Jane Racoosin has worked in early childhood education for over 20 years. As a teacher, parent, and Director of Beginnings Nursery School in NYC, she has witnessed how children’s learning and emotional development are impacted by an exploration-based education approach. In her own classroom, she saw that children gained confidence and creativity when curriculum was developed in collaboration between teachers and children. She wanted to offer the same high quality early learning experience to all children across the five boroughs regardless of cost. In 2013, she started Teaching Beyond the Square to fulfill this vision and to elevate early childhood education’s importance in a public way. With the launch of New York City universal pre-k programs in 2015, Jane felt it was the perfect time for the Wonder of Learning exhibit to return to New York after a 25 -year hiatus. She was the organizer and chair of the exhibit which had over 11,000 people visit and see the work of the children and educators in Italy. The exhibit also provided free professional development for all teachers new to the field and seasoned professionals, from independent and public schools. She has attended workshops at Reggio-inspired schools in the United States and been to Reggio Emilia, Italy to visit their early childhood programs and study their philosophy. Jane spearheaded a two-year relationship between The University of Vermont Campus Children's Center and Beginnings Nursery School. She has presented at the 92nd Street Y, Kean University, and The European Early Childhood Research Conference in Birmingham, England. Jane has been an adjunct lecturer in the department of Early Childhood Education at Hunter College, received a BA in Psychology from the University of Vermont, a Masters in Early Childhood Education and a Masters in Supervision and Administration from Bank Street College.
+ Beau Edmondson - Director of Strategy and Communications
Beau Edmondson is the Director of Digital Communications for Beginnings Nursery School, a Reggio inspired preschool and Teaching Beyond the Square, an innovative non-profit founded dedicated to exploration-based education; he’s also a teacher. Along with developing their websites, he has helped restructure how they use documentation as an integral part of their pedagogical approach to learning and communication. Beau was on the Steering Committee and was Chair of the Documentation Committee for the Wonder of Learning exhibit from Reggio Emilia, Italy, from January through May in 2015, in Brooklyn, NY, which gathered and displayed the half-year experience online. He began his teaching career at a Brooklyn Heights Montessori School as the music teacher for first through eighth grades. He began teaching at Beginnings in 2010 and developed their sound studio and music website for which he presented his work on the evolution of the music studio program at Blue School's annual conference on Innovation in November 2013. Beau lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife and two children. He received his B.F.A. New York University's Tisch School of the Arts in Theater Performance and English Literature and his front-end web development education from General Assembly in New York City.
+ Jennifer Carvajal - Senior Educational Director
Jennifer Carvajal received her B.S. in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, PA and her M.S. in Education, with a concentration in Literacy, from Hunter College in New York, NY. She taught at Beginnings Nursery School from 2002 to 2009 and participated in a study group in Reggio Emilia, Italy in 2007. Jennifer is on the Board of Directors at Teaching Beyond the Square and has been consulting for them since 2013. When she's not taking care of her twin daughters, she is leading professional development workshops and working alongside teachers and directors in the tri-state area as they strive to become more Reggio-inspired.
+ Yeshnaya Dougherty - Education Coach
Yeshnaya received her M.A. in Early Childhood Education from Lesley University and her B.A. in Environmental Studies from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia. Passionate and inspired by the curious minds of young children, Yeshnaya's teaching practice and philosophy are largely shaped from her work with the Reggio Emilia approach and her experience teaching in progressive schools in NYC, where she has worked as a classroom teacher for children from eighteen months to eight years old. Most recently Yeshnaya taught at Beginnings Nursery and presented at the Wonder of Learning Materials Conference in April 2015. She finds great joy in sharing her enthusiasm and experience with other educators and has been consulting for Teaching Beyond the Square since Spring 2015, working with a variety of public and private schools.
