Elementary School Faculty
Erica Amador was born and raised in Miami and graduated from Florida International University with a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education. She is certified in Prekindergarten / Primary Education with an ESOL Endorsement. Prior to Temple Beth Am Day School, Erica taught in the Miami-Dade County Charter School system for five years. In summer 2019, she worked at the Beth Am Day Camp, and that is where she found her passion for teaching in the independent school setting. She enjoys working with children and is excited to be part of the TBAM team!
Jodi Barras was born and raised in Ohio. She attended Miami University in Oxford earning a Bachelor of Science in Finance. After graduating college, Jodi soon learned of her love of teaching. She traveled the country training people how to use computer software and her experiences parlayed into teaching technology to special needs children at a private school in Fort Myers, Florida. Jodi holds an Elementary Education (K–6) certification in the state of Florida and is absolutely delighted to begin her new job at Temple Beth Am. Jodi's hope is to inspire confidence in her students so they can see how much fun learning really is! In her free time, she enjoys exercising, going to the movies and spending time with her husband, Jeremy, and their two children, Ella and Ethan.
Brittney Beigel holds a Master’s Degree in Literacy Studies, from Hofstra University. Brittney recently made the move to Coral Gables from Manhattan, where she held a position as a New York City Public School teacher for nine years. Being dually certified as a New York and Florida educator, she is beyond honored to be part of the amazing Beth Am Team. Brittney loves to inspire all students that enter her classroom, by catering to each student’s individuality. Her passion for teaching is truly infectious. She loves to get all her students excited about school and learning, encouraging students to be the very best that they can be, both in and out of the classroom. Trying new foods and seeking unique eats, creating artwork, traveling and making new memories with loved ones is how much of her free time is spent. Brittney is thrilled to now call Miami home!
Denise Bergman — Hebrew Specialist
Denise Bergman is a Florida State and CAJE certified educator with Bachelor of Science degrees in English Language, English Literature, Religious Studies and Master's degrees in ESOL, Judaic Studies, and Judaic Education. She visited Israel for the first time after her first year of college, made Aliyah, served in IDF, and remained there until 1976. Denise returned to U.S. and worked in the banking industry. She discovered through her volunteer position in religious school, that Jewish education was her passion. She has been involved in this field since 1985. She feels privileged to have been invited to join the Beth Am team. Denise feels blessed to be able to be active in Jewish learning. She is fulfilling her dream of guiding our youth, bringing the messages of the Torah to our children, and living the concept of “Lilmod U-Lilamed” to learn and to teach. Denise enjoys cooking, reading, and realizing that every new day is a gift.
Allison Bernstein was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She moved to Florida to attend the University of Miami where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. Allison holds a Certificate from the State of Florida Department of Education in K-6 for all subjects with an ESOL endorsement. She has many years of experience in kindergarten and absolutely adores working with children this age. She is very passionate about teaching and has always known she wanted to be a teacher, like her mother. Seeing that proverbial light bulb light up is one of the most gratifying feelings for Allison. Her goals are to make a significant impact on both her students and the Temple Beth Am community. Outside of the classroom, Allison enjoys watching sports, especially the 'Canes, cooking, traveling, shopping and relaxing!
Dr. Rosalie Binder — Elementary School Learning Specialist
Dr. Rosalie (Lee) Binder is a highly experienced educator in South Florida. She served as Head of School at the Gordon School of Beth David, Director of Ben Gamla Charter School (as well as reading intervention specialist), and Head of School at Greenfield Day School for over 10 years. Her early years of professional life began as a 4th grade teacher in Montgomery County, MD. She later became a Reading Specialist, working at South Dade Hebrew Academy. She coordinated a number of reading initiatives that promoted student learning and growth in reading comprehension. Dr. Binder also taught at St. Thomas University, as well as Barry University as an adjunct professor. Dr Binder has written and received several grant awards. Furthermore, she was President of the Jewish Day Schools Association in Miami-Dade County for several terms. Additionally, she serves on the Board of Trustees at The Union Institute, where she received her Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership.
