Easton Country Day School

Praxis ● Community ● Responsibility ● Integrity


Who We Are

Easton Country Day School is a small, coed private school for grades Pre-K through 12.  We cultivate a caring and supportive atmosphere that fosters social and emotional growth along with academic dexterity.  Set on ten acres in a wooded area in central Easton, our grounds include a lovely playground, athletic fields, and a large, well appointed building with space for all types of learning experiences.

ECDS_SchoolOur strong academics are vertically integrated, allowing individuals to progress at their own speed (instead of being confined in one-size-fits-all, age-determined grade levels).  Our graduates are consistently accepted into all of the area’s competitive private high schools and boarding schools.  Those who choose public high schools are generally placed in honors classes.

More importantly, our students grow into emotionally secure and socially capable adolescents.  That’s because an ECDS education involves small classes, plenty of adult interaction, and formal programs that encourage constructive relationships.  Our unusually low 5:1 student-to-teacher ratio permits ECDS faculty to keep a watchful eye on all of the children.  We intervene at the first hint of risky social behavior, and handsomely reward the earliest expressions of integrity.

In keeping with our whole-family approach, ECDS offers Pre-School classes for ages 2 years and up, and daycare for ages 3 months and up.


ECDS_School 2Easton Country Day School is situated on a quiet, beautiful property just across from the Library.  Our large classrooms are bright and cheerfully decorated, while our grounds include an intricate playground and expansive athletic fields.  ECDS facilities provide an excellent backdrop for a diverse and fulfilling elementary school education.

Feel free to schedule a tour!  Please call 203.268.5530.


Easton Country Day School is a private co-educational school for Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 12.  Formerly Phoenix Academy, ECDS was founded by educators who wanted the best possible academic and social foundation for their own children.  Their vision was a safe and loving learning environment where the values taught at home were echoed and strengthened.  Today, we help all our students develop towards their full academic, moral, creative and physical potential in an atmosphere that fosters respect and loving-kindness.

Mission Statement

Easton Country Day School promotes excellence in academic achievement in the context of our motto “Responsibility, Integrity, Community – Praxis.” We cultivate mutual respect and kindness in a multicultural environment where we encourage the development of competent, caring, and responsible citizens.


ECDS Riding

Easton Country Day School has received the following commendations from the State Board of Education.  We are commended for:  1) Our warm and nurturing environment, both in the physical plant and in the interactions of students and adults, 2) Our attention to individual academic needs through our integrated studies and multi-age groupings,  3) Our pro-active commitment to creating and maintaining a multicultural community,  and 4) The dedication and efficiency of the Directors, and their commitment to carrying out the mission of the school.

We accomplish our mission by:

  • Maintaining small classes where children receive plenty of individual attention (we have an unusually low 5:1 student-to-teacher ratio).
  • Employing highly qualified and dedicated teachers whose exceptional skill and empathy allows them to teach by example as well as expertise.
  • Vertically integrating studies, and teaching classes with a hands-on, problem solving approach.
  • Setting and maintaining standards of conduct that promote personal responsibility in an active partnership with parents.
  • Attracting a multicultural community full of talents capable of responding to a varied and challenging academic experience.
  • Providing a nonsectarian spiritual environment where parents and children are encouraged to honor their own beliefs.

Here at ECDS, parents and teachers work together to raise competent, caring, responsible human beings as we celebrate our differences and encourage each child to strive for personal excellence.

Easton Country Day is accredited by New England Association of Schools and Colleges.


Easton Country Day School was founded in 1993 by a group of parents who were also educators.  Led by Mrs. Jody Smith and Mrs. Martha Townson, these parents were looking for an alternative education for their own children.  They envisioned a place where classes would be based on ability rather than just age, where individual attention was the norm, and where integrity and responsibility were part of the fabric of daily life.

Their vision, originally called Phoenix Academy, opened its doors in Fairfield, Connecticut.  As word of mouth spread the news, the school began to grow by leaps and bounds.   Students here were receiving a remarkably well-rounded and individually structured elementary education, scoring high on their standardized tests, and being accepted into the area’s most competitive private high schools.  Teachers and parents from all over the area began to knock on the school’s doors.

