About Us » Faculty Bios

Faculty Bios

Allison Persad


Michael Cohen
Assistant Principal

Michael is a father, husband, and educator.  He is grateful for the opportunity to work at TYWLS Astoria.  A native New Yorker, Michael graduated from Hofstra University with a BBA in Management and an MBA in Finance.  He earned his Post Baccalaureate in Secondary Education in Mathematics from Queens College.  In education, Michael has previously worked at Nassau Community College and started as a Mathematics Teacher at JHS 189.  Michael studied to earn his administrative license at The College of Saint Rose.  Michael believes education has the power to change the world for the better, one student at a time. When not working to improve student outcomes; Michael enjoys reading, taking in nature with his family, and reliving the glory days of playing college Rugby!

Alexandra Gialaboukis
Math Teacher, Programmer, Testing Coordinator 

Alexandra (Alex) Gialaboukis joined the TYWLS Astoria Community in 2018. Alex is part of the math department, as well as the programmer, testing coordinator and AP coordinator for the school. Alex is most excited about being the coordinator of student activities (COSA). Her previous experience includes teaching Algebra I and Algebra II as well as all the other roles in the Bronx. You can always find her in the guidance suite, when she is not teaching! 

Alfina Halitova
Alfina Halitova joined TYWLS of Astoria in year 2016. She teaches math to the middle school department.
Allison Gaia
Inclusion Teacher

Allison Gaia joined the TYWLS community in 2018 as an inclusion teacher. She loves supporting students as they reach their academic, personal, and career, and life goals. In addition to teaching, she enjoys cooking, traveling, and art.

Annie Amoguis
Science Teacher

Aniline “Annie” Amoguis joined TYWLS of Astoria in 2007 as a 6th grade science teacher. She started teaching 7th grade Science in 2016 and Introduction to Software Engineering in 2018. Annie loves the outdoors and is greatly involved in outdoor organizations like the Youth Opportunity Program, the Billion Oyster Project, and TreesNYC.  She likes to organize field trips and bring students outside.  In her free time, she likes crafting, cooking, hiking and backpacking.

Andy Jordan
Software Engineering Teacher

Andy Jordan has been a software engineer for more than 20 years. The launch of the MIR space station sparked his interest in science and technology. Andy studied Computer Science at the Humboldt University in Germany where he was introduced to the school's RoboCup team. He has been fascinated with robotics ever since. When he does not use the keyboard to code, he writes for several European publications. His work has been published in three languages and in five countries.  Andy looks forward to seeing his students discover the endless possibilities of technology while having fun along the way.

Ashley Almonte
Chemistry/Science Teacher
Ashley Almonte joined the TYWLS Community in 2017 as a Chemistry & Forensics teacher. In her Chemistry course, you can find students exploring chemical bonds, chemical reactions, acids & bases, solutions, and models of the atom. In her Forensics course, you can find students using biology, chemistry, and psychology to analyze and interpret evidence within the realm of our legal system.
Director of College Counseling 

Sade joined TYWLS Astoria and CBI in 2019 as the Director of College Counseling. She received a Bachelor's Degree from Stony Brook University in Psychology and Women's Studies. She then earned her Master's Degree in Bilingual School Counseling from New York University. Sade has worked as a school counselor for 6 years and has worked in college access for 8 years throughout the city and Westchester County. Sade is a proud Bronx native and a first-generation college student!

Caitlin McCaffrey
Math PCT Teacher

Caitlin joined the TYWLS of Astoria math team in 2017.  She currently teaches Geometry and AP Calculus. Outside of the classroom she loves to travel, run, go to the beach, and spend time with family and friends.

Caitlin Stanton
Drama Teacher

Caitlin Stanton joined the TYWLS of Astoria team in 2007. She teaches Musical

Theater, Costume Design, Masks and Puppetry, Advanced Scene Study and likes

long walks on the beach. She runs the TYWLS of Astoria Drama Club with the

help of some amazing staff and students.

