Aliza Kushner serves as the Director of Cooke Institute (CI), responsible for overseeing all aspects of professional development services, strategic initiatives, partner relations, program evaluations, and outcomes. Since transitioning to this role in 2011, she has expanded CI’s services to include early childhood, special education, inclusion, and literacy coaching specifically designed to meet the unique learning needs of students. Each year Aliza manages CI’s teacher and school leader coaching portfolio of over 40 partner schools in many of NYC’s most underserved school communities, and more than 30 professional development workshops reaching local educators as well as those across the United States and around the globe.
Aliza began her career over 25 years ago in Washington Heights as an elementary classroom teacher, and subsequently held various leadership positions including staff developer and literacy coach at Title 1 public and nonpublic schools across New York City, including working at Cooke as a member of CI’s coaching team. In addition, she mentored new teachers, tutored struggling readers, and partnered with families on ways to improve literacy learning at home.
Aliza earned her MS in Education from Hunter College, is permanently certified as an elementary educator, and is a member of various committees where she continues to advocate for systemic change to ensure all students have access to excellent teaching that meet each student’s unique needs.
Elizabeth (Beth) Carr
K – 8 Program Supervisor
For nearly 20 years, Beth Carr has shared her wealth of information and resources to help teachers meet the diverse needs of students in urban classrooms. Currently, she supervises the K-8 coaching team and is the Lead Coach at Cooke Institute. In these roles, Beth specializes in literacy and special education strategies, combining research and practical, real-time experience garnered by working with scores of teachers throughout Manhattan and the Bronx. Prior to her CI administrative and coaching role, Beth was the curriculum lead at Cooke Grammar School and created the ELA Skills Bank used to guide literacy instruction and assessment for the elementary and middle schools.
Beth also taught in NYC public schools and as an adjunct professor at NYU and at Brooklyn College. She was the inaugural resource room teacher at a NYC middle school where she innovated the inclusion model for the school. Additionally, she managed Project GO, then a grassroots reading intervention program, to provide one-on-one tutoring for underserved NYC students. Beth has delivered numerous workshops on special education and literacy topics at schools, and at regional and national conferences.
Beth earned a Master’s Degree in Psychological Foundations of Literacy at NYU and is qualified as a reading specialist and as a special education teacher. She continues to keep current with trends in education through ongoing professional development.
Early Childhood Program Supervisor
Susan Devlin is Cooke Institute’s Pre-K Consulting and Training Supervisor. She is an early childhood and special education expert and advocate responsible for the daily coordination and supervision of consulting services across collaborating 3K and Pre-K For All, Private and Head Start programs. She ensures the delivery of high-quality professional development services and facilitates professional collaboration among CI early childhood consultants.
Working for Cooke since 1997, Susan began her time as a Master Teacher and developed the Special Education Itinerant Teacher and Integrated Preschool Programs. She identified funding for a multi-year grant titled, “Collaboration for Inclusion,” which provided much needed special education resources and supports to students and families in underserved communities. In addition, she has supervised student teachers at Brooklyn College and presents on topics related to special education.
Susan earned a Master’s Degree in Special Education from SUNY Albany and a Professional Diploma in School Administration from Fordham University.
Special Education Consultant
Adjowah K. Scott has been a member of the Cooke Institute team since 2017. She combines her 20+ years of special education and leadership experience to support educators to assess, analyze and implement real-time strategies and models to improve instruction and outcomes for diverse learners. Additionally, she leads regional professional development trainings on topics that range from literacy, instructional practices, and issues related to special education. As an integral part of the CI special education team, she helped develop an online Special Education Resource Library in partnership with the special education department of the Archdiocese of New York.
Throughout her career, Adjowah was a classroom teacher, a school leader, and a school founder. She worked in the public and private sectors in New York state and abroad. Her vast experiences helped her to build a coaching approach that is multi-faceted and inclusive, reaching students, teachers and administrators throughout the boroughs of New York City and the surrounding areas. She has shared her expertise with Sesame Workshop as part of the Teacher Council and sits on the Board of Trustees for Manhattan Country School as a consulting member.
