First Grade

Meet the 1st Grade Team

Marissa DeChiara

1 208  Marisa DeChiara [email protected]

Marisa has taught in the early grades for 15+ years, half of them at our school. She received her Bachelor’s in Special Education from SUNY Geneseo and her Master’s in Early Childhood Education from Bank Street College. She brings her love of music to her classroom. She says the children are the best thing about her job, and she encourages them “just to be themselves.”

1 209 Nicole Eastzer [email protected]

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 be both living and working in the same borough.

Jamie Gifkins and Rebecca Austern

1 210 ICT – Jamie Gifkins  [email protected]org

Jamie has been working at PS 261 for 16 years. She has taught 4th grade, Kindergarten and 1st grade.   She has a bachelors degree in English from UMass Amherst and a dual Masters in Early Childhood/Elementary Education from NYU.  She loves living and working in the same neighborhood.  You can often find her at the local playgrounds with her 7 year old son, Owen.  She loves cooking, reading, and going to the beach.

1 210 ICT Rebecca Austern  [email protected]org

Rebecca comes to PS261After some time in Private and D75 schools, this is Rebecca’s 4th year at PS261- where she went to elementary school too! She has her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Thought and Political Economy from UMass, Amherst, and her Master’s degree in Childhood General and Special Education from Hunter College. When she is not working, Rebecca’s hobbies include watching and playing sports, spending time with friends and family, and hanging out with the adorable dogs from her husband’s dog walking company.

Melissa Ledner

1 211 – Melissa Ledner  [email protected] 

This is Melissa’s fifth year at PS 261 and 16th year teaching. Melissa has been working in early education for 12 years. She received her Bachelors Degree at 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.


Danielle Taylor Brocco

1 221 ICT Danielle Taylor Brocco 

[email protected]

Ms. Danielle, who came to PS261 in 2002, has taught Kindergarten, Fourth Grade and Library. Ms. Danielle has a Bachelor’s degree in Dietetics from the University of Delaware and a Master’s in Elementary Education from C.W. Post. Originally from Long Island, she now lives in Bay Ridge with her husband, son Liam.  She enjoys traveling, yoga, reading a great book and spending time in Vermont.

Alexandra Catanzaro Bisogno

1 221 ICT Alexandra Catanzaro-Bisogno  [email protected]

Alexandra is one of PS261’s Special Education teachers. She has been teaching at the school since 1999 and is excited to teach 1st grade with Ms. Danielle. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and has a Master’s in School Counseling.  Alexandra values her students’ unique talents and the strengths each child brings to the classroom community. She appreciates parent involvement and welcomes them in the classroom.  Alexandra lives in Brooklyn with her husband, her Kindergartner, and her energetic toddler.