Meet our Faculty
We're very excited about the team we have built for our second year. Please enjoying perusing their bios. We're certain you can feel the excitement of this fantastic faculty.
Mariel Aken - Counselor (Communities in Schools)
Mariel Aken is a native of New Orleans and attended public school in New Orleans from kindergarten through 12th grade. Mariel then completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Following this, she completed a master’s degree in counseling at Loyola University of New Orleans. Mariel has worked in mental health clinics and public schools in both Orleans and St. Bernard Parish. For the past five years, Mariel was the founding counselor and director of the Response to Intervention program at a local charter elementary school. Mariel now works for Communities in Schools, a national organization that places counselors and social workers in schools to assess student needs and provide resources to help them succeed in the classroom and in life. Mariel will be a part of the Cypress Academy team for the entire school year. Mariel’s dream is that all schools will have the training and the resources to support each individual student’s academic and social emotional needs. Mariel believes that all students can and will learn with teaching. Mariel lives in the uptown area with her husband, daughter, and dog. Ms. Aken joined the Cypress faculty in July of 2016.
Tia Alonzo - Kindergarten CoTeacher
Tia Alonzo is a New Orleans native. She graduated from Eleanor McMain Secondary School in 2012, and Loyola University New Orleans in 2016; with a Bachelor’s Degree in English with a concentration in Film and Digital Media. She has always had a passion for working with children. During her undergraduate studies, Tia worked in a daycare center for two years, as well as private babysitting jobs. This is her second year at Cypress Academy. Last year, she worked in the self contained room as a Paraprofessional. She is eager to continue her work this year, as the Co-Teacher for the Kindergarten class. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, listening to music, and traveling. Her future goal is to obtain her Teacher Certification.
Lauren Brien - Self-Contained Lead Teacher
Miss Lauren Brien was born and raised in the small town of Napoleonville, Louisiana. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Speech Language Pathology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. After graduating, she decided to continue her schooling in Elementary Education & Special Education in the culturally diverse city of New Orleans. She obtained her Masters of Art in Teaching at the University of New Orleans in Spring 2017. In her free time, Lauren likes to drink coffee, read books, and spend time with friends and family. She is excited and eager to begin her career of teaching at Cypress Academy in the Self-Contained classroom. Miss Brien will join the Cypress faculty in in July of 2017.
Carol Curren - Kindergarten Lead Teacher
Teaching kindergarteners is a passion for Carol Curren. Carol achieved her undergraduate degree, a BS in Early Childhood Education, in her home state of Pennsylvania. While raising two girls on the Gulf Coast of Alabama she earned her Masters in Early Childhood Education. She has used her talents teaching and directing preschool, then teaching kindergarten, first, and second grades in both public and private schools. Through many years of teaching experiences, conferences, and training, Carol has developed her knowledge and skills of teaching young children.
Carol has perfected the skill of teaching reading, writing, and math through art and music while incorporating unit themes in science and social studies. Reading, writing, and science are her favorite subjects to teach students. Carol favorite lessons surround owls. She loves to work with students as they read about owls, write and draw about them, do owl art projects, and finally, dissect owl pellets for a firsthand look at bones and feathers that were not digested.
Building community within the classroom with parents and children is another important part of Carol's classroom. Each child is encouraged to develop social skills, such as kindness and cooperation, along with the language necessary to communicate, feel safe, and be included in her classroom community. She feels teaching independence builds confidence and the ability to learn on one’s own!! Parents are welcome and encouraged to participate in the classroom and help with continued learning at home. Ms. Carol is a founding member of the Cypress faculty.
Charlene Davis - 1st Grade Lead Teacher
Ms. Charlene Davis is a Houston native. Six years ago, her pursuit of education guided her to New Orleans where she attended Xavier University of Louisiana. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Xavier in 2015. During her undergraduate studies, Ms. Davis began tutoring middle school students which sparked a passion and love for teaching. So much so that she decided to enter the field of education. She earned her Masters of Art in Teaching in 2016 from Xavier as well. Ms. Davis is also an active member of Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education as well as various professional organizations in the STEM disciplines.
When she is not teaching, she can be found shopping, cooking, or having fun with her dog, Bella.
Ms. Davis is delighted to join the Cypress Academy team as a lead teacher for first grade this school year. She is excited to help nurture and develop young minds in a meaningful way that embodies creativity, respect, and critical thinking. Ms. Davis joined the Cypress faculty in July of 2016.
Philip Davis - Parent Liaison
Emily France - Second Grade Lead Teacher
Ms. France was born and raised in New Orleans. After graduating from St. Mary’s Dominican High School, she followed her dream to continue her education at the greatest university in the world: LSU. At LSU, she earned a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, a Master of Arts in Teaching, and completed the coursework for the reading specialist certification. Determined to constantly continue her education (and see LSU win a national championship), Ms. France is currently working on her Education Specialist Certificate.
As an intern teacher with the LSU Holmes Program, Ms. France taught fourth grade at Highland Elementary in Baton Rouge and completed an action research project on the alignment of a popular English Language Arts program to the Common Core State Standards. This deepened her understanding of literacy and the evaluation of curriculum to ensure the best education for students. She believes that all children deserve a holistic, quality education catered to their learning styles and needs. She is so excited that Cypress Academy will allow her to serve all students in a loving and nurturing environment that values all aspects of education.
On the days Ms. France is not teaching or thinking about teaching, she enjoys going to see her first true love: LSU Football. She also loves to travel, explore, and spend time with family and friends. Ms. France joined the Cypress faculty in July of 2016.
