Meet the BUGS Team!

BUGS Staff are defined by their passionate commitment to the individual needs of our students, academic rigor, adolescent development,  sustainability education, celebration of diversity, and their personal professional growth and collaboration with colleagues. The BUGS Staff culture is one of can-do attitudes, support and joy. Here are staff after one of our annual Meditation weekend retreats upstate. We are so grateful to all of our staff and their role in our students' lives! We are all in this together!

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Co-Founder & Executive Director

Susan Tenner has over 25 years of experience creating, developing and managing educational and social service programs in the private, public and non-profit sectors. She is passionate about both individuals' and organizations' potential for growth and learning.  She has broad-ranging experience in administration, including program and staff development, financial oversight, grants management and fundraising for nonprofit organizations and schools. She has brought her professional skills to the public school system by serving on the School Leadership Team and other committees of P.S. 295 in Brooklyn.  In the private sector, she oversaw national employer-sponsored child care programs and customized early childhood schools for clients such as Intel and Ford Financial. In her teaching and educational consulting practice, Ms. Tenner worked directly with parents, teachers, students and organizational clients on curriculum and program development, with a focus on constructivist and experiential learning models.  She earned her B.A. with honors from Brown University and received her Master’s in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She lives in Greenwood Heights with her husband and children, and is an active, enthusiastic member of the community and public school system.

Email: susan.tenner@BUGSbrooklyn.org

 

Interim Acting Principal (ELA, Social Studies & 6th Grade)

Wynette Caesar joined BUGS in 2015 and brings with her over ten years of experience as a special educator, professor, and administrator. She formerly taught several grade levels at PS 372K, The Children’s School and continues to be an Adjunct Professor of Literacy at Long Island University’s (LIU) Brooklyn Campus, where she has taught since 2012.  Wynette holds a Bachelor’s/Master’s of Science in Childhood Education and Student with Disabilities along with a Master’s of Science in Teaching Literacy from LIU.  She also holds a Postgraduate Advanced Certificate in Education Leadership from SUNY Stony Brook.  Wynette was born in the sunny island of Trinidad, West Indies and was raised there until the age of 17.  She connects the school's sustainability theme with use of water collection systems as this is a valued resource in many areas of her native island.

 

Dean of Student Affairs

Dameon Muhammad is one of BUGS Deans of School Culture.  He is in his sixth year as a Dean in Brooklyn.  Prior to being a Dean, Dameon taught in Atlanta, Georgia for ten years (grades K-6). With an undergraduate degree from William and Mary and a Master's from Brenau University, Dameon hopes to use all of his experiences to enhance the rich culture that has been established at BUGS. 

Email: dameon.muhammad@BUGSbrooklyn.org

 

Dean of Student Affairs

Lucie Davis is also a Dean of Students at BUGS. She has 15 years’ experience teaching elementary and middle school, both in general and special education classes.  Lucie is a graduate of Sacred Heart University, where she earned a B.A. in Political Science. Later she received an MSEd. in Elementary Education from Lehman College and is currently pursuing a 2nd Master’s in Educational Leadership at City College.  As a native New Yorker, Lucie is excited to show city kids where nature exists in the concrete jungle.  In her free time Lucie enjoys cooking, cheering for the Knicks,  traveling and quilting.

Email: lucie.davis@BUGSbrooklyn.org

 

Director of Operations

Lydia Bailey is thrilled to be at BUGS as the Director of Operations. She joined BUGS in March 2016, when she relocated to Brooklyn, NY after spending the past 9 years in Washington D.C. working in charter schools, education associations, and various nonprofits committed to closing the achievement gap. She attended the College of William & Mary where she received her degree in Government Affairs. Lydia enjoys reading, being outdoors, and traveling to new places. She looks forward to truly experiencing New York, especially exploring the beautiful borough of Brooklyn!

Email: lydia.bailey@BUGSbrooklyn.org  

 

Guidance Counselor

Anali Chavez began her youth work over 15 years ago as a youth development counselor at a Boys and Girls Club on Long Island. She graduated from Molloy College with a B.S. in Psychology and went on to receive her Master's in School Counseling from Long Island University, C.W. Post. She has worked as a school counselor at both elementary and high school charter schools in Brooklyn.  Anali came to BUGS as the founding Guidance Counselor in 2013, because of the school mission focused on community, exploration, and student voice. In addition to counseling, she oversees the Advisory program and High School Placement Process. She looks forward to continued collaboration with BUGS students, parents and faculty to help every student develop strong character, life skills and academic skills. On her free time, Anali enjoys reading, yoga and spending time with her family.

