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Welcome to New Calhoun Faculty & Staff

Meet the newest Calhoun employees.

Lower School–Early Childhood

Jessica (Jess) Cathcart: LS-EC STEAM Teacher

Jess Cathcart is thrilled to join the Calhoun community as the K-2nd grade STEAM teacher. Inspired by her role as a big sister to eight siblings, she graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s in elementary education. After teaching second grade in Kalamazoo, MI, she decided to relocate to pursue her master’s in educational technology and began work as the academic technology coordinator at Speyer Legacy School. Her passion for the maker movement and hands-on learning inspired her to get a graduate certificate in maker education from Rutgers University and collaborate with STEAM educators across New Jersey, integrating project-based learning and making into the K-4 curriculum. When she’s not teaching, Jess loves being outdoors and spends her free time practicing yoga, taking care of her indoor plant collection, cuddling with her three cats and going on adventures near and far.

Gabby Montes '16: LS-EC Associate Teacher

Gabby Montes grew up in NYC, is a Calhoun alum and is thrilled to be back in the Calhoun community as part of our Calhoun Associate Apprenticeship Program (CAAP). Gabby attended Manhattan College and earned a BS in exercise science. For the last six years, Gabby worked in early childhood physical education, dance and athletics, and has been coaching basketball and softball at Calhoun for the last two years. Outside of work, Gabby loves to draw, dance and bake, as well as travel and spend time with friends. Gabby is excited to be back at Calhoun as an associate teacher, and really looking forward to the experience! 

Rrita Ibrahimi: LS-EC Associate Teacher

Rrita Ibrahimi is originally from Kosovo, and has been part of the Calhoun community for the last three years as a floating substitute teacher. Rrita holds a BFA from Manhattanville College and an acting conservatory program certificate from the Stella Adler Studio of Acting. Rrita enjoys incorporating the creative arts into teaching while helping children build self-confidence and expression. Rrita’s previous educational experience includes teaching in local programs such as the 92Y (as a theater teacher and curriculum developer) and Fordham University (as an acting coach). Rrita’s hobbies include reading, playing the piano and spending time in nature. Rrirta is looking forward to continuing work as an associate Kindergarten teacher and working closely with Heather and Tillie as part of our CAAP program. 

Priscilla Marrero: LS-EC Spanish Language and Creative Movement Specialist

Priscilla was Calhoun’s Lower School––Early Childhood Spanish teacher for five years before leaving to receive an MFA in experimental choreography from the University of California, Riverdale. During her time at UCR, she received a Chancellor's Distinguished Fellowship and an MFA graduate fellowship for her work. She also received a Gluck Classroom Fellowship for the Arts for two years, where she designed an online digital class called Creating through Movement con Priscilla, a bilingual, immersive class that introduces basic concepts in Español while creating with an inquiry through voice, body and imagination. Priscilla and her familia also welcomed two sweet cats during the last two years named Celia and Tito. She’s excited to come back and share with the Calhoun community once again! 


Lower School–Elementary

Roslynn Gaitero: LS-E Spanish Teacher

Roslynn Gaitero is thrilled to join the dynamic Lower School team as the 3-5 Spanish teacher. She brings over 10 years of experience in teaching K-12 Spanish, Spanish for heritage/native speakers, honors Spanish conversation and English as a second language at private and public schools in Maryland, Puerto Rico and Florida. Roslynn currently holds a bachelor's degree in modern language education in Spanish from the University of Maryland and will soon graduate with a master's degree from New York University. As an Afro-Latina, she promotes and celebrates diversity and inclusion in her classroom. With a passion for traveling, learning new languages and cultures, Roslynn has studied Arabic, Korean, Japanese, Hindi and Urdu. She is truly excited to meet everyone and join the Calhoun community.

Valerie Rivera: LS-E Art Teacher

Our new LS-Elementary art teacher, Valerie Rivera, is a passionate educator with over nine years in art education working with children from 5-18 years of age. Her love for the arts and sharing her knowledge is what led her to the field of education. She received her B.A. in visual arts & education from The Interamerican University of Puerto Rico. Prior to joining Calhoun, Valerie taught visual arts in Puerto Rico and recently was a full-time elementary visual arts teacher at Pharos Academy Charter School for the past six years. Valerie loves painting, reading and traveling. She is excited to join the Calhoun community and can’t wait to meet the students and families. 

