Faculty & Staff

Liberal Arts

Alex Bentvena, English

Ms. Bentvena is a general education English Language Arts and AP Language and Composition educator at Talent Unlimited High school. Alexandra graduated Magna Cum Laude from Marist College in 2014, with a Bachelor's Degree in writing and minor in Studio Art. She is in the process of completing her masters degree in English Education at Queen's College this Fall Semester . When Alexandra is not grading student papers, she can usually be found attending concerts, perusing Trader Joe's frozen desserts aisle, or reading Google Maps location reviews (because much like Walt Whitman, Ms. Bentvena "contains multitudes").

Sarah Bickens, English

Ms. Bickens is an experienced English teacher whose educational passions including teaching writing, both creative and analytical, and supporting students in leading their own student-driven discussions. As TU's peer collaborative teacher, Ms. Bickens facilitates professional learning and mentoring. She also helps coordinate the Advanced Placement for All program at the school. Ms. Bickens holds an undergraduate degree in Comparative Literature from Brown University, a graduate degree in English education from Hunter College, and a certificate in School Building Leadership from the College of Saint Rose.

Kevin Castro, Science

Mr. Castro is a geologist by education turned science teacher. Born and raised in the Bronx, Mr. Castro is familiar with the difficulty in engaging students with the unfamiliar - nature. By leveraging his experience growing up in New York City, as well as field experiences in New York State, Iceland and British Columbia, Mr. Castro looks to bring the outside world into the classroom.

Yen Chin, Mathematics

Ms. Chin started her career as an accountant but switched careers to teaching. She now has been in the DOE for nine years and has been teaching for four years at Talent Unlimited High School as a math teacher. She spent her first five years of teaching at an alternative transfer high school in Midtown. Ms. Chin can speak four languages and likes to spend time with her family, friends, and travel during her breaks. Ms. Chin holds degrees from SUNY Albany, Hunter College and CITE.

Francesca Giardina,
Foreign Language

Ms. Giardina has been teaching Italian as a second language for 18 years, from elementary school through the university level. Born in Italy, she earned her Bachelor's and Masters' degrees in the didactics of language at the University of Palermo, magna cum laude. She has had a particular interest in how we acquire second and third languages, and in her teaching she enjoys nurturing an appreciation for Italian culture—food, art, music, drama, architecture, film. She has literary interests in the absurdist dramas of Pirandello, Ionesco (in French), and Beckett, but outside of the classroom enjoys spending time with her four boys (husband, two sons, and dog), cooking authentic Italian food and exploring NYC.

Lisa-Erika James, History

Ms. James, holds an MFA from Columbia University in Theater Directing- she was the first African-American woman to earn this degree. Additionally, Ms. James holds MA from New York University in Educational Theater. Ms. James is a veteran teacher and has taught with the Department of Education for nearly two decades and has directed and produced over 50 productions. James was also the Associate Director of Education at Lincoln Center Theater. Ms. James is fluent in Spanish and is an avid reader and writer.

Tanja Koltovska, English

Ms. Koltovska is a 9th grade English teacher at Talent Unlimited High School. She has been a teacher at TU since 2013 and has spent those years teaching students to read with purpose, to question everything they read and to collaborate with one another. Her goal is to make reading and writing fun and not feel so scary. Her favorite class activities are "Arts Infusion Projects" where students get to combine their passion for the performing arts with their analysis of the stories they are reading in class. Ms. Koltovska proudly holds degrees from Hunter College.

Emily Mendez, English

Ms. Mendez began her teaching career after graduating from Fordham University in 2017 with a degree in English literature and creative writing. She earned her masters degree from Lehman College in 2020 and taught for five years at a school in the Bronx before joining TU. As an educator, her passions are teaching argumentation, holding student-led discussions, and encouraging students to think critically about everything. As a person, her passions are taking care of her two cats (Frances & Toby), going on walks to Astoria Park, and frantically trying to finish all of her library books before she has to return them. She herself attended a performing arts high school in Miami, FL and is looking forward to working with students and staff as enthusiastic about the arts as she is.

