THE TEAM

Our leadership

Shakina Hinton

Head of School
Shakina Hinton was born and raised in the Bronx. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Lehman College and is currently attending Relay Graduate school to obtain her Master’s Degree in Education. Ms. Hinton is and has always been extremely passionate about the education, growth, empowerment, and success of our youth. She has dedicated her life to working with children and young adults and has been doing so since the age of 16. What drives Ms. Hinton is seeing the smiles and bright faces of the children and young adults she meets. The areas we serve deserve love and light and Ms. Hinton feels she will bring just that! She is a friendly face, a warm heart, an energetic soul, and anything else our students need to thrive and succeed.

Shakina Hinton

Head of School

Erienne E. Rojas

Founding Director of Operations
Erienne E. Rojas was born and raised in the Bronx. She earned her Master of Fine Arts degree in Poetry at the City College of New York, where she also received her Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in Creative Writing and a minor in Jewish Studies. She also completed The Publishing Certificate Program at CCNY. Ms. Rojas holds a High- Performing Managers Initiative certificate from Community Resource Exchange, as well as additional certificates in Literacy Supervision from The After School Corporation and Mental Health First Aid from Youth Mental Health First Aid USA. She has 5 years of experience in the non-profit management field; she has held various roles in the community-based sector as an ELA tutor, Literacy Coordinator, College Essay Writing Instructor, Workshop Facilitator, and Program Coordinator of a high school ArtWorks Internship Program in collaboration with local stakeholders. She has also operated and supervised a portfolio of after school programs in several charter schools. Ms. Rojas founded an “Arts with a Life Purpose” enrichment program in partnership with Harlem Village Academies East Middle School. In her tenure there, Ms. Rojas managed to integrate a blended staffing pattern into the instructional day and build out a youth development/enrichment program that aligned with school culture. In her previous position, Ms. Rojas served as an Associate Director of Programs for a South Bronx entity. Ms. Rojas is passionate about developing life skills through the expressive arts and incorporating social-emotional learning in multi- disciplinary projects. She hopes to continue to empower the whole-child with creative and meaningful opportunities that inspire youth purpose and well-being.

Erienne E. Rojas

Founding Director of Operations

Dasmin Croft

Director of ELA
I am name is Dasmin Croft (like Jasmin but with a D). I’ve been an educator for the past 10 years. I began my career in education as a 4th grade teaching assistant where I’ve in that capacity for 3 years. As I watched many students struggle, I realized that I lacked the tools and knowledge I needed to understand how I could truly help them. I then decided to work my way back to Early Childhood Education to acquire a greater sense of holistically teaching children and understanding child development. I’ve worked my way up from an assistant teacher to a lead. Eventually becoming an educational director. I believe that I’ve reached my highest potential as an early childhood educator at the preschool level. I decided that it’s time for me to return to my original journey of educating and supporting older children. I’ve recently completed my Master of Science in Education at The City College of New York. I also completed my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at CCNY. In addition to being a full time educator and former student, I am also a basketball mom of two boys who are 11 and 14 years of age. I enjoy going to their games and traveling to different places around the world whenever possible. I eventually plan on going to back school for a degree in educational law.

Dasmin Croft

Director of ELA

Michael McCray

Director of Math
Michael McCray was born, and raised in the Soundview section of the South Bronx. As a child he loved playing sports, especially basketball, and he still enjoys playing sports as an adult. Mr. McCray was an excellent student in elementary, middle, and high school, but struggled with Math in high school due to its lack of relevance to what he thought his adult life would entail. After excelling in collegiate Math classes containing real-world applications and unexpectedly finding joy in a part-time tutoring job he procured, Mr. McCray became interested in teaching because he was confident in his ability to help youth attain favorable grades in Math by making the subject matter relevant to them. Mr. McCray is a current graduate student at Concordia College seeking a Master's Degree in Childhood General and Special Education. He has worked with youth in a multitude of capacities throughout the past ten years including teaching, tutoring, coaching, and advising. He taught Middle School Math for two years in Harlem, and effectively tutored countless Kindergarten through eighth grade students in ELA and Math. Mr. McCray coached youth sports in Dobbs Ferry, the South Bronx, and Harlem. Each experience provided him with an understanding of the unique advantages, and challenges of the students he assisted. As a student advisor at a middle school, Mr. McCray managed a caseload of thirty students residing in, and around the Hunts Point area of the South Bronx who needed assistance improving their attendance, academics, social skills, and family challenges. Mr. McCray has a passion for empowering youth through education, and is cognizant of the abundant vital factors outside of the classroom which impact learning inside the classroom. He believes exposure to new, and dissimilar things, places, people, and ideas are paramount to the success of our youth as they allow them to attain critical social skills that will aid them as they mature. Mr. McCray loves to travel, and acquire new information. He tries not to let his fears prevent him from improving his weaknesses, and creating lasting memories. That was never more evident than when he went skydiving a few years ago. It was the most unnerving, liberating, breathtaking, and astonishing experience of his life. He believes life is all about exposure to new experiences, and the most rewarding experiences are often on the opposite side of fear's door.

