Our Staff

  • Ilysa Winick (School Founder)

    llysa’s vision for Reade Street Prep began when she was pregnant with her first son, Benjamin, (class of 2014), and beginning to explore the educational landscape of the downtown preschools. She wanted to create an environment where children were inspired to learn and challenged to succeed. The opportunity to build a school that was academically driven and globally focused became a mission that would lead her to leave her career as a derivative trader on Wall Street and embrace an incredible journey that would evolve in to Reade Street Prep. Ilysa lives with her husband, Steven, and her two boys, Benjamin and Ryan, (class of 2017), in Tribeca, NYC. She is passionate about early childhood education, and incredibly proud of her contribution to her children and her community.

  • Natalie Alterman (School Director)

    Natalie joined Reade Street Prep in early 2013. She feels fortunate to work with a school that shares her affinity for global awareness and language study, and looks forward to the year to come.

    Natalie’s foreign language acquisition began at an early age, when she first began studying Hebrew. She has since expanded on these skills, working to grasp Latin, Italian, Swahili, and Mandarin. Meanwhile, her career as an educator began when she joined Teach for America after receiving a B.A. in Italian Literature from Cornell University. Through TFA, Natalie worked as a middle school teacher in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The experience opened her eyes to the wide range of strengths, needs, and cultures that can exist in a classroom. Inspired to further explore the field of education, Natalie decided to spend a year abroad. She traveled to Shanghai, China, where she not only taught English to early education students, but also honed her own Mandarin language skills.

    Upon her return from China, Natalie earned dual Master’s degrees in Childhood Education and Childhood Special Education from New York University. As a graduate student, she expanded on her prior knowledge of classroom management, collaboration, and curriculum development; as an adjunct professor, she also had the opportunity to practice the organizational and managerial skills that are necessary for a school administrator to employ.

    Natalie is excited to lend her background, both as a world traveler and classroom teacher, to the administration at Reade Street Prep. She is proud to be part of a team that believes in empowering the youngest learners to be creative, independent, and open-minded.

  • Dana Bookman (Assistant Director) 

    Dana came to Reade Street Prep in 2013 as an English Discoverer's teacher. Recently, she transitioned out of the classroom to join the administrative team. Dana is glad to be part of a school that recognizes the value of a quality early childhood experience.
    While growing up in a suburb of Philadelphia, Dana discovered her desire to work with children while spending time in her mother’s classroom and working at a local summer camp. She then attended Lehigh University, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in History with a minor in Psychology. Dana remained at Lehigh to pursue a Master’s degree in education, spending time in the Allentown and Bethlehem School Districts.
    As a teacher, Dana strove to establish a positive classroom community, believing such an environment facilitates higher levels of learning. Dana also understands the importance of approaching each student as an individual and scaffolding instruction according to a student’s specific needs. She is eager to utilize her insights as a teacher in this new capacity to continue her work with the RSP community.
  • Molly Foley (Senior Administrative Associate)

    Molly is very excited to join the administrative team at Reade Street Prep! 
    After completing a B.S. in Environmental Policy, Molly discovered a love for helping others - especially children. She obtained a M.Ed. at Lesley University and earned a kindergarten teaching position at an acclaimed charter school in Brownsville, Brooklyn; the adjustment from environmental studies to childhood instruction inspired Molly to think more critically about education, and what role she hopes to play in the future of the field. She is eager to contribute her skills and broaden her understanding of what makes an excellent school. 
  • Kira Cajigas (Administrative Assistant) 

    Kira is happy to be with Reade Street Prep for a third year!

    Kira is a professional dancer and dance teacher, as well as a graduate of the Alvin Ailey School. She has been teaching at local studios for several years and was part of a community outreach program that performed and taught modern dance to schools in the tri-state area. She also studies boxing and other martial arts forms and enjoys sharing different varieties of movement.

    A native New Yorker, Kira looks forward to learning more about organizing and managing ways to be involved in the community during her time here at Reade Street Prep.


