Estefhania was born and raised in a bilingual family in Rahway, New Jersey. Her parents are both from Medellin, Colombia. Spanish was her first language and from an early age she was taught the importance of being bilingual and how it would benefit her in the future.
She studied at Iona College and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Dual Childhood
Education with a concentration in Spanish. After graduating college, she took a job as an English teacher in Spain. She looks forward to working at Tessa and creating an open environment where students can engage in learning Spanish in a fun and natural way. In her classroom, she takes pride in making sure her students look forward to coming every day.
Estefhania loves to travel. She has been to twenty-two countries so far and hopes to visit many more. She loves reading books, listening to music, and spending time with her family and friends.
Ana Paez, Lead Teacher – PK4
Ana is a native of the Northern part of Mexico and a native Spanish speaker. She acquired her English after arriving in the United States and understands first-hand that learning a new language opens new ways of thinking, behaviors, and ways of approaching different cultures.
She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics and Spanish Literature from the University of California, Los Angeles, and received a Master’s Degree from Long Island University in Brooklyn, NY, studying second language acquisition. She then received a Master of Science in Education. Ana has years of experience in education from managing Pre-K Spanish immersion programs and preparing lessons to meet the needs of all students.
Ana enjoys spending time with her family and often finds her own children teach her how to become a better teacher. Ana is a dedicated teacher who will make your child feel safe, loved, and engaged via fun and purposeful activities.
Max Cordova, Lead Teacher – K
Max Cordova is an Ecuadorian-American, born and raised in New Jersey. After graduating from the University of Hartford and earning his Bachelor’s degree in History, Max left the United States to teach in South Korea as an ESL teacher.
This experience introduced him to the joys of teaching, and while in Korea, he pursued his TEFL certification as well as passed the Praxis to earn his CE through the state of New Jersey. After this first year in Korea, Max spent the next seven years teaching abroad. He has taught Kindergarten, primary, and middle school in South Korea as well as 9th-grade Civics and Ethics at an American International School in Mexico. He has also taught English online to students in China. Max is grateful that he has had such amazing experiences abroad and hopes to bring the love of different cultures into the classroom. Max enjoys reading books, playing soccer, photography, painting, and spending time with his wife and dog. Max can’t wait to be your teacher and join the Tessa community. ¡Nos vemos pronto!
Gabriela Mella, Lead Teacher – G1
Gabriela was born and raised in the Dominican Republic. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from UNIBE University in the Dominican Republic and a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction from Concordia University in Chicago, Il, USA. Her teaching philosophy is based on constructivism, entitling students to their own learning and serving as a guide providing the necessary tools, support, and experiences in order for the students to construct their own learning.
Her teaching journey began 10 years ago. She has worked with multiple ages from 3 years old all the way to 12 years old. The majority of her teaching experience was in private American schools in the Dominican Republic. She has experience working with the Orton Gillingham and Handwriting Without Tears approaches. One of her teaching methods is the use of multiple intelligences in the classroom. She believes students learn in different ways and that as an educator, she has to adapt her instruction to meet the needs of all of her students. She is also teaching Grade 1 students in Spanish. Gabriela enjoys reading, exercising, writing, traveling around the world, and spending time with her family and loved ones.
Rosa Peralta-Arias, Assistant Teacher – PK4
Fluent in Spanish, Rosa was born and raised in Ecuador. Since earning Child Development Associate (CDA) and Child Development Specialist certification (CDA) she has become very proficient in managing behavioral issues. She has had the opportunity to work with a diverse group of children including children who are challenged by ADHD, autism, speech impairments, and other conditions. These experiences have helped Rosa to gain expertise in planning and implementing teaching methods that incorporate individual students’ learning. Rosa is hard-working and self-motivated. She always tries to improve herself and she never gives up.
