. Outside of school, Ms. Saltos likes to read and spend time outdoors.
Karen, a Bronx native, attended Manhattan College where she graduated with a Bachelors in Social Work and a minor in Elementary Education. She was a caseworker for a non-profit foster care agency in the Bronx, under the supervision of The Administration for Children’s Services. Karen is a Haven Academy founding teacher and has taught kindergarten for 8 years. Karen is currently working as an academic interventionist. Karen is pleased to be part of a school community that allows her to pursue her passion for education while supporting children who face challenges, particularly within the child welfare system. She enjoys working with small groups and giving scholars one-on-one support. When not working, Karen enjoys spending her time with her family.
As soon as Amber was old enough to play school and recruit her younger brother to act in the role of her student, teaching has been her vocation. Even though she did not initially pursue a degree in education, she soon realized through volunteering in schools as a reading tutor and youth mentor that she wanted to leverage her English and History studies to encourage her students to become agents of change in their families, communities, and the world. After graduating with her degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Texas A&M University, she moved to Austin, TX where she taught middle school English Language Arts and high school World History. While teaching in Austin, Amber sought to gain more experience in a different urban educational context, so she moved to New York City. Amber has been teaching in NYC since 2010. During this time in order to more readily meet all of the needs of the diverse learners in her classroom, Amber completed her Masters in Special Education at The City College of New York and later pursed her degree in Educational Leadership at Columbia’s Teachers College. She holds certification in General and Special Education as well as School Building Leadership.
Jessi is thrilled to join the Haven Academy team as a teacher. Jessi received her Bachelor’s Degree from SUNY New Paltz in Childhood Education (1-6). During her time in undergraduate school, she also minored in creative writing and studied abroad in Melbourne, Australia. After graduating from New Paltz, Jessi received her Master’s Degree in Childhood Literacy from Hunter College, earning a 3.975 GPA. She spent the first few years of her career as a reading teaching assistant in Westchester County, where she currently resides. In her spare time, Jessi enjoys writing, reading, and going to concerts.
Born in the Dominican Republic, six-year-old Jardy and her family moved to the South Bronx. Eager to emulate her first grade teacher Ms. Iglesias’ English lessons, she asked her parents to buy her a chalkboard so she could teach them what she learned throughout the school day. Little did she know many years later she would take these experiences and become a teacher, educating children within her very own South Bronx community. A graduate of CUNY Hunter’s QUEST Education Program, she brings a sense of pride in her work, high energy, and a desire to help students succeed! Prior to joining Haven, Jardy taught first grade for two years in a dual language English-Spanish classroom. In her free time, Jardy enjoys spending time with her daughter Jayda, baking, and reading.
Nyissia Spruill started her life in the Bronx before her family moved to North Carolina. Passionate about social justice and urban education, Nyissia was excited and honored to have the opportunity to return to the Bronx to teach after graduating Magna Cum Laude from Cornell University with majors in American Studies and Spanish and minors in Latin American Studies and Law and Society. Working with Teach For America, she received her MST in Childhood Education with a Bilingual Extension from Pace University.
While Nyissia began the first three years of her career teaching bilingual middle school education in the DOE, she has also worked with various non-profits and another charter school educating and serving English Language Learners, immigrant communities, and teenage mothers in the South Bronx. She has experience serving all grade levels, and is excited to be a part of the Haven community. She enjoys learning languages (she is fluent in Spanish and working on French), long nature walks, reading, and white water rafting.
Courtney was born in Poughkeepsie, NY. She attended the University of Scranton where she received her B.S. in Elementary and Special Education. For two years, she taught Life Skills/Autistic Support in Pennsylvania, but decided it was time to move closer to home. She moved to Brooklyn and taught 2nd grade in Bedford-Stuyvesant for four years. During that time, she attended Touro College and received her M.S. in Teaching Literacy. Courtney is very excited to join the Haven Team! She is dedicated to helping scholars reach their full potential and become life-long learners.
In her free time, Courtney enjoys spending time with family, watching movies, reading, and trying new foods!
Vyasa is a New York City native and a product of the NYC public school system. She has a dual Bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University in Political Science and Policy Studies, with a concentration in Urban Education Policy. Since she began teaching she has also earned a Master’s Degree from CUNY’s Hunter College in Childhood Education. Vyasa has always been deeply interested in public service and always knew she wanted to give back to the community she grew up in. She first became fascinated with the education field after tutoring and mentoring children in the Syracuse City School District during her undergraduate studies.
After a multitude of experiences, both good and bad, in both the NYC public school system and Syracuse City School District, Vyasa decided she needed to be a part of the educational movement to provide all children with a quality education. In 2009, Vyasa joined Teach For America, a national corps of teachers, and began her teaching career at Haven Academy. At Haven, she enjoys working with and learning from her scholars. When not teaching, Vyasa enjoys reading, shopping, and spending time with her large extended family.
Millie comes to Haven Academy with over 22 years of experience in Publishing. Millie has long dreamed of working in a school setting and giving back to her native Bronx community. Always willing to go beyond her duties in the main office, her never ending dedication to our Scholars is what Millie enjoys most about her work. She performs breakfast duty each morning, looks to help by visiting classrooms regularly and welcomes visits from children who simply need a little TLC before returning to their classrooms.
On weekends Millie enjoys her other passion, event photography. She is the Office Manager for Photos in Motion, an event photography business she helped found. Like at Haven Academy, at Photos in Motion, Millie gives 100% of herself.
Rina attended The City College of New York, where she obtained a B.A. in Psychology and minored in English. Soon after completing her degree she went on to teach Kindergarten and 2nd grade in the South Bronx. After a couple of years in the classroom, Rina discovered her love for special education and went on to earn a Masters of Science degree in General and Special Education (Grades 1-6) from Touro College. She has taught K-4th grade in the South Bronx, Harlem, and Brooklyn. Rina is excited about being the K-5 SETSS teacher at Haven Academy!
Travis Welcome began working with the New York Foundling’s Camp Felix in 2008 as a Camp Counselor. Since that year, his position at Camp Felix has elevated; he spent two more years as a counselor, one year as a Senior Counselor and was then promoted as Assistant Director. Besides crafting memorable summers for foster children, Travis has also worked as a vital person in Foundling’s Futures After School Program at Mott Haven Academy. He co-named Futures in the hopes that the program would become a launching pad for the careers of aspiring Early Childhood educators. Today, 100 percent of the Futures After School staff have year-round day time positions at Mott Haven Academy. During his tenure with Foundling and Mott Haven Academy, Travis has worked with corporations such as Macy’s, Bombas, Bank of New York, TD Bank, Sing For Hope and Operation Dream Catchers to host events for children who participate in Foundling’s services. Travis has learned, with the right resources children can be taught to look beyond their circumstances so they can evolve into tomorrow’s world leaders. Travis has made it his mission to empower youths by ensuring their dreams are made valid. He is certified in Therapeutic Crisis Intervention, Non-Violent Crisis Intervention and Budget and Finance. Currently, Travis serves as Mott Haven’s Academy’s Futures Program Director.
Mellissa grew up in Brooklyn, NY and has been working with elementary aged students since the age of 17. She received her bachelors degree in Childhood Education from St. John’s University; followed by her Masters degree in Special education/ Early Childhood Education from Touro college.
Mellissa spent the first five years of her career working with students with autism and english language learners in the United Arab Emirates.
She has proudly and successfully worked with the first graders at Haven for two years and is now a Pre-K teacher.