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Karen Giuffre’, M.Ed.

Founding Director
Teacher/Researcher, Humanities/Social Justice

Our director received her BA in Political Science and Communications from Hood College and her M.Ed. in Education and Partnership from Goddard College. She has also participated in Advanced Studies in Exercise Physiology at Springfield College and earned a Masters Certificate in College Counseling from UCLA.

Karen began her teaching career in Harvard, Massachusetts where she taught 5th, 6th, and 8th-grade social studies. This was followed by years of serving as a teacher and director of fitness and recreation programs. Karen developed an elementary interdisciplinary curriculum as a researcher and writer and then as a trainer and promoter of the national physical education program, Physical Best. Karen’s children inspired her to create a progressive learning environment that honors all children as people. She founded Voyagers’ Community School in 2004 after spending 18 months composing the philosophical foundation that guides our day-to-day operations.

Karen has garnered recognition as the Keynote Speaker and Presenter at both national and local professional conferences, including, most recently, the Association for Constructivist Teaching Conference and the Progressive Education Network. She has also advised many start-up school efforts. She serves as the New Jersey State Liaison for the Alternative Education Resource Organization. She also served as Chairperson and Treasurer for the New Jersey Educators Exploring the Practices of Reggio Emilia, President of A Child's Place Education Fund, a member of The Colts Neck 9/11 Committee, and past Treasurer and President of The Colts Neck PTO.

Karen’s most recent project was directing the renovation of our new 14,000 square foot home, originally built in 1908. Our building was restored with thought to its original character, our contemporary needs, the necessary time-frame and the wants and visions expressed by students, faculty and staff. Currently, Karen serves as the Co-Chair of the Middle State Association Accreditation Team. Karen's passions include reading historical novels and memoirs, traveling, playing board games, chatting for hours with good friends and family and dancing always, everywhere.

"There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique." ~ Martha Graham

Christopher Ebner


Christopher comes to Voyagers’ with a wealth of personal and professional experiences in the outdoors and a passion for environmental stewardship.  He grew up in rural Pennsylvania, surrounded by dense forests, and became aware, at an early age, of the vital importance of spending time in nature as well as protecting it.  Among the pines and the Mountain Laurel, he spent countless hours exploring mountain streams, climbing trees, fishing, hunting grouse, catching snakes, and observing the deer, foxes, trout, owls, and bears he called neighbor.  Those interests from his youth have not only guided him professionally, they have led him on many adventures, including backpacking through the Rocky Mountains, bicycling through New England, camping along the East Coast, and dozens of wilderness treks on the Chesapeake Bay. 

It was on the Chesapeake Bay, where Christopher spent eight years guiding kids of all ages—and from a huge variety of backgrounds—on wilderness excursions, introducing them to the many thrilling mysteries of natural science and ecology.  While passing on his enthusiastic curiosity for nature and Environmental Science to thousands of young people in Maryland, Christopher also enjoyed working with and mentoring many young teachers, including Lucas Kelly, who developed Voyagers’ Outdoor School.  Of course, it was Lucas’s enthusiasm for the Voyagers’ program which opened Christopher’s eyes to the possibilities of Progressive Education in an outdoor setting. Christopher looks forward to building on the fresh and incredibly innovative foundation laid by his pal, Lucas. 

During his down time, Christopher enjoys many interests and hobbies, including all varieties of movies, books, and outdoor adventures.  He believes that there is something amazing to be found around each corner and, to find it, we must stay curious and always ask the right questions.  To Christopher, finding those surprises and adventures should be the everyday goal of teachers and students alike. 