Email: anali.chavez@BUGSBrooklyn.org

 

Guidance Counselor

Olivia Heffernan is excited to return to the BUGS team! Completing her undergraduate degree at Northeastern University in Psychology and her masters at CUNY, Hunter College in School Counseling, Olivia is committed to serving every student in their path to academic, social, and emotional success.  She has previously worked as a school counselor for elementary and middle school students within New York City. Olivia wholeheartedly believes in BUGS’ values of community, sustainability, kindness, and commitment to continually push ourselves to reach higher. In her free time, Olivia enjoys reading, traveling, cooking (and eating) new foods, and spending time with her family and friends. 

Email: olivia.heffernan@BUGSbrooklyn.org

 

English as a New Language Teacher

Fiona Coen-Tunca discovered her love for teaching ten years ago while working part time at a local school during her studies at Fordham University. She discovered how rewarding it was to help students who didn’t speak English. Since then, she has completed her M.A. in Teaching English to Students of Other Languages. She has taught ESL in some of NYC’s most unique and challenging high schools, and has taught English abroad in Turkey. She has been teaching English as a new language now for seven years. A native New Yorker, Fiona is thrilled to start her fourth year at BUGS, working amongst a diverse staff to enrich the lives of young adults and especially help children of immigrant families acclimate to life and learning in NYC. Her hobbies include bike riding, cooking vegan cuisine, and all things cats.

Email: fiona.tunca@BUGSbrooklyn.org

 

Reading Specialist

Betsy McGowan is delighted to be back for her second year at BUGS! As BUGS’s reading specialist, she helps students improve their reading and spelling skills. Her favorite part of her job is the end of the school year, when students reflect on their growth and see how far their hard work has taken them. She loves the inclusive, nurturing environment that BUGS has built. Betsy holds a M.A. in reading instruction from Teachers College at Columbia, and a B.A. in secondary education and English from Boston College. In her free time, Betsy runs in Central Park with her hound dog Reba, reads books written for middle school students and adults, and visits her family in Idaho.

Email: betsy.mcgowan@BUGSbrooklyn.org

 

6th Grade Math Teacher

Anela Feratovic was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She came to BUGS in early 2016 from Brooklyn College where she earned a bachelor's degree in Childhood Education (1-6), and a Master's degree in Teaching Mathematics. She has experience working with children of all ages. Anela has worked at BUGS for the past three years as a 6th Grade Math Teacher and an Academic Support Teacher for grades 6-8. Anela is passionate about math and loves to share her learning with the students and staff at BUGS. Anela's hobbies include running, yoga, traveling, watching hockey, and spending time with her family and friends. 

Email: anela.feratovic@BUGSbrooklyn.org

 

6th Grade Social Studies Teacher

Laura Cameron received her master’s degree in Social Studies Education from CUNY Hunter College and holds a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from the University of South Florida in her hometown of Tampa Bay. She is a published photographer (The Knot, 2004) and musician who has created music with her husband for JibJab and Marbles the Brain Store. Laura is often found photographing and transcribing tombstones, mausoleums, and cenotaphs for genealogists and family members who need help documenting memorials that they are unable to visit themselves. Since changing careers in 2014, she has been working with students of all ages throughout New York City in various capacities. She is eager to share her passions for human history and cultures, rational inquiry, and general curiosity with BUGS’s incoming community members.

laura.cameron@BUGSbrooklyn.org

 

Director of Humanities - Social Studies and Writing

Zsazita Walker was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. She has a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies from Western Governors University and is certified in General Education 1-6. This is Ms. Zsazita’s fifth year at BUGS. Ms. Zsazita utilizes her upbringing in Brooklyn, NY to establish a common ground with her students. It's warranted that she has an uncanny ability to be viewed by her students as exceedingly relatable. This has opened the door to innovative teaching methods which her students have responded to. Ms. Zsazita is committed to teaching her students the educational and interpersonal skills necessary to navigate through middle school, high school, college and beyond. She's a mother of 3 which has naturally allowed her to be nurturing. Ms. Zsazita feels as though her students are her extended family and cares for them as her own. She loves to read, write, experiment with new foods and most of all spend time with her family.

