Meet the Faculty

Judith Menken, Director

Judith joined Spuyten Duyvil in 2008 after 38 years as an early childhood public school teacher in East Harlem and Midtown Manhattan and principal of the Muscota New School in Inwood.  Judith has a BS and Masters in Early Childhood Education from City College and a Masters in Administration and Supervision from Bank St. College of Education.  “Returning to preschool has gotten me back to my roots,” Judith says.  “I am committed to creating strong, active learning environments for all young children and their families.”

Grazia La Rocca, Head Teacher UPK

Grazia is Spuyten Duyvil.  She first came to the school as a mom.  Her 3 children are now in their 40’s, but she is still here!  Grazia has a Masters in Early Childhood Ed. from Bank St. College.  The neighborhoods of Riverdale and Kingsbridge are filled with happy, well adjusted adults that started off as preschoolers in Grazia’s care over the past 40 years.  “My children attended one after the other, Grazia recalls.  “I was involved with the school as a parent for so long I just couldn’t imagine being anywhere else that could be as fulfilling.  After all these years I still feel the same way!”

Alda Homan, Head Teacher UPK

Alda joined Spuyten Duyvil in 2006 after working in another area preschool.  Through her own son she is very knowledgeable about services and programs and brings all that experience to her work at our school.  “I love working with this age group,” declares Alda.  “It is so exciting to watch their minds and faces open to all the new things they experience with us.”

Margaret Murphy, Head Teacher UPK

Margaret has been at the school since 2008.  After working as a professional chef, when her own 2 sons became teenagers it was time to revisit her own career goals.  She has returned to City College for her B.S. in Ed. and Masters Degree.  “I always wanted to be a teacher,” says Margaret.  “I love the conversation with kids, the questions they ask.  Following their interests and watching them get engaged with their own learning gives me great satisfaction.”

Kate Ofori, Head Teacher Nursery

After working for two years with 2-year olds, Kate comes to our Nursery as Head Teacher in 2018.  She is the mother of 2 young children herself and completing her Masters in Early Childhood at Bank St. College of Education.

As Kate reflects, “What I have come to believe is that every child is unique and comes to the classroom with some amount of knowledge and needs to be met at that point.  As a teacher my work is to guide and direct each child, build upon what he already knows through play, which is the way children learn best.  Through play they are exploring, experimenting, interacting and making sense of their environment.”

Dayana Gonzalez, Teacher UPK

Dayana began at Spuyten Duyvil in 2016.  She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Bilingual Childhood Education and Spanish at The City College of New York.  She speaks fluent Spanish and English, and is currently focusing on her Master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education at The Touro College Graduate School of Education.  Born and raised in Cuba, she understands the challenges of a new world just as children face on their first days of school.

“I adore the young ones,” Dayana says, “and have the energy and enthusiasm not only to teach, educate, and inspire my students but also to play and bring a smile to their faces and hearts.  There’s no better feeling than to see growing children being inspired and becoming creative wonders.”

Martha Castillo, Teacher Nursery

After working in the medical field as a certified clinical medical assistance in pediatrics for over 12 years, Martha went back to college for an intensive continuing ed program in Early Childhood.  She joined the Spuyten Duyvil Nursery full time in 2017.

“I really wanted to continue working with children,” Martha says.  “For me, the best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see.”

Melissa Andujar, Lunch/Brunch Extended Day Teacher

Melissa joined the Spuyten Duyvil Preschool in 2017.  She earned her Associates degree in Liberal Arts from Hostos Community College; she is currently working on her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology at City College of New York.

“I seriously love to work with children.  They are so full of amazing energy and such a joy to be around.  I am passionate about children because you can learn a lot from them, like how to enjoy the simple things in life. I strongly believe in the natural process of learning. That is why I am fascinated with Maria Montessori’s assertion that, ‘Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment,’ which makes me more enthusiastic about working at Spuyten Duyvil because we emphasize this idea.”

Yasmin Ramales, Lunch/Brunch Extended Day Teacher

Yasmin has been working with children since she was 14 years old.  She recently completed her undergraduate education, receiving a Bachelor’s degree at Lehman College.  Yasmin graduated earning a psychology major and a minor in early childhood education.

“Working with children is interesting and fun,” Yasmin observes. “The kids always teach me new things and it’s beautiful to see the way they grow each day.  I am inspired by Denis Waitley, who has said, ‘The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.’ I am happy to be part of the Spuyten Duyvil Preschool community; it is filled with many wonderful people!”

Michelle Aguilar, Assistant Nursery Teacher

Michelle got to know the Spuyten Duyvil community as an occasional substitute for a year and joined the Nursery team permanently in 2018.

“My biggest passion is working with kids,” Michelle says. “I enjoy watching them grow every single day.  I love when our kids learn by using their imagination.  As Albert Einstein said, ‘A true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.'”

Crisel Estevez, Educational Assistant

More detail coming soon…

Henrietta Bortey, Substitute Teacher

More detail coming soon…

Vlora Celaj, Teacher UPK

More detail coming soon…