Faculty and Staff

Those who make up our faculty and administration are the backbone of our school. Their diverse backgrounds, passions, and approach to working within our community contribute to making The Co-op School a truly compassionate, unique learning environment. Below you can learn more about each of them. Read some of our parents’ thank yous, posted on Padlet, in celebration of Teachers Appreciation.

Preschool Teachers

Fabiola Mejia
I have been at The Co-op School since 2017 where I began as a summer camp and after-school teacher. This will be my third year teaching Pre-K, Go Crickets!  I have a Bachelor’s degree in childhood education with a concentration in English. I plan to pursue a Master’s degree in special education this fall. In the classroom, I love to practice my Spanish, create art, play pretend, and read fun books. When I’m not in the classroom, I love to explore the city, read, spend time with my family and my four cats.

Laura Scatena-Romero
I was born and raised in Puerto Rico before moving to Philadelphia at the age of 12. I received a Bachelor of Arts in Dance and Film from The New School. After graduating, I became a nanny and that led me to discover the joy of teaching! I have been teaching at The Co-op School for more than seven years. Every year, I hope to bring joy and laughter to the kids and lots of dance parties!

Sara Johnson
I have taught at the Co-op School for over five years. I have a Bachelor of Music in Classical Vocal Performance from Manhattan School of Music and a professional studies degree from the William Esper Studio. My passion for the arts ultimately led me to pursue a Master of Science in Early Childhood General and Special Education at Brooklyn College in order to share my enthusiasm for the arts and play with the next generation! I live in Crown Heights with my husband Jay, daughter Abigail (Co-op K), and infant son Caleb (future Co-op student!). I relished spending quality time with my recently expanded family of four this summer. My favorite things to do include going to see live performances, exploring Brooklyn by bike, practicing vinyasa yoga, reading, and spending quality time with my family.

Freddie Southwick
I have three years of experience working with children at Shire Village Camp, a sleep-away camp in the Berkshires. When I am not at school, you can find me playing piano, mandolin, or accordion, or exploring Brooklyn on my longboard!

Stephen Canino
I was born in a small town in the Hudson Valley and developed a strong interest in art and painting at a young age. I attended Purchase College where I obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts. I moved to New York City to seek out a career as a painter. I attended Hunter College and received a Master’s degree in Fine Arts in 2006. My world changed immediately as I discovered the joy of working with young children. I worked as a headteacher for three to five-year-olds at a head start program in West Harlem where I worked for six years. I completed my Master’s degree in early childhood education at City College. I found my way to Brooklyn where I joined The Co-op School. I have been working as a Pre-K teacher since 2013.

Shandra Vega
I was born and raised in Lower Manhattan, and I love New York City. I have a Bachelor’s degree in childhood education from St. Francis College. After graduating, I started my journey at The Co-op School as an after-school teacher. I then became a substitute teacher for the school.  I love to be creative, sing and go on adventures in the city.

Eric Paucar         
I have a Bachelor’s degree in social work from Saint Francis College. Prior to joining the Co-op community, I taught classes online, and during my last semester of college, I worked at another preschool. Last year I worked as a floater/after-school teacher and had an awesome time and am looking forward to another great year! Having grown up in Brooklyn my whole life, I have a deep admiration for people, culture, and different types of music all around. During my free time, you can catch me biking around Brooklyn or across the Williamsburg Bridge.

Malia Bruce
My name is Malia. I live in Astoria with my two cats and Bearded Dragon. I love to run, teach and practice yoga, and try out new vegan recipes! Before joining The Co-op School, I taught in Baltimore, Maryland. I spent the first six months of social distancing creating a remote learning platform on YouTube for preschoolers and learning how to propagate my plants. When I am not in the classroom as a teacher, I’m working on my degree in special education and school administration.

Holly Squashic
Being an assistant teacher is what I feel strongly I am meant to do!  Each year, I look forward to getting to know my students; helping them learn and grow in a new environment, gain independence and confidence, build friendships, develop in a new social environment, and learn new things!  I have a 10-year-old daughter, Olivia, and have lived in Brooklyn for 12 years. I love museums, art, reading, music, movies, theater, and karaoke!