Emma Nuneviller

Teaching Associate, Preschool

Emma has always had a passion for helping students to see their full potential by learning in ways that works best for them. Her alma mater, Lasell College, helped to nurture this passion through many teaching experiences in public, private, and charter schools. While at Lasell, Emma was hand selected to teach on the island of Antigua. While there she was fully emerged into the culture, and curriculums of the island. She also was able to do professional development and educate the teachers on the island about the Universal Design for Learning, which is a set of guidelines that helps teachers plan lessons that incorporate the learning types of all the students in the class. It was a truly memorable experience that taught Emma that alternative schools is where she felt that she could make the biggest impact on the children and they could on her as well.

She graduated with a BA in Curriculum and Instruction from Lasell College in May of 2015 and joined Voyagers' in September of that year. Just as Voyagers' was learning to use their new facility, she was learning about the philosophy of the school alongside its students and other faculty members. She has attended the Progressive Educators Network conference in New York, the Association of Constructivist Teaching conference at Kean College, and went through intensive training to become a certified tutor in the practices of Lindamood-Bell. Through these many experiences of professional development, and the everyday experiences that Voyagers' provides for her, she has grown to better understand the Reggio Emilia and Progressive philosophies of the Preschool/Toddler program. Emma is excited to experience another school year, create memories, and continue to learn with her Voyagers' family!

"Great things never come from comfort zones” -Anonymous

Jaime Maddelena

Preschool Director

Guiding young children through hands-on learning experiences based on the natural world is Jaime's passion. She is a lover of nature and a mother of two wonderful children.

Jaime started her journey towards working with children by attending Montclair State University to receive her BA in Family and Child Studies.  From there, she continued her journey by starting in a small, non-profit, child care program where she went from being a teacher's assistant to director in just 2 years. Then, Jaime's journey took her to a non-profit agency where her job as a Quality Improvement Specialist directed her on a different path. This path led her to work with child care programs on improving their quality by working in the classrooms with teachers, developing improvements plans and providing trainings.  It is there that she received extensive training in curriculum, health and safety practices, quality assessments and infant mental health.

Through those experiences,  she has developed a strong sense of understanding about the needs of children. She believes children are at their best when they are given a happy, loving and healthy place to learn and grow.

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.” Rachel Carson

Jessica Gajano

Teacher/Researcher, Lower School
From the time Jessica was a young child, she knew she wanted to grow up to become a teacher. Every job Jessica has held has always involved working with children, e.g. babysitting, camp counselor, teacher's assistant at a daycare center, etc. As Jessica got older, she took on such adventures as supervising a teen community service group in Costa Rica during a month long work project.

In 2002, Jessica earned a Bachelors of Science degree in elementary education from Towson University and is state certified in grades kindergarten-eight. She has since been a teacher in a public school district for thirteen years. Jessica has always prided herself in being an out-of-the box thinker. During the last several years, Jessica's philosophies and methodologies of education have become increasingly progressive and innovative. Jessica firmly believes children benefit most from a real-world, hands-on approach which helps to create meaningful lifelong learning. Jessica also believes in the ever-increasing need to "let kids be kids."

Jessica aims to provide a safe learning environment for her students where they feel confident and comfortable taking risks, are able to experience the power of learning from their mistakes, and are free to express themselves as individuals.

Jessica is a lover of all things natural and enjoys spending as much time outdoors as possible. Jessica is also a self-proclaimed nerd and is obsessed with math and science. She brings this passion along with creativity, innovation, rigor, and inquisition to her classroom on a daily basis through which students are engaged and take ownership of their learning.

Kadi Cook, M.A.

Arts & Humanities Specialist

Kadi joined Voyagers' in 2008, coming from a rich background in the arts. She integrates many teaching styles and draws from various teaching philosophies, with a strong focus on the Reggio Emilia philosophy and Constructivism. She holds a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on Integrated Teaching through the Arts from Lesley University. Kadi also holds a BA in English from The Colorado College, with a focus on creative writing and poetry. In addition to teaching creative writing, Kadi supports teachers and collaborates with them in their daily work with children, families and other stakeholders as our Pedagogista. She documents and analyzes the learning processes and experiences of children, and then draws implications that inspire teaching and learning. Currently, Kadi serves as the Co-Chair of the Middle State Association Accreditation Team.

