Morningside Montessori's staff comprises a diverse family of teachers and administrators. We are all both leaders and learners. As a team, we strive to create experiences and environments in which all children feel safe, cared for, and free to fulfill their potential. We follow and support each child on an individual basis to ensure developmental needs are met.
Each classroom is led by a team of Montessori-credentialed, New York State-certified teachers together with assistant teachers, all of whom are committed to our school's mission, philosophy and culture. Our faculty's quest for lifelong learning is nurtured through ongoing opportunities for professional development.
Administrator & Faculty Biographies:
Tara Greaney, M.S. - Head of School and Executive Director
Tara has more than forty years of experience in early childhood education. Before coming to Morningside, she served for thirty years as the Director of the Christine Beshar Children’s Center at Cravath, Swaine & Moore. Prior to that, she was Director of the Early Program at the Caedmon School on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Tara is one of the founding faculty members of the Infant Toddler Montessori teacher training program at the West Side Montessori School Teacher Education Program (WSMS-TEP). She holds AMS teaching credentials at both the Early Childhood and Infant Toddler levels and an M.S. in Educational Leadership from Bank Street College. Tara is a native New Yorker and currently resides on the Upper East Side with her husband.
Gelsey Jeffreys, M.S.Ed. - Associate Director
Gelsey began her career as a NYC Teaching Fellow, working with children with severe autism spectrum disorders. She earned her B.A. in Psychology at Cornell University and her M.S.Ed. at Mercy College. She spent the past decade at West Side Montessori School, first as a teacher, then as an administrator and practicum coordinator for the West Side Montessori School Teacher Education Program, and still serves as a faculty member in the Early Childhood Montessori teacher training program. Gelsey is also an Adjunct Professor in Concordia College of New York’s Montessori Masters Program. Gelsey is a proud Chicago native, and currently lives in Chelsea with her husband.
Mary Jane Berkeley - Lead Teacher (Mixed Age)
Mary Jane earned an M.S. in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Bank Street College and a B.A. from Brown University. She also earned her AMS Early Childhood Teaching Credential from WSMS-TEP. Mary Jane worked at NEST+M and Ethical Culture School at the elementary level before coming to Morningside. She previously spent fourteen years working for a range of international non-profit and philanthropic organizations. Mary Jane lives in Inwood with her husband, Bill, and daughter, Carmen.
Alexandra Valentin - Lead Teacher (Mixed Age) - Explorers Teacher
Alex is entering her 20th year at Morningside this fall! Both of Alex’s children, now 22 and 12, graduated from Morningside. Alex is a certified Montessori teacher and holds an M.S. in Early Childhood Education and B.A. in Africana & Latino Studies, both from Hunter College. She has been a teacher in Morningside’s mixed-age program for many years, and has also served as an education coordinator, organizing professional development workshops for faculty as well as parent education workshops. In her spare time, she enjoys reading and spending time with her family.
Maria Gomez - Lead Teacher (Twos)
Maria is the lead teacher in our Twos class. She earned her AMS Infant Toddler Teacher credential from WSMS-TEP in 2017, and holds New York state certification for ages birth through grade 2. Maria obtained her M.S. in Early Childhood Education in 2010, and a B.A. in Zoology from Universidad de la Salle in her native Colombia. She currently resides in Manhattan with her husband, Maximilian, and seven year old daughter Eva, a Morningside alumna.
Sheree Evans - Assistant Teacher (Mixed Age)
Sheree began her 18th year at Morningside this September, and has been a teacher in our mixed-age afternoon program for 15 years while also serving as the Summer Camp Coordinator. Currently, she is pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education at Brooklyn College. Sheree has two daughters, one who attended Morningside and another who worked here as a camp counselor. She passionate about sharing music with children and enjoys helping children prepare for Morningside’s Step Up Day performance each year. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.
