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founder

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Eva Ruiz

Eva is the Founder and Director of Mi Casita and a lifelong educator. She has worked as a teacher, researcher, and policy advisor. Eva has been a teacher in the US and internationally in San Francisco, Barcelona, Washington, D.C., Dakar, and New York. She has also conducted research at NYU’s Metropolitan Center For Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools. Eva served as Education Policy Analyst and Budget Manager for City Council member Leticia James, and later worked as a Political and Community Affairs Director at the NYC Department of Education. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of San Francisco and her Master's degree in Sociology of Education from The Steinhardt School at New York University. Eva currently serves on the Board of Parents Together. 

As the daughter of immigrants from Barcelona, Eva grew up bilingual and bi-cultural, with one foot in Spain and one foot in the United States. She has carried on this tradition with her daughter, Ona, with whom she loves to explore the world, discovering new places both locally and internationally. A few of Eva’s favorite hobbies include painting, cooking, talking on the phone, dancing, sewing and playing with her puppy TinTin.

EVA@MICASITABK.ORG

educational director

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MARIBELLE PARDO

Maribelle grew up in Manhattan where she spent her free time discovering every neighborhood; every experience was a moment to wonder and express awe for the world. The love for learning was fostered at a young age and it set the trajectory into education. Maribelle spent 22 years in the NYCDOE as an educator, teacher trainer and elementary school administrator. Due to her continuous love for learning Maribelle stretched herself in different professional capacities: researcher for Duke University on teacher collaboration and language development for K-2 bilingual students; served as Board of Directors and as the Director of Education for CORRAL; and school administrator in WCPSS , NC in an elementary STEM school (prek 3 - 5 ).

After 6 years, the Pardo family has returned to NYC to be closer to family and… there is no place like NYC. During her free time, Maribelle can be found cycling, hiking or kayaking with one of the members of her family- husband, 2 children, and 2 fur toddlers.

MARIBELLE@MICASITABK.ORG

REGGIO EDUCATIONAL CONSULTANT

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Ghislaine Malinowski

Ghislaine grew up in Washington, D.C., and attended a bilingual IB school where she learned Spanish. She holds a B.A. from Vassar College and an M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education (PreK-2) from Lesley University, in Cambridge MA. Upon completion, she moved to Costa Rica to improve her Spanish, and volunteered with a local environmental project working to save the sea turtles and at a local elementary school. She then relocated to NYC and taught Kindergarten and first grade for 5 years at a private school in Manhattan. She has served on the cdvisory Board for an educational company that created arts and craft activity boxes for young children.

Ghislaine took a break from the classroom to stay at home with her three young children where she has been able to put her hands-on approach and philosophy to the test. She loves cooking, crafting, and dancing. 

ghislaine@micasitabk.org

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Vera rios

Vera Rios was born and raised in Peru. She graduated in 2011 with a BA in Anthropology from Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Lima. Since then, she’s been dedicated to teaching students from preschool age to college. She worked as a kindergarten teacher from 2015 to 2018 in Dallas, Texas, and looks forward to joining the Mi Casita teaching team now that she lives in Brooklyn! Since moving to Brooklyn in 2018, she has also been making chocolate at a factory that uses organic and responsible ingredients. Vera is also passionate about food sustainability and nutrition, and uses education to teach her students about these topics. Food education is crucial for a child’s development, and she thinks people need to understand where their food is coming from and how it is prepared so they can make healthy choices.She not only loves to teach, but also loves to learn, she looks forward to doing both with Mi Casita this fall!

VERA@MICASITABK.ORG

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CRYSTAL FERNANDEZ

Crystal Fernandez was born and raised in Brooklyn New York, and is a recent Brooklyn College grad who has has been an aspiring educator all her life. Crystal is also a mother to an energetic toddler and spends her free time at soccer and swimming classes. She loves animals, live music, and painting. Before Mi Casita Crystal has worked as a teacher for multiple pre-schools around Brooklyn. She looks forward to growing her love of teaching with the Mi Casita team.

