Our Team

book iconCindy Palicka, School Founder/Co-Program Director, has over 21 years of experience working with children, three years as a full-time substitute teacher at a Manhattan private preschool, and 18 years overseeing children and family programs for age birth through fifth grade at Trinity where the preschool is located. She has written and developed curriculum that specifically engages children in hands-on exploratory learning using a variety of mediums to teach the same theme. Having raised three sons in Manhattan, Cindy has personal knowledge of the wonderful complexities of bringing up children in such an exciting place as New York City. She holds a Master of Education degree in Elementary Education from Hunter College and is CPR/AED/First-Aid certified, including Epinephrine Auto-Injector Training. Her favorite books as a child was a series called The All-of-a-Kind Family.

Q: What exactly is play-based learning?

Play is one of the most significant means by which children explore, investigate, imagine and learn about how the world works and discover their unique place in that world. In play-based learning, structure exists but the emphasis is on guiding children to learn with lessons carried out through play and socialization, rather than academics. It is an active, child-initiated process that supports children’s learning in many domains including physical, social/emotional, creative, science, math, language, and literacy. Play-based learning allows children to play for the sake of learning, not forsake play for learning.

Q: What is your vision for the school?

Our mission statement defines two aspects of what we envision for Bridge Community Playschool. First, we want to offer young children a gentle, safe introduction to this new experience called “school”. And second, we want our student body to reflect the wonderfully diverse community of the neighborhood.

chalkboard iconJaclyn Meltzer, Co-Program Director, holds a Master of Education degree in Elementary Education from Hofstra University and state certification in Gifted and Talented Education. Before joining our staff four years ago, Jackie taught at the elementary level for 15 years. She prides herself on bringing out each child’s full potential as a learner while fostering their social and emotional growth.  Jackie is a mother of two school-aged girls (one of whom attended BCPS) and resides right in our own neighborhood.  She loves spending time being crafty and exploring all the city has to offer.  Jackie loves reading and her favorite book for children is a series by Karma Wilson, which includes Bear’s New Friend and Bear Feels Sick.  Jackie is CPR/AED/First-Aid certified, including Epinephrine Auto-Injector Training. 

Q: How does BCPS prepare my child for the next step in education?

Here at BCPS, we take satisfaction in knowing we meet and exceed the criteria that NYC private and public schools require and set forth.  Our goal is to provide each child with a comprehensive and age-appropriate curriculum that is driven by high standards, yet also caters to the individual needs and emotional nourishment that young children require.  I am positive that every child who spends their formative years at our preschool will be set on the path to educational success.

Christine Cifu, Lead Pre-K Teacher, holds a Master of Science degree in Clinical Research/Psychology from IONA College. With both her daughters in school, Christine re-entered the workforce five years ago when she joined the BCPS staff as an assistant teacher.  She has found a new passion (and career) in the education field, so much so that she is now pursuing a second master’s in Early Childhood Education at Mercy College. Christine is CPR & First-Aid certified, including Epinephrine Auto-Injector Training. Her favorite two children’s books are Are You My Mother by PD Eastman and Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn.

Q: What is most important for your classroom?

At the preschool level, it is so important to have joy in the classroom.  We are teaching the children to share, make friends and learn their letters and numbers, but it is as equally essential to play, sing and dance and instill in each child the fundamental wonder and joy of learning.  In fact, I believe it is imperative to nurture the whole child and am glad that BCPS believes this too.  It is very exciting to be part of the field of early childhood education and I am happy to be part of such a wonderful school community!

Paint-icon-round-100x100Rebecca Kwok, Lead 3’s Teacher, joined BCPS a year ago as the assistant Pre-K teacher and now graduates up to a lead teaching position.  She holds a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Hunter College.  Rebecca has two school-aged daughters and enjoys exploring the city with her family.  She loves instilling the love of reading in children and  thinks the earlier the start the better! Her favorite book is The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.  Rebecca is CPR/AED/First-Aid certified, including Epinephrine Auto-Injector Training.

Q: What do you do when a class activity doesn’t go as planned?

Flexibility is key when planning class activities, especially for young children who are still in the beginning stages of learning different skills. Teaching is full of obstacles which are to be expected since each child is unique with different needs and sometimes they can change day-to-day depending on a lot of outside variables.  I try to focus and emphasize on what works and be flexible in my plans to make adjustments when needed.  The important thing in my classroom is for the children to have fun, laugh, and enjoy the activities while they learn.

