Lea Abrams, Teaching and Learning Consultant Lea Abrams has been an educator for thirty-five years. She directed a Waldorf inspired early childhood program for ten years and taught in public school for six years in a newly incepted inclusion program for elementary aged children with learning differences. She has been a teacher, educational trainer, curriculum developer, program coordinator and consultant in independent lower and middle schools since 2001. She has a masters in education, a certificate in nursery through 6th grade and is a certified psychotherapist.
Lea currently works at the Spence School in New York City where she teaches fourth grade and works with the Teaching & Learning, and Equity teams to develop structures, systems and programming. Lea received Teacher of the Future award from the National Association of Independent Schools, along with twenty other educators nation-wide, for her work in mindful education. She also serves as an educational consultant to Wellness in the Schools, a nation-wide program that brings food, gardening and physical fitness programs to public schools.
Peconic Community School is near and dear to Lea’s heart. She has served as an advisor since its inception, as well as a board member and is looking forward to continuing the journey with PCS as a teaching and learning consultant. Lea will provide professional development trainings, visit periodically to mentor, advise, learn from, consult with and train faculty and staff, and collaborate virtually from NYC on curriculum, teaching and learning at PCS.
Natalie Conroy, Learning Specialist Natalie Conroy is thrilled to be joining the PCS team as the Learning Specialist for the remainder of the year. Natalie has had numerous years of experience working with children including first and foremost, raising her own four children. She began her career in education working for over five years as a Pre-school teacher where she provided early childhood age children with rich and varied thematic based learning experiences. Later, as a 2nd grade Learning Specialist, Natalie designed and implemented learning strategies for small groups of students, collaborated with classroom teachers to develop and implement developmentally appropriate lessons, and provided push in and pull out support in student-centered instruction. Additionally, as a K/ 1 teacher Natalie created an effective, positive, and safe learning environment for her students and incorporated creativity and hands-on learning encouraging cooperative learning, and critical thinking skills. Ms. Conroy is currently Site-Director for a Before/Aftercare program at a local public school where she oversees a team of teachers and co-creates unique and engaging lessons for a mixed age group of elementary students. Natalie has also worked as a Literacy tutor, and has lead Girl Scout Troops in the community over the years. In her free time Natalie enjoys reading, writing, running, baking, cooking and hiking. These varied and relevant experiences make Natalie the perfect fit for Learning Specialist at Peconic Community School. Natalie says "I am looking forward to getting to know all the students and families of PCS and being part of an amazing learning environment!"
Eileen DeCecco, Middle Primary Facilitator Eileen joined PCS in 2013. A multi-faceted educator, Eileen has served as Middle Primary Learning Specialist, Early Childhood Teacher Assistant, school Guidance Counselor, and a Special Education coordinator in her time at PCS. She has over 20 years of teaching experience and has previously taught pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, as well as seventh and eighth grades. She is a mother of two and believes that fostering a love of learning for all students is critical to their life-long journey. She has experience in the Montessori and Reggio Emilia approaches and a strong belief in a community-driven school. She earned a BS in Business Administration from St. John’s University and MAEd in Educational Counseling. Living on the North Fork of Long Island herself, Eileen understands how meaningful a school like PCS is to this community of thoughtful, intelligent, caring parents. Collaborating with co-workers to form an integrated, fundamental, open-ended curriculum is the key to success for the future of our children.
Megan Eilers, Documentation Specialist and Literacy Assistant Megan studied writing and theater at Vassar College as part of her Bachelor’s of Arts degree and continued her writing study at Bennington College in the Poetry Writing Master’s of Fine Arts program. Megan has previously assisted in Early Childhood and Lower Primary classrooms. As a writing guide, Megan strives to help children establish a writing practice that strengthens and nurtures each child’s voice. Additionally, Megan is co-director of Hapi Theatre Conservatory, a local children’s theater troupe specializing in guiding children through the elements of theater in the practice and performance of original plays.
Jessica Falk, Middle & Lower Primary Learning Specialist Jessica Falk is a dedicated educator with a passion for arts and education. She holds a dual Masters degree from Lesley University in Elementary Education and Arts and Education, and her passion to teach with, through and about the arts has set a base for her teaching practices in and out of the classroom. She comes to PCS with over 13 yrs of elementary classroom experience, as a lead teacher in the United States and abroad. She has a background in curriculum design with a base in Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory. Jessica and her family returned to the eastern end of Long Island after living abroad for 10 yrs. Currently, she is a yoga and mindfulness teacher, and spent the last school year developing and implementing a yoga and mindfulness curriculum for the Patchogue Medford School District.