Erica Shrenker: LS-E Math Teacher (Family Leave Replacement)

Erica Shrenker will be joining the LS-E community as our family leave replacement for Austin Applegate. She recently relocated to New York City from southern California, where she taught 4th grade for the past three years. Erica earned her master’s degree in teaching from U.C. Irvine and completed her thesis on student fact fluency and developing math confidence. She has over ten years of experience in education working with elementary-aged children and is passionate about empowering students in their learning. Erica earned her bachelor's of arts in international studies from U.C. San Diego and loves traveling, food and learning languages. When she has some down time, you can usually find her biking through the city or at home attempting a daunting puzzle.


Middle School

Dana Marra: MS Learning and Support Coordinator

Dana Marra joins us from The Blue School as our new Learning and Support Coordinator. She brings a wealth of experience as a teacher and learning specialist and we’re thrilled to have her join the Middle School team. Dana has a master’s in adolescent special education from Hunter College and a bachelor's of arts in English literature from NYU.

 

Sean Strausbaugh: 8th Grade Social Studies Teacher

Sean Strausbaugh joins as our new 8th grade social studies teacher. After earning a bachelor's of science in education and history from Temple University, Sean went on to teach abroad in South Korea and China. He’s taught high school in Philadelphia and, most recently, 8th grade history in Brooklyn. Sean brings special education and curriculum development experience, and we’re excited to welcome him to Calhoun.

 

Claire Zhang: 6th & 7th Grade Mandarin Teacher

We're thrilled to welcome Claire Zhang, who will teach 6th & 7th grade Mandarin. Claire has both a BA and MA in Chinese and Teaching Adolescent Chinese from Hunter College. She brings a love for language and culture and a passion for the arts (ceramics, in particular!). 

 

 


Upper School

Semeka Smith-Williams: US Dean of Students

Semeka Smith-Williams is joining us as the Upper School Dean of Students this year. Semeka Smith-Williams is a native New Yorker and talented educator who previously served as the Director of Diversity and Equity at the Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn. Semeka is also an associate with the Institute for Social and Emotional Learning (IFSEL). Over the last ten years, Semeka has been a member of the New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS) Diversity Committee. Semeka has co-designed and facilitated curriculum investigations to broaden the anti-bias and equity lens being used at various public, charter and private schoolshere in NYC. Prior to becoming an educator, Semeka attended Central Park East Secondary School, which was a model school on education reform and alternative schools in New England. It was there at CPESS that the Habits of Mind became a part of her educational experience and approach to being a lifelong learner. Semeka went on to receive her Bachelor of Arts degree from Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT) in African American and American studies and a Master of Science degree in early childhood & elementary education from Bank Street College of Education, in NYC.

Daniel Ercilla: US Spanish Teacher

Daniel Ercilla will be joining the Upper School to teach Spanish. Daniel was born and raised in Lima, Peru where he was involved in theater and film while also working as an editor of an art magazine. These interests ultimately led him to immigrate to New York City where he experienced firsthand the power of education to expand the possibilities of one's life. He began his teaching career over 20 years ago at the Bank Street School for Children. Then he transitioned to a position as a Lower School head teacher at The Calhoun School. Over the years, he has served in different positions, including most recently the role of Lower School–Elementary Spanish teacher. 

Nora Nicolini: US French and Art Teacher

Nora Nicolini, previously the art and woodshop teacher in Calhoun's Lower School–Elementary division, will be joining the Upper School to teach French and art. Nora started learning and studying French as a child in her native Argentina, where she began her degree in graphic design before moving to France. There, she perfected the language and completed both a university degree in fine arts and a professional degree in artistic blacksmithing. She studied industrial design at the Pratt Institute and art education at City College (CUNY). Nora began teaching art classes for children in Paris, and when she moved to the U.S. she continued teaching art, design and woodworking in a wide variety of grades at various schools and art programs in New York. Nora loves to teach, learn and share her passion for languages, the visual arts and design, and hopes to instill that same curiosity and excitement in her students.