Mrs. Townsend moved out of state, and in 1995, founding parent Mrs. Suellen Inwood stepped in to take her place.  Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Inwood remain the Directors today.

The young school was growing rapidly, and as the years passed it finally outgrew the smaller and older building where it had begun.  By 2005, the opportunity to move to a lovely and well-equipped building in Easton presented itself.  The move enabled the school to have physical facilities of a quality that matched its educational offerings.  The new building was also large enough to allow expansion into many new areas, including a specialized Gifted Program, a multitude of enrichment activities, and a Pre-School and Day Care Center.

As part of an ongoing commitment to familiarize our students with public service and community involvement, the school immediately sought to become engaged and involved with the Easton community.  We are delighted to have become an integral part of our small, beautiful town, and we are celebrating all that our school has become with a changing of our name.  We are proud to be known today as Easton Country Day School.


Mrs. Jody Smith


Mrs. Smith received her B.A. in Liberal Arts from Marymount College, Tarrytown, and her M.A. in Education at Fairfield University.  She holds Connecticut certification in Biology, Chemistry, General Science and History.  She taught Science, Math and History at St. James School in Stratford and at New Haven Hebrew Day in Orange, and Upper School Science at the Unquowa School. She is the founder of Easton Country Day School and the mother of two of our earliest graduates. She teaches Physics, Chemistry, History and Math to the middle school.


Mrs. Suellen Inwood

suellen inwood_200pxDirector, Individualized Program Coordinator

Mrs. Inwood earned her Bachelor’s degree in Communication Disorders/Learning Disabilities at Northwestern University and her Master’s in Education for Pre-K – 12 at Southern Connecticut.  She is a founding parent and one of the school’s two administrators.  Her thirty years of teaching experience includes Pre-School at Cooperative Educational Services and numerous grades at Fairfield public schools.  She has apprenticed and worked with Dr. Donaldson in Original Play for over 25 years, Lynn Meltzer in Executive Function and  specializes in Sensory Integration for home, work and classroom.


Rebecca Soule
Rebecca Soule_150

Guidance Counselor

Rebecca graduated from Post University with a Bachelor’s degree in Equine Business Management, and received a Master’s degree from Fairfield University for School Counseling and is a National Certified Counselor.  She is also EAGALA certified – a certification for equine learning and therapy.  She has been with ECDS for 3 years. She is an 8th grade graduate of ECDS.


Michelle Bailey-Hocker
Michelle Hocker_150

Praesto Preparatory Program Director

Michelle earned a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology  from Manhattanville College and a Master’s Degree in Education from Sacred Heart University.  She is enrolled in the administrative program at Sacred Heart University. She has taught grades one through six throughout the past thirteen years.   Currently she is the head teacher and the program director for Praesto Prep, and the director of June School and the July summer program.


Wendy Shambra-Katragadda
Pre-School & Day Care Director

Wendy Shambra-Katragadda is a graduate of the University of Southern California with a BS degree in Accounting and Business Administration.  She worked many years as a business consultant.  When her oldest child arrived she became very interested in early childhood development and enrolled in graduate classes in education.  She joined ECDS as a parent in 2001 and established our pre-school and daycare program in 2005.  She has taught our two year old class and for the past nine years has also been the managing director of Little Phoenix, our pre-school and daycare.  Wendy emphasizes loving kindness in her work and in our preschool and daycare.  She is the mother of four children, all of whom attended ECDS.


Tricia Bobowick
High School English & History

Tricia has been a high school Social Studies teacher for 17 years. She worked at Nonnewaug High School in Woodbury and then came to ECDS in 2009.


Ben Catanzaro

Ben has earned his BA in Psychology from Sacred Heart University and his Master’s in IT as well.  He is an IT professional for small to medium sized businesses all over Connecticut starting in 2001.  He has been at ECDS since 2012.


