Faculty and Staff
Preschool Faculty Three and four year olds
Clara BuckleyLead Teacher, Rivers Class Middle School Art; STEAM
Sarah ChalmersAssistant Teacher, Sky Class; Drama Teacher
Felicity GreeneLead Teacher, Sky Class
Nathan JohnsonLead Teacher, Trees Class Lower School Art
Kristen JordanAssistant Teacher, Trees Class
Amy KadotaAssistant Teacher, Rivers Class
Michele Boerman PostemaAssistant Teacher, Rivers Class
Lower School Faculty K-3
Nancy AbergAssistant Teacher, First Grade
Becca BrasserLead Teacher, First Grade
Dorota ChesterAssistant Teacher, First Grade
Gabriel CuervoAssistant Teacher, Kindergarten
Bridget FaleyLead Teacher, Kindergarten
Kim KnoesterLead Teacher, Kindergarten
Cindy KuperusLead Teacher Second/Third Grade; Second
Rebekah LoweLead Teacher, Second/Third Grade
Sam MartinoAssistant Teacher, Second/Third Grade
Melia McHughLead Teacher, Second/Third Grade
Cinthia SantosAssistant Teacher, Kindergarten
Kate StreelmanLead Teacher, First Grade
Zandi SuttonAssistant Teacher, Second/Third Grade
Heather WeleskoAssistant Teacher, Second/Third Grade; Teacher, Literacy
Middle School Faculty 4-8
Rachel BuysSixth Grade Literature, Language Arts, Math
Sam ChoiScience, History, and Ethics, Sixth to Eighth Grades
Brent HarrisLanguage Arts, Seventh and Eighth Grades
Emma HealeyLead Teacher, Fourth/Fifth Grade
Katherine JonkerLead Teacher, Fourth/Fifth Grade
Melissa McCallihanLead Teacher, Fourth/Fifth Grade
Dana BakerLearning Specialist Grades Nest to Grade 3; Agnes and Peter Steenland Memorial Chair for Professional Development
Clara BuckleyLead Teacher, Rivers Class Middle School Art; STEAM
Nathan JohnsonLead Teacher, Trees Class Lower School Art
Gary LawrenceColeman Fung Chair for Mathematics; Teacher of Pre-Algebra and Algebra
Zachary LicatoPhysical Education and Health
Joan Isaacs LitmanArtist-in-Residence
Aiko MauldinColeman Fung Chair for Music; Director of Songsters, Choristers, and Music Educator for Grades K-5; Worship Leader Director of the PROS (Percussion, Recorder, Orff, Servants)
Zachary NordlingLower School Art and Math; Shared Space Coordinator
Tania Oro-HahnSpanish, Grades Two through Eighth, Worship Leader Kindergarten through Eighth Grade
Jessica SmithMusic Teacher, Grades 6-8; Worship Coordinator Chorus
Gladys WuLearning Specialist, Grades Four to Eight
Reynaldo BarreraFacilities Manager
Abigail Hall ChoiDirector of School Initiatives & Improvement; Director of Middle School Student Culture
Lisa GalarzaMiddle School Director
Jennifer GautierOffice Manager & Technology Coordinator
Angela HoDirector of Finance & Operations
Abby LiuDirector of Marketing & Communications
Nancy MichaelAdministrative Associate
Gloria MiltnerSchool Secretary
Kate NordlingDevelopment Associate
Sebastian OlukunBusiness Administrator
Shanna PargellisLower School Director
Thomas PostemaHead of School
Imaani F. SandersDirector of Admissions and Community Relations
Emily SytsmaEarly Childhood Director; Coleman Fung Chair for Creativity and Design
Support & Enrichment Staff
After School Staff
Tony HuangViolin / Piano
Matt LepekFlute / Clarinet / Saxophone
Aiko MauldinColeman Fung Chair for Music; Director of Songsters, Choristers, and Music Educator for Grades K-5; Worship Leader Director of the PROS (Percussion, Recorder, Orff, Servants)
Jessica SmithMusic Teacher, Grades 6-8; Worship Coordinator Chorus
Clara Buckleycbuckley@mustardseedschool.org Preschool Faculty Lead Teacher, Rivers Class Academic Specialists Middle School Art; STEAM Education Manchester Metropolitan University; University of London
Clara Buckley’s teaching spans the ages of Mustard Seed School, from the youngest students in The Nest to students in the graduating class. She has found many similarities between teaching three-year-olds and thirteen-year-olds!
As an art teacher who never enjoyed drawing, Ms Buckley’s hope is that each child she teaches discovers a way to create art that they enjoy, whether it be sculpture, printing, textiles, architectural drawing, or collage.
Passionate about developing well-rounded citizens, Ms. Buckley utilized her background in art, math, and physics to collaborate in the creation and implementation of a STEAM curriculum in the 4th and 5th grade program at Mustard Seed. This innovative work was shared and presented locally and nationally at conferences for the New Jersey Association of Independent Schools and at the National Science Teachers Association. Ms. Buckley has over 15 years experience teaching in both the UK and USA, in private, religious, and public schools, working with students in preK-12th Grade.
