Our People

Our team of talented professionals brings passion, commitment, and enthusiasm to Manitou.

 

Maria Stein-Marrison is the Director and a Managing Partner of the Manitou School. She previously ran the Manitou Learning Center, a bilingual preschool program in Garrison, NY.  She has been the Director of the Manitou School since it began in 2014.  Formerly, she was a management consultant with over fifteen years of experience in strategy, process, and change management. She has worked with organizations in the US, Europe, Asia, and Central America. Her past clients include The World Bank, Citigroup, Standard and Poor’s, The New York Times, McGraw-Hill, the OIM, and IBM. Most recently, she had been consulting to an elite K-12 private school in Panama City, Panama on their overall strategy, organizational structure, and curriculum effectiveness.  Additionally, for the last ten years Ms. Stein-Marrison has been developing and teaching a curriculum of language learning for Spanish instruction. Her bespoke approach uses music, movement, arts and crafts, and games to teach basic vocabulary and grammatical structure, as well as develop speaking and early literacy skills.  She serves on the board of the Boscobel House and Gardens, as well as being a founding Board member of the Philipstown Hub.  She holds a B.S. from the Wharton School of Business of the University of Pennsylvania, where she graduated magna cum laude. She lives in Garrison with her husband and two children, who are happy alumni of the Manitou School.

Rajay Bagaria is a Managing Partner of the Manitou School.  Mr. Bagaria has worked at several Wall Street firms including Goldman Sachs and Apollo Investment Management, where he spent eight years most recently as a Partner and Investment Committee member. In 2013, with backing from a prominent family office, Rajay established the credit hedge fund Wasserstein Debt Opportunities, which he manages as the fund’s President and Chief Investment Officer.  Mr. Bagaria received a BA from New York University with studies at the London School of Economics. Mr. Bagaria is passionate about education and about contributing to his community. He currently sits on the board of Glynwood and lives in Garrison with his wife Dr. Rajni Singh, and their two children Arjun and Amalie who attend the Manitou School.

Alexandra (Allie) Abetti is delighted to be teaching the 2nd/3rd Grade this year. Over the past twelve years, Allie has been able to teach a variety of topics and ages in a number of locations. Allie spent four years in Washington, D.C., primarily teaching Physical Education and Health to Pre-K through 8th graders with Center City Public Charter Schools. After spending nearly a year in Cairo, Egypt, where she volunteered as Program Coordinator and Camp Director for character-building sports camps through WellSpring Egypt, Allie returned to New York City where she taught 2nd Grade for Democracy Prep and then transitioned to Brooklyn Prospect Charter Schools where she taught 2nd and 3rd grade. After moving with her husband and son to the Hudson Valley, Allie continued to work for Brooklyn Prospect as their K-5 ELA Curriculum Specialist as well as work as an Adjunct Writing Instructor at the Culinary Institute of America. While she enjoyed teaching at the college level, Allie was eager to return to the elementary classroom and thrilled to join the Manitou Team last year. In her free time, Allie enjoys reading, writing, theatre, film, hiking, breaking a sweat, laughing with friends, and jumping into any body of water she can dip her feet in. She lives in Beacon with her husband, Jonathan, her sons Arlo and Jonas, and her pets–Burrito the Cat and Fiona the Dog.

Kelley Amadei is Manitou’s Mindfulness Teacher. Founder of SparkShift, Kelley brings together over 17 years of experience working with people in all walks of life, a deep meditation practice, and extensive research and practice in psychology and neuroscience. She co-created our mindfulness curriculum and has been teaching it across all grades since its inception.

Amie Rose Anderson is our Life Skills teacher and Social/Emotional Development specialist. Amie is thrilled to be able to co-create the Life Skills curriculum with our 2nd-8th graders, supporting students as they grow, build friendships, and develop their emotional intelligence. Originally from Garrison, Amie received her dual masters degree in Early Childhood and Childhood Education from Sarah Lawrence College. Amie went on to teach in several progressive settings, both public and private, including The Calhoun School in Manhattan. Amie recently completed an additional masters degree in clinical social work from New York University.

