Origins High School Staff Website


John Banks, Principal

John BanksBefore founding Origins High School in 2013, Principal, I.A., John Banks worked at Arts & Letters in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, a small K-8 school, where he was Principal Intern and taught CTT and general education humanities to sixth and seventh grade students. During his work at Arts & Letters, he served as the Humanities vertical team leader and seventh grade team leader, designed literacy, ELA, and history curricula, organized digital student portfolios, and implemented school-wide teacher team structures and development. He has been a mentor teacher with the Relay Graduate School of Education and a cooperating teacher with Teacher’s College, Columbia University. He has also twice presented on effective reading and writing instruction at the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) yearly convention, leading the Arts & Letters Humanities Department presentation in 2009. Before joining the faculty at Arts & Letters, he worked as an eleventh grade English teacher at the Urban Assembly School for Media (UAM) in Manhattan.

John has a MA in English Education from New York University, a BA in English Literature from Wake Forest University, and a JD from Seton Hall Law School.


David Elliott, School Business Manager

David Elliott was born in Queens but raised in Huntington, on Long Island. He earned a BA in English from Temple University in Philadelphia and an MA in Culture and Communication from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England. He comes to Origins after a varying tenure in Public Service at the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission, Higher Education at Hunter College, and the Arts at the New York Philharmonic. His passions for public policy and education are brought out and highlighted in his role at Origins. He spent his formative years reading subversive comic books and playing drums in loud rock ‘n’ roll bands. In his spare time he lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two cats, collects records, sings karaoke, and still plays the drums.

Jamie Luft, Guidance Counselor

Jamie is so excited to be joining the Origins staff as a guidance counselor! Before coming to Origins, she worked as a Spanish/English bilingual counselor in a few other New York City high schools. Her career before becoming a counselor was as an ESL teacher in Washington, DC where she lived after graduating from Georgetown University. Here in Brooklyn, Jamie lives with her husband, 3 children and a cat. When she’s not watching her son play baseball or taking her littlest one to the park, Jamie enjoys running, cooking and knitting. She is very much looking forward to collaborating with the Origins staff and getting to know the Origins students.

Yahya Haoumi, Parent Coordinator

Yahya Haoumi is originally from Tangier, Morocco. He has a BA in English Studies, an MA in Translation, Communication and Journalism, and an Master in Public Administration with distinction. He also has a Digital Cinematography diploma from the New York Film Academy, Small Business Management Certificate from Hunter College, and Leadership Training Diploma from the Moroccan Ministry of Youth and Sports. Yahya is a certified Martial Arts trainer, and speaks four languages. In his free time, he enjoys, reading, exercising, playing music and travelling.


Abdelhafid Djemil, 9th Grade Geometry

Abdel Hafid Djemil graduated from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana with a BSc and from Bradley University in Peoria Illinois with MSc, both in Mechanical Engineering. He obtained his Ph.D. in Education from Capella University. After working few years as an engineer, he decided to go for teaching. He taught aeronautics and mechanical engineering before starting teaching at the high school level in 1999. As a parent, he has been active with several organizations that deal with social issues and challenges facing the youth. Abdel Hafid enjoys teaching and helping students achieve their academic goals; he believes that every child is born to succeed, and school is the place where students make the success happen. Abdel Hafid is happy to be a part of a successful and energetic team of educators at Origins High School.

Pete Diamantis, 10th Grade Algebra

Mr. Diamantis is thrilled to be a member of the Origins staff! He is originally from New Haven, Connecticut, and attended Vassar College where he earned his BA in mathematics. While sitting in the math department lounge one fateful afternoon, Mr. Diamantis read about an amazing opportunity to teach in New York City and earn a MA in Mathematics Education from Teachers College through the organization Math for America. He has taught in the city ever since, mostly at the high school level and exclusively in small schools. Mr. Diamantis has learned to love teaching a subject that so many openly express a great distaste for. In the classroom, he treasures student creativity, aiming to help students think about mathematics as another way of viewing the world around them as opposed to just a set of procedures to memorize. Out of the classroom, Mr. Diamantis enjoys playing poker, being outdoors, and hanging out with his silly kitty Victoria.

Zhengqing Pei, Pre Calculus & Statistics

Mr.Pei grew up in China, but received his secondary and higher education here. He went to Stony Brook University and obtained his BA in pure math. After spending two years in graduate studies, he transitioned to Queens College, where his teaching career took off. He is highly passionate about his content subject and is determined to turn his students into capable problem solvers. His personal interests and hobbies include watching debates, solving puzzles and playing board games competitively.