Ms. Buckley loves living in Jersey City, a place whose diversity and welcome for immigrants reflects her own family experience. When planning future travel destinations, art, food, and time with family are featured items on her list.
Sarah Chalmersschalmers@mustardseedschool.org Preschool Faculty Assistant Teacher, Sky Class; Drama Teacher Education Eastern Michigan University
For over 20 years, Sarah Chalmers has worked in many different capacities with children of all age levels. She’s passionate about drama being a place for children to find their voice and develop confidence. She works to create an accessible curriculum that allows children who struggle a place to shine and be seen in a different light by peers and teachers alike. Using drama, storytelling, and play, Ms. Chalmers builds connection and understanding with her students. Her hope is that children leave her classroom knowing that they are loved, they have their own story to tell, and that their words are important.
Ms. Chalmers has worked with Roundabout Theatre Company, Hoboken Children’s Theater, Mile Square Theatre, The Hudson School, Mount Clemens Youth Theater (MI), and other theater companies in the Detroit area. Ms. Chalmers spent nine years as the director of the Mustard Seed School Drama Club, where she built the program from a few students to over 40. During her 10+ years at Mustard Seed School, Ms.Chalmers has produced, stage managed and directed nine different Drama Nights, six musicals, nine Nest Christmas celebrations and Easter celebrations, one jousting tournament and countless retellings of folk and fairy tales in the Nest.
Originally from Michigan, Ms. Chalmer’s a die-hard fan of all Detroit sports, has a never ending to-be-read pile of nerdy history books, is really good at Jeopardy, and can jumpstart a 1978 Ford Granada with a bad starter solenoid using only a screwdriver. Ms. Chalmers grew up camping, and credits her excellent blanket fort building skills to years of watching her dad create a “tarp city” over their campsites.
Nancy Abergnaberg@mustardseedschool.org Lower School Faculty Assistant Teacher, First Grade Education University of California Santa Barbara
Every year on her birthday when she was growing up, Nancy Aberg would blow out the candles on her cake and make a wish to become a teacher one day. Although it may have been a circuitous route that took a few decades, her childhood wish came true! From the nuts and bolts of running a hardware store in Manhattan Beach, California, to creating media plans for advertising clients in Manhattan, her path eventually led to the Mustard Seed School community, first as a parent and volunteer, and now as a staff member.
During her childhood years, Ms. Aberg was inspired by the lives of three strong women in her family, who were, in the eyes of a child, all teachers. Her grandmother Delphine was a caring and compassionate housemother and instructor at the Devereux School in Pennsylvania. Ms. Aberg’s cousin and godmother, Francoise, has worked with L’Arche in India since 1967, serving the needs of the most vulnerable and forgotten. Her patience, humility, and commitment to those she serves has no limit. And her Aunt Winkie, who worked tirelessly, under extremely difficult conditions, in the children’s ward of a now defunct psychiatric hospital. As a child, Ms. Aberg recalls visits to the hospital and field trips to area beaches: swimming, playing tag, and grilling hot dogs with her aunt’s charges. Though a child herself at the time, Ms. Aberg knew that these moments were precious, important, and rare for these children.
Becca Brasserbbrasser@mustardseedschool.org Lower School Faculty Lead Teacher, First Grade Education Calvin College; New Jersey City University
Becca Brasser has been teaching first grade at Mustard Seed School since 2002. She’s passionate about teaching children to read, write, experiment, and take risks as they explore the world around them. Her own studies (including a Master of Arts degree from New Jersey City University) have given her expertise and experience in the area of literacy education.
Ms. Brasser especially enjoys taking her students on field trips all over the New York Metropolitan area, traveling on foot, subway, bus, commuter train, and ferry. Some favorite trips: the Hudson Hike, the New York Transit Museum, and the Central Park Zoo to study penguins.
Several years ago, Ms. Brasser had the opportunity to travel to Reggio Emilia, a town in Italy, to study their early childhood approach. The Reggio Emilia approach incorporates life in city communities and exposure to the natural world. Becca looks forward to sharing these kinds of experiences with her students each day. A memorable natural experience for Ms. Brasser’s students is caring for Hermione, the nearly-twenty-year-old red-eared slider turtle that lives in the Sun Class!
Although she lives in the city, Ms. Brasser loves escaping to nature and finding it in her everyday life as well. She loves to explore rivers and lakes, woods and mountains with her husband Matt, their daughter, Annika, and son, Theo.
