OUR STUDIO STAFF
KHAHTEE V. TURNER is the Founder & Director of Studio Creative Play and The Roberts Field School. Khahtee is a community leader, an educational visionary, and a humanitarian and advocate for the propagation of the arts, creative enrichment, and compassionate awareness practices and offerings in early childhood. For the last 16 years at Studio—alongside artists, musicians, and educators—Khahtee has lead a unique, comprehensive, and transcendent community experience. Through its mission, Studio holistically nurtures the awakening and blooming of each individual’s voice and expressive capacity in the most sacred and salient time of formative development: early childhood.
Alongside the ongoing growth of Studio, Khahtee founded The Roberts Field School, an elementary school, which she also directs. In the establishment of Roberts Field, she maintains her unwavering devotion to offer the community the tenets and practices of Studio through an interdisciplinary approach to elementary education. Khahtee has also taken her program worldwide to share these foundations of nurturing creative consciousness and interconnectivity with our global neighbors. She has taken educational experiences and resources to remote and underdeveloped areas of Mexico and Nepal, and has shared resources and global community workshops during her visits to Icelandic schools.
As Studio Creative Play Inc. extends its mission to offer peace, equity, and justice to many more learnings centers, this fall Khahtee begins in her role of Executive Director of SCP, launching the formal structure for SCP's new altruistic project, Peace and Equity in Education - Fall 2020. Khahtee can also be found spending fun times with her beloved eleven-year-old son and five-year-old daughter, adventuring in all that the world has to offer.
ROBIN PICKERING’s role as the Director of Programming gives her the opportunity to deepen her relationship with all things Studio and Roberts Field and to serve the Studio-RFS community, including families, children, and staff, on a daily basis. In her new role as a Venni Studio Supervisor, she looks forward to greater levels of connection and presence in the classrooms and strongly supporting the teachers logistically and philosophically in their fulfillment of the holistic mission of Studio.
She has been an active leader for Studio Creative Play in various capacities for over ten years, from editing content for the Studio Creative Play website, to helping produce educational videos and managing other large development projects. Over this decade plus of time, Robin’s work with SCP has also extended to global ports, such as traveling to Iceland and Mexico to further share Studio’s mission and curriculum with other schools, organizations, and communities, and to build ongoing partnerships with these groups.
Robin has been teaching yoga in Park Slope and NYC since 1999. She comes from an educational publishing background (English Language Arts for grades K-8, with a specialization in primary grade reading), and in publishing has edited and project managed everything from NYC test prep materials to phonics practice books to reading basals for grades K-12.
ANGUS DAVIDSON returns to Studio Creative Play as Assistant Director. In his five years with the organization, he’s served many roles, including teaching in the Venni Threes and Fours programs. He has taught music at all levels in the organization, also serving as a music ambassador in the Roberts Field School. He led the inaugural year of the Roberts Field Symposium program, an interdisciplinary arts class for elementary schoolers. His favorite part of his current role at Studio is the opportunities he has to connect with every class in the community every day. He loves the work of building Studio’s community and supporting the teachers in their work. His own teaching experience has spanned ESL kindergarten and elementary school, music lessons, choral direction, outdoor education, and classroom teaching.
Angus graduated from Hampshire College in 2014 with a BA in music and a concentration in piano performance and conducting. Angus was a candidate for the Ottorino Respighi Prize in Conducting at the inaugural New York Conducting Workshop, and he attended the Yarn/Wire Institute, a new music program for pianists, percussionists, and composers, at Stony Brook University in 2017. He and Gigi Chew, longtime Studio teacher and parent, co-founded Spark Arts, a summer program for children drawing on their love of art, music, and nature.
When he’s not teaching, Angus loves playing music, taking photos, writing, and canoeing.
