School Administrators

Ashley Sobel

Executive Director

Ashley joined the Olive Treehouse Group in 2014, after spending seven years working as the Director of a large private nursery school on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. She holds her Bachelor’s degree from New York University and a Masters degree in Early Childhood Education from Teachers College at Columbia University, as well as her permanent New York State Teaching License for Birth-2nd Grade. Ashley believes early childhood learning is the cornerstone of education, where children should be immersed in opportunities for hands-on experiential learning, given the chance to inquire, explore and make unique observations about the world around them. Ashley lives in Brooklyn with her wife and three children, ages 12, 7 and 5 years old, and their brand new pandemic puppy!

Deb Capone

Founder

Deborah is a local Brooklyn mom of three children. Motivated by the lack of quality options available to her as she tried to find a preschool for her own children when they were young, Deborah created the concept for Parker’s Place. She previously worked as a manager and creative specialist at a boutique Business Management and Consulting firm in Manhattan. Deborah holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Northeastern University and an Associates Degree in Advertising Design from the Fashion Institute of Technology.

Ryan Shaps

Director of Operations

Ryan has worked with children since his teenage years as camp counselor, traveling teen tour advisor, part time nanny as well as arts and crafts instructor. He facilitated the opening of a successful play space in New York City, and following that worked as an Assistant and then Head Teacher at the Olive Treehouse Group schools for 7 years. Ryan passionately believes in “The Whole Child Approach” and learning through play. He encourages creating a classroom environment where each student is engaged, supported and challenged. Ryan received his Bachelors Degree in Graphic Design at Lynn University. He utilizes his multi-dimensional background in his administrative role with the Olive Treehouse Group, after many wonderful years working as a teacher.

Katie Portelli

Education Director

Katie began as a classroom teacher with The Olive Treehouse Group in 2005. A Brooklyn native, she is a mom of two human children and one fur baby! Katie holds a MA in Early Childhood Education and Special Education as well as a BA in Sociology. After having worked with teenagers for many years in the non-profit sector, her love for teaching early childhood came about quite naturally when her own children were born. Katie developed and operated a licensed family daycare in her home before transitioning to the classroom. Katie loves supporting the OTG teachers as they develop curriculum and brings her passion for healthy living, cultural consciousness, and environmental awareness to program planning.

Parker's Place

Jennifer Berton

Head Teacher

Jennifer believes that learning is a lifelong pursuit. After teaching elementary and early childhood Jewish education for seventeen years, she then spent a year at a Reggio Emilia inspired school, incorporating open ended materials into children’s play and allowing the students’ questions to drive the learning process. As a child, Jennifer played in the mud, climbed trees and explored outside. She believes children need to spend time outdoors freely exploring. In the classroom, Jennifer enjoys playing the guitar and singing on a daily basis, incorporating songs in multiple languages, as well as some of the folk songs that she grew up with. With a Master’s Degree in Childhood Education, Jennifer has worked with children from twos through third grade. Jennifer has lived in Park Slope for 25 years with her two children and many instruments!

Ashley Tamaroff

Head Teacher

Ashley lived in Michigan before moving to New York in Fall of 2013. She graduated from Eastern Michigan University with her Elementary Teaching degree and subsequently completed her Masters Degree from Hunter College in Early Childhood Education. Her experience includes working as a preschool teacher, instructional assistant and occupational therapist, and tutoring children of various ages, and working after care with ages five to thirteen. She feels that every child learns in a different way and each child’s individuality thrives through the arts. Ashley has always had a love of working with kids specifically through the arts and creative studies. It is important for children to learn to advocate for themselves, become individuals, and learn to make good choices. She thinks it is amazing to watch children make connections about the world around them and believes it is of the utmost importance that their teachers provide a warm and supporting environment to do so.

Ciara Lim

Head Teacher

Ciara lived in the Philippines prior to moving to Brooklyn in 2007. She graduated from CUNY-CSI with a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and recently completed her Master's degree in Instructional Technology at Touro College. With her 7 years of experiences teaching in early childhood education, she believes in the power of children’s imagination and simplicity. She finds learning through play, at this age group, both affective and vital in all factors of a child’s well-rounded growth and development. She loves to do anything creative and artistic with the children and use it as a base to develop and encourage social skills, build confidence and awareness of feelings and emotions. She practices the use of listening ears, helping hands and an open mind to make connections with young children. In the classroom, you can find her building in the block area, doing art activities, reading books to the children, and running around with children during outdoor time!

Gina Runfola

Associate Teacher

Gina was a substitute and assistant at a private Pre-K - 8 school in New Jersey for four years where she also taught music to grades Pre-K - 2 and music appreciation to 3 - 8. She’s tutored every age in reading, writing and literacy from two to twenty-two, helped host events at Bank Street School with Bank Street Bookstore, and spent four years as head of Children’s Books and events, and Storytime Lady, at a Barnes and Noble. Some of her favorite children's books include, Miss Rumphius, Inch By Inch, The Book With No Pictures and Good Dog, Carl. She studied literature at NYU and plans to continue studying education and literacy. She believes in listening to children carefully in order to help them learn to speak in their own unique voices.

Brian Shabaglian

Associate Teacher

Originally from California, Brian relocated to New York over a decade ago to pursue his interests in art. His beginnings as a teacher came about organically when assisting a friend with a summer camp program in Brooklyn. He subsequently joined The Olive Treehouse Group as a substitute and later became assistant teacher at Rory’s Room. His dynamic approach to early childhood education is focused on experiential learning through self-guided creative play in individuated and group settings. Brian has been with the Olive Treehouse Group since 2011.