Angie Mohamed, Special Education

Born in Dubai, UAE Ms. Mohamed is originally of Egyptian decent and immigrated to the US when she was just 2 years old. Raised in Astoria, Queens, she currently resides in Manhattan. A cool fact about Ms. Mohamed is that she is a practicing Muslim and can read, write & speak Arabic. She is a proud product of NYC Public Schools and attended CUNY Hunter College for her Bachelors Degree in English Language Arts/Africana Puerto Rican Latino Studies. She also holds a Masters Degree in Special Education from Touro College. Ms. Mohamed has experience teaching various subjects at several grade levels, but her passion is in teaching Algebra and Geometry! In her free time, she enjoys traveling, reading, cooking and spending time with her family.

Elizabeth Moncayo,

Mrs. Moncayo is a AP world history teacher who loves learning new things especially about her students. Mrs. Moncayo has taught history for the last 17 years and has taught in three different schools, all in NYC. She graduated from Hunter College as an undergrad and completed her Masters at Hofstra University. She loves working at Talent Unlimited because her students bring passion, creativity and curiosity to her classroom and that inspires her daily. Outside of school she is a wife and a mother of two. She loves the Office, Parks and Recreation and all things Marvel.

Danielle Moreau, Mathematics

Ms. Moreau is a teacher and performer who has worked in theatre, film, and television. She has been teaching math for 15 years in both NY and CT. She completed her undergrad at Manhattan College and completed her Masters in Education at Sacred Heart University. She grew up in competitive dance, broke into theatre in high school, and progressed to performing in original off-Broadway shows post-college (while teaching math during the day!). She now spends her breaks doing background work for shows such as The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Succession, Almost Family, and Law and Order: SVU, among others. One of her favorite things to do is teach students to like math class and show them the ropes of Background Acting!

Lauren Napchan, Related Service Provider

Ms. Napchan is one of the Speech Pathologists at Talent Unlimited. Lauren received her Bachelor Degree from the University of Massachusetts- Amherst with a major in Communication Disorders and minors in psychology and education. She recently received my Master Degree from LIU-Post in Speech Language Pathology. Prior to being a Speech Pathologist, Lauren worked with both students and adults in various settings.

Brooke Nixon-Friedheim, Mathematics

Ms. Nixon-Friedheim has been teaching math in New York City for nearly two decades. She believes that math is best experienced when students understand how it is integral to explaining the world around us and our place as humans in it, and she strives to make her classroom an equitable and joyful environment where students are excited to take risks and think creatively. Ms. Nixon-Friedheim holds degrees from Duke University, New York University, City College, and College of St. Rose, in the fields of cultural anthropology, political science, documentary film, mathematics education, and school leadership. She enjoys spending time with her family, gardening, crafts, games, travelling, baking, animals, the outdoors, and leading a Girl Scout troop. Ms. Nixon-Friedheim is proud to be a longtime Math for America Master Teacher.

James Riedel,
Physical Education & Health

Mr. Riedel is a Physical Education and Health Educationt teacher who has been teaching in the NYCDOE for the last 14 years. Prior to moving to New York City, he resided in his hometown of Williamsville, New York where he taught for 7 years and coached Mens Volleyball, Women's Soccer, Men's Ice Hockey and Men's Lacrosse. Mr. Riedel holds degrees from SUNY Cortland & SUNY Buffalo State. During his time as an undergrad student at SUNY Cortland he was a member of the Men's ice Hockey and Men's Lacrosse team. Mr. Riedel is dedicated to creating an inclusive classroom that promote wellness, positive health behaviors in young adults and developing positive social relationships through sport.