Melissa Bittel was born and raised in Houston, Texas. She attended The University of Texas, where she earned a degree of Bachelor of Science in Applied Learning and Development before moving to Miami. Since then, she has gained experience in teaching in both elementary school and early childhood classrooms, as well as continued her education by earning a Master Degree of Education with a major in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Florida. Melissa currently holds a Professional Educator’s Certificate from the State of Florida Department of Education for Prekindergarten/Primary Education (Age 3–Grade 3) and a Reading Endorsement. She believes that her most rewarding experiences as a teacher have been witnessing students at the moments when they actually realize their own strengths. Her goal in teaching is that students will become lifelong learners who will challenge themselves and become self-directed in their learning. When not in the classroom, Melissa enjoys reading, baking and spending time with her friends and family — especially her husband, Matthew, and three children, Olivia, Brayden and Caleb.
Natalie Feldman was born in Cape Town, South Africa and raised in Toronto, Canada. She graduated from York University where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. She then attended Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia where she received her Primary Education Diploma. She previously has taught second, fifth and sixth grade in Houston and Dallas, Texas. Natalie believes that each child is a unique individual who needs a secure, caring and stimulating atmosphere in which to grow and mature emotionally, intellectually, physically and socially. She enjoys watching a student accomplish a task that he/she thought was impossible. In her free time Natalie enjoys cooking, playing with her two dogs, travelling to the Caribbean and spending time with family and friends.
Barbara Fishman graduated from Florida State University and knew that teaching was the perfect profession for her due to her love of children and the pleasure in seeing them learn and succeed. Her structure and positive approach allows her students to thrive. On rare occasions, she is able to escape to the beach, sit under an umbrella with a good book, and listen to the waves with the wind blowing through her hair. It is a great way to recharge. Working at Beth Am has provided an opportunity for Barbara to get to know so many wonderful families and be a part of their children's lives.
Natalia Garcia was born and raised in Miami. She attended Florida State University and graduated with a Bachelor’s in English Literature. While a student, her love of teaching drove her to pursue minors in education and child development. After graduating, she set off to begin her career as an educator. She traveled to Spain where she taught English as a second language to children ranging from ages 4–16. Having grown immensely in her year abroad, Natalia returned to Miami. Temple Beth Am Day School was the perfect place for her to land. She had been a lifeguard and counselor at Beth Am Day Camp for many years and was recently promoted to Assistant Camp Director. She also taught Toddling Around and Junior-Pre-Nursery in the Early Childhood program for two years. Her passion for teaching only grows and she has now joined the Second Grade Team. Natalia’s goal as a teacher is to create a nurturing and safe environment for her students. She aims to teach them academically, socially and emotionally to foster their intelligence, empathy and own individual strengths. She is excited for this opportunity and is thrilled to be part of the Temple Beth Am Day School family. In her free time, Natalia loves reading, swimming and traveling. She can typically be found researching her next adventure spot. Her dream trips include Egypt, South Africa and Machupichu.
Tracy Gervais has been teaching for over 15 years. She has experience teaching children from 18 months old through second grade. Born and raised in Miami, Tracy is a graduate of The University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. She then went on to The University of Miami to obtain a Master of Science degree in Elementary Education. Tracy loves teaching and is always excited to implement new strategies and techniques into the classroom. She enjoys keeping up with the many new scientific research studies regarding brain development and education. Tracy is married with four children — one daughter and three sons. She enjoys running 5Kss and participating in sprint and Olympic triathlons with her family.
