Our Staff Developers

Morningside Center’s talented and experienced staff developers provide training and hands-on coaching to help educators build students’ social and emotional skills and create a caring, respectful classroom climate. Staff developers also work hand-in-hand with school leaders to foster a positive, productive school culture. 

 


Eugenia Acuña
Eugenia [Kena] Acuña, MPH, CPC, has been a Morningside Center staff developer since 2014, providing training in Restore360 (our restorative practices program), coaching school staff and faculty, and supporting the development of a guide on student diversity panels. Kena is a training facilitator, certified leadership coach and consultant. During her career, she has trained students and teachers on health-related topics, focusing on sexual and reproductive health. She has also facilitated circles and worked with parents in a number of areas including leadership development and advocacy. As a parent of three children in NYC public schools, Kena was involved both in classroom support and in committee work.

Hanaa Arafat
Hanaa Arafat  joined Morningside Center as a staff developer in 2014, and has worked in the positive youth development and education fields for over 14 years. Her experiences working with schools have fueled her passion to facilitate rich and connecting learning experiences for youth, community members, and educators. Prior to joining Morningside Center, Hanaa was the managing director of High School and College Bound Initiatives at the YWCA of the City of New York, where she was primarily responsible for the strategic development and implementation of high school programming. She currently consults with youth serving organizations nationwide. She designs and implements trainings and curricula, and provides coaching and technical assistance in the fields of community education and positive youth development. She received her BA in English Literature and Women’s Studies from the University of Minnesota and her MA in Near Eastern Studies with a concentration on gender studies and history from New York University.

Jonah Braverman
Jonah Braverman has been a Morningside Center staff developer and PAZ educational specialist since 2014, and has worked in the conflict resolution field since 2006. As educational specialist for our PAZ after-school program at PS 214 in the Bronx, he has provided training and coaching for staff in SEL, and has helped develop and implement SEL/peer mediation and social action curricula. He has also provided training and coaching for staff at schools throughout NYC in restorative approaches through our Restore360 Program. Before coming to Morningside Center, Jonah served as program coordinator for Youth Empowerment in Brooklyn, where he developed and implemented experiential SEL curricula and implemented a mediation and restorative justice program. Jonah developed curricula on social reconciliation for the Center for Peace-Building and Reconciliation in Sri Lanka and provided training and coaching in peacebuilding for Common Ground in Nepal. He has a BA in education, community development and sustainable agriculture from Hampshire College and an MA in peace-building, conflict transformation and sustainable development from the SIT Graduate Institute.

Victoria Cheng
Victoria Cheng has worked with Morningside since 2007. For five years, she served as the conflict resolution specialist at our PAZ after-school program at PS 24 in Brooklyn, where she helped both adults and students develop SEL skills. She is currently a lead trainer and coach for CREW: Friends for the Journey, our program to build the capacity of after-school programs to integrate SEL, and has helped develop the CREW curriculum. Victoria has also trained and coached staff from public schools across NYC in fostering social and emotional learning through our 4Rs and Restore360 Programs, and trained peer mediators in both elementary and middle schools. In addition to her work with Morningside Center, Victoria has facilitated trainings in positive discipline for CBO staffs for Development without Limits, served as a conflict resolution teacher for Project Reach Youth, and was program coordinator for the Police Athletic League Port Richmond Center. She has a BA in Criminal Justice, from John Jay College and a Masters in Conflict Analysis and Engagement from Antioch.

Daniel Coles
Daniel Coles is Morningside Center’s Senior Program Manager. He both supports our team of trainers and provides training himself. Before coming to Morningside Center, Daniel served as an induction mentor for Teachers College, providing coaching and modeling and other support for new NYC public school teachers. He also taught history and ELA at South Bronx Preparatory School and the Millennium Art Academy. Prior to that, he served as academic advisory and interim coordinator at City College of New York.  Daniel has a BA in Public Policy from Stanford, an MFA in Acting from University of Washington, and an MS in Education from Hunter College. 
 