Allen Sermonia,
Special Education

Mr. Sermonia is a Special Education and English Language Arts teacher for the 9th and 10th grade. In his previous lives, he has been an actor, a theatre director and chef. As an actor he has been seen on the off-broadway stage with Pan Asian Repertory Company, travelled across the United States as a member of North Carolina Shakespeare Company, and spent his formative years as a Chicago actor where he was seen at Northlight Theatre , Chicago Dramatists, Victory Gardens, and Teatro Luna. He was nominated for both Joseph Jefferson and After Dark awards while there. As an arts administrator and director, he helped form and create the arts organizations A-squared Theatre Workshop and the dueEast Theatre company. He is a proud member of the Screen Actors Guild. He holds degrees from Va. Tech and St. John's University.

Emily Seung,

Ms. Seung has been a social studies teacher in NYC since 2005. Ms. Seung received a degree in Political Science from Trinity College, Hartford, CT and a masters degree in teaching social studies from Boston University. In 2022-2023, Ms. Seung embarked on a Research Project: To compare and contrast the legacy of the Jim Crow laws of the Deep South to the apartheid laws of South Africa through video testimonials. In her one year sabbatical, she drove through the Deep South and South Africa/Namibia to interview people of all backgrounds that lived through the Jim Crow or apartheid laws. She heard their experiences of what it was like living under those laws as well as how much has changed or stayed the same since then. She heard their lessons and key moments that impacted the way they thought and acted. Their accumulated wisdom showed her that humans are both resilient and vulnerable. That humans are malleable and can change even later in life.

Ivana Slifstein, Physical Education & Health

Ms. Slifstein is a Health and Physical Education teacher at TU. She received her Master's Degree in PE from Hofstra University. As a coach in the JREC Athletics program she is always available to connect and work with students through sports and physical activity. Ms. Slifstein has been working with high school students in recreation and competitive sports since 2012. She views physical education and health as life skill classes that will help students grow into their best selves!

Patrick Smith, History

Originally from New Jersey, Mr. Smith studied political science and history at Fordham University, with a focus on being just ridiculously good at history. Mr. Smith has been teaching social studies with the NYC Department of Education since 2007, and loves bringing historical subjects alive for his students. He currently teaches Government and Economics at TU.

Samuel Struckhoff, Special Education

Mr. Struckhoff has an all-encompassing love of learning, language, and science. He was born in Missouri, educated in Florida and transplanted to NYC. He started tutoring while an undergrad at the University of Central Florida, an experience that changed the trajectory of his career ambitions toward education. After relocating to NYC, he was accepted by the NYC Teaching Fellows, and earned his Masters at Brooklyn College. He has spent the last decade teaching and co-teaching at Talent Unlimited High School, in addition to filling various roles such as Yearbook Advisor, Game Master, and Sports Night Emcee.

Natalie Trainor,
Special Education

Ms. Trainor is a special educator with over a decade of experience working in NYC public schools. Prior to joining the Talent Unlimited learning community, Ms. Trainor was an arts specialist, followed by behavior coach, for students with intellectual and emotional disabilities. Drawing upon her passion for learning and the visual arts, Ms. Trainor seeks to find creative and co-constructed strategies and interventions to support students' academic and social emotional needs. She believes that disability inclusivity is a philosophical way of seeing and being–– how we create and sustain authentic and caring relationships; further, that we disrupt inequities, whether micro or macro, by creating intentional places of growth betwixt and between the acquisition of new knowledge and the rupturing of old. Ms. Trainor holds an undergraduate degree in Art History and History from Rutgers College, a graduate degree in Special Education from Brooklyn College, and is currently working toward a doctoral degree in Instructional Leadership from Hunter College.

