Staff

Sonja Neill-Turner

Founder and Executive Director


Sonja Neill-Turner is the founder and Executive Director of Brooklyn Sandbox overseeing the strategic direction of the school, admissions as well as school operations. Ms. Neill-Turner received a B.A. in Communications from the University of
Virginia. Her previous work experience entailed overseeing global education and leadership development for Sephora USA.

Sonja is a Park Slope parent and mom to Chase, a self-professed “mathamagician”. Her son’s limitless hours of play and discovery are the inspiration behind Brooklyn Sandbox.

An avid cyclist, you can find her on the rolling hills of the Hudson Valley or on the Prospect Park loop.

Lana Folk

Education Director


Lana Folk began her teaching career in 2006 as a substitute at a YAI preschool in Brooklyn as she worked to obtain a bachelor’s degree in childhood education from Hunter College. She was surprised to discover a love for early education and inspired by young children’s ability to problem solve, innovate, and collaborate. Continuing her education at Hunter College, she received a master’s degree in educational psychology. In 2009, she went on to teach at TriBeCa Community School: A Reggio Emilia inspired preschool in downtown Manhattan. There, she had the opportunity to share her classroom work and best practices at national conferences and with visiting educators from all over the country.

After nearly a decade of serving as a classroom teacher, Lana found an interest in supporting other educators in their practice and in 2015 made the leap into school administration as she assisted in launching two child care programs in Brooklyn. Lana’s background in educational research and social constructivist approaches to education now guide her work as Educational Director at Brooklyn Sandbox. With the belief that careful listening, relentless support, and reflective teaching can foster children’s sense of curiosity, activate their autonomy, and cultivate their understanding of the world around them, Lana strives to provide a research-based program that builds a partnership between school, parents, teachers and child. 

When not collaborating with teachers or offering snuggles to the students in her care, you can find Lana running loops at Prospect Park, attending concerts and Nets games at Barclays Center, or dining at local restaurants near her home in Windsor Terrace.  

Vanessa Lamoreaux

Art Educator


Vanessa Lamoreaux oversees our developmental art program. She graduated from Pratt Institute with a master’s degree in in Art Education and has extensive 18 years of experience as an art educator   holding positions in Renton, Seattle and NYC Public School Districts.  In addition to her work in the classroom, she has served as an neighborhood  Arts Commissioner where she curated gallery exhibitions and art festivals for Normandy Park.  Vanessa is a sculptor, painter and a lover of all things related to art. She spends her spare time creating art with her 9-year-old daughter, cooking at home with her husband and consulting schools on their art programing.  

TEACHERS


 

Orange Room (Two’s)

Allison Bremner

Assistant Teacher

Allison is a former primary school teacher having taught in her home country of Guyana. She has worked as an infant and toddler teacher for the last 3 years. Allison is a mom of four who loves to cook, read, and listen to orchestra music. Allison is known for her strong work ethic, incredibly loving nature, and thorough classroom organization skills.


Rebecca Tory

Assistant Teacher

Rebecca is a parent of two children and currently navigating the teenage world. Rebecca began her journey as an educator at Rudolf Steiner School in Manhattan, as a Kindergarten teacher and has shared her passion for outdoor discoveries and her innate talent of preparing delicious cooking recipes. She lives in the neighboring community of Windsor Terrace, and has recently picked up knitting and you can often catch her riding her bike to work. 


Karla Capistran-Pesantes

Co-Teacher

Karla has five years of preschool teaching experience. Karla’s most recent teaching position was that of a Toddler Teacher at One World Project, a Spanish-immersion preschool program in Brooklyn. Karla’s favorite classroom experiences are the type that make a big MESS and she can most often be found with her sleeves rolled up, playing alongside the children. Karla is currently working on completing her master’s degree in School Counseling at Long Island University. She loves to cook, eat, and watch soccer (Go Brazil!). As one of  5 siblings, she greatly values the time she is able to spend with her family. Born and raised in a small town in Ecuador, Karla speaks fluent Spanish.

Yellow Room (Four’s)

Janine Murdaugh

Assistant Teacher

Janine received a Bachelor’s Degree from City College of New York in History and Religious studies and is looking to pursue a master’s degree in Early Education. She enjoys reading, journaling and listening to music and is a youth mentor in her free time. Given her drive, initiative and passion for building relationships with children, it was only natural that she be promoted to assistant teacher. As the seventh of nine siblings, Janine knows how to command a room. Her stories about her cat, Eclipse keep the students on the edge of their seats!


Carly Zurcher

Lead Teacher 

Carly recently completed her master’s degree in Early Education from Bank Street and spent half a year teaching at a Danish Kindergarten in Copenhagen while studying the Danish cultural connection to nature. New to Brooklyn, Carly is excited to try out all of its culinary offerings. She is a foodie at heart and an avid cook. Carly played water polo in college and enjoys singing, road trips and exploring new places. Carly comes to Brooklyn Sandbox from Greenwich Academy in Connecticut where she worked as a Preschool and Kindergarten Teacher. Her great sense of humor, quick wit and passion for progressive education make her an integral member of the Brooklyn Sandbox team. 


Elise Sommers

Assistant Teacher 

Elise holds a BA in American Studies and Child Development from Tuft’s University. They have worn many hats in education in the last 7 years, working as an Art Educator, Literacy Coach, Preschool Teacher and Curriculum Writer. Elise holds a passion for social activism and has written school curriculum on topics of social justice. Most recently, they were a Lead Teacher at the Eliot Pearson Children’s School at Tufts University. New to the streets of Brooklyn, Elise was born in Brazil and grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. They take a keen interest in dinosaurs, cooking and travel and is a theater aficionado and performer of drag and. Elise is also a lover of glitter – be warned!

Green Room (Three’s)

Andrea DeJonge

Head Teacher

Andrea is recent graduate from Bank Street College of Education where she completed a dual certification Masters in Early Childhood and Childhood General Education. Andrea grew up on the west side of Michigan and attended Central Michigan University where she earned an undergraduate degree in Musical Theater. Andrea has a passion for combining music and dramatic art in her work with children and is so excited to start her teaching career here at Brooklyn Sandbox in the Green Room! Andrea loves spending time in nature (very excited for nature days!!) and enjoys being near water whenever possible! You can find Andrea biking to work from Williamsburg almost every morning and in her spare time she enjoys cooking elaborate meals with partner, Brendan (especially these past months during quarantine) She also loves reading, hiking, cuddling with her cat, Olive or as she calls her, “Miss Branch” 🙂


Alex Rivera-DeQuatro

Assistant teacher

Alex received an Associate’s Degree in Education Studies focusing on Early Childhood Development, and is looking to pursue an undergraduate degree from Brooklyn College in Early Education. Alex is passionate about working with children and has been a devoted caregiver to two siblings who she affectionately refers to as “her girls.”

Alex is a native New Yorker, and calls Brooklyn home. In her spare time, Alex loves to cook, spend time with her many nieces and nephews, and take endless photos of her cats, Toby, Skippy, and Molly.

Jamila Brown

After-school Teacher

Jamila is the after-school coordinator and has a knack for oral storytelling and overall hi jinx. She is the Grand Marshall for many of the group games in the After-school program so she is quite popular with many of the children. Her time as a museum educator for both the Children’s Museum of Manhattan and Children’s Museum of Brooklyn serves the classroom well. Her ideas for activities are creative and engaging. In her spare time, she works as a freelance filmmaker and has even had her film entered into film festivals here and abroad.

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