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. They promote high-quality early learning for all children, birth through age 8, by connecting practice, policy, and research. We advance a diverse, dynamic early childhood profession and support all who care for, educate, and work on behalf of young children.

Francesca S. Cohn

Educational Director

Francie is the Educational Director. She earned a Bachelor of Arts with honors from Princeton University in Romance Languages and Civilization (with a concentration in French) and a Masters Degree with honors in Early Childhood Education from Adelphi University. She has NYS Certification in Early Childhood Education, birth through 2nd grade. Prior to coming into the classroom, Francie did editorial work and translation at Doubleday & Co. in NYC.

Francie has been a parent, teacher or assistant teacher working with all ages at GCNS for over 20 years. She has also been a parent educator and has taught Pre-K, Nursery, Lunch and Literacy and she has led the Science Explorations program since 2008.

Francie and her husband Paul live in Garden City; her 3 children are GCNS alumni. Her interests include art, music, dance, languages, literature, yoga, swimming, knitting, sewing and quilting. She is an active member of the Garden City Community Church where she was the Church School Administrator for 6 years. She has been a Deacon, Confirmation teacher, Youth Mission Trip leader, Vacation Bible School teacher and is currently on the Board of Membership, Life and Development.

Pam Arlotta

Assistant Teacher, Nursery School West, Playgroup West

Pam earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Maryland. She was previously a buyer for Bed, Bath and Beyond and Hechinger, a hardware chain in the South. She lives in Garden City with her husband, John, and their three children. Pam was an active member of GCNS when her two youngest children attended. She is originally from Maryland but has been living on Long Island for over 15 years. She enjoys the beach, playing tennis, watching sports, playing cards and spending time with family.

Ildiko A. Brancaccio

Enrichment Teacher

Ildiko has been teaching at the primary/elementary level since 2003. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Adelphi University and her Master’s in Education from St. Johns University. Both her children are alumni of GCNS.

In her spare time, Ildiko enjoys all things related to the arts, spending time with her family and relaxing at the beach.

Jessica A. Dowd-Wilde

Business Manager

Jessica is the Business Manager of the Garden City Nursery School (GCNS). Prior to working at GCNS, Jessica worked for Goldman Sachs for almost 10 years, primarily in the Asset Management Division as an Institutional Salesperson. She earned her B.S. in Finance and Information Systems from New York University Stern School of Business.

She spends most of her free time with her two children, Cassidy and Brendan, who are alumni of GCNS, and her husband, Daniel.

Gail Feldman

Assistant Teacher, Pre-K West

Gail received an Associates degree in applied sciences and previously worked as a legal secretary. Her exposure to and involvement with the cooperative nursery school philosophy goes back more than 25 years.  She was very active at St. Mark’s Cooperative Nursery School, where both her children attended. She has had the pleasure of working with the four year old class at the GCNS for the past 12 years.

In her spare time, she is an avid reader and cook and enjoys spending time with family and friends.

Carolyn J. Hoera

Head Teacher, Playgroup East

Carolyn is a graduate of SUNY Albany where she earned her BS and MS in Educational Psychology and Special Education. She holds a certification in Elementary Education, K-6th grade, Art and Special Education, Nursery-12th grade. Previous professional experience include NYC Schools, Suffolk Developmental Center and GCNS for 19 years. She has been the Principal and a teacher at the Garden City Jewish Center for more than 25 years.

Carolyn’s interests are photography, tennis and family.

Cris Kilberg

Assistant Teacher, Pre-K East

Cris comes has been a corporate trainer for over 20 years and started out in banking. She has been very active in the Garden City School District PTA, serving as president and chairing committees for 15 years.  She graduated from St. John’s University with Bachelor of Science in Quantitative Analysis. She is also a board member of HOLA of Garden City and volunteers at the CTC at the Mary Brennan INN.  Cris and her husband live in Garden City; they have 3 adult children (the youngest entering college).


Carol Knoch

Assistant Teacher, Nursery School West, Pre-K West, Playgroup West

Carol holds several undergraduate degrees and post graduate work in different disciplines of engineering, as well as a degree in Culinary Arts. She brings to the classroom decades of experience in math and science for Early Childhood to Elementary education and kitchen wizardry for added fun.

She has a broad range of interests but especially enjoys the outdoors and fostering rescued animals.