Paola A. Flórez, Kindergarten Facilitator Before coming to PCS in 2016, Paola taught Spanish at the Southampton Montessori School for ten years. In that time, she also became the teacher’s assistant in the preschool classroom for two years. Paola has taught music and movement at various camps such as La Ronde, Southampton Bathing Corp. and the Quogue Field Club Junior Sports. She is also a certified Music Together teacher. Paola earned a B.A. in Communication from William Paterson University and a M.A. in Media Studies from The New School University. She also earned her certification as an English-Spanish Translator from Adelphi University. Paola lives in Westhampton with her two children, Isabella and Dante.
Anna Fris, Art Facilitator Anna was a visiting art specialist with PCS for 6 weeks last year and also served as a lead counselor for PCS and Hallockville’s Arts on the Farm program this past summer. She has been involved in education for over 30 years and has worked and volunteered in many capacities in preschool, Montessori, Waldorf, and public elementary and middle school settings. She has been teaching art since 2001. She has her NY and WI Art Educator Certification. She attended University of Wisconsin- Whitewater and Mount Mary University.
As a teacher, she follows a constructivist philosophy, where students are viewed as artists, offered authentic choices, and have the opportunity to follow their own interests and ideas. She encourages connections between the art room and the regular classroom and collaborates with teachers to bring art into the classroom space. She believes all students are creative people and that creativity is an important part of what makes us human.
Matthew Gardiner, Music Facilitator Matt is a musician and educator living in Mattituck with his wife and three children. As the music facilitator for Peconic Community School, he is looking forward to continuing to build upon and deepen the music curriculum. Matt also works at East End Arts in Riverhead where he directs small musical ensembles and is developing a home-school general music program. Recently, he has been involved in developing an improvisational music group to play social engagements and leading choral workshops on Long Island, and he teaches privately both instrumental and vocal lessons from his home studio. Matt holds a Masters in music education from Hunter College. Matt loves sharing his passion for music with all his students , and expanding children’s knowledge of music history, musicians, and culture.
Don Garside, School & After School Program Aide Before joining the staff at PCS, Don tended the apple orchard at Surrey Lane Farm in Southold. Prior to that he earned a BA in Elementary Education from Castleton State College in Vermont. Don is a local musician and artist specializing in artwork for children and the young at heart. You may have seen him at last year’s Maker Fair or other local art shows by his tent that says “Every Picture Tells A Story”. Don will be assisting with lunch, recess, afternoon classroom needs and after care every day.
Valerie Gatz, Early Childhood Co-Facilitator Val is delighted to become a part of the Peconic Community School family. She comes to PCS with 25 years of teaching experience, a Child Development Associates Degree and a certification as a teacher assistant. Val has experience working with children of all ages and believes that every child deserves to learn in a stimulating, engaging, and safe environment. Val is dedicated to the social and emotional development of each child and takes into consideration that every child has their own unique way of learning. Val is native to the east end of Long Island and loves being outdoors in nature hiking local trails with her husband and two dogs. In addition, Val volunteers at her church as a Sunday School Teacher and a Deacon. Val has two daughters and recently became a grandmother.
Miranda Milligan, Early Childhood Co-Facilitator Miranda began at PCS as an early childhood facilitator in 2013. Born and raised here on the East End, she attended Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania where she earned her Bachelor's degree in Philosophy and completed an Elementary Certification program. Upon returning to the East End after graduation, Miranda became a nanny for two young children and worked to receive her New York State Elementary Certification. Through nannying, Miranda realized her love for the early childhood age group and began as an Assistant Nursery Teacher at Ross Lower School. She continued to develop as a teacher and a learner as head Nursery Teacher at The Country School in Wainscott, before joining PCS. Miranda loves to play sports and be outside in nature. She enjoys teaching and exploring a curriculum keen on guiding children through the exploration of our natural world.
Ashley Russo, Lower Primary Facilitator Originally from Upstate New York, Ashley has 8 years of teaching experience. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in childhood education from SUNY Oswego and a Master’s degree in literacy from Walden University. Ashley is passionate about creating a learning environment that considers each student’s needs and allows students to explore their natural curiosity. Growing up on a farm, she learned about the importance of sustaining agriculture and natural resources from a young age, and she brings this hands-on experience to her teaching. Ashley currently lives in Hampton Bays with her husband and young son, and enjoys fishing, going to the beach, reading, and working in her garden.
