Marina Zurakhinsky, Founder of ZplaySchool, General Educator

Marina Zurakhinsky is a community organizer who has been developing and running interactive programs for children since 2002. Throughout her career  Marina has had the opportunity to supervise, develop, and facilitate numerous programs & initiatives for children, teens, and families in Ukraine and New York. Marina was born and raised in Kiev, studied Business Management and Finance and holds a Master’s Degree in Education from Fordham University. She has worked with children for the past 18 years and is excited to make her dream come true – to create a center with experienced educators and quality programs for local (and her own) children.

Evgenia Gruznykh, Russian Language, Math & G&T Educator

Evgenia Gruznykh graduated from Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia with an Early Childhood degree specializing in teaching & development of kids ages 2 to 7 years old. She moved to New York over ten years ago and led private and group lesson for Russian-speaking children in speech development, reading, math, art, and test preparation. In Saint Petersburg, Evgenia worked in a private day care for nine years as the main teacher in a classroom. She is excited to join the ZplaySchool team and bring her experience and passion to our organization.

Natalia Bem, General Educator

Natalia Bem graduated from Chelyabinsk State Pedagogical University with a degree in Education and Psychology. She subsequently developed the curriculum for a private school, taught elementary school-aged children, and was a school physiologist at the Center for Child Development “Umnichka”. Working with children of various ages for over 20 years, Natalia continues to explore new instructional methods, which facilitate learning while making her students eyes light up with interest and merriment through progressive methods of education.

Liudmila Kim, General Educator

Liudmila Kim has a degree in Education from Russia. She is an attentive, creative, and progressive educator that brings to ZplaySchool over 20 years of experience of being an elementary school teacher (she was even awarded Teacher of the Year for the Krasnodar region in 2014). Her knowledge and experience help her in establishing rapport and personal approach with each student based on their unique personality and personal abilities. She says: “Everyone comes to this world with a mission. Mine is to teach children and learn from them.”

Iryna Puhach, General Educator

Iryna was born and raised in Minsk where she earned her Educational degree from the  Maxim Tank Belarus State Pedagogical University. From 2007, Iryna has been working with kids in different day care centers, and leading groups of toddlers and preschoolers when she moved to NY. Teaching is a part of her family’s heritage as many in her family have been teachers. Her grandparents inspired her to choose the profession, as well as show her an example of how to become a wonderful teacher.  She proudly says: "I feel truly happy when I see that my work with children helps to achieve their goals and brings them joy at the same time." 

Elena Vedana, Russian Language & Music Educator

Elena Vedana has degrees in Early Childhood education and in Music. She has worked in schools both in Russia and in the US, in learning centers, and as a private tutor working with children ages 3 to 12. Having also studied child psychology she easily finds a way to attract and engage children. She is currently developing her own program for teaching little ones to play the piano at the same time as they study Russian language. The program includes exercises to learn the rhythms of speech, to improve diction, to develop motor skills and to promote harmonious development for the child. She is excited to put her interests and talents to work as a member of Zplay’s team.

Natalia Rowe, Certifies Speech-Language Pathologist and Feeding Therapist

Natalia’s professional journey started more than 15 years ago in Russia where she received a dual degree in speech pathology and special education, as well as extensive training in child psychology and brain anatomy/physiology. Natalia continued her education in the United States and earned her Master of Science degree from Columbia University. Currently, Natalia provides in-service training for therapists and ABA teachers and works privately with infants and young children with speech-language and feeding/swallowing disorders. Her clients range from typically developing children to children with multiple disabilities and congenital/developmental conditions. Natalia takes special interest in dysphagia and motor speech disorders. Natalia uses a combination of methods she learned in both countries, including PROMPT (Prompts for Restructuring Oral-Muscular Phonetic Targets), to help her clients say their first sounds and words. In feeding therapy, Natalia addresses behavioral, motor and sensory aspects by using behavior modification strategies, motor learning techniques, and the Sequential-Oral-Sensory (SOS) approach. She is a founder of the FirstRowe Speech & Feeding Therapy Center.

Alex Notkin, Actor, Stage Director, Performing Arts & Music Educator

Alex Notkin was born in St. Petersburg, Russia. He graduated from The Saint Petersburg State Theater Arts Academy. His early career includes both theater and film roles. In addition to his theater and film works Alex became a renowned voice talent. He was cast to perform Russian Dubbing for the voices of: Christian Bale in "Terminator 4, Salvation", Sam Worthington in James Cameron's "Avatar", Colin Farrell in Disney's "Fright Night" and "Saving Mr. Banks", Benedict Cumberbatch in "The Fifth Estate". In 2014 Alex Notkin came to the U.S. to pursue his acting career. He completed a 1 year Conservatory Program at the Lee Strasberg Theater & Film Institute, New York.