Lelia Mangham
I was born and raised right here in New York City along with my two younger brothers and still happily reside in Brooklyn. I’ve been at The Co-op School for 15 amazing years and have grown so much from my interactions with both the staff and the families. I received my Bachelor’s degree in communications from Brooklyn College and enjoy reading, writing, and cooking in my spare time. I particularly enjoy bringing my love of cooking into the classroom to share with the preschoolers. I loving every minute of teaching. Being able to watch how quickly and hugely these little people grow has been such a blast, and I hope to be a part of that wonderful process for many more years to come.

Jose Rios
I was born and raised in the Lower East Side of New York City. I went to college in New Hampshire and upstate New York, where I majored in graphic design and photography. In 2011, I started working at The Co-op School. The part of my job that I enjoy the most is witnessing a student’s growth—for example, when the shyest one in the class becomes the one who constantly tells me about their favorite movie.

Eddie Laguna
I was born in Queens and currently live in Bedford-Stuyvesant with my wife, my two sons, Oliver and Finn, and three cats named Lily, Loki, and Mogwai. I have been teaching at The Co-op School since 2010. I studied secondary education/English at City University of New York–Queens College, and in 2019 I received my Master’s of Education. I love to skateboard, run in Prospect Park, take long road trips, eat outside, do woodwork, and spend time with my family. I play several instruments, including guitar, which I play regularly in the classroom!

Razeia Azees
My name is Razeia, and I live in Queens. I was born in Guyana and moved to America with my family when I was nine years old. I love eating ramen, spending time watching all sorts of documentaries and hanging out with my cat. I’m currently working towards my degree in early childhood education.

Sheldon Brown (Support Teacher)
I was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Montgomery County, Maryland. I have lived on both coasts of this beautiful country spending time as a resident in South Florida and also the bay area in California. I have been a Brooklyn local for almost seven years. I received my associate’s degree in early childhood education from Kingsborough Community College and am currently working toward my bachelor’s degree at Brooklyn College. I am a staunch supporter of students learning through play, social interaction, and inquiry. I have two daughters ages five years (Harper) and 19 months (Rose). I am excited to continue to grow my existing relationships, and form new ones, with The Co-op School community!

Brittany Carney (Support Teacher)
I began at The Co-op School in 2019 as an interim middle school humanity teacher and have since moved on to teach preschool. I grew up between Tokyo and Philadelphia and went to college in Hawaii. I earned a Master’s degree in public history in Washington, DC, where I worked in museum education for seven years before moving to New York in 2018. I love history, reading out loud, comedy, cooking, and my black cat named Carmen.

Brittany Chandler (Support Teacher)
I’ve been at the Co-op School since 2016. I was born and raised in Chelsea, Manhattan. I have my Bachelor’s degree in social work and will be going back next spring to receive my Master’s degree in early childhood education. I enjoy reading and writing, and most of all I love spending time with my wonderful daughter.

Fourth Grade Teacher

Sarah Yunus                                         
I am a native New Yorker from Queens. Prior to joining The Co-op School, I taught as a Special Education teacher for third through fifth grade in Brooklyn. I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Childhood/Special Education and History and recently earned my Master’s degree in International Education—both from New York University (a whole lot of Violet Pride!). When I’m not teaching, I enjoy spending time with my huge extended family, trying out different restaurants around New York City, listening to interesting podcasts, and traveling. I strongly believe in an education that values students’ diverse backgrounds and encourages students to engage in activism for themselves and others.

Third Grade Teachers

Samantha Santiago
I come from a background in childhood and special education and five years of teaching in both public and private schools. I was born in New York but lived the majority of my life in Florida before moving back three years ago. Do I miss the beach? Every day. But would I trade it for drinking a perfectly made mocha in the park, on a crisp and cool New York City day? No way. If you don’t find me in the classroom, you’ll most likely find me at a concert or making the best cauliflower gnocchi you have ever had. I enjoy embarking on new adventures, big or small. I strongly believe in fostering an inclusive student learning atmosphere and supporting all students’ needs in the classroom.

