Our Team – Teachers

Our Foundation and Support!



Arys Vargas, Lead Teacher – Spanish PK2

Arys was born and raised in Bayamòn, Puerto Rico. She moved to New Jersey in 2017 with her family, looking for new experiences. She holds a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education and a Master’s in Special Education from the Metropolitan University of Puerto Rico. She has over 11 years of experience as a teacher, teaching children from Pre-K through 12th grade. She loves teaching and likes to use various methods to make the learning entertaining. In her free time she likes to spend time with her family, study English and read.
She believes that teachers have a great mission in life; children are the future of the world and she wants to help them believe in themselves regardless of the obstacles they may encounter in their journey.


Estefhania Cuartas, Lead Teacher – PK3

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 joined Tessa in 2020, and worked toward 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.


Fernanda Hernández, Lead Teacher – PK4

Fernanda was born and raised in Viña del Mar, Chile, and has just relocated to the United States. She worked for almost 5 years as an English preschool teacher at a school in Concón, Chile, gaining experience working with bilingual curriculums. She is fond of costumes, laughs and “eureka” moments in the classroom. She enjoys challenging kids and motivating them to push their boundaries a little further every day, and believes that a fun, caring environment is the best context to explore, discover, express and learn with confidence.

After completing her Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education, she spent a semester in Oxford (UK) perfecting her English. Later she coursed a Diploma program in Language didactics in initial education, and certified in the Spanish adaptation of Daniel H. Pallante’s program of literacy, “CLIP”. In addition to her current degrees, she plans on acquiring master’s studies at Teachers College. Fernanda also volunteered in a Literacy teaching organization during the pandemic.

She enjoys practicing yoga, spending time in nature, baking and painting with watercolors. She is also fond of traveling and exploring different cultures, the reason why she is super excited to start this journey at Tessa!


Carlos Hualpa, Lead Teacher – Kindergarten

Carlos is a native Spanish speaker from Ecuador. He was born in Manta, Ecuador. When he finished high school he went to an English Institute to learn English, and 2 years later he was hired by the Institute to become an ESL-Teacher.

He is also an Industrial Engineer, and will soon obtain his master’s degree in “Teaching Spanish as a Foreign Language.” His passion to teach keeps him on track. As soon as he moved to the United States, he decided to go back to teaching.

He has 15 years of experience as a teacher, 12 years in Ecuador teaching different subjects such as English, Maths, Chemistry, Science, Social Studies, and more; and 3 years teaching Spanish as a Foreign Language in a Montessori School in Jersey City.

Mr. Carlos is always happy and very enthusiastic. He understands that every student is different, and they have their own unique way to learn. He makes learning Spanish FUN!


Maria M Hurtado Lopez, Lead Teacher – G1

Maria was born and raised in Badajoz, Spain. She moved to New York after she graduated from Extremadura University. Besides Spain and The United States, Maria has also lived in Portugal for 1 year. Since she was little she knew teaching was her passion and languages her hobby. 

Maria holds an Early Childhood Education degree and a Spanish as a Second Language Master’s degree, She is also a certified Apple Teacher.

After she graduated from Barcelona University, Maria founded a Language Company to help students learn Spanish from an enjoyable and stress free environment, embracing mistakes and having fun. She has more than 10 years of experience teaching students between 3 and 73 years old, of more than 15 nationalities.  

Being a native Spanish speaker has helped her gain a deeper understanding of the language she teaches and being an English student has helped her understand the difficulties of learning a new language.

Maria loves craft and animals. She has a passion for the carnival of her hometown, traveling and learning new things and she is currently learning Mandarin. 


Catty Garcia, Assistant Teacher – PK2

Catty was born and raised in Peru, where she studied hospitality Management. She moved to the United States more than 10 years ago. Her love for children made her realise she wanted to teach. In 2020, she joined Tessa International, and taught Spanish to our campers during Summer Camp. She is about to obtain her certificate in Early Childhood Education.

In her free time, Catty loves spending time with her family, cooking and watching movies together.


Fanny Maria Santos, Assistant Teacher – PK2

Fanny was born and raised in the Dominican Republic. She has over 15 years of experience in education, teaching children of all ages. After she obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary and Middle School Education, she soon realized she wanted to work with young children. She studied to obtain an additional BBA in Early Childhood Education and a Master of School Administration. Fanny is an attentive and creative Preschool Teacher, and is passionate about helping young children develop emotional, social and academic skills. She believes it is important to promote physical, emotional and social health to complement academic progress.