  • Lauren Aaron
    Lauren is very excited to begin her journey at Reade Street Prep as a Head Teacher in the English Explorers program and an Associate Teacher in the English Discoverers program. She has always known she wanted to become a teacher. Growing up on Long Island, Lauren has been a day camp counselor and babysitter for many years. She graduated from Indiana University with a Bachelors degree in Elementary Education, and continued on to attain her Masters degree from Teachers College-Columbia University in Literacy Education. Because learning is never complete, Lauren also earned an advanced certificate in Early Childhood Education and Special Education. 
    After graduating from Teachers College in 2012, Lauren worked as a third grade teacher at a dual language private school on Long Island. Last year, she also taught third grade at a school in the DOE. 
    Lauren is interested in how young children learn to read, write, and socialize. She is looking forward to a terrific year at Reade Street Prep!
  • Gabriela Blanco Bobea

    Gabriela is absolutely thrilled to continue with the RSP community as a member of the teaching team! She is looking forward to lending her skills, experience, and support to the wonderful teachers and families of a community she has come to know and love. Her recent experience working as a language instructor in Tribeca has brought her years of hands-on discoveries in the classroom, as well as a sensibility for the nuances of a teacher's every day challenges and motivations.  She hopes this perspective will prove useful to the RSP children, instructors, and parent population.  

    One of the elements of the Reade Street Prep curriculum that Gabriela is most impressed by is the global approach to the emergence of literacy and language in students. Gabi herself is a a fluent polyglot. A product of the full language immersion program implemented worldwide by the French National Ministry of Education (Le Lycée Français / LFNY), her elementary education was carried out exclusively in French from Pre-K until High School. She is also a native Spanish speaker, born and raised in the Dominican Republic. At the age of eight her family made their first move to New York City, where she acquired English as her third language. Gabi is also a passionate creative writer and translator, and her play-writing has paired well with her vocation for guiding children through the exhilarating universes of story-telling, critical thinking, and foreign language acquisition. 

    Gabi is confident that her international and creative background will be of service in this diverse and gifted community of students. She cannot wait to see the wonders that the new school year brings! 

  • Michelle Cao 

    Jieyu (Michelle) Cao began her journey with Reade Street Prep as an Associate Teacher in the Mandarin Immersion programs. Jieyu is a music educator, flutist, pianist, and composer. She graduated from New York University with a Master’s of Arts degree in Music education in 2017.

    Jieyu grew up in Shanghai, China, and speaks native Mandarin, where her passion for working with children began at an early age. During college, Jieyu started to mentor young children in both Mandarin and music skills, and she continues to work as a part-time Mandarin and music staff member at NYU summer program. Jieyu's desire to teach and inspire children has always come as second nature to her, and she feels lucky to be able to pursue that passion. 

    Jieyu's teaching philosophy is a survival bag, and it includes key, screwdriver, and compass. She uses the key to explore each student’s potential talent, the screwdriver to help students fix their problems, and the compass to guide them in the right direction. 

    Jiuyu is eager to be on the Reade Street Prep team. She is excited to combine her music skills into the Mandarin curriculum, and thus stimulate young children's learning and interests. 

  • Jennifer Castellanos

    Jenn, originally from Miami, Florida, is thrilled to begin her third year at Reade Street Prep. She began her journey as a Spanish teacher in both the Preschool Prep and Explorers programs, and is now leading the English Preschool Prep programs; she is a true asset to the youngest learners at RSP. 

    Jenn attended Pace University for her undergraduate studies, and secured a Bachelor's degree in Psychology. She then earned a Master's Degree in Developmental Psychology from Teachers College (Columbia University), and is currently working towards an additional Master's Degree in the area of Early Childhood Education at New York University. 

    Jenn has always felt an affinity for children, and is astutely aware of the immense importance of early experiences in shaping them as adults. She has a passion for working with students of all abilities, and adjusts her instruction to align with each child's learning style. She is thrilled to share her skillset with the Reade Street Prep community, and in doing so, to encourage each little one to discover his or her purpose and reach full potential. 

  • Lynn Chao 

    Lynn is excited to join the Reade Street Prep team as an Associate English Explorers teacher. Lynn recently graduated from Teachers College, Columbia University with her Master's degree in music education.  When student teaching at the elementary school P.S. 84 in Astoria, she fell in love with teaching music to pre-K and kindergarten students, and enjoys the energy, enthusiasm, and curiosity of young children.  Early childhood is a foundational time in a child's development, and Lynn wants to dedicate herself to fostering students' love for learning and exploration during this crucial period.

    Prior to Teachers College, Lynn received her Bachelor's and Master's degrees in classical trumpet performance from Montclair State University and Manhattan School of Music respectively.  Since the age of five, she has been actively involved with her musical pursuits on the piano and trumpet, and has performed with various orchestras and chamber ensembles in the U.S. and abroad.  She has also taught private students and classes in various music programs in NY and NJ.  Lynn looks forward to contributing to Reade Street Prep's holistic approach to education by applying her music teaching experience to her work in the English Explorers classroom.  She hopes to integrate musical and general instruction to help enrich her students' academic, social, and emotional development.    