Shelby Savidge                                        
I grew up on the West Coast, however, I have made my home here in Brooklyn. It is with devotion to progressive pedagogy and experience working in New York City independent schools that I’ve come to teach at The Co-op School. Through the years, I’ve worked with children in grades two to six as a classroom teacher and math/science specialist. I believe new knowledge is built on prior experience, meaningful learning occurs when working with authentic problems, quality work requires high standards, and diversity among learners must be celebrated. I have a Master’s degree in education from Bank Street College, alongside a Bachelor’s degree in environmental science and mathematics from the University of California, Santa Barbara. The outdoors, basketball, jokes, games, and the people in my life bring me great joy.

Second Grade Teachers

Tess Cohen
I grew up in New Jersey, attended Columbia University, and moved to Brooklyn in 2009 after graduation—and I’m never leaving! I received my Master’s degree in early childhood and childhood general education from Bank Street College in 2019. I worked as an Associate Teacher at City and Country, first with four-year-olds, and then two years in first grade. I believe that learning should be fun, immersive, meaningful, and should help students understand their own identities, as well as those of others, to help them navigate the world in the future. I spend most of my free time cooking, trying to learn the ukulele, singing nonsense songs to my three cats, and binge-watching good TV with my husband.

First Grade Teachers

Seth Levy
I am from White Plains, New York. I like to read, watch television, and hang out in Central Park. I have an undergraduate degree in political science and a Master’s degree in elementary education from the Bank Street College of Education. In summers, I spend a bunch of time outside hiking, reading, and relaxing.

Alexandra Ortega

I grew up in Miami, Florida, where I received my Bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Florida International University. While in Miami, I began my teaching career as a Kindergarten teacher at a public school and stayed for four years. Now that I’m here in New York, I love experiencing the different seasons, visiting Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and going to museums. Some things I like to do in my spare time include trying new recipes from one of the cookbooks I own, baking, and spending time with my dogs.

Kindergarten Teachers

Emily Silver
I was born and raised in Brooklyn. I feel so lucky to be working with students during their most formative ages. I have degrees in dance and interdisciplinary arts for children and a Master’s degree in early childhood education. Within the past few years, I have traveled to Ghana, Mexico, and Israel, exploring new cultures, dance styles, and different languages. I believe strongly in a learning environment that fosters joy, celebrates beautiful mistakes, and allows students to take risks while learning and growing into their identities.

Carolyn Hart
I was born in Port Washington, New York, and have lived in Brooklyn for over five years. After completing my undergraduate degree in urban studies, I worked in education and fundraising for Brooklyn institutions like the New York Transit Museum and the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy. I have over ten years of experience working with children and have a Master’s degree in elementary education. I strongly believe that the classroom should be a joyful, inclusive environment that encourages children to find their own unique strengths. When I’m not teaching, I love to read, cook, and explore Brooklyn by bike.

Middle School Teachers

John Kuckens (Science Teacher)
After studying history at Wheaton College, Massachusetts, I went on to pursue my teaching credentials at Bank Street College but not before teaching math in Hartford, Connecticut, and later working with students on the autism spectrum in Manhattan. After student teaching at Brooklyn New School and then two years as an assistant teacher in the Fourth Grade at Brooklyn Friends School, I’ve amassed quite a range of experiences to draw from while now teaching at The Co-op School. My favorite parts of teaching Fourth Grade are creative and narrative writing. I like to play guitar, see live music, swim, run, write, complete the crossword, and spend time with my son, John, and wife, Kate, as well as other family and friends here in the city.

Ian Wharton (Humanities Teacher & Advisor)
I am a Brooklynite who has taught in independent schools for eight years as a Spanish teacher. I have my Master’s degree from Long Island University and hold teaching certifications in general education and special education with a bilingual education extension. In my spare time, I love to read, knit, and spend time with my family and friends. Fun fact: I love karaoke, but I am a terrible singer.