Michael McCray

Director of Math

Rebecca Tilakdharry

Associate Director of History & Enrichment
Rebecca Tilakdharry is the Associate Director of History and Enrichment at Emblaze Academy. She realized her passion for education while working as a part-time tutor in high school. She received a bachelor’s in education and history as well as a master’s degree in education from Nyack College. Ms. Tilakdharry believes that every child is unique and is entitled to a nurturing, encouraging, and rigorous learning environment. As a Bronx native, she wants to see the youth in her community thrive and believes that every scholar is capable of reaching their full potential. Ms. Tilakdharry is excited about the school year, and is looking forward to our scholars' academic and personal growth.

Rebecca Tilakdharry

Associate Director of History & Enrichment

Hyrjana Dibra

Associate Director of Science & Languages
My name is Ms. Dibra, and I am currently the Associate Director of Science and ELL at Emblaze Academy. I was born and raised in Albania before moving to the Bronx at the age of 17. I began my education career ten years ago at Lehman College, where I graduated from. During this time, I co-founded and lead a pre-health program called BxCHL. I also worked for the New York State Assembly, where I learned about the mission of Charter Schools. I continued my career in education by teaching science in several charter schools, with the goal of increasing student motivation to pursue science-related careers. I started at Emblaze in 2018 as a 5th grade science teacher. My mission was to create a science department to help Emblaze students feel prepared for and succeed in their future science high school courses. During these years, I have been able to broaden the science curriculum and create a science program in which kids can investigate through hands-on projects. My new purpose at Emblaze is to lay a solid foundation for our ELL students so that they may navigate their new path with ease and earn a solid education.

Hyrjana Dibra

Associate Director of Science & Languages

Shauniece Turner

Director of School Culture

Shauniece Turner

Director of School Culture

Toni Vails

Assistant Dean of School Culture
Tony Vails is an educator, coach, and human service professional. In his current role as the Assistant Dean of Student Culture he has been committed to increasing student retention support, building collaboration between members of the school community, and creating safe, inclusive, and equitable learning environments for students. Previously, Tony served as a Case Manager, working with young people who are system involved. He fostered workshops and trainings to help with life skills, provided counseling, and encouraged learning to some of New York City’s most vulnerable youth. Tony is especially passionate about working with marginalized populations and finding creating solutions to address issues that impact the life trajectories of his students, colleagues, and community members. His ability to think outside the box, has led him to be successful in engaging with students and families, meeting deliverables, and improving outcomes.

Toni Vails

Assistant Dean of School Culture

Chante’l Johnson

Director of Special Education

Chante’l Johnson

Director of Special Education

Miguel Pena

Operations Manager
Miguel Pena was born in The Dominican Republic and raise in The Bronx. My family immigrated to New York in pursuit of a better life to get that and to treat my father's failing heart which ended up with him receiving a heart transplant. I like to consider myself charismatic and an optimistic, always look on the bright side of things. One of my passions that I have made into a profession is working with technology, since the small age of 7 I have always tinkered with computers, by age 13 I had built my first computer from pulling parts from old computers. I went to Hostos Community College in The Bronx for Business Management, I then transferred to Monroe College in pursuit of Computer Science in the field of Network Security. I have received multiple trainings on youth development and teaching styles. I love my role in the Operations field because I am able to work in the backstage and be able to help our teachers and families in many ways.

Miguel Pena

Operations Manager

Stacy Chavez

Operations Manager
Stacy Chavez was born in Ecuador but raised in The Bronx on the south side part. She graduated from Monroe College with a Criminal Justice Degree. Although she was able to obtain two degrees in Criminal Justice, she grew a passion within the education system. She began her now eight-year journey within the education system as an educational after-school tutor. Ms. Chavez’s experience from an educational tutor grew and she became an Arts and Crafts Coordinator, High School Lead teacher, High School after-school Coordinator, Elementary and Middle school site director, Data Specialist and middle school Assistant director. Although she enjoyed her time working in the after-school department, she is beyond excited to enter a new journey working in a Charter School. Ms. Chavez enjoys communication and the success of students. She looks forward to meeting new faces and growing a professional relationship with parents.

Stacy Chavez

Operations Manager

Genesis Pichardo

Office Manager

Genesis Pichardo

Office Manager

Our faculty

Brittany Watson

5th Grade ELA Teacher & School Instructional Specialist
Brittany Watson is a fourth year teacher at Emblaze Academy Charter School where she teaches 5th grade ELA. Teaching ELA has been her pride and joy because she enjoys bringing creativity back into reading. She is born and raised in the Bronx and graduated from Lehman College with her degree in English with a minor in professional communications. Her passions include reading, writing, and empowering her students. Ms. Watson’s hobbies includes shopping, painting, and watching movies.