Meagan Clark 
Meagan Clark_150

Grades  3/4

Meagan Clark was born in Cape Town, South Africa, and immigrated to the United States at 24. She attended the University of the Western Cape, and took her Bachelors Degree in Education before moving to the US. She earned her Masters in Elementary Education at Mercy College, in Dobbs Ferry, NY. This is her 10th year at ECDS.





Patrick Cosgrove

Latin, High School English, History

In 1969, Patrick Cosgrove came to America after his first teaching job in Scotland. He has been ornamenting private school faculties around the world ever since—in Bahrain, Kenya, Iran, Germany and Britain. With a Licentiate in ESL, a performance background in classical piano, a BA cum laude from Columbia University in English and Writing and a post-graduate Fellowship thereafter, he brings passion to both his teaching and his students.



Elizabeth Bufano
Liz Dehler_150

Grades 5/6

Liz earned her BA in Fashion Merchandising at Philadelphia University, and her Master’s Degree in Education from The University of Bridgeport. She taught at Westport public schools before having her children.  She has been at Easton Country Day School, for nine years.




Anthony Delmoro
Anthony Delmoro_150px

Teaching Assistant

Anthony has been with ECDS for 5 years now. He co-teaches in the elementary level classrooms. I attended Southern Connecticut St. for exercise science and am taking courses at an online university for elementary education.



Mrs. Patti Gabriele
Executive Function, 7/8 Literature, Language Arts, Algebra I

Patti earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Marketing at Eastern CT State University.  She worked at Pitney Bowes as a Marketing Assistant for 7 years.  She worked in Special Education for Region 14 for five years before joining the staff at Easton Country Day School teaching Executive Function, Algebra, Literature and Writing.  She was trained and certified in Executive Function at Harvard University.  This is her fifth year at ECDS.


Oscar Gomez 
Oscar Gomez_150

Physical Education, Bushcraft

Oscar Gomez is our Physical Education and Bushcraft teacher. He has been working with kids for over 10 years and specializes in getting kids moving and being active. He is a 2nd degree black belt and has been studying Karate, kickboxing and self-defense for over 16 years. Nature and the outdoors has always been his passion, from woodworking to camping and primitive skills, which he shares in his Bushcraft class.


Begona Gonzalez 

Begona Gonzalez is a native from Spain. She lived in Spain for over 25 years. She has been teaching at Easton Country Day School for 18 years. She is the Spanish teacher for students in the preschool through the high school. She received her education in Ondarroa, Spain. In addition to her teaching experience, she also has a background in working with the Department of Education in Milford, Connecticut.


Cory Hocker 
cory hocker_150

Praesto Preparatory

Cory Hocker earned his B.A. in English from Virginia Wesleyan College and his certification in teaching English as a Foreign Language from EBC TOEFL School in Madrid, Spain. He has been teaching in wide variety of roles at Easton Country Day School since 2006.




Deborah Kelly  
Deborah Kelly_150

Grades 1 & 2

Deborah Grace Kelly has been teaching for the past 20 years and 8 of them have been at ECDS. She holds a BA in Education and Psychology from Wagner College, as we as an art degree from the New England School of Art and Design.  Deborah has taught in a variety of schools around the country including the Friends’ School in Philadelphia.



Laura Lennon

Laura Lennon_150

High School Art, Praesto Preparatory

Laura Lennon received her B.S. in Art Education from Central Connecticut State University and is presently working towards an M.A. in Photography from Savannah College of Art and Design. She is Connecticut certified and has been working at Easton Country Day School for the past 7 years. She is currently the Art Teacher in our High School and works with Praesto Prep.



Marie Luna 
Marie Luna_150px


Marie Luna received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at San Diego State University.  She has been working with special needs children since 2004. She got her Masters in Childhood Education and Special Education at Mercy College in 2007. In 2014, she trained in Arrownsmith, which is an educational program based on the principals of neuroplasticity.  She is now a certified Arrowsmith teacher at ECDS and working with students who engage in cognitive exercises to permanently strengthen their learning capacities.


