The leadership of Avenues New York has decades of experience. Meet the leaders of the Avenues New York campus.
Chief Administrative and Operating Officer
Lauren has more than 25 years experience in the field of education, most recently as chief administrative and operating officer at the Lycée Français de New York, the international bilingual multi-cultural school in Manhattan. Before the Lycée, she spent nine years at Greenwich Academy in Greenwich, CT as chief financial officer and assistant head of finance, operations and technology. Earlier in her career, Lauren held various administrative and operational roles at the San Domenico School in San Ansemlo, CA and at the University of the Virgin Islands, St. Thomas, VI.
Lauren began her career as an assistant professor, teaching undergraduate courses in accounting and finance at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills, MD. She holds an MBA from the University of Maryland and is a certified public accountant.
Lauren has touched all areas of the education world as parent, teacher and administrator and as a trustee of the Friends School in Wilton, CT.
Division Head: Lower School
Abby Brody is an experienced teacher and grade head who has been Avenues’ head of third and fourth grades for the past two years. Before Avenues opened, she spent six months working with the school as a consultant, helping to design the Lower School curriculum. Prior to joining Avenues, she taught at the Allen-Stevenson School from 2003 to 2012, serving as both first grade and third grade head teacher. During that time, she also revamped the math and social studies curriculums for both grades, as well as working with students who were struggling with reading and writing.
Abby received a B.S. degree in developmental psychology from Duke University and also received North Carolina teaching certification for kindergarten through sixth grade. She also she received a Master’s of elementary special education from Bank Street College, where she focused on language disorders. She has also spent time traveling with the Shipboard Institute of Education, run by the University of Virginia. During the trips, she wrote curriculum for geography, culture and immigration, circumnavigating the globe. Visiting 18 different countries, she exchanged teaching principles and ideas with classroom teachers in each port visited.
Abby also holds leadership positions with a number of charities, founded a private non-profit Hebrew school and has received the Ludwig Jesserson award from the United Jewish Appeal of New York for work with autistic children. Abby grew up in Minnesota but moved when she was 10 to New York City, where she attended the Dalton School.
Director of School Culture and Student Success
With nearly 20 years experience working with the educational and mental health needs of individuals as a classroom teacher, curriculum developer, teacher educator and school psychologist, as well as through his private practice work in clinical and school psychology and neuropsychology, Dr. Topher Collier joins Avenues as the director of school culture and student success. Avenues’ chief psychologist, Topher leads the student success team and develops and oversees programs and services within the Avenues community that promote a positive school climate; support students’ learning, physical and mental health and wellness; and monitor the alignment between student progress and curriculum standards. He also provides leadership and direction to the advisory programs and supervises Avenues’ multidisciplinary team of specialists dedicated to fostering a strong foundation for school achievement and life success for each Avenues student.
Topher received his undergraduate degree in communications, theatre and English, with secondary education certification, from the University of Southern Indiana and received a Psy.D., ABSNP in professional child/school psychology from New York University, as well as a supplementary Master’s degree in child and school psychological services. He has received additional post-graduate training in mental health and school counseling with concentrations in gifted and talented youth, school neuropsychology and trauma and grief.
Following the completion of his doctorate and post-doctoral training, Topher was a staff psychologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, where he coordinated an after-school group therapy program for school-age children; provided individual and family therapy; completed psychological and neuropsychological assessments on children and adults; conducted psycho-educational workshops on cognitive and emotional development and common parenting concerns and issues; and helped train psychology fellows, interns and externs.
He has pursued his passion in the creative arts by consulting on a number of documentary film projects, including Travis (PBS); Just Another Kid and Turning Point: Reaching Out with a Helping Hand (Skyline Community) and others. He was the catalyst for Dyslexia-villewww.d-villeblog.com, an online community, web series and national awareness campaign launching in 2012.
Chief Technology Officer
Dirk DeLo joined Avenues in January 2012 as chief technology officer. He previously served as director of technology at Greenwich Academy (Greenwich, CT), where he spent over 10 years developing it into a school nationally recognized for its leading-edge technology.
Dirk is an educator and technology innovator. With more than 20 years of educational experience, he has taught English, mathematics, science, business and computer science in the U.S. and abroad and has been recognized as a Woodrow Wilson National Fellow in Mathematics. He also earned the Presidential Award for Mathematics and Science Teacher in CT and been named a GTE STEM Fellow. As an Apple Distinguished Educator, Dirk is fully invested in the critical need to develop interdisciplinary programs in grades pre-K through 12 and has accomplished this through extensive academic technology training for teachers and administrators.