Email: zsazita.walker@BUGSBrooklyn.org

 

8th Grade Writing Teacher

Lauren Hamernick is a proud 4th year teacher at BUGS. Lauren is a Brooklyn native and graduated from Monmouth University with a Bachelor's in Communication and later, a Masters in Education from Metropolitan College of N.Y. Lauren first began her career as an assistant teacher working with children on the autism spectrum. Several years later she began working as a SETSS teacher for a Catholic School in the Lower East Side. Lauren enjoys using her sense of humor, knowledge of pop-culture and contemporary music to connect with her students. Lauren is a fun, hands-on teacher that is enthusiastic and dedicated to helping her students meet their personal and learning goals. She is well versed in all subject areas and has taught advisory, advancement, math, science, social studies and writing. In her spare time Lauren likes to spend time with her son, Liam. 

Email: lauren.hamernick@BUGSbrooklyn.org

   

8th Grade Team Leader & Interdisciplinary Sustainability Coordinator

Aaron Morales is the 8th grade team teacher leader and one of the sustainability coordinators. He teaches 7th grade Science Fiction project block, 8th grade Urban Gardening project block, and Global Scholars. Mr. Aaron is a big fan of video games such as Overwatch and Super Smash Bros.

 

Email: aaron.morales@BUGSbrooklyn.org

 

7th Grade Social Studies Teacher, 7th Grade Team Leader

Jessica Carp loves teaching at BUGS because of its reputation as a place where students' creativity and curiosity shine! Jessica is a graduate of NYU with a Master’s in Social Studies Education and of Ithaca College with a Bachelor's degree in Social Studies. Jessica has been teaching in NYC schools for 5 years as a 6th grade Social Studies teacher. She is now bringing her enthusiasm and joyfulness to the 7th grade team as Social Studies teacher and Grade Team Leader. Jessica also serves as the Instructional Technology Coordinator here at BUGS. Jessica is committed to understanding each of her students' individual learning needs and meeting them where they are with targeted, engaging instruction and opportunities to grow. On the weekends, she can be found cooking, pampering her rescue cat Louie, reading a thought-provoking book, or pursuing her passion for travel. 

Email: jessica.carp@BUGSbrooklyn.org

 

6th Grade Reading Teacher and ELA Department Chair

Callie Quinn holds a B.A in Interdisciplinary Studies from Castleton University and a Master's Degree in Literacy from Queens College. This is Callie’s 5th year as a BUGS teacher. Callie came to Brooklyn Urban Garden School with over three years of field study experience in a variety of settings including Elementary and Middle schools in Vermont. After honing her instructional leadership working with English Language learners in Italy for two years, Callie returned to her roots in New York. She chose BUGS as she was drawn to the curricular emphasis on sustainability and student exploration. Callie is passionate about education and seeks to build positive relationships with students  and their families. In her free time, Callie enjoys traveling, reading and participating in winter sports.

Email: callie.quinn@BUGSBrooklyn.org  

 

6th Grade Writing Teacher - Special Education

Shanyn Rubinstein is excited to be teaching at BUGS this year! She holds a B.A. in Childhood Education and Business from SUNY Fredonia. She just finished her Master’s in special education at Brooklyn College. She is excited to bring her love of literature and sustainability to the BUGS community. When she is not teaching Shanyn enjoys working out, cooking and spending time with family and friends.


Email: shanyn.rubinstein@BUGSbrooklyn.org

 

6th Grade Reading Teacher

Julia Wilson grew up an hour north of the city in the Hudson Valley. Before coming to BUGS Julia previously taught sixth grade humanities and reading in both independent and charter school settings. Julia holds a B.A. in Adolescent Social Studies education from SUNY New Paltz and Master’s degree in Technology Education from the Teachers College at Columbia University. When she isn’t teaching she enjoys tending to her small balcony garden or spending time with her 10 pound shih tzu, CC.

Email: julia.wilson@BUGSbrooklyn.org

 

8th Grade Reading Teacher

Breanne Church is thrilled to be at BUGS teaching her favorite subject, reading! She earned her Master’s degree from Touro College and is dual certified in General and Special Education. She is excited to work with students toward a better future through sustainability education. Breanne grew up near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and has been living in New York City for the past 12 years. In her free time she enjoys reading, cooking, and traveling.