Brittany Watson

5th Grade ELA Teacher & School Instructional Specialist

Taleah Johnson

ELA & History Teaching Fellow
I’m Taleah Johnson and I’m joining Emblaze as a Teaching Fellow in the Humanities department! I earned my B.A in Adolescent Education from the College of Saint Rose in 2020 and have gone on to educate students from preschool up to middle school! When not teaching, I spend my time in my hometown of Mt. Vernon, NY where I like to write, eat good food, and take strolls across my neighborhood. I look foreword to being apart of the Emblaze team!

Taleah Johnson

ELA & History Teaching Fellow

Braden Waller

ELA SETSS
My name is Braden Waller and this is my third year at Emblaze! I have lived and taught in Arizona, Utah, China, and now in New York. Literature and reading is my passion, and I’m honored to be able to share a part of myself as I teach your scholars.

Braden Waller

ELA SETSS

Oma Seepersaud

5th/6th Grade Science
My name is Ms. Seepersaud and I am the 5th/6th Science teacher at Emblaze Academy. I enjoy working with students and pushing them to success!

Oma Seepersaud

5th/6th Grade Science

Simuel Stevenson

5th/6th Grade Enrichment
I’m a fun person with a great personality very hard working

Simuel Stevenson

5th/6th Grade Enrichment

Viviana Budhu

5th/6th Grade History
My name is Ms. Budhu. I graduated from the College of Mount Saint Vincent with my Bachelors of Arts in Psychology. I received my Masters of Science in Childhood Education from Mercy College. I was born and raised in the Bronx.Teaching has always been my passion. I absolutely love teaching in the community that raised me. My goal is to help every student see the light within them and realize their true potential.

Viviana Budhu

5th/6th Grade History

Angelica Almanzar

5th/ 6th Grade Math
My name is Angelica Almanzar I was born and raised in a small town in the Dominican Republic. As a child my favorite game was to pretend to be a teacher. I used to tutor many of my friends as well as my family members. At first I wasn't sure If I wanted to become a teacher because I was a shy girl growing up. I became interested in teaching because I wanted to contribute to my community in a meaningful way. I can encourage children to dream. I can inspire kids to think beyond their comfort zones and challenges them to reach their fullest potential.

Angelica Almanzar

5th/ 6th Grade Math

Caryn Rhodes

School Counselor
Caryn Rhodes was born in Charlotte, NC and raised in Brooklyn, NY. Caryn is an educator and socio-emotional health advocate. Caryn was raised by her mother, father, two older brothers, and big sister. Growing up she learned the importance of perseverance and curiosity as it related to education. Caryn’s desire to teach children comes from observing her patient mother, who spent countless nights with her doing homework, and her teachers who helped her along the way. Caryn completed her Bachelor of Science Degree in Religious Education at Oakwood University- a Historically Black University located in Huntsville, AL. She currently holds a Master of Education Degree in School Counseling from Southern Arkansas University.

Caryn Rhodes

School Counselor

Eric Shellhase

6th Grade ELA & School Phonics
I’m originally from Philadelphia, and I completed my bachelor’s degree in English Literature at Temple University. I’ve been teaching for 15 years in community programs and schools. I completed my master’s degree in English Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. I believe in the power of stories and I know I have a lot to learn from my students and their families!

Eric Shellhase

6th Grade ELA & School Phonics

Michael Sherman

7th Grade Math

Michael Sherman

7th Grade Math

Kiara Simmons

Literacy Specialist
Hi, I’m Kiara Simmons a recent college graduate with my BA in Human Services. I have recently switched roles from an Associate Teacher to a Literacy Specialist. I enjoy reading, writing and hanging with friends/ family. As I settled into my new career role I’m hoping to learn a lot more about myself and the career that I am pursuing. If you’re fun, energetic, and bubbly we will get along great.

Kiara Simmons

Literacy Specialist

Kimberly Adiyia

5th/7th Grade History
Hi! My name is Ms. Adiyia. I’ve been teaching for three years. I’m passionate about serving the community and providing our scholars with a world class education.

Kimberly Adiyia

5th/7th Grade History

Regine Simmons

7th Grade Science
My name is Regine Simmons, born and raised in the Bronx. I have two little boys and I am the oldest of 5 children. I thoroughly enjoy being an educator and building bonds with scholars. I love making teaching fun, at the same time, I let the students know that education Is a priority. I am the cool, stern teacher, we can have a good time during my instruction, but we have to take the work serious! Education is so important to me and It warms my heart knowing that everyday I am making a difference in these scholars future !

