Miscellaneous » Staff Directory » Who's Who at 261

Who's Who at 261

Alisha BennettAlisha Bennett is our school counselor. She has worked for the DOE for more than 15 years. She started working at 261 in 2021.


Alisha was born in South Korea and raised in Michigan. She moved to NYC in 2006. Those early years she tended bar and feels confident that she could shake you the best margarita you've ever had. 21 and over, please!


Alisha owns an organic pasta company with her husband. Currently, her favorite pasta shape is rigatoni and always with red sauce. Alisha has a deep love for Mcdonald's. Her go-to order is a McDouble with large fries and a ten-piece chicken McNuggets with tangy BBQ sauce. Don't even ask for a nugget, she doesn't share.


She loves BBQ sauce and says the best store-bought is Sweet Baby Rays. You can find her at one of her favorite spots in NYC, Brooklyn Bridge Park, with her 2-year-old daughter and husband on the weekends.

Officer ButlerRuthlyn Buttler, known at 261 as Butler since 2014, is from the beautiful Caribbean Island of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. She is one of 13 siblings! Nine sisters and three brothers. There are talks of a family reunion back home soon.


Butler loves traveling, and before moving to New York, she lived in the British Virgin Islands and says it is still her favorite place to visit. 


Traveling isn't her only pastime. She enjoys cooking. We talked through some of her favorite recipes, and one of them, Callaloo, she graciously explained to me in detail how to prepare. I can't wait to try making it. Also, one of her nine sisters is a trained chef and lives next door to her! they spend a fair amount of time cooking together.


We will add music and dancing to her list of favorite things. Her favorite music genres include reggae, socca, and country. When listening to country, she likes Jimmie Allen, Dolly Parton, and golden oldies, like Patsy Cline. Before the pandemic, she spent quite a few nights dancing at Liquid Love, a dance club in Brooklyn for cool adults. She enjoys trips to Atlantic City and shopping with her girlfriends. She loves Broadway Theater and wants to make it a priority to go more often. I think it's fair to say, Butler has an adventurous heart. 

Yumiko Higaki has been teaching for 17 years. Yumiko Currently she is co-teaching with Chrissy Haynes in the second grade.


Yumiko was born in Japan and spent her youth traveling between New York and Tokyo. Although she attended college in Japan, she moved back to New York for grad school, and NYC has been her permanent residence ever since. Yumiko now lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Sam, and their two daughters.


Yumiko's favorite 261 event is the March on Borough Hall. She loves how the event showcases student voices: "what they stand for, what they believe in, and how they see the world." She says it is empowering to see the upper-grade students march through the halls with handmade posters.


Yumiko loves watching TV sitcoms, even the same ones, over and over. Some of her favorites are 30 Rock, The Office, Parks, and Rec, Seinfeld, then back to 30 Rock, Office… and so on!... She also likes running in the park (never on a treadmill) and cooking simple meals. Her favorite meal to cook is one that her daughters love the most: Soboro Don. Yum!


Yumiko can play Japanese drums called taiko and used to perform in and around NYC before having kids. One of her biggest highlights was performing at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park as part of a special production of The Tempest.


Yumiko incorporates music into her teaching using the ukulele. She is often seen and heard playing while leading students in group songs. Her mom teaches piano and Japanese folk songs, so there was always music in her house growing up. Yumiko says using art, music, and movement in the classroom are important elements of a child's school day - they are fun and stimulate your brain. Yumiko would love to one day be able to compose songs with her students! But, of course, we would love that too! 


Yumiko's motto is Ichigo Ichie: make the most of every encounter you have with others. Yumiko, we agree.

Hillary, Garden TeacherMost schools in New York City don't have gardens, let alone a garden teacher! But, thanks to the PTA, we have both. Hillary Horowitz has taught science and all things garden for more than five years here at 261. 


Hillary was born and raised in Brooklyn and went to PS29 for elementary school. When asked what she loves about 261, she says she loves how 261 celebrates personal identity. And, of course, she loves spending time with the kids in the Garden. She feels like it is a special place to learn, explore and play. She also loves the annual talent show. Saying it is always fun seeing the hidden talents of her students.  


Hillary is a vegetarian and has been since the 6th grade. Her favorite thing to eat is a sandwich. She is a sandwich enthusiast! Her favorite local is Court Street Grocers. Order of choice, a Vegitalian! And she is always up for a drive to Lioni's in Dyker Heights for the #11; Vince Lombardi, add fried eggplant! This sandwich thing may have something to do with bread. And it may explain Hillary's other passion. She is a baker! Baking at the Partybus Bakeshop when not with us at 261. Her favorite things to bake are baguettes. Baguettes make great sandwiches!


Fun fact about Hillary, she is a trained beekeeper. Her not-so-secret dream is to one day have bee hives on the roof of 261. Is anyone interested in helping this dream come true?


Hillary and her partner have a dog named Wallace, a scruffy Chihuahua Terrier with a lot of personality. Weekends spent walking with Wallace, exploring new neighborhoods, and eating sandwiches, are their preferred weekend plans.

RickyRicky Merisier. Paraprofessional by day, Afterschool Program Coordinator by night. If you don't know Ricky yet, your kids certainly do. Ricky has a long history at 261. He started as an afterschool counselor in 2009. He loves working with the kids in afterschool and is impressed with how many former 261 students come back and work as counselors.