Guisell Avila, Assistant Teacher – PK3

Guisell is 25 years old and comes from Peru. As she states, it may be a huge shock to many people, but she is the oldest of 9! Being surrounded by so many kids her whole life made her want to be closer to kids. She was able to see, from personal experiences, that kids have so much to give, their minds are capable of so much!
Through high school her heart was settled on going towards a career that had to do with kids.
Therefore she pursued a Psychology major and once she graduates, she will be getting her master’s in clinical psychology with a concentration in adolescents and children. Growing up, her parents pushed her to accomplish everything that she wanted. This is why she was able to do some mission work in Philadelphia for two years. She helped many families that were in need and taught homeschool to many kids that did not have the opportunity to go to school. Besides going to Philadelphia, she traveled around the world. Being able to see different cultures made her realize that she should not take for granted what she was given. She joined Tessa in 2020 and is very pleased to be working with such a diverse team.


Amanda Fuentes Valdes, Assistant Teacher – PK3

Born and raised in La Habana, Cuba, Amanda is a native Spanish speaker. In parallel to being a teacher, she is currently completing the third year of her Visual Arts Bachelor’s Degree.

Amanda has a lot of experience working with children. She worked two years with 3 to 8 years olds at Summer Art Workshops at ISA Universidad de las Artes and completed a 6 month internship at Alanus Art University at the Institute of Oncology and Radiology. There she worked with children diagnosed with cancer and other art therapy teachers. She also joined Tessa Summer Camp as a teacher in 2021.

Amanda spends most of her time painting, drawing, and enjoys designing art activities for children.


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. Rosa has been working with Tessa since the school opened its doors, and we are very lucky to have her!


Joseline Hernandez, Assistant Teacher – Kindergarten

Joshy was born and raised in Guatemala where she learnt her mother tongue, Spanish, and is the oldest of 5 siblings. From a very young age, she liked children and felt a passion for education. At 14 years old, she started teaching and taking care of young children at her local church. 

Joshy obtained an Associate of Technical Drawing and Architectural Design at the Canadian College of Guatemala.She then volunteered for 2 years in community service activities in Guatemala City. The program, called “Peronia Adolescentes”,  consisted in giving drawing classes to children from 7 to 12 years old. At the same time, she worked part time as an art teacher in a preschool “Cedros del Libano”.

She later moved to the United States where she started working at Tessa International School as a Prek-3 assistant teacher for 2 years, and in prek-4 and Kindergarten for two more years. In 2020 she obtained her International Baccalaureate (IB) PYP certification. Since then,  she also dedicated herself to giving private Spanish classes to children from 3 to 10 years old and as Head teacher in Spanish summer camps.

In parallel to being a teacher at Tessa, she is studying to obtain a Bachelor’s in International Business with a specialization in the Spanish language at Keiser University, online campus.

Joshy is very invested in the IB PYP curriculum and truly believes that investigation and inquiry are the best learning process a child can experience. She believes ensuring  her students become lifelong learners is the key for a promising generation and for the sustainability of this society and of the planet.



Sarah Shtaygrud, Lead Teacher – PK2

Sarah was born and raised in France. A hard-working multilingual, she has been teaching for over 20 years. She first obtained a bachelor’s degree at the Sorbonne University in Paris, before pursuing a master’s degree in Special Education at Concordia University. She has experience teaching children of all ages in both France and the United States. Sarah speaks English, French, Yiddish, Italian and Hebrew. She loves languages and is also a talented musician. For 12 years, she volunteered in hospitals to play the clarinet and recorder for sick children. She wants to keep inspiring children with her music and teaching, and is thrilled to be joining the Tessa team. Her life philosophy is “You do not have to be great to start, but you need to start to be great.”


Marie George, Lead Teacher – PK3

Marie was born and raised in Alexandria, Egypt. She has two daughters (a 24-year-old dental student and a 20-year-old architecture student). Growing up, Marie attended French language schools and university. She is bilingual in French and received her Bachelor Degree in Psychology and Education Certificate from the Faculty of Arts at Alexandria University.

Eager to learn more, Marie turned to the French Embassy in the Arabic Republic of Egypt to strengthen her core skills in education, child Psycho-pedagogy and observation problems. She attended learning-intensive courses and seminars that focused on education and promoted children’s emotional and cognitive well-being.

Marie moved to the United States in 2011 and continued doing what she loves. She has over 25 years of experience as a French teacher and an Educational Psychologist and she doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon! Her connection with children has always been so strong and she’s excited to continue applying her valuable experience and knowledge everyday in the classroom in efforts to enhance their physical, mental and social development.


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 has been working with Tessa since the school opened its doors, and loves 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!


Laura Terriere, Lead Teacher – Kindergarten

Laura was born and raised in a small town in the South West of France. She fell in love with the English language as soon as she started learning it at school. In 2011, she moved to Bordeaux to study the English language, culture and literature for three years. After she graduated, she decided she wanted to become a teacher.  She obtained her Master’s in Education and started her teaching career.