Rachel Buysrbuys@mustardseedschool.org Middle School Faculty Sixth Grade Literature, Language Arts, Math Education Covenant College; Covenant College
Dana Bakerdbaker@mustardseedschool.org Academic Specialists Learning Specialist Grades Nest to Grade 3; Agnes and Peter Steenland Memorial Chair for Professional Development Education Calvin College; Bank Street College
Thomas Postematpostema@mustardseedschool.org Administrative Staff Head of School Education Master of Education, Calvin College; Master of Arts in Philosophy, Columbia University of New York; Bachelor of Arts, Philosophy, Calvin College
An educator for over 35 years, Mr. Postema has taught math and been a school administrator at international schools in Japan and South Korea, as well as schools in the USA (New Jersey and Alaska). He taught at Mustard Seed from 1989-1991 when Mr. Cuervo and Mr. Johnson were MSS students! Since arriving back at Mustard Seed in 2011 as Head of School, Mr. Postema has successfully led the school through the NJAIS accreditation process and the Together for Tomorrow endowment campaign, which raised over $3M to benefit MSS students. Mr. Postema loves to tell the Mustard Seed story and is passionate about the mission to serve families from all walks of life.
Mr. Postema’s three children attended Mustard Seed and he would love it if his three grandchildren lived close enough to be students at the school. An avid traveler, Mr. Postema has visited over 30 countries in his adventures abroad.
Betty Ciarlobciarlo@mustardseedschool.org Support & Enrichment Staff Counselor
Tony HuangAfter School Staff Violin / Piano
Nathan Johnsonnjohnson@mustardseedschool.org Preschool Faculty Lead Teacher, Trees Class Academic Specialists Lower School Art Education Lenoir-Rhyne University
Nathan Johnson graduated in 2004 from Lenoir-Rhyne University with a Bachelor of Arts in Art Education, focusing on Illustration, Art History, and Puppetry.
Newly licensed to teach, Mr. Johnson headed up to Nova Scotia and did something completely different for ten years: working with L’Arche, an international organization with the mission of advocating for and assisting adults with developmental differences through ecumenical Christian community life. As a Mustard Seed graduate himself (Class of 1995), the idea of Christian community was nothing new, but to actually share a home and daily life with a group of differently-abled adults was nothing short of transformative.
When God led Mr. Johnson back to teaching, he knew exactly where he wanted to go. Back at his alma mater since 2014, Mr. Johnson has passionately committed his career to preserving the dignity and wonder of childhood. As children are more and more burdened with technology and privilege, he believes that in order for children to learn and grow, they must be given freedom within structure, choices with guidance, while being encouraged to play and get dirty, and above all, for each child to be taught that he or she is a beloved child of God.
When not in the classroom, Mr. Nathan can be found kayaking in the Hudson, camping in Nova Scotia, at a game night with his colleagues, wandering around New York City, making faces in the mirror, or spending time with his 11 nieces and nephews.
Kristen Jordankjordan@mustardseedschool.org Preschool Faculty Assistant Teacher, Trees Class Education Harvard College; Teachers College at Columbia University
Kristen Jordan began helping at Mustard Seed School in 2006, after her daughter had been a student in The Nest. She substituted for many years in all grades; in 2011, she returned to the classroom and has been a teacher in The Nest ever since.
Prior to the birth of her daughter Clara, in 2002, Ms. Jordan worked in Brooklyn as a first grade teacher with the New York City Public Schools. During this time, her school collaborated with the Brooklyn Museum, and this work helped Ms. Jordan develop a real interest in the parallels between the process of making art and the process of writing in the classroom. She thoroughly enjoys teaching both art and literacy to preschoolers.
Her background includes work with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. While at Teachers College, she trained with esteemed educator and author Lucy Calkins. Early in her teaching career, Ms. Jordan did not think that she wanted to teach very young children but her view has changed! She now really enjoys and takes great interest in young children and their development.
Ms. Jordan enjoys reading, working out, hiking, cooking, and spending time with her daughter and family. Although she has lived on the East Coast for a very long time, as a native of Oregon, she really loves the mountains!
Amy Kadotaahitotsubashi@mustardseedschool.org Preschool Faculty Assistant Teacher, Rivers Class Education Yale University; Teachers College, Columbia University
Amy Kadota has served as an assistant teacher in The Nest and Lower School, focusing on fine arts educational support and guidance in hands-on exploration.
Struggling in beginning Japanese classes, Ms. Kadota became interested in the factors that impact a student’s ability to learn language and communicate. She continued to explore this throughout her years teaching English and drama to college students in Japan and to refugees, asylum seekers, and at-risk youth in New York City.
After homeschooling her two children in Brooklyn, NY and teaching Sunday school in city churches over the years, she came to Mustard Seed, attracted by the community learning that she saw nurtured here. She continues to be encouraged in her learning by colleagues and students alike.
When she is not at Mustard Seed, Ms. Kadota writes, bakes wedding cakes, and cares for a family member. During the summer, she gardens, reads early medieval history, and hikes in the north of England.