  • Megan Cuevas

    Megan began her journey at Reade Street Prep as an Associate Teacher in the Dual Language Explorers class. She attended the College of Staten Island and received a Bachelors degree in Early Childhood Education in May 2015. This fall she will continue her education by taking classes to receive her Masters in Early Childhood Special Education.

    Since she could remember Megan always wanted to be a teacher. Before earning her degree she worked as a camp counselor, an early intervention therapist, and a childcare provider. She has four nieces and nephews that she adores. Her experiences have led her to have an open mind and adjust to every child’s learning needs. When she is not surrounded by children, you could find her trying a new recipe or baking delicious desserts. She is excited to gain new memories and bring her positive attitude and creativity to Reade Street Prep.

    Megan is excited to continue with Reade Street Prep as a Co-Head Teacher for the 2016-2017 school year!

  • Jessica Dreyfuss

    Jessica began her journey with Reade Street Prep as an Associate Teacher in the Discoverers classroom. Jessica grew up on Long Island, where her passion for working with children began at an early age. From participating in an internship program at a local elementary school while in high school, to tutoring and mentoring children while in college, to currently working as a Group Leader at a summer camp, Jessica’s desire to teach and inspire children has always come as second nature to her.

    Jessica completed her undergraduate degree at Hofstra University, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Speech Communication, Rhetorical, and Performance Studies. She further pursued her educational career at Fordham University, where she graduated Cum Laude with a Masters of Science in Teaching, Early Childhood Education degree.

    Prior to joining Reade Street Prep, Jessica taught at a private preschool on the Upper East Side for five years. She strongly believes the key to educational success begins with strengthening a child’s self-esteem and confidence, by having a keen sense of awareness for every student’s unique learning and social domains. That, combined with creating a love for learning, is at the heart of generating a fun, nurturing, and supportive educational environment, where children thrive.

    Jessica cannot wait to continue with Reade Street Prep as a Co-Head Teacher for the 2015-2016 school year.  She cannot wait for the fantastic year ahead!

  • Emily Farber
    Emily is excited to be working at Reade Street Prep. She spent many summers of her adolescence volunteering at her local elementary school's summer program, working with special needs students. She has always wanted to be an early childhood teacher. Emily graduated from New York University with Bachelor's degrees in Early Childhood General Education, Early Childhood Special Education, and Psychology. She then earned her first Master's degree in Severe and Multiple Disabilities from Columbia University Teachers College. For her second Master's degree, Emily returned to New York University where she studied Psychology with a focus in early childhood development. Throughout her undergraduate and graduate studies, as well as her professional career, Emily has worked in both public and private New York City teaching sectors.
    Emily is a strong believer that education should be a fun, engaging, safe experience. She believes strongly in individualized instruction so that every child feels personally connected to their learning experiences and has the greatest opportunity to succeed. Nothing makes Emily happier than seeing children succeed in their goals and develop a true love of learning along the way. She creates each lesson with a focus on the whole child, which means creating lessons that support emotional, behavioral, cognitive, and social development. Emily can't wait to share her passion of teaching with the rest of the Reade Street Prep team!
  • Shannon Grace

    Shannon is thrilled to be returning to RSP for the 2016-2017 year! Before joining RSP, Shannon spent two years as a kindergarten teacher. Shannon graduated from the University of Richmond with a Bachelor of Arts in History and Elementary Education. She then attended Relay Graduate School of Education and earned a degree in Early Childhood Education.

    There is nothing that Shannon has wanted to do more than to be involved in the education system. Working with children for a number of years as a babysitter, nanny, swim instructor, and adaptive ski instructor has proven to her that nothing is more rewarding than seeing a child reach a goal. Her passion for early childhood education grew in her years as a kindergarten teacher. She takes pride in nurturing and guiding students to develop a love of learning through well-planned, differentiated lessons, joy, and positive, consistent behavior plans so that students can achieve both academic and character growth. Shannon is excited to build relationships with her students and students’ families this year!