Rory's Room

Greta Feit

Head Teacher

As a native New Yorker, Greta understands the beauty and wonderment of having this city be the place that raises you. She stayed true to her New York roots, by attending Hunter College for her undergraduate degree, where she studied Studio Art and Dance. Greta received her Masters in Early Childhood Education from Hunter College in 2018. Greta has been working with young children for over a decade. Whether babysitting, teaching children’s yoga classes, or working in the classroom, she has always been fascinated by the different ways children learn and interact with their peers. She believes that children’s curiosity should guide their learning, as any curriculum becomes more meaningful and relevant when young people have a say in what they learn about. She has found that being patient and playful with children is key to having them establish a love of learning and a deeper understanding of the world around them.

Kate Rakowski

Head Teacher

Kate graduated from Northeastern University with a BA in Theatre and has spent more than a decade working with young children. She got her start as a teacher working with a Head Start program in CT where she developed her passion for early education. She also performed children’s theatre with Connecticut Free Shakespeare and taught classes in improv and movement for students ages 11-18. Kate joined Olive Treehouse Group in 2014 and is currently completing her Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education at Brooklyn College. She loves reading and creating stories with the children, messy art projects and exploring nature.

Daisy Amigon

Associate Teacher

Daisy is a Brooklyn native who always aspired to become a teacher. She is currently enrolled at Brooklyn College and is pursuing her Bachelors Degree in Early Childhood Education with a concentratrion in English. One of her passions, which lead her to the field, is reading books to young children. She even aspires to write her own children's book someday! Daisy has previously worked with at risk preschool children living within the shelter system. It was here that she realized of the power of a positive early childhood educator in a young person's life. Daisy considers herself a student just like the children, and she believes that there can always be an exchange of ideas and learning styles. Daisy loves to learn and hopes to inspire the same in the children she teaches!

Debbie Yorizzo

Associate Teacher

Debbie is a veteran educator, with nearly 20 years experience in the field. She holds a Masters in Childhood Education, and has worked in educational environments both stateside and abroad, in London and Berlin. She knows the outdoors is a key complement to the traditional classroom, believes strongly in one-to-one connections made with children, and loves diving into imaginative storytelling as a means to deepen social-emotional learning. She is thrilled to join the Olive Treehouse Group family!

Hudson's House

Sam Bruckner

Head Teacher

Sam graduated from Brooklyn College with a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education. Sam has worked as an early childhood educator since 2012. Project based inquiry is the cornerstone of Sam's work with his students. He enjoys the process of making discoveries with the children, and witnessing the moments that they make connections between ideas. Sam loves working with children to create amazing structures through the use of blocks and other building materials, creating artwork, and reading literature and building stories with children. He shares his sense of humor with children, and is delighted as his students begin develop their own.

Jenesa Cabrera

Head Teacher

Jenesa joined the Olive Treehouse group in 2018. She grew up in Massachusetts, where she started babysitting at a young age for friends and family. In high school Jenesa started working at a local daycare, which motivated her to pursue a career working with young children. She then worked two private preschools, in addition to Bright Horizons. Jenesa moved to Carroll Gardens in 2014 to be a full time live-in nanny. She believes in a learning environment that fosters strong cognitive development, where children are provided the opportunity to think, understand, and process the world around them. Jenesa loves to read with the children, understanding that reading not only expands a child’s worldview, but also their sense of empathy within a global community.

Floater Teachers & Consultants

Jocelyn Wood

Speech & Language Pathologist

Jocelyn M. Wood is a bilingual speech language pathologist with over a decade of experience. She specializes in working with parents of young children to introduce speech and language activities into everyday routines. Her work has been featured in The Bump, Romper and Fatherly. Jocelyn offers both individual services and small group coaching that help children thrive. For more information, go to www.jocelynmwood.com or @speechwithjwo on Instagram.

Audrey Hair

Teacher

With a degree in Film Studies and Creative Writing from Pace University, Audrey believes in storytelling as a powerful social-emotional tool that exists in many forms, including reading, imaginative play, art projects and music. Audrey grew up in Southern California, where she spent her childhood hiking, camping, and surfing with her family. She believes that proximity to nature is an incredible grounding tool for children, and outside time is of utmost importance. With six years of nannying experience, Audrey has learned to employ simple mindfulness-based exercises that promote compassionate, positive awareness in children and caregivers alike. She is looking forward to bringing those practices into the classroom.

Zoe Senese-Grossberg

Teacher

Zoe is a teaching artist from Brooklyn, NY. Zoe was raised around early intervention, with her parents having met working at the Elizabeth Seton Pediatric Center. Her earliest memories are around accompanying her mother to E.I. speech therapy appointments around Brooklyn. Since then, her life has kept in close proximity to education and early childhood be it leading tot services at the local Synagogue, working as a teaching assistant and babysitter, or her recent job at the specialty children's bookstore, Books of Wonder. In addition to teaching at the Olive Treehouse Group, Zoe teaches after school drama at New Voices Middle School. As a musician, playwright, and director, storytelling, imaginative play, and the arts are incredibly important to Zoe as an educator and she hopes to help children find their voice as early as possible. She feels incredibly lucky to be a part of an organization like the Olive Treehouse Group that is so committed to inspiring young children's creativity and building community.

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