Raquel Oribel Ledesma, Lead 2’s Teacher, is thrilled to join BCPS!  Oribel has over seven years experience teaching children ranging in ages from toddler to third grade and she has also just completed her master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from the American College of Education. She is fluent in English and Spanish and two of her favorite pastimes are baking and writing poetry, specifically about nature. A favorite children’s book is Marsupial Sue by John Lithgow.  Oribel is CPR/AED/First Aid certified, including Epinephrine Auto-Injector Training.

Q: What excites you most about teaching?

Everything about teaching excites me and I can’t imagine working in any profession other than education, especially with preschool-aged children. But, when I see a young child become thoroughly engaged in an activity I have planned and watch their expression go from wonder to excitement as they discover something new, now that is what brings me the greatest sense of excitement. I always strive to keep the fun in learning and love to sing and dance with the children in my class and I am also most passionate about early childhood literacy, probably because of  my own lifelong love of reading.

book iconLaura Pocock, Assistant Pre-K Teacher, has been part of BCPS for three years.  She originally hails from the English countryside where she studied Psychology, Sociology and Dance. Laura relocated to New York over three years ago with her husband and loves everything about our city.  She is CPR/AED/First-Aid certified, including Epinephrine Auto-Injector Training. It is hard for Laura to pinpoint a favorite book, so she selected several including, The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton, The BFG and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory both by Roald Dahl.

chalkboard iconLisa Chaparro, Assistant 3’s Teacher, was born and raised in New York City and has raised her own two daughters here, so she understands the dynamics of providing a nurturing stability in an ever-changing environment. Lisa has over five years of experience teaching preschool-age children first, as a volunteer teacher in a non-profit setting and now at  BCPS for four years. She is CPR/AED/First-Aid certified, including Epinephrine Auto-Injector Training.  Lisa is currently pursing her degree in Early Childhood Education and her favorite children’s books are Green Eggs and Ham and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, both by Dr. Seuss.

Tara McAuliffe, Assistant 2’s Teacher, is a graduate of St John’s University, Tara was the Assistant Teacher in the Young 4’s classroom at a private school in Manhattan for nine years. After that she transitioned to Head Start as the 3’s Group Group Teacher. Tara enjoys the love and laughter of working with children. She is CPR/AED/First-Aid certified, including Epinephrine Auto-Injector Training and Tara’s favorite children’s book is The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.

Paint-icon-round-100x100Danielle Saulon, Administrative Assistant,acquired her undergrad for Creative Writing at SUNY Brockport. There, she served as Editor-in-Chief of the school’s literary magazine and taught procedural classes on editing and publication. She possesses a certification for CPR/AED/First-Aid, including Epinephrine Auto-Injector Training. Some day, she hopes to reach full fluency in her parents’ native language—Tagalog. Danielle keeps her favorite children’s book, The Little Prince, on her bedside table as a reminder that language opens new spaces and new possibilities.

Mia DeJesus, Monica Hine, Esther Forrester & Chess at Three Specialty Teachers.  In addition to our regular staff, four specialty teachers join us each week.

Mia designs her music classes to engage children through rhythmic exercises, instrument exploration and sing-a-longs.  She uses  original kids’ music,  nursery rhymes with different rhythmic components and popular music from around the world to instill a love of “all things” musical in our children.  Mia graduated from Berklee College of Music with a degree in Professional Music. 

Monica loves sharing her culture and language with children through songs, games and play each designed to help begin building a vocabulary of simple Spanish words, concepts and phrases.  Born in Monterrey, Mexico, Monica studied International Business before moving to the United States.  While in school, she always found creative ways to foster her passion of teaching young children.  Her favorite student by far is her one-year old son!

Esther, a former division I collegiate tennis player, has ten years of tennis teaching experience. She gives young children their first introduction to the game by using shortened rackets and low-bouncing balls combined with fun, age-appropriate drills and activities all designed to help develop large and fine motor skills, plus hand/eye coordination.  Even more importantly, Esther just wants  to share her enthusiasm for tennis with children in the hope that they too will develop a life-long passion for the game.

Chess at Three gets children playing and loving chess through storytelling, even at the surprising age of 3!   Each chess piece has their own quirky qualities and story that help explain why the piece moves the way it does and our BCPS children love it!