Meet our Faculty


Mandela - Kindergarten

"I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear."
Martin Luther King Jr.

Jenny Trani - Master Teacher

Ms. Trani has been teaching elementary school for 18 years. She has worked in grades K-5. She has taught in many learning environments including private and public school. While most of her experience has been in working with students in K-2, Ms. Trani has a passion for teaching mathematics to all ages. On the weekends she enjoys traveling, reading, and spending time with her family.



BA Liberal Arts: Mathematics Education; Long Beach State University

MA Mathematics Education; San Diego State University

Tia Edwards-Hutchinson
Associate Teacher 

Fatima Toure
Associate Teacher  

PAtrice HArrow
Teaching assistant 


Team Truth

SeconD grade

"It is the mind that makes the body"

Sojourner Truth

Ivy Cole - Master Teacher

Ivy Cole has been teaching elementary education for the last twelve years.  She has experience teaching kindergarten through fourth grade in Jersey City, Harlem, the South Bronx and now in Brooklyn.  She is honored to be a member of TNAACS community and lead Team Truth.  She is passionate about creating warm and welcoming learning environments and engaging all students in learning that is meaningful and fun.  Ms. Cole was born and raised in Pennsylvania.  She came to New York for graduate school and has taught in the city ever since.  Outside of school, Ms. Cole loves reading, traveling, dogs, art, and most of all spending time with her family and friends. 


Undergraduate Degree in Elementary Education and Sociology from Boston College
M.A. in Literacy from Teachers College, Columbia University

Francesca Vieux
apprentice Teacher 

Justin Lapidus
Associate Teacher  

Portia Joseph
Associate Teacher 

Tyrone Davis
teaching assistant   


Team Tubman

Third grade

"Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world"

Harriet Tubman

Olawa Gibson - Master Teacher

Olawa started with the New American Academy Charter School upon its opening as a kindergarten Master Teacher in 2013.  The model of TNAACS was highly appealing and inspiring to Olawa. She had already been in education for 8 years and was looking for something more aligned to her own values and beliefs as an educator.  With the school's mission of "empowering learners and inspiring leaders to make this a better world", Olawa felt like she found a work place to call home.  

Born and raised in Harlem, New York, Olawa attended the New York City public school system.  In high school she was an athlete participating in the sports track and field as well as cross-country.  She earned recognition for being the teams MIP and MVP for consecutive seasons and later attended the State University of New York at Buffalo.  After graduating from college she began dancing at Dance Theatre of Harlem as well as Alvin Ailey's Pre-Professional Dance Training Program.  She did freelance dancing for a few years before starting her family.  As a career changer she started teaching and was happy to realize that a lot of her experiences and skills learned in track and field as well as dance was applicable in education.  She's always managed to infuse these skills into her own teaching, constantly encouraging her students to develop their characters through discipline, hard work, and aspiration.  Since Olawa has been at TNAACS she has grown as a professional, attending professional development at Harvard, Yale, and Columbia University.  This professional development has helped Olawa to mentor and support others within The New American Academy Charter School Community.   


BA Social Sciences/Interdisciplinary Studies; State University of New York at Buffalo

MED Childhood Education; City College of New York


Ayanna Jones
associate Teacher 

Rachael Losco
Associate Teacher 

Sade Lucero
apprentice Teacher 

Elisa De Valle
Teaching assistant 


Team Angelou

fourtH grade

"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

Sheila Osnes - Master Teacher

Sheila Hopkins-Osnes has been with the New American Academy Charter School since it opened in 2013.  Currently, she is the master teacher for Team Angelou and provides coaching and mentoring to teachers as well as instructional support to students. She is also a member of the Educational Leadership Team, which makes school-wide policy decisions.

Ms. Hopkins-Osnes has contributed to the school leadership in a number of different ways, including acting as the school’s testing coordinator for three years.  She is also leading the school’s District-Charter Collaborative Team.  This team collaborates with other District and Charter schools for the purpose of sharing innovative math practices and ensuring equity in instruction.

Ms. Hopkins-Osnes has over 25 years of teaching and administrative experience in both the private and public sectors.  Her teaching experience includes grades ranging from 1 through 8, Gifted and Talented Program Facilitator and District 2’s Distinguished Teacher Program.  Ms. Hopkins-Osnes recently completed a school leadership program at The College of St. Rose and has received both her School Building and School District Leader Certifications.

When she’s not at the New American Academy Charter School, Ms. Osnes loves reading fiction, spending time at the beach with her family, and cooking.