+ Wendy Gelsanliter - Materials Center Educator & Coordinator
Wendy Gelsanliter helped develop the Materials Center at Beginnings Nursery School in 2007 and is currently the Materials Educator and Coordinator at Teaching Beyond the Square. Wendy has over thirty years of experience working with young children. Her most recent administrative positions include Associate Director of the Jewish Community Project’s Early Childhood Center, Director of the Park Slope Child Care Collective and Assistant Director of Beginnings Nursery School in Manhattan. Wendy has 19 years of experience as a classroom teacher for children ages eighteen months old through third grade at The Buckley School, Beginnings Nursery School and Blue School. In 2015, Wendy was part of the Steering committee for the NYC exhibition of the Wonder of Learning Exhibit, the traveling exhibition of the Reggio Emilia approach. Music is another passion of Wendy’s. As a singer, songwriter, and guitarist, she has produced three CDs for children and their families. Wendy has also taught music and movement classes in several locations. Wendy holds her BA in English from Hamilton College and a M.S. in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Bank Street College. In 2018, she participated in a study group in Reggio Emilia, Italy.
+ Laura Sedlock - Board Member
Laura Sedlock, Pre-Primary Program Director, grew up in New York City, where she attended the Bank Street School for Children and the Fieldston School. She has a BA in English from Wesleyan University and a Masters in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Bank Street College. Laura has fourteen years of experience in the field of early childhood education, having taught at the Bank Street School for Children, City and Country School, P.S. 321 in Park Slope, Brooklyn and Beginnings Nursery School. Most recently, Laura has been the Educational Director at Beginnings since 2008. She has also been an adjunct lecturer in the department of Early Childhood Education at Hunter College. Before entering the field of childhood education, Laura taught English to adults in New York and Indonesia, where she lived for four years. Laura finds the world of early childhood to be endlessly fascinating and engaging, and is thrilled to be part of a community with such an energetic and thoughtful approach to children and education. She lives in Brooklyn with her spouse and two daughters.
+ Robin Koo - Board Member
Robin Koo was the Program Director of Teaching Beyond the Square, and Materials Center Coordinator. Robin was Chair of the Atelier Committee, which created the Natural Materials and Light & Shadow Ateliers to accompany the Wonder of Learning exhibit when it was in New York City in 2015. Since the exhibit's presence in NYC, Robin has been working closely with a variety of public schools and UPK centers, and private early childhood school communities, supporting them as they move towards an inquiry-based approach to teaching. She began her teaching career at Beginnings in 2001, first as a classroom teacher in the 2s and 4/5s, and then as the Studio Teacher starting in 2006. In 2007, she helped establish the Materials Center at Beginnings, which she continues to coordinate and now oversees the new public location in the Lower East Side. Robin is an Adjunct Instructor at NYU SCPS teaching courses for their Childcare Management diploma program. She received her M.A. in Art & Art Education from Teachers College, and her B.A. in Visual Art & Art History from Bowdoin College.
+ Sipi Bhandari - Board Member
Sipi Bhandari is really awesome.
+ Luigi Caiola - Board Member
Luigi Caiola is the Managing Member and CEO of B and L Management LLC, a real estate development company that focuses on multi-family residential projects. B and L owns and operates residential and commercial properties throughout New York City. A three-time Tony Award® winner, Luigi made his debut as a Broadway producer in 2011 with the historic revival of GODSPELL by Stephen Schwartz. During the 2016-17 theater season, Luigi will co-produce An Act of God with Sean Hayes, Dear Evan Hansen, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Natasha, Pierre and the Comet of 1812 with Josh Groban and Burn This! with Jake Gyllenhaal. Recent Theater credits include: During the 2015-16 theater season, Fiddler on the Roof, On Your Feet, The Color Purple (winner of 2 Tony Awards® for Best Musical Revival and Best Leading Actress) and Spring Awakening. 2012 thru 2014: The Elephant Man, An American in Paris, All The Way starring Bryan Cranston (winner of 2 Tony Awards® including Best Play on Broadway) Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (winner of 3 Tony Awards® including Best Revival of a Play) Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s Cinderella (winner of 1 Tony Award® and 3 Drama Desk Awards). Luigi is also on the Board of Directors of the New York City Center and The Bay Street Theater and Cultural Center in Sag Harbor. Luigi and his husband Sean McGill are devoted parents to former Beginnings attendees, Maria ‘11 and twins William ‘13 and Adam ‘13 and Luigi is the proud son of Bettina Caiola and the late Benny Caiola.