 

Email: breanne.church@BUGSbrooklyn.org

 

8th Grade Math Teacher

Caroline Quan is excited to join the BUGS team this year as an 8th grade math teacher! Caroline has a Bachelor degree in Integrated Mathematics and Science and Master's degree in Adolescent education in Mathematics. This is her 4th year teaching 8th grade math and 2nd year at BUGS. Caroline is excited to be back at BUGS for another awesome school year! In her free time, Caroline likes to cook/bake and spend time with family.


Email: Caroline.Quan@BUGSbrooklyn.org

 

8th Grade Math Teacher

Andre Williams was born in East New York, Brooklyn. The education he received in his neighborhood zone school was subpar, and his mother decided to move the family upstate to Buffalo, N.Y. Life in Buffalo felt much different than Brooklyn, so it took him some time to adjust. His goal was to graduate high school and then attend college, where he was accepted to Buffalo State College. This is where he pursued his undergraduate degree in liberal arts. After college, Mr. Williams decided to move back to Brooklyn to start his career as a teacher. He worked for the Department of Education for 5 years, went back to get his master’s degree at Touro College, a private school in East New York, Brooklyn and then on to charter schools in Downtown Brooklyn and East Harlem. He comes to us with over 10 years of teaching experience, and is looking forward to working with the scholars at BUGS this year.

Email: andre.williams@BUGSbrooklyn.org 

 

6th Grade Science Teacher

Tim Rutgers is excited to be back for his second year teaching at BUGS and will be teaching 6th grade science.  He earned his Bachelor's from Hunter College and is passionate about interdisciplinary science learning, including renewable energy systems. He studied these renewable energy systems at Solar Energy International and received his Solar Professionals Residential and Commercial Photovoltaic Systems Certificate in 2017. He taught 7th and 8th grade at East Side Community High School in Manhattan, he was a Director of Education at Green Thumb (NYC Parks), a Program Director at Open Road, a consultant for the Trust for Public Land Playground Program, and a carpenter. He has planted gardens, built compost heated greenhouses, designed and installed solar systems and wildlife ponds all over New York City and looks forward to continuing new adventures in science with the BUGS team. Tim lives in Brooklyn and loves to spend his free time with his family (including his dog Spot).  He loves the outdoors, boating, camping, and model making.

 

6th Grade Math Teacher

Harriet Brown is in her third year at BUGS and is very excited to be teaching 6th grade math. Born and raised in Queens, Harriet lived in Maryland and South Carolina before returning to New York City.  She received her undergraduate degree from SUNY Potsdam, and a Master’s in Education from Touro College. Harriet has 10 plus years experience teaching high school and middle school and while she enjoys teaching math, her hobbies are reading fiction, writing fiction and traveling.

Email: harriet.brown@BUGSbrooklyn.org


7th Grade Math Teacher/Math Department Chair

Jaime Desormeaux has come to BUGS looking to bring access to mathematics to all students and offer insight into preparing for and succeeding in high school and beyond. Her preparation through the New York City Teaching Fellows program and high school teaching since 2002 has laid the foundation of her professional experience.  After her undergraduate education, earning her a BA in English from Dartmouth College, she entered into Adult Education and small group instruction. Teaching Fellows allowed Jaime to complete a Master's degree in Math Education from  City College in 2005. Jaime also completed her Math Leadership degree from Bank Street College. As a Brooklynite of Haitian descent, Jaime continues to make her home in Clinton Hill Brooklyn where she lives with her two children. Jaime is also very active in her faith and looks forward to the meditation portion of the day at BUGS.  Her personal mission statement: “I'm committed to always seeking ways to improve myself and the lives of others.”

Email: jaime.desormeaux@bugsbrooklyn.org

 

8th Grade Special Education Social Studies, Social Studies Dept. Chair

David Gari was born and raised in Park Slope, Brooklyn. From there, he went to the State University of New Paltz where he lived for 6 years. He earned his B.S in adolescent education social studies and then continued to get his master’s in special education. While going through school, he managed an Advance Auto Parts and found a hobby in fixing cars. He joined the BUGS faculty in 2015 and enjoyed relocating to his old neighborhood and serving its students. In addition to his passion for teaching, he enjoys watching tons of TV shows on Netflix, traveling, and rooting for the New York Mets.