Ms. Scott has a BA in English from Nazareth College of Rochester along with permanent certifications in general education Kindergarten through 6th grade and in special education Pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade. She received her Master’s in Educational Administration, SDA and SAS certificates from SUNY Brockport. Her international experience includes having taught at a primary school in Caerleon, South Wales and in the village of Marfokrom in Ghana, where she served as the educational project group leader for Operation Crossroads Africa. In addition, Adjowah’s experience in Japan as a Fulbright Scholar helped to mold the way she approaches her work in education.
Doreen Bevilacqua is a Literacy and Special Education Coach at Cooke Institute. She brings her passion for ensuring that all learners have authentic, rich experiences to her collaborative coaching work with teachers. She believes strongly in the value of developing students’ growth mindset to help them identify their strengths and enhance their confidence as learners.
Prior to working at CI, Doreen was an early childhood classroom teacher in the South Bronx for more than 10 years. Following that, for over a decade, she was a literacy coach for the NYC Teacher Center Professional Development Program offering student-centered coaching and engaging state-wide, city-wide and school-based professional learning sessions. Doreen was also a valued member of the NYS Early Childhood committee that identified the issues and concerns expressed by educators across the state. In addition, through an AFT Innovation Fund Grant, Doreen coached NYC Child Care providers in Brooklyn and the Bronx. As part of this initiative, she developed a literacy-themed curriculum that was implemented by the providers in the program.
Doreen received a Master’s Degree in Teacher Education from Bank Street College of Education. She credits Bank Street with inspiring her enthusiasm for inquiry-based learning and her advocacy for a positive, nurturing school experience for all NYC children.
Early Childhood Consultant
Ella Williams joined Cooke Institute in 2022, bringing with her over two decades of educational experience. She combines her early childhood knowledge and leadership skills to ensure the sustainability of developmentally-appropriate practices and equitable systems in early education and care. As an Early Childhood Consultant for CI, with an open mind and focus on effective collaboration, Ella supports and guides education staff who work with children in some of New York City’s most vulnerable communities.
Prior to joining CI, Ella started her career as a teacher of two-year-olds. She has since expanded into various leadership roles in early education and care as a curriculum specialist and facilitator of city-wide professional development in collaboration with the New York City Department of Education. She also has international experience, having led education programs in Guatemala and China.
Ella received her M.S.Ed. from Touro College and is a proud New York City native. She incorporates mindfulness in her practice and has presented at national and international conferences on the benefits of incorporating mindfulness in the classroom community.
Special Education Consultant
Fran Dreyfus is a lifelong special education professional and advocate. She joined Cooke Institute in 2015 as a Special Education Consultant supporting teachers and school leaders in Pre-K for All and 3K programs, and K-8 schools in the Staten Island Catholic School Region in the Archdiocese of New York. As an Instructional Coach, Fran utilizes her expertise in the areas of autism spectrum disorders, academic and behavioral interventions, and differentiating instruction in content areas to support classroom staff. Over the years, Fran’s role has expanded to include working with the principals and K-8 faculty of three Staten Island Catholic schools to implement evidence-based, best practices in inclusive instruction in an Enhanced Special Education Initiative (ESEI) grant program, and has taken on the supportive role of Project Manager for all of the NYC ESEI schools.
Prior to joining CI, Fran’s career spanned several decades as an educator and administrator in public education and community based programs. Throughout her career, she has worked with students in pre-kindergarten through college who demonstrate learning, social/emotional and behavioral challenges. Her passion and vocation as an educator and coach is to support students with diverse needs to achieve academic success and experience positive social/emotional interactions with their peers and adults in inclusive classrooms. She served as a teacher, principal, supervising principal, and local instructional superintendent for more than 30 years with the New York City Department of Education, and 8 years as director of early childhood services for a non-profit organization.
Fran has several graduate degrees in special education and public administration, and a 6th-year certificate in school supervision and administration. She received her Ed.D. in special education from Teachers College, Columbia University. She served as an adjunct assistant professor at Hunter College-CUNY, teaching and mentoring students in the NYC Teaching Fellows program, and at Pace University. Fran is a co-author of chapters in two academic textbooks focusing on individuals with autism spectrum disorders.
