Sara Manalad  Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae. Aliquam bibendum, turpis eu mattis iaculis, ex lorem mollis sem, ut sollicitudin risus orci quis tellus. Class aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora torquent per conubia nostra, per inceptos himenaeos. Sed a ligula quis sapien lacinia egestas. Vivamus sit amet semper lacus, in mollis libero.

Kristen Shroff
Head of School

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Kristen Shroff has spent her entire career in public education in New York City, first as a teacher at both traditional district and public charter schools, then as a teacher leader and staff developer with The New Teacher Project. Prior to Building Excellent Schools, Mrs. Shroff was an Academic Dean at Achievement First Brownsville Middle School where she coached teachers, developed curriculum, led school-wide professional development, was accountable for school-wide academic performance. Mrs. Shroff holds a B.S. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a B.S. in Education for Students with Disabilities with a Bilingual Extension from the City College of New York and is unwavering in her belief that all children deserve a rigorous, high-quality education.

Todd Phillips  Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae. Class aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora torquent per conubia nostra, per inceptos himenaeos. Suspendisse nec congue purus. Sed a ligula quis sapien lacinia egestas. Integer tempus, elit in laoreet posuere, lectus neque blandit dui, et placerat urna diam mattis orci.

Erienne Rojas
Director of Operations

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Erienne E. Rojas was born and raised in the Bronx. She earned her Master of Fine Arts degree in Poetry at the City College of New York, where she also received her Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in Creative Writing and a minor in Jewish Studies. She also completed The Publishing Certificate Program at CCNY. Ms. Rojas holds a High- Performing Managers Initiative certificate from Community Resource Exchange, as well as additional certificates in Literacy Supervision from The After School Corporation and Mental Health First Aid from Youth Mental Health First Aid USA. She has 5 years of experience in the non-profit management field; she has held various roles in the community-based sector as an ELA tutor, Literacy Coordinator, College Essay Writing Instructor, Workshop Facilitator, and Program Coordinator of a high school ArtWorks Internship Program in collaboration with local stakeholders. She has also operated and supervised a portfolio of after school programs in several charter schools. Ms. Rojas founded an “Arts with a Life Purpose” enrichment program in partnership with Harlem Village Academies East Middle School. In her tenure there, Ms. Rojas managed to integrate a blended staffing pattern into the instructional day and build out a youth development/enrichment program that aligned with school culture. In her previous position, Ms. Rojas served as an Associate Director of Programs for a South Bronx entity. Ms. Rojas is passionate about developing life skills through the expressive arts and incorporating social-emotional learning in multi- disciplinary projects. She hopes to continue to empower the whole-child with creative and meaningful opportunities that inspire youth purpose and well-being.

Phyllis Kaufmann  Mauris id fermentum nulla. Class aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora torquent per conubia nostra, per inceptos himenaeos. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae. Mauris id fermentum nulla.

Brittney Baker
Dean of Curriculum

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Brittney Baker is an experienced educator from North Carolina. A former Teach For America Corps member, Brittney has dedicated her educational career to serving underprivileged youth. She has served in North Carolina, Mississippi, and will now be serving in New York. Brittney has a passion for educating the youth. She has worked with the youth for over ten years in several capacities including: tutoring, early childcare, educational camps, and teaching in both the middle and high school sector. Ms. Baker is a first-generation college graduate having earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Child Development from Spelman College of Atlanta, GA and a Masters of Education, concentration Educational Leadership from Concordia University of Portland, OR. Ms. Baker loves the authenticity and free-spirited nature of children. She is outgoing, and enjoys incorporating competitive games and music into her teaching. She is excited to embark upon this incredible journey with Emblaze Academy and make some incredible bonds with the students.

Donna Mitchell  Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae. Aliquam bibendum, turpis eu mattis iaculis, ex lorem mollis sem, ut sollicitudin risus orci quis tellus. Vivamus sit amet semper lacus, in mollis libero. Aenean eu justo sed elit dignissim aliquam. Donec eu est non lacus lacinia semper. Fusce at massa nec sapien auctor gravida in in tellus. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit.

Marvin Duarte
ENL Teacher

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Marvin Duarte I am happy you are joining our team/family at Emblaze Academy. My name is Marvin Duarte and I am the ENL founding teacher at EA. I was born and raised in Washington heights, New York as a first generation Dominican American. My mother came in from the Dominican Republic into the United States, so I struggled with English as a new language and only spoke in Spanish for the first few years of my life until I began attending school. Eventually I grew to love English as I read, acted in plays and grew to love creative writing as I continued to progress academically and involve myself in extracurricular activities in school. When I went to college I received an associate’s degree in Theatre from CUNY BMCC, a bachelors degree in English, and then I went on to pursue and earn my masters in teaching English as a New Language to all learners, k-12. I wanted to pursue ENL in education because as a former ENL student myself I understood how challenging it can be to learn a new language. Originally in my training I taught 5th graders but in the past few years I've ended up teaching highschoolers, adults, and now I find myself right back at home teaching 5th graders at Emblaze Academy. In my free time besides spending time with my fiance, I like to play video games, watch a lot of films, and I'm really into Japanese culture and anime...which is the main reason I started a Japanese Culture elective at Emblaze Academy.

