Isabelle Bonneau, Founder
Isabelle has both extensive experience in multilingual education and an extensive international business background.
She started Be Lingual, a premier language program for schools and language immersion summer camp, in 2007 and has acquired broad expertise in the education industry thanks to this eight year venture.
Before switching to education, Isabelle worked internationally for 8 years for a leading hospitality group and for an international finance consulting firm. She holds a Masters Degree in Business Administration from the Booth School of Business (University of Chicago). For her undergraduate degrees, she studied at ESCP Europe in France, the UK, and Germany, and holds business degrees from the three countries.
Born and raised in France, Isabelle settled in the Tri-State area in 2001. In her daily life, she is immersed in an international environment. She manages Be Lingual, supervising a team of international educators, and her husband is Greek Cypriot. Her teenage son speaks three different languages, goes to a top bilingual school in the City, and is fully comfortable with different cultures. “I believe that language education can provide children with improved communication abilities, and help build self-confidence and adaptability – assets that serve children as well as adults, both in their professional careers and in their private lives.”
Yonca Oktay, Head of School
Ms. Yonca Oktay comes to Tessa International School with an enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and caring heart and mind. She brings with her, 27 years in the education field, with 15 of those years working overseas. She has worked and lived in the US, Mexico, Turkey, Kuwait, Norway, Qatar, Portugal and Singapore, wearing many educational hats: Classroom Teacher, IB-PYP Coordinator, Deputy Principal and an Adjunct Professor at Middlesex County College and The College of New Jersey. Her interests include hiking, photography, reading, and yoga. She holds a Master of Education and Bachelor of Science in Education from George State University, and was born in New York to Turkish parents.
Yonca is also currently an IBEN (International Baccaulaurette) Educator where she leads face-to-face workshops, facilitates online workshops, and conducts verification and evaluation visits for the IB. She also continues to be an active member in her community, by volunteering at Hunterdon Medical Center and the Make A Wish Foundation in New Jersey. She believes that each day presents an “opportunity to learn more, do more, be more and grow more…often in unexpected and unpredictable ways.” She looks forward to becoming a part of Tessa International School’s community of life-long learners, where she looks forward in sharing her personal and professional passions, while helping to prepare students in becoming leaders of the 21st Century, through enthusiasm, confidence and the strong desire to make a difference.
Michelle Voice, Assistant Head of School
Michelle was raised in London, England, by Greek Cypriot parents (Greek was her first language!), and she moved to US with her husband eight years ago! Since then, she has thoroughly enjoyed the wonder of New York City and beyond, and has also started a family of her own, becoming a mother to two boys, now aged 3.5 and 1!
Michelle started teaching ten years ago upon immediate completion of her Post-Graduate-Certificate-in-Education, following her degree, and feels passionate about teaching and learning.
Michelle’s teaching philosophy has always been to inspire children to learn by bringing energy, fun and creativity to the classroom, along with an inquiry-based approach – this way, children learn ‘for themselves’ and understand concepts with deeper meaning and knowledge. She prides herself on working hard, being a mentor for children both academically and socially and emotionally, and empowering every child to reach their full potential.
Michelle believes strongly in internationalism, an open mind and the acquisition of another language, and therefore feels strongly about Tessa’s mission and is excited to join the team!
Elodie Poons, Executive Administrator
Elodie is Tessa’s executive administrator. She has more than three years of experience working in various fields, such as accounting, human resources and logistics for a French company in Belgium. Additionally, she was a marketing assistant for over a year at an international media buying company.
Elodie earned two degrees; the first in executive assistance and the second in advertising and public relations. Her teaching career started when she moved to the United States. She holds private language lessons for students in New Jersey and New York. She is very patient around children and loves to see them grow up and evolve on a day-to-day basis.
Elodie is excited to be joining the Tessa Team. She is eager to take an active role in the school’s opening and to make a difference in her community. Her various degrees and experiences will allow her to work across multiple departments in the school. Elodie is originally from Belgium and has been living in Hoboken since February 2015 with her husband.
