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Theresa McCaffrey

Founder, Co-director, & Head Teacher, Sassafras Class

Theresa McCaffrey was moved to create Little Leaf in 2015.  She wanted to bring nature and wild play back to early childhood.  She is the current director of Little Leaf and loves her work with teachers, families and children. Theresa earned a Masters of Teaching in Special Education from Pace University and a Masters of Fine Arts from Harvard University.  She is a dedicated teacher both at the pre-school and elementary school level with over 10 years of experience in inclusive classrooms.  She is a Teach for America alum and has been a teacher at The River School in New York City, P.S. 86 in the Bronx and at KIPP Infinity Charter School in Harlem.  She has studied many early childhood pedagogies including the Reggio Emilia approach, and Waldorf and Montessori models. She has also trained in the Coyote Mentoring way with the Wilderness Awareness School.  Theresa was selected to be a part of the Early Childhood Hall of Heroes through the Childcare Council and is a participant in the Leadership Westchester Fellowship Program.  Theresa is passionate about the nature preschool movement, building community, and play! She can often be found with her three children on forest walks or reading great books. 

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Julie Cramer

Co-director

Julie brings ten years of experience in both formal teaching and environmental education to Little Leaf. Julie began her career in education working with school groups in Alley Pond Park, located minutes from where she grew up in Queens, NY. Once she experienced the joy that nature sparks in young children, she was hooked. After receiving her NYS teacher certification, Julie earned her graduate degree from NYU in Environmental Conservation Education. Wanting to bridge the worlds of formal classroom teaching and nature-based education, Julie worked at the NYC Department of Sanitation assisting schools with their recycling and sustainability efforts. She went on to become a second grade teacher, working with a diverse population of students in inclusive classrooms. Julie loved the connection she felt to all of her students, especially watching them grow over the course of a school year. It was this love of nurturing tiny humans, paired with her passion for outdoor education that brought her to Little Leaf. Julie is now a dedicated nature preschool teacher, eager to provide her students with opportunities to connect with the earth and with one another. She is amazed each day at her students’ natural ability to be kind and compassionate, and is truly inspired by their endless curiosities. She believes deeply in nature immersion for young children, and in preserving the magic of childhood. Julie is so grateful for her students who help her see the magic in all the little things too!

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Allison Griffin

Head Teacher, Sugar Maple Class

Allison Griffin has lived at the intersection of peace, nature, and early childhood development her entire life. In a career spanning over 20 years, she has developed each avenue of interest, sometimes separately, but finally culminating in her current position as head teacher at Little Leaf School. She spends her days sowing seeds of peace in her wonderful children, and sometimes literally sowing seeds. Ali has always naturally connected to early childhood and had a deep understanding and love of the developmental period. She worked with children ages 2 through 7 over the years in various capacities. From teaching, to play therapy, from SEIT to parenting support, Ali gained a wealth of varied experience. She has developed and run classes and programs and facilitated professional development workshops for preschool teachers.

 Ali credits New York City, where she grew up, for giving her the foundational exposure and love of human difference, as well as understanding the peaceful calm the natural world provides. She believes that a strong foundation in self-awareness, self-regulation, emotional understanding, compassion, and empathy is the seed of peace. She is is a certified yoga instructor and a brown belt in Kyokushin. Her yoga classes blend these two disciplines in a unique balance. Ali studied Psychology, Child Development, and Early Childhood Education and has almost completed her second Masters degree. She is currently a teacher at Little Leaf School. She has two children and 2 step-children.