Conor Austin is the Co-Teacher in the Chickadees Stepping Stones, and will be acting as interim Head Teacher of the Chickadees while Ms. Eliza is on maternity leave . He is a graduate of Juniata College with a B.S. in PreK-4 and Early Childhood Education. He has experience working with children of many ages, as well as teaching in many different Pre-K and elementary classroom settings. He ran an after-school program through his college for two years, and is delighted to be part of the after-school team at Manitou. Conor has taught abroad as well, including spending a semester in India, where he did field work at a matriculation school. He recently returned from six months in the Dominican Republic, where he taught English to young children and their teachers in an impoverished community in the rural outskirts of Santo Domingo, where his Spanish improved radically. He is a Cold Spring native and graduate of Haldane School. He plays guitar and writes songs, and likes to bird-
watch, having worked for a summer at Constitution Marsh Audubon Sanctuary. He is thrilled to running Manitou’s very popular Dungeons and Dragons club!

Yrma Avellaneda is thrilled to be joining the Manitou Team full-time as Stepping Stones Spanish Teacher. For the past 12 years, Yrma was the assistant Director at Stacey’s House, a local preschool in Garrison.  Yrma is originally from Lima, Peru, where she studied at the Universidad Ricardo Palma.  She is delighted to be pursuing her true passion here in the United States, to teach wonderful children Spanish!

Olaya Barr is our Middle School ELA teacher. Olaya is a bilingual teacher, photographer, and writer living in New York. She was awarded the De Alba Fellowship for excellence in fiction writing as an MFA student at Columbia University, as well as a grant to attend artist residency Obracadobra in Oaxaca, Mexico. She has been lucky enough to live in Spain, Argentina, and Mexico. As an educator, her interests are centered on immigrant communities, bilingual speakers, and those affected by autism. She writes about food, biculturalism and the multifarious identities that fall within hispanic culture, and she loves to photograph cities, food, and street litter.

Kim Chase is our Bridge Class teacher. She has over 15 years experience teaching in a variety of settings from independent schools to institutions like the Bronx Zoo and the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. She received her Masters in environmental science education from Antioch New England Graduate School after majoring in studio art at Colorado College. Also a musician, Kim formed a band with her husband while living in Brooklyn, New York, recording albums and touring the North East. Kim started at Manitou teaching after school programs in art and wilderness survival skills.  Kim is very excited to be teaching the Bridge Class this year, sharing her love of nature, science, music and art with her students.

Erica Costalonga is a Spanish Teacher at the Manitou School, across the Elementary and Middle School grades.  Erica was born in Argentina, where she obtained her Bachelor’s in Pedagogy.  Later, she moved to New York, where she attended CUNY. She received an Associate degree in Science, becoming a radiology technologist.  Erica attended Pace University for another two years while working at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan.  As a health care professional, she provided her patients with her best professional and emotional support. She also provided services as a Spanish-language interpreter. Nine years ago, she married, moved to Beacon, NY, and had a daughter.  Having a child brought back her old passion for working with children. She became a volunteer for Wee Play in Beacon, organizing activities for children, and is delighted to now be working at Manitou. Erica is passionate about her work with children, their curiosity, and their enormous capability for learning new things. She believes play and fun are essential components in a successful learning process. She lives in Beacon with her daughter, cat, dog, ferret, guinea pig, and Mr. Fish.

Scherrie Williams Donaldson is thrilled to be part of the Manitou team as a Special Education Teacher and Diversity and Inclusion specialist. She recently moved to the Hudson Valley from Brooklyn, where she worked for the past 15 years doing a combination of inclusion classroom teaching, curriculum development, student assessment, and DEI work. Scherrie is a member of the CUNY-IIE (Initiative on Immigration & Education) School Leadership Team and holds certificates in Trauma Responsive Educational Practices and Implicit Bias Awareness.  Additionally, she was a New York City Teaching Fellow, where she earned her Special Education certification.  She earned a Masters of Science in Education from Pace University and has a BA in Africana and Caribbean Studies from CUNY Medgar Evers College.  She is an avid crafter and yoga and mindfulness practitioner.  Scherrie lives in the Hudson Valley with her spouse and three children, the youngest of which is a happy Manitou Student.