Cinthia Santoscsantos@mustardseedschool.org Lower School Faculty Assistant Teacher, Kindergarten
Ms. Santos brings more than 20 years of experience working with young children, from volunteering at Mustard Seed during her high school years, to nannying and caring for children in the community, to teaching in The Nest and Kindergarten. Ms. Santos was hired by Ms. Pargellis to pilot the preschool Grace and Peace, which we now know as The Nest. She has taught in the Rocks, Rivers, Trees, and Sky classes, and now brings her experience to the kindergarten program in the Earth class. She offers foundational knowledge of child development, passion for visual arts, advocacy for play, and strong student-teacher relationships.
Ms. Santos loves singing, powerlifting (she can deadlift Mr. Postema!), and spending time with her two tiny dogs, Luna and Dott. She prefers bright colors over neutrals, and never turns down a gift of coffee or bacon. Her hope is that all of her students would know they are deeply and wholeheartedly loved by God, and she aims to model that love each day in her teaching.
Emily Sytsmaesytsma@mustardseedschool.org Administrative Staff Early Childhood Director; Coleman Fung Chair for Creativity and Design Education Syracuse University; Webster University
Ms. Sytsma began her career as an educator working in inclusive classrooms in the state of Hawaii but found her roots began to grow here at Mustard Seed School when she came to teach in 1996. She joined The Nest team in 2007, after teaching for many years in the Middle School. She finds delight in The Nest’s approach to teaching and learning which is inspired by the preschools in Reggio Emilia, Italy. As Early Childhood Director, she seeks to support teachers in their work helping children learn about thinking and creative expression.
When not at school, Ms. Sytsma enjoys traveling with her husband and two children, who are Mustard Seed School students. She tends a very simple rooftop garden in Jersey City Heights and on long Saturday mornings, she may be seen taking long walks along the Hudson River and listening to audiobooks or podcasts while organizing her thoughts and getting her heart rate up.
Bridget Faleybfaley@mustardseedschool.org Lower School Faculty Lead Teacher, Kindergarten Education St. Mary’s College, Notre Dame, IN
Ms. Faley came to Mustard Seed in 2017, after moving to Hoboken in 2016. She found a school and a community all in one package at Mustard Seed! Having taught kindergarten in Illinois before moving to New Jersey, Ms. Faley has a passion for five-year-olds. She’s delighted to be a part of the kindergarten team and loves to read and share in story with students. Her favorite moment of the day is during a good read aloud, when she looks out and sees the faces of children showing empathy and emotion in response to the story. Ms. Faley’s hobbies include exploring new neighborhoods, watching BBC documentaries, travelling to visit family, and eating her way through New York City.
Dorota Chesterdchester@mustardseedschool.org Lower School Faculty Assistant Teacher, First Grade Education University of Warsaw
Dorota Chester has been a member of the Mustard Seed School community for almost two decades, first as a parent and volunteer and then a staff member. Her love for education started when she was a child in Poland and participated in the national scout organization, in which she quickly gained a leadership position. After pursuing an education degree over 30 years ago, she taught children from first to third grades.
When she moved to the United States, Ms. Chester’s passion for teaching continued. She taught at a Polish supplementary school during the week and on Sundays taught religion classes at a local church. When her first son attended Mustard Seed, she saw the passion of the staff and joined them as a volunteer for the many years that her three sons were students. In 2011, the opportunity arose for her to become a full time first grade teacher at Mustard Seed and she jumped at the chance.
During her time off, Ms. Chester can be found at the beach, swimming, and biking. She enjoys sports and spent many years shuttling her boys to sports practices and games. She loves to cook, especially stuffed cabbage, pierogies, and cucumber soup.
Gabriel Cuervogcuervo@mustardseedschool.org Lower School Faculty Assistant Teacher, Kindergarten Education course work: Hudson Community College; New Jersey City University
Gabe Cuervo started his work at Mustard Seed School in 1999, and is honored to be working and learning from many Mustard Seed teachers. In the kindergarten classroom and in the art studio, he enjoys seeing students collaborate on projects, learning, playing, and worshipping together. His desire is for students to treat each other with respect and love as children of God.
Mr. Cuervo attended Mustard Seed School as a student from 1988-1991, and during this time Tom and Michele Postema were his teachers. He then attended Eastern Christian High School, Hudson County Community College, and New Jersey City University with an interest in social and cultural studies.
Originally from Panama City, Panama, Mr. Cuervo has lived in the USA since he was 5-years-old. The language that he speaks at home is Spanish, and he’s fluent in Spanish and English. He remembers his teachers being patient with him as he started learning English after he arrived in the USA. His teaching is motivated by watching students share their strengths and gifts while working through the things that are hard for them. He loves to see them grow into strong students who will continue to learn and teach. As he explains: “We get be part of these students’ lives and that is very humbling and endearing for me. It is a sacred time of life, and I want to honor it by helping them.”
Mr. Cuervo enjoys spending time and sharing meals with family, friends, and his church community. He enjoys movies, books, and sports events. You can often find him taking trips into New York City to enjoy the different things that city life has to offer. Faith in God is very important to Mr. Cuervo. For him, praying and reading the Holy Bible are important and essential daily needs.