B.A.     University at Albany

MSEd.  Baruch College

SBL/SDL Certifications, The College of St. Rose

Bionca Olimpio
partner Teacher 

Michelle Perkins
Associate Teacher 

Paulina Tisson
apprentice Teacher 

Robin Darden
teaching assistant 


Team Obama

Fifth grade

"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek."

Barack Obama

Migdalia Vargas - Master Teacher

In 2006, she became one of the founding teachers at a charter school in the South Bronx.  She taught first grade for three years and decided to move to fourth grade to improve her craft.  In 2011, she lead the fourth grade team at a charter school in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.  Ms. Vargas also launched a Parent Academic Teacher Team.  She met with parents three times a year to ensure they not only understood math and reading concepts, but were able to assist their children at home.  In Brooklyn, she gained exposure to not only leading the fourth grade team, but mentoring and coaching teachers new to the school and teaching in general.  Through workshops and one-on-one meetings, Ms. Vargas was able to assist kindergarten through eighth grade teachers on best practices.  Ms. Vargas had the privilege of taking her coaching expertise to the next level by only focusing on the needs of kindergarten through fourth grade.  Now as master teacher at TNAACS since 2016, Ms. Vargas can utilize her professional experiences and the experience of her team to help students in grades three to five become lifelong learners.  Ms. Vargas participates on several committees for TNAACS, such as hiring and scheduling.  She also consistently seeks out innovative curriculum programs and tutors to prepare students for the NYS exams.  Ms. Vargas strives to look for various fundraisers so her students can enjoy exciting activities and actively involves parent participation.



M.S., Childhood Education, Fordham University, New York, NY June 2006

B.A., Business Administration, Metropolitan College of New York, New York, NY June 2003


Christine Phillips
Associate Teacher 

Latara Bell
Associate Teacher 

Very Moraza
Teaching assistant





Matthew Harrington - Director of Operations

Matthew Harrington is the founding Director of Operations that was part of a team that helped launch the elementary school in 2013 serving students in the East Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn. In his role he oversees the operations at the school, the management of a 6 person operations staff, oversight of the annual budget, and ensuring implementation and maintenance of systems. 

Before co-founding the charter school, Matthew completed a Master of Arts in Education & Social Policy at New York University Steinhardt and a non-degree program in Psychology at Harvard University Extension School. 

Matthew has completed Leadership and Coaching Academies with Next Jump University and a 5-day Personality Type and Communication Seminar at Harvard University with Professor Barry Jentz. Matthew also had the privilege of attending seminars with the NAVY seals and NAVY Special Warfare Command around teamwork and feedback. 

When not managing the operations of a school, Matthew can usually be found in the kitchen preparing meals for his 1 year old daughter or playing basketball on the weekends. Matthew also enjoys updating his personal finance spreadsheets and reading non-fiction books. 



M.A. Education and Social Policy, New York University

Barnaby Berrios
Operations Assistant 

Lisa Watkins
Marketing director

Elyssa LeBris
Office manager

Dacia Simon
Office Coordinator

Isabel Prado
Operations and Community Outreach coordinator


Student Support Social Emotional & Behavioral


Tina Spaic - Director of Special Education & Student Support 

As the Director of Special Education & Student Support, Tina oversees the emotional and behavioral aspects of student support as well as issues relating to Individual Education Programs (IEPs). Tina manages initial, annual, and re-evaluation referrals, communicating and coordinating with parents, school staff, and the Committee on Special Education at the DOE.  

Prior to coming to TNAACS, Tina worked as an education researcher for organizations such as City University of New York (CUNY), Center for an Urban Future, and NYC Office of Workforce Development.


M.S. in School Psychology, Brooklyn College (in process) 

MPA, New York University
BA, University of Massachusetts, Boston

Ginelle Gonzales
student support councelor

Krystal Blackwood
Dean of Students

Joel Williams
dean of culture


Student Academic Support


Leigh Terry - Lead Special Education Teach 

Leigh Terry is the Lead Special Education Teacher at TNAACS. She has been teaching at TNAACS for 6 years. Ms. Terry is originally from Lawrenceville, GA but moved to Brooklyn in 2013. She enjoys spoiling her dog, going to as many Broadway shows as possible, and being involved in her college Alumni Club (Auburn Tigers for life!)



BS Early Childhood Special Education; Auburn University

M Ed. Autism and Behavior Disorders; Auburn University

Nicole Johnson
Intervention Specialist

Natalie Paul
Special Education Teacher

Christine Crowley
MLL/ELL/Coordinator and SETTS




Erik Bonadonna
Specialist in Educational Technology/ Technology Teacher

Ryan McTernan
music Teacher

Jakup Gjokaj
physical educations, health & wellness instructor