Presenter Bios

Biographies of the presenters at 92Y’s Wonderplay Conference are available below.


Joan Almon

Joan Almon has devoted over 30 years to the education of young children, primarily within Waldorf/Steiner schools. She taught three- to six-year-olds in Maryland and then consulted with schools around the world, particularly in Africa and Asia

In 1999 she became the founding director of the U.S. Alliance for Childhood which she now serves as director of programs. Their most recent project is the co-founding of the Decade for Childhood* (2012-2022) which places an international spotlight on the problems affecting children today as well as the excellent programs serving children and families. Alliance groups are active in the U.S., in Europe and in Brazil.

In the U.S., the Alliance has helped create a renewed interest in play in out-of-school settings and in kindergarten education. Joan co-authored the Alliance's recent report, Crisis in the Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play in School, and is the author of numerous articles and book chapters on child development, play, and early learning.

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Lynette Arthur

Lynnette Arthur taught at Beginnings Nursery School and is currently a Head Teacher in the pre-school at Packer Collegiate Institute. Inspired by the Reggio Emilia Approach, she has infused Reggio’s philosophy into her practice. For example, she encourages her students to play in the rain, explore in the mud, climb trees and nurture living creatures. Natural objects such as feathers, shells and interesting rocks, are essential materials in her classroom.

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Ann Biddle

Ann Biddle is a dance educator, staff developer, curriculum consultant, writer and choreographer. She was the Co-Director of the Dance Education Laboratory at 92nd St Y and a Founding DEL Faculty member with Jody Arnhold. Ms. Biddle has designed and taught courses for DEL including Foundations in Dance Education (Jody Arnhold), Planet Dance, Dancing in Early Childhood, Dance and Nature, Teaching from Transformation to Inspiration (Tina Curran) and Dance and Literacy (Barbara Bashaw). She is currently a co-writer for 92Y’s original Wonderdance early childhood initiative, a visiting artist at UMass Dance Department and Mt. Holyoke College, and Interim Director of the Dance Department at the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School.

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Christina Bingel

Christina Bingel received her Masters in Early Childhood Education from Bank Street College. Her thesis was based on the importance of clay in young children’s cognitive, emotional, physical and social development. As a Co-Head Teacher at The Nursery School at Habonim she has created and implemented a clay curriculum for three and four-year-olds and has dedicated her time to teaching both adults and children the joys of working with clay.

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Tracy Birkhahn

Tracy Birkhahn is currently the learning specialist at the 92Y Nursery School and a mental health consultant for Project SEED (Supporting Early Emotional Development) at nursery schools throughout Westchester County. Tracy also has a private practice in Irvington, New York where she provides counseling and training for parents of young children.

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Betsy Blachly

Betsy Blachly is an adjunct faculty member at Bank Street College, and the music specialist at Bank Street School for Children and Family Center, a position she has held for 35 years. She is a certified music therapist in private practice and till recently worked with children at risk in a family shelter in the Bronx. She also teaches “Early Childhood Guitar” at the Guitar Institute.

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Stuart Brown, MD

Trained in general and internal medicine, psychiatry and clinical research, Dr. Brown first recognized the importance of play by discovering its absence in the life stories of murderers and felony drunken drivers. These studies highlighted the consequences of severe play deprivation and led him to explore the nature and benefits of play behavior as it impacts all humans. His clinical practice affirmed the importance and need for healthy play throughout the human life cycle, and his later evaluation of highly creative individuals revealed the centrality of playfulness to their flexibility, imaginativeness, success and well-being.

Dr. Brown is the President and Founder of the National Institute For Play whose mission is to bring the unrealized knowledge, practices and benefits of play into public life demonstrating that “Play + Science = Transformation.”  He oversees play-based research generated by its distinguished Science Advisors. He was the instigator and Executive Producer of the Institute’s three-part PBS series, “The Promise of Play.”

His book, PLAY, How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul (2009) has been translated into seven languages. He speaks to a wide variety of audiences, consults with major corporations and academic institutions and enjoys co-teaching a graduate course at the Stanford University School of Design, “From Play to Innovation.”

