First Grade

Meet the First-Grade Team


Class 1 208

Chrissy Hanes

As a Queens native, Chrissy enjoys spending time at the beach near her home in the Rockaways and taking local road trips with friends and family. Chrissy first received her Bachelor’s degree at Brooklyn College where she studied Biology. However, after volunteering with her families literacy program in the Caribbean Chrissy decided to pursue a career in education. Thereafter earning her masters degree in Early Childhood Education at New York University. When she is not working, Chrissy enjoys traveling and planning new places to visit, yoga, and great food! [email protected]


Class 1 209

Nicole Eastzer

Nicole is very excited to be joining the PS261 community. Prior to coming to 261, she taught in NYC public schools in East Harlem and on the LES. Her undergraduate degree is from NYU where she studied Early Childhood Education. Nicole has always been enthusiastic to collaborate with and learn from teachers, parents and especially from her students. She likes to be on the move and so she seeks out events such as outdoor movies and shows by local musicians. Nicole looks forward to both living and working in the same borough. [email protected]

Stephanie is a born and raised Queens native living in Brooklyn. She’s excited to be a part of the PS 261 team for a second year. Growing up the oldest in her family, Stephanie always knew she wanted to work with children. She earned her Masters in Education at Brooklyn College and was a substitute at PS 261. She loves to keep things engaging and fun in the classroom while teaching her students to enjoy the adventure of first grade. When she’s not in school, Stephanie loves cooking, reading, and traveling. [email protected]

Class 1 210

Yumiko Higaki

Yumiko is very excited to be joining the P.S. 261 community this fall. She is returning to teaching after staying home for a year to take care of her two daughters, now ages 1 and 2. Yumiko is committed to creating a classroom environment in which each individual student feels visible, motivated and safe. She incorporates community-building activities into her daily instruction and management approach, in order to foster a sense of belonging and responsibility in each student. From as early as Yumiko can remember, she has loved school. She hopes to create the type of environment that every student looks forward to participating in every day!

Yumiko majored in education philosophy at 
Keio University, Japan, and has obtained Masters degrees in Sociology and Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and in Childhood Education from Hunter College, CUNY. Including her assistant teaching years, she has been an elementary school teacher since 2005, in grades one through five. Yumiko loves spending time outdoors year-round and has recently gotten back into running regularly. [email protected]


Class 1 211

Melissa Ledner

This is Melissa’s 6th year at PS 261 and 16th year teaching. Melissa has been working in early education for 12 years. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from Rutgers University. She was a Teaching Fellow and received her Masters from LIU. Melissa loves to dance, camp, travel to beautiful places, take photos and spend time with her family. She enjoys learning new things and hopes to pass her energy of being a lifelong learner to her students. [email protected]


Class 1 221

Hannah Stevlingson

Hannah is elated to join the PS 261 community! Prior to coming to 261, Hannah taught in NYC public schools in Crown Heights and East New York. She was a Fulbright Scholar in South Korea and a Teach for America Corps Member in South Carolina. Hannah earned her bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education from Ohio University (go Bobcats!) in 2013. In her free time, she loves to travel, do yoga, get soft-serve ice cream, and go to the beach! [email protected]


Class K/1/2 215

Sherley Ayala [email protected]