CAROLINE GUZMAN has been immersed in the joyful exploration and merry art-making of Studio Creative Play since 2011. This school year marks her fourth time serving the SCP and Roberts Field community as a Studio Terra teacher. Prior to that, Caroline acted as a Staff Supervisor for the Venni program and taught children from ages two through six. She greatly values the opportunities past and present to deepen her craft with the RFS team of educators — focusing on the use of play towards affording authentic occasions for academic discovery. She is a firm believer in the power of imagination, and gets energized every day by a kindergartner’s ability to manifest “the pretend.”
Caroline holds a Bachelor’s degree in Dance from Connecticut College, where she also completed her Elementary Teacher Certification. When teaching, Caroline follows the credo that young minds are most active if their bodies are similarly free. In January 2012, she helped SCP to launch its Live Earth curriculum as a weekly lab in physical expression, spatial awareness, and creative dance. She is passionate about sparking a child’s kinesthetic understanding of new ideas and fostering movement as an integrated tool for comprehension in the classroom. Additionally, she feels very connected to the emphasis that The Roberts Field School places on outdoor investigation and a child’s access to nature.
Caroline welcomed her own child to the world this summer, and is reveling in the new role that motherhood has gifted her. She looks forward to introducing her infant daughter to students and families when she returns from Maternity Leave later this Fall.
GIGI CHEW joined Studio Creative Play in 2011. She completed her BA in Psychology and her Masters in Social Work, both at NYU. Gigi is a licensed Social Worker with eight years of experience working with high-risk adults and children in a variety of settings including hospitals, shelters, schools, soup kitchens, and supportive housing facilities. When she joined Studio Creative Play, she was working as a Creative Arts Counselor with public school children and their families.
As a child, Gigi grew up in Switzerland, Singapore, and New York, and has spent a significant amount of time in Japan. Travel is profoundly important to her and she uses her global awareness to support a classroom environment that cultivates curiosity about the world, as well as a respect for culture and diversity. Gigi is an illustrator and a crafter who enjoys working with her hands. She recognizes the importance of tactile play in child development and is drawn to artistic processes that enhance the sensory experience. As a nature lover, she often integrates natural elements into her work with children in ways that develop their appreciation of our Earth. Gigi is deeply committed to providing children with a joyful, warm, and enriching learning environment where their strengths and imaginations are supported and nurtured. In the summers, Gigi and fellow Studio staff member, Angus Davidson, run Spark Arts Studio, an enrichment program for 4 through 9 year olds that celebrates culture and nature around the globe.
In her free time, Gigi is an avid meditator and reader. Gigi is also the mother of an 8-year-old daughter who has been at Studio since the age of 4. She is thrilled for her daughter to continue on to 4th grade at The Roberts Field School.
LEAH BARKER is very happy to be back as a Venni Fours teacher. They have a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Development and Elementary Education from Michigan State University and have worked with children in many preschool settings. They have lived in Brooklyn for 6 years but grew up in rural Michigan with a childhood absorbed in nature and outdoor exploration.
Leah’s teaching philosophy is centered around hands-on, play-based learning and development. Leah upholds a supportive and nurturing environment that encourages children to express themselves freely and imaginatively. They use every opportunity they can to create a wondrous, magical moment for children to use their imaginations. Using mindful, positive, and open-ended language with children, Leah fosters kind and meaningful relationships and communication.
Leah leads nature-based classes for children in Prospect Park, encouraging meaningful relationships with the natural world through nature play and exploration.
When Leah is not in the classroom, they can be found skateboarding, reading, dancing, and being in nature. Leah is looking forward to connecting with children and families, and continuing to create mindful community. They are eager to explore, build, and learn with each child!
KIRSTEN BAKKEN Originally from the Midwest, Kirsten holds a Bachelor’s degree in French and history from the University of Michigan and a Master’s degree in linguistics from Michigan State University. After graduation, Kirsten moved to Chicago and served as an AmeriCorps volunteer at Asian Human Services, where she fell in love with teaching and working with children. She taught English as a second language classes to adults and tutored elementary school students in the organization’s after school program, a job she adored.