Kadi has presented multiple times during our education and peace conferences, at the Association for Constructivist Teaching and other progressive education conferences. Kadi is a Jill-of-all-trades, specializing in parlor tricks such as telling lame jokes, playing guitar and singing, cutting paper art, sculpting ceramic art, cooking, writing poetry, playing disc golf, and generally entertaining an audience. She is an avid junk hoarder, seeing the potential in all materials, and a collector and re-arranger of all things from nature. She would be equally happy spending all day in our art studio working on projects with the students as spending the day collecting flotsam and jetsam on the beach, planting in the garden or trying to tunnel to China. Her current obsessions, influenced by her 3-year-old son, include freight trains, marble runs, insects and scotch tape. 

"Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each." ~ Plato

Larry Benner

Teaching Associate ~ Science & Mathematics
Having grown up on the Jersey Shore, Larry Benner just moved back to the area and is excited to weave his years of experience teaching and learning in and out of the classroom in various places into the Voyagers Community. He is an avid outdoors enthusiast; hiking, skiing, biking, surfing, climbing, and gardening. He has a B.S. in Biology from the University of New Hampshire including course study on the Isles of Shoals studying the intertidal ecology at the field study station on Appledore Island.

He served two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nepal teaching Science and English as a Second Language to 4th to 8th grade students taking any chance he could get to hike throughout the Himalayas. There was a time he was a confident conversational speaker and reader in the Nepali language. When he eventually does return, there is no doubt the language cobwebs will clear and he could comfortably navigate the remote villages.

Upon returning to the States, he worked in the Henry Mountains and Fish Lake regions of southern Utah leading high school students through 60-day therapeutic wilderness programs. Students learned to navigate by map and compass, build fires from handmade bow and spindle fire kits while using the sights, sounds, smells of nature to study life. The focus on the philosophies of experiential education lead to study at the School for International Training in Brattleboro, VT. He learned how to design, lead, facilitate international exchange and travel programs and landed an internship at the Putney School teaching ESL science and English and working the the International Education office.

For the last decade or so, he lived in Brooklyn where he taught Biology and Earth Science at both the middle school and high school levels in the NYC public schools. With his budding interest in food and gardening, he summer interned at the largest rooftop farm in New York City, and most recently, installed and maintained multiple live green roofs in both NY and NJ.

This year the focus is on environmental science. What better way to get reaquainted with his home than lead students inside and outside the classroom to study, explore, and experiment on the interconnectivity of our environment and how we interact with our one Earth.

“Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.” Paulo Freiri

Lesley Martin

Outdoor School Specialist

Teacher/Researcher ~ 6-8 ~ French

Lesley joined the Voyagers’ team in the Fall of 2016, bringing with her a variety of teaching techniques collected through her experience instructing  French at Rutgers University and English at three urban middle schools in Paris, France.  Her focus on immersive Constructivist activities in the classroom help students acquire a wider and more innate understanding of foreign language; allowing the students to learn in the same manner as they did their native tongue.  She holds a Masters in French Literature and a BA in both French and English from Rutgers University with a focus on the Biological Sciences: highlighting her personal passion for ecological health.  

Lesley spent summers in college working as a Surfguard at Sandy Hook, Gateway National Recreation Area and every other available moment outdoors.  An avid hiker, mountain biker, road cyclist and camper who is a Monmouth County native, Lesley does not limit her outdoor adventures to this region.  She has an intimate knowledge of many State Parks here in New Jersey and has toured, camped and hiked through many of the great National Parks out West including Yosemite, Yellowstone, Arches, the Grand Canyon and Zion.  In 2014, following a graduate term abroad, she cycled from Leuven, Belgium to Nice, France; camping in the Belgian and French countryside along the way and finally traversing the Alps before arriving at her destination.  She is a strong advocate for cyclists and currently directs the Women’s Cycling Club and Girl-Powered Program at Second Life Bikes in Asbury Park, designed to empower more women and girls through holistic well-being to ride in such a male-dominated arena.

