Meet Our Team!

Administrative Team

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Originally on track to become a lawyer, a part time job tutoring kindergarten students during her freshman year at NYU opened Katerina’s eyes to her true passion: Working with children. She immediately switched focus, earning her Bachelor’s Degree from NYU in History, Music, and Education before going on to pursue a Dual Master’s Degree from Teacher’s College, Columbia University in Inclusive Education & Teaching Students with Disabilities. Katerina has been an educator in New York City for over 10 years and has designed the curriculum and program materials for myriad special education programs across the city.

Katerina Watson, Co-Founder and Head of School

Katerina H Watson has worked in education for over 13 years, specializing in inquiry-based special education and therapeutic behavioral interventions. As the Founder and Head of School at EPIC Academy, Katerina utilizes a trauma-informed approach to create a rigorous, progressive, and therapeutic educational environment where students receive the academic and behavioral support they need to thrive for the rest of their lives.   

 Prior to founding EPIC, where she also served for three years as a lead teacher, Katerina taught for 10 years at increasingly progressive schools. She also worked as Program Director at various special education programs to develop behavioral interventions and continues this work today as a consulting Child Behavior Specialist. Katerina is an author and speaker who shares her expertise on a wide range of topics, such as maximizing student learning, parent strategies for therapeutic deescalation, and social-emotional integration across content areas. 

Katerina has a BA in Education, History, and Music from NYU; An MA in Inclusive Education and an MA in Teaching Students with Disabilities from Teachers College Columbia University; and is currently studying School Leadership at Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Joshua Askildsen, Co-Founder

 Joshua has a passion for advocacy and a dislike of bureaucracy. Since graduating from Pace University with his Bachelors Degree in English, he has enjoyed working exclusively for organizations that provide services he finds ethically important and close to his heart. To this end, he has been a team member of All For One Theatre and the National Coalition Against Censorship, two New York City nonprofits, as well as the Chief Operating Officer of Allied Achievement, a center-based instruction program for students with special needs.

Nora Canby, Assistant Head of School

 

Nora has worked in education for a decade, teaching and tutoring elementary through high school students at organizations including Trevor Day School, the Berkeley Carroll School’s Creative Arts Program, and Writopia Lab. On the administrative side of education, Nora has worked as an Assistant Director at the University of Virginia’s Young Writers Workshop and headed the development of an early childhood literacy curriculum at Five Points Learning. Nora is thrilled to be part of a team that puts students’ needs first and believes adults should treat all children with kindness, empathy, and respect. They earned a BA in English from Wesleyan University and are an avid reader and writer. Their hobbies include exploring local libraries and parks and fostering cats. 

Henryetter Singh, Director of Operations

Henryetter Singh rests her core values in meeting students where they are and challenging them to reach their full potential. Her foundation in immersing herself in the field of education grew from her experiences as a tutor and then later evolved into a position as a Teacher’s Assistant in the Department of Education, extending her years of experience to nearly a decade. She also has experience as a Director, a liaison to principals, and an Educational Coordinator for a non-profit tennis program. Henryetter has found a unique way to interntwine her administrative skills and student engagement abilities to create an atmosphere where students are encouraged to reach new milestones and gain independence inside and outside the classroom. In her downtime she enjoys puzzles and listening to soca.

Nikki Klein, Legal and Communications Coordinator

Nikki has worked with elementary school students in research, clinical, and educational settings. Her favorite educational experiences involve being a 2nd grade Teaching Assistant at Go Project and tutoring as an ESL writing partner for NYU’s Writing Center. She also has experience assisting clinicians in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy sessions and volunteering in programs for children with Selective Mutism. She received a BA in Applied Psychology from New York University. In her free time, she likes to practice yoga, cook, and watch movies. Nikki is so excited to join the EPIC team and be a part of a community that embraces a safe, respectful, and supportive environment for all students, families, and staff.

Naho Matsuzawa, Operations Coordinator

Naho Matsuzawa obtained her Bachelor of Science in human development from the University of California, San Diego. She has worked in a number of early education and youth organizations both with responsibilities as an educator and in administration. Her involvement in these organizations has contributed to her appreciation of education, outreach and support within the community. Naho is thrilled to be a part of the EPIC team and loves forming connections with both students and staff. 