Maya Greenberg — Hebrew Specialist
Maya Greenberg grew up on a kibbutz in the north of Israel. Following military service in the Israel Defense Forces and work on a kibbutz dairy farm, she attended the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Zaragoza in Spain before moving to the United States and completing a Bachelor of Science at Florida International University, where she graduated summa cum laude and as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Maya is fluent in Hebrew and Spanish and looks forward to rejoining the faculty of Temple Beth Am Day School after a break of 10 years. She is excited to bring her love of Israeli language, history and culture to her students. Outside of school, Maya loves spending time with her family, including three children who attend the Day School, as well as reading books. She also is active in the community, serving as Chair of the Thanksgiving Baskets Fund, which provides holiday meals to hundreds of families in Miami-Dade County, and working with a number of other civic organizations. Maya is honored to be teaching Hebrew at Temple Beth Am Day School.
Melissa Greenstein was born and raised in Graham, North Carolina. She attended East Carolina University and received a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education in 2012. She taught both second and third grade for three years in North Carolina before moving to Miami. Melissa was also the cheer coach at the local middle school and coached the Lego League at her former school. Her goal as a teacher is to provide her students with a safe and stimulating classroom environment to allow them to grow not only academically, but emotionally, physically and socially as well. She uses a variety of cooperative learning strategies in her classroom, so that each learner’s needs are met. When she is not teaching, Melissa enjoys sewing, cooking and relaxing at the beach.
Hilary Haber is a Florida certified educator with a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from the University of Miami, a minor in Sociology as well as a Masters in Educational Technology from Nova Southeastern University. Hilary has been teaching for 11 years, and previously taught third grade and kindergarten. For the past nine years, Hilary has been infusing technology and 21st century skills into the classroom. She co-taught in all grades, preschool to fifth grade, where she helped facilitate the addition of iPads into the classroom curriculum. Hilary believes in the 4 C's or "super skills" of 21st century learning: Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Creativity. She quotes Socrates, "I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think." In her free time, Hilary loves to spend quality time with her family — her husband, Aaron, and their two children, Jordyn and Jacob.
Nicole Jahoda was born in New Jersey and raised in New York. She attended the Pennsylvania State University where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. She also holds a Master’s in Education and Social Change from the University of Miami. Upon finishing her undergraduate degree, she was selected for hire by Teach for America and subsequently relocated to Miami. As a corps member she served the children of West Little River, where she taught Kindergarten, Third and Fourth grade. Nicole holds an Elementary Education (K–6) certification in the state of Florida. She aims to provide an exceptional learning experience that is both challenging and tailored to the needs of each student. Furthermore, as a proponent of differentiated instruction, Nicole believes in implementing a teaching philosophy that further develops each child's academic, personal and social skill sets. When she is not teaching, she enjoys reading, traveling, playing with her dogs and spending quality time with her loved ones.
Brenda Kilgore has over 15 years’ experience in Science education. She graduated from Barry University, where she received a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education with a Reading and ESOL endorsement. Prior to teaching at Temple Beth Am Day School, she taught Science at Miami Country Day School for grades PK3 through fifth grade. Previously, Brenda has served as a Chemistry, Biology and Physics teacher in dual language immersion private schools. One of her main goals in the classroom is to teach students to be good stewards of nature by showing compassion and empathy for all wildlife. In her free time, Brenda enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband and her young daughter.
Amy Kutell — Elementary School Art Teacher/Specialist
Amy Kutell began to create art at an early age. She attended Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where she received her Bachelor’s in Fine Arts. During her time at Cornell she took the classical core art courses of drawing, painting, printmaking, photography and sculpture along with classes in color theory and art history. During her junior year Amy attended a semester-long program in Rome, Italy. Her work is still influenced by that trip as well as other travels. Although Amy was raised in upstate New York, she has called South Florida her home since 1991. She has had a variety of career experiences in the arts, including textile design, mural and faux finish work, commissioned oil paintings, teaching and museum education. She holds a Master’s in Art Education from Florida International University and enjoys teaching aspiring artists of all ages. Amy resides in Coral Gables, Florida with her husband, Ben, and sons Jonah and Ethan. She enjoys landscape painting, cooking, traveling, gardening and playing guitar and piano in her spare time.