For 11 years, he served on the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools Commission on Technology and chaired its efforts throughout the region for a term. Through coordinating statewide conferences and presenting at local, regional and national venues, Dirk has demonstrated his commitment to professional development for his colleagues. He has previously held positions at Westminster School and Ethel Walker School (both in Simsbury, CT), and he has been a consultant for a number of other schools and organizations.
Dirk received a B.A. degree in mathematics and English from Amherst College and three advanced degrees from Columbia University Teachers College: an M.A., an M.S. and a Ph.D., all in mathematics education.
Prior to the opening of school, Dirk focused on building a talented technology team, designing and implementing leading edge technology and infrastructure and providing resources to empower Avenues faculty to transform education using technology.
Soraya Diaz Tamayo
Director of Admissions
Soraya is Avenues’ director of admissions for the New York City campus. She has more than 20 years of experience in education, focusing primarily on college and independent school admissions, diversity recruitment and educational marketing and communications. Most recently she served as director of admissions at Avenues for Early Learning Center and Lower School. Before joining Avenues, she was associate director of Early Steps, Inc., a not-for-profit organization that counsels families with children of color through the process of applying to independent schools in New York City. Prior to that, Soraya led the admissions and enrollment functions for the mid-town division of the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, where she increased enrollment of students of color to more than 30 percent. At the college level, Soraya served as assistant director of admissions at Middlebury College, Williams College and New School University.
Soraya received her B.A. in sociology/anthropology and Spanish from Middlebury College and her M.A. in Spanish philology (culture, arts, language) from Middlebury College School in Spain. She has taught Spanish at both the elementary and high school levels, is multi-lingual, has lived in Spain, Germany and Israel and is a native of the Dominican Republic.
Academic Dean and Division Head: Upper School
Gardner Dunnan is highly regarded for his career in public and private education as a leader and creator of new schools. For 23 years Gardner was headmaster at the Dalton School, consistently recognized as one of the finest K-12 schools in Manhattan. During Gardner’s tenure, the school expanded facilities, created a department of student support services, and achieved national renown for its Dalton technology plan. Endowment, scholarships and faculty salaries were all increased dramatically.
Prior to joining Avenues, Gardner was associate provost at Columbia University for 10 years, during which he led many new initiatives, most significantly the planning and leading of The School at Columbia, a new K-8 school for children of Columbia faculty and children of the Columbia neighborhood.
Gardner has advised Avenues on educational and operational matters since its inception. Among his many duties in the coming year will be chairing our Admissions Committee.
Gardner is a graduate of Harvard College, with an M.Ed. in the teaching of science from Boston University and an Ed.D from the administrative career program at Harvard Graduate School of Education. Gardner has taught math and science in grades four to eight, and biology in high school. In addition to his career leading independent schools, Gardner was an administrator in the public schools of Shaker Heights, OH and superintendent of schools in Briarcliff Manor, NY.
Through the years Gardner has taught educational leadership at Teachers College, consulted to several projects launching new independent schools and charter schools in the public sector, and served on numerous boards and advisory committees. He is currently on the board of the Abraham Joshua Heschel School and on the advisory committee of St. Aloysius Catholic School in Harlem.
Division Head: Middle School
Elizabeth Hixson is an experienced educator and leader who for the past two years has been the head of Avenues’ Lower School. Prior to joining Avenues, Libby spent eight years leading the middle school division (grades four to eight) of the Dalton School in New York City. Her career at Dalton included five years as assistant director, as well as five years teaching in the lower school. At Dalton, Libby oversaw the hiring, evaluation, and professional development of 40 dedicated middle school faculty and more than 75 cross-divisional faculty. She led numerous curriculum revisions, notably in math and social studies, and was instrumental in creating Dalton’s middle school curriculum guide.
Before Dalton, Libby served as assistant director at the Rockefeller University Children's School, an international early childhood school serving Rockefeller’s academic faculty. She taught kindergarten and first grade there for more than 15 years.
Libby began her career teaching in the Peace Corps, where she taught elementary school in a village in Liberia. She received her undergraduate degree from Vassar College in history and economics, and following the Peace Corps attended Northwestern University, where she received her M.Ed. in arts in elementary education while teaching elementary school in the Chicago public schools.
Jennifer Inniss is Avenues’ athletic and physical education director. She was previously the athletic director at the United Nations International School of New York (UNIS), where she was the athletic director for five years, as well as a physical education teacher for grades 3-12 for two years before that. At UNIS, she was responsible for all aspects of the athletics program, including hiring all coaches and scheduling games, buses, athletic trainers and officials for 33 teams on two campuses.
