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Second Grade Teachers

paul shirk

Paul’s early experiences in education involved developing mutually empowering friendships alongside people with developmental disabilities through Best Buddies. At UCLA, he studied anthropology, played in the marching band and taiko drumming groups, played intramural soccer, and organized UCLA’s Best Buddies program.  During a year at the University of Granada, Paul was a teaching assistant a school for children with developmental disabilities. Back in Los Angeles, he taught English to day-laborers.

After college he taught 1st and 2nd grade in the South Bronx as a Teach for America corps member.  Paul became frustrated with Teach for America’s focus on measures of academic success that actually perpetuated a two-tier system of schools.  While in graduate school at Bank Street, Paul developed an understanding of child development as the cornerstone of an excellent education. He began searching for a school where he could use Bank Street methods in an integrated, progressive school. During this time he taught in a charter school in Crown Heights and at The School at Columbia University. He was so happy to join Compass and be a founding teacher here in 2014.

Paul believes in learning through interacting with materials, interacting within relationships and by asking questions. He thinks young children have important ideas, questions and projects. He believes that the work a 6 year-old does in the block corner is as complex as the work of a 36 year-old in a science lab. His classrooms have always been built on fairness and curiosity. Paul enjoys playing guitar and bass, reading and writing and making his wife laugh. Currently, Paul is pursuing a certification in leadership and executive coaching at Columbia University through a joint program from Teacher’s College and Columbia Business School.


jessica hollins

Born and raised in Queens, New York, Jessica has always been a risk taker.  She was a member of the first graduating class at the Queens School of Inquiry, an early college school associated with Queens College, and member of the first class of a semester-long science and leadership school for 10th grade girls, located on the coast of Maine.

Jessica is a graduate of Syracuse University’s Inclusive Elementary and Special Education teacher preparation program. Although Jessica loved her teaching experiences in Central New York, she seized the opportunity to participate in the Bridge to the City program for her student teaching, working in both East Harlem and Brooklyn.

Through all of her experiences, she’s realized that she learns best through discovery and risk-taking, and wants to help children realize the benefits of taking their own risks and exploring possibilities.


teressa brake

Teressa is thrilled to continue being a member of the Compass community in their mission to put inquiry at the heart of learning. She is a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin and Teachers College, Columbia University. Teressa has thirteen years of teaching experience in public, charter, and private school settings in Austin, Texas, and New York City.

Teressa believes her role as an educator is to guide children to believe in and develop their unique and inherent greatness by providing meaningful contexts full of opportunities to question, hypothesize, create, play and take ownership of new ideas, identities, processes, and the community in which they belong. She brings her interests in music, art, and nature into the classroom to provide many outlets for expression and learning.

Teressa grew up in Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico but has lived in New York City for the past eleven years. She is married and is a mother to two young boys. Her oldest, Ezra, is in first grade at Compass!


Shawn is truly excited to be a founding member of the Compass Charter team. She loves working with children as they make new connections and discoveries about the world we live in. She decided she wanted to be an elementary school teacher while serving as an Americorps member in Boston. During this time she taught workshops on diversity and social justice to students of all ages. She experienced the value in building a diverse group of learners who support one another as they grow. Since this time she has worked to build her skills as a classroom teacher. After two years of service she returned to her home in the San Francisco Bay Area and studied Child and Adolescent Development at San Francisco State University. She also studied the Spanish language and spent time deepening her skills through immersion programs in Mexico.

Shawn moved to New York City from California and enrolled at Bank Street College of Education. While studying at Bank Street she had the opportunity to work in progressive public school settings and worked as an associate teacher at Elizabeth Irwin Little Red with second graders. After completing her master’s program, Shawn taught second grade fro three years in Brooklyn, New York. During this time she worked for her additional certification in Special Education at Brooklyn College in order to better meet the diverse needs of the students she works with. She works to bring her many interests into the classroom, such as; knitting, biking, yoga, and meditation.

shawn mcgibeny