Kim Lazar's connection to Beth Am began many years ago. She started her journey as a student in Nursery School and is a proud Day School graduate! Kim has a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education degree from Florida International University and a Professional Certificate in Elementary Education as well. Some of her guilty pleasures include singing, dancing, exercising, and baking! Kim is passionate about making learning fun. She strives to create a safe and team-oriented community where all students can feel a sense of belonging. Kim chose to be an educator because she delights in watching students learn and grow.
Michelle Malca was born and raised in Miami, and was awarded a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education degree from Florida International University. Michelle has been teaching in the Miami-Dade County charter school system for the past seven years. She was the recipient of merit-based pay due to her student’s growth and test scores. Her professional experience has given her the fortunate advantage of teaching at many different grade levels. She truly enjoys teaching each and every age and seeing her students educational growth year after year. Michelle grew up in the Pinecrest community and is currently living in the area with her husband and two young sons. Some hobbies include traveling, cooking and being with her family. You can often find her with her family at the farmers market on Sunday. Michelle’s professional goal is to make sure the students are challenged. She believes in having students develop confidence in themselves, in their abilities in life and in the classroom, and in making sure that everyone has a successful and enriching year. She is very excited to start this new chapter in her career at Temple Beth Am.
Samantha Meyer was born in Miami Beach and raised in Weston, Florida. She attended the University of Central Florida, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education in 2012. She immediately began teaching first grade, where she began pursuing her lifelong dream of helping children navigate and succeed through their educational journey. Samantha later moved to Brooklyn, New York, where she taught 5th grade for two years. She is thrilled to be back to Miami and join the Temple Beth Am community as a first grade teacher. She enjoys working with children and helping them achieve success; and overcome obstacles in and out of the classroom. In her free time Samantha enjoys spending time with her family, reading and participating in outdoor activities.
Philip Nathanson is originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He has a Bachelor's in Accounting/Theatre from Case Western Reserve University. His original interest in education stemmed from working as a counselor and programming assistant for Ramah Day Camp in Philadelphia, which encouraged him to get his Master's in Elementary Education from the University of Michigan, where he student-taught third grade at Pattengill Elementary School. Phil believes that differentiating instruction to meet the needs of each student allows the class to reach its fullest potential as students learn and grow through creatively exploring their academic interests and connection with Judaism. Outside of the classroom Phil has been involved in several community theatres as a Stage Manager, Director and, on the rare occasion, an Actor.
Mary Liz Olazabal
Mary Liz Olazabal was raised here in Miami. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Spanish from Georgetown University and her Masters in Elementary Education from Teacher's College at Columbia University. Mary Liz has taught for over 16 years. She began her teaching in private schools in New York City, and later moved to Miami where she has taught first, third and fourth grades. Always willing to step out of her comfort zone and try something new, she spent seven years teaching preschool yoga. Mary Liz has attended the Glazer and Lorton Writing Institute. She loves to read and in particular to spot beautiful language. She also loves to write. The feeling of having the audience nod their head with approval, or laugh out loud, is priceless. This is the kind of joy she wants for all of her students. Her main goal is that the students have the best year ever and leave TBAM with a treasure chest full of fond memories, and authentic successes achieved on their own through the support of their teachers and peers. When she's not in the classroom, Mary Liz loves to plan trips with her family, cook and recently, to compete in triathlons.
Mandy Pavuk — Hebrew Specialist
Mandy Pavuk was born and raised in Miami. After college, she lived in several southern states, returning to Miami in 2011. Earning her degree in Jewish Studies at the University of South Florida, Mandy always has been passionate in Jewish Education for children. Prior to Temple Beth Am Day School, Mandy taught Hebrew at Ben Gamla Charter School and Bet Shira Religious School. When she is not working on a craft project, you can find her nose in a book as she is an avid reader. Mandy is excited about being a new member of the Beth Am family and working with your children.
