Meet the team

Kathryn AlessiKathryn Alessi
Executive Associate and Office Manager

Kathryn manages all office operations and as well as the schedules of executive management. She received a B.A. more...

in Anthropology and a B.A. in Italian Studies from Stony Brook University. In 2011, she completed anthropological field research on effects of environmental education programs implemented near Ranomafana National Park in Madagascar. She is currently enrolled in a masters program at the CUNY Graduate Center focusing on social and environmental justice.

Maria AguilarMaria Aguilar
Strategic Financial Adviser

Maria provides support for financial and operational systems necessary to support Internationals’ mission. more...

Prior to joining Internationals, Maria worked in finance and operations with several not for profit organizations which focused in the areas of advocacy, healthcare, emergency services, and technical assistance. Maria received her M.B.A. and B.B.A. from Baruch College.

Dariana CastroDariana Castro
Director of School Development

Dariana is responsible for the national network expansion initiatives, supporting the opening and development of new schools and academies. more...

Dariana has over 14 years of experience working in public schools. Her most recent experience is as the Director of School Design in the New York City Department of Education’s Office of School Design & Charter Partnerships. There she supported school leaders in designing schools that responded to community needs. She began her career in education at Bushwick High School as a Gear Up Specialist and Coordinator. Soon after she participated in the founding of the Urban Assembly Media High School as a New School Implementation Associate. While at the International High School at Prospect Heights, she managed all school partnerships, and a successful college and career readiness program comprised of internships and mentoring. In 2012, she joined the New York City Department of Education as the Associate Director for New School Model Development, focusing on the expansion of the NYC P-TECH model at the Office of Post-Secondary Readiness. She graduated from CUNY Brooklyn College and earned her M.P.A. at the NYU Wagner School for Public Service.

Clarissa CummingsClarissa Cummings
Program and Events Manager

Clarissa manages the Internationals’ Professional Development related events, intervisitations, and online services (ISHARE, webinars, etc). more...

She has traveled extensively and lived in three countries outside the U.S., including Cape Town, where she launched an independent project using media and education to build cross-national social justice collaborations. Her field research focused on how global cities can create integrated, just, and creative spaces. Prior to joining Internationals Network for Public Schools, she worked for the Metropolitan New York Library Council. Clarissa received her M.A. in International Affairs from The New School.

Kevin Davies
Research Associate

Kevin Davies helps to strengthen our data collection and analysis efforts and reporting to Marguerite Lukes, PhD, the Director of Research and Innovation. more...

Kevin J. Davies received his A.B. in Anthropology from Harvard College. Prior to joining Internationals, Kevin worked in education, development and as a counselor. When he’s not working, Kevin volunteers on the Finance Committee of the Bushwick Food Cooperative, tends a small garden, and bikes around Brooklyn.

Dennis De Guzman Caindec, Ed.D.
Director of School Support, National

As Director of School Support, National, Dennis works with leaders in schools affiliated with Internationals Network in locations throughout the United States more...

to strategically plan, implement, and monitor services that support and promote success for English Language Learners. In partnership with colleagues at Internationals, Dennis oversees the provision of structural and instructional supports to Internationals schools and academies (school within-a-school programs). Dennis De Guzman Caindec is a first generation immigrant who is committed to the work of serving recently arrived immigrant students and families.  He has over 15 years of experience in the field of education. Prior to Internationals, Dennis served as the Sr. Manager of Educational Policy and Strategy for the Multilingual Pathways Department in SFUSD. In this capacity, he oversaw district-wide EL language policy and accountability that included the federal program monitoring EL instrument audit, institutionalizing the K-12 reclassification process, supported with the Department of Justice audits, and the language pathways evaluation. Dennis received his bachelors of science in aerospace engineering from UCLA, his masters in education from Pace University, and his doctorate in educational leadership from UC Berkeley.


John Matthew Diaz
Program Assistant

John provides much needed support and assistance to the Programs team. John is a graduate of International High School more...

 for Health Sciences and is currently enrolled at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. John has worked as an intern for Internationals, first as part of his internship program at IHS-Health Sciences, and then in the summers helping prepare for NYC Summer Institutes and supporting the Development team organizing donor information. John plans on graduating John Jay with honors and a BA in criminal justice in hopes of someday working with a federal law enforcement agency. 

Maryam Dilakian
Instructional Coach

Maryam supports teachers and school leaders in reaching higher levels of achievement for ELLs through the lens of the Internationals Approach.more...

