Mr. Lau was born in Toruń, Poland, and moved to the United States when he was 7 years old. He credits his passion for learning from the teachers, librarians, and other educators that fostered his interests and opened up opportunities for him when he was a new immigrant. Upon graduating college, he moved to New York City to become a NYC Teaching Fellow and to create the opportunities for his students that were created for him.
Mr. Lau taught English, Social Studies, and a variety of elective courses to middle and high school students in the South Bronx. Through his roles as Chair of the School Leadership Team, Senior Class Advisor, and Grade Leader Coordinator, Mr. Lau strived to open doors and advocate for his students. He decided to take on the challenge of school leadership to expand his ability to develop teachers, students, and curriculum towards high expectations for high school, college and career readiness. He completed his Master’s Degrees in English Education and Public School Leadership while teaching.
Before becoming Principal of The Emerson School, Mr. Lau served as an Assistant Principal in Harlem. He successfully advocated for his school’s inclusion in piloting the Common Core Learning Standards. His work with curriculum development was recognized by the GE Foundation, which filmed classes at his school as examples of exemplary Common Core aligned instruction. He is excited to bring his knowledge and experience to The Emerson School and looks forward to learning together with the parents, teachers, and students of our vibrant Learning Community.
In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, “The function of education is to teach on to think intensively, and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education”. This is the reason that I entered the field of education. I had a strong desire and passion to assist and watch students advance academically and socially.I entered the field of education as a NYC Teaching Fellow and has been in the field for over 12 years. I have taught grades 3, 5, and 6.
I have also worked as a math coach and taught in numerous academic intervention programs for grades K-8.I obtained my bachelor degree from St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn, New York where I studied Community Health and Human Services. At Queens College in Queens, New York I studied and received my Master in Elementary Education. Finally at Long Island University in Brookville, NY I obtained by Professional Certification in School Administration.Outside of school, I enjoy spending time with my family, reading, and movies. I am a true New York fan; my favorite teams are the Knicks, Giants and Yankees. I am looking forward to a wonderful year.
Elvis Diaz – Dean
Social Studies teacher Elvis Diaz was born in New York and raised in the Dominican Republic. Mr. Diaz attended Hunter College’s School of Education and began teaching at a charter school located in East Harlem. Mr. Diaz spent the last eleven years as a member of the Harbor Science and Arts Charter School faculty also located in East Harlem where he taught American History to 7th and 8th graders.
As a new member of the Emerson family, Mr. Diaz believes in creating an environment in which everyone is part of the learning process. On a personal level, some of his interest include coaching little league, reading books by Dan Brown, watching movies and spending time with his family.
Ivette Pimienta – School Secretary
Hello, Buenas, Bonjour, and হ্যালো,
I am the School Secretary, Ms. Pimienta. It is a pleasure to be a part of such a wonderful school community, The Emerson School. Some of my interests have been traveling. Visiting Italy, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, England, The Bahamas, Canada, some of our states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico have enhanced small moments in my life and advanced my knowledge of other cultures. I grew-up in one of the most diverse communities in the world – Harlem, New York. I was educated in New York City Public and Parochial schools. Besides traveling, my interests include volunteering, visiting museums, listening to music, trying to learn other languages and viewing the Visual Arts. The world is diverse, I enjoy seeing what makes us different (the foods we prepare or the dances we dance, etc.), yet these same differences may reveal more of what we have in common, ultimately identifying us as being of a common core. I am glad to be a part of this great school community.
Kristen Volonakis-Rowland – School Counselor
School Psychologist, Kristen Volonakis-Rowland, was born and raised in Queens, New York. She attended SUNY Stonybrook and earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology , with a minor in Child and Family Studies. After graduation, she immediately began teaching that September, and taught 6th grade mathematics in a Bronx middle school for 2 years. While teaching, she also attended graduate school at the College of New Rochelle, earning a degree in Community-School Psychology, and has been a school psychologist for over 8 years.
In addition to being a school psychologist, her other jobs include being a mother and wife. Outside of the workplace you will most likely find her with her family. Her personal interests involve photography, practicing bikram yoga/exercising, cooking, and the arts. Ms. Volonakis believes that “anything worth doing, is worth doing well” and she continues to thrive on that for herself in her professional and personal life, and reinforces that belief to the people she encounters on a professional and personal level as well.
Vladimir Sosa – Community Coordinator
Vladimir Sosa is a native of the wonderful Dominican Republic. At the age of 17 he won on a presidential scholarship from the Dominican Republic government to attend Utah State University (USU) in Logan, Utah. At USU he obtained a dual bachelor in operations management and human resources and two masters, an MBA and a MS in Human Resources. Mr. Sosa has been with the Department of Education for two years on a variety of roles supporting our school’s teachers and administration.
Mr. Sosa enjoys dancing, reading books (self-help and fiction), travelling and tasting food from around the world. He enjoys encouraging our students to think big and to stay focus on the goal of attending college. And to not miss the great cultural, fun and academic opportunities that living on campus or off campus can offer.
