Meet the Teachers
Desiré J'Neane Ford, Director (teaching for 42 years at River Park)
My name is Desiré J'Neane Ford. I have loved being a teacher here at River Park Nursery for the past 42 years and I have been the Director of the program since 1979.
I grew up in New York City in a racially and culturally diverse family with 2 older sisters and 2 learning disabled and physically challenged older brothers. From a very early age, music played a special role in my life. My strong love of music including voice, piano, guitar and musical composition, led to my graduation in 1968 from the High School of Music and Art with a degree in vocal music. After my graduation I was a singer in a vocal group that was trained and managed by Rupert Holmes. I also performed as a member of the musical group "Family," appearing several times at the club "The Bushes."
I began teaching at River Park in 1969. There was an immediate rapport established between myself and the founder of the school, Estelle Tambak. My experience working with children (family babysitter, after school caregiver, Sunday school teacher, camp counselor) and my musical gifts were a perfect complement to Estelle's educational philosophy and artistic talents.
In addition to our love and respect for all children, Estelle and I shared a deep and personal commitment to the democratic principles of justice, equality and inclusion for all people, and a strong determination to make these ideals an integral part of the preschool classroom experience. Estelle was a community activist for all of her life. I have been an active participant with the struggle for civil liberties and human rights throughout the past four decades. In 1984, I was a guest speaker and panel member at the Conference for Interracial Children and Families sponsored by the Council on Interracial Children's Books and the Riverside Church . In 2004, I participated in an editorial conference for Scholastic Books. I was featured in the November issue of Early Childhood Today in an interview about Celebrating Compassion and Cultures in the preschool classroom.
I earned my Bachelor's Degree from Pace University in 1981, majoring in Early Childhood Education. I completed my Master's Studies at City College in 1991, earning my degree and New York State certification in Preschool Education Nursery through 6th grade. It takes a lot of time and effort to keep River Park going, but when I can, I like composing music & poetry, writing, reading science fiction, attending educational conferences to keep current with new information in the field and sharing this information with parents at our open house nights, at our parents' meetings and during our curriculum workshop. At River Park , I work as part of a wonderful team of dedicated professionals; the four of us have taught together for more than 21 years. Our program has evolved over the years, reflecting a strong emphasis on music and art, and on the classroom community as part of a balanced and creative preschool curriculum.
I am also so proud to be a member of our River Park community and look forward to expanding our community in the years to come.
Maria Nunziata, Co-Director (teaching for 37 years at River Park)
Hello, I'm Maria. I am the head teacher and co-director here at River Park Nursery School . I began working at River Park as a student teacher in February 1975. I can't believe it's been 37 years already. I have a Bachelor's Degree in early childhood education with a minor in art and science from Brooklyn College . I obtained my Master's Degree in Nursery through 6th grade education from Queens College . I am also city and state certified.
My interest in early childhood development and education continues to grow along with my career. In my 37 years as an early childhood educator, I've had the opportunity to work in N.Y.C. public schools as a volunteer in primary grade classrooms, organize strategies to get school health records up to date in overcrowded and underprivileged areas in Brooklyn . I've assisted in the development of College Day Care Programs for students on campus. I've played major roles in River Park as it made its transition from small half-day only programs to the multiple daily programs that now exist. I, along with my co-workers have continued to participate in workshops & seminars in early childhood development, education and changing roles and needs of childcare.
Throughout my college and professional career, River Park has allowed me to contribute to my own growth as well as the development of the program. We strive for peace and harmony in school and in our personal life and all have a huge commitment to quality early childhood experiences. I feel that River Park is equally diverse in its staff, student body, parent co-op and curriculum. I welcome you to visit our school and experience this unique nursery school program.
Cindy Berman, Faculty (teaching for 34 years at River Park)
My name is Cindy Berman. I have been working at a job that I love for 34 years. I have a Master's degree in Early Childhood Education from City College . Each day at River Park is a rewarding and challenging experience. I am very lucky to be working with each individual child and assisting them to grow in the cognitive, emotional and social areas.
I have a warm and gentle approach when working with the children. I especially enjoy working with the children in the creative arts and cooking. I am fortunate to be with a staff that supports one another. Our goal is to make the classroom the best it can possibly be. It's wonderful to come to a job that makes you happy day after day.
Emilia Rivera, Faculty (teaching for 28 years at River Park)
Hi I'm Emilia. I have been working at River Park for 28 years. It has been a wonderful learning experience for me through the years and continues to be. I love the multi-cultural environment of the school as well as the staff. That is what attracted me to River Park 29 years ago and it still exists to this day. I enjoy working with the children; they are all unique in their own little way. I started as an assistant teacher and now work with the children doing projects that interest them. Some of the childrend in my group are interested in speaking my language, which is spanish, and that's wonderful. Each day is a learning experience for me. I am constantly learning from the children. I have grown here at River Park and wouldn't change it for the world. It's a great place to be surrounded by wonderful children and a great staff. The staff members are my mentors, since I am the youngest of the group. The staff is very knowledgeable, caring and loving.
I have an Associate Degree in Business from Borough of Manhattan Community College and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology/Education from Marymount Manhattan College. I enjoy what I do and wouldn't change this job for the world. Children are our future and it's my pleasure to contribute to their early childhood experiences.
Kira Hoffman, Faculty
Alana Verdejo, Faculty