head of school
Mitch Flax is the Head of School of Valence College Prep. Mr. Flax was a member of the 2017-2018 BES Fellowship, a rigorous and selective training program for charter school leaders. Mr. Flax led the ninth-grade team, science department, biology content team, and staff culture leadership team at Leadership Public Schools in Richmond, CA, and he has worked in a variety of roles in schools in Oakland, San Jose, East Palo Alto, and New York City. Prior to his work at LPS Richmond, Mr. Flax was an analyst in People Analytics at Google, where he produced modeling and advising on organizational growth, research on team dynamics, analyses of hiring practices, and reporting on organizational culture.
director of operations
AJ is the Founding Director of Operations at Valence College Prep. Before coming to Valence, AJ worked as a Biology and Chemistry teacher in the South Bronx and in Manhattan. She grew up in Nebraska and studied Aquatics and Fishery Science at the University of Washington. AJ has her masters in Teaching Secondary Science from Relay Graduate School of Education.
dean of academics
Lydia Orr is the Founding Dean of Academics at Valence College Prep. Prior to coming to Valence, she was working for Uncommon Schools in Brooklyn, teaching 5th grade ELA and writing curriculum. She is passionate about literacy and instructional strategies and is eager to work in a community with demographics similar to that of her hometown, McAllen, Texas.
dean of student support
Nicole is the Founding Dean of Student Support at Valence College Prep. Before becoming a teacher, Nicole worked in disaster recovery and as a labor organizer for undocumented immigrants. She has worked in the New York City public school system for eight years, and taught grades K-12. Nicole is passionate about ensuring equitable access to education for all students, particularly students with learning differences and students who are learning English.
outreach and office manager
Anna Capunay is the Outreach and Office Manager at Valence College Prep. A native of Queens, Ms. Capunay has spent most of her career working in a range of administrative and technical positions in television, at companies such as AMC Networks and Charter Spectrum (formerly Time Warner Cable). She is also a playwright, having self-produced numerous stage plays in Manhattan and Queens-- the latest was La Gota Fria, which was funded by the Queens Council on the Arts and performed at Thalia Spanish Theatre in Woodside, Queens. Her other works have been adapted to the screen in the forms of a television pilot and an independent feature from artists in Chicago and New York City.
Nikki Yam is a Founding fifth grade ELA teacher, who graduated from Molloy College with her Bachelor’s degree in education. Prior to teaching at Valence College Preparatory, she taught at a charter school in Far Rockaway. She believes wholeheartedly that she is able to put forth her best efforts and make a change within the community. Nikki strongly encourages hard work and persistence.
Zulaikha Saidi is an Intervention Specialist at Valence College Prep. Prior to this, Zulaikha has taught in UPK programs in South Richmond Hills, Forest Hills, and Jackson Heights. Zulaikha has a bachelor’s degree in childhood education and a master's degree in early childhood education. She is currently pursuing a post-master’s in childhood special education.
Ms. Kovacs was born in Long Island and graduated with her Bachelors in Mathematics and a minor in Spanish. She then went on to get a Masters in Mathematics at SUNY Albany. She taught at a charter school in downtown Albany for three years, where she found the love of her life, a Husky puppy named Oliver. On weekends, Ms. Kovacs is getting Oliver certified as a Pet Therapy dog. She is passionate about teaching others to love math and dogs.
social studies teacher
Sarah Hendrickson is the 5th grade history teacher. Prior to Valence, she taught middle school history at a charter school in Brooklyn for three years. She grew up on Long Island and attended the University of Delaware where she received her degree in Secondary Social Studies Education. She is currently working towards her Masters in History from Hunter College to be even better prepared to teach her students about the world.
Sarah Raven grew up in Columbus, Ohio (home of the Buckeyes) and attended Miami University of Oxford, Ohio. At Miami she double majored in Anthropology and Religion. Sarah has taught for 8 years in K-5th grade in the South Bronx, East Harlem, and Inwood before coming to Valence. She has a Master of Divinity and a Master of Science for Teachers from Pace University.
Nefe Abamwa is an Intervention Specialist at Valence College Prep. Nefe is a Long Island native and a recent graduate of Quinnipiac University, where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and a Masters of Arts in Teaching degree in Elementary Education. Before Valence, Nefe student taught 6th grade Social Studies and interned in Meriden, Connecticut.
performing arts teacher
Jessica Riese has been teaching Performing Arts in schools for 9 years in both Florida and NYC. She graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Studies. She is the Jr. Thespian Chair on the New York State Thespian’s Board of Directors. In this position she is representing Theatre Excellence and Honors for Middle School Theatre students in NY State, and helping to organize and run the annual New York State Thespian Festival. She is honored to be a part of the Founding Team at Valence College Prep!
PE and digital literacy teacher
Caprice Church is the founding Physical Education and Digital Literacy teacher. Prior to coming to Valence, Caprice taught Health, Nutrition, and Fitness in Harlem, NY as well as being the Head coach of Track and Field at a high school in Queens. Ms.Church is passionate about the success of her scholars as well as instilling great morals and values that they can use throughout their life. Ms.Church has her Masters degree in Sports Management from Adelphi University and is native to Amityville, Long Island.
Isabella is an Associate Teacher at Valence College prep. She has a bachelor's degree in both Psychology and Human Development Family Studies. She has had years of experience as a mentor at Mansfield Middle School, the University of Connecticut, and Osborn Correctional Institute. She also loved her role for four years working as adventure staff Pathfinders Adventure Camp for middle school aged children.