Dr. Kimberly McMullan
Dr. Kimberly McMullan_150

6th Grade & High School Earth Science

Kimberly McMullan teaches Earth Science at the sixth grade and high school levels.  She earned both her Bachelors and Masters from Brandeis University.  She received her DC from New York Chiropractic College.  Outside of school, she also works with children therapeutically as a Neurofeedback practitioner in Westport.  This is her third year teaching science at ECDS.


Peter Rennert 
Peter Rennert_150

Original Play Specialist

Peter graduated from Stanford University in 1980 with a degree in Psychology.  He went on to become a professional tennis player and was ranked as high as #9 in the world.  He became a teacher in 1990 and began his training in Original Play in 2001 with Dr. O. Fred Donaldson.  He has been the original play person at ECDS for the last 12 years.  He is the founder of The Effortless Way, which is a precise, enjoyable, and sustainable process that teaches people how to optimize learning in whatever field they wish to master. Peter’s son Noah spent 10 years learning at ECDS and graduated with high honors and the Directors Award. He is now a senior at Hopkins School in New Haven.


Nancy Shufelt 
Nancy Shufelt_150


Nancy has been our kindergarten teacher since 1998. She graduated from CCSU where she received her BS in Art Education PreK -12. She was selected as a member to the International Honor Society in Education; Kappa Delta Pi. She previously taught as head teacher at St. Paul’s Nursery School in Fairfield, CT., and was the Educational Art Director /Liaison for the B.O.C.E.S School Services in Westchester, N.Y. Nancy has training in Brain Gym, Lindamood-Bell and Barton Reading.


Casey Skillins 
Casey Skillins_150

Math Specialist

Casey Skillins has her Masters degree in Special Education. She is also certified to teach mindfulness to children. She has spent the past twelve years teaching children of all ages, in all subjects, in various school settings.  She has a deep love of learning, and especially loves learning about math, the human brain, health and wellness, and nature.



Tracy Tritchonis 
Tracy Tritchonis_150

Grades 7 & 8 English, Writing, High School English

Tracy Tritchonis earned her bachelor’s degree in Art History at the University of Michigan. After a career in advertising production she attended Fairfield University and earned her Masters in Education. Tracy joined the staff of ECDS in 2006.




Jodi Ullmann 
Jodi Ullmann_150


Education: BA Franklin and Marshall, Masters in Education: American University
Jodi taught for six years in Montgomery County, MD, and has taught for 9 years at ECDS.




Silva Vassileva_150Silva Vassileva

Music Teacher K-12

Silva earned her B.A and M.A. in Music Education K-12 from the University of Bridgeport, Connecticut. She has been teaching music K-8 at ECDS for the last 4 years, emphasizing on developing students’ musical talents and staging annual musicals. She has a rich international education background and has been working privately with students of all ages in voice and piano. She believes that “A child who sings is a happy child”!

Our Philosophy

Vertical Integration

Classes at ECDS are vertically integrated to expose students to new material based on academic preparedness rather than just age. An excellent education is not one size fits all. With this in mind, we seek to form the educational process around the child – not the other way around.

Traditional grade levels are, at best, only an approximation of where any given child might actually be in his or her academic growth.   Easton Country Day School more accurately designs each individual child’s evolving academic experience by utilizing vertical integration.

ECDS HS Pic9 052417Vertical integration involves the deliberate mixing of ages in the classroom. In these classrooms, younger children have the opportunity to experience peer instruction, which provides them with a different “slant” on the material they are learning. Older children have the chance to cement their understanding and glimpse the natural progression by explaining material to others.

Vertical integration also allows us to adapt an individual’s academic experience to his strengths and progress. For example, classes such as math are taught at the same time of day to all grade levels. This means that a child who is on par for his age in most material, but advanced in math, can simply attend a more advanced math class without being taken out of grade level or having his friendships jeopardized. Likewise, a child who needs to spend more time with grade level math may do so without interfering in his academic progression.   These types of adaptations are, by design, a natural and ubiquitous part of life at ECDS. They are considered quite ordinary and routine by students and teachers alike.