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Jen Katz Burk

Jen Katz Burk is a dance educator, performer and a teacher at the 92Y Nursery School. Committed to integrating dance into the early childhood classroom, she has given workshops, and presentations at national conferences including NDEO, ATIS and the 92Y Wonderplay Conference. Jen is also a contributing writer for WonderDance – a multisensory, and interdisciplinary early childhood dance curriculum at 92Y. She is a student of improvisation and performs with Claire Porter’s PORTABLES. She recently premiered Lady Lamp at the DanceNow Festival.

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Patsy Cooper

Patsy Cooper is an Assoc. Professor of Early Childhood Education at Queens College, CUNY. A frequent presenter on issues related to effective teaching and practice in early childhood education, she is the author of many articles and the book The Classrooms All Young Children Need: Lessons in Teaching From Vivian Paley.

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Deborah Damast

Deborah Damast is the Artistic Advisor of the Dance Education Program at NYU Steinhardt and Master Teacher of technique, pedagogy and choreography courses. She is the Artistic Director of Dance Concerts and Kaleidoscope Dancers, and directs a yearly study abroad /cultural dance exchange program to Uganda. Her work has been shown in NYC venues including Ailey/Citigroup, Judson Church, Riverside Church, Peridance, University Settlement, World Financial Center; and internationally in Italy, Japan, Korea and Uganda. She teaches dance at LREI, conducts professional development for the NYC Department of Education and is a co-teacher for 92Y Wonderdance.

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Julie Diamond

Julie Diamond was a teacher of young children for over twenty-five years in both preschools and in public schools. She taught Early Childhood Curriculum at Bank Street, and has supervised student teachers at NYU and CCNY for the past seven years. Her book on teaching, Kindergarten: A Teacher, Her Students, and a Year of Teaching was published by The New Press in 2011 (in hardcover as Welcome to the Aquarium).

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Lisa B. Fiore

Lisa B. Fiore is Dean of Faculty and a Professor of Early Childhood Education at Lesley University. She teaches undergraduates and graduate students preparing to be early childhood and elementary educators, and also works with practitioners around the use of documentation to extend and enhance learning environments and the use of rich media in classroom teaching. She has written several books, including Assessment of Young Children: A Collaborative Approach and Successful Centers: Creating Opportunities for Early Childhood Learners.

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Felice Friedman

Felice is an educational consultant specializing in the field of child development and parenting. She has taught young children and has worked in schools with both faculty and administrators in both Maryland and New York City. She served as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Maryland and is a frequent speaker and panelist on child development, parenting, step-parenting, parent-teacher conferencing and child assessment. She is on the Board of Trustees of Bank Street College and the Mary McDowell Friends School.

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Lella Gandini

Lella Gandini taught at both Smith College and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She received an honorary doctorate in humane letters from the Erikson Institute in Chicago in 2004 and the Smith College Medal in 2008. She is Reggio Children’s United States liaison for the dissemination of the Reggio Emilia approach, and serves as associate editor of Innovations in Early Education: the International Reggio Exchange.

Lecturer and author of many articles and book chapters about early childhood education in Italy, she is co-author and co-editor of the first, second and now third edition of The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Experience in Transformation. Other books include Beautiful Stuff: Learning with Found MaterialsBambini: The Italian Approach to Infant/Toddler CareIn the Spirit of the Studio: Learning from the Atelier of Reggio Emilia; and Insights and Inspirations from Reggio Emilia: Stories of Children and Teachers from North America. With George Forman, she produced videos presenting and examining projects in the schools of Reggio Emilia, including An Amusement Park for Birds. She is the author of several books for children in Italian. She is a board member of the North American Reggio Emilia Alliance (NAREA).

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Herbert P. Ginsburg

Herbert P. Ginsburg is the Jacob H. Schiff Foundation Professor of Psychology & Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. His scholarly interests include intellectual development, mathematics education and testing and assessment. He has used flexible interview methods to establish that very young children employ “everyday mathematical thinking,” including awareness of shape, number and other concepts.