Ava Daniel

Ava joined Morningside Center in 2006, and has provided training and coaching to help hundreds of teachers foster SEL in young people through The 4Rs, Restore360, and other Morningside Center programs. She is currently a lead trainer for our CREW program, which is helping NYC after-school programs integrate SEL. Before coming to Morningside Center, Ava supervised a diverse, cross-functional staff at JPMorganChase. As a member of Chases's diversity council, Ava  became very interested in diversity, and subsequently became a diversity consultant with expertise in areas of diversity management, team-building, leadership and communications. Clients included the City of New York, Girls Incorporated of New York City, and the United Federation of Teachers. She has also served as a facilitator/trainer for ADL's World of Difference Program.  Ava has a BA in Communications from Hunter College and a MA in Psychology, specializing in Diversity Management, from Cleveland State University.

Javier Francisco Diaz
Javier has been a staff developer for Morningside Center since 1997, and has provided training, coaching and support for staff and students at schools throughout New York City. Javier has also served as a Spanish/English interpreter and translator for New York State. He worked as a manager and instructor for Safe Horizon and was manager of the Red Hook & East New York Mediation Centers. He was also a post-mediation specialist for Victim Services. He has a BS in Criminal Justice from John Jay College and was certified as a mediator by the NYS Dispute Resolution Association. He is fluent in Spanish and English.
 

Nelida Espina
Nelly has been a trainer and staff developer for Morningside Center since 2000, and has provided training, coaching and facilitation in schools throughout the city. She was one of several staff developers selected to implement The 4Rs as part of our major 4Rs research program. She has a passion for working with children, youth, young adults, educators, and parents. Before coming to Morningside Center, she was a special education teacher and educational evaluator, and later moved on to become an educator, chairperson, and director for the Department of Juvenile Justice. She has developed programs and curricula in the areas of literacy development and the social, emotional, and health issues of youth and families. Nelly says: "My best memories at Morningside Center are of being part of a warm and loving staff, witnessing the social  and emotional growth of all who take part in our programs, and being part of a visionary organization."

Emily Feinstein
Emily has worked with Morningside since the mid-90s. She has supported, coached and trained teachers, parents, students and administration in dozens of schools. She has helped develop mediation, conflict resolution and advisory programs, as well as our 4Rs curriculum. She has written curricula, trained teachers and worked with schools in “using art to foster SEL.” Most recently her work at Morningside Center has focused on the Restore360 Program and it's Rethinking Discipline component. She is part of the city-wide cohort of trainers in restorative circles. Emily says: "I’ve loved and am committed to the ongoing work of building school communities where everyone can thrive. A community that provides the skills and opportunities for talking, listening, encouragement and problem-solving where everyone has a voice."

Tara Fishler
Tara has been a staff developer and trainer at Morningside Center since 2007. She has supported schools across the city in implementing our SEL and restorative practices programs, as well as peer mediation and diversity programs. She serves on the board of the NYS Association for Conflict Resolution and is a mediator for the Westchester Human Rights Commission. Before coming to Morningside Center, she was Director of Youth Mediation Programs for Safe Horizon. She has a BS in Children’s Studies from SUNY Brockport and a Juris Doctorate from Franklin Pierce Law Center.

Andrea Gibbs
Andrea Gibbs, LMSW, joined Morningside Center as a staff developer in 2015. She brings an extensive background that includes administration, program and staff development, clinical services, field instruction, and companion animal services. An active program consultant, she provides program and training services to a variety of profit and non-profit organizations, implementing educational and training programs for consumer and community populations and staff programs to help social service providers, educators and caregivers to develop their skills and improve continuously through reflective practice. She is a native New Yorker and long-time activist, and sits on the directing boards of a well-respected social service agency serving veteran and recovering women in New York City and an up-and-coming community organization in Westchester County.

