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Shira Leibowitz, PhD
Founding Lower School Director

A dynamic, innovative educator and author, Dr. Shira Leibowitz led independent schools in the greater New York City area for 20 years prior to joining Portfolio, serving as Department Head and Curriculum Coordinator, Lower School Principal, and Head of School.  A recognized leader in project-based learning, educational innovation, and instructional coaching, Shira has coached teachers throughout the country in implementing project-based learning in their classrooms and has led online communities of practice for educators focused on educational innovation, teaching and learning, and instructional coaching. Shira’s book The Coach Approach to School Leadership: Leading Teachers to Higher Levels of Effectiveness, was published by the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development in May, 2017.

Shira earned her  B.A, magna cum laude with distinction in all subjects, from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in Education from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, including extensive study at Teachers’ College of Columbia University. Shira lives with her husband, Alfredo, and is the proud mother of two children -  Talia, who is studying early childhood education at Drexel University and works in the Philadelphia public schools, and Ronen who is in high school. Included in her family are her two dogs, a cockapoo named Oliver and a jack russell terrier named Max.

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Nancy Otero
Founding Director of project based learning

Nancy is a design-thinking enthusiast and a world-recognized leader in the implementation of school Fabrication Laboratories (“Fab-Labs”). The focus of her work, especially with the Transformative Learning Technology Lab at Stanford University, has been the ways in which digital fabrication impacts learning.

Nancy co-founded FAB!, a non-profit in Mexico, which serves underserved high-schoolers and teachers, and she has researched the efficacy of her programs in collaboration with Stanford. This year Stanford is supporting Fab Lab implementations at 5 public high schools in Guadalajara, and they are looking to implement 50 more next year.

As part of the Beam Center NY and Active Emergence (which she also founded) she has designed Project-Based curriculum, worked with teachers and learners to create environments that are student-centered, and promoted hands-on learning in schools around the world.

In Spain, Nancy led the implementation of the first FabLab@School in Barcelona and supported the creation of a fully integrated curriculum. The research paper about this project, “Barcino, Creation of a Cross-Disciplinary City,” which she wrote with Paulo Blikstein (Stanford Professor and Portfolio School advisor), was accepted by the prestigious Interaction Design and Children Conference in 2016.

In Brazil, Nancy led the training of teachers from different parts of the country on how to implement digital fabrication in their schools and transition their schools’ design to a student-centered classroom.

In China, Nancy was invited to Shanghai to consult with the top-ranked high schools on the implementation of Fab Labs and Project Based Learning, and to train their teachers how to integrate a Project-Based Learning approach.

Her research in Mexico and Barcelona have been accepted at several international conferences. She holds a MS from Stanford in Learning, Design and Technology, and she was a software engineer in her previous life.

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Tracy Rudzitis
STEM + computational thinking teacher

“Life is all about learning, and there are an amazing amount of things in this world to explore, to investigate, to discover, and to ask questions about. To be a part of the Portfolio School, a team of educators who are thinking about learning and putting ideas into practice, and a group of incredible children who are immersed in the practice of life and learning, is pretty much a dream come true!"  expressed Tracy Rudtzitis, who has been teaching computer program and STEAM/science classes in the New York City public school system for the past 16 years. During that time she served both as a teacher and as founding curriculum developer for the Department of Education’s Software Engineering Program, a hands-on portfolio-based and maker-centric initiative to bring computer programming to the New York City public school system, which laid the foundation for the larger Computer Science for All ( CS4ALL) and Computer Science NYC (CSNYC) programs currently within NYC K-12 public schools.