Esther Espinosa is our head Spanish teacher at Manitou. Together with Ms. Stein-Marrison, she is responsible for developing and teaching the Spanish curriculum throughout all grades.   Prior to working at Manitou, Ms. Espinosa was the Director of Academics and Curriculum Development for Elementary at “La Paz,” a private school in Mexico, where she also taught preschool and Elementary.  She holds a BS in Pedagogy from the Universidad Pedagogica Nacional of Mexico.

Alexander Florez (he/him) is a bilingual educator and will be supporting the middle school students and teaching mathematics. He has a Bachelor in Mathematics and a Masters in Literacy Education and has taught and tutored in private and public schools for 10+ years. In the last decade, Alexander has developed and implemented interdisciplinary curricula for middle and high school math and literacy, social-justice related statistics, empathy through theatre, improvisational story-telling, play-based self-care, stand-up comedy, and mediation through mindfulness. He exemplifies life-long learning through his hobbies and projects including, but not limited to: comedy theatre, radical activism, board games and RPGs, podcasting, live-streaming video games, ultimate frisbee, running, and being a dad of two delightful and devious cats. Feel free to ask Alexander about his passions!

Lisa Hall is our Middle School Humanities teacher. Lisa started her teaching career here in the Hudson Valley over ten years ago. While earning her Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education from SUNY New Paltz, Lisa worked in the food and farm industries. She taught in various public school settings before moving to NYC to become part of the foundational team at Academy for Young Writers, a small public high school in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn. It was at AFYW where Lisa developed her love for writing curriculum. According to Lisa, each classroom community should develop its own curriculum reflecting the heritage, interests, ideas and learning styles of every member. As a teacher of history, Lisa focused her attention on literacy and understanding content through Habits of Mind. In 2013, just three days before her son Nico was born, she received her Masters degree in Adolescent Literacy from Hunter College. She recently participated as a fellow of The Good Work Institute, a fellowship of community leaders committed to thinking differently about how to do business and make connections in the Hudson Valley. This year she joins us in a part time position as she continues to run Marbled Meat Shop, her family business, with her husband Chris and son Nico.

Carrie Langbein is a teacher and learning specialist working with students in various grades. Carrie recently moved to the state of New York from Germany, where she lived the past three years. Mrs. Langbein has been an educator for over 18 years and loves working with children. Carrie has a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction. Carrie enjoys reading, exercising, shopping, traveling and spending time with her family. She lives in New Windsor with her husband, two children and their newest addition, a Goldendoodle.

Clarissa Lega is the Spanish teacher in the Bridge Class, as well as running the Nap Room for Stepping Stones. Ms. Lega is thrilled to bring her passion for art, creativity, and performance into teaching Spanish in the Bridge Class

Donna Mikkelsen is delighted to be joining Manitou as the Art Teacher.  Donna has been an elementary school teacher and teaching artist for over 25 years.  She founded and directed The Garden Road, an arts-integrated independent school, for 10 years, before shifting her focus to teaching art in institutions around the Hudson Valley.   She is an ambidextrous artist and has been developing her method of SPONTANEOUS SYMMETRY drawing as an artistic daily practice and teaching tool.

Dawn Miller is a Head Stepping Stones Teacher at The Manitou School, in the Bluebirds classroom. After receiving her undergraduate degree from the University of Vermont, she went on to earn a dual Masters degree from Bank Street College in Early Childhood and Special Education. She has worked to support teachers to incorporate project-based learning, play, differentiated instruction, and mindfulness in their curriculum. She works with the students and parents in her class to build a classroom community based on kindness and empathy, where all children feel valued and accepted. Dawn enjoys the outdoors, running, and nutrition. She lives in Putnam Valley with her husband and daughter who also attends Manitou School.

Terence Murren is Manitou’s Music Teacher, as well as running Manitou’s Summer Program. Active as a teaching artist since 2000, Terence has taught through Creative Music Programs, the Harlem School of the Arts, and the 92nd Street Y where he was also author of curricula for its Musical Introduction Series used throughout New York City.

In addition to being a founding member of the indie rock band Relations, Murren performs with Megafortress, The Combine, and as a soloist.  He has played with Jon Gibson (Philipp Glass Ensemble),  Bobby Previte, Butch Morris, Billy Bang, Tomas Fujiwara, Mike Gamble, Matt Bauder, Josh Kaufman and Otto Hauser.  Murren is based in Beacon and can be heard performing regularly in the Hudson Valley and New York City.