Professor Ginsburg is the co-author of Piaget’s Theory of Intellectual Development and author of Entering The Child's mind: The Clinical Interview in Psychological Research and Practice. He is also co-author of the curriculum “Big Math for Little Kids,” designed for 4- and 5-year-olds. He is currently working on new video-based methods for professional development in early childhood mathematics education and on new software for helping children to learn math.

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Barry Goldberg

Barry Goldberg is a sculptor who has taught at the 92Y Nursery School for thirty years, and was an instructor in the innovative art program Red, Yellow, Blue and Glue for three- to five-year old children also held at 92Y. He has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Cooper Union and was awarded the Pollack-Krasner Foundation Grant in 1987 and 1989.

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Betsy Grob

Betsy Grob is on the faculty of the Bank Street College of Education, where she teaches graduate students and supervises their field placements. She has taught kindergarten and first grade in a variety of school settings. In addition, Betsy has conducted staff development for pre-kindergarten through fourth grade teachers, both in New York City and internationally with a focus on block-building and social studies.

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Anna Hartman

Anna Hartman is a consultant, mentor, pedagogical coach and teacher.  As a director and teacher, she has worked in settings focused on project-based learning, inspiration from the preschools of Reggio Emilia, Italy and Hebrew language immersion. Anna lives with her husband and two children in the Boston area.

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Mark Horowitz

Mark Horowitz is Vice-President, Early Childhood Education and Family Engagement at JCC Association. He is the founding Executive Director of the Jewish Early Childhood Education Initiative (JECEI). Mark holds a Masters’ Degree in Early Childhood Education from SUNY Buffalo and received his investiture and an honorary doctorate from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. He served as the Executive Director of the Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Buffalo, NY; the Director of Education and Early Childhood at Temple Beth Am in Williamsville, NY; Assistant Professor of Religion and Fine Arts at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY; and as Supervisor of student teachers and teacher of Sociology of Education and Field Experience at SUNY @ Buffalo. He is the Educational Consultant to the New York International Piano Competition.

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Lilian G. Katz, Ph.D.

Lilian G. Katz, Ph.D., is Professor Emerita of Early Childhood Education at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) and is a member of the staff of the Clearinghouse on Early Education and Parenting (CEEP) at the University of Illinois. Dr. Katz served as Director of the ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education for 33 years and as Past President of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, President of the Illinois Association for the Education of Young Children and is Editor of the first on-line peer reviewed trilingual early childhood journal, Early Childhood Research & Practice.

Dr. Katz has lectured in all 50 states and 55 other countries. She has served as Visiting Professor at many universities in the US and 7 other countries, and has an extensive list of publications of papers, chapters as well as books related to young children, their parents and teachers.

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Louise Kurshan

Louise Kurshan has a degree in Early Childhood Education from Bank Street College and has both been a classroom teacher and run library programs in various nursery schools since 1976. Currently, she is the librarian at Plymouth Church School and at Grace Church School, both in Brooklyn Heights. She is also a consultant to nursery schools seeking to build or automate their book collections.

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Steven Kurtz

Steven Kurtz, PhD, ABPP, Senior Director, ADHD and Disruptive Behavior Disorders Center; Director, Selective Mutism Program at the Child Mind Institute is one of the nation’s leading clinicians in the treatment of children’s behavioral problems and disorders, particularly attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and the social anxiety disorder selective mutism (SM).

He is a widely respected clinical researcher and child psychologist, one of sixteen master trainers in parent-child interaction therapy endorsed by PCIT International, and a dedicated advocate for children with special needs. He has appeared on numerous programs addressing child mental health, including NBC’s "Today," CBS’s "The Early Show" and PBS’s "Keeping Kids Healthy." Dr. Kurtz’s Brave Buddies program for SM was also featured on ABC’s "Nightline." Brave Buddies has been formally replicated in Chicago, Boston, and Miami.