Isabelle Mcdonald, Lead Teacher – PK3
Isabelle was born and raised in New Jersey. She is dual nationality American and French, and grew up speaking French at home with her mother and siblings. She spent every summer visiting her family in Paris and La Baule, France. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Language, Literature and Culture with a concentration in French Francophone Studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.Isabelle studied abroad in Angers, France and continued her travels after graduating to teach English in Montpellier and Carnon for a year. She has developed a very deep connection and appreciation for the French culture and joie de vivre. Isabelle has always felt an effortless connection with children in her experiences with them through teaching, babysitting, tutoring and volunteering. Her enthusiasm, productivity and love for teaching will provide a great environment for her students, success and happiness.
Élodie Sylvestre, Lead Teacher – PK4
Élodie was born and raised in Paris by her Guadeloupean parents. She received her Associate Degree in Administration, Social Science and Economics, but wanted a career that focused more on social concerns. She therefore decided to earn a social work certificate in Quebec; since then her mission has been to improve children’s lives wherever she is.
Élodie worked as a Social worker in Montreal and realized there how vital education is for children; she learned that it brings knowledge as well as solid values in their lives.
She started her teaching career working as an educator for children with behavioral issues in a foster home and as a tutor for a community resource center in Montreal. She still volunteers as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for abused or neglected children in order to provide them with a safe and healthy environment in permanent homes.
Élodie is very excited to be a part of Tessa’s mission and be able to teach French in such an empowering and open-minded environment. She makes giving each child a way to express himself or herself a priority.
Derick André, Lead Teacher – K
Derick André was born and raised in the French region of Switzerland. He has American and Swiss dual nationality. He grew up combining mostly French and English in his social life. However, he also had to learn German due to the different languages in his country. By having to learn those different languages, he was able to see how complex it is to learn different languages but he also realized how helpful it can be in social situations or for his own personal development and understanding.
Derick received his Bachelor’s degree in Education and Arts at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. His degree combined studies and internships at the same time during 3 years to allow him to put theories into practice and gain experience to analyze his teaching with internship leaders. His studies were focused on the development of the child, primary school pedagogy, French, English and German as a second language and physical education. Derick studied for one semester in Norway where teaching is at the highest level and continued discovering other countries with different systems of children education. Knowing how helpful it can be to speak and think with different languages, he acquired during his studies a desire to help students on other levels of interaction and understanding using the French language. He established throughout the years a good relationship with children by teaching, training swimming teams, organizing sports camps and being a camp counsellor. His devotion, energy and experience will contribute to increased skills of learning, to open access to knowledge, understanding the world and students finding themselves.
Amélie M. Tareen, Lead Teacher – G2
Born and raised in Belgium, Amélie graduated in Education, with the Haute Ecole Roi Baudouin, in June 2007.
Throughout her career, she has been able to broaden her skills in four different countries: Belgium, Congo DRC, Cambodia and now the USA.
Fast approaching the end of her 13th year as a teacher, she wishes to deepen and diversify her knowledge in an International school.
Her travels and experiences, across multiple continents with diverse environments, have enriched her with practical and beneficial skills such as the ability to adapt to cultural diversity, the means to grow rapidly in an unknown environment, and the capacity to achieve efficiency despite, sometimes, unusual working conditions.
She is very excited to start this adventure with Tessa.
Amina Maassem, Assistant Teacher – PK3
Amina was born and raised in Algeria, fluent in French, she received her degree in French Language and Literature at the University of Languages in Algeria.
She received her Children Educator Diploma at the National Training Institute of Youth and Sports Educators.
She started her professional career as a French teacher in middle school, then she worked as an assistant educator for children with special needs at the psycho-pedagogical center for disabled children, and educator of children at the youth center.
Amina, in her 6 years experience working with kids, met different ages and categories of children.
She came to the United States in 2017, and started working at Tessa in 2019. She is very happy to be a part of Tessa family.
Nathalie Bryant, Assistant Teacher – Pk4
Nathalie was born in France, the daughter of a French Mother and an American father. She became aware at a young age of the implications of speaking 2 languages fluently, hearing her family switch from one language to another at the dinner table.