Wayne Nowak  Donec eu est non lacus lacinia semper. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae. Mauris egestas at nibh nec finibus. Donec ac fringilla turpis.

Elizabeth Marku
STEM Specialist

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Elizabeth Marku is a first generation Albanian-American who realized her passion for teaching started at a very early age in her life. Originally from the Bronx, Elizabeth was the first member in her family to receive a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and special education. After graduation, she accepted her first teaching role as a lead mathematics teacher for an alternative high school in New Jersey 4 years ago and continued to actively participate and dedicate her time in after school tutoring programs as well as summer enrichment programs for middle school and high school students. As an educator, Elizabeth always strives to put her students needs first and continues to do so. Elizabeth is looking forward to working with your child this year at Emblaze Academy!


Malcom Wicks
Dean of School Culture

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Malcolm Wicks is a walking light at Emblaze Academy. “One force, One torch, One flame” is the motto he believes in and represents on a daily basis. His ability to build relationships and connect with scholars and peers from all over is only a portion of what Mr. Wicks brings to the table. Growing up in Harlem and the Bronx, Mr. Wicks understands how challenging it can be to RISE above the stereotypes, boundaries, distractions and limitations set against minority students fighting to make a difference in their community. Keeping the souls of our scholars replenished by tapping into their emotions through creative education or life experiences is more than a gift for Mr. Wicks. His keenness for youth empowerment continues to spiral rapidly, building more opportunities for student growth through school culture.


Kaitlyn Mckeough
Literacy Specialist

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Kaitlyn McKeough was born and raised in eastern Long Island where she graduated from St. Joseph’s College with a dual certification in special and general education for birth-grade 2 and grades 1-6. Kaitlyn knew from grade 4 that she wanted to be a teacher after being inspired by her fourth grade teacher who put emphasis on literature and empowering students to be active in their own learning. This guided Kaitlyn’s early years to work as a teacher’s assistant in a preschool and nanny prior to graduating with her degree. After graduating, Kaitlyn moved to the city to find a teaching position and continue her education and receive her master’s degree. The literacy program at Hunter College allowed Kaitlyn to work with her amazing peers and professors who helped her hone in on using her love for literature within the classroom effectively and her newly discovered love for analyzing data to influence her day-to-day teaching. Emblaze has been a nurturing environment for Kaitlyn to continue her education with professional developments outside of school, as well aslearning from her peers and students every day. In her spare time, Kaitlyn enjoys reading, exploring local community events,playing trivia, listening to live music, and traveling whenever possible.


Tiffany McRae
Literature Teacher

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Tiffany McRae was born in Columbia, SC. She stayed there until finishing Columbia College with Bachelors in English. She is an educator with experience with kids literally from K-12th grade in the capacity of Lead Teacher, Assistant Teacher, and Summer Teacher. She loves interacting with kids and pulling out the “shimmer and shine” in others. Humor and movement are a part of her everyday presentations to students. She has taught in Florida, North Carolina, New York, and Georgia! Literature appeals to her because it gives her and other readers a chance to reflect on the world around them and grapple with deep thoughts and questions. She is also a wife and mother to three lovely “mini-scholars.” She received her Bachelors in English from Columbia College? She loves jumping into books and "taking the ride" with students. The daily goal is to strike a balance between joy and deep understanding!


Mexeno Okeh
Math Teacher

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Mezeno Okeh was born and raised in sunny Corona California. By the age of 18, she decided to chase her dreams and travel cross country to Queens New York to attend St. John’s University. Ms. Okeh completed her undergraduate career at St. John’s University as a biology major, chemistry minor and graduated a semester early with her Bachelor of Science. She has always been extremely passionate about children and loved working with them. Every job she has had revolved around working with children whether it was being a camp counselor, student teacher at an elementary school, mentor to autistic and gifted children in psychiatric clinics, or assistant director at an afterschool program. Although Ms. Okeh always knew she loved working with kids, it wasn’t until she worked at the Queens Hospital Center in both the child and adolescent and psychiatric clinics that she knew her calling was to work with underserved and less privileged children. Working with children with disabilities at the Queens Hospital Center for 3 years opened her eyes to so many extraordinary cases and led her to aim to help all children become the best they could be regardless of their circumstance. For the past 2 years Ms. Okeh has worked at Children’s Aid Society as a group lead and activities specialist and this past year she was able to work her way up to becoming assistant director at PS 224K with Sports and Arts in Schools Foundation. She has over 4 years of experience working for nonprofits such as America Reads America Serves, Children’s Aid Society, and Sports and Arts in Schools Foundation. She is extremely excited to continue her career as the Founding Math Teacher at Emblaze Academy where she will not only create a fun yet rigorous learning environment, but also give every student the tools to succeed. Ms. Okeh plans to use her skills, passion, and drive to give every student the opportunity to excel and surpass all barriers.