Joshua Wickline, Science

Mr. Wickline earned his B.A. in Biological Basis of Behavior at the University of Pennsylvania and his M.A. in Secondary Science Education from City College. He also earned his School Building Leadership Certification and School District Leadership Certification from The College of Saint Rose. Mr. Wickline started teaching at Talent Unlimited High School in 2005 as a New York City Teaching Fellow, where he began his journey of bringing science education to students in NYC. He was awarded an Astor International Travel Fellowship in Shanghai/Beijing, China in 2014 and was a Grant Recipient through Exploring the Arts in New York, NY from 2014–2015. Mr. Wickline has served as an NYU Astor International Fellow and as a Master Teacher with Math for America. He feels strongly about S.T.E.A.M. education as a powerful tool for empowering students. After many years of teaching, Mr. Wickline has a new goal of engaging all of his students in science, and he believes that democratic teaching practices will be an essential push to get his classroom there.

Lena Yoon, Science

Ms.Yoon has been teaching chemistry at Talent Unlimited High School for the past several years. Before coming to TU, she taught in a middle school as a general science teacher and also taught English in South Korea. She loves to travel around the world during breaks with her family and her dog named Yolo. In her spare time, she loves to watch Korean TV shows, watch movies, and hang out with her friends. She graduated from SUNY Binghamton University with a degree in Chemistry and went to Teachers College at Columbia University for her masters degree in education.

Farzana Zaman,
Social Studies

Ms. Zaman is a social studies teacher who was born and raised in New York City. She attended public schools in various parts of the city and received a double bachelor's degree in history and political science from Baruch College. She received her master's in Social Studies education in 2021. Her focus in the classroom is centered around equity and diversity. When she is not in the classroom, Ms. Zaman likes to spend her time watching anime, playing video games, karaoke, and spending time with her puppy.

Ya Yan Zheng,

Ms. Zheng holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Mathematics Education and a Master of Science Degree in Mathematics Education from Queens College. She has been teaching Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2, Pre-Calculus, and SAT since 2015. She can speak three languages and her motto is “Don’t limit your challenges, but challenge your limits.”

Performing Arts

Brooke Berry-Wolf, Musical Theater

Ms. Berry-Wolf earned her BA in Musical Theatre with an Emphasis in Voice in Colorado and then traveled the country and the world performing for the better part of 10 years. Favorite roles include The Baker's Wife in Into the Woods, Mona in Chicago and Sarah in Sarah, Plain and Tall. Brooke helped to start Cake Productions, a female-founded off-off Broadway theatre company and went on to produce, direct and perform in numerous productions, including an annual presentation of It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. Brooke earned her masters in teaching in NYC and found her home at Talent Unlimited HIgh School in 2015. Brooke is a mother of two and a secondary mother of 100+.

Jessica Danser, Dance

Ms. Danser, a native New Yorker, graduated salutatorian from Talent Unlimited High School in 2001, while also studying on scholarship at the world-renowned Ailey School. She earned a B.F.A. in Dance Composition from SUNY Purchase and went on to found JD/dansfolk, a Bronx-based dance company which focused on socially conscious choreography and bringing arts programming to under-served communities. She was a member of Arthur Aviles Typical Theatre, a modern dance company performing locally and nationally, and co-founded the AATT Academy as Mr. Aviles' education director. Ms. Danser was on faculty at numerous dance organizations throughout NYC and the tri-state area, including the Ailey School and PPAS. She received many grants and awards for her choreography and community organizing from the Bronx Council on the Arts and other private foundations. Ms. Danser joyfully returned to her alma mater as a full-time faculty member in 2015 and now holds a professional license in modern dance from the state of New York.

Megan Delatour, Instrumental Music

Ms. Delatour began playing the viola at the age of eight. Ms. Delatour's experience includes a teaching artist position for the InterSchool Orchestras of America. As part of Interschool Orchestra’s summer administrative staff, Ms. Delatour created scholarships to increase students’ access to quality music education by auditioning for 15 slots on viola and cello for students of el Sistema programs to participate in ISO on a full ride. Ms. Delatour is also part of the strings teaching faculty of Harmony Program. She maintains a private viola studio and has sent several students to participate in All State as well as students who pursued summer study at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Ms. Delatour holds a bachelor’s in music education from Queens College. Outside of teaching she regularly performs as a violist in her string quartet and was the 2017 MPower Grant Recipient of the Sphinx Organization. She is currently the orchestra director of TU, and Artistic Planner for Interschool Orchestras of New York.