Caroline Garcia-Then: US Coordinator

Caroline Garcia-Then is joining us as Upper School Coordinator. Caroline is from Lawrence, MA, and has worked as a coordinator at Queens Technical High School in Queens. She has a BA in sociology from Providence College, and hopes to bring her skills and experiences to help inform the goals and outcomes of the Calhoun community. She is passionate about wellness, mental health and amplifying youth voices, and outside of work, she enjoys nature walks, cooking and reading. 

Susan Ma: US Math Teacher

Susan Ma is joining the Upper School math department and will be teaching precalculus, probability and statistics, and a variety of math electives. Susan earned her undergraduate degree from NYU and a master’s degree from Hofstra University. She has taught MS and US math for the past 20 years. During her free time, she enjoys reading math books, cooking international food, swimming, yoga and spending time at the beach. 

 

Attilio Rigotti: US Fall Production Director

Attilio Rigotti is going to be directing our fall production show. Attilio is a Chilean performer, director, technology artist, video-game designer and teacher. He has performed, trained, taught and developed productions around the world, and co-founded the company GLITCH, creating work that seamlessly combines digital and physical mediums with new forms of storytelling. As a director, Attilio was awarded the New York Theatre Workshop 2050 Artist Fellowship, and his work has been featured at many venues around the country. 


Music Department

Jackie Martino: Director of Music

Jackie Martino is an educator, composer and musician with an extensive career in music education as both a teacher and administrator. For the last two decades, she built a music and theater program at The King School in Stamford, CT. Jackie was also part of a team that brought El Sistema music-education programs from around the country together for a weekend of collaboration, and she started an El Sistema vocal program in Campos, Brazil. 

Jackie's students have performed twice at the American High School Theatre Festival at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She is also a freelance music director and keyboard player, most recently directing the music for Mamma Mia! at Fairfield Center Stage. Jackie has presented at the NAFME, NYSAIS and CAIS conferences on topics including student voice in the music classroom, using Soundtrap recording tools in the choral classroom, and composing with students. Her research has been published in the handbook Planning Instruction in Music.

Jackie is an accomplished singer-songwriter who has performed on tours around the country. She plays piano, guitar and a little bass, and her music can be found on all online music platforms. 

Greg Riley: Brass and Woodwind Instructor (Grades 5-12)

Greg Riley is our new instrumental music instructor and will be responsible for our brass and woodwind instrumental program grades 5-12. Greg is an accomplished woodwinds player spending his career as both a performer and teacher. Greg’s experience includes performing with artists such as Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan and Dr. Dre. Greg holds degrees from University of Southern California (DMA) and University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music (MM). Greg has extensive experience in the classroom running clinics and inspiring students of all ages to play instruments. 

Tislam Swift: MS & US Choral Instructor (Grades 5-12)

Tislam Swift is our new Middle and Upper School choral instructor (grades 5-12). Tislam has a BA in voice performance from Morehouse College and a master’s of music performance from Indiana University where he’s currently working toward his doctorate in music performance. Tislam brings experience as a teacher and artist, and we’re thrilled to welcome him to Calhoun.

 


After School Program

Sara Gomez: Assistant to the Director of ASP

Sara Gomez is a native New Yorker and has been working in arts education for over six years. She has developed visual arts, music and theater programming for children all over New York City. Aside from her work as a teaching artist she also continues to perform, having worked on film, television, and stage productions. When she’s not working she volunteers at Mil Mundos, a bilingual bookstore in Brooklyn.

 


New Roles

We’re excited to welcome third grade humanities teacher Nina Harmande back to the Lower School–Elementary division from her family leave.

Mary McCarty, formerly Director of The Calhoun Annual Fund, is now Director of Development.

Gelin Castillo is now the School Office Coordinator, managing attendance and transportation. 

Janice Coston, who previously served as Upper School Coordinator, is now the School Office Coordinator.