Christi O’Donnell is teaching the 3rd/4th grade class this year. From nursery school through 12th, Christi has taught every grade but 11th in school settings ranging from public to private, urban to suburban, inclusion to dual language and even international. Immediately after graduating with a Bachelors Degree from Sarah Lawrence College, Christi was accepted in to the highly competitive New York City Teaching Fellows Program where she worked as the general education teacher in an inclusion setting for 3 years before becoming an English teacher at the German International School New York in White Plains. Christi holds a Master’s Degree in Education as well as NYS Teaching Certificates in General Education pre-K to 6 and English Language Arts 7 to 12. In addition to her work in the classroom, Christi is a published author and writes for the Westchester edition of the award winning website, Mommy Poppins. She lives in Peekskill with her partner and child and a small herd of cats.

Adam Osterfeld is a Kindergarten/First Grade Teacher at Manitou. Adam became a teacher after a career in children’s educational programming. He was a designer of Nickelodeon’s Blues Clues and Art Director of Bill Cosby’s Little Bill. Adam is NYS certified to teach classroom grades 1-6 and Visual Arts K-12. He holds a BFA from Pratt Institute and MST from Fordham University. Since becoming a teacher, Adam has taught in districts throughout the Hudson Valley. Most recently, he taught Art for Mill Street Loft in the Poughkeepsie public schools under the NYSED 21st Century grant. He lives in Cold Spring with his wife and two sons. His passion is using the Arts to enrich learning.

Sakura Ozaki, our Middle School Math and Science teacher, has over 18 years of teaching experience. She began her teaching career at a public high school in San Francisco, CA in 1999, and ever since she has enjoyed the challenges of teaching at all levels. Her most recent teaching experiences include authoring and implementing a series of hands-on science courses for younger elementary school children, co-teaching mathematics at the higher elementary level, as well as providing individual home instruction to her children in all subjects from Kindergarten through grade 6, including Latin, pre-Algebra and Organic Chemistry. Ms. Sakura has lived in 4 countries, on 3 continents and in addition to English, she speaks Japanese, German and Italian. She looks forward to combining rigorous knowledge acquisition and enjoyable hands-on learning in her teaching of mathematics and science at the Manitou School!

Javier Piñón is thrilled to be joining the Manitou team as an assistant teacher in the Stepping Stones classroom.  Javier is a Cuban American, born in Miami and now lives in Stormville with his wife and son who attends Manitou. He is a graduate of The University of Texas where he received his BFA in Painting and Art History. He then went on to The Rhode Island School of Design where he earned a Masters degree in Teaching. Javier has worked as an art teacher in public schools and as an arts educator at The New Orleans Museum of Art. After many years of pursuing his artistic career as a collage artist in NYC, Javier made a return to teaching by hosting after-school art classes in his studio as well as more recently in Manitou’s own after-school program. In the summers Javier runs an Art and Nature summer camp in Stormville, NY. Javier loves to sing and play music on his trusty Ukulele.

Tamara Reynolds is on our Advisory Team and heads the Financial Aid Committee at Manitou. She brings decades of management experience to our team, as well as extensive  background in Design, which shapes the aesthetic experience of our school.  Her two children are happy Manitou students.

Eliza Hartley Romanyschyn is a Head Stepping Stones Teacher at The Manitou School, in the Chickadees classroom. Before beginning her career in education, Eliza earned a BFA with a concentration in Printmaking and Art of the Book from the State University of New York at Purchase College. After graduation, she moved to New York, where she started a small business teaching cooking classes to preschool and elementary school aged children. That experience introduced Eliza to her love of teaching and led her to Bank Street College of Education where she received a dual masters degree in Early Childhood and General Education. She spent seven years as a teacher at City and Country School in Manhattan. She taught three, four and five-year-olds and designed and instructed workshops teaching fellow educators about progressive education and block building in the early childhood classroom. After twelve years of living in Brooklyn, Eliza and her family decided to move to the Hudson Valley. Eliza is so pleased to be breathing the fresh country air and share her love of nature, cooking and art with the youngest children at Manitou. Eliza lives in the Hudson Valley with her husband and son.