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Eileen LaMourie

Eileen LaMourie is a pediatric Occupational Therapist in private practice, specializing in sensory processing interventions and D.I.R./Floortime, about which she is dedicated and passionate. In addition to working in 1:1 sessions, Eileen has created and implemented many sensory motor groups with children 3-17, as well as designed customized in-class sensory environments.

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Trisha Lee

Trisha Lee is the Artistic Director and founder of MakeBelieve Arts, a theatre and education company focused on developing the creative potential of children aged 2-15. She pioneered the Helicopter Technique based on the work of Vivian Gussin Paley in schools throughout the UK and recently supported the Boston Listens program in storytelling and story acting across 50 kindergarten classrooms. She was commissioned by the Childhood Cultural Centre of Qatar to develop creative reading training for teachers. Her publications include Teaching Mathematics Creatively with Linda Pound.

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Sarah Leibowits

Sarah Leibowits has her masters degree in Early Childhood/Elementary Ed, from Bank Street College of Education, She has been a teacher at Manhattan Country School, starting as a student and assistant teacher and then 4-5s head teacher, Lower School Spanish teacher and back again in the 4-5s.

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Susan Linn

Susan Linn is an Instructor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. She has written extensively about the effects of media and commercial marketing on children. Her articles have appeared in the Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post, and her commentaries can be heard on NPR's Marketplace. Her book, Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood has been published on four continents. The Boston Globe called Dr. Linn's new book, The Case for Make-Believe: Saving Play in a Commercialized World "a wonderful look at how playing can heal children."

Dr. Linn is co-founder and director of the national coalition Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. In 2000, she was appointed to the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Advertising to Children. She has been featured on "Sixty Minutes," "Now with Bill Moyers," "World  News Tonight," "Dateline" and in the acclaimed film, The Corporation. She received the American Psychological Association's Presidential Citation for her work on behalf of children. 

An award winning ventriloquist, Dr. Linn is internationally known for her innovative work using puppets in child psychotherapy. With Family Communications, Inc., the producers of "Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood," Dr. Linn created Different and the Same: Helping Children Identify and Prevent Prejudice. The series won the 1996 Media Award from the Association of Multicultural Educators and is presently being used in forty-seven states around the country.

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Valerie Lustgarten

Valerie Lustgarten is an educational consultant and coach specializing in the primary years. She has worked on fostering collaboration and reflection among PLCs, connecting early childhood programs to the elementary years, and designing warm, inviting, child-centered environments. Valerie has focused on cultivating strength-based leadership, fostering culture change, the design of strategic visioning, social media and helping to grow and develop new educational leaders.

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Michelle Newman-Kaplan

Michelle Newman-Kaplan is a Senior Curriculum Specialist in Sesame Workshop’s Education and Research Department. Michelle develops the educational content and age-appropriate UI for websites and digital games for "Sesame Street" and "The Electric Company" across multiple platforms. She received her M.A. in Educational Psychology from New York University.

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Katera Noviello

Katera Noviello is Director of Gymnastics and Children’s Physical Education at 92Y. She has coached competitive gymnastics, taught functional fitness and Stott Pilates, developed athletic curriculums and managed sports fitness facilities and teams. Katera holds USA Gymnastics Safety Certification, ACSM, ACE, CPR, and RTE certifications. She is in the process of becoming a USAG Certified Judge for the 2013-14 competitive seasons. Katera is currently writing a Young Adult gymnastics fiction series.

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Vivian Gussin Paley

Vivian Gussin Paley writes and teaches about the world of young children. She examines their stories and play, their logic and their thinking, searching for meaning in the social and moral landscapes of classroom life. A kindergarten teacher for 37 years, Mrs. Paley brings her storytelling/story acting and discussion techniques to children, teachers and parents throughout the world. She is the recipient of the 1987 Erikson Institute Award for Service to Children and a MacArthur Fellowship in 1989.

She received the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation for Lifetime Achievement in 1998. In 1997, her book, The Girl with the Brown Crayon, was given the Harvard University Press Virginia and Warren Stone Prize as the outstanding book about education and society. In 1999, the same book brought her the NCTE David H. Russell Award for Distinguished Research in the Teaching of English.