Specials Teachers

Thomas Stokes (Movement Teacher)
I am a Brooklynite born and bred, straight from the heart of Bed-Stuy! I have been in education since 2001; teaching pre-K, Kindergarten, First Grade, and High School over that span. I have a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Emory University in Atlanta. I taught there for two years after I graduated, then I returned to New York to earn my Master’s degree in childhood education from CUNY Hunter College School of Education. I have coached a number of sports, including soccer, basketball, flag football, and track. I am also a certified personal and group fitness instructor. I love teaching exercise and movement and am looking forward to spreading this love throughout the Co-op community!

Benjamin Rojas (Art Teacher)
I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area to parents who had immigrated to California from El Salvador. I attended San Francisco State University, where I earned a Bachelor of Arts. in arts education, then moved to Brooklyn in 2004. After almost eight years of teaching high school art and design, I entered New York University Steinhardt School and earned a Master of Arts in arts education. I have exhibited my artwork and painted murals nationally and internationally and I continue to practice my art in Brooklyn, where I live with my wife, Adia, and our two beautiful children (currently at The Co-op School!)

Vanessa Drake-Johnson (Literacy Specialist)
I’m originally from Minneapolis but spent much of my childhood in Vancouver, British Columbia. I earned a Bachelor’s degree in history at Duke University and worked in book publishing before then earning a Master’s degree in childhood education at Bank Street College of Education. I have taught First and Second Grades in Manhattan and New Jersey, and most recently worked in Literacy Intervention at the Brooklyn New School. I live in Clinton Hill with my husband, two daughters, and our Havanese dog. I love that my role as Literacy Specialist at The Co-op School combines the joys of working with children and teachers with my lifelong love of reading!

Jenna Vitale (Learning Specialist)
I am a New York native and grew up on Long Island. I have a Bachelor’s degree in childhood education from Oneonta State College and a Master’s degree in special education from Hofstra University. My journey at The Co-op School began in 2013, when I started working with preschool students as a SEIT. My love for the community was instant—so much so that I moved to Brooklyn from Long Beach. In my free time, I enjoy traveling, exploring local neighborhoods, and trying new restaurants. I am so proud to be part of the Co-op community!

Adrianne Wallace-Bearak (Math Specialist)
I am a Bank Street graduate coming from P.S. 235, where I worked as a classroom teacher, math teacher, math staff developer and coach, and, finally, as an assistant principal for the last 30 years!


Deanna Bocchetti (Head of School)
After receiving my Master’s degree in elementary education from The City College of New York. I taught fourth and first grade for over a decade on the Upper West Side. I then entered administration as Director of Curriculum and Assistant Head of Elementary, also in New York City. I moved to Bedford–Stuyvesant in 2001 and am enjoying being “back home” after spending the past six years as the Head of Lower school at a PK-12 school in Wilmington, Delaware.


Maureen Boucher (Business Director)
I grew up outside of Philadelphia, and a circuitous path from a University of Delaware Bachelor’s in art history, ten years in ad agency art departments, an MFA in design and technology from Parsons School of Design, and running my own freelance design business led to my first position with The Co-op School as Genevieve’s mom and Board Treasurer in 2005. Overseeing the school’s financial operation, planning, and the move in 2009 to Irving Place honed my skills. The new scale of the organization required a full-time focus on the finance side of The Co-op School, and I became the Business Director. I earned an MPA in Nonprofit Administration from Baruch College in 2017 and look forward to the school’s next exciting chapter.

Denise Honoroff (Billing Coordinator) denise@thecoopschool.org
I was born in Malden, Massachusetts, and moved to New York to work in publishing. My three children were the cutest Ladybugs, Fireflies, and Bumblebees. The Co-op School is an amazing community that hosts legendary parties. When I’m not working I enjoy spending time with my family, eating, and going to CrossFit!

Ashley Barnes (Director of Enrollment) ashleyb@thecoopschool.org
I am originally from Portland, Oregon and now happily reside with my family in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn. I hold a Bachelor in Science degree in Social Science with a minor in Black Studies from Portland State University as well as a Master’s degree in Teaching from Lewis and Clark College. Prior to joining The Co-op School I taught at the elementary level in independent schools. I have been active in social justice work both in and outside of schools and I am eager to continue this work with our community. I enjoy traveling, live music, and any opportunity to be creative. 