Connie Rotardier is thrilled to be entering her 5th year as assistant teacher in the Bridge Class. Connie is a NYC native who spent her early career as a dancer touring the world as a member of The Dance Theatre of Harlem. She has lived in the Hudson Valley for 18 years and has enjoyed teaching ballet and jazz to the children of this community. She is also an avid animal lover and has had a thriving pet care business.

Nicole Rowley is excited to be teaching the 1st/2nd grade class this year.  Nicole has focused her teaching career on developing peace education curricula in tandem with core academics.  Nicole has her Master’s degree from Columbia University, Teachers College focusing on International Transcultural Education.   She created a Peace Education position at P.S. 1 in Brooklyn where she taught K-5 for 5 years.  Nicole has also worked as both a second and third grade teacher, and has had experience teaching abroad in India.  In recent years Nicole has developed Peaceful Beginnings, a mommy and me class at the Fishkill Rec center and has been the read aloud specialist at the Blodgett Memorial Library.  Nicole holds her NYS Teaching Certificate in General Education pre-K to 6, and is eager to get back into the classroom.  She lives in Fishkill, NY with her husband, 3 children and 7 chickens.  Nicole enjoys all that the Hudson Valley has to offer and is excited to share that with your children!

Eric Saiet is Manitou’s Drama Teacher. As an actor, Eric has guest starred on many TV shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Damages, the Good Wife, ER, Scrubs and just about any version of Law & Order you can think of. He has popped up in films like Groundhog Day, Murder by Numbers, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Eric is also a screenwriter. He has written feature screenplays for major studios like Disney, Amazon and Blue Sky, and was a writer on many episodes of the PBS shows Super Why! and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. All the while, Eric has been teaching children’s theater classes across the country, with an emphasis on improvisation, theater games and playwriting. He holds a BA in Theater from Northwestern University, and is a member of the Screen Actors Guild and the Writers Guild.

Elisa Santiago is a bilingual educator, excited to join the Manitou team as a part time Spanish teacher in Ms. Nicole’s classroom. During the past 4 years, she has been a substitute teacher, getting to know the Manitou community. Originally from Spain, with a background in choreography and performance art, she moved to the Hudson Valley 7 years ago.

She has taught in Beacon at Hudson Hills School, as well as at Compass Arts and Common Ground for art based learning and summer camps.

 Other teaching experiences in Brooklyn include a Co-op Preschool as an assistant teacher, and at The Painted Cloud, an art and play based space, where she led a morning play school for 3-5 year olds, and developed after school programming and art camps for kids 5-10 years old.

Elisa studied Early Childhood Education at The West Side Montessori School in NYC.

She enjoys working with young curious learners, exploring cognitive and somatic processes, with a focus on empathy and independence.

Ash Starnes (she/they) is part of our Administrative and Enrichment team at Manitou. As a multi-disciplinary artist and educator, Ash brings a heart-centered approach to learning and is thrilled to be serving the Manitou community through administrative support. Ash holds a bachelor’s degree in English and Linguistics and has over a decade of experience teaching creative movement, ESL, and the language arts. Prior to joining the Manitou team, Ash served as the Marketing and Communications Manager for a nonprofit for Atlanta. Ash has had the privilege of working with students and colleagues from around the world and has seen firsthand the empathy-building and social sensitivity that arises from multilingual and culturally expansive education. Ash is also a published poet and teaches multimodal creative workshops to adults in her spare time.

Julisa Rincon Tomizawa is our Curriculum Advisor, a Founding Member, and Head of Summer Camp at Manitou.  Ms. Tomizawa has been an Instructional Coach for the Greenwich (CT) Public and Private Schools, where she provided policy consultation at all grade levels and designed and implemented teacher training, including helping general education teachers adapt classroom practices to meet the needs of students with special needs and second language learners. In her former role as Data Specialist in a New York City public school, she supported teachers in the collection and use of student performance data to develop effective teaching strategies, design curricula that meet the needs of a diverse student body, and provide professional support to teachers (new teachers to veteran teachers) within a K-5 school.  Ms. Tomizawa earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Special Education and a Master’s degree in Urban and Multicultural Education from the College of Mount Saint Vincent, as well as a Master’s Degree in School Administration from Bank Street College of Education. She currently serves a Secretary of the Little Stony Point Citizens Association, and a Board Member of the Friends of the Butterfield Library.