Catherine Garro
Physical Education/Health Teacher
Cathy Garro joined TYWLS of Astoria team in 2017. She currently teaches Food Sustainability, High School Health Education, and Physical Education. Outside of teaching, Cathy also is one of the Activity Coordinators for the school, the Assistant Coach for Varsity Soccer, and the Head Coach for Varsity Softball. On her down time, Cathy enjoys spending time with her dog Charlie, traveling, going to the beach, exercising, and spending time with friends and family.
Devin Chowske 
Humanities/Inclusion Teacher

Devin Chowske joined TYWLS of Astoria in 2016. He now teaches 7th grade Humanities and 6th grade Digital Media. His elective has partnered in the past with Tribecca Teaches, The Museum of the Moving Image, and HBO/Cinetech to offer a wealth of experiences ranging from public showings at MoMI to authentic collaboration with women at Rikers Island. He is thrilled to be working toward growth with all of his students in this new academic year.

Diana Vlavianos
ELA/Humanities Teacher

Diana is an ELA/Humanities teacher at TYWLS who enjoys supporting students on their journey toward discerning identity & critiquing society through literature. Diana is a lover of poetry, as well as cats. She enjoys learning alongside and from her students, and loves “dropping the cool card.”

Emily Fields
STEAM Director and SEP Teacher 

Emily Fields joined Tywls of Astoria in the year of 2012. She is the 9th grade Algebra teacher and also teaches a 6th grade Software Engineering Class. Emily is a very bubbly and energetic individual who is very passionate about teaching and life.

Gabrielle Lee
Inclusion Teacher
Gabrielle Lee is  thrilled to be moving into her third year at TYWLS but her 9th year of teaching as an Inclusion Teacher. She feels lucky to have co-taught in multiple subject areas such as Math, Humanities and ELA. She is a firm believer in making education accessible, equitable and relevant to all students through knowing all learners well. She enjoys reading, traveling, learning and singing!
Gayathri Iyer
MS Guidance Counselor

Gayathri Iyer earned her Masters in School Counseling at Hunter College after a BFA in Cinema Studies and Journalism at New York University, where she currently serves as adjunct faculty in the Department of Applied Psychology.  A midwest native of strong South Asian roots, Gayathri brings her work background in arts, media, feminism, social justice, and nonprofit administration to a love of learning, listening, and lifting up young women's potential at TYWLS Astoria.  In her time as a counselor, she has provided group and individual therapy, preventative programming, restorative discipline, academic guidance, career exploration, crisis management, teacher development on social emotional learning, and consultation on special education and school culture.  She is passionate about bringing the skills for self-reflection, sisterhood relationships, stress management, and citizenship in using technology to all middle school students, and encourages visits from those who need any kind of support, or just want to celebrate and expand their own superpowers.

Grace Loughney Harrington
Inclusion Teacher

Grace is excited to start her fifth year as an Inclusion teacher at TYWLS of Astoria. She is thrilled to have taught various subjects throughout her teaching career including ELA, Living Environment, Global History, and U.S. History. She loves being apart of the TYWLSA family and is passionate about making sure all students have access to quality education and opportunities in and out of the classroom. In addition to teaching, she loves musicals and enjoys reading, running, and traveling.

Greg Zimdahl
Humanities/History Teacher

Greg Zimdahl has been teaching and learning at TYWLS of Astoria since 2007.  He currently teaches 8th grade Humanities and 11th grade U.S. History and Government. Greg is also the co-advisor of the GSA (Gender and Sexuality Alliance).  For Greg, education is a life-long pursuit.  He sees his role as a coach, supporting and challenging students to learn the skills and strategies necessary to become life-long learners. Greg is an avid marathon runner, reader, and camping enthusiast.