Amanda Rodriguez (Cooperative Coordinator)
I was born and raised in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I have a background in events, marketing, and communications. I joined The Co-op School in 2011 after teaching English in South Korea for 2 years.  I started my Co-op career in the classroom and I am now a member of the administration team. In my spare time, I enjoy going to museums, dancing, traveling, and spending time with my one-year-old daughter, Emilia. It’s been such a pleasure growing with The Co-op School over the years—I’m excited to see what’s still in store!

Mandy Vadnai (Elementary Division Head)
I have worked at The Co-op School since the elementary school program began in 2012 as the founding elementary school education director. Prior to this, I worked at P.S. 261 in Boerum Hill, where I taught Kindergarten, Third Grade, and was a Special Education Support Teacher (SETTS) for seven years. I also taught at The Churchill School in Manhattan, working with special education students from across the spectrum. I hold a Master’s degree in both elementary and special education from Bank Street. I am a New York City native and l live near the school with my husband and two girls, Charlie and Willa (both graduates of The Co-op School). When not working, I enjoy reading, spending time with friends and family, watching movies, traveling, listening to music, cooking (well, more importantly, eating), and, occasionally, water coloring if there is a free minute.

Christie Gallagher (Preschool Division Head)
I was born and raised in Queens, New York and I have been a part of The Co-op School community since 2008. During my career here, I have enjoyed teaching 2 to 5-year-old students, collaborating with families, and supporting the teaching staff. I’ve taught in the 2 to 5-year-old students 2’s, 3’s, and Pre-K classes and have been enjoying the role of Preschool Education Director. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in childhood education and a Master’s of Science in Early Childhood General and Special Education. I love the cooperative spirit, creativity, and family involvement at The Co-op School. My child started his first Co-op school year and I couldn’t be more grateful for the learning experiences the preschool staff bring to this community. In my spare time, I enjoy gardening, going to the beach (year-round!), camping, and going on coffee dates with friends and family.

Evelyn Espinoza (Human Resources Director)
I have been with The Co-op School since August 2019. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, but while I was in high school my family and I moved to Pennsylvania, where I also earned my degree. Brooklyn has my heart, so I came back home. In my spare time, I enjoy doing CrossFit, traveling, reading, and spending time with my three dogs Nighty, Luna, and Thor.

Lasana Williams (Administrative Coordinator)
I was born and raised in Brooklyn. I started off my college education at Siena College only to transfer back home to LIU Brooklyn, where I received my Bachelor’s degree in sports science. In my spare time, I run a business and enjoy traveling as much as possible. I began working summers at The Co-op School in my teen years and later worked as the summer camp facilities manager. I’ve also previously helped to oversee the afterschool and enrichment program.

Lennox Acque (Security Guard)
I grew up in a little-known country called Guyana which is located on the northern tip of South America bordered by Brazil, Venezuela, and the Atlantic Ocean. I immigrated to America in 2006 and started working at The Co-op School in 2009. During my time here, I have enjoyed the camaraderie and the hospitality of the parents and staff members. My favorite pastime activities are reading, watching sports, listening to music, and going to social events.

David Green (Maintenance Manager)
I was born and raised in Brooklyn. I am the youngest of three siblings. I have been in the facility maintenance field for over 10 years. I have been at The Co-op School since November 2019 and always look forward to another great year with some of the most amazing people. During my free time, I enjoy playing video games with my son, listening to music, and traveling.

Spencer Eagle (Custodian Assistant)
I was born and raised in Queens, but I also spent some time in Alabama where I learned a lot about how people view the world through the eyes of others. I enjoy watching and attending sporting events; spending time with my daughter, family, and friends, concerts; going to museums, and dining. I joined The Co-op School in 2020 as part of the Facilities Department, and it’s been a delightful experience thus far. I’ll continue to work hard at keeping the building clean and safe for students and all faculty members. I hope to continue seeing the wonderful smiling faces for the ongoing future.