Fine Arts

It’s hard to overestimate the importance of developing a child’s artistic skill and creativity.  ECDS students take art classes twice a week, and additional classes are available for children who are gifted in this area.  Our teachers, naturally, plaster the walls with the children’s voluminous work.  Students participate in many contests in and around Connecticut, and have been very successful in their entries.  We gather many of their pieces together for our annual art show, a favorite occasion for all.

The ability to communicate in other languages is an important skill, and a powerful way to open one’s own mind to different thought patterns. In this ever shrinking world, moreover, familiarity with other prevalent languages is a must.  Students of all ages, even our Pre-Schoolers, get regular Spanish instruction.  Grades K-12 have class several times a week.  Our Spanish program promotes appreciation of Hispanic heritage, and helps students gain knowledge and understanding of the culture, through instruction in the Spanish language.  This is achieved through age appropriate activities such as songs, games, and writing. By grades 3 and 4, Spanish is spoken exclusively in the classroom, and all students respond in the language.  ECDS graduates usually find their transition to high school language courses easy, and in fact are often ahead of the curve.

Additional Foreign Languages

Students in Grades 5 and up have the option of taking Latin, French and/or Mandarin in addition to or in place of Spanish.


In our school-wide emphasis on the fine arts, drama is a particular favorite.  We produce two major performances each year, at least one of which is a musical.  All grades from Kindergarten up are included, and all children who wish to participate are given parts.  Our Drama department provides a wonderful opportunity for parents to get involved by working on costumes, scenery and lighting.  Students in grades 5 through 8 may choose whether to participate.


Everybody loves music!  All students at ECDS take vocal music twice a week, and have the opportunity to take individual lessons on many instruments.  As part of our emphasis on the arts, the music department works directly with the drama department on our two big productions in December and May.   The entire student body participates in both.


In this busy day and age, it is growing ever harder to find time to sit with children for a meal (much less spend the time speaking to them about which fork to use).   We equip our children to succeed in the public and/or formal social situations they will inevitably encounter.  ECDS offers a class for each grade, each week, on proper table manners and conversation.  The class culminates with a trip to a nice restaurant to practice their skills in public.

As ECDS believes all students should develop a comfort level speaking to large groups, either Public Speaking or Debate is required.

Public Speaking

This course teaches important beginning skills such as rising from a chair and approaching the podium, to visually scanning the audience to engage them non-verbally while speaking, as well as proper hand position, posture, and much more while speaking. Helping students to gain the confidence to speak to the group and become effective speakers by honing their personal styles is a predominant focus of this class.


Optional for Grades 5-8, meets weekly to formally discuss and debate current topics.

Track and Field

An optional P.E. course for those who do not wish to take Debate.


Physical education at ECDS focuses on building the basics of athleticism – individual confidence and team spirit. Our process promotes endurance, strength, flexibility, balance, and expanding awareness.  We start with the fundamentals – running the track efficiently by coordinating our breathing with our stride. We move on to various jumping rope exercises for dexterity, then to manipulating an obstacle course.  We do strength work on the rings, balance work on the beams, and endurance work on the track.  Our kids do a lot of running!  We then hold activities like Capture the Flag to work on teamwork, strategy, perception, and competitive cooperation.

In addition to Physical Education, we also maintain a variety of organized teams.  We want our children to find their sport(s) and develop a lifelong love of the game!

  • Basketball team:  ECDS plays against other small area schools.
  • Archery:  This old world skill is a favorite!
  • Soccer:  Intramural soccer is a spring and fall favorite.
  • Softball:  All children in Grades 3 and up are encouraged to play.
  • Tennis:  Individual lessons from a world ranked tennis pro are available.
  • Track & Field:  All children from Grades 1 and up utilize our lovely fields.

We are privileged to have 10 acres with soccer field, softball field, a half mile track, as well as an elaborate playground complex. Our full sized gymnasium is a state-of-the-art facility.