Lesley’s education in the literature, philosophy, and poetry of two languages, the instruction of foreign language itself, and profound experiences in nature both here and abroad have imparted a breadth to her thinking which allows for a greater understanding of the many languages of the individual learner.  Taking cues from the Reggio Emilia philosophy, Lesley seeks to create space for her students to express the synthesis of new knowledge in whichever medium they require.

“L'enfance a des manières de voir, de penser, de sentir qui lui sont propres, rien n'est moins sensé que d'y vouloir substituer les nôtres.” “Childhood has its own way of seeing, thinking, and feeling, and nothing is more foolish than to try to substitute ours for theirs.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Lori Naidich


Lori Naidich is happy to join the staff at Voyagers' Community School. Lori comes from eveent operations where she managed volunteer programs engaging local charities and non-profits. It was this rewarding experience that led Lori to change careers to one focused on community. Prior, Lori worked in fashion - buying and planning. Lori has a B.A. in English from Ithaca College. Lori is a Dynamic, Resilient and nurturing. She is a real thinker and a maker.

"Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn." --Benjamin Franklin

Lucas Kelly, M.S.

Outdoor School Director
Math & Science Specialist

Lucas’s education includes a B.S. in Environmental Science and Policy and a Masters of Science in Teaching, both from the University of Maryland. His background in outdoor education has given him the ability to create and direct an intensive and engaging outdoor program for our middle school students. Lucas offers hands-on activities that stretch the minds of his students and engage them in a way they will not forget. His enthusiasm for the outdoors, particularly surfing and protecting the shore as well as the general environment, projects a love for scientific experimentation. Lucas’ musical skills are shared with the students as he leads guitar circle and instructs steel drumming lessons. Lucas designed and instituted our Outdoor School in 2013, serving students in middle school grades. Currently, he serves as a Co-chair of the Middle States Association Accreditation Team.

Marva Lamb

Administrating Associate

Marve Lamb has worked in the administrative field for over 15 years. She spent several years working for the U.S. Government and afterward for the Administrative Office of the Courts in Atlanta, GA. She decided to work in the school system 5 years ago. She has found this to be a rewarding experience. Marva also attended Brookdale Community College and took classes in Library Science and Administrative Policies and Procedures.

Mikayla Templeton

Teaching Associate ~ Mathematics, Physics and STEAM

Rebecca Volek

Sign Language Instructor
In elementary school Rebecca’s first grade teacher learned the pledge of allegiance, from that point on she was hooked. She taught herself to sign and became familiar with deaf culture. Rebecca earner her Associate of Applied Science, American Sign Language Interpreting-English Interpreting from Ocean County College. She is the Co-developer of an adult Deaf Theatre project in collaboration with the Writers Theatre of New Jersey. She is also a volunteer ASL interpreting services for the college's Dog Sees God: Confession of a Teenage Block Head play.

“The only thing a Deaf person can’t do is hear”. Dr. K Jordan of Gallaudet University

Richard Knab

Director of Admissions
S.T.E.A.M. Specialist

Rich has been a teacher at Voyagers' Community School since its inception. Starting with a weekly hands-on math class and after school robotics program, Rich’s involvement with the school grew over three years into a full-time teaching position.

Rich attended New Jersey Institute of Technology and Thomas Edison State University where he earned a Bachelors Degree in Education. Rich brings to his teaching his experience in engineering and software industries and his extensive woodworking skills to all of his classes. He chooses to teach through analogies and hands-on experiences and relates subjects to real life. He is attuned to children’s “out-of-the-box,” problem-solving techniques and is devoted to encouraging and preserving this way of thinking. Rich is an engineer and an artisan whose handmade light tables and recently constructed loft grace the classrooms at Voyagers'. These inspire students to create and to connect art with science, math, and technology.

