Leadership Team



Christina Reyes, Founder & Executive Director

Christina founded Inwood Academy in 2009. She successfully lobbied for a change in New York State law allowing the school to give preference in the application lottery to students who speak English as a second language. Today, the school continues to reserve 50% of enrollment each year for English Language Learners, and she and her co-founders have built a differentiated learning environment and community-based school culture that serves the distinct needs of each and every member of the student body. Christina holds a Bachelor's degree in Secondary English and a Master's degree in Educational Leadership from Columbia University's Teachers College, and has four years of classroom experience teaching 6th through 8th grades in Inwood and Washington Heights. She has worked as an educational specialist for World Vision, an international non-profit organization working towards community development in New York City. Christina lives in Washington Heights with her husband, Edward Reyes, a New York City Police Officer, and their children, Anne and Seth.

Jenny Pichardo, Chief Operating Officer/Chief Financial Officer

Jenny joins Inwood Academy from the International Leadership Charter High School (ILCHS). At ILCHS she secured a $17.5 municipal bond financing for a new facility, becoming the first NYC charter school to secure funding through Build NYC. Prior to joining the charter community, Jenny worked in the financial sector for over 14 years. She began her Wall Street career in 1997, working at Muriel Siebert & Co. Inc., in the firm’s retail division. In 1999, she joined Siebert Capital Markets, working directly with the managing director and assisting the sales force and traders with equity, fixed income and mutual fund trades. From 2001 to 2009, she was Vice President—promoted from AVP in 2005—of the Institutional Equity Sales and Trading Division and developed and managed institutional relationships at Utendahl Capital Partners, LLC. Jenny graduated Magna Cum Laude and received her BA in Economics from Lehman College. She previously held FINRA Series 7, 24, 55, 63, 65 and NY State Insurance Licenses. Jenny is a Washington Heights Native and is married to Zoilo Pichardo. She is the mother of two children, Ethan and Abigail.

Valerie Hoekstra, Middle School Director and Principal

Valerie was a founding member of Inwood Academy and helped write the Charter Application in 2009. She led the Special Education Team for five years and served on the Instructional Leadership Team before taking on her role as Middle School Director and Principal in 2015. She started her career teaching third grade and special education students on a U.S. Air Force base in North Dakota. Her long term interest was in special education for native Spanish speakers. Several moves and four children later Valerie worked in a resource room with seventh and eighth graders at Zurich International School, and discovered her love for middle school students. She later supervised graduate students at the Dean Hope Center for Educational and Psychological Services at Teachers College. Valerie completed an undergraduate degree in Special Education and Elementary Education at the University of North Dakota, minoring in Spanish, and obtained an M.A. as a reading specialist at Teachers College, Columbia University. She and her husband, Marten Hoekstra, raised four children. 


David Boehm, Director of Technology

David has extensive finance, operations, and educational experience. He is a committed social entrepreneur, using his expertise in process re-engineering and financial operations to effect positive change in our educational system. Prior to joining Inwood Academy, David taught Math for five years at Morris Academy for Collaborative Studies in the Bronx. His past experience also included senior management roles at Brown Bros. Harriman, Alliance Capital, SWIFT and was Founder & CEO of NeXtgen Technology. He received graduate degrees from The City College of New York—CUNY and Boston University School of Management. David is married to Nancy Boehm and they have one son, Christopher.

Kevin Garcia, Director of Operations

Before joining Inwood Academy, Kevin was working in operations for five years at both traditional NYC public schools and public charter schools, and most recently as an operations manager for KIPP NYC College Prep. He chose the field of education rather than the corporate industry route because he felt he would make a bigger impact in life by helping children in troubled communities. Kevin received a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Accounting from Fordham University. He was born and raised, and currently still lives, in The Bronx.

Erica Reyes, Director of Talent Management

Erica was formerly employed at Gap Inc. for 13 years, spending the last 10 as a store manager for the highest volume store in NYC’s North Market. She spent much of her time leading the store team in meeting sales goals, customer service targets, and Operating and Human Resources objectives through execution, coaching and accountability. Erica is a native of Washington Heights and is the mother of one son, Jonelvis.


Denise Canniff, Associate Director of Development and Communications

Denise joined Inwood Academy in 2014 and in her current position she provides leadership and direction for fund development activities including individual giving, institutional giving, fundraising events, and is responsible for media relations, marketing, and communications. Her non-profit career prior to Inwood Academy included senior management roles at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New York Public Library. While at the Met Museum, Denise built a digital marketing and fundraising team from the ground up, raising $2.5 million dollars annually, and launched its social media channels, collectively reaching 2 million followers. Prior to her non-profit work, she was a Marketing Director for a media organization, developing and managing public relations, advertising, and direct marketing. Denise received a Bachelor's degree in Marketing from the City University of New York, Baruch College, and a Certificate in Fundraising from New York University. Denise raised a son and daughter in the city and both children are now in college.

Jeannie Infante, Associate Director of Family and Community Engagement

Jeannie is an educator, mother, and a native Inwood community member. She started her career as a teacher and worked as a Community Outreach Director at a charter school before joining the Inwood Academy team. Jeannie received her undergraduate degree in Political Science at the City College of New York and a Master's in Public Administration from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She is passionate about utilizing engagement strategies to boost student achievement and improve the overall well-being of students, families, and their communities. Jeannie is married to Willie Infante and is the mother of two children, Emily and Nathan.


