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Our Educators

Our Educators

Meet our wonderful educators!  

Our staff challenges our students to grow not only as learners but also as members of the community. The faculty possess the expertise, energy and engagement needed to deliver a BCCHS education. 

English

Carolyn Castagna

English/Spanish

I grew up in Queens but now live in Jersey City.  I love to run, cook (and eat!), read, read to my kids, and cuddle with my dog, Judy.  I have been teaching for 14 years, 8 of those at Baruch.  I enjoy teaching because I love literature and language, and I get to share that with my students.  Nothing makes me happier than when I give a student a book and they tell me they loved reading it!

Diana Di Rico

English

This is my 17th year teaching at Baruch. I started as a student-teacher here and I am blessed to say this community is a family to me.  Teaching continues to challenge and inspire me, and I am amazed, year after year, by the incredible and open-minded students of Baruch. I learn so much with and from them. I love teaching because it reminds me of the deep goodness of others and the wildly vast possibilities for all of us. My students are my heart, and literature is the language that allows me to create rich spaces for discussion and discovery.

I grew up in New Hyde Park, NY, and nowadays I live in Astoria, Queens, with my husband Luis, two sons, Oscar and Luca, and my Nonna Nina. I love to talk, read, listen, learn, dance, travel, and experience new things. Though I am far from athletic, I love the energy, purpose, and character that athletics nurtures, and for this reason, I also serve as our Athletic Director.

Lauren Biggs

English

I am excited to start my 8th year of teaching and my 2nd year here at Baruch! I was born in Rochester, NY, and have been lucky enough to live all over the world—most recently in Bogota, Colombia (but I am New Yorker at heart!). When not teaching, you can find me running in Central Park and trying out new recipes. I love Baruch students’ passion, creativity, and individuality. My favorite parts of teaching are discussions and all the new ideas I learn from my students.

Rita Ross

English

I have been teaching for 16 years. I love reading novels and non-fiction, practicing yoga, baking gluten-free treats, and bike riding with my children. I love Baruch for its warmth, welcoming classrooms, love of ideas and learning, and its proximity to Gregory’s, whose green tea is the best.

Math

Amanda Benowitz

Math

I’m going on my fourth year of teaching, but my second year teaching at Baruch. I grew up on Long Island, where I spent most of my time participating in activities like soccer, basketball, and dance. I attended Cornell University, majoring in Statistics, and minoring in both Math and Education. Then attended Teachers College, Columbia University to receive my masters in Math Education.

In my free time, I love hanging out with friends and family, playing with dogs, going to the beach, and eating cookie dough ice cream with rainbow sprinkles :). But I get to do my favorite thing every day – which is to teach! My favorite thing about teaching math is that I get to see the smiles and laughs on my student’s faces as they work together and successfully problem solve. I feel that my class not only helps my students grow mathematically but also helps them build their confidence and determination. I love teaching at Baruch because it is such a welcoming community; it truly feels like a family, where all of the students form relationships with each other, their teachers, and the administration.

Jocelyn Forman

Math

I am finishing my 3rd year as a teacher (3rd year at Baruch). I am from Newton, Massachusetts. I love to paint, my favorite book is The Help, favorite movie is the Parent Trap, and favorite food is Shakshuka. I have wanted to be a teacher since I was in the 6th grade (so thank you all for letting me live my dream!). I love getting to know my students and trying to convince you all that math is cool and FUN!

Laird Jonas

Math

Ruth Cogan

Math

Social Studies

Aaron Sparrow

Social Studies

I was born a tiny, fragile, helpless, whining infant. Over the years I acquired knowledge of the world around me, hair, language, and a sense of object permanence, though not necessarily in that order. Sixteen years ago I was living out a turgid, meaningless existence when a hawk flew to the east, reminding me to return home to New York City. Shortly thereafter I began teaching at Baruch. No longer tiny, fragile, or helpless, I continue to lead a meaningless existence, though enriched by my many interactions with interesting humans. I play ultimate frisbee, eat food on a daily basis, and have spent almost a third of my life asleep.