Emma Gonzalez
Emma Gonzalez has worked as a staff developer and trainer at Morningside Center since 1988. Emma has helped Morningside Center develop many innovative approaches and programs, including our Peace Helpers program and our Diversity Panels program. She has provided training and coaching for educators in schools throughout New York City, and has supported principals in making their schools models for social and emotional learning. Emma has helped thousands of young people develop their capacity as peer mediators, peace helpers and diversity panel members. She has a gift for encouraging young people to gather their courage, to speak out, and to lead. She has a Doctorate in Education, Behavioral Science and Counseling from the University of Massachusetts.

Dionne Grayman
Dionne Grayman has been a staff developer for Morningside Center since 2014, and writes a regular blog for the organization. Dionne became an English teacher in 1993, and her first classroom was in the Rikers Island Education Facility (C-74) teaching male adolescent inmates. Says Dionne: “It was both the hardest and best teaching job I have had to date. I learned much from those young men and that experience has continued to inform who I am professionally and personally.” Dionne also taught at Brooklyn Tech, PATH on the Thomas Jefferson Campus, and Boys and Girls High School. She has been a parent and community activist as well. She cofounded NYCPublic, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering New York City's public school parents, and she co-founded the organization Mothers Empowered. She has served as a community organizing consultant for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Dionne has a BA from Brooklyn College and an MS in special education from Hunter College.

Joyce Griffen
Joyce has been with Morningside Center since 2000, and has provided training and coaching for schools throughout New York City in a range of programs. She was among the team of staff developers selected to implement the 4Rs as part of a rigorous, 3-year scientific study of the program. She currently provides training and coaching to help educators integrate restorative practices into their schools through our Restore360 Program. Joyce has a long career working with the young and/or at-risk communities of NYC. As well, for multiple years Joyce worked as a Teaching Artist for the Henry Street Settlement, creating curriculum and training participants in the DOE’s Gotham Institute Teacher Leadership Program. Her trainings guided teaching staff in using theater to teach American History, including Immigration, and Civil Rights. As a Creative Alternatives of NY staff member, Joyce’s work as a Recreational Therapist took her into Corrective Facilities such as Bedford Hills and Avenel (New Jersey) to work with inmate populations; Veteran Administration hospitals where she worked with paraplegic, recovering drug-dependent Vietnam Vets; and in the children’s and geriatric psychiatric wards of Mount Sinai Hospital. She was a Teaching Artist for Lincoln Center Institute for 20 years.

Janice Marie Johnson
Janice joined Morningside Center in 2007, and has provided training and coaching for teachers in schools across the city in a range of Morningside Center programs. She was participated in the randomized control trial of our 4Rs Program. Janice came to Morningside Center through her daughter, who had been invited to a week-long training to become a peer mediator at her school. Janice initially nixed the opportunity.Thankfully, she eventually relented. Before long, Janice became so excited about the program that she visited Morningside Center, learned the methodology, and started working in the field. Her interest deepened. She earned a Masters in Conflict Transformation (Skidmore College) and a Doctorate in Multi-faith Ministry (New York Theological Seminary). Janice is a curriculum developer who is deeply committed to intersectionality and multiculturalism. She is also a consummate student who always learns much from her students across the generations.

Janet Kyle
Janet joined Morningside in early 2015. She spent over 20 years in the private sector as a business partner to executive leadership on strategic talent management and organizational effectiveness. In 2005, Janet entered the NYC education sector as a teaching fellow, working in both middle and high schools as well as serving on the School Leadership Team. Since 2010, she has served as an executive coach and talent management consultant for educational organizations and nonprofits. In addition, she is an adjunct professor for City College's Masters in Public Administration, works as an account director for the Taproot Foundation's Leadership Development & Strategic HR Practice, and provides classroom supervision and coaching for first- and second-year teachers in the NYC Teaching Fellows Program. Janet grew up in Latin America and has advanced degrees from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and Pace University School of Education. 