Email: david.gari@BUGSbrooklyn.org 

 

7th Grade Special Education Social Studies Teacher

Georgia Wright joined BUGS in the fall of 2017 after teaching for three years in the Bronx. She studied International Studies at the University of San Francisco and later received her Masters in Special Education at Hunter College in New York. She is a 2014 Teach For America corps member and is passionate about teaching social studies and history. Prior to becoming a teacher she worked for a low-income housing development corporation in San Francisco. In her free time she loves to cook, run, and travel.

Email: georgia.wright@BUGSbrooklyn.org

 

7th Grade ELA Teacher

Hilary Shrair holds a B.A in English Literature and a Master's in Teaching from Simmons College. She has taught 7th grade ELA for the past four years and is incredibly excited to see what year five will bring. Hilary joined the BUGS community because BUGS prioritizes student centered learning. Hilary is most passionate about creating a kind, cohesive and productive classroom environment where her students support each other and hold themselves to high expectations. In her spare time, Hilary loves to hang out with a good book in the park, explore new neighborhoods and eat delicious food.

Email: hilary.shrair@BUGSbrooklyn.org

 

8th Grade Living Environment Teacher & Science Department Chair

Jen Bennett is excited to be the science department chair and general education Living Environment teacher at BUGS. Jen received her Bachelor's degree in psychology and her Master of Arts degree in education from the University of South Florida. Jen has been teaching science and math for 14 years, she has been part of the leadership teams at her school, and she was a founding member of her school’s Urban Farm and Garden, Renegade Roots. Jen moved to Brooklyn with her husband, 2 children, and golden retriever in June and she is looking forward to New York winters! She has a daughter who will be attending NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in the fall and an 11 year old son who will be a 6th grade student here at BUGS. Science at BUGS is hands-on, inquiry-based, collaborative, and fosters a life-time love of science! Jen enjoys spending time with her family, playing with her dog, Sophie, and watching Crime Dramas.


6th Grade Science Teacher

Mikhail Leybovich first began his career working in the field of foster care. His experiences there drove him to Dowling College from which he graduated with a Masters of Science in Special Education. Since graduating, he has had the opportunity to work with students in Charter, public, and Catholic schools. During vacations he spends his time doing anything nature related; camping, kayaking, foraging, and gardening. At BUGS, Mike fuses his professional career with his passion for urban farming.

Email: mikhail.leybovich@BUGSbrooklyn.org

 

Director of Sustainability

 Jess Norris came to BUGS in 2014 after five years as a program developer and facilitator at a grassroots community center in Richmond, Virginia.  Jess is the author of several published works and presents on arts integration, social practice, and experiential education. She has a Bachelor's of Fine Art in Painting and Printmaking and a Master's of Art Education from Virginia Commonwealth University. Jess enjoys experimenting with materials in her studio that could lead to exciting new projects in the classroom and beyond the walls of the school.

Email: jessica.norris@BUGSbrooklyn.org

 

8th Grade ELA Teacher

Tim Brown brings over sixteen years of educational experience to BUGS as an 8th grade Reading teacher. He has taught in the public, private and parochial school settings at varying grade levels from Pre-K to high school. Tim graduated from Colgate University in Hamilton, NY with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and a Studio Art minor. He holds a K-12 special education teaching certification in New Jersey. He has also taken master's level courses in Education and Special Education at Rutgers University, Rowan University, and Saint Peter's University. After ten years of teaching (focusing mainly on high school English), taking graduate courses, and coaching varsity high school football, he spent several years as a stay-at-home dad to his three children. After starting and running a successful frozen yogurt business, Tim realized he was missing his passion for teaching and became a fixture as a "permanent" substitute teacher at P.S. 10 here in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Tim is excited to begin his fourth year teaching 8th grade here at BUGS. He is passionate about reading, writing, music, art and the theater. He lives in Brooklyn with his beautiful wife, son (19), two daughters (14 and 17), and two dogs, Odin and Loki.