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Nina Horozova

Assistant Teacher, Sugar Maple Class,
& Office Manager

Nina Horozova is civil engineer by education, she is inspired by sustainable design and living, and brings her passion to the design of the garden at Little Leaf, Andrus on Hudson. Her happy childhood in Europe was defined by unstructured outdoor play with friends and close relationships with her grandparents. Living in Germany for a few years, she helped at her son’s preschool “Die Kleinen Zwerge,” where daily outdoor play was part of the routine – in snow or rain, sun or fog! Dressed in full gear, the children had a lot of fun. It's an absolute pleasure for her to be at Little Leaf, where she began 4 years ago, as parent and volunteer. Her daughter is a graduate of Little Leaf. Nina loves greeting the children and making them feel welcomed, and helping them learn about and feel comfortable in nature. She enjoys yoga, tree climbing, working in her little vegetable garden, and reading.

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Cristina Silva

Assistant Teacher, Sugar Maple Class

Cristina has been working at Little Leaf for three years, and is currently studying Early Childhood Development. Prior to joining Little Leaf, she worked at the Boys and Girls Club of America, and also spent some time working as a medical assistant. Cristina's family is from Mexico. She loves to speak, sing, and share Spanish language with the children! She appreciates teaching and learning in natural environments with the children through imaginative play, and watching them develop appreciation for all living things. On her days off she enjoys spending time with family and her dog Alaska!

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Jake Sacket

Summer Camp Director and Co-Teacher, Sassafrass Class

Jake received his Bachelor's Degree in Sustainability and Geology from Hofstra University. He is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Nature-Based Early Childhood Education from Antioch University. Before working at Little Leaf, Jake spent his summers working at the Great Smoky Mountain Institute at Tremont where he led educational programs and hikes around the park. He is passionate about connecting children with nature, enjoys hiking, and hooking his hammock up and reading a good book. In his free time he enjoys hiking in the Catskills and the Adirondack Mountains. Jake loves to engage his class in adventure, and to explore the natural world around us!

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Monica Daly

Head Teacher, Acorn Class

Monica Daly is the Head Teacher of the Acorn class. Monica Daly grew up in the Washington DC area but has called New York City home for over 20 years.  She lives in the Bronx with her family, which includes her husband and their two children. She earned her Masters Degree from Teachers College, Columbia University with a focus on child development through the Arts and Art Education. She earned her B.A. from Fordham University. Before teaching she worked as a Graphic Designer and continues to create when she finds the time, bringing this passion to her documentation and classroom design. Monica began teaching in 2012 for the NYC Department of Education and started to work as an Outdoor Educator in 2017.  She loves engaging children of all ages through critical thinking and enjoying all the play that their surroundings can offer. Her main goal for the Acorns is for them to love, find joy, and ownership in their school community by developing their social-emotional skills in a child led - play based environment.

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Caroline Donat

Assistant Teacher, Acorn Class

This is Caroline’s first year as an assistant teacher for the Acorn class at Little Leaf. Caroline graduated from NYU with a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish. Caroline is from Scarsdale, NY, where she attended the public schools. She loves all forms of teaching, especially with little kids who have a very pure desire to learn, and who learn so quickly! Caroline has taught English to foreign adults, extracurriculars to adolescents with special needs, and has spent several summers assistant teaching at Ethical Culture Nursery School in White Plains. She recently enjoyed working as a Lead Naturalist for the Forest Camp at Weinberg Nature Center. Caroline loves to watch her students grow as they explore their place in the world, which unfolds quite naturally in a forest environment. In her free time, Caroline likes to read mystery novels, garden, and make music!

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Beverly Mezzatesta

Assistant Teacher, Acorn Class

Beverly has a diverse background in education and the arts, including many years of experience working with toddlers. Beverly worked with two year olds as a summer camp counselor for many years prior to college. She was also a certified lifeguard during these summers, teaching her tiny students how to swim! Beverly studied Early Childhood Development at Sarah Lawrence College, with a focus on the behavior and development of two year olds. After college, Beverly studied Printmaking in Florence, Italy at “Il Bisonte." She went on to earn a professional printmaking license and a Master's Degree in Fine Art from the Vermont Graduate School. Beverly became certified by the Board of Education to teach art, and managed an art program for children in the city called "The After School Workshop," where she taught art, ballet, and cooking. Beverly is a painter, and a lover of all things creative! She loves to create in her art studio at Yoho Artists, an artist building in Yonkers. She has two wonderful grown children and three adorable grand nieces who she loves to play dress up with any chance she gets. Beverly loves nature and is so excited to experience the beauty of each season with the Acorn class this year!

