Polis World School

Our Classrooms

Every Polis World School classroom is a Montessori “prepared environment,” carefully stocked with materials and opportunities targeted to reflect the natural interests of children of your child's age.

  • Room 1 at Polis Manhattan
  • Room 2 at Polis Manhattan
  • Room 7 at Polis Manhattan
  • Room 10 at Polis Manhattan
  • Room 11 at Polis Manhattan
Shelves in a Polis Children's House Montessori environment

Polis World School classrooms are light, airy, calming, aesthetically beautiful spaces. Each material is carefully chosen and carefully displayed—to inspire and entice your child to explore.

A flower-arranging tray material in a Polis Montessori classsroom

Children's House classrooms respond to the young child's need for order, with beautiful and lovingly curated materials that speak directly to your child's desire to actively explore the immediate environment.

Two Polis kindergarten students working together using Montessori materials

As your child is introduced to one enticing activity after another, he finds endless, marvelous opportunities to discover his own potential.

An elementary classroom at Polis World School in Manhattan

Your elementary-aged child uses the materials and activities of the classroom as a window to the world. Her developing imagination gives her the ability to visualize the distant past, the far reaches of the universe, and the tiniest particle of matter.

An elementary student works with a Montessori history timeline in a Polis classroom

The materials in the classroom spark that imagination and inspire her to plan outings, initiate research projects, and delve deep into literature, science, and history.

Computers used in the Polis elementary environment

The elementary child's mind gradually develops the ability to abstract complex ideas, so over time your child will work less with the concrete materials and more with conceptual ideas.

A cozy reading nook for Polis elementary Montessori students

Your child's classroom always offers a special place for your child to cozy up with a good book or some contextual reading for a research project.

Our Museum Mile Team

The Polis Museum Mile campus team is a talented group of educators, advisors, and administrators working together in a welcoming and inspiring community. Our team is passionate about education, and passionate about serving New York children and families.

  • Andrea Cui

    Andrea Cui

    Mandarin Lead Guide, Elementary

    A native Mandarin speaker, Andrea Cui is deeply passionate about teaching and working with children of varying age levels. She was inspired by the Montessori pedagogy after joining the first Association Montessori International certified elementary school in China. Andrea obtained her AMI elementary certificate in 2016 from the Montessori Institute of San Diego, and began working as a Mandarin speaking elementary guide in a bilingual school in California. Andrea spent the school year planning her own Chinese Montessori curriculum and implementing Montessori methods in teaching Mandarin to her non-Chinese students.

    Andrea Cui attended Purdue University from 2008-2012, where she completed her Bachelor's Degree in Liberal Arts, majoring in Sociology and Communication. She also attended high school in Germany, where she learned to speak German. She has extensive experience in advertising and marketing from her past careers as well.

    In her spare time, Andrea enjoys singing and reading Chinese and Japanese literature. She is looking forward to joining Polis World School and hopes that her diverse background will influence her students not merely academically, but also by showing them how to live with integrity and independence while immersing oneself in a new culture.

  • Xinting Lu

    Xinting Lu

    Mandarin Lead Guide, Children's House

    Xinting Lu began teaching Mandarin in 2010 and has since received her Master’s of Education in Teaching English as a Second Language and Special Education from Adelphi University. Xinting has worked with children from 1½ through 13 years old, and has taught in language schools, Montessori schools, and general education schools. After seeing many different types of schools, Xinting finally found her passion in Montessori education. She received her AMI Primary certificate at the Southwest Institute of Montessori Studies in Phoenix, Arizona, and is currently completing her AMI Assistants to Infancy training for children from 0–3 in Beijing.

    Xinting is extremely excited about working at Polis World School, and she is particularly looking forward to developing materials and curriculum in Mandarin in response to her student’s interests and passions.

  • Luc Travers

    Luc Travers

    Art Education Specialist

    Luc Travers is the author of Touching The Art: A Guide to Enjoying Art at an Art Museum. He received his B.A. in Art History from the University of Memphis in 2003. Since then he has taught and created curriculum in art appreciation and literature for students of all levels with an emphasis on elementary and junior high students. He worked for eight years at VanDamme Academy, a classical education-based elementary/junior high school, where he developed an innovative art appreciation curriculum and trained fellow teachers in the approach. For the past four years, Luc has put together curriculum and taught classes for the two online education companies he created, Touching The Art and Literature At Our House. Along with teaching online and in the classroom, Luc has shared his passion for art through tours at dozens of art museums all over the U.S. and abroad. In his spare time, Luc loves to play soccer and to spend time with his niece.