Jen Steiner Tonks is our new Director of Administration and Special Initiatives at Manitou. Jen brings years of experience in management, systems design, research, and program development to our team, as well as a deep appreciation for the expertise of the Manitou teachers. Prior to joining the Manitou team, Jen has led and scaled international edtech startups and an educational non-profit. In addition, Jen has taught at New York University and the University of Michigan.  Jen started her career as an elementary school teacher at Central Park East Elementary Schools (East Harlem’s progressive public schools). There Jen became fascinated with using design-based research to support the work of progressive educators. Working at Manitou brings Jen’s career full circle and back to her primary passion. Jen has a Masters in the Art of Teaching from Sarah Lawrence College and PhD in Learning Technology from the University of Michigan.

Anthony Trimboli is thrilled to be teaching the 4th grade class at Manitou this year. This is Anthony’s second year at Manitou after moving to the United States from Australia. Anthony gained his bachelor’s degree in Elementary/Middle School Education in South Australia before teaching in his home country for three years. Before this, Anthony was studying Education while working for an Enrichment School Program for four years, developing their curriculum and community culture plans. Permanently residing now in Rockland County, New York, Anthony is excited to share his skills and passion with our community. He has a determination to make class relatable, fun and rich in opportunities for the children. Anthony is also an avid sport lover who both plays and coaches soccer. It was soccer that led Anthony to travel and play in various countries including the Philippines, China, Italy as well as the United States. He also loves to read, run, study history, be at the beach and learn the Spanish language.

Carolin Trott is our 5th grade teacher at Manitou. Originally from Erfurt, Germany, she has been teaching for over ten years in a variety of settings from public school in England to private and non-profit education in the US. Her teaching style is founded on inquiry-based instruction and project-based learning. Carolin believes that learning is both an individual process as well as a group experience—where everyone in the classroom learns from each other, including the teacher learning from their students. Her goal is always to create a learning environment where children can academically excel, problem-solve together, and apply skills they have learned in order to become successful lifelong learners. Carolin also teaches German language skills to children, teenagers, and adults through the Goethe Institut, where she has also led the effort to develop a standardized German Language children’s curriculum to be implemented across North America, Canada, and Mexico. Carolin holds a Post/Graduate Certificate of Education from Edgehill University Ormskirk, England and a bachelor degree in early childhood education from the University of Erfurt, Germany.

Nubia Wilchez is a a Spanish teacher across many grade levels. She was born in Colombia, and obtained her bachelor’s degree in Bilingual Education at Colombo Americana University in Bogota. Prior to working at Manitou School, she worked as an English teacher at Nueva Granada School in Bogota, where she developed and implemented curricula for English as a second language. Subsequently, she worked for seven years at Gran Bretana School, a highly regarded international private school, where she held the position of Spanish teacher. In addition to the regular classes, her work included teaching children with special needs. Most recently, Nubia taught Spanish at the After School Program to children from three elementary schools in Beacon, using contemporary, innovative academic techniques. Nubia lives in Beacon with her wonderful 11 year old daughter. She enjoys spending quality time with her family.

Jennet Wildy is our Learning Specialist, serving students from all classes in Reading, Spelling, and Math. She began teaching in Colorado, receiving elementary education and ESL/ELL certification from the University of Colorado at Boulder and CU-Greeley. Her other certifications include Early Child Development and a Masters of Education in Literacy and Leadership.

Literature, theater and storytelling, the gift of words and expression, are at the heart of her teaching. Her fascination with how we learn and communicate led her to deep studies of children’s development. Between teaching in Colorado and New York she also served as a Children’s Librarian in Athens, Tennessee, and by weekly storytelling improved her understanding of children, from babies to young adults.

Following her ongoing interest in human development and best educational practices, she has studied many educators, from Marian Diamond to Rudolf Steiner to Nanci Bell. She strives for child-centered, inspiring, and meaningful learning.