Ana Paez, Pre-K 2 ½ – 3 Spanish Head Teacher
Ana is a native of the Northern part of Mexico and a native Spanish speaker. She acquired her English after arriving in the United States and understands first-hand that learning a new language opens new ways of thinking, behaviors, and ways of approaching different cultures.
She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics and Spanish Literature from the University of California, Los Angeles, and received a Master’s Degree from Long Island University in Brooklyn, NY, studying second language acquisition. She then received a Master of Science in Education. Ana has years of experience in education from managing Pre-K Spanish immersion programs and preparing lessons to meet the needs of all students.
Ana enjoys spending time with her family and often finds her own children teach her how to become a better teacher. Ana is a dedicated teacher who will make your child feel safe, loved, and engaged via fun and purposeful activities.
Amy Stephens, Pre-K 2 ½ – 3 French Head Teacher
Amy was born and raised in a bilingual family in France. She met her American husband in France and eventually moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, where she gained valuable experience with bilingual teaching working in a Montessori immersion program. Amy has lived in New Jersey for almost two years and has two beautiful, energetic, and full-of-personality bilingual daughters! She loves to travel the world and discover new cultures. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, dancing and enjoying good food.
Amy has 10 years’ teaching experience in education with many different aged children. She has a passion for languages and believes that learning other languages and exposure to other cultures opens minds and teaches the importance of understanding others. Her passion for education started when she was young where she began volunteering in middle school. Later in life she completed her Bachelor Degree in Literature and Languages with a minor in Education. She taught in the prestigious Bryanston School in England.
Sheyla Palomino, Pre-K 3 – 4 Spanish Head Teacher
Sheyla holds a Bachelora’s Degree in Education with a specialty in Elementary Education from the National University of San Agustin in Peru where she ranked amongst the top five of her class. She then went on to obtain a specialty in Innovation Management and Development of Educational Standards, as well as a Diploma in Educational Psychology and more. Lastly she obtained a Master’s Degree in Neuropsychology and Education from the Complutense University of Madrid.
Sheyla is a native speaker from Peru with over thirteen years of experience as a school teacher, working within both the public and private school systems. Within this time, Sheyla has experience with the International Baccalaureate and as a School Coordinator. Sheyla is an organized, efficient, caring and creative teacher who puts in her best every day and treats every child with the love and respect they deserve. Sheyla knew she wanted to be a teacher from the age of 7 when she used to teach her younger neighbours in her backyard mathematics and linguistics with all materials provided! She loves working with children and is convinced that as a teacher she can make a positive impact on every student’s life. Sheyla also strongly believes that learning a new language contributes to the holistic development of students and is essential to the idea of an international education while it promotes intercultural understanding and empowers students to be open-minded and to think critically.
Mu (harmony) He, Pre-K 2.5 – 3 Mandarin Head Teacher
Mu (Harmony) was born in Changchun, a Northeastern city in Mainland China. She also lived in Shanghai for four years. She is a native Chinese speaker. She acquired her English through her regular education in China. She moved to New York City in 2015 for better academic and career development.
Mu holds a Bachelor’s degree in English and Chinese Translation and Interpretation from Shanghai International Studies University. She also minors in Law at Fudan University. She received a master’s degree in Applied Linguistics at Teachers College, Columbia University, where she establishes a solid theoretical and practical foundation of second language teaching and learning. She obtained a certificate in Teaching Chinese to Speakers of Other Languages (TCSOL) at Columbia University as well.
Mu is an experienced Mandarin instructor. She has been working with children for many years. She is currently teaching Mandarin to ages 3-5 in a bilingual preschool in NYC. She taught Mandarin to teenagers and children for 3 years in China, and she also taught Mandarin to undergraduates at Columbia University for one year. Her teaching philosophy is student-centered and discovery-based. Mu is very passionate about teaching languages, she gets along with children very well and immerses them in foreign language and culture in order for them to get as much as they can from her teaching. Mu is good at creating a fun and productive learning environment in her every day classes by combining music, art, and physical movement during her language teaching.