Ricky is a born and raised Brooklynite. For his elementary school years, he attended P.S. 276 in Canarsie. After high school, he enrolled in Brooklyn College before transferring to New York City College of Technology.


Ricky loves music. He used to play the sax and the drums! He loves all genres of music and especially hip-hop. Jay-Z is his favorite artist. When not listening to music, he can be found rewatching episodes of "The Office" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm." He says he relates to the Larry David character on "Curb."


His favorite 261 event was the Annual Wine Tasting, which we haven't had at the school for a few years now. Ricky said he liked how it brought the whole community together, and you always met new people. So if you want to help get this event back, we know Ricky would be thrilled.


We learned that Ricky has a fear of flying. But, no fear of biking around the busy streets of Brooklyn. Ricky is an avid biker and bikes to work most days. He says it's great for the environment and its excellent exercise. 

MaggieMaggie Prendergast teaches 2nd grade. She joined 261 as a teacher in 2021. Maggie says 261's values align with hers, and she loves the school's community. Her favorite 261 event is the March on Borough Hall.
Maggie is from New York City. She met her best friend when they were two years old, and they are still besties today! Although both of Maggie's grandmothers were teachers, she didn't initially consider a career in teaching. After graduating from Cornell, she worked as a graphic designer and illustrator. During her stint as a graphic designer, she designed a local icon: the Foragers shopping bag!
Maggie is currently learning roller skating and says it is both terrifying and fun! Maggie has no pets, but she is a Doggie Aunt to an 8 lb Havapoo named Bunny. She says her spirit animal is an ant. Maggie likes chocolate but prefers savory foods. She loves to cook. Her favorite recipes to prepare are rice dishes like sushi, paella, or tahdig. Here is a link to one of her favorite Tahdig recipes. She loves shopping at Sahadi's and says she can't shop at the neighborhood staple often enough. If you ever run into her there, say Hello! 
Christa with her guitar
Christa Robinson grew up on a farm in Yelverton, a small town of fewer than 50 people in Ontario, Canada. There was a church, a cemetery, and a fuel station. She had to ride the bus for over an hour to get to school. Her choices for after-school activities were ice skating and hockey.
When Christa was in High School and thinking about her future, she was torn between becoming a children's book author, a child psychologist, or a musician. Lucky for us, she became a musician! Christa is one of our music teachers and has been teaching music at 261 for the past five years. 
Christa is an accomplished oboist. She has performed and recorded in various groups, orchestras, and Broadway shows. Some may remember when she joined Curriculum Night from the orchestra pit of Wicked, where she performed that evening! Did we mention yet, how cool we think Christa is?
Christa's favorite season is Autumn in New York, and she loves the Billie Holiday song of the same name. It may also explain why Fall Fest is one of her favorite events. But it's not just the weather. She loves the teamwork and community spirit showcased at this annual festival.
Autumn in New York may be chilly, but it sounds much warmer than the winters she spent in Saskatoon, Canada, where she played principal oboe in the city's Symphony Orchestra. Winters in Saskatoon would regularly sit below -40 degrees. She says all that below-freezing weather felt worth it when the Northern Lights would appear in the evenings and the hoarfrost would cover the trees in the early mornings making the city sparkle in magical wonder.
Christa has been vegan since she was 19 years old and said a world without potatoes, tomatoes, or avocados would make her sad. Christa loves quilting, making her own clothes, and binge-watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Tanya Stanger-Minond is an artist and has been teaching Visual Art at 261 for 15 years. She teaches 25 classes every week to roughly 500 students. That's a whole lot of artistic influence, and we like it.Tanya Stanger-Minond


Tanya was born in South Africa. When she was seven, her family immigrated to the US—moving to the East Coast and settling in Long Island. Tanya stayed in New York State for college and attended the University of Buffalo, where she majored in International Business and Marketing. After graduating, she worked as a program coordinator for an international cultural exchange program. After a few years of too much time spent in front of a computer and sorting too many papers, she knew she would rather be in a profession where she could interact with people more regularly. While deciding on what that profession might be, she moved to Barcelona. Art has always been her talent and a huge source of joy. She wanted to help children understand that the arts can be a path for them, as it was for her. When it was time, she returned to New York and attended NYU for grad school, receiving a Master's Degree in Visual Art Education. These days, she hand-builds ceramic sculptures when she can find the time for her passion.


Tanya has so many favorite artists. Maira Kalman, Kara Walker, Candido Bido, Marc Chagall, and Kehinde Wiley are at the top of the list. In addition, Tanya loves collage work, and when teaching her students the technique, she says using shape and color even minimally can have such beautiful results. So next time you are in the school building, take a moment to look at the student artwork in the halls. We have a fantastic gallery of student work she displays for us.


Tanya loves a great Mediterranean salad and Vietnamese food, especially pho. She also likes snacks and digs a chewy candy experience, like gummy bears and good Australian licorice. Black licorice, red licorice, all the licorice is good. Mention chips; she'll tell you she is especially fond of the Zapp's New Orleans Kettle Style Voodoo flavor. We can certainly get behind these snack ideas.


Tanya and her family have recently adopted an extremely friendly and handsome brown tabby cat from a rescue center named Suco. Her daughters, she has two, are thrilled to have their first pet. 


Tanya loves how wonderfully diverse 261 is. Students sharing and learning about different cultures from their friends and teachers is a highlight, and her favorite event is the Character Parade.