  • Sandra Gumuzzio

    Sandra Gumuzzio is a Spanish actor and theater teacher based in New York City. This will be her first year teaching the Spanish Explorers class at Reade Street Prep. For her undergraduate studies, she attended Complutense University, in Madrid, Spain where she received a Bachelor’s degree in Communication and the Certificate of Educational and Pedagogic Ability (CAP: Certificado de aptitude pedagógica). She has been working in theatrical education for more than ten years in Spain, and as head theater and Spanish teacher at a preschool since moving to the US in 2015. As an actor, Sandra studied at the Replika Teatro (Jaroslaw Bielski Studio) in Madrid, she worked with a variety of theater companies in Spain In 2010, she founded her own theater company called Teatro de Barro. While in Spain, she had starring and supporting roles in many films (Forbidden God, Tuesdays and Shadows), TV shows (Guardianes del Temple, I Want to Have a Million Friends) and web series (Resacas, Caption Fail). Since arriving in New York, she has appeared in the feature films (NY State of Mind and The Ghouls), as well as a number of short films, web series, theater projects and staged readings. 
    Sandra looks forward to a wonderful year with the Reade Street Prep team! 
  • Tara Madden

    Tara is excited for another year on the Reade Street Prep team in the Discoverers class this fall. Tara is a native New Yorker, having grown up in Westchester County. Tara received her Bachelor’s Degree in Childhood Education from SUNY Oneonta in 2007. She continued her education, receiving her Master’s Degree in Reading and Literacy from Walden University.

    Prior to joining Reade Street Prep, Tara taught in Westchester County public schools for four years. In 2013 she moved to Chicago and began her work in Early Childhood, working as a Junior Kindergarten teacher for two years. Tara has just moved back to New York and is elated to be back in her home state!

    Tara believes in educating the whole child, creating a curriculum to meet the needs of children emotionally, socially, and intellectually. Her experiences have taught her that when children are provided a warm and welcoming environment, they will feel safe to take risks in order to meet their fullest potential. Tara understands that no two learners are the same, and believes it to be of the utmost importance to differentiate instruction in order to meet the needs of all students.

  • Lauren Miner

    Lauren is excited to begin her journey at Reade Street Prep as an Associate Teacher in the Explorers class. In May 2015, she graduated from the University of Richmond with a BA degree in Psychology and Elementary Education. Lauren is currently continuing her education at Fordham University, pursuing a Masters in Early Childhood Education and Early Childhood Special Education.

    Lauren grew up in Connecticut. Her passion for working with children began when she worked as a camp counselor, an experience that ignited a desire to provide each uniquely talented child the opportunity to thrive and succeed. During college, Lauren volunteered and taught in several elementary classrooms. After graduating, Lauren worked as an Assistant Teacher in a third grade classroom. Lauren is excited to work with preschoolers, and hopes to captivate young learners while encouraging a joy and passion for learning, discovering, and exploring. Lauren is thrilled to be a part of the Reade Street Prep family and cannot wait for an incredible year!

  • Maria José Ribadeneira

    Maria José joins Reade Street Prep in fall 2016 as the head teacher for Spanish Explorers. She has been teaching Spanish to young children in New York City for the past 6 years. She founded Mi Casita, a Spanish immersion program for kids between 18 months and 3.5 years old, and worked at a downtown private school as a preschool Spanish teacher.

    Maria José is a native Spanish speaker. Born and raised in Quito, Ecuador, she lived in Bolivia for 10 years prior to moving to NYC in 2004. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Communication and Public Relations from Pontificia Universidad Católica in La Paz, Bolivia, and a NAMC Montessori Certification.

    She has been living in downtown Manhattan for the past 10 years, with her family, and is thrilled to become a member of the Reade Street Prep School, in her community.

    Maria José loves to paint, and spend time with friends.

  • Tonia Rivers 

    Tonia joined the Reade Street Prep in 2012 as a regular classroom floater; she has since become an integral part of every classroom, providing support and comfort along the way. As a lover of both education and children, she has dedicated my life to encouraging, motivating, and teaching children of all ages - and she wouldn't have it any other way! She has an extensive background in education, beginning with the Board of Education many years ago. There is no better way to give back than to teach! Our future enters the Reade Street Prep doors everyday, and Tonia is proud to know that she is helping them make better choices and contributing to their overall growth!

  • Kristina Robles

    The 2016-2017 year will be Kristina's third year as a Co-Head Spanish Discoverers at Reade Street Prep. Before moving to New York, Kristina earned a Bachelor of Arts in English for Elementary Education and worked as a first grade English teacher in her native Puerto Rico. English is the second language on her island, a fact that allowed her to gain vast experience working with foreign language learners. She is currently pursuing her graduate degree in Early Childhood Education.

