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!
Rosa Peralta-Arias, Assistant Teacher
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.
Maria Cintron, Assistant Teacher
Maria was born and raised in a bilingual family in Jersey City. Her parents are from Lares, Puerto Rico where she acquired her Spanish at a very young age through her daily interactions with her mother and father. Being bilingual has helped Maria understand the importance of Hispanic cultures.
Maria holds an Associate’s Degree in Elementary and Secondary Education from Hudson County Community College. She has experience working with children from the ages of three months to five years old. She is also working toward obtaining her Bachelor’s Degree in Literature with a minor in Latin and Caribbean Studies at the New Jersey City University. Maria has also had the experience working as a Spanish translator in New York City.
Maria loves working and spending time with children. She enjoys reading, singing, and dancing with her one-year old nephew. She also loves to cook, read, meditate, and work out. Maria is dedicated and committed in helping your child understand the importance of learning another language through meaningful and purposeful activities.
Joshy Hernandez, Assistant Teacher
Fluent in Spanish, Joshy was born and raised in Guatemala. Since an early age, Joshy has always been interested in taking care of children, taking courses in child development when she was in high school.
When Joshy immigrated to the United States she decided to dedicate her life to working with children. Beginning as a nanny, Joshy eventually became a tutor for 4 and 5 year-olds. She then became an assistant teacher at Tessa in 2016. She is happy to be on Team Tessa!
Isabelle Mcdonald, Lead Teacher
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.
Nathalie Bryant, Lead Teacher – Grade 1
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.
Aurelia Howard, Assistant Teacher
Aurelia was born in Echirolles, France and was raised by her parents from Madagascar. She has lived in different countries such as Mayotte, French Guyana, Polynesia, Spain and England. Over the years, she developed a passion for learning languages and discovering new cultures. Her upbringing and background led her to pursue part of her 10 years career as a foreign languages instructor in the United States. She has been a teacher in different summer camps and was responsible for running evening classes in France.
Fluent in French and Spanish, she holds a Master’s Degree in Foreign Languages applied to International Business (Langues Etrangeres Appliquées). Aurelia is excited to join the Tessa team this year and share her culture and love for language with children. She believes that being immersed in a different culture and learning to speak a foreign language at a young age fosters open-mindedness and the ability to adapt to new challenges and environments. When she is not teaching, she loves being creative and planning events for friends and family.
Yoa Meikle, Assistant Teacher
Ms. Yoa Meikle is thrilled to be at Tessa! She received her diploma from the Ecole Normale Supérieure d’Abidjan (CAPES/Lettres Modernes) and the National University of the Ivory Coast, followed by continuous studies at the University of Grenoble, as well as in Sèures, France. Ms. Yoa has written several exercise books for Kindergarten.
Aminata Traoré, Assistant Teacher
Aminata was born and raised in Senegal. She is a native French speaker and also speaks Wolof. She came to the United States in 2010 to go to college at Metropolitan community college-Penn Valley in Kansas City, Missouri, where she earned an associate degree in liberal arts. She moved to New Jersey in 2015 and got enrolled at Montclair State University where she earned a bachelor in French with a concentration in translation and a master degree in French Studies. While in college she worked as assistant teacher, a tutor and a graduate assistant. Before coming to the United States she worked at a daycare in Senegal. When she is not teaching, she loves to spend time with friends and family, do yoga, dance and draw.
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！
Padmaja Naidu – Grade 1
Padmaja was born and raised in India in a rich multi-lingual environment. Growing up, she learned to speak, read and write in English, Telugu and Hindi. She has a Bachelors degree in Psychology from Osmania University, Hyderabad, in India. She has a Master in Elementary Education from Walden University, Minneapolis, USA.
Her teaching journey began 20 years ago as an early years teacher in Beijing, China. Since then, she has worked in international cities such as Hong Kong, New Delhi, Guangzhou as an early years and elementary school educator in diverse international settings before moving to New York City early this year. As an IB PYP educator, she is an avid believer in inquiry-based learning that fosters deep conceptual understanding based on big ideas and international-mindedness. As an educator she believes in engaging different sensory modalities in a child by providing varied learning experiences and a literate rich environment. Padmaja is our PYP coordinator, and is enthused at the idea of taking Tessa through the IB PYP authorization journey. IB PYP had been a transformative experience for her both as an educator and as a parent, and she is happy to guide our families through the IB PYP program. She is also teaching Grade 1 students in English.
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.