Tara Greaney, M.S., Executive Director & Head of School
Tara joins Morningside Montessori School with over thirty years of early childhood and Montessori experience in New York City. She has been Director of the Cravath Children’s Center for the past twenty-six years. When the Children’s Center opened in 1989, it was the first employer-run, on-site child care facility in New York City. The Center originally opened to fifteen children in one room, and expanded to become licensed for fifty children, seven days a week from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm in six defined areas. It added an after-school program, extended care for infants program, monthly publication, website and lunchtime programs for parents. Children of Cravath employees may now attend from two months of age till their teen age years whenever their regular child care is not available.
Prior to her tenure at Cravath, Tara was the Director of the Early Program at The Caedmon School for six years. Caedmon, on the Upper East Side, was the first Montessori school in New York City. Since 2013, Tara has been a member of the faculty at WSMS-TEP (West Side Montessori School Teacher Education Program) as an instructor of adult learners pursuing their Infant, Toddler Montessori Certification, master’s degree and New York State teacher certification. She teaches Child Development, Personal Growth and Leadership. Tara also speaks at workshops on teaching methods, childcare programs, work/family issues, and has served on various boards, including the New York City Montessori Charter School and The Caedmon School.
Tara holds a B.A. in Child Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University, an M.S. in Educational Leadership from Bank Street College, as well as Montessori Certification.
Nour M. Goda, M.Ed., Associate Director
Nour is the Associate Director of Morningside Montessori School. This year, she served as Acting Executive Director & Head of School. Nour began her career in education teaching English language arts in New York City public schools. She later served as the founding 11th and 12th grade English teacher, and 12th grade level leader, at Uncommon Charter High School in Brooklyn. Nour has worked extensively with Teach for America, a non-profit organization whose mission is to end educational inequity, and has supported teachers in developing their craft through The New Teacher Project. She has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Mercy College, teaching English composition at the undergraduate level.
After nearly eight years of teaching in secondary schools, Nour decided to shift her trajectory toward early childhood education. Nour firmly believes that learners of all ages learn best when actively involved in constructing meaning and knowledge, and that each individual learner's potential must be cultivated by a warm and well-trained staff.
Nour earned her B.A. in English from Connecticut College and M.Ed. in English Education from Lehman College. She is currently pursuing her Montessori Administrator's Credential at the Center for Montessori Education in New Rochelle. Nour is a very active and involved aunt to three nephews and one niece who are between ages 1 - 5.
Julie Sutera-Adamo, Admissions Director
Julie is serving as Admissions Director during the 2016-2017 school year and this is her fifth year at Morningside. She came to Morningside with ten years of elementary teaching experience, teaching kindergarten, and 1st and 3rd grades. She has a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education and a Master's degree in Literacy. Julie holds certifications in elementary education and reading/literacy in NY and HI. She has taught Kids Yoga and served as Head Teacher in the South and PM classes.
In addition to teaching, Julie is passionate about travel, especially to places where she can swim, surf, and hike. She spends her free time as a health and wellness coach. Last fall, Julie and her husband welcomed their son, Bennett, into the world and are looking forward to having Bennett officially join the Morningside family next year.
Lauren Flowers, Accounting Manager
Lauren came to Morningside as a parent in 2010, when her son joined the North class. Her daughter graduated from the West class this spring, and both Lauren’s children attend the Special Music School. After living a hectic existence as the Finance Director of celebrity-chef owned restaurants, she was lured back to work part-time by the nurturing and caring atmosphere MMS provides. Lauren holds a Bachelor’s degree from Rice University, and a Professional Culinary Arts degree from the International Culinary Center. A native New York, she enjoys classical and jazz music, cooking, reading, and everything outdoors.
Letira Brown, Administrative Assistant
Letira joins Morningside as a recent graduate of Barnard College at Columbia University, where she earned Bachelor's degrees in Psychology and Dance. Letira was an assistant and substitute teacher at Tompkins Hall for four years and has experience working with infants, toddlers, and young children. She is a native New Yorker and currently lives in the Bronx. She enjoys knitting, reading and Pilates.
Debbie Gonzalez, Special Events & Fundraising Coordinator; Summer Program Administrator
Debbie has dedicated over 30 years to Morningside. She started as a substitute teacher, then became an assistant teacher, first in the toddler class and later in the 3's and 4's class. In 1992, Debbie transitioned from teaching to becoming an important part of the administrative team. During the past three years, she has served as our Special Events Coordinator, which Debbie has found very rewarding, as she has the opportunity to work with both our children and their families. It’s the best of both worlds!
Debbie also leads our Science Summer Program. She really enjoys being able to work with our counselors, who are young adults, many of whom are former MMS students!
A native of the Upper West Side, Debbie met her husband, Sal in the neighborhood, and they remain members of the community to this day. They have two sons, Carlos and Raymond, both of whom attended Morningside. Debbie has two beautiful grandchildren named Samuel and Ava Grace.
Mary Jane Berkeley, Montessori Co-Head Teacher
Mary Jane graduated from Brown University and earned a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Bank Street College. She is a Montessori certified teacher. Mary Jane worked at NEST+M for five years, teaching fourth and second grades; and before that as an assistant teacher for three years at the Ethical Culture School. She previously spent fourteen years working for a range of international non-profit and philanthropic organizations.