Bart Milewski, Operations Associate

Bio Coming Soon

Teaching Team

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Katie Cronin, Special Education Teacher

Katie has been with EPIC since its founding in 2018. Before leading a class of her own, she was a Teaching Assistant to Special Education Teacher and Head of School Katerina Watson, who taught her crucial lessons about academic leadership, classroom management, and behavioral support. Katie is a committed lifelong learner; throughout her time at EPIC, she has sought out numerous professional development opportunities, including workshops from Handwriting without Tears and Get Your Teach On. She values EPIC’s close-knit staff and small class sizes, which allow her to form deep relationships with all her students and differentiate the curriculum to meet their unique needs. Katie brings energy, positivity, and fun to her classroom and looks forward to work every day. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, biking, and caring for her 38 houseplants. 

Jenna Doty, Special Education Teacher

Jenna has always had a passion for educating young minds, and has enjoyed evolving her teaching pedagogy and practice through various experiences working with children. She has especially loved being a nanny, camp counselor, camp coordinator, and special education teacher, and has continued to be inspired by young minds and unique learning styles. After receiving a BA in Psychology from Goucher College she worked as a mental health counselor at a psychiatric hospital leading group therapy sessions that focused on art and movement therapy practices. She then attended graduate school at Notre Dame of MD University where she received her teaching certification and experienced working in various Title 1 schools in Baltimore city. These experiences helped to build her knowledge and practice of behavioral support for students. During the pandemic Jenna created a Pod school in Brooklyn in which she taught 2nd and 3rd grade students in a homeschool environment, which allowed her to design individualized instruction in order to meet the needs of each student. She loves art and creativity, and enjoys infusing these into her lessons. In her free time she likes to listen to music, read, rollerblade, and hike in the woods when she can! Jenna is thrilled to be joining the inclusive, supportive, and amazing team at EPIC academy, where she can help support the wonderful students and families!

Yalaisa Douglas-Wright, Special Education Teacher

My name is Yalaisa Bernice Douglas Wright (yaLeesa). I have my Bachelor of Social Work from La Salle University and my Master of Social Work, with a concentration in policy and government, from Fordham University. I am an educator through and through. I’ve taught kindergarten and first grade in several New York City charter schools, as a special education teacher and a science teacher. I’ve also taught in a multitude of other settings, including but not limited to summer camps, break camps, unique schools, and even adult learning. As a teacher, I use my background in social work to meet my students where they are and help them identify and develop their strengths. 

 When I’m not in the classroom, you can catch me reading books, biking, recording my podcast, writing articles, and advocating for policy change. I did a field placement at the United Nations, where I’ve also served as an education lead for their Envision Experience summer program. I’m here to make the world a better place, and I’m looking forward to an epic year at EPIC!

Winona Lee, Assistant Special Education Teacher

Winona Lee has been working with children for over ten years, at schools including Lutheran Social Services and Our Children’s Center. Her goal is always to teach, reach, connect, and establish a trusting relationship with each of her students. She is a mother of four boys, which has taught her so much about patience and trust.

Maxine McAleavey, Assistant Special Education Teacher

After gaining a BA Hons degree in Philosophy at Middlesex University in London, I have pursued a career working with children and adults with a variety of special needs for twenty plus years. This has included completing a Diploma in Learning Disability Nursing (intellectual disability) at De Montfort University as well as working in settings such as an Assessment and Treatment Unit, community nursing, after school clubs and most recently as a Teaching Assistant for transition students in Special Ed. I am a great believer in the philosophy that people do well when they can, so I am delighted to be joining such an inclusive community as EPIC, which values each child’s individual needs and I look forward to continuing to grow and learn. Outside of work I love to travel and immerse myself in other cultures, foster cats, cook and practice yoga.