Bryan Mosher,  9th Grade Physics,

Bryan Mosher grew up on Long Island. He went to The New York University College of Arts and Sciences and earned a bachelor of science in physics.  He took all of the pre-med classes and originally wanted to go to medical school. After shadowing a doctor, he found out that it wasn’t the job for him.  He tutored through America Reads at the Urban Assembly Institute of Math and Science for Young Women in his senior year and discovered that he wanted to teach science to NYC students instead. He went to New York University again for his master of arts in teaching middle and high school science.  He taught at the Institute for Collaborative Education for two years, teaching middle school earth science and programming classes in game programming and web design.  At that school, he got to work with non-traditional classroom structures, standards-based grading, and project-based assessment. He’s very excited to continue this work at Origins High School.  He loves tinkering with Linux computers; listening to comedy, news, and science podcasts; late nights browsing Wikipedia; learning to play the ukulele; and biking around Brooklyn.  He’s also spending a little time this summer improving his Pokémon collection.

Ryan McKeon, Earth Science, Climate Change and Ecology

Ryan was born in Raleigh, North Carolina and raised in Toledo, Ohio.  Ryan earned his B.A. in Individualized Studies from the University of Toledo earned his M.A. in Science Education from Brooklyn College.  Before becoming a teacher, Ryan worked in Florida, South Carolina, Maryland and New York City at various wilderness bases leading 30 day canoeing and backpacking expeditions with incarcerated and at-risk youth.  For the past 10 years, Ryan has called Brooklyn home. He continues to lead wilderness expeditions and climbing trips with NYC Outward Bound Schools and Baltimore Outward Bound.  When not working, Ryan can be found rock climbing and backpacking in search of the World’s most beautiful places to bring back to the classroom to enrich the curriculum.

Amanda Branagan, Visual Art

Amanda Branagan is an environmentally-minded teacher and artist, who recently moved back to Brooklyn. Her interests include growing and cooking food, exploring new places and making art. Amanda comes to Origins High School with an eagerness to collaborate with her colleagues and students to help create a visually rich and inspiring school community. She is continually seeking new experiences and training in order to bring the best art education practices into the classroom. Amanda earned her M.A. in Art Education from Brooklyn College and a B.F.A from the University of Massachusetts Amherst where she majored in Sculpture and Art Education.

Ashley Winters, Art Teacher

Ashley Winters is a believer in all things art who has recently moved from Virginia to New York City to join the wonderful Origins team. While in Virginia, Ashley earned her BA in Studio Art with a focus in painting and printmaking, a MAT in Education from Sweet Briar College, and taught high school darkroom and digital photography. While teaching in Virginia, Ashley was nominated for First Year Teacher of The Year, won the Leadership in Student Engagement Award, and was a presenter at the WICOR study strategies Professional Development Seminar in Alexandria, VA. Ashley is most excited to be working with her Origins colleagues to help students discover their best selves through artistic expression and exploration. In her free time, Ashley enjoys making mixed media art, traveling to visit friends and family, finding awesome examples of street art, hiking, photography, and exploring new places.

Andrew Rizzo, Art

Andy Rizzo is an exploratory sculptor, designer, tinkerer, and teacher who is originally from Buffalo, NY. He spent the last 17 years in Boston earning a BFA in Sculpture and an MFA in Studio Art Teaching at Boston University, working in galleries, and teaching in Winthrop, MA. Having recently relocated to Brooklyn, he had the good fortune to join the Origins team. Mr. Rizzo will be helping to create a rich and engaging art program at Origins, exploring the city’s creative venues, making funny little inventions, and even getting out into the wilderness from time to time.

Daniel Farrell, 9th Grade  English

Daniel Farrell has been teaching ELA in New York City since 2010. A native of suburban Massachusetts, he earned his B.A. in English from Providence College in 2008 and his M.A.T. in English Education from New York University in 2011. He enjoys teaching reading strategies, argumentative writing, and digital integration, as well as blending humor and theater into lessons. Outside of school, Dan can be found cooking, playing bass guitar, scanning Brooklyn’s stoops for used books, and watching his favorite sports teams lose. He also has unusually strong opinions about Emerson, Motown, and dark roast coffee. Above all, Dan considers it a privilege to teach your children.