Carolyn Marenghi

Carolyn Marenghi

Government/Economics

I am originally from Westchester County and have been working as a special education teacher at Baruch since 2017. Some of my favorite things are My Brilliant Friend (TV Series + Book Series), house plants, and staying active outdoors. What I love most about Baruch is working with my incredible co-teachers and the special education department!

Lara Hovsepian

Social Studies

I’ve been a teacher at Baruch for 4 years. I teach 9th grade global history and I am an advisor. I discovered my love of education while teaching English to displaced Palestinian and Syrian refugee-youth in Lebanon after college. I’m obsessed with The Office, black coffee, and cheesy history memes 🙂

Widnel Rondon

Social Studies

I have a masters in special education 7-12, and a bachelors in adolescent education/social studies. My past students have described me being quirky, easy to talk to, innovative, and cultured. I am fluent in English, Spanish and Portuguese. I first started my career teaching in a rural high school in Oklahoma and I am now entering my seventh year of teaching. After a year of teaching in rural America, I decided to come back home to New York City. I consider myself to be an avid traveler, a language enthusiast, and a fan of soccer. During my spare time, I do film-making as a hobby, and study German!

Xavier Gallon-Blackman

Social Studies

I’ve been teaching for five years but this most recent was my first at Baruch. I was born and raised in Philadelphia but I moved to New York to attend St. John’s University. I’ve always loved history and helping others and teaching affords me the opportunity to combine two things I’m genuinely passionate about. Without question, the best thing about Baruch is the energy! Each day I’m inspired by the work of my students and colleagues! 

In my spare time, I enjoy exercising, listening to music, and sneakers! I’m also an avid sports fan. Living in New York, I take some abuse for my allegiances, but Go Eagles/Sixers/Phillies/Flyers!

Spanish

Carolyn Castagna

English/Spanish

I grew up in Queens but now live in Jersey City.  I love to run, cook (and eat!), read, read to my kids, and cuddle with my dog, Judy.  I have been teaching for 14 years, 8 of those at Baruch.  I enjoy teaching because I love literature and language, and I get to share that with my students.  Nothing makes me happier than when I give a student a book and they tell me they loved reading it!

Lori Nardacci

Spanish

I’m from Rhode Island. I began teaching Spanish in 2006 in Massachusetts. Before coming to Baruch, I taught English in Quito, Ecuador for two and a half years. I have been teaching at Baruch for 8 years. I love traveling, especially around Latin America! I enjoy learning about other cultures and trying new foods. I never miss an opportunity to dance salsa, merengue, or bachata. I enjoy sharing my passion for Spanish and the cultures of the Spanish speaking world with students. I feel very fortunate to teach at Baruch with so many passionate and talented teachers. My colleagues and students inspire me every day!

Melody Kwan

Spanish

Science

Ashley Grey

Science

Hi! I’m an Earth Science/AP Environmental Science teacher at Baruch College Campus High School. This is my fourth year of teaching and second year at Baruch. I was born and raised in Astoria, Queens, and as a student, I saw a lot of educational inequity in the school system. This experience ultimately led me into teaching and sharing my passion for science. I love working at Baruch and immediately felt welcomed into the community. When I’m not teaching or working on lessons, I like to run and spend time outdoors. (Favorite Book: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah; Favorite Movie: Erin Brockovich; Favorite Drink: Taro Bubble Tea!)

Ceren Kilic-Gonul

Science

Hi, my name is Ceren Kilic-Gonul. I’m originally from Istanbul, Turkey, currently living in New Jersey! I moved to the United States when I was 18 years old to attend CUNY Queens College with an athletic scholarship. I’m a Chemistry teacher who is highly passionate about teaching science. I chose to be in education because I enjoy seeing my students realize their true potential. I love traveling, trying out different cuisines, and spending time with my family and friends. I’m very excited to be working at BCCHS and feel honored to be part of the BCCHS family. 