Maryam Dilakian was an English teacher at a transfer high school and two schools serving recently arrived immigrants in New York City for eleven years. She is an activist, an immigrant, a mother, a baker, and a staunch believer that the American Dream will someday be an equal opportunity endeavor. Maryam was born in Yerevan, Armenia, and moved to New York City with her mother at the age of sixteen. Prior to teaching, Maryam worked in international political development in Washington, DC, and overseas. Maryam lives in Queens with her immigrant, adoptive, interracial, tricultural, quadrilingual Jamaican Armenian American family.

Luis DuanyLuis Duany
Director of School Support

Luis coordinates and delivers leadership and professional development supports to NYC school administrators, faculty, and staff. more...

Luis was most recently Senior Instructional Coach for one of the Children First Networks in the NYC Department of Education, after serving as Principal of the Heritage School in East Harlem as a graduate of the NYC Leadership Academy.  He taught middle and high school math in NYC, Maryland, and Puerto Rico.  Prior to that, he was Executive Director of the Star Link technology network in Puerto Rico and Project Director of the NYC Latino Commission on Educational Reform, as well as working at the Education division of the Children’s Defense Fund in Washington, D.C.  Luis holds a B.A. from Columbia University, a Masters in Public Policy from Harvard’s JFK School of Government, and a Masters in Math and Bilingual Education from Columbia’s Teachers College.  He is very proud of having been selected as Honorary Teacher by a former student who was named U.S. Presidential Scholar.

Jeehae FischerJeehae Fischer
Director of Development and Communications

Jeehae is responsible for the fundraising and communications efforts of Internationals Network. Previously, Jeehae was the Director more...

of Programs and Administration at the Korean American Family Service Center where she worked with victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. She oversaw the daily operation and long-term growth of the organization’s multiple services. She is a professional violinist with a B.M. in violin performance from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. Jeehae also holds a M.S. in non-profit management from the Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy, at the New School for Public Management.

Zhou Jin Gao
Assistant of Finance and Programs

Zhou Jin supports the daily operations of accounting and program activities, as well as other office duties as needed. more...

Prior to joining Internationals, Zhou Jin worked in a real estate firm as a bookkeeper. He also freelances as a web developer and a chess coach. Zhou Jin holds a B.B.A. in Computer Information Systems from Baruch College.

Khalia Joseph
Manager of College Readiness

Khalia is responsible for building the capacity of school staff to support college readiness, access, enrollment and retention efforts in our high schools. more...

She is passionate about providing post-secondary resources to students and families and has built her expertise in New York City schools in roles ranging from high school college advisor, Learning to Work Program Director at a transfer high school to college retention counselor at Cypress Hills CDC to an advisor at CUNY Start. Khalia has a B.S. in Public Relations from Florida A&M University where she spent three years as a radio personality on the campus station. She also earned a M.S. in adolescent education from St. John’s University. 

Cora KobischkaCora Kobischka
Associate of Development and Communications

Cora supports for the fundraising and communications efforts of Internationals Network. Previously, Cora has worked with CEOs, more...

executives, and entrepreneurs to develop their personal and professional brands. Combining her arts education with five years’ experience in branding and communications in corporate and non-profit worlds, she understands what drives an audience. Prior to becoming a consultant, Cora was the Development and Communications Coordinator at Korean American Family Service Center and played a key role in planning an Annual Benefit Gala as well as managing the organization’s communications efforts.
Additionally, Cora showcases her artwork in galleries in NYC, designs bespoke objects and runs Evidence Of, an online art and culture platform and boutique that shares thoughtful content and highlights local artists and their work. Cora has a BFA from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Joe Luft
Executive Director

Joe is responsible for Internationals’ overall strategic direction including programs, fundraising, and advocacy work. more...

Previously, Joe served as Deputy Director of Internationals Network for Public Schools. Joe is the founding Principal of the Flushing International High School in New York City. He was also a teacher at the Brooklyn International High School and completed an administrative residency at LaGuardia Community College. Joe began his teaching career in the Washington, DC Public Schools and, prior to teaching, worked at the Aspira Association in Washington, DC. Joe holds a B.A. in History and Hispanic Studies from Connecticut College and a M.A. in ESL/Secondary Education from The George Washington University in Washington DC. He is a graduate of the New Leaders for New Schools urban principal preparation program.

Marguerite LukesMarguerite Lukes, PhD
Director of Research and Innovation

Marguerite is primarily responsible for working collaboratively across the organization to set the vision for the research, reporting, and analysis, and engaging more...

with staff to explore the impact of projects and services that lead to innovations in program design. The DRI employs a combination of statistical analysis and qualitative research methodologies, collaborates with researchers from universities, nonprofits and other institutions, and oversees research efforts for existing grants. 