Mrs. Paley received the John Dewey Society's Outstanding Achievement Award for the year 2000, and in 2004 was named Outstanding Educator in the Language Arts by the National Council of Teachers of English. Her other books are: White Teacher, Wally's Stories, Boys and Girls, Mollie is Three, Bad Guys Don't Have Birthdays, The Boy Who Would be a Helicopter, You Can't Say You Can't Play, Kwanzaa and Me: A Teacher's Story, The Kindness of Children, In Mrs. Tully's Room, A Child's Work.

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Hope Prosky

Hope Prosky has been the Director and School Psychologist at the Grace Church School in Brooklyn Heights since 1983 and was a teacher before that. She has presented workshops on early childhood education on the national, state and local levels. The library at the school was a long-time dream which, with the help of colleagues and parents, she was able to make a reality. She is honored that it is named after her.

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Ann Schaumburger

Ann Schaumburger has a BS in art from Skidmore College and MS in art education from New York University. She teaches art at Little Red School House and Elizabeth Irwin High School (LREI). For many years she taught the Arts Workshop for Teachers at Bank Street College. She is a working artist whose permanent installation of glass mosaics Urban Oasis can be seen in the R, N, Q Fifth Avenue subway station.

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Jean Schreiber

Jean Schreiber earned her MS in Early Childhood Education from Bank Street College where she is on the faculty in the Continuing Professional Studies Program. For two decades, she has developed and directed early childhood programs and parenting centers. Jean consults to a wide variety of schools supporting the professional growth of educators and the social and emotional development of children and their parents both individually and in group settings.

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Alison Snow

Alison Snow works with three year olds at 92Y. She received her master’s degree from Teachers College, Columbia University in curriculum development and teaching, and her bachelor degree from Vassar College. Alison has participated in the Wonderplay initiative at 92Y since its inception, and attended the North American Reggio Emilia conference in 2010.

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Lydia Soifer

Lydia Soifer, Ph.D. a language pathologist, is assistant clinical professor of pediatrics in the Early Intervention Training Institute, at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. As a parent educator, teacher trainer and staff developer, she specializes in the needs of children with deficits in learning, behavior and communications.

Dr. Soifer founded the Soifer Center for Learning and Child Development in White Plains, NY in 1991 and is currently its director. The Soifer Center is an interdisciplinary practice of speech and language pathologists, educational therapists and psychologists specializing in identifying individual learning styles to help children achieve their maximum emotional, academic and personal potential.

Dr. Soifer has acted as a consultant to private and public schools, advising faculty on the identification and enhancement of learning for children with different learning styles. She has developed, customized and led workshops and in-service training programs.

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Catherine Steiner-Adair

Catherine Steiner-Adair is an internationally recognized clinical psychologist, consultant and educator. She divides her time working as a therapist with children, couples and families and as a school consultant, researcher and speaker.

Her focus is on strengthening students’ social and emotional resilience to unhealthy cultural values, helping schools develop curricula and programs to support students’ confidence and competence as emerging leaders and nourishing healthy relationships in the age of technology. She is a clinical instructor in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and an associate psychologist at McLean Hospital. She speaks to numerous audiences including educators, health professionals, PTA’s, religious groups and non-profit organizations.

Dr. Adair’s book, The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age has just been published by Harper Collins. It is an in-depth look at how the internet and the digital revolution are profoundly changing childhood and family dynamics and offers solutions that parents can use to shepherd their children through the technological wilderness.

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Laura Swindler

Laura Swindler is the 6-7s’ teacher at Manhattan Country School and before that she taught in a Head Start program. In 2009 Laura began teaching a graduate course in the Department of Teaching, Learning, and Culture at City College. She taught Social Studies in the Early Childhood Classroom and Curriculum in the Early Childhood Classroom. Currently, she is teaching a course at Brooklyn College called Play in Cross-cultural Contexts.

