Our Team

School Leadership 

Dr. Samona Joe Tait, Principal                                                                                             

Dr. Samona Joe Tait began her career as a middle school teacher in the School District of Philadelphia. After returning home to New York City to focus on secondary level education, she headed college counseling services at Prep for Prep, Inc. She then earned her doctorate in education, planning, and social policy through Harvard Unverisity’s Urban Superintendents Program in 2000, and began serving students in the traditional public schools of New York City as program director for SURR schools (schools under registration review). Subsequently, she has served as an elementary school principal and as a local instructional superintendent for elementary, middle, and high schools in Brooklyn and Queens. Dr. Tait also served as Chief of Staff to the Deputy Chancellor for Teaching and Learning before transitioning to work in the charter school sector as a head of school and then as chief academic officer for a charter management organization. Dr. Tait focuses her current work on developing models for college and career readiness and institutionalizing college access and success for all students. Born and raised in the South Bronx, she is a proud alumna of the Horace Mann School, the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.

 

Elle Grant, Assistant Principal

Ms. Grant's mission as a teacher is to embolden young people with knowledge and enriching experiences that will fortify them to become change agents, revolutionaries, and civic-minded individuals. After working overseas in community development, she felt an intense urge to serve her community at home.  Now in her tenth year, she plans to continue to press forward in providing young adults with a positive example of what happens when you don't place limits on your potential. I have traveled to over 20 countries on five of the seven continents and continue to learn in hopes of one day writing a book. She brings her passion for education, excitement for life, commitment to youth development and joy to the Inwood Early College learning community in an effort to plant seeds that will one day sprout into trees of greatness. 

 

Faculty

Noam Pillischer, Algebra Teacher                                                                  

This is Mr. Pillischer's first year at IEC but his 9th year teaching in the NYC Department of Education.  He has taught 6th grade pre-algebra, 9th grade algebra, AP statistics, AP calculus, Physic and Chemistry.  He is a big believer in hands on learning so that students can create meaning of the material for themselves.  He  is also a coach of the IEC video game design team.  He received a Bachelor's degree in Software Engineering from Clarkson University and a Master's degree in Math Education from SUNY Cortland.  When he is not teaching, coaching, planning or grading he enjoys travelling, reading, watching tv, spending time with his husband and walking around his neighborhood while listening to music from the 90s.  He is trying to learn how to run so that one day he could run in a marathon.    

 

Colleen Schwartz, Special Education Teacher / ELA Teacher                                                                       

Although this is Ms. Schwartz's first year at IEC, she has been working in education for many years.  The first person in her immediate family to attend college, Ms. Schwartz earned a bachelor's degree from Towson University and a Masters in Counseling at the College of New Rochelle.  Ms. Schwartz has also spent siginificant hours of postgraduate study in the field of Special Education and enjoys learning about the different ways people can learn.  In the past, Ms. Schwartz was a high school guidance counselor for over five years in Scranton, Pennsylvania, but she missed New York and returned home to  be an instructional support teacher at High School for Service and Learning in Brooklyn for four years.  As a co-teacher, Ms. Schwartz has had opportunities to teach in many subject areas, including all the core subjects, but does not want to chose a favorite. Ms. Schwartz believes in the ability of high school students to achieve lofty goals and is commited to suporrting student growth academically, socially and emotionally.  In her spare time, Ms. Schwartz plays on a softball team, does yoga, and listens to music.  She also loves to spend time with Mr. Schwartz and their dogs, Fillmore and Gus. 

 

Jonathan Swotinsky, Algebra Teacher / Discrete Mathematics Teacher

Mr. Swotinsky comes to Inwood Early College with a love of mathematics and a passion for teaching. He holds his B.A. and M.A. in Mathematics Education from The City College of New York, and he is a Math for America (MfA) Master Teaching Fellow. Mr. Swotinsky believes that mathematics is about much more than the traditional topics covered in high school. Rather, it is a unique way of thinking about the world around us with many exciting applications, and fun problems to explore. This is a philosophy he hopes to share with the students of Inwood Early College as they explore mathematics themselves. In addition to teaching Algebra and Discrete Math, Mr. Swotinsky coaches the Inwood Early College Robotics Team.  Prior to entering the field of education, Mr. Swotinsky spent many years participating in the theatre arts as an actor, stage manager and lighting designer. When he is not teaching, Mr. Swotinsky is an adventure enthusiast participating in sports such as hiking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, and scuba diving.    

 

Chi Vu,  9th Grade ELA Teacher                                                                       

Ms. Vu became a teacher because she believes in the transformative power of public education. At Inwood Early College, she teaches 9th grade English Language Arts and strives to foster a community of voracious readers (the longer the book, the better), critical thinkers, skillful writers, and adept grammarians.  Previously, she has taught Writing and Algebra in the NYC Department of Education. When she can snatch some free time, she loves to read (literature, news, celebrity gossip magazines, backs of cereal boxes, etc.), do crossword and sudoku puzzles, explore new neighborhoods, and devise creative teaching strategies. She hails from Vietnam and California, but now calls Manhattan home. She is an alumna of Yale University and Teachers College, Columbia University.