She spent her childhood years between Mexico City, Boston and Paris. Back in France she went to the International High School of Sevres and got her Baccalaureate with the International Option (OIB).
She holds Bachelor degrees in Fine Arts and Psychology and has over 15 years of experience working with children of all ages. She always knew she wanted to work with children and started out at 17 as a counselor at Summer camps. A few years later thanks to her being bilingual, she was hired as an anglophone teacher at Ecole Everest, international preschool near Paris. When she moved to New York 10 years ago, she did the opposite and started working as a French teacher. She has worked at the French Institute, La Petite Ecole (French Immersion Preschool) and as a private tutor. Nathalie is also an actress and an acting teacher who has taught French Theater classes at the Lycée Francais and for EFNY (French Afterschool Program). She believes that acting is an amazing learning tool for children as it helps their self-confidence, teaches them empathy, frees their creativity and curiosity and develops their critical thinking skills! She is thrilled to be joining Team Tessa this year.
Xiaohan (Summer) Zhao, PK3-4 Lead Teacher
Xiaohan(Summer) Zhao was born in China and came to the US since 9th grade. She is a native speaker of mandarin. She uses mandarin at home with her family and friends, while learning and communicating in English at school. She is very experienced in bilingualism. She has a professional educational background in teaching Chinese. She holds a TCSOL (Teaching Chinese to Speaker of Other Language) certificate from Teachers College, Columbia University. She also holds a master’s degree in instructional technology and media in Education from Teachers College, Columbia University in New York. She studied Music and Technology as her bachelor’s degree from Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ. She is good at multimedia teaching which is a current and future educational trend. Her teaching style is neoteric, interesting, and well-organized. She has taught students of different ages and has rich experience in communicating and getting along with children. She is a diverse and passionate person. She plays the piano very well and good at contemporary dance. She likes skiing and cooks very good Chinese food. She developed her professional interest in bilingualism through her child because she has always found some interesting linguistic phenomena from her child. She looks forward to teaching and spending time with your child at TESSA in our mandarin program. 欢迎你！
Katie Dieken – Grade 1 & 2
Katie was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. She earned a double Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and German from the University of Oregon. Her German studies led her to study abroad in Heidelberg, Germany, and this experience in the true immersion of a language and culture solidified her love of languages and travel. Following graduation, she taught ESL in the south of Spain, lived in Ireland, and volunteered in South Korea before returning to Spain to teach English to students of all ages, from Kindergarten to adults, in Madrid. After 10 years teaching in Madrid, including the past six years as a Grade 1 and 2 English teacher at a bilingual school, Katie has recently moved back to the US. She is excited to join the international environment of Tessa school and channel the enthusiasm and curiosity of her Grade 1 and 2 learners as she guides them on their learning journey.
Tawna Dabney, PSPE Teacher
Tawna has been teaching dance classes at Tessa over the past academic year, and will now be teaching PSPE. She has taught Dance and P.E. both in Los Angeles, California (High School level) as well as in Bedford-Stuyvesant Brooklyn, New York (Elementary level).
Tawna believes in providing children intellectually, artistically and environmentally safe spaces to learn as well as supporting academic endeavors. Her positive nature and genuine interest in the interests of the people around her aids in building trust with her students. She likes providing an educational environment that is supplemented by music, theatre and dance.
Shannon McKee, Music Teacher
Shannon holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music specifying in Voice from Queen’s University, Belfast. Originally from Ireland, Shannon has insight into a range of different repertoire from classic and pop, to Irish traditional music and song. She has performed in many Irish pubs, concert halls and choirs throughout her high school and university career; one of her favorite memories is singing “He Shall Feed His Flock”, the soprano solo from Handel’s Messiah for a Queen’s University performance. Shannon has taught private singing and theory lessons, and has a wealth of experience teaching group lessons in the classroom.