Teachers & Staff
Our Teachers are trained educators from all over the world. We recognize and celebrate their different accents and unique experiences. We consider this diversity an important strength of our program.
Our Staff of skilled educators and administrators support our teachers nurture global citizens and stewards of the environment.
Martita Abril, Movement Enrichment Teacher.
Martita’s passion for dance and movement has inspired her career as a student of the form, as a dancer and, finally, as a teacher. While pursuing her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance at San Diego State University, Martita met Master Teaching Artist Kathryn Irey. “She opened up my interest in teaching children,” says Martita. “She was so wonderful with children that I knew that I too wanted to learn to educate through the arts and inspire younger generations.” Martita began to explore work with children, spearheading a workshop for a school of 80+ kids in an underprivileged San Diego community. She taught movement classes, as well as tap, ballet and tumbling to children in that city and later at the Manhattan Movement & Arts Center. She has created and directed multiple shows that combine artists from the US and Mexico to promote cultural exchange. At One World Project, Martita is a Movement Teacher who comes to all the classrooms one time a week to share her love of dance with the students. “I love to see them have fun while learning—building strength, confidence, socializing and becoming aware of their space while sharing it with others,” she says. Martita was raised between the border city of Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, California.
Cinthia Lucena, Assistant Teacher, Air Classroom.
Cinthia always loved spending time with children, and she found she had a natural way with them while working at the Center for Family Life Beacon in Brooklyn. “I believe children are the most important part of every society,” she says. Currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education, Cinthia works as an Assistant Teacher in the Forest Classroom (children ages 2 to 3 years old). She is especially passionate about helping her students develop new language skills. “I strongly believe bilingualism has positive effects on children’s linguistic and educational development,” she says.
“As a native Spanish-speaking teacher I can help children strengthen or develop new language skills. I also love introducing them to rhymes, songs, games, and counting in Spanish.”
Knowing that she can make a difference in helping her students “develop into happy, healthy little people” is what brings Cinthia the most joy in the classroom each day. “To be able to show them how to use their own confidence and skills and see them build the closest of connections… this is one of best feelings you can get as an early childhood teacher.”
Cinthia was born in Acupulco, Mexico and moved to Brooklyn at age 7 and has lived here ever since.
Ambar Díaz, Assistant Teacher, Sea Classroom
While studying for her Bachelor of Arts degree in Early Childhood Education, Ambar taught Kindergarten in the Laboratory School of Puerto Rico. Upon receiving her degree, she spent two years teaching Kindergarten and third grade at Colegio Bautista de Carolina in Puerto Rico, during which time she began coursework towards a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership. There, she dedicated much time to developing the school’s early childhood curriculum, which focused on creating early learning activities for the preschool and Kindergarten program. In 2015, Ambar moved to New Jersey and began teaching Kindergarten at Jump Immersion School, where she gained a deeper appreciation for Spanish immersion education.
Ambar says she became a teacher because she loves playing an active role in helping children develop their innate potential. She enjoys teaching at One World Project because of its mission to help children use their surrounding environment to create real-world learning opportunities, as well as its emphasis on the Spanish language.
Elyes Perez, Lead Teacher, Air Classroom
Elyes originally gravitated toward studying psychology because she wanted to work with families and kids. As a doctoral student, her research in developmental psychology allowed her to work with children of various ages in school settings. She soon realized she enjoyed working with young children in this environment because it allowed her to have a more consistent rapport with the children while expanding her knowledge of child development. Elyes enjoys being able to facilitate the learning process in a way that is creative, direct, and hands-on. This realization led her toward the preschool classroom, where she has enjoyed working for 11 years now.
Raised speaking Spanish at home, One World Project and its Spanish immersion education has been a perfect fit for Elyes. In addition to allowing her to incorporate her bilingual skills into her early childhood education experience, she says she appreciates how One World Project values global, play-based, child-centered programs. “Language is the window into a culture and creates open-mindedness.”
Maria Rivera, Lead Teacher, Forest Classroom
After 12 years in Head Start and seven years as a Universal Pre-K lead teacher, Maria learned that her nurturing instinct worked best with 2-year-old children. During that time, she worked with a variety of support services, including psychology and therapy, which led her to pursue a dual Masters in Special Ed, as well as Early Childhood Education. Maria values the intimate environment and the opportunity to collaborate with other teachers at One World Project.
Gissela Arteaga, Assistant Teacher, Forest Classroom
Gissela got her start as a substitute at One World Project and quickly worked her way to assistant and, soon after, became a full-time teacher. As a result, she is well-versed in One World Project and its mission. From the concept of conservation and recycling to watching how children immersed in the Spanish language absorb it with such ease, Gissela brings a wealth of knowledge to her work.
She has always worked with children, caring for kids as a nanny for five years before joining One World Project. Her love of children naturally translates to working with kids under 4 years old as she fully understands the integral role that nurturing and play-based activities have in development.
Patricia Maldonado, Lead Teacher, Mountains Classroom
A veteran teacher, Patricia has been working with children for over 20 years. Throughout her career, she has taught children from birth to 19 years old and embraced Pre-K eight years ago. “There is nothing more gratifying than witnessing a young child learn something new, knowing you have been a driving force behind their growth.”
A life-time learner herself, Patricia has a degree in Early Childhood Education and continues her studies in the same field. “I believe we all have something to contribute and I learn something from my students every day.”
Born and raised in Park Slope, Brooklyn to Guatemalan parents, Patricia grew up in a bilingual home and has used that knowledge in her teaching.
While fluent in Spanish, Patricia is also conversational in Creole, French and Italian.