Email: timothy.brown@BUGSbrooklyn.org

 

6th Grade Sustainability Studio Teacher, Garden Manager and 6th Grade IS Coordinator

Laura Karlen has brought a broad range of experience to the BUGS team since 2013. She has worked in many facets of the environmental field over the past 20 years in the areas of education, local food production, green architecture and sustainable large-scale agriculture. She received her B.A. in Environmental Science from Drake University with a focus on Latin America and minored in Spanish. After completing her undergraduate work she spent a year studying at the University of Costa Rica and working with local environmental organizations. During her work in agriculture, she led research trips to Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. Growing up bicultural and bilingual (traveling between Iowa and Mexico City) has given her a unique perspective inside the conversation of sustainability. She is looking forward to continuing to work collaboratively with the BUGS team to bring her many passions together in the service of igniting a spirit of global citizenship and local action within our future BUGS sustainability leaders!

Email: laura.karlen@BUGSbrooklyn.org

 

Algebra I Teacher

William Jones, an 8th grade algebra teacher, is excited to meet all of the returning and new scholars in his second year at BUGS. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he cannot see himself living anywhere else. Mr. Jones graduated from Hunter College with a Bachelor's degree in Mathematics and a Master's degree in Education. When not teaching math, he is playing Dungeons & Dragons with friends, playing board games, or practicing guitar.  He is excited to continue his career as a teacher and hopes to create lasting memories.

Email: william.jones@BUGSbrooklyn.org

 

8th Grade Writing Teacher

Aaron Linskey is ecstatic to return to the BUGS team as an 8th grade writing teacher. Aaron received a B.S. in Literature, Language, and Writing and a History minor from Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, MI. While in school, he worked for the school newspaper and helped curate a film series of documentaries about schools and teaching. After completing his undergraduate degree, Aaron worked at schools in the Detroit, MI and Flint, MI areas before moving to Brooklyn where he taught at a high-performing high school as a 9th grade teacher. Aaron looks forward to bringing his boundless passion and excitement for Writing to BUGS.

Email:  aaron.linskey@BUGSbrooklyn.org

 

Physical Education, 7th Grade Graphic Design & 8th Grade Photography Teacher

Joshua Colon came to BUGS in 2016. He worked in the Department of Education for 3 years as a Paraprofessional at PS 295, while achieving his B.A. in Business from St. Joseph College in 2016. Formerly a United States Naval Photographer of 8 years and graphic designer for 10 years, he passes on his skills and utilizes everything life has taught him to work with and reach children. Joshua is currently furthering his education to become a Special Education teacher.  Working in a community like BUGS, Joshua hopes to absorb the leadership and community the school fosters. Joshua has a passion for art, fashion, design and occasionally belting out a Broadway tune.

Email: joshua.colon@BUGSbrooklyn.org

 

7th Grade Science Teacher 

Raven Mena is excited to be returning to BUGS this year as the 7th grade science teacher. Raven has over eight years of experience working with children, and has spent three years as a long-term substitute teacher at P.S. 372, The Children's School. Raven is looking forward to contributing to the academic growth of our students and assisting them to be sustainable participants in our society. Raven is a native Brooklynite and holds a B.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies of Childhood Education and History from Nyack College. Currently, Raven is working on her Masters in Special Education. In her spare time, she loves diving into history books, traveling with friends and family, and enjoys dining at Smorgasburg.

 

6th Grade Writing Teacher

Tony Tallon is excited to begin his journey at BUGS. Before completing his teaching certification at Hofstra University, he graduated The New School with a Bachelors of Science and an MFA in Creative Writing from Bennington College. Writing is his passion, and he is excited to share that passion with BUGS's 6th graders.

Email: tony.tallon@BUGSbrooklyn.org

 

7th Grade Reading and Writing Teacher

Jay Sontag is excited to be starting her first year at BUGS as a 7th grade Reading and Writing teacher. Prior to coming to BUGS she worked extensively in different nonprofits working with youth education in a variety of contexts, ranging from Mathematics intervention to Teen Pregnancy. She is an NYU graduate with a lifelong love of the Humanities, art, writing, history and psychology. When not in the classroom, teaching or learning, she can usually be found under a tree, on top of a mountain, or cuddling with her kitten.

Email: jay.sontag@BUGSbrooklyn.org

 

7th & 8th grade Spanish Teacher

Alexandra Robalino comes to BUGS with over 20 years of experience teaching middle school and high school Spanish.  Alex received her B.A. in Spanish Language, Literature, and Civilization from The College of Staten Island and her M.Ed. in Interdisciplinary Studies in Curriculum & Instruction from National Louis University in Chicago.  She loves sharing the culture, celebrations, and customs of the Spanish speaking world with her students, providing them the opportunity to learn and practice Spanish using real world situations. Alex believes in a judgement-free classroom where students are encouraged, supported, and feel safe, speaking Spanish as much as possible and hoping her students attempt the same.