Emma Healeyehealey@mustardseedschool.org Middle School Faculty Lead Teacher, Fourth/Fifth Grade Education SUNY at Brockport; CUNY
Kim Knoesterkknoester@mustardseedschool.org Lower School Faculty Lead Teacher, Kindergarten Education Calvin College
Kim Knoester graduated in 2012 from Calvin College with a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education and a major in Spanish. In 2013 she began a year-and-a-half stint teaching English in Seoul, South Korea, to students aged 5 to 50. She returned to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to teach in a Spanish Immersion Kindergarten for a year, and she had an important realization: teaching in her second language was not her passion, but teaching kindergarten surely was. Ms. Knoester delights in her younger students.
Ms. Knoester thoroughly enjoys teaching at Mustard Seed. She started working in The Nest and first grade before moving to her current teaching role in the Kindergarten Water Class. During her summer breaks, Ms. Knoester is working toward her Masters in Early Childhood Education and enjoys visiting her family in Michigan.
Cindy Kuperusckuperus@mustardseedschool.org Lower School Faculty Lead Teacher Second/Third Grade; Second Education Calvin College; Michigan State University
Ms. Kuperus attended a small Lutheran grade school and has always been a student in multi-grade classrooms. She became interested in teaching, in fact, when she would assist classmates when the teacher was busy helping others. Her 5th/6th grade teacher, Mrs. Roman, encouraged her to think broadly about the world beyond their small town (population: 500), giving stickers to those who could answer a question from the World News segment from television the night before. She would be thrilled to learn that Ms. Kuperus has taught internationally in Masaya, Nicaragua, and Chengdu,China.
After graduating from Calvin College, Ms. Kuperus taught students in grades two-six for almost 10 years in Kentwood, Michigan. In 1994, Ms. Kuperus sought a teaching position in a school in the Northeast, anywhere but New Jersey. She’s now taught for over 23 years in NEW JERSEY! Two of her former students, Becca Brasser and Sam Martino, are now on staff at MSS.
Ms. Kuperus loves opportunities to travel, interact with the people, and taste the foods of the world. She’s also a person who ‘travels” with the characters in the books she reads!
It’s important to Ms. Kuperus that people’s voices are heard and that their needs for shelter and food are met. To that end, she volunteers for organizations like First Friends and the Sharing Place.
Sam Martinosmartino@mustardseedschool.org Lower School Faculty Assistant Teacher, Second/Third Grade Education Fordham University
Sam Martino is a Grades 2/3 assistant teacher in the Mountains Class. He graduated from Fordham University in 2014 with a bachelor of arts in history. Prior to joining the staff in 2015, Mr. Martino worked as a substitute teacher at Mustard Seed School. During his time as a substitute, he was able to work with every elementary and middle school class. Mr. Martino’s connection to Mustard Seed School goes back much further, however. He first connected with Mustard Seed in 1999 when he enrolled as a second grade student. In 2006, Mr. Martino graduated from Mustard Seed School. His mother served as a member of the Board of Trustees, and Mr. Martino’s two brothers also graduated from Mustard Seed. A lifelong Hoboken resident, Mr. Martino is excited to continue working with students in a unique urban community. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, music, and movies. He can often be seen lugging instruments around town as he travels to and from practices and shows.
Kate Streelmankstreelman@mustardseedschool.org Lower School Faculty Lead Teacher, First Grade Education Calvin College
Kate Streelman is passionate about teaching. In second grade, she decided that when she grew up, she would be a teacher and she has written proof of this goal! She is a graduate of Eastern Christian Schools and Calvin College. Ms. Streelman grew up in suburban New Jersey and has greatly enjoyed moving closer to New York City. Prior to teaching at Mustard Seed, she taught in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Kate joined the staff as a first grade teacher in 2017. Every year brings new experiences, excitement, and challenges, and Ms. Streelman looks forwards to them all. A shy student growing up, Ms Streelman loves the community of Mustard Seed and how easy it is to be a part of it. She also likes to find ways to help all students feel like they are a part of that community. Outside of school, Ms Streelman loves to read, doodle and paint, and spend time with friends and family. She enjoys exploring the area, finding new places to eat and relax, and just going for walks.
Zandi SuttonLower School Faculty Assistant Teacher, Second/Third Grade Education Durban University of Technology
Heather Weleskohwelesko@mustardseedschool.org Lower School Faculty Assistant Teacher, Second/Third Grade; Teacher, Literacy Education Shippensburg University; School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Sam Choischoi@mustardseedschool.org Middle School Faculty Science, History, and Ethics, Sixth to Eighth Grades Education University of California San Diego
Mr. Choi has been teaching for over twenty years. Prior to Mustard Seed, Mr. Choi taught at a high school and a middle school for students with language based learning differences. He has also taught at an after school tutoring center and a standardized test prep center.
Over his career, Mr. Choi has taught high school Chemistry, Anatomy and Physiology, Computer Programming, Algebra I and II, Geometry, Pre-Calculus, and US and European History. He has also taught middle school PE, Health, Earth Science, Physical Science, Life Science, Pre-Algebra, Algebra, World History and Language Arts, as well as Ethics, Civics, Economics, Christian Studies and Geography.