Danielle Harris, Dance

Ms. Harris graduated valedictorian from the Arnhold Dance Education Masters Program at Hunter College and was also a Professional Division Ailey School student. She has served as a background dancer for various Soca recording artists, has performed in an array of dance companies and was a performer for Disney Cruise Line. As a first generation American, Ms. Harris loves to incorporate her Bajan heritage into her curriculum here at Talent Unlimited.

Noah Hougland, Technical Theatre

A New Yorker by choice and a Texan by birth, Mr. Hougland is an artist and educator who has spent his life doing what he loves – creating. After attending a nationally recognized performing arts high school in Dallas and earning an undergraduate degree in theatre from SMU, he spent a decade pursuing a career in the NYC entertainment industry, working on short films, off-Broadway plays, and independent features. His directing work ranges from contemporary musicals to classical plays, and he has designed, installed, and built the lighting and scenery for dozens of high school productions.

Phil Murphy, Instrumental Music

Mr. Murphy is a New York City based educator and woodwind artist, and this year is celebrating ten years as a music teacher. He has been a band director in the NYCDOE and the Bronx Preparatory Charter School, a drumline instructor for the award winning Fort Lee High School (NJ) Marching Bridgemen, and Associate Conductor of the Columbia University Wind Ensemble. Philip is also an accomplished woodwind performer, playing regularly on bassoon, saxophones, clarinets, and flute in a variety of settings, including on Broadway in Wicked and Bandstand, in the orchestra of the Radio City Spectacular, as Principal Bassoonist in the Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra and Park Avenue Chamber Symphony, and as a 2015 selection for the Aspen Festival Orchestra. Philip holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Syracuse University and a Master’s Degree from Columbia University, both in education.

Ted Nusbaum, Drama

Mr. Nusbaum is a playwright, screenwriter, director and actor who has enjoyed teaching Drama at Talent Unlimited for over a decade. Mr. Nusbaum sold, optioned and published several original works including “Pischer” (Samuel French), “Bank Street” (John Wells Productions), “Quick Sticks” (Teddy Zee) and “Stronger Than Oak” (The Inhabitants) and rewrote projects for Wessler Entertainment and Experience Media Studios. Mr. Nusbaum played several supporting roles in Off-Off Broadway productions in the early 2000’s, studied Long Form Improvisation at The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, and trained in the Meisner Technique with Larry Silverberg. Mr. Nusbaum spent two weeks at La Porte Peinte Centre pour les Arts, in Noyers, France in 2019 as an Artist in Residence working on what would become his latest play, “The Institute.” He holds degrees from The Actors Studio Drama School, Columbia University and The Colorado College.

Jessica Park, Dance

Ms. Park holds a B.F.A. in Dance and Psychology from the Ailey/Fordham B.F.A. Program and an M.A. in Dance Education from Hunter College. She has studied with world-renowned teachers in diverse dance styles, with her strengths demonstrated in ballet, Horton, and Graham techniques. Ms. Park has performed works by Alvin Ailey, Jamar Roberts, Stefanie Batten Bland, Christopher Huggins, Jae Man Joo, and Monica Bill Barnes to name a few. Professionally, she has performed with Mook Dance Company and Monica Bill Barnes & Company at venues across New York City, including at New York City Center in the Fall for Dance festival.