CRYSTAL@MICASITABK.ORG

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JASMINE ESPINAL

Jasmine grew up in Sunset Park, Brooklyn with her mom and three younger sisters. Other than teaching pre-k, family, and community classes she is also a skilled community artist who uses her art as a vehicle to represent the history of the community. She received her Bachelor's Degree in Fine Arts from the Fashion Institute of Technology. Her visual work tells stories of self-identity, culture, and politics, often referencing Mexican-American culture and pre-Columbian designs. Jasmine has worked alongside the local community in Sunset Park to create a mural that represents the beauty and diversity of the neighborhood. The mural named El Sol de Sunset, is located on 46th street and 2nd avenue on the NARS foundation building in Brooklyn. She looks forward to bringing this inspiration to Mi Casita, maybe there will be a Mi Casita mural in Bed-Stuy one day!

On her free time Jasmine enjoys playing soccer, volunteering for local art organizations such as Artists Alliance INC and the NARS foundation, and dancing Aztec Danza. 

JASPINTURAS@MICASITABK.ORG


advisory

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Romina Wixom

Romina is one of Mi Casita's original teachers. She holds a Master's degree in Art and Design Education from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. While living and studying in the New York City area, Romina worked in a wide variety of educational settings from private cooperative home-school groups, to museum settings, public and private schools, and a truly special kids-focused art studio known as the Art Shack. This eclectic experience fueled her particular philosophies in terms of teaching "through the lens" of art making. In her classroom, nearly anything can be translated into a hands-on, creative experience. These moments are even more so enhanced when students work in a collaborative effort, talking, thinking, and problem solving together. Romina now lives in Beacon, NY, with her husband and daughter. Her current teaching projects focus on the merging of occupational therapy and arts education. 


Design Team

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Priya Patel & Esther Beke

Priya grew up in Kenya and was schooled in Kenya, England, India and the US. She received her Bachelor of Environmental Design in 1992 from the Minneapolis College of Art & Design, Bachelor of Architecture in 1995 and Masters of Architecture in 1997 from the University of Minnesota, College of Architecture and Design. She has 16 years of experience designing public and private schools for children and was the only architect on staff at an interior design studio focusing on residential development.

Priya's passion lies in the many scales of the design of a building; how a building’s design can transcend the ever changing fabric of a city, how it sits and feels on a particular site and how each person defines the uses of their own space.

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Esther grew up in Caracas, Venezuela. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design (2003) and a Masters in Industrial Design (2014) from Pratt Institute. She has partaken in design workshops and programs in San Francisco, Scandinavia, England and Mexico. She currently teaches at Pratt Institute's Industrial Design Department at both undergraduate and graduate levels. She has experience working on a wide variety of commercial and private interior design projects, with a range of scales and applications.

Esther is interested in cross-disciplinary work and the translation of a design language.Her deep understanding and belief in concept design, in addition to her genuine curiosity and interest in learning, has allowed her to run the diverse range of successful design projects.


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Alexandra Barker

Alexandra is the founder and principal of BFDO Architects pllc, an award-winning practice based in New York with a focus on exploring spatial and material practices that adapt to the evolving relationships between inhabitants and the built environment.

BFDO has worked in the public and private sector on a range of projects that include ground-up private residences, interiors, and institutional and retail projects in the New York area, regionally, and internationally.  The firm has engaged with a range of private and corporate clients including The Hudson Companies and Trinity Real Estate as well as developers for residential units in Inner Mongolia, China. Recent professional awards include AIA New York and AIA Brooklyn Queens Design Award Certificates of Merit for the Maple Street School.  The speculative project, Chromatic Energy Landscape, was a finalist in the Land Art Generator Initiative and received an honorable mention in the Architizer A+ Awards. A book on the firm’s work, titled BFDO:  Assemblies, will be released in the fall through Artifice Books, an imprint of Blackdog Publishing, based in London.

Alexandra Barker is also the assistant chair of the Graduate Architecture and Urban Design Program and Associate Professor with CCE (Certificate of Continuing Education) at Pratt Institute where she has taught since 2001. She has previously taught in the graduate architecture department at the University of Pennsylvania and in the undergraduate architecture department at Princeton University. At Pratt, she has been the recipient of national grants to integrate practice and education and sustainable principles into Pratt’s graduate architecture curriculum. 

Alexandra Barker received her MARCH from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, where she received the Templeton Kelly Prize and the Clifford Wong Housing Prize for her thesis work. Her undergraduate work in Visual and Environmental Studies was completed at Harvard College, where she graduated magna cum laude. 

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