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.
Our 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.
Easton 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.
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.
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.
Jody Smith – Director, 7th/8th Science & History
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. Mrs. Smith has over forty years of teaching experience. 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, Biology and History to the middle school.
Suellen Inwood – Director, 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 directors. Her thirty three 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.
Robert Marchionni – Asst. Director Lower School/STEM
Rob has a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education from Iona College. He also has STEM teaching certification from Columbia Teachers College. Rob has taught for over 13 years and is the Director of a sports camp in Greenwich during the summer. He has been with ECDS for 2 years.
Matthew Morse – High School Director
Matthew Morse began his Teaching career over 20 years ago. He holds a Master’s Degree in Special Education and a BA in Psychology from Southern Connecticut State University. Mr. Morse is also certified in Special Education K-12. During his career he spent 12 years with Eagle Hill, Southport as a Special Education Teacher and Head Sports Coach. He also spent time as a Special Education Teacher with Fairfield Warde High School and Bedford Middle School in Westport. Mr. Morse joined ECDS as Director of Special Education for the ECDS High School and is now the Director of ECDS High School.
Rebecca Soule – Asst. High School Director, 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 6 years. She is an 8th grade graduate of ECDS.
Ilka Neunteufel – Administration, German
Ilka received her MA in Counseling and Community Psychology from Marist College. She has worked at Sylvan Learning as a Math, Study Skills and SAT tutor. Later she worked as a Director of Assessment and Director of Education at Sylvan Learning. For the last couple of years, she has been lucky enough to work in an office, where every day brings a new adventure.
Casey Skillins – Math Specialist, Administration
Casey Skillins has her Master’s degree in Special Education. She is also certified to teach mindfulness to children. She has spent the past fifteen 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.
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.
Nancy Shufelt – Kindergarten
Nancy has been our kindergarten teacher since 1998. She graduated from CCSU where she received her BS in Art Education Pre-K -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.
Deborah Grace Kelly – Grades 1/2
Deborah has been a teacher at ECDS since 2005. She holds a degree in Education and Psychology from Wagner College, as well as a degree in Interior Architecture from The New England School of Art and Design. Deborah has taught in a variety of schools, including Friends Select in Philadelphia, PA.
Marcia Kaufmann – Grades 3/4
Marcia earned her B.A. in Communications from the University of New Hampshire and her Masters of Elementary Education from Sacred Heart University. She worked in international business before she had her children and returned to earn her Masters of Education with a concentration in Educational Technology. Marcia was trained and worked in the Trumbull Public School District for 8 years. This is her second year at ECDS.
Melissa Miranda – Grades 5/6
Melissa has been a teacher for the past 11 years. She was a Reading Interventionist at the Bridgeport Public Schools for two years and has recently returned to Easton Country Day School. She was a teacher at ECDS for ten years in which she taught third and fourth grade homeroom as well as fifth and sixth grade math. Melissa received her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, Connecticut. She also received her Master’s degree in Elementary Education from the University of Bridgeport in Bridgeport, Connecticut. She currently holds a Professional Educator’s Certification through the state of Connecticut. In addition to her elementary background, she has had experiences as head teacher in preschools and daycares as well as assuming the role of assistant camp director. Melissa is an avid sports fanatic as well as a passionate educator.
Elizabeth Bufano – 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 eleven years.
Dr. Kimberly McMullan – 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 has also worked with children therapeutically as a Neurofeedback practitioner in Westport. This is her 6th year teaching science at ECDS.
Anthony Delmoro – Grades 7/8
Anthony is in his 8th year at ECDS. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Education from Ashford University. He teaches Writing, Literature, and Pre-Algebra for our 7th and 8th graders. He also coordinates a track and field/running club program here at ECDS.
Katrina Pesta – 7th & 8th Grade English & Literature, Special Education
Katrina earned her B.A. in history and psychology from the University of MA- Amherst in 2012. She then went on to receive a Masters in Elementary Education from Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, AZ. Katrina holds a CT Teaching Certification in Elementary Education grades 1-6. Before her time at ECDS she worked as a long term substitute at North Mianus School in Greenwich, CT and taught 2nd grade at St. Ann Academy in Bridgeport, CT for 2 years. She is currently enrolled at Fairfield University working towards a Masters in Special Education and her dual certification.
Tracy Tritchonis – Grades 7 & 8 English, Writing, and 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 Master’s in Education. Tracy joined the staff of ECDS in 2006.
Wendy Lilya – K-8 Art
Wendy Lilya earned her bachelors in Art education K-12 that she received from Nazareth College in Rochester N.Y. After teaching in the New York school system for a few years she moved to Connecticut. She has been teaching art at our school for 17 years.
Begona Gonzalez – Spanish
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 21 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.
I-an Kong – Mandarin
I-an earned her Bachelor’s degree in Corporate Communications at Southern Connecticut State University. She taught at Christian Heritage School in Trumbull, CT and The Chinese Language School of Fairfield County. This is her eighth year teaching and her fifth year at Easton Country Day School. I-an’s other role at school is to supervise and assist International students.