As a Cooke Institute Literacy Consultant, Gail Litwak supports K-8th grade teachers to advance their pedagogical practice in English Language Arts and improve student achievement. Through collaboration, consultation, resource support, and modeling in the classroom, Gail works closely with teachers and school leaders to determine their needs and reach their specific goals, and in turn, elevate student learning. Her expertise in reading and writing instruction and the latest practices in the content areas enable her to facilitate professional learning both as a coach and as a school-wide trainer.
With over three decades of experience in education and particular emphasis on teacher development, Gail has approached the advancement of instructional learning from a variety of positions. She was a UFT Teacher Center Facilitator, Coach, Mentor, and Curriculum Developer for the NYC Department of Education, Teaching Fellows Program Instructor, Professional Developer, as well as classroom teacher. Gail facilitated numerous study groups and city-wide institutes in Literacy Development, working side-by-side with a great many new and experienced teachers on an individualized basis.
Gail earned her BS in Education from the City College of New York and a MS in Education from Hunter College. She has advanced training in Literacy Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. She holds a NYS certification in teaching grades Nursery-12.
Laura Dombrowski has been providing professional development for educators through Cooke Institute for the past six years. She works closely with teachers and school leaders to support individualized coaching in schools serving all grades PreK through 8th. She supports PreK for All programs, and literacy and math instruction in kindergarten through 8th grade. She believes in the importance of teacher collaboration and professional relationships and builds in-school support systems that promote a culture of continuous improvement.
Laura has two decades of international work experience in education. She has taught all grades kindergarten through 6th, has led a teacher team through a school‘s founding and inaugural year, and has developed school democracy models for elementary schools. She is passionate about forest schools, has developed a forest school program and consulted on outdoor education.
Laura has advanced degrees in Psychology, TESOL, and School Leadership. She has co-authored a math instruction book series and serves on a school board.
Lillian (Lily) Sanabria
Early Childhood Consultant
Lily Sanabria has served as a Cooke Institute Early Childhood and Leadership Coach since 2019 after working in private and public schools for over 25 years. Her passion is to support educators who equip our future leaders (students) by helping schools and organizations build effective leadership capacity to grow and maintain resiliency and sustainability.
Prior to joining CI, Lily served as a CEO of an early intervention agency, a director of a charter school, and a program director for a preschool for children with special needs. She taught and supervised students at Hofstra University, where she completed her Advanced Certification in Educational Leadership. Lily is a certified leadership teacher, speaker, coach, and a certified facilitator for The Color Code Personality Assessment and Maxwell DISC Assessment.
Lily is an adjunct professor at Manhattan College’s Organizational Leadership Master’s Program, where she teaches Leadership Communication and Coaching Essentials. She is the creator and host of the Master Leadership Podcast.
School Partnership Consultant
As the School Partnership Consultant, Marilyn Rubinstein works closely with the Cooke Institute leadership team to expand professional development and coaching opportunities for teachers and school leaders in early childhood programs and elementary schools throughout New York City. She has over 25 years of experience in successfully collaborating with community-based programs to support best practices in inclusive classrooms.
Prior to joining CI, Marilyn was the Director of the Early Childhood Direction Center (ECDC) at New York Presbyterian Hospital, where she supervised a team providing information, referral, support and workshops for families and professionals about services and supports for young children with developmental delays and disabilities. Marilyn partnered with the NYC Department of Education on professional development initiatives and the design of family-friendly materials on the transition from early intervention to preschool and from preschool to kindergarten. She began her career as a teacher in an early childhood special education classroom before moving to administrative roles.
Marilyn is adjunct faculty in the Early Childhood Development and Learning: Diverse Children and Families program at Hunter College. She received an MS in Early Childhood Special Education from Fordham University and a BA in Elementary and Special Education from Brooklyn College.
Patricia (Pat) Tweedy
Early Childhood Consultant
Pat Tweedy has worked with the Cooke Institute since 2015, supporting Pre-K for All and 3K faculty, students, and school leadership in the Northeast East Bronx Catholic School Region in the Archdiocese of New York. She is proud of the long-standing, supportive relationships she has built with her partner schools over the years and continues to be passionate about providing faculty and school leaders with the guidance, information and resources they need to reach their goals.
With degrees in psychology and special education, and New York State certification in early childhood, elementary and special education, Pat is well prepared to work with children with a range of abilities and needs. During her employment with the NYC Department of Education, she provided service and support to both students and educational staff as a teacher, staff developer, and lead teacher coach. Pat also was a Regional Lead Trainer for the New York State Alternate Assessment and an educational consultant for school districts, private and public schools, and agencies providing education to students ranging in age from early childhood through high school. In addition, Pat is a peer reviewer for two education journals focused on individuals with disabilities.
As an adjunct instructor at Hunter College, City University of New York and New York University, Pat has taught at both the undergraduate and graduate levels specializing in special education assessment, curriculum development and differentiated instruction.
Special Education Consultant
Rebecca Mason joined Cooke Institute in 2022, providing professional development in all areas of teaching to improve effectiveness. She specializes in executive function, working with teachers to pinpoint common difficulties experienced by students with executive function weaknesses and developing strategies to help students become flexible and build a growth mindset to succeed in academic and social areas.
Rebecca has been in the field of education for over 20 years. She has worked for the New York City Department of Education as a special education teacher (K -12th grade), as well as in the private sector, with students that have a variety of learning differences and social/emotional issues. Along with her work as a Cooke Institute consultant, she has a private learning specialist practice where she provides support services for students with the goal to have them feel empowered to do their work, set goals, and use metacognitive strategies to self-advocate for their own learning.
Rebecca received her special education Master’s Degree from Hunter College and is permanently certified in Special Education. She holds an adjunct faculty position at the School of Education at Hunter College, specializing in Special Education and Curriculum development.
Early Childhood Consultant
As a member of the Cooke Institute consulting team, Robin Gattegno works as an Early Childhood Consultant supporting teachers, educational directors and social workers in PreK for All Programs in the Catholic Schools of the Archdiocese of New York. Through coaching, collaboration and reflective practices, Robin supports educators and staff to understand each youngster’s unique needs, promotes optimal learning environments, and helps implement proactive and differentiated strategies to advance learning and social emotional development.
Robin also consults for several Head Start programs, and has extensive experience supporting families, providing parent training and counseling for children, adolescents and adults. No matter the setting, Robin is driven by the belief that the well-being of children is one of society’s foremost concerns and her therapeutic philosophy permeates all aspects of her work with children, educators, and parents. She integrates her background in art, psychology, education, and play therapy as an effective model for children and creative arts therapy for adolescents. Furthermore, Robin also has a private practice that includes children, adolescents, adults, and couples.
Robin received her Master’s Degree in Social Work from Hunter School of Social Work and was awarded The Clark Foundation Fellowship from Baruch College.
Vanessa Bottiglieri is a Literacy and Special Education Coach at Cooke Institute. She has guided more than 50 teachers at 10 schools to more effective instruction, benefiting countless students. She specializes in working with elementary aged children who struggle with reading and fluency and is a fierce advocate for students who present unique learning needs.
Prior to her work at CI, Vanessa was an experienced educator who taught in NYC Department of Education public schools in Staten Island and helped develop and launch Our Lady Help of Christians’ preschool program for 3-year-olds.
Vanessa earned her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education and Speech Communication from St. John’s University and her MA in Elementary Education with a concentration in Reading. Her love and passion for teaching and children makes her an integral part of Cooke’ Institute’s consulting team.
Vera Kohn has been an educator for over 40 years. As one of Cooke Institute’s founding Literacy Coaches, she brings her extensive knowledge, enthusiasm, dedication and strong communication skills to many of CI’s partner schools. Vera believes that collaboration with both her teachers and principals is an essential component in establishing a positive and productive working relationship. In addition, she has facilitated workshops for both teachers and principals spanning an array of reading and writing topics. Her ability to engage administrators, teachers and students allows her “audience” to learn and process the strategies that she is sharing. Her goal is to improve instruction and outcomes in all of the schools that she touches.
Vera began her career in the South Bronx and Inwood as a classroom teacher. As a literacy coach for the NYC Department of Education, she modeled lessons, planned with teachers, conducted reading and writing workshops and worked closely with administrators to create school-wide initiatives to support literacy.
Vera has an MS degree from Hunter College and received a doctorate in Jurisprudence from Pace Law School. As a lifetime learner, she continues to attend workshops and classes to expand her knowledge base.