Mr. Choi enjoys running, watching movies, and cheering for the Kansas City Royals and Chiefs; he has been an avid fan of these teams since 1980. He is married to Abby Hall Choi and is the father of Noah (MSS Class of 2027) and Jacob (MSS class of 2030).
Mr. Choi was born in Pusan, South Korea, and emigrated to the United States in 1980 with his parents and older brother and sister. He first lived in Kansas City, Kansas and then moved to San Diego, California in 1986. In 2007, Mr. Choi moved to Jersey City, New Jersey. He quickly discovered that living in Southern California does not equip one to survive anywhere outside of Southern California.
Melissa McCallihanmmccallihan@mustardseedschool.org Middle School Faculty Lead Teacher, Fourth/Fifth Grade Education University of Arizona; University of Idaho
Gary Lawrenceglawrence@mustardseedschool.org Academic Specialists Coleman Fung Chair for Mathematics; Teacher of Pre-Algebra and Algebra Education Brown University
After a 19-year career on Wall Street, Mr. Lawrence felt called to pursue his dream to teach math. He joined the Mustard Seed staff in 1993 as Director of Finance and math teacher for 7th and 8th grades. He retired from his role as Director of Finance & Operations in 2018, and he now focuses entirely on math instruction.
Mr. Lawrence is delighted to share his love of mathematics with students through daily class work, I Love Math problem sets and celebrations, and 8th grade math exhibitions. He frequently presents workshops at regional, national, and international conferences to help math teachers in other schools and places learn from Mustard Seed’s rich mathematical program. The goal of most of his workshops is to give teachers practical tools to help students grow in persistence and creativity, developing both strong skills and attitudes. Whenever possible, Mr. Lawrence invites students to join him and present their work during conference workshops. To date, 14 Mustard Seed students have been a part of these presentations, and Mr. Lawrence expects that more students will have this opportunity in the future!
Mustard Seed has played a large role in the Lawrence family. Mr. Lawrence’s wife, Lori, was an enthusiastic parent of three Mustard Seed students and served as a Board member. Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence are grateful for the impact Mustard Seed has had on their three daughters. Their foundational experiences at MSS have served them well in high school, college, and in their adult lives!
Zachary Licatozlicato@mustardseedschool.org Academic Specialists Physical Education and Health Education William Paterson University; St. Peter's University
Joan Isaacs Litmanjlitman@mustardseedschool.org Academic Specialists Artist-in-Residence Education University of Georgia; Capital University; Kodály Center of America
Aiko Mauldinamauldin@mustardseedschool.org Academic Specialists Coleman Fung Chair for Music; Director of Songsters, Choristers, and Music Educator for Grades K-5; Worship Leader After School Staff Director of the PROS (Percussion, Recorder, Orff, Servants) Education Manhattan School of Music; San Francisco Conservatory of Music; New York University
Born in Tokyo, Japan, Aiko Mauldin started her musical training at the age of three when her mother enrolled her at a piano studio next door so that she could have peace and quiet for 30 minutes a week. Ms. Mauldin soon fell in love with Beethoven, Mozart, Debussy, Liszt, and especially Bach. She had her first official debut performance at the age of 11 at the Royal Festival Hall in London, England. At this time, Ms. Mauldin did not speak any English, but she soon discovered the power of music as a language permeating all cultures and nations. Through her love of music, she has made lifelong friends.
Since her childhood, Ms. Mauldin has moved from place to place, including Tokyo, London, San Francisco, New York, New Orleans, and of course, New Jersey. Her favorite thing to do when not teaching or playing the piano is to cook food from different cultures and to enjoy it with her family. Her favorite quote is from her mother: “I never dreamed that you would be performing recorders at Carnegie Hall!”
Zachary Nordlingznordling@mustardseedschool.org Academic Specialists Lower School Art and Math; Shared Space Coordinator Education Calvin College
Tania Oro-Hahntorohahn@mustardseedschool.org Academic Specialists Spanish, Grades Two through Eighth, Worship Leader Kindergarten through Eighth Grade Education Rutgers University; New Jersey City University
Jessica Smithjsmith@mustardseedschool.org Academic Specialists Music Teacher, Grades 6-8; Worship Coordinator After School Staff Chorus Education Doctor of Musical Arts in Vocal Performance with a Minor in Voice Science & Pedagogy, University of Houston; Master of Music in Vocal Performance, University of Missouri-Kansas City; Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance & Bachelor of Music in Education, Ithaca College. Professional Certificates: Drum Circle Facilitation; Guild Certified Feldenkrais™ Practitioner
With more than 20 years experience teaching music in a variety of settings from elementary to college, Dr. Jessica Smith has a deep love for music education, integrated arts curriculum, world music, and worship. Recently Smith traveled to Ghana to study West African drumming and dance as part of a fellowship from Fund for Teachers. In 2015, she completed four years of training to become a Guild Certified Feldenkrais™ Practitioner, a method that uses neuroscience and movement as a catalyst for potent learning. As a clinician, Smith has led workshops in vocal studies and drum circle facilitation. Before coming to Mustard Seed School in 2008, Smith was the Director of Preparatory & Continuing Studies at the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music where she also served as a Visiting Professor.