Melissa Riemer was born and raised in Miami. She developed a passion for teaching at a young age when her grandfather built her a schoolroom in her garage! In high school, she taught Cotillion — ballroom dancing and manners. Utilizing her degree in Elementary Education from St. Thomas University, and holding a State of Florida Professional Education Certificate in both Primary Education (Grades K–3) and Elementary Education (Grades 1–6), Melissa has taught Pre-K, Kindergarten, 2nd and 3rd grade classes. She is currently pursuing her ESOL Endorsement. Married for 25 years to George, she has three children: Emily, Allison and Bradley, and a red toy poodle named Cider. Melissa enjoys baking, gardening, reading and hiking at her cabin in Georgia. She expresses her love of music by playing her flute and piccolo in an orchestra and singing in choir. Her goal for the coming year is for her students to absorb her joy and enthusiasm for learning in a friendly and caring environment. Melissa looks forward to joining the TBAM family!
Jessica Rivo is from Miami Beach. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Pennsylvania, a Masters in the Teaching of English from Columbia Teachers College (CTC) and a Certificate of Jewish Studies from the Pardes Center for Jewish Educators. She also holds a Professional Educator’s Certificate in English Grades 6–12. She taught high school English and worked as a Writing Center Specialist at Miami Dade College. Following that, she lived in Jerusalem and studied at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, where she relished the opportunity to immerse herself in Jewish text study in the Beit Midrash and to experience the Jewish lifecycle in Israel. She aspires to create a nurturing, inquisitive classroom in which students think creatively, ask meaningful questions, and develop their emotional and spiritual intelligence. She is passionate about working with elementary school students, valuing their sense of play, authenticity and trust. When she is not teaching, Jessica enjoys practicing yoga, ice skating, painting, Torah study and exploring South Florida.
Evan Salzberg was born and raised in Connecticut. He attended the University of Vermont earning a Bachelor of Arts in English. After graduating college, Evan spent a year volunteering as an English language teacher in rural communities in Israel, ultimately leading him into the field of education. He graduated from the University of Saint Joseph in Connecticut with a Masters of Arts in Elementary Education with a specialty in Reading and Language. He has experience in a multitude of grades and school environments ranging from Pre-K–5. Having spent a year in a fourth grade classroom in a Jewish Day School in Connecticut, Evan is excited about his relocation to another Jewish Day School in South Florida! His pedagogy to develop a cohesive, supportive and structured classroom where every student is set up to succeed will carry over in Temple Beth Am Day School. In his free time Evan likes to remain active with various outdoor activities including mountain biking, skiing and traveling.
Eilat Schmalbach — Hebrew Specialist
Eilat Schmalbach was born and raised in Israel. She completed her Hebrew Education degree in Oranim, affiliated with Haifa University. She earned a Bachelor in Religious Studies degree with a minor in Judaic Studies from Florida International University and she holds a Judaic certificate from CAJE. Eilat enjoys the advantages that come with being born and raised in Israel in order to enrich her students' experiences in the classroom. It is her goal to bring Jewish American students to love and better understand our Jewish heritage, and to develop a connection with our homeland in Israel.
Nicole Segall was born and raised in Miami, Florida. Prior to teaching at Temple Beth Am Day School, she taught both kindergarten and first grade on Miami Beach. Nicole previously lived in New York City where she was a kindergarten and nursery teacher at Rodeph Sholom School, and also taught Judaic Studies and Hebrew to second and fourth graders at Stephen Wise Free Synagogue. She graduated from Indiana University, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, and English as a second concentration. Nicole later received a dual Masters degree in both Early Childhood and Special Education at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Education. She enjoys spending time with her family and loved ones, and is thrilled to be a part of the Temple Beth Am community!