Christina Peacock, Drama

Ms. Peacock is an actor, director and theater educator who got her start in the world of education after her theater company, Breathe and Rhythms, was hired to work in the NYC public school system. Mrs. Peacock has worked as an actor at The Public Theater, The Ohio Theater, The Kitchen, New York Theater Workshop, PS 122, St James Church, Aaron Davis Hall, and The Playground Theater. In addition, she directed shows at The Nuyorican Poets Café and John Jay College, developed curriculum with Barnard College under Dr. Leann Bell, and worked at The Painted Bride Performing Arts Center in Philadelphia. In 2016, she returned to Theater for The New City where she previously performed The Life of Violet, to perform in the world premiere of The Sorcerers, a play about xenophobia, interracial marriage, and witchcraft. She is grateful to have worked with artists Dennis Davis, Jake Ann Jones, Dr. Rosemarie Roberts, Carl Handcock Rux and Greg Tate. Mrs. Peacock holds a BFA in Theater from CCNY and an MS in Multicultural Education from The College of Mt. St. Vincent.

Jayne Skoog, Vocal Music

Ms. Skoog, educator, director, and lyric soprano is currently a vocal instructor at Talent Unlimited High School. Her choral director achievements include Gold with Distinction – Level VI in the New York State School Music Association – NYSSMA, and an invitation to perform with the National Philharmonic in Washington, DC under the baton of Dr. Will Kessling where she prepared her students in John Rutter’s Mass of the Children and Dvorak’s Te Deum. TU Concert Choir performed at Carnegie Hall marking their debut with Jazz at Lincoln Center performing the Sacred Works of Duke Ellington. Ms. Skoog has also directed choirs at Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Concert Hall and Alice Tully Hall. As a singer, Jayne remains active, performing throughout the region. She is currently singing with gospel recording artist J. David Bratton – God’s Blueprint for Life Ministries, as well as singing with Le Chateau Singers – Founder/Director Damien L. Sneed, with a performance of Wynton Marsalis’ Abyssinian Mass at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Ms. Skoog received a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Denver, Lamont School of Music, a Masters in Science of Education from Queens College, New York, and a Masters in Administrative Leadership from The College of St. Rose. Postgraduate work includes studies at the Juilliard School and New York University.

Christian Smythe, Vocal Music

Mr. Smythe is a teaching artist who has been on the Talent Unlimited faculty since 2001. His multifaceted performance background includes experience and training as classical singer, pianist, and oboist, being a self-taught flutist, and acting in both musicals and straight plays. As singer, he is in the professional choir at St. Bartholomew's church, and has recently appeared in productions of "The Drowsy Chaperone," "The Mystery of Edwin Drood," and "Urinetown." In his earlier years at Talent Unlimited, his choirs performed to raves at local choral festivals, and he was nominated for "Who's Who Among America's Teachers" on multiple occasions. Currently, he straddles both the Vocal and Musical Theatre departments, teaching Musicianship, Piano, and Solo Repertoire classes. A sample of productions at TUHS include "The Wiz," "Chicago: High School Edition," "Thoroughly Modern Millie," "Hairspray," and "Nine." His undergraduate degree is in Music Education (with a voice concentration) from NYU, and his Master's is in Vocal Performance from Hunter College.


William Gagstetter, Principal

Principal Gagstetter began his career as a music educator in Queens in 2006. Since then, his career in education has taken him across three boroughs, as teacher, assistant principal, and principal, in performing arts High Schools and programs. During his career, "Mr. G" has seen countless students go on to careers in the arts, including as touring musicians, record producers, and starting up music lesson studios. Mr. Gagstetter is a proud graduate of SUNY Fredonia, Queens College, and the College of St. Rose. Aside from supporting the Talent Unlimited High School community and playing saxophone and guitar, Mr. Gagstetter enjoys spending his free time with his wife Krystal, and two children Madeline and Jack.

Jason Rann, Assistant Principal

Mr. Rann has been part of the TU community since 2010. In his six years as a teacher, he focused on project based learning through the engineering and robotics programs he founded. He completed original research at NYU Polytechnic as part of the SMART program, presented at the Learning Forward Conference regarding his Growth Mindset Action Research within the physics classroom and spent 4 years as a Math For America Teaching Fellow and Master Fellow. Since becoming Assistant Principal, he has worked to grow the restorative practices program at TU, increase rigorous course offerings and continues to remain in the classroom, teaching AP Computer Science Principles. He has a B.S. in Physics from George Washington University and a M.S. in School Building Leadership from Mercy College.