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Lindsay Hart

Site Director and Head Teacher, Dragonfly Class at Lenoir

Lindsay spent her childhood in West Palm Beach, Florida. She attended Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, ultimately earning a Master of Fine Arts in Photography and Art History. After graduating, Lindsay began pursuing a career in early childhood education. She has since worked as a teacher in preschool programs in Massachusetts, California, and New York, predominantly inspired by the Reggio Emilia educational philosophy. Lindsay loves the outdoors and enjoys gardening and crocheting.

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Cecilia Lemus

Assistant Teacher, Dragonfly Class at Lenoir

Cecelia has been an assistant teacher at Little Leaf for three years. Currently she is finishing a bachelor's degree in Political Science at Lehman College. Cecelia lives in Hastings-on-Hudson with her 9-year-old son, Alberto. In the summer, they often visit El Salvador and Portugal, which is where her parents are originally from. She enjoys performing small puppet shows based on the social emotional needs of the children.

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Ali Garber

Assistant Teacher, Dragonfly Class at Lenoir

Ali earned her Bachelor's Degree in Photography, with a minor in Art History from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. Through art, Ali works to inspire her students, and equip them with new ways to process their world and express themselves. Before joining Little Leaf, Ali worked as a fulltime photographer, specializing in events, food, interiors, products, and portraits. While she still maintains her photography business, she loves to use her photography expertise to document her students as they grow, learn, and explore!

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Jackie O'Brien

Site Director & Head Teacher, Owl Class at Teatown

Knowing that a child’s formative time in nature is the gateway to life-long ecosystem service understandings of forests, meadows, native plants and invertebrates, the Little Leaf forest preschool program at Teatown validates the child’s innate sense of connection to nature. Jackie brings her experience as a preschool lead teacher, WildEarth certified outdoor educator and nature-immersion facilitator, and education for sustainability developer, to Little Leaf’s new Teatown program. Loris Malaguzzi once said “Children yearn to discover the measures and relations of complex situations.” Jackie is ardently curious about system interdependencies and is eager to support children’s social, emotional, empathic and physical growth through child-directed play in nature. She is a licensed NYS teacher with over 10 years of early childhood teaching experience, an MS in Educ.Psych. from Fordham and an MS in Early Childhood and Elem. Ed. from Bank Street College. In her spare time, she enjoys fast knitting, slow jogging, learning native plants and trees, cooking, and hiking with her husband and two adult sons.

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Sara Roy Summers

Assistant Teacher, Owl Class at Teatown

Sara is an assistant teacher in the Teatown Owls Class. With a background in sustainability work, she is excited to share her love for the outdoors and to help foster a sense of belonging to our natural world. Sara has enjoyed being a Tinkergarten leader for four years, facilitating families in outdoor, child-lead play. She especially enjoys bringing creative play outside, where there is no such thing as too much mess and children are free to explore materials in a boundless way. Originally from Sweden, Sara whole-heartedly subscribes to the saying that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing, and enjoys outdoor activities year-round, such as skiing, hiking and swimming. She lives in Pleasantville with her husband, two sons and backyard chickens.

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Katie Carey

Assistant Teacher, Owl Class at Teatown

Katie has a lifelong passion of working with children. Since completing a degree in Sociology at SUNY Purchase, Katie has been working with children as a toddler teacher, camp counselor, and nanny. Waking up early to take on outdoor adventures are the highlight of every day. Sharing her love of nature is her favorite way to show children examples of kindness, compassion, and community. In her spare time she enjoys running along the Hudson River, and hiking beautiful local trails and mountains. Katie is so excited to begin her next adventure, joining the team at Little Leaf at Teatown.