Ronald Katz

Ronald Katz

Science

Sam Zimmerman

Science

I’ve been teaching physics at Baruch since 1999. I earned my Master’s in Physics Education and my Bachelor’s in English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. I love teaching at Baruch because the students and staff are amazing, hardworking people who never cease to impress me.

Wael Mansour

Science

Art

Aneta Hawrylewicz

Art

Physical Education

Mike Breman

Physical Education

I have been a teacher at Baruch for 8 years. I have coached Soccer here for 7 years, wrestling for 8 years and Baseball for 5 years. Baruch is a special place with great staff, parents, and students.

Administration

Alicia Perez-Katz

Principal

I have been a teacher for 22 years, with 21 of those years at Baruch. My hometown is Ridgewood, NJ, but I grew up as an expatriate (Ecuador, South Korea, Brazil) and have lived the last 20 years in Brooklyn, NY. My favorite hobbies are writing and cycling. My favorite book is 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Favorite food: Vaca Frita and maduros. I love being an educator because of the connections you make with your community. I love Baruch because we are a tight-knit community and everyone is known!

Carol Kei

Finance

Douglas Keijzer

Assistant Principal

I started teaching in 2002. I have been at Baruch since 2016. I am from Levittown, Long Island. I enjoy skateboarding and surfing; my favorite book is Crime and Punishment; my favorite movie is The Godfather. I love Baruch for its community values.

Gisele Nassif-Hanna

Gisele Nassif-Hanna

Assistant Principal
Hameed Nusratty

Hameed Nusratty

Technology
Jaffet Candelaria

Jaffet Candelaria

Administration

Janice Salmeri

Parent Coordinator
Mary Leguillo

Mary Leguillo

Administration
Samantha Riley

Samantha Riley

Administration
Vinnie Prendi

Vinnie Prendi

Administration

Guidance

Bonnie Phillips

Guidance

I have been a counselor for 24 years.  I have worked at Baruch for 20 years. I am from London. I love art, the book, Jude the Obscure, the movie, Daughters of the Dust, and my favorite food is Sushi! I love working to help others to be their best selves!

Kalen Wheeler

Guidance

As a native New Yorker and product of K-12 NYC public schools, it is with great enthusiasm that I begin at BCCHS to help you all navigate through this challenging time. Although I went to Brooklyn Technical High School, I have many friends who attended Baruch “back in the day,” so this feels full-circle.

I began my career in the Bronx, NY with my former Principal, Jamaal Bowman, who you may have recently heard about in the news for his congressional campaign. There, in addition to more traditional school counseling responsibilities, I developed as a restorative justice practitioner and an advocate for my students on individual and community-wide levels. I continue to be deeply committed to anti-racism, intersectional feminism, and social justice work.

Most recently, I was a school counselor in Beirut, Lebanon. For those of you who follow the news, this year was particularly tumultuous in Beirut with a political uprising in the fall (we were virtual before anyone!), COVID-19, an economic crisis, and now the recent explosion. This experience prepared me to hold space for young people and their families through a variety of difficult circumstances. 

As the 11th and 12th grade counselor, I look forward to collaborating with Ms. Phillips to support your journey through the college application process. I still vividly remember what that experience was like when I was your age. I attended an all women’s school, Smith College, which I never thought I would want to do, but now I would not trade it for anything in the world. I share this because I believe that this year more than ever, it is important to stay open to all the possibilities the world has to offer, and have faith that with our assistance, you will end up exactly where you need to be.

Rhetta Barron

Guidance

I’ve been a teacher for 30 years, 20 of them at Baruch. I’m a native Manhattanite. My first career was in film editing. I worked freelance in TV and Movies for 20 years. I’ve also been a performer with theater groups and off-Bway shows and a personal trainer. Right now I’m studying jazz piano, and yes, I practice! To me, heaven is a sunny day in a sailboat, then jumping into the water! Another love of mine is being and working with young people, so I feel lucky to be at Baruch.