6th Grade Social Studies Teacher

Jenna Bartock previously taught English Language Arts in East New York and is thrilled to take what she learned from that time and transition into the field of Social Studies here at BUGS. Jenna received her bachelor's degree in Philosophy from West Virginia University. After a few years of trying on some various career hats and not finding any open Philosopher positions, she decided to go back to school. She earned her master's degree in secondary education, English Language Arts from California University of PA. Jenna feels like she finally found a career that suits her and looks forward to growing as an educator. The biggest influencers in her life were educators and she can only hope to have the same impact on her students. In her free time, Jenna enjoys running, cooking (eating even more), and traveling. She is passionate about fighting for human and animal rights.

Email: jenna.bartock@BUGSbrooklyn.org

 

8th Grade Science Teacher

Paula Hewitt is excited to teach 8th grade Living Environment indoors and outside in the BUGS garden with students! She has been teaching Living Environment and Sustainable Architecture for over 25 years in NYC public schools and she loves working with students on creative green projects. Paula is a political cartoonist with WW3 and was the first female editor of this publication in 1984, now the longest running political art magazine in the world. She has published books and articles on subjects ranging from Skateboarders and Public Architecture to Worms. She has a Fine Arts degree from Cooper Union, a Bachelors in Visual Art from SUNY Empire State, a Masters in Science from LIU and she is currently studying Neural and Behavioral Science with a focus on Adolescent Development.  

Email: paula.hewitt@BUGSbrooklyn.org


7th Grade Science Teacher

Kirby Thomas is the 7th grade science teacher at BUGS. His experience includes over 9 years as a classroom teacher in both the NYC Department of Education and charter schools throughout Brooklyn. Kirby is a New York state certified teacher who has a Bachelors of Arts in Liberal Arts, a Masters of Science in Urban Affairs, and a second Masters of Science in Special Education. He is also an astronomer, yogi, fitness instructor, DJ, and martial artist for over 18 years. He has a passion for science, specifically astronomy, which is the study of the solar system.

Email: kirby.thomas@BUGSbrooklyn.org



Operations Manager

Cay Tolson came to BUGS in 2014 via a circuitous route involving graphic design, motherhood, bookkeeping, and leading her children’s PTA.  She has been organized and organizing others all of her life, and is thrilled to get to do it all day at BUGS! She loves living in Brooklyn (for over 20 years!), but still thinks of herself as a Virginia girl. Cay loves to read, knit and cook for her family & friends. She does not love to go running or vacuum.

Email: cay.tolson@BUGSbrooklyn.org

 

Director of Inclusion

 Sade Martinez came to BUGS in January 2018 to serve as the Inclusion Coordinator, after working as a Special Educator in central Florida for grades K-5 and New Jersey for grades 5 -6. Over the summer she transitioned into the role as Director of Inclusion and is super excited to support the growth of all students. Currently completing her Master’s Degree in Education, specializing in Leadership in Educational Administration, she believes learning is a lifelong journey. Outside of BUGS, Sade, is a wife and mother of 3 boys who enjoys traveling with her family and dog, Cookie.

Email: sade.martinez@BUGSbrooklyn.org

 

Receptionist

Tonya Brown is excited to be returning to BUGS for her third year.  Having worked in the administrative field for many years as well as with children as a teacher aide, Tonya continues to interact with the kids and now dives into the role of receptionist by keeping the office organized and helping whoever enters get the information they need by guiding them in the right direction. Tonya has so many ideas for BUGS and can’t wait to show them.


 Email: tonya.brown@BUGSbrooklyn.org

 

Parent & Technology Coordinator

Joshua Altamirano is passionate about his work at BUGS. Whether he is supporting families both new and returning, or in the background synchronizing the technology needs of students and staff, Joshua is driven by being able to provide solutions for the BUGS community. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Joshua graduated from Baruch College, where he earned a B.B.A. in Marketing & Psychology. Prior to arriving at BUGS, Josh developed his passion for education and working with families by running an after-school tutoring center in the heart of Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Joshua is committed to helping foster a strong family and community presence at BUGS so that students have a well-rounded support system. In his free time, Joshua enjoys hosting competitive game nights with family and friends.