Bridget Salemme, Assistant Principal

A proud product of public education, Ms. Salemme experienced many of the elements of our system designed to develop students into critical thinkers as well as the great disparity that keeps many of our young people from achieving that same goal. After teaching in both Chicago and New York City, she believes public education can disrupt inequity. Ms. Salemme brings her diverse educational experiences to TU: the University of Chicago, Brooklyn College, the College of St. Rose, New York City Teaching Fellows, and the Leaders in Education Apprenticeship Program (LEAP). Her educational philosophy is best described by Plutarch: "The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled."


Marie Celius, Paraprofessional

Ms. Celius is a paraprofessional who is dedicated to helping students find success within the classroom. She is caring, patient, and works diligently to help children grow.

Alyssa Crawford, Guidance Counselor

Ms. Crawford is a school counselor, musician, and lover of the arts. Ms. Crawford has played saxophone, bass guitar, trombone, and piano. She has worked in education for the past 5 years. Ms. Crawford holds degrees from SUNY Albany and Alfred University.

Daniel Gavin, Guidance Counselor

Mr. Gavin is the newest addition to our Guidance Counseling team this year. He brings with him classroom experience as a former History teacher where he encouraged students to think critically and explore many perspectives. When Mr. Gavin was in college, he worked in Admissions and Orientation which fostered his passion for post-secondary guidance and planning. His favorite part of the counseling role is helping students pursue whatever they are most passionate about. Mr. Gavin has lived in several different cities before NYC (Albany, Des Moines, Omaha, Philadelphia) so you could say he's travelled a long way to end up at TU and he couldn't be more excited!

Adel George, Paraprofessional

Mr. George is a paraprofessional who was been working in the field for over 15 years! He got his bachelor degree in business oversees in Assuit University, Egypt. Before he became a paraprofessional he was a project manager and a supply manager for a flour mill plant for ten years. He’s worked in many high schools all throughout NYC including Art, Imagination, and Inquiry HS, Coalition HS, Leadership HS, and many others where he has impacted the lives of many children working closely with them and forming lasting relationships. Mr.George has been to many countries including Egypt, Rome, Dubai, Qua-tar, and England! He’s lived in Queens since he came to the United States.

Danese Forbes,
College Support

Ms. Forbes dedicates herself to the post secondary success of students from Talent Unlimited High School. Ms. Forbes works diligently with students and families to create a robust college list, complete FASFA/TAP, apply for scholarships including POSSE and Questbridge, and made the best post secondary choices. When she is not supporting members of the TU community, she spends time with friends and family.

Esther Grant-Walker, Community Coordinator

Ms. Grant-Walker has worked in the Human Services and performing arts for over 35 years, combining her passion for African Dance and Youth Development to model the African proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child. She has developed her unique approach to intergenerational community dance programming, in-school artist residencies, and managing out-of-school time programming. Ms. Grant-Walker has performed in major venues such as Brooklyn Academy of Music, Radio Center Music Hall, the Apollo Theatre, Symphony Space, and Newark Symphony Hall, to name a few. She has been contracted to teach African Dance technique workshops across the five boroughs and colleges and national universities. Esther has served at Artistic Director for Opus Dance Theatre & Community Services and Rehearsal Director for Batoto Yetu Dance Company. Her Youth Development accomplishments earned her a 2013 Pasesetter Award by the Partnership for After School Education and named NYC Afterschool Ambassador by the Afterschool Alliance (Washington, DC). She continues her work in Youth Development as an Advisor for candidates seeking the NYS Afterschool Directors Credential. Ms. Grant-Walker combines these skill sets in her current position as Community Coordinator at Talent Unlimited High School.