Dr. Smith enjoys traveling and spending too much money on plants at the Union Square Greenmarket.
Reynaldo Barrerarbarrera@mustardseedschool.org Administrative Staff Facilities Manager
Abigail Hall Choiachoi@mustardseedschool.org Administrative Staff Director of School Initiatives & Improvement; Director of Middle School Student Culture Education Covenant College; Teachers College, Columbia University
Abby Choi likes thinking about how people work together. She believes that students and teachers always want to offer their best work, but sometimes obstacles get in the way. She enjoys finding solutions that enable students and teachers to thrive.
Ms. Choi values caring for the whole person. She believes it’s most important that everyone knows they are God’s child and loved all the time, no matter what. She also thinks that students and teachers are interdependent and need to take care of each other. She challenges our school community to consider how teachers and students can practice having fun, autonomy, competence, and also build relationships.
She really likes laughing and strives to find humor in daily life. She’s been known to laugh at inappropriate times, like when she was a waitress and spilled ketchup all over a customer… and then proceeded to laugh uproariously.
Lisa Galarzalgalarza@mustardseedschool.org Administrative Staff Middle School Director Education Florida Atlantic University; Walden University
Jennifer Gautierjgautier@mustardseedschool.org Administrative Staff Office Manager & Technology Coordinator Education Montclair State College; New York University
Abby Liualiu@mustardseedschool.org Administrative Staff Director of Marketing & Communications Education Middlebury College
Abby Liu’s passionate about telling the Mustard Seed story. She’s the parent of a Mustard Seed alum and a current student, so she’s seen firsthand the successful outcomes of a MSS education. Prior to working at Mustard Seed School, Ms. Liu traveled the United States and the world as the Director of Client Service for the online services division of a Fortune 500 company. She loves spending time with her family and walking through farmers markets; they remind her of her native Vermont.
Nancy Michaelnmichael@mustardseedschool.org Administrative Staff Administrative Associate Education University of Wisconsin-Madison; University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Nancy Michael has spent the last 25 years planning, designing and organizing the large and the small. As a master planner at a variety of consulting firms, she helped design different aspects of cities, neighborhoods, college campuses, and military installations in the United States and overseas. As a professional organizer at her own consulting firm, she worked closely with individual and small business clients to solve their space and efficiency challenges at home and at work. She now uses those same skill sets behind the scenes at MSS so that teachers and administrators can do their jobs easier and more efficiently. In her spare time, Ms. Michael enjoys reading, hiking, and learning new things.
Gloria Miltnergmiltner@mustardseedschool.org Administrative Staff School Secretary
Sebastian Olukunsolukun@mustardseedschool.org Administrative Staff Business Administrator Education Rutgers University; Full Sail University
Shanna Pargellisspargellis@mustardseedschool.org Administrative Staff Lower School Director Education Calvin College; Bank Street College
Michele Boerman Postemampostema@mustardseedschool.org Preschool Faculty Assistant Teacher, Rivers Class Education Calvin College
Judith SchteingartAcademic Specialists Counselor Education Brandeis University (BA); New York University (MA, PhD)
Matt LepekAfter School Staff Flute / Clarinet / Saxophone
Phil NewmanAfter School Staff Guitar
Yukiko TanakaAfter School Staff Piano
Felicity Greenefgreene@mustardseedschool.org Preschool Faculty Lead Teacher, Sky Class Education University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Felicity Greene joined staff in 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and a minor in Children’s Literature and Childhood Studies. During her student teaching placement, Ms. Greene immediately felt at home in the classroom and is delighted to now be working at Mustard Seed among such a supportive and stimulating staff.
Excited to work at a school where she is free to incorporate her faith, Ms. Greene facilitates expression and exploration of faith with her students in the Sky class. She’s passionate about the role of literature in a child’s development and interested in development in general. She’s grateful to work at a school that pays such close attention to developmental markers in children, as she views developmental awareness to be a vital tool in teaching and caring for each child.
Ms. Greene is also delighted to be back in New Jersey where she grew up, able to be close to her childhood church community and family, especially now that she is newly an aunt. Along with her love of teaching, Ms. Green is passionate about baking as well as ice skating, in which she has competed in both individual and team competitions for more than twelve years. In addition to competing, Felicity also enjoyed coaching both children and adults with the Special Olympics Figure Skating Program in West Orange, New Jersey for several years.