Darcelle Hull - Bookkeeper
Mrs. Tara Kennedy grew up in the Midwest but has lived her entire adult life in New Orleans, where she and her husband are raising their three children. Inspired after having been a volunteer aide for one of her children, she returned to school to get her Bachelor's of Science in Elementary and Special Education from the University of New Orleans. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with University High Honors and Departmental Honors based on her honors thesis about advocacy for students who are academically gifted/talented with learning disabilities. Mrs. Kennedy is also pursing her Masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of New Orleans. She is very excited to be working at Cypress Academy as a Special Education and Gifted Teacher. Mrs. Kennedy is a member of a number of professional organizations as well as an Executive Board member of the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans.
When she is not teaching, Mrs. Kennedy loves to hang out with her family, drink coffee, read, play with the family's 2 dogs and 5 cats, and play the drums. Mrs. Kennedy will join the Cypress faculty in July of 2017.
Nomi Kornfeld - 1st Grade Lead Teacher
Ms. Kornfeld is originally from Rochester, New York. She relocated here one year ago from New York City in the hopes of getting away from cold weather and snow. She loves life in the Big Easy and enjoys exploring the culture in many ways. Through swamp walks in the Bayou and parades on Mardi Gras, she has developed a love for New Orleans.
Ms. Kornfeld achieved a Bachelor of Science from SUNY Empire, a college in New York State, in Human Services and is currently pursuing her Master’s in the Art of Teaching from UNO. In New York City she worked in various settings with children and adults who experience disabilities. Last year, she was the co-teacher in the first grade class here at Cypress Academy. This year she is delighted to be a lead teacher in the first grade. Ms. Kornfeld believes in putting students first. Through lessons filled with energy, creativity, and excitement the first graders will excel in their learning. She hopes to work together with the first graders to build a thriving community built on the ideals of education, inclusion, and creativity. Ms. Kornfeld is a founding member of the Cypress faculty.
Melanie Meisner - SAT Assistant
Melanie Meisner was born and raised in New Orleans. In high school, she enjoyed writing and science, and developed her interests in social justice and foreign cultures. After graduating, she obtained her Bachelor of Psychology and Spanish at LSU where she discovered her love for school psychology and the Spanish language. Determined to become fluent in Spanish and immerse herself in the culture, Melanie traveled to Spain where she took courses in psychology and translation, and worked as an au pair for a family of five. In her spare time, she tries new workouts and eats her way through New Orleans by visiting as many restaurants as she possibly can! Melanie chose to work here at Cypress Academy because she felt as though their core beliefs aligned with hers: that all students have an inherent desire to learn, and that when given the opportunity every child can achieve great things. Ms. Melanie joined the Cypress faculty in July of 2016.
Nichelle Phelps - Math Interventionist
Nichelle Phelps is a native of New Orleans who grew up in the Mid City area. Nichelle graduated Cum Laude from Xavier University of Louisiana with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education in December 2015. After graduating, Nichelle worked at Cypress Academy as a Writer’s Workshop facilitator, as well as a substitute. She still lives in the Mid City area and enjoys taking walks in her neighborhood, reading on her front porch, and visiting restaurants from her never ending list of restaurants in her free time. Nichelle is excited to return to Cypress and looks forward to making lifelong memories with students. Ms. Phelps is a founding member of the Cypress faculty.
Josh Rubin - First Grade CoTeacher
Joshua Rubin was born and raised in Greensboro, NC and graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1997 with a BA in History. He has spent most of the past fifteen years working with students in an outdoor setting on sailboats with programs centered around environmental education. After moving to New Orleans in 2012, Mr. Rubin decided to make the move from teaching in the outdoors to teaching in school, where he can put the skills he has learned to use in the classroom. Mr. Rubin earned a Louisiana Teaching Certificate for Elementary Education through The New Teacher Project during the 2015-16 school year and is excited to put it to good use.
Mr. Rubin bicycles everywhere and in his spare time spends as much time near or on the water as he can. At home he has any number of art projects underway but can almost always be found in his favorite chair with a good book and a sleeping cat. Mr. Rubin joined the Cypress faculty in July of 2016.
Jasmine Scott - Interventionist
Jasmine Scott is a New Orleans native and a Xavier University graduate. She earned a Bachelor of Science with a major in Speech- Language Pathology and Audiology and a minor in elementary education. Since graduating from Xavier Jasmine was a pre-K lead teacher and licensed speech language pathologist assistant. Jasmine joined the Cypress team for the 2016-2017 school year as the reading interventionist. Jasmine enjoys reading, listening to relaxing music, and walking in the park. Ms. Scott joined the Cypress faculty in July of 2016.
Whitney Weddington B.A, M.S. - Coordinator of Students and Families-
Whitney Weddington is a native of Cincinnati, Ohio. She is an Author, Poet, Motivational Speaker, Advocate, Coach, and Mentor. Twelve years ago, Whitney began her journey to Louisiana where she attended Grambling State University where she played Division 1 Soccer and Golf. As an undergrad Ms. Whitney majored in Psychology with a concentration in Child Development. After graduating she went on to receive her Masters in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Juvenile Delinquency. Whitney is also an active member of Phi Gamma Mu honor society. After graduating Whitney went on to work at The Children’s Defense Fund and then served as the Women’s Varsity Soccer Coach at Withrow University High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. She also has worked in Juvenile Facilities and Mental Health facilities across Louisiana and Ohio. Prior to working for Cypress, she served as an ABA Therapist, Psychosocial Rehabilitation Specialist, and a Community Counselor in North Louisiana.
When Ms. Whitney is not mediating and keeping our community safe, she is traveling with a band, creating music, hosting events, or relaxing with her dog Pork-chop. She also loves to travel, cook, and watch cartoons. Ms. Whitney has been a faculty member of Cypress Academy since 2015.