Iris Laurencio
Iris joined Morningside Center in 2015. Prior to joining the staff, she was taught cross-cultural communications and trained teachers in English teaching methodology and evaluation at a state university in West Java, Indonesia. She also worked closely with street kids in the area, providing weekly English classes and other educational programs. Iris has worked with at-risk youth as a Peace Corps volunteer in  the Dominican Republic. She also worked several years as a Spanish teacher in the Chicago public schools. Iris has a Bachelors degree from Northern Illinois University and a Masters in TESOL from the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

Joseph McCarthy
Joseph McCarthy has been a trainer and staff developer for Morningside Center since 2004. He has brought his knowledge, experience, insight and humor to his training of hundreds of staff in schools across the city as part our Resolving Conflict Creatively Program, 4Rs Program, and Restore360, among others. Before joining Morningside Center, Joe served in various capacities in the New York City Department of Education. He was a teacher of the deaf, taught students with multiple disabilities, and was a supervisor, administrator, assistant director of special education and director of Student Support Services. He has worked at all levels: elementary, middle school and high school.

Jenny Seaquist
Jenny Sequist joined Morningside Center in 2014. She is delighted to be a coach in the 4Rs-My Teaching Partner research program, a collaboration with researchers from Fordham University and the University of Virginia. Jenny has been coaching teachers and working with general education and special needs youth in schools and after-school in arts-in-education and SEL for over 30 years. She has developed and facilitated professional development for educators in topics such as child development, behavior management, conflict resolution and arts integration for a variety of clients including PASE, NYC Mission Society, CAMBA and the Boys and Girls Club. She has developing literacy, SEL and art-in-education curricula for NYCHA and Phipps Community Development Corporation.  As an education director, she has overseen collaborations such as TASC’s AIDP programs and NYU’s Tisch drama school internship program.

Kristin Stuart Valdes
Kristin Stuart Valdes has worked with Morningside Center since 2004 and is currently a Senior Program Manager of the 4Rs+MTP research study. She has been a contributing writer to various Morningside Center curricula and writes “SEL Tips” for the Morningside Center website. She began her work in the field of conflict resolution and social emotional learning while working with students who had witnessed 9/11 from their school building and who ended up calling one another “terrorists” in its aftermath. She has a deep interest in the roles that cultural practice, language, ethnicity, and class all play in the way we interact with one another in our diverse and vibrant society. She is a certified CLASS Observer and Trainer, a Part 137 Mediator for the NYC courts, and holds a BFA and MFA NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Marieke van Woerkom
Marieke van Woerkom joined Morningside Center as a staff developer in 2006. As a trainer and coach, she works in schools across the city to help create more conducive teaching and learning environments. Marieke has helped develop our Restore360 Program and co-authored the Restore360 teaching guide. She is also a regular contributor to TeachableMoment and blogs about restorative practices for Morningside Center through her In the Circle blog. She helps organize events and writes curricula that engage students (pre-K-12) in establishing positive connections and building their social and emotional skills. Marieke has worked in the field of cultural exchange, interfaith dialogue, conflict transformation, violence prevention and human rights for 20 years. She holds a double Masters in Cultural Anthropology and International Relations from the University of Amsterdam, with a specialization in group identity and inter-group relations.

Elizabeth Miu-Lan Young
Elizabeth Miu-Lan Young has been a trainer and staff developer with Morningside Center since 2010. She is currently a lead trainer for our Restore360 Program. She is thrilled to bring restorative practices to public school teachers and administrators who are committed to learning, teaching and modeling social and emotional learning competencies and building community among staff and students. Liz is an entrepreneur specializing in diversity and cultural competencies training. She has been active in the New York City Asian community for the past 40 years as the first director of Project Reach youth program, co-founder of the Chinatown Health Clinic, and adjunct professor of Asian American Experience at Hunter College and the University of Southern California. She has presented workshops for affinity groups of color at Fortune 100 companies, and trained administrators, faculty and students Harvard, Yale, Columbia, New York University, and Princeton, among others. She has also brought her expertise to East Timor, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Kenya. She is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley.

Mariana Gaston