Mary Jane lives on the Upper West Side and enjoys cooking and travelling with her husband Bill and daughter Carmen.
Kristina Blinstrub, Head Montessori Teacher
Kristina is starting her fourth year at Morningside as Co-Head teacher of the West Class! Kristina earned her BA in History from SUNY Purchase College and completed courses in early childhood education classes at UCLA. She earned her Montessori Teaching Credential from the Montessori Western Teacher Training program in Garden Grove, CA and holds an MA in Education from Pepperdine University. Kristina is also a certified yoga instructor and a literacy tutor. She proudly lives in the neighborhood, although her favorite pastime is traveling!
Dedicated to the holistic nurturing of children, Kristina brings a creative, loving, and free-spirited touch to the lessons she gives and receives from her students.
Jasher Brea, Assistant Teacher
Jash has been an Assistant Teacher at Morningside for four years and has worked with children for over seven years. He has a background in Visual Arts that he enjoys sharing with children. Jash is currently pursuing his Montessori Teaching Credential at West Side Montessori School's Teacher Education Program. He brings a ton of energy, enthusiasm, compassion, and care to the classroom, and Morningside’s children are always excited to work with Jash on artistic projects! This year, Jash is also an Assistant Teacher in our After School program, where he teaches art and facilitates extracurricular activities. He has also been a Head Counselor in our Summer of Science Program for three years.
Sheree Evans, Co-Head Teacher
Sheree will begin her 16th year at Morningside this September as Co-Head Teacher of the West and PM Classes and is pursuing her BA in Early Childhood Education. She has been a teacher in the PM Class for fifteen years and is a longtime assistant teacher at Morningside. Sheree brings a wealth of knowledge and love to the classroom. She is also our Summer Program Coordinator. Both her daughters, now 14 and 7 years old, graduated from Morningside.
Maria Claudia Gomez, Head Teacher
Maria has ten years of preschool teaching experience and earned her M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education from The City College of New York. Maria holds a New York State Teaching Certificate in Early Childhood Education and is currently pursuing her Infant-Toddler Montessori certificate at West Side Montessori School's Teacher Education Program. She also holds a B.S. degree in Zoology from Universidad de la Salle in Bogota, Colombia, where she was born and raised. Maria loves teaching and particularly enjoys the spirit and enthusiasm of children ages two and three. Maria often integrates her diverse interests into the classroom, which include her fascination with the natural sciences and Spanish language. Maria is mother to a five-year-old girl who graduated from Morningside Montessori School this spring.
Jessica Oquendo, Montessori Teacher
Jessica Oquendo teaches in the North Class as a Montessori teacher and as a Spanish teacher for the Small World program. She is originally from Puerto Rico. When she was 17, she moved to Michigan where she attended Siena Heights University and obtained her Bachelor's Degree in Theather and Speech Communications. She was introduced to the Montessori method while interning at a preschool. She fell in love with the philosophy, and so obtained a Montessori Teacher Certification. She is happy to be working in the North class and also be teaching the Spanish Class.
Delia Rivera, Assistant Teacher
Delia is a native upper Westside New Yorker who has a certificate as a child care provider for children up to five years of age. She arrived at Morningside in 1988 as a substitute teacher in the Explorers class and now works with toddlers in the North class. She was instrumental in developing the format that our Summer Program has today.
Delia's extensive experience and history here is an invaluable asset to her colleagues and the children of Morningside. She not only brings in many wonderful art projects, language activities, and fresh ideas, but also her presence and affection for her class create a structure and warmth that our families love.
Alexandra Valentin, Montessori Co-Head Teacher & Education Coordinator
Alex is beginning her 18th year at Morningside. She is the Montessori Co-Head Teacher of the South Class and has been a teacher in the South class for five years. Alex is also the Education Coordinator and leads our in-house professional development workshops.
Alex is a certified Montessori teacher and holds a B.A. in Africana & Latino Studies from Hunter College. She is currently completing her M.A. in Early Childhood Education at the Hunter School of Education. Alex is also Morningside Montessori’s Educational Coordinator, wherein she curates professional development workshops for our teaching staff. She is a powerhouse of knowledge and passion!
Honoring John O'Donnell
February 27, 1940 - September 13, 2012
John O'Donnell was a treasured member of the teaching staff at Morningside Montessori for 25 Years. He inspired the minds of children and adults alike, challenging each one to think scientifically. He made complex ideas accessible to everyone. He was a rare creature, one that raised the standards of learning and teaching in every person he knew. Generations of children arrived at his classroom door every day bursting to tell him of a realization he or she had or an experience that connected to his teaching. He was a born teacher and we were lucky to have him in our lives.
In learning that John had passed on, all of us were inspired to do something in his honor. John was a student and teacher of science and the natural world, so it is only fitting that the legacy in his honor further the preservation of the natural world. One of John's former students, Nadine Lehner, who attributes to John her commitment to the planet, is working on a project in Patagonian Chile. Conservacion Patagonica is creating a national wildlife and preserve, while providing economic opportunities for the people who live in the area of the park.
We encourage those whose lives were enriched by John's presence to make a donation to Conservacion Patagonica. John instilled in all of us a wonderment and respect for all things scientific. Let's support a project that would have been close to his heart, in his honor.