Always innovative and creative, as makerspaces were introduced to schools, Tracy Rudtzitis took the initiative to begin a makerspace at her school and volunteered her time and expertise so her students could spend their lunchtime tinkering, exploring their passions, and working with a wide range of materials and tools. The success and popularity of the school makerspace led to the establishment of a STEAM program at the school in which students explore hands-on making and constructionist education in the context of a middle school science curriculum. Beyond her teaching, Tracy Rudtzitis is a Senior Fablearn Fellow with the Transformative Learning Technologies Laboratory at Stanford University, a group of experienced educators in formal and informal learning spaces worldwide who contribute to research about making and makerspaces in education and the development of open-source educational resources for their peers. She is a member of the educator advisory boards of Little Bits, Curiosity Machine, and Open Source Gallery, collaborating with other educators to brainstorm and create meaningful and creative projects for schools and educational programs. She is also on the faculty of Constructing Modern Knowledge Summer Institute, a minds-on institute for educators committed to creativity, collaboration and computing run by Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez, world renowned thought leaders in maker education and authors of the influential book Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom. The National School Board Association named her as one of  the 2014-15 “Twenty to Watch,” a list honoring individuals finding innovative ways to use technology to increase classroom learning.

Tracy Day
Lower School Teacher

“Joining Portfolio is like matching my passion, career and dream. A school that has the early years philosophy for all children and one willing to break the mold is something to be championed and celebrated. I'm sure September 2017 will be the beginning of something truly wonderful. I look forward to being part of the family!” shared Tracy Day. She comes to Portfolio with 14 years of teaching and school leadership experience for all ages from Pre-K to fifth grade, most recently as the lead Nursery teacher at the British International School in New York City. Before moving to the United States Tracy served as an educator in her native London. She taught, served in faculty leadership positions, and was an Assistant Head of School, a role she redefined to include teaching in order to lead change by demonstrating good practice in her own class. Before earning her post graduate certification in early childhood education, Tracy Day graduated university with a law degree and served as a financial advisor and then as owner of her own events company. With a father who is an engineer, she grew up making, creating, and tinkering and has brought her diverse interests and talents to her teaching, earning the respect, admiration, and appreciation of supervisors, colleagues, parents, and children.

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Babur habib, PhD
co-founder and ceo

Babur is a tech entrepreneur who co-founded Kno Inc, an ed-tech company which set out to reimagine how students consume content. The company was acquired by Intel Corporation where Babur spent time implementing technology solutions in classrooms globally. His previous experience includes designing Pentium microprocessors at Intel and digital consumer products at Philips. He's served as a fellow at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy, working on the role of science and technology in informing public policy. He’s currently an advisor to multiple tech startups and is passionate about building a solid tech ecosystem on the east coast. In addition, he serves as an advisor to the New York Academy of Sciences on their Global STEM Alliance project and is an expert in residence at the NY Media Center. He has a 2 year old daughter who provides him the daily motivation to build a school from scratch. Babur holds an MS from Stanford in electrical engineering and a PhD from Princeton in quantum computing.

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Doug Schachtel
co-founder and COO

As a creative project manager, Doug has worked in media, film, children’s play systems, communications and graphic design. As a filmmaker his award-winning music videos and short films that have been shown all over the world. He has two young children and is proud to be creating a school in which he would be happy to enroll them one day. Doug holds a BA from Princeton, an MFA from Columbia and an MBA from Baruch College.

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Luna Rey
Admissions Coordinator

Originally from San Diego, Luna is an alumna of one of the leading project-based schools in the country, High Tech High, graduating from High Tech High Media Arts in 2013. During her time at High Tech High, she served as a student professor in the High Tech High Graduate School of Education where she taught the methods course in the credentialing program from 2009 to 2012

While working for the Graduate School of Education, Luna helped to spearhead the student-led teacher mentoring program for K-12 teachers. Outside of her work in the Graduate School, she worked to develop and lead tours and workshops for over 2,000 annual visitors to the school, assisting educators from all over the world with implementing project-based learning in their home institutions.During her time at Columbia, Luna has continued to be involved in education as an American Studies Teaching Fellow, a mentor for the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, and a college mentor for the Double Discovery Center. During her final year at Columbia, she will be working on completing her thesis which seeks to understand the implications of testing culture in the United States and alternative forms of assessment and curriculum.

Through her education at both High Tech High and Columbia, and the work she has done outside of the classroom in education, Luna has seen the powerful impact this type of learning has on students, teachers, and their surrounding communities.