She traveled to several English-speaking countries that she loved such as Scotland, Ireland, England and in 2019 she took a road trip across the USA. After this enriching experience, she decided she wanted to move there in order to improve her knowledge of this amazing country and discover new ways of teaching. She can’t wait to spread French culture to her new students and learn from theirs.  

Some of her priorities are to teach her students to be kind to others, understanding and open-minded. She will do her best to help her students develop their knowledge as well as their self-esteem. School must be a happy place to come to, and a safe haven to improve oneself. 

She is thrilled to be part of the Tessa adventure!


Kafui Sobo, Lead Teacher – Primary

Kafui was born in Togo, and raised between Togo and France. She has been living in the United States for the past 14 years. 

She holds a bachelor’s degree in Anglo-Saxon Literature and Civilization as well as a Teacher Certification and a master degree of teaching French as a Foreign Language. For 16 years, she taught in Paris then New Orleans to Preschoolers through 5th Graders. Kafui has experience with language immersion and Montessori programs, and is very passionate about  getting her students involved in the learning process.

Kafui loves traveling and sharing her passion of reading with her students. She looks forward to meeting her new students and their families, and to a great year together.


Elodie Passelaigue, Assistant Teacher – Pk2

Elodie was born in Salon de Provence, a tiny medieval town in the South of France. As the eldest of four girls, she was bathed in tutoring and childcare early on. She expatriated herself when she was twenty years old to complete her studies in International Trade. 

Her earlier career took her across Canada, the United states, Europe, the Caribbean, North Africa and even as far as New Zealand. 

Elodie started teaching pre-K six years ago at Science Language and Arts International School in Brooklyn and is currently assisting in the 2s French Class at Tessa. She is passionate about teaching Visuals Arts according to the language of Arts method by Ann Pelo, well versed in conversational teaching, scaffolding language, responsive classroom management, hand-on math, yoga for little ones, first steps anti-biais discussions, beginner critical thinking when reading and the Reggio Emilia method. Fluent in French, Spanish and English – with extensive knowledge of Italian, Provincial and ASL, Elodie has always made a point to keep learning languages. Besides her passion for languages and Arts, Elodie loves to create little adventures for her Bulldog-Pitbull mix Max and two daughters to engage in.

Elodie holds a double bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Quebec in Outaouais and Sup de Co Marseille and a Masters in Project Management from the UQO. She is currently working on earning a masters in Integrated Teaching through the Arts from Lesley. 


Amina Maassem, Assistant Teacher – PreK2-3

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 also obtained a Children Educator Diploma at the National Training Institute of Youth and Sports Educators.
She started her professional career as a middle school French teacher,  then 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 8 years experience working with kids, has taught a variety of different ages and categories of children.
She moved to the United States in 2017 and started working at Tessa in 2019. She is very happy to be a part of the Tessa family.


Christelle Kouhouta, Assistant Teacher – Pk4

Christelle Kouhouta was born and raised in Paris, France. After completing her Master’s degree and working for an investment bank for 7 years, she moved to the United States. She then pivoted toward a career of teaching and caring. She started as a Community Health Worker and spent time helping autistic kids navigate the nuances of our society as an assistant therapist in an after school program. After teaching French to middle and high school kids at Chapin, Christelle joined Tessa International for the 2021 Summer Camp. She is fond of martial arts, soccer, reading and loves exploring different countries and cultures.



MingMei Li, Lead Teacher – Nursery

Ms. Li holds a Bachelors from Hunan Normal University, as well as a Masters from Beijing Normal University, in Classical Chinese Language and Literature. She has her Teachers Certification from China and more than 9 years of teaching experience. Her strengths include classroom management and differentiated instruction. She enjoys leading hands-on activities, such as making dumplings and spring rolls! Ms. Li is an enthusiastic, collaborative, and devoted teacher.

Eva Zheng, Lead teacher – PreK3

Eva was born and raised in China. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Language Arts, which enabled her to acquire a good sense of Chinese traditional literature like poems. After graduating college, Eva was selected into the CI 国家孔子学院 and taught Mandarin in Thailand for one year. While teaching Mandarin in Thailand, Eva obtained the HSK Administrator certificate and completed a study entitled Research on Chinese Language and Culture Education in Thailand. This study was selected in the 31st Graduate Seminar on Historical Anthropology held in the Sun Yat-Sen University

After gaining cross-cultural bilingual teaching experience, Eva furthered her education at Rutgers University and taught Mandarin Chinese at CIRU罗格斯大学孔子学院. Her graduation thesis was about Oracle Bones Script 甲骨文 (the origin of Chinese characters 汉字). The research regarding Oracle Bones can better enlighten students on how to learn Chinese characters. She joined Tessa in 2019.

Eva loves and is very good at handwriting, calligraphy, poems (through singing songs), and teaching math.