John Lucadamo, 10th Grade English Teacher

John Lucadamo, better known to his students as “Mr. Luke,” is a native son of Brooklyn who has been a dedicated and passionate 10th grade English Language Arts (ELA) teacher since 2015. He believes that his mission as a teacher is to promote a positive learning environment where students can unravel their uniqueness, to spark enthusiasm for learning through connections to authentic student realities, and to facilitate the acquisition of lifelong learning skills that will allow students to direct their own growth in the classroom and beyond. Before joining the amazing and collaborative learning community at Origins High School, Mr. Lucadamo attended Brooklyn Law School on a Carswell Scholarship and subsequently earned his Master’s of Arts in Teaching at Brooklyn College. He is a member of the National Council of Teachers of English, the new Yearbook advisor, and the head coach for the varsity wrestling team. Among the many things Mr. Lucadamo enjoys outside of school are books, physical activities, travel, and geography (real or imagined). Also, for reasons that probably have nothing to do with his age or profession, he has becomes semi-obsessed with finding a perfectly cut and fitted corduroy sports jacket (with elbow patches!)

Kyle Janosch, 12th Grade English

Kyle Janosch, English Teacher, grew up in a suburb outside of Chicago, Illinois. He received his Bachelors in English Education from Kent State University in Ohio. After this, he taught as a student-teacher in Cologne, Germany and Stow, Ohio. He later moved to New York City and began his first year of teaching at Sheepshead Bay High School. While teaching English at Sheepshead Bay, he organized an environmentally conscious Green Team and helped coach the Mock Trial Team. When he is not at school, Kyle enjoys biking, reading and playing ultimate frisbee. He is very excited to join Origins High School for his second year of teaching.

Helen Kilian, 12th Grade History

Growing up in rural Massachusetts, Helen Kilian always dreamed of moving to New York, a fantasy that she realized by attending Barnard College for a B.A. in Environmental Policy.  After working in the educational non-profit sector, Helen realized that her rightful place was in the classroom and began completing her Masters Degree in Adolescent Social Studies Education at Hunter College.  When not planning lessons or completing her own course work, Helen enjoys finding quiet places, reading fiction, and watching British murder-mysteries.  She currently lives in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn with her partner and cat, and is incredibly excited to be part of the Origins community!

Vassilios Kokkinelis, 11th Grade History

Vassilios Kokkinelis was born and raised in Plainview – Old Bethpage, New York. He received his BA in History along with a minor in Classical History from St. John’s University. He earned his MA in Education from C.W. Post, L.I.U. His love of history was born in the mountains of northern Greece, where he spent his summer learning about the accomplishments of his forefathers. He lives with his wife, a teacher herself, on Long Island. He loves his family, soccer, reading history, and traveling. He is looking forward to joining Origins and inspiring the future great thinkers of America as well as getting to know the staff and students.

Mohamad  Awad, 9th Grade Participation Government & US History

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Mohamad is appreciative of the cultural and linguistic variations that exist in the borough and in the other four boroughs of NYC. To him, NYC is a microcosm of the world and therefore he views it as an extraordinary opportunity to bringing it into the classroom so as to inspire in his students the desire in becoming socially responsible individuals and valuable members of their communities and the wider world. Mohamad earned a BA in History and Social Studies Education from Brooklyn College and an MS in Educational Administration from Grand Canyon University. Prior to joining Origins, he taught social studies at an alternative high school in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn for five years. In addition to spending time with his wife and three children and travelling with them throughout the United States, sampling various types of coffee and trying different cuisines from around the world are some of Mohamad’s favorite pastimes.

Boris Balan, ESL and Russian

Di Zhang, Chinese (ENL)

Di Zhang was born and raised in China. Right before Origins, he taught Chinese in High school and middle school in Schodack CSD for a year as an intern. Before he moved to the US, he worked in Xueda Education Group in China for 6 years in business management, and taught Business for Ocean University of China for 3 years. He has a MAT in Chinese at Clarkson University, NY, a MA in Business Management at Latrobe University, Australia, a BE in Civil Engineering at Ocean University of China, China. Di Zhang likes basketball and music, he always likes to share authentic Chinese food in class.