Natalie Kocsis, Art Teacher

Natalie loves to create and has been enamored with art and photography her entire life. She holds a BA dual degree in Fine Art and Creative Advertising, as well as a MA in Illustration — all from Syracuse University. Natalie toiled for 20+ years as an Art Director working on magazines such as Rolling Stone, Us Weekly, Parents, and more. A few years ago she did some volunteering with NY Cares in their afterschool arts program. Working with children was inspirational and the experience convinced her to shift paths and begin working towards her MS in General and Special Education. Natalie has spent time working with students in a 5th grade Math classroom, a 2nd grade ICT classroom, and remotely with students at the New Life School. She also spent the past year unofficially participating in a remote Kindergarten classroom alongside her 5-year-old. Natalie is incredibly excited to combine her two passions of art and education into one complete role as EPIC’s Art Teacher. Some “fun facts” about Natalie: Her first solo art show was at a NYC pizza parlor. She used to play roller derby under the alias, “The Deviant Unicorn” and is also an Advanced Open Water certified SCUBA diver who has quite literally swam with the sharks. Natalie’s ultimate dream is to someday buckle down to write, illustrate, and publish a children’s book.

Ivan Gil Biag, Chess Teacher

Coach Ivan received his Master title at a very young age and has since become a remarkable chess player and coach. Ivan, a FIDE master, finished his Bachelor’s degree in Information Technology and decided to pursue his passion in chess. He is also a professional and experienced teacher – he has worked with the top chess schools internationally. He started teaching at several schools in New York City, and he also co-founded the New York Chess Academy.

Dashawn Cummings, Music Teacher

Dashawn has years of experience working with youth in a wide range of settings, leading music classes, mentoring middle and high school students, and running mental health advocacy workshops. As a DOE POS specialist, he traveled to schools across the city, working with staff to implement a systemized approach to the School Meal Program. In addition to serving as music teacher, Dashawn also works in our operations department as an Operations Associate. 

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Kelly Holroyd, LCSW

As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Kelly has years of expertise providing therapeutic services to youth in both clinical and educational settings. As an undergraduate studying psychology at Georgia State University, Kelly interned at Georgia State’s Clinic for Youth Anxiety and Related Disorders. Later, while earning her Masters in Social Work from Columbia University, Kelly interned at a public school in the Bronx, an alternative to incarceration program, and with new mothers at Lincoln Hospital. Before joining the EPIC team, Kelly worked with youth for several years as a Licensed Master Social Worker in community clinics throughout the Bronx, first working with adults. Kelly collaborates with our team to continue to innovate the trauma-informed approach to therapeutic education that EPIC is known for. She also supports the unique needs of our students, families, and staff. In her free time, Kelly enjoys doing yoga, painting, reading, and parenting her cat, Mr. Darcy. 

Gail Stephens, Occupational Therapist

Gail is a member of the American Occupational Therapy Association and has worked as an Occupational Therapist in multiple elementary and early childhood settings. She believes a student’s environment shapes their participation, behavior, and emotions and shares EPIC’s mission of celebrating children for their differences. She loves being part of a team that takes a multi-sensory approach to learning and collaborates to best support the needs of every child. Gail is a New York State Registered Licensed Occupational Therapist who earned a BS in Education and Social Policy from Northwestern University and a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy from Columbia University. She is a Brooklyn native who loves riding her bike, practicing yoga, and singing karaoke in the shower. 

Donna Kim, Occupational Therapist

Donna is a NYS registered licensed Occupational Therapist. As an OT, she is dedicated to collaborating with students and their families to maximize participation in their valued occupations and to succeed in their pursuits! Prior to joining EPIC, she pursued work experience and learning opportunities in relevant pediatric settings including school-based practice, outpatient sensory integration clinics, and specialized summer camps. Donna received her Master of Science in Occupational Therapy from Columbia University and her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and French from Amherst College.

Michelle Lubetzki, Speech Language Pathologist

As a licensed and certified speech-language pathologist, Michelle has a variety of clinical experiences helping children, adolescents, and young adults. Michelle received her undergraduate degree at the University of Delaware in cognitive science with a concentration in speech-language pathology, and her graduate degree is in speech and language pathology from Hunter College. She is level one PROMPT-trained. Additionally, Michelle is completing her final year in New York Law School s part-time evening program to obtain her Juris Doctor degree. She intends to participate in the field of special education law alongside her work as a speech-language pathologist.

Her professional experiences include working at a preschool for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, working at a variety of sensory gyms in Manhattan with children ages 2-9, leading social groups to facilitate pragmatic language skill development, and providing home and clinic-based early intervention sessions. For the past two years, Michelle has worked with several young adults diagnosed with Autism in a clinical setting providing transitional services, with a focus on job-related skills, and language skills within activities of daily living to foster these students ability to participate in society independently.