    Kristina is a strong believer that young minds have no limits in exploring, learning, and creating. She has observed, time and again, children’s innate ability to acquire a second language – when provided with the correct environment. She is an advocate for fun and learning going hand in hand, and cannot wait to begin having fun with Spanish Immersion program this year!

  • Johanna Rodriguez

    Before starting with Reade Street Prep, Johanna earned a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Speech Communications and Linguistics. Johanna then worked as a Spanish teacher for children ages 6 months through 5 years old; she utilized songs and movement in order to best share her culture and language with the students. She takes pride in composing her own songs that relate to the class’ thematic units and age groups. She believes that integrating music into any classroom is an effective teaching strategy!

    Johanna is a member of Teatro S.E.A (Society of Educational Arts), where she lends her talents as a singer and musician in order to share the magic of theater with children. She also recently won an award from H.O.L.A. (Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors) for Best Performing Actress in a play about Roberto Clemente, a famed baseball player from Puerto Rico.
    Johanna’s theatrical passion is evident in her interactions with children. She cannot wait to put it to use with her new and returning students at Reade Street Prep.

  • Celia Rojas

    Celia is thrilled to join the Reade Street Prep team! She was born in Guanajuato, Mexico and raised in San Antonio, Texas. Upon completing her Bachelor’s degree in Communication Disorders from Our Lady of the Lake University, she joined AmeriCorps City Year in New York and honed her skills as a teacher of English Language Learners. The following year, Celia proudly joined the kindergarten team at Success Academy charter school and enrolled in Touro College's dual Master’s program in General Education and Special Education. 

    Celia is now pleased to be part of the talented RSP team as an Associate Spanish Explorers Teacher. She is especially excited about the school's commitment to fostering new languages while simultaneously promoting social, emotional, cognitive, and physical growth. As an English Language Learner growing up, Celia understands the challenges and triumphs of learning a new language while adapting to a new school. As an educator, she has also witnessed the empowerment that students gain from accepting and celebrating new cultures. She believes it is extremely important to prepare children with the support, modification, and accommodations as they reach new milestones. Overall, she very excited to create new memories with incoming students and families. 

  • Andriana Skalkos

    Andriana is excited to begin teaching at Reade Street Prep. Andriana moved from New Hampshire to Athens, Greece with her family at age five where she attended an international American school until coming back to the US. Her bi-cultural upbringing provided a depth of experiences that have contributed to her desire to teach and learn. 

    Andriana graduated from New York University with a dual Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education and Special Education. She also has a minor in American Sign Language.

    She strives to be a teacher that considers the whole child and adamantly believes that every child deserves a healthy, loving, and safe environment in which to learn. 

    Along with education, Andriana is very passionate about art. She can be found in her spare time photographing, painting, and appreciating art at museums. 

  • Johanna Vergel

    Johanna is very excited to return for another year as an Associate Teacher in the Spanish Preschool Prep and Explorers classes. A native of the Republic of Colombia, Johanna graduated from Colombia University in 2013 and holds a Bachelors of Arts degree in Primary Education with minors in Spanish, English, and the Humanities. In Colombia, she worked in various schools with children between the ages of 2 and 10 years old. After her graduation in 2013, she moved to New York and studied English as a second language at Columbia University's Teachers College.

    Johanna has always loved working with children and enjoys learning from their daily adventures. She is so happy to be a part of the Reade Street Prep family!

  • Trista Wu

    Trista is the head teacher for the Reade Street Prep Mandarin Immersion Class. She originally joined Reade Street Prep in the summer of 2015 as a Mandarin camp teacher and, upon completing her dual Bachelor’s Degree in Childhood Education and Mathematics from Hunter College School of Education, quickly took the position of head teacher due to discovering her passion for teaching. It was a truly eye-opening experience for her to teach Mandarin through a full-immersion approach and she is still absolutely enjoying every moment of it.

    Trista grew up in the urban areas of Shanghai, China and spoke only Mandarin before she moved to New York City in the 3rd grade where she learned English through immersion. Now as an educator, Trista tries to recreate her learning experience and delivers a truly authentic yet innovative Mandarin learning curriculum for the children to experience. She takes pride in guiding students through many elaborate arts, crafts, and activities. You can always find Trista and her students exploring innovative art mediums, recreating epic stories, or simply conversing. She is thrilled to show your child the magic of learning Mandarin.