Margaux Lubin, Italian (ENL)

Margaux Lubin, an ENL and Italian teacher in her 6th year of teaching but first year at Origins, was born and raised just outside of Chicago, Illinois.  After falling in love with the Italian language and culture in high school, she went on to pursue her B.A. with a double major in Italian studies and cultural anthropology with a minor in education at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.  After teaching English as a foreign language abroad in Italy, she decided to pursue her passion of teaching by completing her M.A. in education at New York University.  Margaux then went on to teach for five years at the NYC DOE public school The Global Learning Collaborative High School. While there, she was an Italian and ENL teacher, ENL department heard, ENL Coordinator, and the advisor of the Unity Project, a gender and sexuality alliance. Margaux was named Educator of the Year in 2016 by the Live Out Loud organization for her work with LGBTQ+ students in the NYC DOE.  She strives to nurture her students into fiercely passionate, curious, and open-minded learners. In her free time, Margaux loves reading, traveling to see family, friends, and new locations, listening to murder and comedy podcasts, learning about cars (she has quite the affinity for anything Mitsubishi!), searching for the BEST coffee that exists, and spending quality time with her grumpy old cat, Quint.

Regina Morgan, Physical Education & Health Teacher

Physical Education and Health Teacher, Regina Morgan, was born and raised in Crown Heights, Brooklyn where she attended NYC public schools and developed a passion for physical activity and team sports. Regina went on to pursue her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Physical Education at State University of New York at Cortland. It was there where she became heavily involved with community outreach and cultural awareness programming. After graduating, Regina worked as an Assistant Director of after school program for Middle School for Art and Philosophy in East New York, Brooklyn and most recently at John F. Kennedy High School in the Marble Hill section of the Bronx as their Physical Education teacher. Her passion for life long fitness and cultural awareness is evident when you walk into her classes. In her leisure, Regina enjoys bike riding, exploring the latest fitness trends, community outreach and caring for loved ones.

Cardain Williams, Physical Education & Health Teacher

Mr. Williams was born on the island of Jamaica and immigrated to the U.S at the age of 10. He grew up in East New York, Brooklyn and was very involved in sports as a teen, and could often be found playing street football or basketball. At Grady High School, he was a star Track and Field athlete. He eventually joined the U.S. Navy, working on airplanes and earned a certificate in Aviation Structural Mechanic. After leaving the Navy, he returned to university. He received his Associate’s degree in Teacher Education from Medgar Evers College, his Bachelor’s in History from Brooklyn College, and his Master’s degree in Physical Education also from Brooklyn College. Mr. Williams’s hobbies and interests include Track and Field, track cycling, motorcycles and cars.

Galanaelle Georges, Special Education  Teacher

Gaelle is elated to be a part of the origins team! She was born in Haiti where she only spoke French and Creole. When she came to America she was an English language learner in grade school. However, she quickly adapted to the language and culture here in America. Gaelle attended Old Westbury as a history and philosophy major and is currently advancing her education at Relay graduate school. During her undergraduate career she was a scribe/para for a peer with cerebral palsy. Gaelle also volunteered as a recreational leader teaching students with autism how to ride bicycles. When Gaelle is not in the classroom she can be found traveling to different places she’s never been

Dara Kammerman, Social Worker

Dara is originally from the great state of Maine. She has a passion for working with young people and their families and hopes that she can support the students at Origins as they strive to be everything they want to. Dara is a social worker now, but used to be a teacher and is thrilled to be back in a high school. Dara taught high school English at The American School of The Hague in The Netherlands and at The New York City Lab School in Manhattan. As a social worker, she has worked in schools and after school programs in East New York, Brooklyn and Flushing, Queens. In her free time, Dara enjoys swimming, biking, cooking and reading. Dara holds a BA from Vassar College, an MA from Teachers College at Columbia University and an MSW from Hunter College School of Social Work.

Partnership with Children

Nicholas Bakalov , Social Work Director

Nick Bakalov was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. He only ever left to attend college at Fairfield University in Connecticut where he received his BA in Psychology. After undergrad, he decided he was just not done learning and had to go back to Brooklyn to do it. He attended NYU to get his MSW. It was there that he fell in love with working with adolescents in high school during his second year internship and has continued doing so ever since. This is his first year with Origins and Partnership with Children and could not be more excited about what this year has to hold! When he is not at school working with the kids he is reading, spending time with family and friends, cooking, or volunteering.

Kate Breslin, Social Worker

Kate is born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, where she still resides. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from CUNY Brooklyn College and previously worked for the inpatient psychiatry unit at Maimonides Medical Center before attending graduate school for her MSW. Kate received her graduate degree from Long Island University and interned with Partnership with Children for a year before becoming a full time social worker with the agency. She has worked at Origins High School in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn since the school opened and is excited to be working with young people and supporting them and their families.