All Staff Are Members Of NAEYC

All educational staff are members of The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). The NAEYC is the world’s largest organization working on behalf of young children. By connecting practice, policy, and research, the organization promotes high-quality early learning for all students from birth through age eight. We advance a diverse, dynamic, early-childhood profession and support all who care for, educate, and work on behalf of children.
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Francesca S. Cohn

Educational Director

Francie graduated with Honors from Princeton University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Romance Languages and Civilization (with a concentration in French) and earned a Master’s Degree with Honors in Early Childhood Education from Adelphi University. She is NYS Certified in Early Childhood Education, birth through second grade. Prior to her career in education, Francie completed editorial work and translation at Doubleday & Co. in NYC.

Francie’s involvement in GCNS has spanned over 25 years and her roles have included parent, assistant teacher and head teacher, working with all age groups. She has taught Pre-K, Nursery, Lunch and Literacy and led the STEM program for ten years. Her credentials also include parent education. 
Francie and her husband Paul live in Garden City; her three children are GCNS alumni. She is an active member of the Garden City Community Church, where she was the Church School Administrator for six years. She has been a Deacon, Confirmation teacher, Youth Mission Trip leader, Vacation Bible School teacher and is a member on the Board of Membership, Life and Development. Her interests include art, music, dance, languages, literature, yoga, swimming, knitting, sewing and quilting. 
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Jackie Colon

Head Teacher, Pre-K East

Jackie graduated with Honors in two programs from Queens College with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. She is NYS Certified in Early Childhood Education, Birth through Second Grade. Jackie worked as the head Pre-K teacher in a private school in Long Island City until the birth of her son, Lucas (alumnus of GCNS class of 2017).

She lives in Franklin Square with her husband, son and daughter, Nina, a current student at GCNS.
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Jessica Dowd-Wilde

Director of Finance & Operations

Jessica earned a Bachelor of Science in Finance and Information Systems from New York University Stern School of Business. Prior to working at GCNS, Jessica worked for Goldman Sachs for almost ten years, primarily in the Asset Management Division.

She serves on the Board of Directors of HOLA of Garden City as Treasurer and is a co-troop leader for her daughter’s Girl Scout troop. She is a CFA Level II Candidate and enjoys playing tennis.  She spends most of her free time with her husband, Daniel, her two children, Brendan and Cassidy, who are alumni of GCNS, and their dog, Garcia.

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Krysta Ferrara

Music Teacher

Krysta graduated from Adelphi University with a Major in Music (emphasis on Classical Performance) and a Minor in Fine Art. She has worked with children privately for over six years, teaching both art and music. Krysta’s connection with GCNS also began as a parent; her son, Augustine, is an alumnus of the school. Last January, Krysta won the 24th Festival of Song USA competition, an international singing contest where the winner wins a trip to Italy to perform! Krysta will travel to Italy in mid-September for the Festival.

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Rebecca Kelly

Assistant Teacher, Playgroup West

Rebecca is a GCNS alumnae and is the proud parent of three GCNS alumni: Liana (2013), Nina (2016) and Gemma (2019). She recently served on the GCNS Board of Trustees as both the Co-Chair of Hospitality and the Co-Chair of the Children’s Event.

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Cathleen Lear

Assistant Teacher, Playgroup West & Pre-K West

Cathi is the parent of three GCNS graduates. She is an enthusiastic supporter of the school and was an assistant at the summer program for 2 years. Prior to starting her family, Cathi was a senior sales representative and product developer for a Fortune 500 clothing company. She headed Arts-In-Education for the Garden City PTA, was President of several volunteer organizations in Garden City and volunteered in the Pediatrics departments of Winthrop and Memorial Sloan-Kettering hospitals for many years.

Cathi is passionate about gardening, the environment, various forms of musical theatre and development of the youngest members of our community on their way to responsible stewardship of our natural resources.

Kathleen Macchia

Assistant Teacher, Pre-K West

Kathleen has a Bachelor of Science degree from L.I.U. C.W. Post in Secondary English education and a Master’s degree in Reading from Adelphi University.  Kathleen holds NYS certification in Adolescent English Education for seventh thru twelfth grade and NYS certification in Literacy for birth thru twelfth grade. Kathleen has taught Middle School English in the Uniondale School District and has taught as a substitute in the Manhasset and Garden City School Districts.

She lives in West Hempstead with her husband and their three children, two of whom are GCNS alumni. Kathleen is also very involved in her home school district and currently serves as the West Hempstead Elementary PTA Co-President.

During her free time, she enjoys visiting museums, zoos and gardens with her family. Her interests include art, literature, and volunteering as a Girl Scout leader to her daughter’s troop and being an Association Chair for the Nassau County Chapter of Girl Scouts.

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Kerri Macri

Head Teacher, Pre-K West
Kerri’s laurels include a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from St. John’s University and a Master’s Degree in Reading from Adelphi University. She is NYS certified in Nursery-Grade 6 and holds a NYC Common Branches license. As a tenured NYC teacher, she taught kindergarten for over eight years and was a substitute teacher for a year before securing permanent employment.