Tru Hill, Guidance Counselor

Mr. Hill has been a guidance counselor at TU for five years and has dedicated his life to supporting young adults. His impact on students extends far beyond the school walls.

Robinetta Murray, Secretary

Ms. Murray has been working for Department of Education since 1989 as a Secretary in various departments such Business Offices performing accounting and payroll functions, Superintendent’s Office and local community schools. Ms. Robinetta has vast knowledge of Department of Education systems and standard operating procedures. At present, Ms. Robinetta is working at Talent Unlimited High School as a School Secretary working closely with the Principal and Administrators providing administrative assistance in the areas of payroll, purchasing and other responsibilities. Outside of being a Secretary, Ms. Robinetta is an entrepreneur and holds degrees from Nyack College in Organizational Management, Alliance Theological Seminary in Divinity and is currently pursuing a doctorate in Transformational Leadership at Bakke University.

Most Nahar,

Ms. Most Nahar is a paraprofessional who aides teachers and students in the learning process. She is creative and a great cook; she loves sharing her culture and talents with the entire school.

Joseph Pellittieri, College Support

Mr. Pellittieri is excited to partner with TU in the area of college access and academic advising. He is a College Readiness advisor with Union Settlement in East Harlem. This role has him working in several schools as a jack of all trades. He started his career in education as a vocal music teacher. His journey has included substitute and full time teaching in vocal, instrumental, and music theory settings, as well as in general classroom settings. He then transitioned into student support services, serving as the high school counselor at an all boys charter school in Rochester, NY. Mr. Pellittieri has a Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Music Education from Ithaca College, and a Master of Science in Counseling and Human Development, with a concentration in School Counseling from the University of Rochester.

Amanda Roa, School Aide

Amanda grew up in New York City and is a proud product of NYC Public schools. Amanda most recently worked as a paraprofessional at the elementary level and is excited to transition to the high school level.

Léonor Sánchez, Secretary

Ms. Sánchez is student-centered and thorough. She supports all students at TU in various ways and she serves many roles to ensure a smooth school day, including student transportation liaison, overseeing the distribution and collection of mandatory student paperwork. During her time at TU, she directly served thousands of students and families, giving each one detailed attention. Ms. Sánchez has earned the nickname of Sunshine because she can light up any room. She is the proud mother of two young men and recently became a grandmother to her sweet Elite Legend.

Ileana Santos, SAPIS Counselor

Ms. Santos is TU's Substance Abuse Prevention and Intervention Specialist (SAPIS Counselor) and has been a SAPIS counselor in the DOE for the past 5 years. She has been in the substance abuse field for over 17 years and has worked in many treatment modalities such as methadone program, residential and outpatient treatment programs. She enjoys working with the teenage population as they are the ones who need all the support, nurturing and love they can receive.

Sean Smith, School Aide

Mr. Sean is our school aide who supports the many different facets of running a school on a daily basis. He enjoys working at TU and being a member of the diverse community.

Jennifer Somin, Guidance Counselor

Ms. Somin has been a member of the TU community for six years, transitioning from Special Education teacher to School Counselor of the Dance and Drama Departments. Ms. Somin is also a licensed mental health counselor and earned her clinical hours providing psychotherapy in non-school settings. She is passionate about general wellness and supporting students in making healthy choices and developing necessary life skills. In her spare time, she loves to travel, be near the water as much as possible, exercise and eat candy!

Shajea Stephenson, Community Aide

Born and raised in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Shajea Stephenson is our wonderful community assistant. Shajea is passionate about his work supporting the growth of our talented community of students. Every morning Shajea greets our students with a smile!

Most Yeasmin, Paraprofessional

Ms. Yeasmin is a paraprofessional who works closely with teachers to help ensure the students under her care are taken care of by their needs. She has many experiences working with kids including working as a substitute teacher for four years and as a paraprofessional in three other schools in the Department of Education.