Delia Rivera - Assistant Teacher (Mixed Age)
A native New Yorker currently in her 30th year at Morningside, Delia arrived at the school in 1988, first working as a substitute teacher in the Explorers Kindergarten Prep Program. She spent many years as an assistant teacher in Morningside’s Twos Program and currently works in our PM and extended day programs. Delia is a proud Montessori parent and grandparent, and is passionate about art and sewing.
Jessica Oquendo - Assistant Teacher (Mixed Age) - Spanish Teacher
Jessica is both a classroom teacher and Morningside’s Spanish teacher. Originally from Puerto Rico, she moved to Michigan at the age of 17 and attended Siena Heights University. She obtained her B.A. in Theater and Speech Communications. Jessica was introduced to the Montessori method while interning at a preschool. She fell in love with the philosophy and has since earned her Early Childhood Montessori teacher certification.
Natalie Bernstein - Assistant Teacher (Mixed Age)
Natalie has been an educator for over 25 years. She earned her B.A. from Columbia University and her M.Ed. from Bank Street College. She is a world traveler and most recently visited Costa Rica. She loves spending time at the beach in the summers, especially Fire Island. She has lived in NYC most of her life and currently lives on the UWS with her cat Ceci.
Vivian Nicholson - Assistant Teacher (Mixed Age)
Vivian has been a credentialed Montessori teacher for 35 years. She earned her B.A. in Psychology and Early Childhood Education at CCNY and her Montessori Certificate at the Montessori School of Orange in California. Vivian was the director of the Montessori School of Downey, in California, for six years. She is a proud third generation Montessorian! Both of her children attended Montessori schools and her darling granddaughter is in a toddler Montessori program in Chesterton, Indiana. In addition to the education of young children Vivian is passionate about cooking and loves to share her love with her students. Her "speciality" is making ice cream. Vivian is an avid traveler and always brings back souvenirs, recipes, and experiences she can share with the children.
Jasher Brea - Assistant Teacher (Mixed Age) - Art & Movement Specialist
Jash has been a classroom teacher at MMS for six years and has a background in visual arts. He is also a proud Montessori dad. In addition to working in the Mixed Age morning program, Jash is the Art and Movement Specialist for all children at Morningside, facilitating art programs and organized gross motor play activities on the school’s rooftop terrace.
Margaret Kosciolek - Assistant Teacher (Twos)
Margaret is an Assistant Teacher in Morningside’s Twos Program. She discovered her passion for teaching after her own daughters attended Morningside! She previously worked in visual communications and computer graphics. She is originally from Poland and earned her AMS Infant Toddler Teacher credential from WSMS-TEP in 2018. Margaret currently lives in New York with her husband, Gregory, and daughters Veronica and Victoria.
Elisabeth Heidebrecht - Intern (Mixed Age)
Elisabeth is currently pursuing her AMS Early Childhood Montessori credential at WSMS-TEP. She holds an M.Ed. in Multicultural Education and a B.A. in Education and Early Childhood Development, both from Eastern University in Pennsylvania. Before coming to Morningside, Elisabeth worked for over 15 years in elementary and adult education. She resides in Brooklyn with her husband and three children.
Connie Falconi - Intern (Twos)
Connie is currently in training to receive her AMS Infant Toddler teaching credential from WSMS-TEP. She previously was employed at both Montessori and traditional preschools in New Jersey. Connie received a B.A. in Psychology with a Minor in Early Childhood Education from New Jersey City University in 2014. She received her Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education from Hudson County Community College in 2011. Originally from Ecuador, Connie lives in New Jersey and has two grown children.
Xin Zhang - Chinese Teacher
Xin has lived in New York City for over 20 years and is a UWS resident. She graduated from City College of New York with a B.A. in Asian Studies and a History minor. She is currently earning her Masters in the Teaching of Chinese at Hunter College. She has over eight years of experience teaching children, including at Preschool of America, China Institute, Morningside Montessori and private tutoring. She is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and English. She hopes that her engaging style and natural affection for children will help your child get the most out of his or her Chinese learning experience.