Jackie Shendler
Humanities Teacher/UFT Chapter Leader 
Jackie Shendler joined TYWLS of Astoria in 2010. Currently, she teaches 8th grade Humanities. Jackie enjoys spending time with her family and friends, traveling, and getting her students involved in their community and government.
James Franco
Physical Education Teacher

James Franco joined TYWLS of Astoria in 2013 as a PE/Health Teacher. He currently teaches PE for grades 6-12. As the Athletic Director, he coaches PSAL volleyball for the HS and supervises all athletic programs for the school. Our school now has a CHAMPS program for Soccer, Basketball and Volleyball. For our HS level and PSAL program there is a Volleyball, Basketball, Softball, and Outdoor Track & Field Team. There will be more opportunities for more sports as the year continues. James is active in a variety of sports and activities like volleyball, weight lifting, swimming, and snowboarding. He also enjoys great food, watching sports and traveling.

Jonathan Ryberg
Science Teacher

Jonathan Ryberg joined the TYWLS-Astoria staff in 2008, and teaches Living Environment and Advanced Placement Environmental Science. He enjoys watching students make connections between their everyday experiences and what they are learning in the classroom. He loves reading, traveling, and spending time outdoors!

Science Teacher

Judy Canestrelli just finished her first year at TYWLS-Astoria teaching 6th grade science. Judy has been teaching science for 9 years and creates a student led classroom environment.  Students develop science skills through hands-on science projects. Students work in groups designing experiments and investigations in order to study the natural world.

Katherine Tansey
Math Teacher, MFA Teacher
Katherine Tansey joined TYWLS of Astoria in 2010 teaching 8th grade math, she now also teaches 3D printing, and Algebra 1 and 2. She loves to travel, eat, read, run, make, and do all things math! Each day she tries to help girls become confident, problem-solving, math-skilled independent women!
ENL Teacher


Marina Prakas


Michael Stuart
History/Inclusion Teacher
Michael Stuart is joining the TYWLS of Astoria community this year as a 9th grade Global History teacher, an ELA and Math Inclusion teacher, and running the Model UN elective. Michael has been teaching since 2012 in NYC schools, and is excited be a new member of TYWLS.
Michelle Baratta
Visual Arts Teacher

Michelle Baratta has been teaching visual art since 2002 and has been working at TYWLS since 2013. She teaches AP 2D Design, high school beginning and intermediate art (art 1 and 2), and middle school art.

Norman Wu
 Math Teacher

Norman Wu teaches 7th grade math and advisory, and a 10th/11th grade physics elective. This is his fourth year teaching at TYWLS of Astoria.

Randi Bivona
History Teacher

Randi Bivona has been teaching in NYC since 2007. She joined TYWLS in 2016 and is excited to be teaching 10th grade Global History this year.

Scott Melcher
History/Psychology Teacher
Scott Melcher has been teaching Social Studies at TYWLS since the school opened in 2006. He currently teaches Government and Economics for 12th graders, and AP Psychology as a high school elective.
Sylvia Kwon

Sylvia Kwon joined TYWLS of Astoria in 2014. She is the 6th grade humanities and 6th grade game design teacher.

Tanya Bonanno
Science Teacher

Tanya Bonanno joined TYWLS of Astoria in 2018 as the Earth Science Teacher.  She believes that all of her students ROCK and will never take them for granite.  During her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends and traveling whenever time permits.

Tomas Gonzales
Science Teacher

Tomas joined TYWLS of Astoria in 2018. He currently teaches physics and precalculus. Tomas believes in equity in education and he makes sure that every student has the support they need to be successful.

Tori Gonzalez
Spanish Teacher
Xenia Thomopoulos
ELA/Film Teacher

Xenia joined TYWLS of Astoria in 2012. She teaches high school English and also teaches filmmaking. She's dedicated to giving students the tools they need to be successful.

Yana Garbarg
ELA/Media Teacher

Yana Garbarg joined TYWLS of Astoria for the 2012-2013 school year. She is the 9th grade English teacher and the 7th grade Digital Media teacher. She loves sharing her passion for poetry and writing with her students!