Mike Weisenhaus- 7th grade Science
Omar Noureddine – Physical Education
Hi, my name is Mr. Noureddine and I’m the new PE teacher at The Emerson School. I was born in Brazil and grew up in Puerto Rico. I speak four different languages; Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and English. Completed my Master’ degree at Touro College on 2007 and my Bachelor degree in Physical education from Long Island University in 1998 a former college scholarship basketball player. I have played professional Basketball in three different countries; Turkey, Cyprus and Lebanon. Some of my professional experiences include 10 years as a physical education teacher and multiple years of coaching basketball, Soccer, Volleyball and one year as a baseball mentor. My certifications include:
New York State Teacher Certification in Physical Education
First Aid, CPR, AED Certified
New York State Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance
New York tennis junior learners
I enjoy being active and find it very difficult to be stationary for long. I actively seek ANY chance to play sports and/or participate in outdoor adventures (I LOVE SPORTS!!!). My favorite activities are: Soccer, skiing, canoeing, mountain biking, running, whitewater rafting, camping, volleyball and basketball.
The students are my priority. In the physical education program our mission is to promote healthy lifestyles through quality physical and health education. We will strive to allow each student to better understand the importance of a healthy lifestyle and provide the information necessary to make choices for a lifetime of wellness.
Marion James – Common Branch
My name is Marion James. I am a product of Jamaica, Queens. I attended Public School right here in our neighborhood. I am eager to service the community in which I was raised in. Currently, I am an English Language Arts Teacher at the Emerson School. I have been teaching for fifteen years. I have a Master’s Degree from Hofstra University. It is my goal that my students possess the 21st Century Skills necessary to succeed in college. My educational philosophy is that, “All Students Can Learn”. In order to ensure that my philosophy is deemed realistic, students will be provided with a safe and secure environment so that they can be active participants in their learning and become critical thinkers. These two components will lead them to be productive citizens in the community. I have high expectations for all students.
Breeya Edwards – ICT ELA/SS
Ludnie Desire – CCT
Hello my name is Ms. Desire a.k.a. Ms. D. I attended Brooklyn College and received my Bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism, minor in Political Science. I decided to do a career switch and received my Master’s in Childhood Education (1-6), after realizing the passion I had for education. After taking a course at Brooklyn College, and realizing the impact the education has on a child and their future, I wanted to be a part of the education field. Growing up, I always loved watching my mother teach and I decided to follow in her footsteps. Furthermore, I believe that a student can achieve far more than they expect with the support of a teacher and that is what I intend to do.
During my spare time, I like to shop, read, and research on new societal issues around the world. One of my favorite sources are NPR and BBC news. I enjoy reading mystery books and books based on true stories about overcoming adversities.
Rasheed Bility – Special Education
“Education is a social process, Education is growth. Education is, not a preparation for life; education is life itself.” – John Dewey
This quote, by John Dewey, best illustrates why there will forever be an unparalleled importance for education to me and expresses my ultimate purpose and ambition to teach students in the mecca of diversity and the hub of education; New York City.
My name is Mr. Bility. I attended and received my Bachelors of Arts in Africana Studies, Sociology and Latin American and Caribbean Studies from Binghamton University and am currently pursing my Masters of Science in Education in Special Education with a concentration in students with learning disabilities at Brooklyn College.
I am committed to the idea that all learners, including those with disabilities, are capable of learning and further that these students should and will receive excellent and equitable educational services regardless of race, class, gender, language, sexual orientation or special needs.
I am a Brooklyn native who enjoys movies and eating at cool restaurants. I am an avid LeBron James fanatic and quite the athlete (at least I think I am).
Cheers to a GREAT year at The Emerson School!
Hello, my name is Caitlin Rakyta and I am originally from the northwest corner of Connecticut. I majored in Fashion Merchandising and Business at Marist College, and I am currently working on a Masters of Science in Education at St. John’s University.
I moved to Queens in 2011, and immediately fell in love with the diverse communities within the borough. I spent 3 years in the fashion industry developing women’s apparel, and knew that I was not fulfilling my passion for education and helping others. In joining the New York City Teaching Fellows, I began my journey working to provide academic opportunities for students, and I am thrilled to take part in providing these opportunities to students in my favorite borough. I am driven by the belief that all students can achieve, and look forward to working tirelessly to help them do so. In my spare time, I can be found spending time with friends, family, and my dog, Lucy, streaming TV shows on Netflix, and downloading podcasts for my daily commute.
My name is Pravinee Shiwnarain and I currently teach 6th grade Humanities and ELA. I attended Queens College (City University of New York) and graduated with a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in Education, as well as, a post master’s certification in teaching students with special needs. I was born and raised in Guyana, South America. I like animated movies, comedies and historical fiction books and movies.
My philosophy as a teacher is that all students should be treated equally and be respected. I believe that in order to get respect, you have to give respect. I have a passion for teaching and learning and truly believe that “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest” (Benjamin Franklin). I will work to create a positive and nurturing environment for my students and provide the support needed, so that my students can achieve their goals.