After her time with AmeriCorps, Kirsten moved to Washington, DC, where she completed the Capital Teaching Residency, a teacher preparation program in the District. For seven years, she worked as a pre-k teacher at E.L. Haynes Public Charter School, an incredibly vibrant, diverse, and inspiring community of students, teachers, and families. At Haynes, Kirsten worked with the school’s youngest students to develop their early language and literacy skills. She is endlessly fascinated with children’s many ways of seeing and representing their world through play, drama, art, and construction.
NICK MCKENNA is very excited to be part of Studio Creative Play for a third year as a Vega co-teacher. Having lived and taught in Costa Rica, South Korea, and Australia, Nick loves to bring our big beautiful world into the classroom and sees children as co-explorers, co-learners, and co-educators.
Nick graduated with a BA in sociology from Suffolk University. Focusing on mentorship and college access programming, he received Americorp scholarships to mentor Boston Public School students in areas of college access and readiness. Mentorship extended far beyond the areas of concentration, teaching him the power of healthy, synergistic relationships between teachers and students.
South Korea is where Nick fell in love with teaching. He taught an after school English program for young learners that focused on storytelling, art, and cooking. He learned the importance of a holistic teaching approach that focused on nurturing relationships. He believes in the power of a smile, kind words, and laughter.
In Australia, he was lucky to continue pursuing his passion for teaching, this time with immigrants from all over the world. He learned just as much from them, and their experiences, as he was able to teach them. Nick truly believes in the power of collaboration in education. And as one becomes a teacher, one never stops learning. Nick takes away a personal and professional lessons from the classroom, his students, and co-teachers each day.
Nick is currently pursuing his MSEd in Early Childhood Development at Hunter College. He’s excited to expand upon and share all he is learning with the Studio community. Aside from teaching and studying, Nick is a hungry cook, a windowsill gardener, and an avid reader of anything that makes him laugh.
EVELYN APARICIO is excited to join Studio Creative Play for their second year as a Twos and Threes co-teacher. They are a patient, creative educator who is passionate about nourishing the children of this coming generation to create waves of progress in our society. They foster empathy and compassion in the classroom in hopes of a kinder future; Self-advocacy and confidence so our students are never afraid to voice their ideas, questions, or concerns; and inquisitiveness so that as children grow, their curiosity and love of learning do as well.
Evelyn studied Chicana/o Studies and Education at UCLA where they first realized the gift they could give as an educator for young children. This will be Evelyn’s fourth year working with children from Los Angeles to Brooklyn. They love incorporating drama, music, and mindfulness into the everyday routine, whether it’s exploring the soundscapes of the Studio garden or taking a stroll along the rings of Saturn. Evelyn believes that children have an innate love of learning and can access it best when they are engaged by an environment that is relevant to their cultures and current interests. They love taking inspiration from exchanges, conversations, and questions initiated by children in the classroom in order to provide engaging curriculum and materials for the children to explore and create with.
Outside of the classroom, Evelyn can be found hiking, camping, and rockhounding across the country just as easily as they can be found deep in a computer screen helping small businesses with their websites and digital content. Art and music also fill their free time. Whether it’s with their guitar, trumpet, or paint brushes, Evelyn loves to create pieces to share with friends and family.
ALEENA TURNER is delighted to be returning to Studio Creative Play, as an All RFS and Studio Support Teacher and Liaison. Outgoing and patient, she loves watching children share their experiences through creativity and is dedicated to supporting children in imaginative play while building on the joy and strength that comes from their peer relationships. In the classroom, she enjoys modeling kind acts and fostering communication skills that lead to productive outcomes in the children's friendships.
Aleena keeps a great sense of humor alive with both children and teachers, taking her time getting to know each friend individually. She enjoys seeing the children find their own ways of coming to a full understanding of nature, their communities, and how the world works, whether it’s through art, telling stories, or acting out ideas. Aleena also finds it fascinating to see how much can be learned from the children's own thoughts and questions.
