Our Teachers

Sam Pesin

Garden Preschool Cooperative Teachers
Left to right: Carmen Chen, Sam Pesin, Andrea Grassotti

Co-Head Teacher, Co-Director

Sam Pesin started at Garden Preschool Cooperative as the head teacher and director in September, 2002, and is now co-head teacher and co-director. He has taught preschool children for 40 years and received a master’s degree in early childhood education and child development from Boston's Wheelock College.

Sam's teaching career has been dedicated to the important work of guiding young children and communicating with their parents. He is a strong believer in the beneficial aspects of a parent cooperative preschool and also of a mixed-age group setting.

Sam's philosophy coincides with the goals of GPC. He works to implement GPC's progressive mainstream developmentally appropriate philosophy that values children's growth in the interrelated areas of cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development and which sees children's engagement with materials and peers in play as their most effective way of learning. Sam works to create a nurturing environment that encourages self-confidence, imagination, creativity, cooperation, fairness, helping and caring for others, as well as good problem-solving skills.

Before moving back to his hometown JC in 2002, he taught at the Open House Nursery School in Brooklyn's Cobble Hill area but spent weekends and vacations in JC with his parents.

Sam taught in several preschools around the country, including Eugene and Portland, Oregon, Austin, Santa Fe, Aspen, and Cambridge. He has worked with children and parents from diverse cultural and economic backgrounds. He has visited over 150 preschools in this country and several during a 1976-77 low-budget trip around the world.

In his civic activism, Sam takes after his late father Morris, the "father of Liberty State Park", a community leader and reformer councilman. Sam has been president of the Friends of Liberty State Park since 1995 and serves on the LSP Planning Advisory Committee. He played a leading role in defeating several commercialization plans for LSP. Sam supports various open space and cultural causes in Jersey City. For his work in improving JC, his name has been engraved in the "Circle of Honor" near his father's name at the base of Journal Square's 9/11 Memorial Fountain.

Other notes about Sam's background:

Andrea Grassotti

Co-Head Teacher, Co-Director

Andrea's lifelong interest in learning and understanding human behavior and social interactions led her to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology at Rutgers University. While working toward her degree she had the opportunity to work in a summer camp as group leader and camp counselor. This experience was so rewarding that she decided to devote her career to the field of early childhood education. Initially, she worked as an assistant teacher in an early childhood center and subsequently worked as a co-teacher in a Reggio Emilia-inspired preschool in New York City.

In the summer of 2008, Andrea worked as a head teacher for the kindergarten class at Stevens Cooperative School summer camp program, in Jersey City, before getting hired as the head teacher at Viaquenti Preschool. Andrea was the head teacher for the 4's and 5's class but also worked as the 2's and 3's head teacher when the school first opened.

She has recently obtained her NJ state teaching certification (preschool to grade 3) from Montclair State University.

In her spare time, Andrea enjoys spending time with family, especially her three young nieces, exercising, running, traveling and reading. Her favorite activities with children consist of working on art projects, science experiments, music and movement games, going to the park to have outdoor playtime, and pretend play.

Carmen Lee

Co-Head Teacher

Carmen started working with children as an ESL tutor for Chinese families in her hometown of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. She continued educating children from her community even after obtaining her BA in psychology from SUNY Binghamton and while pursuing a full-time career in social work for four years.

After years of moonlighting, Carmen realized her true calling was in education. In 2013, she was accepted to Columbia Teachers College as a QUIERE scholar and graduated with an MA in early childhood education and special education in 2016. She has New York teaching certification and is in the process of obtaining New Jersey certification as well.

Carmen's teaching philosophy centers around play-based, emergent curriculum and the developmental-interaction approach. As a QUIERE scholar, she received extensive training in educating children with special needs, multicultural teaching practices, and using assessment to inform curriculum. She advocates for differentiated instruction and supporting children from their unique developmental points. In the classroom, Carmen shares her love of dramatic storytelling, dance, song and messy cooking with the kids. Although she's rather silly, there's a method to her madness and every moment is a teaching moment—for students and for herself.