Before working at UNIS, Jenn worked for three years at the American School of Lima/Colegio Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Lima, Peru, where she was responsible for physical and health education for grades 1-5 and 9-10. Prior to that, she worked for three years at Brookview Middle School in Toronto, Canada, where she taught the literacy enrichment academic program and core subjects in the seventh grade and was the head of health and physical education for sixth, seventh and eighth grades.
Jenn has also coached a number of sports—both girls’ and boys’ basketball teams, girls’ junior varsity volleyball team, and girls’ and boys’ track and field teams. An athlete herself, she participated in the same sports throughout her school career.
Jennifer has a B.A. from York University (Toronto, Ontario), with a double major in kinesiology and sociology and a bachelor of education degree from York University. She received an M.A. degree in secondary education from the University of Alabama and has additional training in both physical and health education and in English as a Second Language.
Head of School
Robert (“Skip”) Mattoon is a nationally and internationally distinguished leader of college preparatory schools who joined the Avenues team in 2010. From 1996 to 2007, he was head of The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut and prior to that, for fourteen years, dean of faculty and associate headmaster at Deerfield Academy.
During his leadership of Hotchkiss, Skip oversaw curriculum review, endowment growth, expansion of financial aid, application increases and numerous building projects. Particularly relevant to his position at Avenues, Skip was instrumental in making global citizenship and environmental stewardship top priorities at Hotchkiss.
After graduating from Deerfield and Dartmouth, Skip studied Latin American history, earning degrees from Tulane (M.A.) and Yale (Ph.D.) He was awarded both a Fulbright Fellowship and a Latin American Teaching Fellowship for his doctoral research in Sao Paulo, Brazil. While there, he held an assistantship at the University of São Paulo. Skip went on to teach at the University of Michigan and then to serve as associate director of the Latin American Area Center at the University of Arizona.
From 2007-2010, Skip was executive director of the Eight Schools Association, a group of New England boarding schools that includes Andover, Choate Rosemary Hall, Deerfield, Exeter, Hotchkiss, Lawrenceville, Northfield Mount Hermon and St. Paul’s. He is currently a board member of the American Secondary Schools for International Students and Teachers (ASSIST) and is a past trustee of Deerfield Academy. Skip is a member of the Headmasters Association and serves on the international advisory board of the Y. K. Pao School in Shanghai.
Pursuant to his interest in the practice of education in cultures around the world, over the past decade Skip has visited schools and students in Bulgaria, China, the Czech Republic, England, France, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Hungary, Italy, Kenya, Moldova, Portugal, South Africa, South Korea and Thailand.
Director of External Affairs
Liane has been involved with private schools for many years as parent, president of a parent association, admissions associate and director of admissions. Most recently, she has been a private consultant specializing in non-profits.
Before becoming a consultant, Liane spent four years as the director of admissions at the Browning School (New York), where she oversaw enrollment management, student assessment and financial aid. Earlier, she was the admissions associate and ongoing schools advisor at the International Preschools (New York City); she had previously been president of the IPS parent association.
A graduate of the Brearley School and Brown University (Providence, RI), where she majored in art history and Italian studies, Liane has a law degree from Columbia University and practiced law for a number of years. She became interested in schools when she was a parent at the International Preschools.
As director of external affairs, Liane will be undertaking a number of strategic projects for the school, as well as overseeing the school’s relationship with the Avenues Parent Association.
Liane is conversant in Italian and French. She has traveled extensively in Europe, Asia and Africa and enjoys horseback riding and cooking.
Division Head: Early Learning Center
Nancy Schulman is one of the country’s most prominent and highly regarded early childhood educators, leaders and authors. Before joining Avenues, she was the director of the 92nd Street Y Nursery School for more than 20 years and has been involved in independent schools in New York City for more than 30 years. Under Nancy’s leadership, the 92nd Street Y Nursery School was consistently regarded as among New York City’s very finest nursery and pre-k programs, building a national and international reputation in the process.
Before the 92nd Street Y, Nancy was the admissions director and a teacher at Horace Mann Lower School in New York from 1973 to 1990. Nancy served on the ISAAGNY (Independent Schools Admissions Association of Greater New York) board from 1984 to 2011 and was co-editor of the New York Independent Schools Directory. She served on the NYU Child Study Center Education advisory board and is on the Syracuse University School of Education advisory board.
Nancy received a B.S. in elementary education from Syracuse University and an M.A. in early childhood and elementary education from New York University. She is the co-author of Practical Wisdom for Parents: Demystifying the Preschool Years (Knopf, July 2007).
Nancy views herself an educator of parents, teachers and children. She loves to work in an environment where “imagination and intellect flourish” and believes “there is no more important time in the life of a family than the first five years.”