Julie MaJulie Ma
Director of Finance and Operations

Julie oversees Internationals’ financial, administrative and operations functions to support the mission.  As a first generation immigrant, more...

 she understands the challenges very well.  She is determined to tackle the inequality in education serving English language learners while supporting Internationals mission serving the very population. Julie attended Pace University as an undergraduate in Human Resources and Business Management and received master’s degree from Baruch College’s Executive Master of Public Administration in 2018. She is also a Voice Talent speaking both Cantonese and Mandarin and works in the media and the entertainment industry. Julie joined Internationals in 2011.

Dolan MorganDolan Morgan
Director of Professional Development Services

Dolan helps create and produce professional development workshops, activities, experiences, and resources. He has worked with more...

Internationals Network as our Lead Instructional Coach and as a consultant, most recently on the Network’s i3 project at Lincoln High School. Prior to working with Internationals Network, he was a freelance consultant for schools, with a focus on collaboration and mastery-based pedagogy. He was an English Language Arts (ELA) teacher at Bronx International High School for many years, where he served as the 12th grade team leader and a long term member of the Coordinating Council, the schools collaborative leadership team. He is also an editor and author, with one collection of short stories released in 2014 and another forthcoming in 2016.

Nandini NaikNandini Naik
Instructional Coach

Nandini supports teachers and school leaders in reaching higher levels of achievement for ELLs through the lens of the Internationals Approach.more...

Prior to joining the Internationals, Nandini was a founding member at Emma Lazarus High School in NYC where for six years she taught English and Theatre to ESL immigrant students.While holding her students to high standards, Nandini infused the joy of learning into her curriculum by designing rigorous projects to drive student inquiry and increase student ownership. She mentored her colleagues in engagement strategies, had experience with hiring new personnel, was part of her school’s Professional Development Team, deepened her understanding of best practices by attending the NCTE, SIOP, ASCD, TESOL, Shakespeare, and other conferences, and conducted teacher-teacher workshops with the NYC Writing Project. Having double majored in Theatre and Religion, Nandini received her B.A. at Colby College; she then attended NYU, Steinhardt, where she graduated with an M.A. in Educational Theatre and English. She has since earned a supplemental license in teaching students with Special Needs. A trained meditation teacher who has taught mindfulness practices to public school teachers, Nandini is also certified to teach yoga. Inspired to be a life long learner, she is delighted to be a part of the Internationals team.

Kelly QureshiKelly Qureshi
Lead Instructional Coach

Kelly supports the professional development of the Internationals coaching team as well as supporting teachers and school leaders to apply the core principles more...

of Internationals in their schools and academies. Kelly is an experienced educator who started her teaching career as a chemistry teacher for Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland. She has spent the majority of her career as a teacher at the International High School at LaGuardia Community College in New York City where she taught chemistry and biology. She has worked as an instructional coach for Internationals since 2014 at various schools in in the Washington, D.C. area including the International Academy at Cardozo Education Campus, the International Academy at Roosevelt Senior High School and at Francis C. Hammond Middle School International Academy in Alexandria, VA. Kelly received her B.S. in Chemistry from the State University of New York College at Geneseo and a M.A. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Maryland, College Park. 

Genna RobbinsGenna Robbins
Manager of Professional Development Services

Genna is responsible for supporting the design of Professional Developments that build teacher and school capacity around the core principles ofmore...

the Internationals Model.Previously, Genna was the founding science teacher at Crotona International High School, where she taught grades 9-12 over the course of her 5-year tenure. At Crotona she was the Portfolio and Professional Development coordinator, and was responsible for coordinating all aspects of portfolio projects and staff development. She was also an original member of the Internationals Portfolio Committee, where she worked to create the Internationals Graduation Worthy Portfolio Rubrics and developed workshops and resources to support portfolio culture across the network. Genna received her B.A. in Biology from Swarthmore College, her M.A. in Science Education and her Ed.M. in Teacher of Education of Science from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Nancy RosasNancy Rosas
Regional Director of Network Support

Nancy leads new school development efforts and oversees the delivery and expansion of network services in the growing DC, Maryland and Virginia region. more...

In her prior role with Internationals, School Design Manager, Nancy managed the  planning and design process supporting school design leaders to launch two new Internationals schools in Prince George’s County, Maryland. She managed partnership development with external stakeholders, and collaborated with school and district leadership to develop policies, processes and systems to implement a mastery based approach at these new schools. Nancy has over ten years of experience working in the public and nonprofit management sectors. As an Education Pioneers Year-long Graduate Fellow placed at Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) in Maryland, Nancy worked for the Chief Financial Officer designing improvements to Student Based Budgeting, an initiative which allocated more than $430 million annually to schools based on their students’ needs and characteristics and provided principals increased autonomy over their budget. Previously, she worked at MDRC, a social policy research firm, where she provided technical assistance to service providers to make program improvements, conducted qualitative field research, and managed projects, staffing and financial resources for multiple research studies primarily focused on workforce development. Nancy earned her B.A. in Latin American Studies from Yale University and her M.B.A. from the Boston University School of Management.