Brent Harrisbharris@mustardseedschool.org Middle School Faculty Language Arts, Seventh and Eighth Grades Education Calvin College
Brent Harris has been teaching Middle School students since 2015. He loves teaching students how to understand the world through literature and writing. He teaches English Language Arts, but he likes to teach other things too! Both of Mr. Harris’ parents are educators, and despite trying his hardest to avoid following in his parents’ footsteps, he graduated from Calvin College with a Bachelor of Arts with a Major in English Education and a Minor in Physical Education; as a result, Brent is a great argument piece for any “Nature versus Nurture” debate.
In addition to teaching, Mr. Harris enjoys playing guitar and drums, listening to music, spending time outside, playing sports, and hanging out with his kind and loving wife, Lauren. A native of Ontario, Canada, Mr. Harris stays true to all the Canadian stereotypes by being extremely kind and perpetually sorry. He has been a director and counselor at multiple children’s camps in Canada and Michigan, and he appreciates the idea of teaching students and campers in a place where there is freedom to entertain new ideas and try out new things. Mr. Harris has enjoyed coaching volleyball, soccer, and baseball, and while he loves nature, he is being slowly converted into a city boy.
Katherine Jonkerkjonker@mustardseedschool.org Middle School Faculty Lead Teacher, Fourth/Fifth Grade Education Calvin College
Gladys Wugwu@mustardseedschool.org Academic Specialists Learning Specialist, Grades Four to Eight Education The College of New Jersey; the College of New Jersey
Gladys Wu is excited to be a part of the Mustard Seed community and to share God’s love in all she does. She hopes to introduce tools and resources to make the classroom more invitational and accessible to students of varying learning needs. Her previous experiences include working with students from diverse backgrounds who have visual impairments and multiple disabilities.
Ms. Wu remembers all of the educators in her life who have inspired and challenged her to love learning, develop patience and understanding, gain confidence in her abilities, and pursue a career in education in order to impact lives. She hopes to do the same!
Things that make her happy include visiting farms, photographing scenic environments, and relaxing at a local coffee or dessert shop. She prides herself in DIY projects and has an interesting reputation of hoarding “garbage” and turning these objects into beautiful artwork or useful new products. Ms. Wu laughs at cheesy puns, even when no one else is laughing, and believes in finding joy in all that she does.
Imaani F. Sandersisanders@mustardseedschool.org Administrative Staff Director of Admissions and Community Relations Education Bloomfield College; Penn State
Kate Nordlingknordling@mustardseedschool.org Administrative Staff Development Associate Education Taylor University
Rebekah Lowerlowe@mustardseedschool.org Lower School Faculty Lead Teacher, Second/Third Grade Education The College of New Jersey
Rebekah Lowe knew that she wanted to be a teacher ever since middle school when she was inspired by an English teacher who developed interactive games and creative acronyms for many of the topics that were discussed. Because of her teachers, Ms. Lowe attended the education program at the College of New Jersey, where she experienced a variety of classroom environments, and earned a teaching degree. She was also a part of the Education Honor Society. After graduating, Ms. Lowe taught English in South Korea, and during this time, she was able to travel around Asia and experience new cuisine and cultures. Her love of traveling increased, and she hopes to travel more in the future! She begins her teaching career in the United States at Mustard Seed School in 2018 as a second and third grade teacher in the Meadows class. She’s excited to be a part of the school community and share her many experiences with her students.
Melia McHughmmchugh@mustardseedschool.org Lower School Faculty Lead Teacher, Second/Third Grade Education University of Delaware; the College of New Jersey
Melia McHugh first started working with young children at a private school that cared for children from infancy through third grade while in her early teens. She enjoyed her experience working with all age groups, especially her time during college when she taught arts and crafts to kindergarten through third grade students during the summer camp season. After completing a degree in Anthropology and working as a trainer in the Human Resources industry, Ms. McHugh returned to her first passion and got a degree to teach and work with children again. After seven years of teaching high school social studies, Ms. McHugh decided to stay home with her two children.
Ms. McHugh and her husband discovered Mustard Seed School when it was time for their oldest son to enter kindergarten. Soon after he started school, she started to substitute teach at Mustard Seed and later worked part-time in the Nest and as a maternity leave replacement in grades four and five. Ms. McHugh enjoys watching every child, including two of her sons, thrive in the community and environment that Mustard Seed excels at providing for each and every student. When not at work, Ms. McHugh enjoys spending time at the beach or outdoors with her husband and three sons. Ms. McHugh also loves history, reading, and resting.
Angela Hoaho@mustardseedschool.org Administrative Staff Director of Finance & Operations Education Indiana University; Duke University
With over 20 years of finance and investment banking experience at bulge-bracket firms, Angela Ho joined Mustard Seed School as the Director of Finance and Operations in October 2017. She is responsible for all aspects of school’s finances and facilities management. Prior to Mustard Seed, she was a strategist in delivering consulting, and merger and acquisition services to corporate clients with assets in the $2-$5 billion range. She has a MBA from Duke University and a Bachelor of Music from Indiana University. She volunteers at the Brooklyn Tabernacle, and enjoys relaxing at the beach with her friends.