Faculty and Staff » English Language Arts

English Language Arts

Libby Cox, ELA Department Leader  — Ms. Cox is from Litchfield, Connecticut – birthplace of Harriet Beecher Stowe and the site of America’s first law school. Following her graduation from Yale, Ms. Cox worked as a writer and editor before joining the Peace Corps and serving as an education volunteer in Madagascar. After completing her Masters in Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, she taught at an alternative public high school outside of Boston and the Rabat American School in Morocco. Ms. Cox lives to travel and teach.


Anastasia Arikidis, ELL Specialist and ELA Teacher — Ms. Arikidis grew up in a tiny town of Greece near the Turkish border. She came to the US to study when she was 17 years old. She attended the Indiana University of Pennsylvania where she graduated with a BA in English Language Studies. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Teaching English to Students of Other Languages at CUNY Hunter College. She began teaching in Harlem during 2014 and later transitioned to Brooklyn. Ms. Arikidis is fluent in four languages and she passionately practices an Afro-Brazilian martial art called capoeira.


Trevor Baumgartner, ELA Teacher  Mr. Baumgartner grew up in and around Seattle, WA. He worked his way through two years of Community College, before completing a BA in Literature at Seattle Pacific University, where he learned to love literature. After graduating, he taught English in South Korea. He would return to the US and settle in Oakland/Berkeley, CA, where he taught with, and was mentored by the late poet June Jordan. He started his teaching career in 2002 at IS 296/Halsey Middle School (RIP), and has taught nearly every subject imaginable.


Alexa Catao, ELA Teacher —  Ms. Catao grew up in the sunshine of South Florida, but feels like a New Englander at heart. Since attending undergraduate at Amherst College in western Massachusetts, she has had the privilege to teach in the communities of New Haven, CT, Providence, RI, and Somerville/Boston, MA. Somewhere along the way, she got her Masters in Teaching Secondary English at Brown University, and served as the Director of Humanities/ Secondary Content on staff at Teach for America, Connecticut. She is a dual citizen of US and Brazil, so she will probably speak Portuguese when she attempts to speak Spanish. She has a soft-spot for New Haven pizza, her dog Olive, and chocolate ice cream.


Nadhia Cotton, Special Education Teacher — Ms. Fernandez is a born and raised Brooklyn resident (YERR!) A graduate from University of Wisconsin-Madison, she attended Hunter College for her Master’s of Science in Adolescent Special Education. She loves to serve at her local church where she mentors young teenagers and also sings at the church services. In her spare time, she is often eating french fries.


Sydney Jenkins, ELA Teacher Ms. Jenkins was born in Montgomery, New Jersey, but currently lives in Clinton Hill. She majored in Psychology at Harvard University, then received her Master’s in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Throughout college, Ms. Jenkins was a Director of a public service organization called Phillips Brooks House Association, where she ran summer and after school programming for youth in Boston. Before MESA, she taught middle school ELA and Social Studies in Brownsville and Bushwick. She loves going to concerts, traveling with her friends, and curling up with her adorable rescue pit bull Mochi.


Maureen O'Brien, ELA Teacher —  Ms. O’Brien is from Minneapolis, Minnesota birth place of Prince and land of 10,000 lakes. After she graduated from McGill University in Montreal, Ms. O’Brien worked for several years in advertising in Manhattan. A lifelong learner, she has attended literature courses at University of Oxford, and received a Masters in Education from Brown University. Back in New York, she can be found playing basketball on the Canal Street courts with her team or biking around Brooklyn (always with a helmet).


Tara Ridgedell, ELL Coorindator — Ms. Ridgedell is from Atlanta, GA where she attended Georgia State University and received her undergraduate degree in International Studies. She then worked in Kenya for a Women’s Rights organization, traveling throughout the country to inform women of their rights and conducting peace and reconciliation talks. She then decided to return to GSU to get her Master’s Degree in Reading, Language, and Literacy. She has taught ESL in both Atlanta and NYC and especially loves it when students’ moms bring her food. In her free time she runs a small graphic design and screen-printing business, goes to music shows, and eats all the tacos. 

Stephanie Sun, Writing and Literacy Teacher — Ms. Sun is originally from Princeton, New Jersey, and holds an English Literature degree from NYU and a MAT from Relay Graduate School of Education. She was the founding English teacher of Domus Academy, an alternative school in New Haven, and has taught ELA at Harlem Village Academies as well as Achievement First Brownsville Middle School. While not grading essays, she is eating her way through the city and practicing ukulele.


Audrey White, Reading Culture Coordinator and ELA Teacher — Ms. White is originally from Portland, Oregon, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in English from Portland State University. After moving to New York in 2013, she earned her Master of Arts in English Education at Columbia University Teachers College. Before joining MESA, Ms. White taught abroad in Sichuan, China. In her free time, she enjoys riding her bike, jamming on ukulele, and playing feather-stick with her cat.