Michelle Hocker – Praesto Prep 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.
Cory Hocker – Praesto Prep
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.
Justin Garfunkel – Praesto Prep
Justin has been with ECDS since 2016. He graduated from Sacred Heart University with a Master’s in Education in 2011. He worked for 4 in the Norwalk Public School district for 4 years, and spent one year as a 7th/8th grade social studies teacher in the Bridgeport Public School district.
Laura Lennon – High School Art, Administration
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.
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.
Patrick Cosgrove – Latin, High School English, Kulturney
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.
Anita Holtz – High School English
Anita R. Holtz is our high school English teacher. She earned a B.S. from Pennsylvania State University, an M.S. in Criminal Justice, an M.S. in School Counseling, and an advanced graduate degree in psychology. In her previous employment in public high schools, she was named a highly qualified educator with a specialty for teaching college and real-world writing skills. She was an adjunct professor at the University of New Haven and a graduate school professor at the University of Hartford. Prior to her employment at ECDS, she worked as a pre-college consultant, private tutor, and a marketing proofreader for a Fortune 500 company. She delights in returning to the classroom where her career began in 1970, an affirmation of her love for teaching high school students.
Grekim Jennings – Science 7-12
Grekim graduated with a B.S. in Biology from Fairfield
University. He later returned to study physics and became a member of the physics honors society. He is currently working on a graduate degree in mathematics. At Fairfield he was active in projects destined for the CERN collider, computer simulations of particles orbiting Jupiter, and using optical techniques to identify cancer cells. He has taught at ECDS since 2013.
Reed Trzaski – High School Math & Science
Reed received his degree in Kinesiology in 2009 from SCSU and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree. He has taught at ECDS for 3 years.
Ben Catanzaro – IT/Technology
Ben earned his BA in Psychology from Sacred Heart University and his Master’s in IT as well. He is an IT professional for small and medium sized businesses all over Connecticut for 10 years. He has been at ECDS for 5 years.
Oscar Gomez – Physical Education, Bushcraft
Oscar Gomez is our Physical Education and Bushcraft teacher. He has been working with kids for over 15 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.
Peter Rennert – Original Play Specialist
Peter has been the Original Play Specialist since at ECDS since he began his apprenticeship with Dr. O. Fred Donaldson in 2001. He has been teaching the Math Olympiads since 2011. Peter graduated from Stanford University in 1980 with a degree in Psychology before going on to become a professional tennis player who was ranked as high as #9 in the world. After his tennis career ended Peter was an actor, writer, director and producer for 10 years before settling in on his true vocation as a teacher. In 1995 Peter developed The Effortless Life Operating System or TELOS™. TELOS™ is a simple 3-step process that can be applied to anything in order to master it in an enjoyable and sustainable way. Peter’s son Noah spent 10 years learning at ECDS and graduated with high honors and the Directors Award. He is now a sophomore at Washington University in St. Louis and is majoring in chemical engineering.
Barbara Stuart-Distinti – Drama
Barbara teaches drama at Easton Country Day School. She received her MFA in Theatre Performance from the University of Pittsburgh, BA from West Chester University and is a member of SAG and AEA. Regional theatre credits include Two Gentlemen of Verona, Cymbeline, Tartuffe, Othello, Evita, A Funny Thing…Forum, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Pirates of Penzance. She is also the director of Acting Up Theater Company – an adaptive drama program for young performers of all abilities.
Jodi Ullmann – Drama
Jodi earned her BA at Franklin and Marshall, and her Masters in Education: American University.
Jodi taught for six years in Montgomery County, MD, and has taught for 9 years at ECDS.
Silva 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-12 at ECDS for the last 6 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”!
Meagan Clark – Arrowsmith
Meagan Clark was born in Cape Town, South Africa and has been living in the United States for more than 20 years. She has been with Easton Country Day School for 14 years. She’s taught grades 3 and 4 for 12 years, and has recently embarked on a new journey into the Arrowsmith Program where she works with students to strengthen their learning capabilities.
Marie Luna – Arrowsmith
Marie Luna received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at San Diego State University. She received her Masters in Childhood Education and Special Education at Mercy College. In 2014, Marie became certified to teach Arrowsmith, which is a cognitive program based on the principles of neuroplasticity. She has been an Arrowsmith teacher at ECDS since 2014, working with students who engage in cognitive exercises to permanently strengthen their learning capacities.
Kate West – Arrowsmith
Kate graduated from Lesley College in Cambridge in 1994 with a B.S. in Elementary Education. She is a certified Arrowsmith Program cognitive teacher and has been teaching the Arrowsmith Program since 2011. Kate relocated from PA in 2015 to teach at ECDS. She is also a Wilson Reading Program teacher.
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.
Vertical 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.
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.
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.