Vanessa Licari

Head Teacher, Pre-K East

Vanessa holds a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Dance from SUNY Purchase and a Master’s degree in Elementary Education from Adelphi University.  Vanessa has NYS Certification in Elementary Education, 1 – 6.  She has taught as a substitute in the Garden City, West Hempstead and Roslyn School Districts.  For five years, Vanessa taught dance to children ages 4 – 10 throughout the dance community.  She was also an educator for Bright Horizons Family Solutions in NYC, working with ages 6 months – 6th grade.  Vanessa returned to the classroom last year after leaving to raise her family.

Vanessa loves reading, running and practicing yoga.  She lives in Garden City with her husband and three children and enjoys spending quality time with her family. 

Kerri Macri

Head Teacher, Pre-K West

Kerri earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from St. John’s University where she majored in English. She then earned a Master’s degree in Reading from Adelphi University. Kerri holds NYS certification in N-6 and a NYC Common Branches license. She is a tenured NYC teacher; she has taught kindergarten for over 8 years and was a substitute teacher for a year before securing permanent employment.

Kerri has lived in Garden City for over 18 years and is married with three children, who are all GCNS alumni. She left teaching to raise her family and was a substitute teacher in the Herricks school district before working at GCNS. She enjoys baking, the beach and mostly spending time with family and friends.

Maureen Conway McCartin

Assistant Teacher, Playgroup East

Maureen is a graduate of New York University, School of Education where she earned a Master’s degree in Early Childhood and Development. She earned a BA from Marymount College and holds a Post-Master Certification from Adelphi University Institute for Parenting. She is a former GCNS parent and has been an assistant teacher for 15 years.

Her interests include music, theatre, movies, literature and yoga. She holds a 200-hour Yoga certification from the Yoga & Polarity Center in Malverne, NY.

Emily Merle

Assistant Teacher, Nursery School East & Pre-K East

Emily graduated from the University of Vermont with a Bachelor of Science degree. She worked at the USDA in Beltsville, MD. She is a former GCNS parent and a caretaker for GCNS alum.

Emily lives in West Hempstead with her husband and two children. She is an active member in the PTA/PTSA. She enjoys watching sports, reading, hiking/being outside, scrapbooking and spending time with her family.

Christine O'Neill

Assistant Teacher, Playgroup East

Christine is an Assistant Teacher with Playgroup. Christine graduated from Pace University with her BA in Elementary Education and completed her MA in Elementary Education at Adelphi University. Christine was 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.

She enjoys reading, quilting, gardening, movies, musical theater and attending hockey games. Christine also enjoys co-leading Emma’s Brownie Girl Scout troop. As a member of the Garden City Community Church, Christine coordinates Vacation Bible School and teaches children in the Church School.

Fran Rissland

Music Teacher

Fran is a graduate of Adelphi University and Queens College. She holds a Music Together Certificate and has been teaching early childhood music for more than 31 years (and still counting!). Fran has produced a popular, educational and interactive sing-along CD for children, Come Along and Sing Along.

Fran loves to garden, is an avid reader and enjoys playing the piano. Her seven grandchildren are her biggest interest however and she loves to entertain them and volunteer at their school.

Megan Sorrentino

Head Teacher, Nursery School East

Megan received her undergrad degree in social sciences in 2003 from SUNY Stony Brook where she discovered a love for working with kids and people with disabilities. She spent the next 5 years working with adults with disabilities while still wanting to work with kids. In 2007, she decided to go back to school and get her Masters in teaching. Megan graduated with a teaching certification in General Ed and Students with Disabilities Birth thru 2nd grade.

She was offered a job teaching in an inclusion classroom in a center that provided early intervention services. Each child in the center was integrated into a typical daycare classroom for a small amount of time. She ran this classroom for about a year and then left to provide early intervention services on a full time basis. Megan 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. After getting married, having a baby and being pregnant with her second child, her family relocated from Brooklyn to Franklin Square and she started providing both early intervention services and CPSE services there. It was then that she came across GCNS and instantly fell in love with it.

She enjoys spending time with her growing family (2 girls, a boy and a dog) and enjoys ice skating, traveling, watching the New York Rangers, swimming, and arts and crafts (both with and without her kids).


Stacey Young

Head Teacher, Nursery School West & Playgroup West

Stacey holds a BA from Rhode Island College and a MS in Education from C.W. Post. She worked as a Kindergarten Assistant Teacher in Rhode Island and also worked in business, C.M.P. Media as a District Sales Manager, Advertising Sales. After working in the business world, she decided to pursue a degree in education. She trained in the Herricks School District in the lower grades and became an active member at GCNS when her three children attended. She has taught the Playgroup (2 year olds) and Nursery (3 year olds) classes.

Stacey is active in the community and has a passion for educational reform. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family.

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