Belén Garcia, Teacher, After School Program
Originally from Spain, Belén spent time in Mexico City and Chile before moving to New York City 11 years ago. Beyond fluency in Spanish, Belén translates the language into English and has experience in private tutoring. She also studied the Arabic language and culture, leading to a degree in Arabic Philology.
Her wealth of experience, from educating her own three daughters, and knowledge of linguistics are evident as she creates a natural learning environment for children to acquire another language. She knows children learn best through play, and consistently engages learners in read-alouds, dramatic play and other child-centered activities
Christy Gomez, Lead Teacher, Sea Classroom
Christy is a native New Yorker and a committed educator with a Bachelor in Bilingual Education from Brooklyn College. Christy’s work experience includes her role as a creative writing instructor at Oasis Summer Camp in Queens working with children from underprivileged backgrounds and as an integrated co-teaching student teacher at P.S. 89 where she gained valuable experience in a dual language program. Christy is fascinated by the way children “acquire language and how they do this in a school environment where we are all learning together.” Having worked with many different age groups, she is impressed with the independence of very young children and is excited to learn more about how to incorporate multicultural inquiry into her teaching practice.
Christy, Colombian by descent, spent her summers as a child with family in Colombia and now lives in Queens.
Jennifer Luna, Music Enrichment Teacher
Jennifer is an educator and musician passionate about incorporating music and movement into all aspects of learning. Before joining OWP, Jennifer worked at two different preschools in New York City where she had the opportunity to work with children in special education programs. Jenny is drawn to teaching because she enjoys the “opportunity to impart knowledge to children and assist them in learning things that will help shape their lives in a positive way.” As a native Spanish speaker, she is committed to OWP’s vision of building multilingual communities. She holds a degree in Contemporary Music from the Santa Fe University of Art and Design and is an active performer at various venues around New York City.
Born and raised in Alamo, Texas near the border of Mexico, Jennifer moved to Brooklyn in August 2011.
Michelle Morales, Assistant Teacher, Mountains Classroom.
Michelle brings a variety of experience that has contributed to her development as a teacher. As an account manager at Ferragamo she worked in a demanding environment requiring flexibility and a high degree of collaboration, and as an intern at the Families and Work Institute she was introduced to many of the theoretical principles that underlie OWP’s curriculum. In addition, Michelle is an involved PTA parent in her own child’s school and is committed to building active and responsive school communities. Her decision to focus on teaching stems from her belief that positive early childhood education experiences set the tone for future success in the classroom and in life. “Teaching Spanish,” Michelle says, “enhances this growth. I see students gaining Spanish skills every day and I know this builds their sense of competency.”
Michelle was raised in both New York City and Colombia.
Mónica Paillet Zurdo, Founder and Program Director.
One World Project’s Founding Spanish Teacher Mónica Paillet Zurdo brings over a decade of early childhood teaching experience to One World including her pioneering play-based language acquisition curriculum. Mónica has a Master’s Degree in Educational Psychology and a Bachelor’s Degree in Education both from the University of Valladolid as well as extensive training in Intercultural Education. Mónica’s work history includes jobs as a Speech Therapist for children 0-6, a Kindergarten teacher and the Academic Director and Teacher for the Colegio Español de Nueva York (CENY), a language immersion education program. As the founding teacher, Mónica has been instrumental in developing One World’s curriculum and education philosophy.
Even before she began her career in education, Mónica spent years babysitting and always knew she wanted to work with children. “Every day, children ask you different, new, extraordinary things,” she says. “There is always something surprising and enriching going on with children, and each one teaches you something fascinating about human nature.”
Mónica recently became One World's Preschool Director, where she brings her love of children together with her reverence for education. “A better world requires better education,” says Mónica. “I believe in the transformative value of school”.
Mónica was born in Spain and came to New York in 2005.
Joanne Derwin, Founder and Executive Director
Joanne is a mother of two bilingual children and an experienced nonprofit manager, educator, and social justice advocate. Before initiating One World Project, Joanne worked at the Alliance for a Greater New York and Urban Agenda, organizations aimed at building a thriving, green, and just New York. Previously, Joanne worked at the Ford Foundation and helped manage three grant-making initiatives with a combined annual budget of $12 million. Joanne has also done research for Partners of the Americas and the Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership in Washington D.C. and spent two years working as an English teacher in Alicante and Barcelona, Spain. She is a graduate in Environmental Studies from the University of Colorado, Boulder and holds a Master in Public Policy from Georgetown University. Her vision for One World Project extends from the kind of education she wanted for her own children. “I always want to concentrate on preschool… This is a very special moment for families and kids in building community.” As OWP has grown, Joanne’s vision has expanded as well, with the preschool forming a component of a larger community resource. “We want to keep people connected in a nurturing space that supports cross-connections culturally and linguistically.”
Joanne lives in Windsor Terrace with her husband and two children.
Silvia Fernandez, Administrator. After working in Fashion, Finance and Marketing around the world in Spain, England and Germany, Silvia moved to Brooklyn with her family of four and found a job at One World Project. In her role as Administrator, Silvia handles finances and administrative matters, and she is a liaison between parents and the school. “I love the environment at One World Project,” says Silvia. “I know everyone in our great community of families, which is very strong—we all support each other.” Silvia herself speaks three languages (Spanish, English and German) and she learned her second and third languages as an adult, which has its challenges. “I have to translate in my head and concentrate to speak in another language,” she says, adding that she is a huge proponent of One World’s immersion program. “For children this age, there is no effort to learn to speak, it comes so naturally. These kids are not just learning language, they are opening up to global culture—they see the world differently because of this school.”
Silvia grew up in Santander, Spain and lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children.