Email: joshua.altamirano@bugsbrooklyn.org 

 

Academic Program and Data Coordinator

Tiffany Cunningham joined the BUGS team as the Academic Program and Data Coordinator. Prior to joining BUGS she was an educator in Harlem and is an alum of Pennsylvania State University where she earned a B.S. in Biology. She enjoys traveling the world and experiencing local cuisine. Her love for new experiences led her to live in Asia for three years as an educator. On the weekends she loves to explore the Cafe's of New York and read a book or three along the way.

Email: tiffany.cunningham@BUGSbrooklyn.org

 

Quiet Time Site Leader

Danielle Phillip is so excited to join the BUGS Team as the Quiet Time Site Leader. Ms. Dani, as she's known around BUGS, is a native New Yorker, born and raised in Queens. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Communications and Minor in Psychology from St.Francis College in Brooklyn. She loves helping students reach their full potential through their practice of Transcendental Meditation and seeing them shine their light into the community. Dani loves visiting her family in Trinidad, hitting the beach, and having movie marathons with her husband and son.

Email: quiet.time@BUGSbrooklyn.org


Afterschool Director

Valencia Kirnon is thrilled to join the BUGS team as the Afterschool Director. As a native New Yorker, she was educated through the city’s public school system. She holds a BA in Sociology from Long Island University (L.I.U) and received a MS .Ed in School Building Leadership (SBL) from St. John’s University. She brings over 19 years of teaching and youth development experience.  Prior to joining BUGS she taught various elementary grade levels; subsequently she worked as an Educational Consultant providing Academic Intervention Services in English Language Arts for 6th-8th grades. She later joined the CBO of Italian American Civil Rights League as their Education Specialist performing curriculum development for multiple sites programming.  Lastly, she held the position as the Director of an afterschool program at a charter middle school in Brooklyn, NY. She is committed to honing students’ social and emotional development through engaging activities and providing them with exposure to new experiences.  During her free time she enjoys traveling, event planning, cooking and spending time with family.

Email: valencia.kirnon@BUGSbrooklyn.org

 

 

Supply and Events Coordinator

Corina Cowen has been an artist for most of her life, and while her work and medium of choice have evolved over time, her passion for creating remains constant. She loves to beautify spaces, whether it be designing a flyer, filling a blank wall with a mural, or just creating a visually pleasing snack plate. She loves to garden and get her hands dirty, and she previously worked on organic farms and city gardens. Corina is inspired by the sense of community at BUGS and is so happy to have found a position that combines all of her passions into one. And although she’s from California by way of half a dozen other states, she’s happy to have made Brooklyn her adopted home.

Email: corina.cowen@BUGSbrooklyn.org   

 

Project Block Visiting Artist - Dance

Abdul Belle aka Mr. Kid started his professional career at the age of 18 years old. Later on, he became a local NYC street performer and started booking professional jobs, such as a Stussy Clothing photo shoot, Jolly Rancher and Nickelodeon commercials, as well as appearing on BET, MTV, VH1, NBC, and other cable networks. Mr. Kid also realized the joy of teaching and in about a year, he grew from two classes a week to eight classes a week, and teaching at various studios around New York. He is now brought in as a special guest choreographer to various studios and conventions. His choreography has won multiple national titles and recognition. Mr. Kid is well known for not only his dancing, but also his community outreach work, such as motivational speaking at public schools, performing for the Department of Homeless Services and The Seton Foundation for down syndrome and special needs, and he has taught at the Crossroads Juvenile Detention Center in Brooklyn NY. Mr. Kid continues to inspire his colleagues and motivates his students.

 

Project Block Visiting Teacher - Billion Oyster Project

Sylvie Lam is a Sustainability Project Block Teacher at BUGS and Team Lead for our Billion Oyster Project research. She has taught on sustainability, science, and society over the past fifteen years in the United States and Pacific Islands, where she has family roots in Hawai‘i. Ms. Lam attended Vassar College and was a Writing Across the Curriculum Teaching Fellow during her graduate studies at the City University of New York Graduate Center. She remains committed to fostering critical thinking with writing, hands-on learning, and fieldwork. Ms. Lam’s research on the science and environmental impacts of weapons testing has been funded by the National Science Foundation and other sources. She is a Brooklyn public school parent who feels privileged to work with the students of BUGS.

Email: sylvie.lam@bugsbrooklyn.org