Stephanie Smith

Guidance

Special Education

Anne Cortissoz

Special Education

After a long career in telecommunications engineering, I became a teacher to encourage high school students to pursue STEM careers. I am dual certified in Mathematics and Special Education, I have been teaching in New York City, where I was born and currently resides, for over ten years. In Baruch’s unique learning community, I love to connect with students on many levels and am committed to student success both inside of the classroom and in life. In my free time, I love to travel, read and hang out with my family, including my 20-year-old kitten Victoria.

Daniel Bonomini

Special Education

I have been teaching here at Baruch for one year… one crazy weird year thanks to COVID. I was born and raised in Holbrook, NY which is out in Suffolk county Long Island! In my free time I love working out, playing sports, going to the beach, and surfing! I love teaching because of the constant relationships you make with the students, the families, and the coworkers! I love being apart of the Baruch family and hope to be apart of it for many more years to come!

Haley Hunter

Special Education

Hello! My name is Haley Hunter and I am excited to be joining the BCCHS community! I will be teaching ICT Biology, AP BIology, and AP Environmental Science this year. I am originally from North Carolina, but have been calling NYC home for the past four and a half years. I studied Exercise Science for my undergraduate degree at University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and I am currently finishing up my final year in graduate school at Hunter College. When I am not studying or working, I enjoy spending time with friends and family, going to a yoga class, or taking a trip to the beach. I can’t wait to meet my students and start the school year here at BCCHS!

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”- Aristotle

Jennifer Gumina

Special Education

I grew up in Detroit, Michigan, and explored several different career paths before deciding to become a special education teacher. In Detroit, I taught at a high school for students with emotional impairments and trauma for two years. I co-taught various humanities courses at a high school in Hell’s Kitchen for 7 years before coming to Baruch, where I’ve been since 2017. I love teaching because it is never boring, and being around young people keeps me feeling young at heart! It is a satisfying career on both a personal and professional level. I enjoy the community feel of Baruch and being surrounded by so many ambitious people. Summer is my favorite season because I love the hot weather, going to the beach, and traveling.

Joanna Lamb

Special Education

I have been working for the DOE since 2010 and have been at BCCHS since 2016. I got my master’s in speech-language pathology from Adelphi University. A lover of theater, I also hold a BFA in Drama from NYU and run the Drama Club here at Baruch. When not working, I love listening to podcasts, doing The NY Times Crossword puzzle, seeing movies and plays, and am currently learning to play the piano.

Kaitlyn Palmeri

Special Education

Lizbeth Mendez

Special Education

Hi! My name is Lizbeth Mendez, I will be teaching Humanities this upcoming year! Before joining the Baruch family I was teaching middle school math! I enjoy both humanities and math. For my undergrad, I attended John Jay College of Criminal Justice, a double major in Political Science and Law and Society, with a minor in anthropology and an advance certificate in dispute resolution. I am currently obtaining two masters at LIU and TC Columbia University for students with disabilities. Aside from teaching and going to school, I volunteer at a nonprofit organization called NYSYLC. I have been encharged of the media and communications aspects of it, through this organization I have been able to help my community in district six who are undocumented obtain a path to citizenship. Through this organization, I have been able to mentor and empower educators who have students who are undocumented to encourage them and find resources to obtain higher education. My overall goal is to hopefully in two-four years obtain the resources necessary to help the kids who are in the ICE detention centers get out of those centers through education even if that means creating a school for them.  

Michelle Mistretta

Special Education

I am originally from Montvale, New Jersey.  I was a Math major in college and worked in Finance before becoming a Teacher.  I have been a teacher for 5 years, 4 of which have been at Baruch.  I love that we are a small and supportive community!  The students at Baruch make teaching fun and rewarding experience. 

Nina Merer

Nina Merer

Special Education
Ralph Rodriguez

Ralph Rodriguez

Paraprofessional

Vanna Marmo

Special Education

I have been a teacher for five years, four of which have been at Baruch. I am originally from Long Island, NY. I would say my favorite foods are french fries & ice cream and my favorite thing to do in my free time is travel!

As a ninth-grade teacher, my favorite part of the job is knowing all the students in the building. I am able to say hello to students of the past and present each day. It’s amazing to watch students grow from young 9th graders to college-bound seniors. Best part of the job!