Rebekah Smith, Wellness Facilitator Rebekah grew up in Mattituck and began a yoga practice in high school, when she started attending classes with her mom, Anne Smith. She is also an accomplished soccer player, and has previously led children’s yoga and soccer seminars for PCS. Rebekah graduated from Salisbury University, MD, in 2015 with a Bachelor's Degree in Social Work. After returning to the North Fork, she completed a 200hr Kula Teacher Training. In addition to her position at Peconic Community School, she teaches yoga at NOFO Wellness Center, and at the North Fork Yoga Shala.
Sonia Spar, Spanish Facilitator Sonia was born and raised in Bogota, Colombia, where she finished a B.A. at Universidad de Los Andes, on Modern Languages, with emphasis in translation and education, developing curriculum for NLL in Spanish, English and French. She has a Master of Arts from the same university in Negotiations and International Relations, and a Master of Arts in Islamic and Middle Eastern Affairs from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Sonia travelled throughout Latin America, Europe and Israel, learning about different cultures and languages. She has international experience working with children and adults in new language acquisition (English, Spanish and Hebrew). Sonia worked for the Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace on normalization processes mainly in education. Upon her relocation to the U.S., Sonia worked for a national civil rights and human relations organization. Among other responsibilities, she oversaw the tailoring and production of all the Spanish and bilingual resources and became an anti-bias education facilitator from the A World of Difference Institute. Sonia is a New York State certified court interpreter and translator English-Spanish-English. Sonia fell in love with the North Fork and has lived in the area for as long as she has lived in the country. She is the mother of Jacob (7) and Noam (3). She is delighted to join Peconic Community School.
Shannon Timoney, Upper Primary Facilitator Shannon began at PCS in 2015 after working for 7 years at the Ross School in Bridgehampton, NY, where she taught and served as division coordinator of Early Childhood. During her time there, Shannon also taught grades 2 and 3. As a lead teacher, Shannon was very involved in writing, revising and editing curriculum. She graduated from The Pennsylvania State University with a BS in Psychology and from Dowling College with a MEd in Childhood Education. She lives in Manorville and has two sons, Payton and Brody. Shannon is a passionate, community-minded individual who is always thinking of ways she and her students can serve their local community. Shannon recognizes the value of differentiating for her students and creating a stimulating classroom environment that showcases the learning process. She believes it is essential to build the classroom community together with her students. Shannon is a lifelong learner and is always open to new ideas and opportunities for continued growth.
In Memoriam, PCS educator and mentor: Alison Aldredge, former Early Childhood Director & Kindegarten Facilitator. Alison came to Peconic Community School with over 15 years experience leading and teaching in early childhood programs. She held a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. She was the division coordinator and lead teacher for the early childhood program at the Ross School. Her teaching approach was suffused with the belief that children are natural researchers, observers, and capable problem solvers, who construct knowledge as they interact with the world around. She believed in creating learning experiences and structured opportunities for accountable discourse through creative, inviting and accessible experimentation. She possessed professional development training in Montessori and Reggio Emilia educational approaches, among others. As a mother of three, and long time resident of the East End, Alison was a vital member of this nurturing learning community, and she will forever be a part of PCS.
Executive & Administrative Staff
Maggie Kritsberg, Office Manager Maggie brings over 15 years experience working in non-profit school administration and child care to the Peconic Community School. As Education Coordinator at the East End Arts School she developed art and camp programming, implemented digital accounting procedures, and oversaw school staff and facilities. Her most recent position was as Registrar and Business Administrator in charge of student registrations, accounting and scholarship at East End Arts in Riverhead, NY. Additional experience includes teaching at pre- and after-school programs, practical knowledge of Montessori pedagogy, and planning and implementing of fundraising events. Born and raised in Sweden, she attended Lund University, Lund, Sweden with a concentration in Psychology and Swedish language. Maggie and her husband moved to the beautiful North Fork in 1996 to raise their two sons.
Kathryn Casey Quigley, Co-Executive Director Kathryn holds a Master of International Affairs degree from Columbia University. She has over 10 years of experience in non-profit management, program implementation and evaluation. Kathryn has worked as a community organizer, led civic engagement programs and taught courses on service learning at Pace University. In addition, a classically trained ballet dancer, she has over 25 years experience dancing and teaching ballet. Kathryn grew upon the North Fork and returned to the area in 2011 to raise a family.
Liz Casey Searl, Co-Executive Director Elizabeth has a Master of Arts from New York University's GallatinSchool where she studied how drama and education can work to promote social change and empower young people. Working in the field of education and drama for over fifteen years, Liz creates programs that use theater games, movement, storytelling and drama strategies as vehicles for learning and discovery. Liz grew up on the North Fork and returned to the area in 2006 to raise her family.