As a native New Yorker who hails from East New York, Aleena is currently studying Fashion Design at Kingsborough College and particularly enjoys the hands-on experience of large scale painting, clothing design, and sketching. She is able to draw upon that creativity when engaging in art activities with the children in her class. She has been teaching and working with children for over 8 years and originally started her career with children as an infant teacher. It was from that experience that her passion for early childhood was ignited. She sees herself as a lifelong learner from both children and co teachers, and enjoys the opportunity to engage in reciprocal co-learning. When she is not teaching, designing, or painting you can find her singing, dancing, baking, engineering with kids in the neighborhood, or tinkering with her building materials. She is so thankful and excited to be returning to Studio!
MARI RENWICK is excited to return to Studio Creative Play for her second year as a co-teacher in Venni Twos. She is motivated and inspired to find ways to stir curiosity and creativity while fostering children’s imaginations in a safe and supportive environment.
As a visual artist Mari is always challenging herself to introduce new art projects that engage the children while expanding on the current lesson themes. Prior to co-teaching, Mari held numerous positions as an educational guide in various children's programs as well as occasionally acting as a support teacher in Studio Creative Play and Roberts Field School.
Mari is an artist/illustrator and teaches encaustic painting (hot wax painting) in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. She lives nearby with her husband and teenage daughter (and cats!)
CHRIS ATKINS is so excited to join the Studio Creative Play community this year as a Venni Studio Twos and Threes co-teacher! Born and raised in New York, Chris graduated with a BA in Music and Education from Sarah Lawrence College, and has been teaching and making art ever since.
For nearly 7 years he’s witnessed the profound effect that a quality, creative-oriented education can have on early childhood, and he has become ever more dedicated to teaching young people how to learn, cope, and empathize in order to access their full potential as individuals.
In his spare time, Chris works as a music engineer, recording local artists as well as writing and recording his own projects. As a teacher, he is always finding ways to introduce children to the joys and challenges of living creatively.
GIOVANNI RODRIGUEZ is beyond passionate about officially joining the Studio Creative Play team. A dynamic photographer and child educator hailing from the San Fernando Valley, Giovanni is fascinated by the many ways we can teach children through art. He believes that having a deep connection with nature at a young age is an essential part of growing as a person.
Having worked with children from preschool to high school, he hopes to bring a wide range of experience. He has experience building a curriculum for high school students to learn stop motion animation, using DSLR cameras and clay. While working at James Denman Middle School in San Francisco, he centered his enrichment teaching around video editing and photography. This allowed students to storyboard, record, and edit their own short films. They also designed their own photoshoots with backdrops they painted themselves. When working at Charles Drew Elementary, Giovanni facilitated a program focused on strengthening families. Here he assisted children in developing skills that create better communication with their guardians. Giovanni believes that it’s important to remember the tools we give children to create can be endless. The most wholesome moments Giovanni has witnessed always happen when a child feels they have complete creative freedom.
JENNY WECHTER is a Rigel Fours Co-Teacher. She adores children and believes that deep listening and mindful empowerment allow children to organically and joyfully evoke their potential. Jenny finds creative expression, in its endless multitudes of form, to be freeing, healing, and inspiring. When Jenny is not singing and breathing in circles with children, she is likely to be found writing and charcoal sketching at the park or throwing clay at the pottery wheel. She loves spending time in nature and is especially passionate about nurturing children’s interest, care, and imaginative play with all that is living and growing around us.
Jenny is fascinated with cultures and learning about diverse ways of life, and has spent time in India and South Africa, doing reforestation work and teaching yoga and meditation to schoolchildren, respectively. She has professional experience working with a school district in Texas on a yoga and mindfulness-based stress reduction curricula. She also teaches yoga and practices reiki. Jenny established a mindfulness-based non-profit program called Healing Space, a support group and space for children with craniofacial birth defects to move through expressive and healing practices in community.