Miguel Pena
Office Manager

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Miguel Pena was born in The Dominican Republic and raise in The Bronx. My family immigrated to New York in pursuit of a better life to get that and to treat my father's failing heart which ended up with him receiving a heart transplant. I like to consider myself charismatic and an optimistic, always look on the bright side of things. One of my passions that I have made into a profession is working with technology, since the small age of 7 I have always tinkered with computers, by age 13 I had built my first computer from pulling parts from old computers. I went to Hostos Community College in The Bronx for Business Management, I then transferred to Monroe College in pursuit of Computer Science in the field of Network Security. I have received multiple trainings on youth development and teaching styles. I love my role in the Operations field because I am able to work in the backstage and be able to help our teachers and families in many ways.


Melanie Renta
Counselor & Community Coordinator

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Founding Counselor and Community Engagement Coordinator, Melanie Renta was born and raised in the Little Italy section of the North Bronx. She earned her Master of Science in Education at Hunter College and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a minor in Early Childhood Development at Lehman College. Ms. Renta completed New York State’s School Counselor Provisional Certificate, concentrating in grades kindergarten to high school. She holds a Solution Based Casework Certificate, grounded in family-centered social work. Ms. Renta became a School Counselor because she realized that students need role models who hold them accountable and support them during the best and worst of times. She loves her career because it is humbling and rewarding to watch students practice positive coping mechanisms and handle conflict effectively. Holding a belief that all students are capable of academic and career success when held to high expectations and provided with empathy, encouragement, respect and love. Ms. Renta is excited to collaborate with new educators and support an expanding student population as Emblaze Academy continues to grow. What does Ms. Renta love most about Emblaze? “Teachers, staff, students and parents feel like an extended family, in the sense that we work together respectfully and diligently. We celebrate small successes and large ones, we survey parents, students, and staff about our routines, strengths and weaknesses and we collect academic data, as we constantly strategize ways to strengthen our school and team.


Caryn Rhodes
Literacy Teaching Fellow

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Caryn Rhodes was born in Charlotte, NC and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Caryn Rhodes is an educator and socio-emotional health advocate. Caryn was raised by her mother, father, two older brothers, and big sister. Growing up she learned the importance of perseverance and curiosity as it related to education. Caryn’s desire to teach children comes from observing her patient mother, who spent countless nights with her doing homework, and her teachers who helped her along the way. Caryn is approaching her second year of marriage with her high school sweetheart. Her husband is her biggest supporter and friend. Caryn completed her Bachelor of Science Degree in Religious Education at Oakwood University- a Christian-Historically Black University located in Huntsville, AL. Currently, she is attending Southern Arkansas University pursing a Master of Education Degree in School Counseling.


Rebecca Tilakdharry
Writing Teacher

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Rebecca Tilakdharry My name is Rebecca Tilakdharry, I received a bachelor’s degree in Education from Nyack College. I am the 5th grade writing teacher at Emblaze Academy. I decided to become a teacher because I want to make a difference and help my students to become lifelong learners. Every child is capable of learning and is entitled to a high-quality education. As a Bronx native, I want to see the youth in my community thrive and become successful in all that they do. I believe in the power of ethics, teamwork and integrity in which I instill in the classroom.


Collin Thompson
History Teacher

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Collin L. Thompson was born and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee. After graduating from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville with a degree in Political Science, Collin moved to Tanzania, East Africa -- where he co-founded an empowerment project to support women living with HIV/AIDS in the greater-Arusha, Tanzania community. In 2016, Collin returned to the United States and began his career in education at a Title 1 school in East San Jose, California -- and later as a history teacher in Manhattan, New York City. In addition to his work in the education and non-profit sectors, Collin has also served as the Campaign Manager for multiple, successful state legislative races in his home state of Tennessee. In his spare time, Collin enjoys exploring the city with his Labrador, Springsteen, attending concerts and Yankees games, and international travel. Collin is still heavily involved in the work he started in Tanzania, and he spends his holidays in East Africa. Collin hopes that his unique background in politics, education, and nonprofits will foster an exciting and rewarding environment for his history classes, and all students at Emblaze Academy.