Terence B. Drakes is an educator and author who was raised and schooled in a suburban area of Toronto, Canada. Both of his parents are from Guyana – an English-speaking, South American country, with Caribbean culture. Born into a family that is imbued with pedagogues and authors, Drakes became an avid reader and a lover of the humanities from quite an early age. Upon migrating from Toronto to Brooklyn in 2003, Drakes immediately matriculated into the Medgar Evers B.A. program. Given Drakes’ deep interest and passion for literature, philosophy and the evolution of culture – it was only logical for him to pursue a Liberal Arts degree that concentrated upon British, Asian, African-American, and Caribbean literary forms. During his time at The City University of New York (CUNY), close ties were forged with faculty who deemed Drakes to be a skilled essayist as well as Medgar Evers College very own “In-House Philosopher”.
While living in Brooklyn for the past 11 years, Mr. Drakes has become increasingly keen in the awareness of his civic responsibilities, as a result, he has committed himself to providing community-based learning that extends the academic experience beyond the classroom. Within Brooklyn’s grassroots community, Mr. Drakes is well-known among marginalized adolescents because of his willingness to ‘reach out’ and his dedication to their personal transformation. In 2014, Mr. Drakes graduated from Long Island University and earned a Master’s of Science in Urban Adolescent Education (M.S. Ed) degree that was accompanied by a minor in the English Language Arts. Future endeavors include continuing to explore additional academic and professionalization opportunities – to ensure optimal teaching for all students – as well as the creation and publication of novels (and other written pieces) that provide direction to at-risk urban youth. When pondering upon his own educational philosophy, Drakes sees it is as the poet Yeats once did:
“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
Ms. Maurice started her professional career in the private sector. She fulfilled her desire to understand the effects of financial actions by individuals and institutions, particularly during the nation’s current difficult fiscal time, and so she pursued and received her Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Queens College. Shortly thereafter Maurice received her Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) degree from Dowling College in the field of Management and Leadership.
Ms. Maurice’ drive to educate New York City adolescent is fueled by her strong desire to instill a lifelong love for learning – it was this same longing to share and transmit knowledge that brought Ms. Maurice to a career in education. More specifically, her calling to Special Education includes a mission to successfully equip adolescents with special needs with the educational and behavioral tools that will permit them an independent and self-reliant existence. She is committed to creating a classroom environment that provides each student with the opportunity to meet his or her greatest potential both in character and career trajectory.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ~ Maya Angelou
ELA teacher Heather Larocchia was born in Queens and raised in various parts of New York State. She received her bachelor’s degree from New York University where she majored in Literature and minored in Media, Culture, and Communications. Her love for teaching was sparked during her time volunteering as a health educator, and during her work as a teaching assistant for a kindergarten classroom.
Ms.Larocchia’s hobbies include reading, writing, photography, spending time with her dog, and anything related to arts and crafts! She is passionate about traveling and has spent time studying both in London and in Buenos Aires. She hopes to make it back to South America soon to photograph Bolivia’s salt flats. Ms.Larocchia is looking forward to bringing a great sense of adventure and passion for literature to her classroom!
Nicole Foo-Mckenzie – Math
I was born in Houston, Texas and moved to Queens, NY at 8 years old. I went to NYC public schools and graduated from Bayside H.S. After graduation, I attended Hampton University in Hampton Virginia and graduated with a degree in Political Science.
I became a teacher when the opportunity of substituting was available. After becoming a long term substitute, I was offered a position and became a teacher. I love math, rollerblading, traveling and eating different cuisines. “When you teach others, you teach yourself.”
Francois Sodohoue – French
Heredity may have played a large role in choosing vocations. 10 members of my immediate family work as teachers in 5 countries, including my father and older sister. I was never given the chance to forsake education. My thinking was that, in life, I could be at best a writer and at least a teacher. Being part of the Emerson School has certainly helped in realizing this vision (and knowing the school bears the name of Ralph Waldo Emerson, my favorite essayist and orator of all time, hands down, was only an added delight). I applaud educators who want to improve their community and even change the world. I personally am afraid of these optimistic ambitions. I find that making a student aware of the tools available to effect change is exponentially more important. Many educators can be heroes, but ALL educators can certainly mentor great heroes. I believe this is the true spirit of the Emerson School and I am only more satisfied and fulfilled with each additional day.
Hello, my name is Mr. Vargas. I was born and raised in Jamaica queens. My family originated from Dominican Republic. I attended Queens Borough Community College and graduated with my associates in liberal arts. I continued my educational career in Queens College and am currently receiving my bachelors in Physical Education. I believe a child needs to develop cognitively and physically.
On my free time I enjoy being playing sports, working out and eating. Baseball was my priority while attending high school and college. All four years of my high school experience I was a starting pitcher. It was a wonderful experience to travel and receive trophies in different areas of New York City. It was a great way to educate our self and build up a culture during these four years. Now as an Emerson staff member and family I will guide our students to become great problem solvers and achieve their goal.