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Dr. Ron Taffel

Dr. Ron Taffel is one of the most esteemed specialists in child rearing in the country. He is the author of eight books, the latest entitled, Childhood Unbound: Authoritative Parenting for the 21st Century, and over a hundred articles on parenting and professional training. He consults to schools nationwide, serves as chair of the Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy, has a child and family therapy private practice in New York City, and is the parent of two children. Dr. Taffel has been featured in The New York Times, on "20/20," "Dateline," "The Today Show," "Good Morning America," "Primetime Live" and "Larry King."

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Eira Toral-Sukhra

Eira Toral-Sukhra has taught kindergarten and technology and has been an IT support person at the International Preschools since 2001. In 2011, along with the director of education, Eira developed the iPad program at IPS. For the past two years she has been the iPad specialist working with the 3 to 5 year olds. Eira has spoken at conferences nationwide on bringing the iPad into early childhood settings. She has 2 young children who have assisted her in her app research.

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Rosemarie T. Truglio

Rosemarie T. Truglio is the Sr. Vice President of Education and Research at Sesame Workshop (formerly Children’s Television Workshop). She is responsible for the development of the interdisciplinary curriculum on which “Sesame Street” is based, and oversees all educational research pertaining to the development of "Sesame Street" and "The Electric Company" currently on PBS Kids Go!

Previously she was an Assistant Professor of Communication and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University where she investigated the effects of television on the cognitive and social development of children and adolescents. 

She has written many articles, presented her work at national and international conferences; conducted media literacy workshops, and has appeared on numerous broadcast, cable and radio network news and talk programs, including “The Today Show,” “Good Morning America,” CNN Headline News’ “Showbiz Tonight” and NPR’s “Morning Edition.” Dr. Truglio is co-editor of G is for Growing: Thirty Years of Research on Children and Sesame Street (2001) published by Lawrence Earlbaum Associates.

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Robyn Ulzheimer

Robyn Ulzheimer has taught a range of grades in public elementary schools and is currently teaching kindergarten in an ICT classroom. She has served as a cooperating teacher working with novice teachers. Robyn has also been an adjunct faculty member at Teachers College, Bank Street and Montclair State University. She has been the recipient  of several awards and grants and presented at local, national and international conferences.

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Salvatore Vascellaro

Salvatore Vascellaro is on the graduate faculty at Bank Street College. He teaches courses in early childhood curriculum, block building, dramatic play and children’s literature; consults in NYC schools with teachers, administrators and families; and oversees the fieldwork of apprentice teachers. He has been principal of the New Lincoln elementary school and a teacher in Head Start, Day Care and elementary schools. His focus on the essential role of trips as a vital force in the education of children is developed in his recent book, Out of the Classroom and into the World.

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Dena Warren

Dena Warren has been a head teacher at the 92Y Nursery School since 1998 and is also an administrator at 92Y’s Camp K’Ton Ton. She has held several roles in the camp administration and is currently the camp coordinator. Prior to joining the 92Y faculty, Ms. Warren taught kindergarten at St. Hilda’s & St. Hugh’s School and at the West Side YMCA CO-OP Nursery.

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Roberta Willenken

Roberta Willenken has been teaching 4’s and 5’s at the 92Y Nursery School for many years. She believes that creative and interesting group times are essential for building a thriving classroom community. She is the author of Learn the Alphabet Arts and Crafts, and a book on transition and meeting activities “in the works,” both published by Scholastic, Inc.

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Karina Zilberman

Karina Zilberman is Director of Jewish Family Life and Culture for the Bronfman Center for Jewish Life at 92Y .She started educating and entertaining through music as a singer in her native Buenos Aires. She joined 92Y in 2007 to develop a Jewish community of families with young children, now known as the 92Y Shababa™ community.  Shababa Fridays – a Shabbat preparation gathering for young children and their grownups featuring music, puppets and dance now serves more than 300 families. Karina is also trained in cantorial singing and sings in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Ladino, Hebrew and Yiddish. She has released four CDs.

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