Kerri has lived in Garden City for over 22 years and is married with three children, all of whom are GCNS alumni. She took a break from teaching to raise her family and returned as a substitute teacher in the Herricks School District before joining GCNS. She enjoys baking, the beach and spending time with family and friends.

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Marielle McMartin

                                         Head Teacher, Playgroup West                                        Assistant Teacher, Nursery West

Marielle grew up in Garden City, where she attended the Garden City Nursery School from Playgroup through Pre-K. She then attended Stewart School and the Garden City Middle School before graduating from Our Lady of Mercy Academy in 2013. In 2017, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Hofstra University. In May of 2021, she will graduate from Hofstra University for the 2nd time with a Master’s Degree in early childhood education B-2 and childhood education 1-6. Marielle plans to continue her education beyond a Master’s Degree to study curriculum development and educational technology.

She is excited to return to GCNS this year. Marielle’s goal is to create a playful school environment, where our students are fully engaged in authentic, hands-on learning that is meaningful and fun!


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Dolores McDonnell

Assistant Teacher, Playgroup West & Pre-K West

Dolores has lived in Garden City for the past 30 years and her four children attended GCNS. Dolores graduated from LIU Post with a Bachelor of Arts Degree. She currently volunteers for the Road to Recovery program, American Cancer Society and the Share a Meal program at St. Anne’s Church. Her interests include cooking, reading, going to the beach, and spending time with family and friends.



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Kelly McDonnell

Assistant Teacher, Playgroup East

Kelly is a GCNS alumnae and a recent graduate from Penn State University. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management. Kelly has spent her time working in hospitality at The Nittany Lion Inn at Penn State, Leo’s Midway in Garden City, and the Reeds at Shelter Haven in Stone Harbor, NJ. In her free time she likes to read, exercise, and spend time with her family and friends.



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Emily Merle

                                   Head Teacher, Playgroup East                                       Assistant Teacher, Nursery East & Pre-K East
Emily earned a Bachelor of Arts in Micro and Molecular Genetics from the University of Vermont.  She was a Special Education Home Support Provider for the Floral Park-Bellerose UFSD for eleven years and a child care provider for infants, toddlers and preschoolers at the Mother’s Center at the Floral Park United Methodist Church for seven years.  Emily has assisted in Playgroup, Nursery and Pre-K since 2015, prior to her role as Head Teacher of Playgroup West.  She has served as the Co-President of the PTSA at West Hempstead UFSD since 2018 and is the proud parent of two GCNS alumni.

Emily lives in West Hempstead with her husband and two children. She enjoys watching sports, reading, hiking/being outside, scrap booking and spending time with her family.

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Christine O'Neill

Head Teacher, Nursery West

Christine graduated from Pace University with a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education and completed her Master’s in Elementary Education at Adelphi University. Christine’s career in education includes working as a substitute teacher for the Garden City School District, an Assistant Kindergarten Teacher for the North Shore School District and a Second Grade Teacher for the Elmont School District. Until the birth of her daughter Emma (GCNS Class of 2014), Christine worked for many years as a Human Resources Manager with JPMorgan Chase. Prior to leading Playgroup at GCNS, Christine assisted for five years.

She enjoys reading, quilting, movies, musical theater and attending hockey games. Christine also enjoys co-leading Emma’s Junior Girl Scout troop.

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Josephine Scheel

Assistant Teacher, Nursery West & Pre-K West

Josephine is the parent of two GCNS graduates. She has been a piano teacher for over 40 years. Prior to joining GCNS, she was the music teacher and an assistant teacher at a local nursery school for 10 years. Josephine is passionate about working with children and helping them overcome any obstacles they may have. She volunteered for 15 years in the Special Education community of West Hempstead UFSD. Josephine loves animals, working out, skiing, hanging out with family and laughing!


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Megan Sorrentino

Head Teacher, Nursery School East

Megan received her undergraduate degree in Social Sciences from SUNY Stony Brook and a Master’s Degree in Education. She is NYS Certified in General Education and Students with Disabilities, Birth through Second Grade. Megan began her career working with adults with disabilities and moved on to working with children, beginning as head teacher in an inclusion classroom in a center that provided early intervention services, followed by providing early intervention services on a full-time basis. She then pursued her BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst), which gave her a better understanding of behaviors and how to work with children with various disabilities.

She enjoys spending time with her family (two girls, a boy and two dogs) and enjoys ice skating, traveling, watching the New York Rangers, leading two Girl Scout troops, swimming, and arts and crafts (both with and without her kids).

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Connie Tarian

Assistant Teacher, Nursery & Pre-K East

Connie has lived in Garden City for many years where she has been an active member of the community. She received an Associates degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology and currently volunteers as an art teacher for both children and adults through Hola of Garden City, a non-profit community organization.

Connie’s previous experience includes working as an assistant teacher at the Glen Cove Childcare Center where she had the opportunity to teach pre-k and sub as head teacher. At Corpus Christi Church, Connie was the Coordinator of the Children’s Choir for five years and volunteered as a teacher in their religious education program.

Connie and her husband raised two teenagers who are off at college. One of her hobbies is cooking and she recently picked up gardening. She is excited to join the GCNS community.


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