Tara Greaney, M.A. | 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. | Admissions Director
Nour's career in education began in 2008 as a middle- and high-school English language arts teacher. Her experience in public, private and charter schools has allowed her to teach as well as to assume a variety of leadership roles, including serving as a curriculum developer, a teacher trainer, and an adjunct professor. After discovering and falling in love with the Montessori method, Nour decided to pivot her career in the direction of early childhood education.
She began her role at Morningside Montessori as Associate Director in 2015, leading the admissions process and supporting new families in their transitions. During the 2016-2017 school year, Nour served as Acting Director and worked closely with Tara Greaney to ensure a seamless transition for the school community.
While serving as Acting Director, Nour also earned her Montessori Administrator's Certification at the Center for Montessori Education in New Rochelle. Eager to continue expanding her knowledge of Montessori methodology and early childhood education, Nour will begin working toward the American Montessori Society (AMS) Infant & Toddler Credential (birth to age 3) this August. As part of her coursework, she will intern in our Twos Program this fall.
Nour earned a B.A. in English from Connecticut College and an M.Ed. in English Education from Lehman College.
Lauren Flowers | Accounting Manager
Lauren came to Morningside as a parent in 2010 when her son, Elliot, joined our toddler program. Her daughter, Avery, graduated from our mixed-age program class last spring. Both of Lauren’s children now attend the prestigious Special Music School (P.S. 859).
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. Her contributions to our school are invaluable and we are thrilled she continues to be member of our school team.
Lauren holds a Bachelor’s degree from Rice University and a Professional Culinary Arts degree from the International Culinary Center. A native New Yorker, 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 & Alumni Relations Coordinator
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.
Julie Adamo, Head Teacher
Julie begins her sixth year at Morningside this fall. 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. During the 2016-2017 school year, Julie served as our acting Admissions Director.
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. Julie and her husband are looking forward to having their son, Bennett, officially join the Morningside family this fall.
Mary Jane Berkeley, 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 also holds Montessori certification.
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, Montessori Teacher
Kristina earned her BA in History from SUNY Purchase College and completed courses in early childhood education classes at UCLA. She earned Montessori certification from the Montessori Western Teacher Training program in Garden Grove, CA. Kristina also holds an MA in Education from Pepperdine University. She is also a certified yoga instructor and a literacy tutor. Kristina 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 is currently pursuing his Montessori Teaching Credential at West Side Montessori School's Teacher Education Program. He has been an Assistant Teacher at Morningside for five years and has worked with children for over seven years. He has a background in Visual Arts that he enjoys sharing with children.
Jash 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! Jash has served as Head Counselor in our Summer of Science Program for three years.
Sheree Evans, Assistant Teacher
Sheree will begin her 17th year at Morningside this September and is pursuing her B.A. in Early Childhood Education at Brooklyn College. She has been a teacher in our mixed-age afternoon program for fifteen years. Sheree brings a wealth of knowledge and love to the classroom and forms bonds with our children that last a lifetime. She is a walking example of Montessori's emphasis on grace and courtesy.
Sheree 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 is both a Montessori and Spanish language teacher. Originally for Puerto Rico, she moved to Michigan at the age of 17 and began attending Siena Heights University. There, she obtained her bachelor's degree in Theather and Speech Communications.
Jessica was introduced to the Montessori method while interning at a preschool. She fell in love with the philosophy and later earned her Montessori Teacher Certification (ages 3-6).
Delia Rivera, Assistant Teacher
A native New Yorker beginning her 29th year at Morningside, Delia arrived in 1988 as a substitute teacher in the Explorers Kindergarten Prep Program. She spent many years as an assistant teacher in our Twos Program and will be teaching in our extended day program this fall.
Alexandra Valentin, Montessori Teacher
Alex is entering her 19th year at Morningside this fall. Both of Alex's children, now 21 and 11, graduated from Morningside.
She has been a teacher in our mixed-age program for many years, and she served as our Education Coordinator this past year, wherein she curated professional development workshops for our teaching team and led many of our Parent Education 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.
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.