Jenny is originally from El Paso, Texas, where she grew up with big open skies and cacti. She received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a Bachelor of Arts in Plan II from the University of Texas at Austin. Imagine a program in which you learn about the mathematics of shorelines and tree growth, and question the existence of singularities—this is a Plan II degree. She brings with her a gentle curiosity about the world and a readiness to encourage children to realize that they can be all that they imagine. Jenny is delighted to be joining the Studio Creative Play team, and eagerly awaits her first day with the Fours.
KATHERINE WEISS comes to Studio Creative Play as a Venni Twos and Threes as a co-teacher after spending the last several years as a caregiver and music teacher in Park Slope. She received her B.A. at Hampshire College where she studied psychology and linguistics with special interest in early childhood and families. After spending a few years in psychoanalytic training in Boston and New York, she returned to her first love of working with children and families both in group and individual settings as a caregiver and in music instruction.
Katherine believes strongly in a holistic and experiential approach to learning and is inspired by child-centered philosophies of teaching that emphasize play, music, movement, and artistic expression. Although she has worked with children of all ages, she is passionate about twos and threes with their freedom of expression and emerging facility with language. She enjoys finding activities that integrate the development of fine motor skills and language acquisition with art and movement that also enliven the classroom community.
Katherine was raised in northern Westchester County where she spent a great part of her childhood in the outdoors, finding wildflowers, acorns, rocks and other treasures to incorporate into art projects. She comes from a musical family and is a classically trained vocalist and oboeist. She is looking forward to sharing songs, a love of nature, and her experience creating a consistent and nurturing environment within which children thrive and build community. In her free time, Katherine enjoys exploring far flung corners of the outer boroughs with her partner in search of the city's best Italian pastries. She looks forward to meeting the Venni Twos and Threes and their families and to having a wonderful year learning and playing!
LEIGH JOHNSON will be joining the Studio Terra coteaching team this year. A strong proponent of compassionate communication, she believes that children thrive when they are greeted by a larger community with love and respect and are offered the freedom to explore, imagine, and create in safety. Born and educated in British Columbia, Canada, Leigh finished a B.A. in English Literature and French and completed her K-12 teacher certification at the University of Victoria before realizing her dream of moving to Paris, France—and later Istanbul, Turkey—for several years of linguistic and cultural immersion and adventure.
Leigh’s international teaching and facilitation experience includes workshop development and delivery with non-profit women’s and literacy organizations, as well as teaching and tutoring English language arts and ESL in both private and public schools. Leigh’s evolving artistic practice has led her to continued studies in diverse forms of creative expression, many aspects of which she looks forward to sharing with future Terra children. She is particularly interested in facilitating joyful learning experiences that promote the soft—and evermore essential—skills of communication, collaboration, creative problem-solving, and critical thinking.
Kaelynn Haack is so happy to join Studio as a Fours teacher. She believes that we are all born with an innate curiosity and abundant creativity, and that it is through others’ compassion and loving guidance as we grow that we can discover ourselves and our world. She is fascinated by languages and cultures and is an avid traveler. She says, “I learn so much from children, and am delighted to take my experience and passion for teaching, especially with the early childhood age group, to the whole Studio community.”
Kaelynn holds a Bachelors of Arts in Spanish and Iberian studies from the University of Texas at Austin. Over the last 7 years, she has worked steadily in community education, including the health education of seniors. She studied abroad in Spain and has been an ESL classroom teacher for multi-aged early childhood through adulthood in Costa Rica, Peru, and Texas. Her ESL early childhood instruction has included designing, implementing, and reviewing educational practices and approaches, as well as fostering interdisciplinary approaches to language acquisition. In addition to being a long-term child care provider, Kaelynn is also a Doula and regularly integrates art, drawing, painting, and improv theatre into her personal creative practice.
In her free time, she enjoys dancing, meditation, making art, photography, and being immersed in nature.