Alexandra Benjamin, High School Director of Curriculum and Instruction

Alexandra is an educator with more than 11 years of experience working in urban education. She has worked in public charter and zoned schools in New York City as an ICT English Teacher, Literacy Specialist, and Instructional Coach. Alexandra has a wealth of experience teaching and coaching in various classroom settings using an array of instructional strategies such as team teaching, differentiation, and data driven instruction. She firmly believes that literacy is at the crux of all content areas and should be addressed by all stakeholders involved in educating our youth. Alexandra is passionate about educating students in underserved communities in order to prepare them to become agents of change in their communities and beyond. She received her undergraduate degree in English/Secondary Education at Iona College and a MS in Educational Leadership and Administration at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland and a MSE, Literacy Specialist 5-12, at Fordham University.

Jose Grullon, Middle School Director of Curriculum and Instruction, STEM

Jose joined Inwood Academy in 2012 as a fifth grade math and science teacher and transitioned into his current role following success with students and working with faculty. Prior to joining Inwood Academy, he was a founding sixth grade math teacher at a dual language NYC public middle school and a Program Manager at Computers for Youth (CFY) where he worked with several public schools in the five boroughs. Jose is a 2008 Teach for America alumnus. He received his undergraduate degree in English from Binghamton University and a Master’s of Science in Education, dual language/bilingual middle school education, from Bank Street College of Education. He is a Washington Heights native and is engaged to Yelitza Aguilera.

Denise Hykes, Middle School Director of Afterschool, PSW Program

Denise comes to this role with over thirty years of working with youth and their families in Washington Heights and Inwood. She enjoys helping youth find their unique gifting in life and seeking ways to empower them to accomplish their goals. Her experience includes teaching Middle School Math and English, initiating youth service projects (locally, nationally, and internationally), coaching basketball teams of all ages, coordinating youth ministry at a local church, directing summer camps, developing and empowering current young leaders in our community and school, and networking with other youth service providers in the Heights. She has her Masters in Urban Youth Culture and seeks to build on the solid foundation that has been laid by the previous Inwood Academy afterschool directors.

Jason Marchena, Director of Athletics

Jason joined Inwood Academy in 2013 and served as a teacher for Physical Education and Health and the Director of Enrichment for the middle school before taking on his current role as head of athletics for the middle and high school. Prior to joining the team, he worked as a Physical Education Teacher at Inwood's Manhattan Christian Academy. He received his Bachelor's degree in Sports and Exercise Science at Cedarville University and his Master's in Business Administration at Jones International University. Jason was born and raised in northern Manhattan. He and his wife, Laura Marchena, live in Washington Heights.

Karla Morales, Associate Director for College and Career Success

Before working at Inwood Academy, Karla spent more than fourteen years at the City University of New York (CUNY) as a Lecturer/Counselor for the Department of General Counseling at Bronx Community College, an Academic Advisor for the ASAP Program at Borough of Manhattan Community College, and as a Cohort Coordinator for the Bronx Institute GEAR UP Program at Lehman College. She utilized her administrative, pedagogical and counseling background to develop and implement academic services in an educational institution. Her experience as an education professional provided the background needed to effectively inspire student appreciation for educational inquiry and the motivation and desire to promote academic, career, personal, and social development of students. Consulted and collaborated with professors, teachers, school administrators, school psychologists, and social workers in order to develop and implement strategies to help students be successful in the education system. She has a Bachelor's in Psychology and a Master's of Science in Counselor Education from Lehman College. Karla was born in Puerto Rico, raised for the most part in The Bronx. She is married to Andres Villar and they have a daughter Amaya.

Johanna Powell, Middle School Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Humanities

Johanna joined Inwood Academy the year after its opening and has served on the Instructional Leadership Team since 2011. Prior to Inwood, she specialized in small group literacy intervention. She attended the College of Saint Rose and earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Childhood Education and a Master’s Degree in Literacy. Johanna believes that all people have the right to read and comprehend, and that literacy can lead to unlimited opportunities in life. Finding high interest books and getting them into the student’s hands is a top priority, and she hopes to instill her love for reading in each and every child. Some of her favorite authors include: RL Stine, Jodi Picoult, Dr. Seuss, and Judy Blume. Besides reading a great book, Johanna loves to create healthy dishes in the kitchen, and looks forward to going back to school herself.

Karena West, Director of Academic Intervention Services

Karena was a founding member of Inwood Academy as an English as a second language specialist (ESL) and was promoted to her current role in 2015. As an ESL specialist, she worked to develop students' English skills through pull-out and push-in support, the co-teaching model, and self-contained classes. She also contributed to curriculum development and served as both Middle School Scheduler and Testing Coordinator. Prior to joining Inwood Academy, Karena was an ESL teacher at a high school in Philadelphia. She graduated Cum Laude with a B.A. from Dickinson College and received her M.A. in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) from Teachers College, Columbia University. Karena and her husband, Shaun, live in Yonkers with their children, Ainsley and Connor.