Regine Simmons

7th Grade Science

Jaron Williams

7th Grade Enrichment
Jaron Williams , My 1st year teaching at emblaze academy. I am very excited to be apart of the Emblaze Family. Taught in the Newburgh Enlarged City school District prior. I like to play and watch sports. Expecting a great year.

Jaron Williams

7th Grade Enrichment

Autumn Letson

8th Grade ELA
Hi! I’m Ms. Letson and I teach 8th grade ELA! This will be my third year teaching & second year at Emblaze Academy. I love teaching and being able to share my love for literature with my students!

Autumn Letson

8th Grade ELA

Melissa Watson

8th Grade History Teacher
Melissa Watson was born and raised in the Bronx, NY. She was a Teaching Fellow and has been an educator since 2015. She attended a teaching high school in NY, NY where she did a weekly student teaching internship for elementary school students. Mrs. Watson received a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from CUNY School of Professional Studies. She pursued her Master’s Degree in Education at Relay Graduate School of Education where she received a degree in Special Education grades 7-12, concentrating on English skills. Mrs. Watson graduated in May 2022 from CUNY Lehman with a masters in School Counseling. Mrs. Watson is very passionate about education, discussing the futures of students and desiring to help create the bridge to success for all. She is always seeking to inspire her students by constantly encouraging the idea of college and college access, while providing students with the tools necessary to achieve their goals. Mrs. Watson is a charismatic individual with a passion for helping her students expand their knowledge for current coursework, but to carry that knowledge on through their futures. She is excited to join the community at Emblaze Charter School and hopes to bring her vibrant personality and expertise.

Melissa Watson

8th Grade History Teacher

Aissatou Ba

8th Grade Math
Name is Aissatou Ba, Aisha or Ms. Ba in short. I have been teaching 8th grade math (intro to Algebra) for the past 3 and a half years. Received my bachelor’s degree at Baruch College and Master’s degree at Relay Graduate School of education. I thrive in sharing my love of math with my students to excel in the subject in their last year of middle school and beyond.

Aissatou Ba

8th Grade Math

Peta Gaye Morrison

8th Grade Science
Hiii!! I am Ms. Morrison. Your 8th grade Science Teacher. I am a simple person—I love church and Jesus. I love tacos and burgers. I love learning about new stuff and old stuff. I love reading and making my words become a reality. I love dancing and creating videos. I love confidence and leaders. That's all that I love. As the year continues, you'll find out about all that I hate. Don't be shy to say hello to muahhh in the hallway!! 🙂

Peta Gaye Morrison

8th Grade Science

Shontae Wilson

8th Grade Enrichment
Ms. Wilson was born and raised in the Bronx. Ms. Wilson is our 8th grade enrichment teacher, she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Lehman college. Ms. Wilson has been a history teacher, mentor, and program director. Ms. Wilson knew that she wanted to become an educator ever since she was a child. Her fondest memories from her childhood are of the teachers that showed their care and passion for her education, she knew those were the memories that she wanted her scholars to have of her. Ms. Wilson is very passionate about the education of the youth, and is dedicated to being a positive attribute to our scholars. One of Ms. Wilson’s favorite quotes is, “Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism.”

Shontae Wilson

8th Grade Enrichment

Demi Nunez

STEM Specialist
My name is Demi Nunez and I was born and raised in NYC. This will be my second year being a STEM specialist for 7th grade. I earned my Bachelor’s degree in History from the University of Vermont and my Master’s in Education from Concordia University of Nebraska. My desire is to help students develop the skills necessary for academic excellence. I believe that Emblaze Academy is building the future of tomorrow through our students. One of my teaching strategies is to allow students to explore their academic strengths and weaknesses through project based learning. This type of learning allows for a more interactive classroom that enhances student's learning experience and understanding of difficult subjects. Aside from my passion for teaching, I enjoy reading, hiking, and volunteering at community events.

Demi Nunez

STEM Specialist

Marvin Duarte

ELL Program Manager

Marvin Duarte

ELL Program Manager

Marco Antonio Santiago

6th Grade Literature
Mr. Santiago is excited to be returning to Emblaze Academy as a 6th grade Literature Teacher. He and his wife look forward to the continued growth and success of Emblaze's scholars under the dedicated and loving tutelage of Emblaze's Teachers, Administration, and Staff. Having received a BFA & MFA in Theater and writing numerous scripts and productions, he is grateful to train the next generation of writers, authors, and world changers. He thanks God for this blessing and sacred responsibility to educate the youth of today who will impact the world of tomorrow. He looks forward to helping each scholar excel and go farther then their parents who have sacrificed much for them to reach their full potential and be all that God created them to be. Here's to a successful 2022-2023 school year!

Marco Antonio Santiago

6th Grade Literature

Stephanie Ramirez

ELA
Hi My name is Ms.Ramirez and I teach ELA.

Stephanie Ramirez

ELA