Trevor SaffordTrevor Safford
Instructional Coach

Trevor supports teachers and school leaders in reaching higher levels of achievement for ELLs through the lens of the Internationals Approach.more...

Prior to coaching, Trevor taught for three years as an English Language Arts teacher at International Community High School. At International Community he coordinated the English department to increase literacy development across content areas. Collaborating with other English teachers, Trevor presented this work–and work with Socratic seminars–at professional development conferences in New York City. He has recently completed a teaching fellowship with the U.S. state department as an English Language Fellow in Palestine, where he taught English and education courses at Bethlehem University and led professional development workshops for teachers throughout the Levant. Trevor received his B.A. in anthropology from the College of William and Mary and his M.A. in TESOL from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Andrew SigalAndrew Sigal
Instructional Coach

Andrew supports teachers and school leaders in reaching higher levels of achievement for ELLs through the lens of the Internationals Approach.more...

Previously, Andrew was a teacher at the International Academy at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia. Andrew taught 9th grade government where he focused on Content and Language Integration, Project Based Learning, and Standards Based Grading. Andrew holds a B.A. in history from James Madison University, a M.Ed. from University of Pittsburgh. Andrew also obtains a certificate for Kindergarten through 12th grade English Language Learner Instruction from George Mason University.

Claire SylvanClaire Sylvan, PhD
Founder and Senior Strategic Adviser

Claire provides policy/advocacy and strategic support, and co-directs Deeper Learning Equity Fellows with Big Picture Learning.more...

A nationally recognized expert and practitioner in both school reform and the education of immigrants and English language learners, Claire is passionate about providing all students but particularly immigrant students, with personalized and cutting edge educational opportunities. Prior to founding Internationals Network, Claire worked in diverse roles and settings spanning public secondary education, teacher education and community/workplace organizing. She has provided guidance on broad school reform initiatives, participating on local, state and national advisory boards, commissions and task forces providing leadership on topics including the development of state standards for English language learners, the benefits and challenges of NCLB for English learners and the opening of new small schools.
Claire has developed innovative programs and practices for diverse populations of new learners of English in various New York City public schools, led the Internationals Schools Partnership (the early network of International High Schools) and piloted the groundbreaking Early College Program at The International High School at LaGuardia Community College, the first International High School. She has also researched and published articles documenting the cross-section of educational reform and language development programs for immigrants and their children. Claire attended McGill University and Brooklyn College as an undergraduate and received masters and doctoral degrees from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Blessing Uchendu, LCSW
Manager of Social Emotional Learning

As Manager of Social Emotional Learning, Blessing Uchendu supports and develops Social Emotional Learning (SEL) programs including youth development, advisory, and more...

restorative justice in our network of schools. Additionally, Blessing provides on-site coaching and professional development support to SEL staff, pedagogues, and other school staff integral to the social-emotional learning of students in our schools.

Blessing Uchendu is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with nearly 10 years’ experience as a school social worker. She has successfully developed and implemented programs designed to support youth development and staff capacity-building in both private and public education settings. She previously worked as the Director of Social Emotional Supports at Baker College Prep, a campus of the Noble Network of Charter Schools, where she was tasked with developing the infrastructure of social-emotional programming at her school. She holds a Master of Social Work from Loyola University Chicago and a Bachelor of Arts in English-Communications from Trinity International University.


Liliana VargasLiliana Vargas
Senior Director of Programs

Liliana helps set strategic priorities and aids in the design, management and fundraising for Internationals programming. more...

Prior to joining Internationals, Liliana held teaching and leadership positions at International High School at LaGuardia Community College for six years prior to relocating to the West Coast, including serving as the Chair of its Board of the Directors during the period of its charter status. As the Director of California New School Development for Internationals, Liliana facilitated the national expansion of Internationals schools with the openings of Oakland International High School and San Francisco International High School. She received her B.A. in Political Science and Spanish from Amherst College and a M.A. in Teaching Social Studies from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Maggie WardMaggie Ward
Competency Specialist

Maggie is a DC-based mastery specialist who helps schools with curriculum mapping, unit design, and data-driven assessments. more...

Prior to joining internationals, Maggie was a consultant for the Center for Collaborative Education where she provided strategic consulting and technical assistance for clients and grants including: New Hampshire Department of Education, Rhode Island Department of Education, Virtual Learning Academy Charter School, and Expanded Success Initiative Schools in New York City. Maggie has worked with a variety of schools across the United States, El Salvador, and South Africa. She received her B.A. in Business Administration from Georgetown University and her M.Ed. in Technology, Innovation, and Education from Harvard University.