Svetlana Orberg, General Educator

Svetlana was born and raised in Saint Petersburg where she earned her Bachelor's degree. She moved to the United States and started working with children in 2016, working in different day cares, leading groups of toddlers and preschoolers. Svetlana also passionate about baking and makes delicious desserts.  She is CPR & First Aid certified and she is very excited to be a part of the ZplaySchool team.

Gera Sandler, Actor, Stage Director, Performing Arts Educator

Gera Sandler is an actor, stage director, and TV personality. He just moved to New York from Israel. He graduated from the School of Performing Arts "Beit Zvi" in 1997. He performed in Gesher Theatre, and is one of the leading actors in the Yiddishpiel Theatre. He has also directed numerous productions including operas, dramatic plays and kids shows. Gera has appeared in over 30 movies and series in Israel, Russia, and Poland. He is happy to share his diverse skills and experiences with the staff and kids at ZplaySchool while having as much fun as possible.

Tatyana Kot, Actress, Dancer, Performing Arts Educator

Tatyana Kot trained and performed with a local ballet company in her native Kazakhstan. She worked as a dancer in Russia and the United States for about 20 years before transitioning to teaching. Tatyana has taught dance and movement to kids, seniors, professional actors and people with disabilities. She is thrilled to join ZplaySchool and introduce her students to dance, theater, and movement.

Sergey Nagorny, Actor, Performing Arts Educator

Sergey Nagorny is a New York-based actor and one of the founding members of the Lost & Found Project Theater Company. With Lost & Found Project, Sergey has performed around the United States, as well as abroad in Canada and Russia.  Other theater credits include Theater 167's "Jackson Heights, 3AM", STEPS Theater's "Ask Joseph", and Novi Most Theater's "Dancing on the Edge". On TV, Sergey can be seen in such series as The Americans, Limitless, Criminal Minds: Beyond Boarders, and MacGyver. Sergey is happy and proud to be a part of Zplay Theater's inaugural year, and has been a part of many kids plays. He says: "A great Thank You to Marina (Zurakhinsky) and Gera (Sandler) for giving me a chance to be a kid again!"

Ronit Ashel, Actress, Singer, Hebrew Instructor

Ronit Ashei is an actress, singer, and performer. She graduated Beit Zvi drama school in Israel and for 12 years she performed in the Yiddish theater and organized many children's plays. Ronit is excited to introduce and teach the Hebrew language to ZplaySchool children through acting, music, and movement.

Natasha Lipkina, Violinist, Music Educator

Natasha is a violinist. She received her education in violin at the Central Special School of Music, the Moscow Conservatory, and at Indiana University. She has appeared as a soloist and a chamber musician in numerous festivals and on the world's major stages including Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully and Avery Fisher Hall. She has participated in many recordings and TV shows. She is a prizewinner of Enescu and Shostakovich International competitions. Along with her versatile performing career, Natasha has dedicated herself to education. She taught for years in The Children Orchestra Society, and at the NYU School of Education. She leads The InterPlay Chamber Music, and regularly gives master classes and workshops in Europe and Russia. Natasha is currently on the faculty of the music department at Nyack College School of Music and is proud to join ZplaySchool to provide excellent musical experiences for our children.

Julia Gorodetsky, Architect, Design Thinking Class Instructor

Julia Gorodetsky is an architect, an attorney, an educational consultant, and a creator of a unique urban design curriculum for children, which offers  hands-on experience and an understanding of complex urban design and architectural concepts. She holds both Bachelor's and Master's degrees in architecture from Tulane University, and has worked for years with a world-renowned architect Santiago Calatrava on a new Path station for NYC.  Julia earned her JD from Vanderbilt University. As an attorney, she has practiced venture capital financing in NYC with a TX-based law firm Andrews Kurth. In the last couple of years Julia has co-founded the educational consulting company The Way In, which assists low income and foreign students with access to college and graduate school education.

Diana Dubossarska, Artist, Illustrator, Visual Arts Educator

Diana Dubossarska was born in Ukraine but spent her childhood in Prague. This amazing city left an indelible mark on her which is depicted in her colorful, naïve scenes. She graduated from The Ukrainian University of Culture and Arts and was educated in art across the world (Rome, Kiev, New York). Her overarching goal is to leave genuine smiles on children’s faces, to show them the joy and freedom of creating art and expressing themselves.

If you love kids, have experience teaching and passion for your specialty, are creative, and want to join our team or become our partner, please email us: