Nurturing educators


dana szarf / director

Dana Szarf is the owner/director at Casa Montessori. She was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. She currently lives in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn with her husband and two daughters, Briana and Siena. She has a degree in Early Childhood Education  and a Masters degree in Early Childhood Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Dana received her Montessori training from the Center for Montessori Training. She has worked as a Montessori teacher for over 18 years and opened Casa Montessori almost 10 years ago!  Dana hopes that in providing children with inspiring classroom materials and a nurturing, safe environment, students at Casa Montessori will develop a true sense of wonder and joyful curiosity.


meryl bash / director

Meryl Keenan Bash is the owner/director at Casa Montessori. She was born and raised in New Rochelle, New York. She currently resides in her hometown and lives with her husband, Kirill, her two sons, Paxton and Holden, and cat, Stitch. She attended the University of Vermont Early Childhood Program as an undergraduate student and has a Masters in Literacy Education. Meryl holds a New York State teaching license in Early Childhood Education (Birth-grade 2). After many years as a preschool teacher in both the private and public sectors, Meryl opened Casa Montessori with Dana in 2010. Meryl combines her knowledge of the Montessori method and the Reggio Emilia perspective to provide children with invaluable learning opportunities.

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courtnie mele / head teacher

Courtnie Mele was born and raised in Monroe, New York. She attended Ithaca College during her undergraduate years and completed a dual degree in English Literature and Theatre Studies. She concurrently minored in Psychology and worked as a Teaching Assistant for the Psychology Department. She discovered an interest in early development and went on to complete a Masters degree in Early Childhood General and Special Education from Touro College. She has been teaching for over five years in the Brooklyn area. Her teaching skillset is in STEM curriculum development and early literacy. She also has a background teaching young children mixed martial arts and gymnastics. Courtnie believes in discovering the individuality within each child. She enjoys helping each child follow their unique passions and goals in order to help them achieve their highest potential. She is thrilled to have the opportunity to combine her teaching style with the Montessori method.


aviva / co-head teacher

Aviva is a classroom teacher at Casa Montessori. She was born and raised in Cuba, and moved to Geneva Switzerland for 10 years where she completed her Masters Degree. She has a Bachelor's Degree in Education from the National School of Arts in Havana. Aviva completed her Montessori training at Yeshivat Netivot Montessori and has over ten years of experience working with young children. She taught at the Carousel of Languages on the Upper East Side for seven years, and at the Harbor Conservatory for the performing Arts. Additionally, during her tenure in Geneva, she taught piano and musical theory to young children. When Aviva chose the path of becoming an early childhood teacher, she knew she would be dedicating her life to helping children grow into responsible and compassionate people. She feels that teaching young children is an amazing adventure, and enjoys watching them learn and achieve so much throughout the school year. Aviva is fluent in French, Spanish, Italian, English, and is proficient in Hebrew. She currently lives in Brooklyn with her daughter Nili and her husband.


Stephanie Ramos / teacher

Stephanie Ramos was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She graduated from Kingsborough Community College and has an Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education (birth-grade 3). During her years at Kingsborough, she had the opportunity to be a student teacher at several schools. Through her internships she was able to gain experience with working with children, as well as creating and facilitating lesson plans. She believes that young children learn in an inviting and prepared environment. Stephanie is excited to be working in the Casa Montessori community.

Music Teachers



Born in Caracas, José Luis Pardo (aka Dj Afro) is a Brooklyn based Guitarist, DJ, composer and producer renowned as a founder of the Latin American band Los Amigos Invisibles. Grammy award winner and 6 time nominee, Dj Afro has made his mark in Latin American dance music. A dear friend of Casa Montessori, Cheo brings his passion for music into the classroom inspiring our young children to embrace rhythm, song, dance and a love and respect for instruments!



Born in Caracas Venezuela, and based in New York since 1995, Neil Ochoa has been in the music scene for over 25 years. As a professional musician, drummer/percussionist, Neil has toured and or recorded with the likes of Ricky Martin, David Byrne, Leon Parker’s Live Ensemble, Latin Grammy Award nominee singer-songwriter Yordano and Andrea Echeverri, Grammy Award winning bands Los Aterciopelados and Los Amigos Invisibles, Cyro Baptista and Guitarist Aquiles Báez among others. 
 As a teacher/educator, Neil has developed a solid curriculum working with students of all ages, leading an array of workshops, percussion classes, drum camps and ensembles in schools throughout the NYC area.