Molly M. DeGesero is honored to serve the Park Avenue Methodist Day School community as Director. Since 2005, Mrs. DeGesero has been a fierce advocate for Early Childhood Education, particularly teaching children to learn, through creative, directed, interactive ‘play with a purpose’. She feels that a child should be met where they are and gently guided forward. Children who are given the space to grow and build their skills in a supportive environment develop confidence and kindness toward others. She has innovated programs with proven results, at some of the top schools in New York City. Molly has a passion for children, a talent for education and the enthusiasm to combine them to create an unmatched early-learning experience.
As a New York State Certified Teacher for Birth through Second Grade, Mrs. DeGesero has most recently served as Education Director at the Shirley Chisholm Early Childhood Center Brooklyn, NY, innovating programs to ensure compliance with Early Learn, Head Start, Administration for Children’s Services, Department of Education and Department of Health standards.
During her tenure as a Kindergarten teacher at the Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School (WHEELS), in Manhattan, Mrs. DeGesero also filled the role of Team Leader of the Kindergarten Division, where she worked with teachers and specialists to establish consistent educational practices and conducted Professional Development workshops.
As Kindergarten teacher, and later the Faculty Leader for 4s and Kindergartens, at the Blue School in Manhattan, Mrs. DeGesero received acclaim for incorporating such innovations as curriculum created around sociologically and environmentally critical issues as Nature in the Urban Environment. It was at Blue School that she developed a deep commitment to project-based learning, emergent curriculum, and the Reggio-Emilia approach to education. During her 6 years at Blue School she developed grade level projects, held teacher leadership roles, ran workshops, presented at conferences, and was an active spokesperson for the school. Molly was chosen to present the school’s philosophy and curriculum with founders to The New York Times, Huffington Post and CNN.
Mrs. DeGesero has conducted presentations for educators and parents at the Teaching Innovations Conference on the use of digital portfolios using Google Sites in a Kindergarten Classroom, the process of project-based learning in a Kindergarten Classroom as well as the use of documentation and reflection with children to create curriculum. Molly has authored a staff-development handbook, Sensory Responsive Classroom (Kindergarten – 2nd Grade): on creating a classroom that supports the sensory development of all students and teaches children about their sensory needs.
Mrs. DeGesero graduated from Sarah Lawrence College, with degrees in Education and Developmental Psychology, and Arts in Dance. She has her Masters of Science in Education from Bank Street College of Education.
Molly is a proud life-long resident of New York City raised in a family of educators, who began her career as a modern dancer and currently lives in Harlem with her husband, Randy, and their dog Uno.
Presley Rodriguez first joined the Park Avenue Methodist Day School team in 2016. She is a Queens native and an alumna of Boston University. Outside of the school office, Presley can be found spending time with family, reading, museum hopping and strolling through Central Park.
Suzanne Dickman is a native New Yorker and has taught in various independent schools in New York City as an assistant, head and substitute teacher. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish at Tufts University, a master’s degree in education from Hunter College and is certified in New York State. Suzanne loves working with younger children and creating an environment in which they feel comfortable to explore in every way. Outside the classroom, Suzanne enjoys spending time with her family, watching her son play basketball and working individually with older students as a Spanish tutor.
Marcella McGuire is a graduate of the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, Ireland. She has enjoyed raising her two children, now teenagers, in New York City and participating in all their activities. Marcella has volunteered extensively in the art rooms and libraries of her children’s schools. She is extremely passionate about art education and children’s literature. Marcella previously worked as a substitute teacher at PAMDS, and is excited to continue her role as a 2s teacher this year again.
Sophie Laird is a native New Yorker whose first word as a child was, “taxi.” After graduating from Vassar College with a BA in psychology and art history, Sophie spent some time in Orlando working in the entertainment department at Walt Disney World. Having experienced the joys of creating magical moments for children and families, she returned to New York City and completed a master’s in early childhood education from Teachers College, hoping to provide more long-lasting magic and joy for children within a classroom setting. Ironically, she has found that her students often end up generating more magic and joy for her.
Chelsi Clark is a native of Dallas, TX who transitioned to the “Big Apple” as of June 2019. She received her B.A. in Music from Prairie View A&M University in the Fall of 2008. She previously served as an assistant teacher at St. Albans Early Childhood Center for Pre-K 3 in Washington, D.C. In Dallas, she was a voice instructor and a fundamentals of music teacher at the Lakewood Fine Arts Conservatory for 9 years. She was a dedicated substitute teacher for 8 years in Rockwall ISD for kindergarten, resource & inclusion and life skills. Chelsi believes that all children are capable of learning whether it be visual, aural, verbal or physical.
Claire Fitzpatrick is very excited to continue to teach alongside Michelle Twomey in the 3s/4s class this year. Prior to PAMDS, Claire taught in both the 3s and the 4s/5s classrooms at the Epiphany Community Nursery School for two years. She also taught in the 3s/4s and 4s/5s at the First Presbyterian Church Nursery School for six years. She attended college at the University of Vermont where she received her bachelor’s degree in early childhood special education. She also attended Hunter College where she obtained her master’s degree in early childhood special education and gifted/talented education. Claire grew up in Manhattan and loves enjoying all that the city has to offer. She enjoys going to museums, attending cooking classes and taking her furry dog niece, Pixie, for walks in Central Park.
Michelle began her teaching career at Park Avenue Methodist Day School in 2007. Prior to joining PAMDS, Michelle was a stay-at-home mom of two boys, both of whom are alumni of the school. Michelle has volunteered as a music teacher at Daniel’s Music Foundation, an organization that provides free music programs for people with disabilities and is actively involved in the Parents Association at her sons’ schools. Michelle is passionate about science. It was a passion that grew while studying Applied Physics and she is excited to share her love and enthusiasm for science with the children. Michelle lives on the Upper East Side with her husband, son and dog, Hope.
Day School Committee
Rev. Dr. Cathy S. Gilliard, Pastor, Park Avenue United Methodist Church