Lori Smith was born and raised in Miami and graduated from the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Science in Education. Mrs. Smith taught in both public and private school classrooms across Miami-Dade County in her position with The Miami Herald's Newspaper in Education Department and her collaboration with Miami-Dade County Public Schools. In addition to her work with students, Mrs. Smith has taught classes for parents and teachers. She holds certification through the Florida Department of Education and enjoys working with children of all ages. Mrs. Smith views her students as individuals and values each child's unique learning style. She is a passionate fan of the arts and believes that students can benefit tremendously from exposure to and involvement in music, dance, creative writing, theater, and art programs.
Paula Solomon graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education. She is currently certified in both Elementary Education and Exceptional Student Education. Paula has many years of teaching experience, having taught Pre-K through 6th grade. Her primary goal is to help all students reach their full potential. Paula enjoys teaching at Temple Beth Am Day School because of the nurturing environment that gives her students room to grow, explore and wonder.
Hannah Standiford's desire to become a teacher solidified in an 8th grade math class when her teacher told her she did a wonderful job explaining steps to a problem to her peers. It was that "aha" moment from the students and teacher that encouraged her to pursue a career in elementary education! Hannah was born and raised in Miami, and she grew up going to Temple Beth Am for Hebrew school, confirmation and teaching as a Madrichim on Monday nights. She has her Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education from Flagler College, and will receive a Master's degree in Elementary Education (with a literacy concentration) from The University of North Florida in August 2016. Over the past four years, Hannah has taught 2nd–6th grades in charter schools in North Florida. In her spare time, she loves playing tennis and spending quality time with friends. Hannah is beyond thrilled to be a part of the Temple Beth Am Day School team!
Gillian Strauss was born and raised in New York and moved to South Florida with her family at the age of 14. She attended the University of Florida and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education. She went on to further her education at the University of Florida where she received her Master’s Degree in Elementary Education and an ESOL Endorsement. She earned a 4.0 GPA throughout her five years at the University of Florida and graduated with the highest honors. For the past three years, Gillian has lived in Miami and served as a Teach For America Corps member in Little Haiti. She taught third and fourth grade and worked tirelessly to close the achievement gap and have all of her students attain grade level. Not only did she enable her students to consistently grow an average of 1.75 years, but she also helped them gain the personal characteristics and values needed to succeed and become truly invested in their own education. Gillian stimulates a love for learning among all of her students and enjoys collaborating with an amazing staff!
Jaime Williams is a certified elementary and ESOL teacher in the state of Florida. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Florida. Jaime has also taught various grade levels in Miami-Dade County Public Schools. An avid reader, Jaime enjoys discussing good books, both in the classroom as well as with friends. She also enjoys scrapbooking, cooking, and spending time with her daughters. Jaime's love for children led her to a career in education. She loves watching subjects come to life through her students and learns something new from them every day. She hopes each student leaves her class with self-confidence and a love of learning.
Yanet Zalcberg — Hebrew & Spanish
Yanet Zalcberg was born in Uruguay in South America. She grew up in a Conservative-Ashkenazi family, and she lived in Israel from 1984 to 1985. Yanet has a degree in Education and a Marketing Analyst degree from Ort University, Uruguay. She studied in the “Majon Leachsharat Morim Vegananot” from the Jewish Agency for Israel in Uruguay. Before Beth Am, Yanet worked as a general Spanish, Judaic Studies and Hebrew teacher for many years in a Jewish Day School in Montevideo, Uruguay. She became the Admissions and Marketing Director for the Jewish Day School where she taught. In 2009 Yanet received “The Teacher Excellence and Creativity Award,” sponsored by Targum Shlishi, a Foundation that promotes and recognizes Jewish educational leadership in the Greater Miami Jewish Community. For ten years, Yanet enjoyed cooking on a Jewish show broadcast on the Uruguayan National television called “Shalom Uruguay.” Yanet is married to her high school sweetheart and has two boys.