Rich has been the coach of the Voyagers’ First Lego League Robotics Team since 2007. Over the years he has taught and mentored the team which achieved two invitations to the New Jersey state championships, one of which they won! He has won the Coach/Mentor of the Year award for his efforts in preparing FLL Robotics teams.

Currently, Rich is the Director of Admission and also heads the Technology Center. He teaches Upper School math, high school science, and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) classes. He also teaches various Electives and Essentials to all ages. His summer camp offerings have included robotics, technology, skateboard construction, rocketry, chemistry, and woodworking. In fact, several summers age Rich's summer camp students built two canoes which they donated to the Girls Scouts of the Jersey Shore.

Professionally, Rich’s passion for and understanding of progressive education has driven him to present at various educational conferences. Most recently he has offered a seminar about the Voyagers’ Project Week initiative at the Association for Constructivist Teaching Conference.

"Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right." -Henry Ford

Sandy Miller

Early Learning Specialist
Teacher/Researcher ~ K-2

With a BA in Early Childhood Education from Kean College, Sandy Miller has been educating children for 25 years. She developed the Primary Program at A Child's Place School, was Director of Education for Head Start of Monmouth County, and a Teaching Assistant in Tinton Falls Autistic Program for early childhood students. Sandy teaches reading, writing and basic math skills to early learners in a meaningful environment that helps students see the value of their hard work. Energetic and creative, Sandy’s teaching philosophy ensures a fun and joyful classroom environment. She believes that every child is a powerful human full of potential and knows that children’s strengths should be respected and voices should be heard. Sandy was recently a presenter at the Association for Constructivist Teaching Conference, where she introduced a year-long literacy project.

Shelley Gershner

Wilson Reading Instructor

Shelley’s background is as colorful as my personality. She was born in Jamaica, West Indies and came to America with her family when she was sixteen years old. While her elementary education was in Jamaica, Shelley completed High School and College in America.

Shelley graduated from Borough of Manhattan Community College with an Associates in Liberal Arts and the City College of the University of New York with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. She has worked as a Corporate Trainer for several firms in New York City. After getting married, Shelley chose to stay home and raise her three beautiful children; Zachary, Jeremiah and Sarah. While home, she volunteered extensively within her community with the Parent Teachers Association and in her house of worship as the Vice President of Education.

At Voyagers' Community School, Shelley identifies, educates and assists children within the community to become better readers. She is excited to join her fellow mates on this amazing voyage.

"You are the sum total of everything you've ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot - it's all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive." Maya Angelou.

Susan Estomin

Social Counselor

Bio to come

Tara Tomaino

Teaching Associate ~ Literacy & Humanities

Tara is thrilled to be part of the Voyagers' vision and staff!  Monmouth County is her home and she is excited to assist her community full-circle, especially in the context of learning.  Tara currently holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in Linguistics from Montclair State University in Montclair, N.J.  She will be receiving her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, specifically in poetry, at Sierra Nevada College's low residency program in Incline Village, Nevada in January, 2017. 

She is a lover of all things words and considers herself a thinker and a professional learner above all else.  Tara is just beginning her educator's journey and not only hopes to be a part of the Voyagers' family for years to come, but also has goals of becoming a college professor.  Her passion and creative nature are just a few of the attributes she feels will be a great addition to the learning experience of the students.  Tara is beyond excited to learn from her fellow talented colleagues and grow alongside the students in their journey through self-discovery and education.

When not studying, reading, or writing, Tara can be found enjoying the local boardwalks, music/writing scenes, and experiencing all the Jersey Shore has to offer.  She is an avid fan of video games, animation, and comic books and believes in the power of all three to empower student learning.  Tara loves cats, hiking, Fall, and is known to create her own cosplays for conventions.  Her favorite type of sushi is a sweet potato roll.

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