Lijin Chen, Lead teacher – PreK4

Lijin was born and raised in China. She holds a Bachelor of Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language from Sichuan International Studies University, and a Master of Curriculum and Instruction from Florida State University. From China to Poland to the United States, and for more than 10 years, she has taught Chinese as well as English as a second language to children of all ages. Lijin is experienced in curriculum development, and always ensures to create a safe and enriching classroom experience that supports children’s healthy development in language, social-emotional and physical needs. 

Lijin loves food and traveling around the world. She thinks it is a great opportunity to enjoy and embrace the cultural differences. She also enjoys practicing yoga during her free time. We are very excited to have her join the Tessa team!


Xiaohan (Summer) Zhao, Lead Teacher – Kindergarten

Xiaohan(Summer) Zhao was born in China and came to the US in 9th grade. She is a native speaker of Mandarin. She has firsthand experience in bilingualism, using Mandarin at home with her family and friends, while communicating in English with her colleagues at school. She developed her professional interest in bilingualism through her child as she observed him learning new languages. 

Summer holds a TCSOL (Teaching Chinese to Speaker of Other Language) certificate and a master’s degree in Instructional Technology and Media in Education from Teachers College, Columbia University in New York. As an undergraduate she studied Music and Technology at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ. She specializes in multimedia teaching and her teaching style is neoteric, interesting, and well-organized. Summer has experience teaching students of a wide range of ages. 

Summer is a skilled pianist and contemporary dancer. She also enjoys skiing and cooking delicious Chinese food. 

She looks forward to teaching and spending time with your child at Tessa in our Mandarin program. 欢迎你!


Xiaoyan (Belle) Hu, Assistant Teacher – Nursery

Belle was born and raised in China. She holds a Bachelor of Psychology from Yangtze Normal University, and a master of education in psychology from Jiangxi Normal University. From China to the US, in 4 years of Mandarin teaching experience with kids.

She is also good at leveraging feedback from parents, teachers to ensure a positive learning environment that addresses students’ strengths and weaknesses.  

Belle enjoys doing meditation. She is happy to be part of the Tessa team!


Ruoran Huang, Assistant Teacher – Prek3/4

Ruoran was born and raised in Yichang, a small city in southwest China. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Chinese language and literature at Shaanxi Normal University in China and received her Master’s degree from Rutgers University in 2018. Ruoran was appointed as a Chinese Language Lecturer in the Department of Modern Languages and Literature at Fordham University starting in Fall 2018. In the U.S., She has taught Chinese language classes at different levels at Fordham University, Hunter College, China Institute of America, and International Leadership High School. Ruoran Huang’s research interests include Chinese Literature, Film Studies, and Foreign Language Teaching. In April 2018, she attended and presented her research paper as a panelist in the Department of East Asian Studies at Michigan University. She was certificated with the 2019 STARTALK Teacher Professional development Program Certificate in August 2019. Ruoran has 4-year professional experience in Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language at different levels for all ages. Her teaching utilizes cultural texts as materials such as classic poems, films, and calligraphy to make connections between the language and culture for students.


Clayton Morrell – Primary

Clayton Morrell holds a Bachelor’s degree with a certification from the New York State and National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) in Childhood Education from St. Thomas Aquinas College. Clayton speaks English, Spanish and Japanese. Born and raised in the greater New York City region, he has previously lived on a remote outer island of Okinawa, Japan where he began his teaching career teaching English via The Japanese Ministry of Education sponsored JET program – Japan, Exchange, and Teaching. After his tenure with the JET Program, Clayton continued teaching English on the mainland of Okinawa, Japan. Continuing with his passions to teach, learn, create and inspire, Clayton worked as a volunteer on Peace Boat’s 99th Global Voyage as an English teacher. Circumnavigating the globe, teaching English, creating media, and organizing events, Clayton was inspired to continue working with Peace Boat in New York City. He worked closely in supporting Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb survivors and the Hibakusha Appeal to work for a nuclear-weapon-free world at the United Nations during the 2019 NPT PrepCom, Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. His passion for teaching, language, and the world has led him to an array of opportunities, and he is excited to be teaching and working at Tessa International.


Alex Shelbourne – Music Teacher

Alex Shelbourne is our music teacher; he is also offering afterschool guitar and piano private lessons to our students. Alex is a songwriter, playwright, and conductor born in California. He received a Bachelor of Music in Music Theory & Composition from the prestigious NYU Steinhardt and graduated from the Advanced Playwriting program at the National Theater Institute.

As a songwriter, Alex’s music has been selected for showcases throughout the city, such as the 2019 New York Musical Festival, Gallatin Theatre Cabaret, The First Stages Showcase, and Lamplighters’ New Works Festival. Alex has also conducted and/or music directed over ten NYU productions. He has experience as a music instructor at the Renaissance Youth Center for children of all ages.  He is very excited to join the Tessa team. 

Tessa International School

Office: (201) 755-5585 | Location: 720 Monroe St. Hoboken, NJ 07030