  • Asia Wang

    Asia Wang

    Mandarin Lead Guide, Children's House

    Asia Wang believes deeply in Montessori education and has spent many years working with children both in China and abroad. She has successfully completed the Association Montessori International 3-6 training in Shenzhen, China. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Teaching Chinese as a Second Language from Beijing Language and Culture University and is a certified preschool teacher in Hong Kong. The Montessori approach has had a profound impact on Asia’s teaching philosophy and it has provided her with a new perspective on how she sees and embraces the world. Her experience working in Thailand and Hong Kong helped her to acquire an effective approach to teaching Mandarin in a Montessori prepared environment. Asia firmly believes that language plays an important role in the pathway to achieving love and peace. She is extremely excited to join the Polis World School community, to work with Polis' families, and to fully meet each child's developmental needs so that each child maximizes his or her potential.

  • Alia James

    Alia James

    Head of School

    As Head of School, Alia draws upon her extensive experience as an international educator and mentor for students of various ages. Alia is AMI-trained at the elementary level, a graduate of the first Australian Montessori teacher training with Association Montessori Internationale. In addition to working with children and families, Alia has carefully guided and mentored over one hundred language teachers at the university level as a guest lecturer in Australia and South Korea. She has inspired and trained educators to successfully implement the communicative approach in bilingual and monolingual contexts. Additionally, Alia served as the Communications Director at Metropolitan Montessori School in New York City, where she drew upon her leadership skills to coordinate thoughtful, open communication with parents and prospective families.

    Originally from Sydney, Australia, Alia has worked in Montessori settings in Honolulu, Sydney, Hong Kong, and New York and considers herself a citizen of the world. She first moved to New York City while interning as a policy analyst at UN Women Headquarters. Trained in the fine arts, Alia immediately appreciated the wealth of cultural and artistic offerings present in NYC; as an educator, she quickly recognized these as unique opportunities to learn beyond the classroom.

    Alia's qualifications include a Bachelor of Education from Charles Sturt University, Australia and Montessori certification for Elementary (six to twelve years) education from the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI), and a Graduate Global Leadership Certificate from Macquarie University.

    Alia has a passion for learning and can be found in libraries, galleries, museums and getting her hands dirty with urban farming and cooking. She's thrilled to welcome new families to Polis World School and is truly looking forward to working alongside parents to support the growth of their children.

  • Monna Istranyi

    Monna Istranyi

    National Director of Admissions

    Monna Istranyi has extensive experience in Mandarin immersion, early childhood education, school administration, project management, and communications. She is excited to bring her wide-ranging experience to her role as the National Admissions Director for the Polis World School network of campuses. She will assist in launching the first Polis campus in Manhattan and then will shift her focus to expanding the Polis network within the U.S. and ultimately around the world.

    As the former Assistant Director at HudsonWay Immersion School in New York City, Monna was responsible for the overall operation of the school, working closely with administrators, teachers, and parents to ensure that the school met and exceeded growth goals. Monna's experience as a Mandarin Head Teacher, teaching students from nursery through kindergarten, is the basis for her enthusiasm for the Montessori approach to immersion language learning. Monna has also worked as a Project Specialist at Tory Burch and Royal Caribbean. In these roles, she helped the Chief Information Officer and the IT Executive Leadership Team define each organization’s mission, vision, and strategies, and was involved in all IT communications and organizational design activities at each company.

    A Shanghai native, Monna holds an M.S. in Early Childhood Education and Special Education from Touro College (New York, NY) and an M.Ed. in Language Education from Rutgers University in New Jersey, as well as a Professional Certificate in Early Childhood Education and Special Education in New York State. In her leisure time, Monna enjoys art, movies, and exploring new restaurants in New York City.

Our Columbus Square Team

The Polis Columbus Square campus team is a talented group of educators, advisors, and administrators working together in a welcoming and inspiring community. Our team is passionate about education, and passionate about serving New York children and families.

  • Chen Chen

    Chen Chen

    Mandarin Lead Guide, Children's House

    Chen Chen holds an M.A. degree in linguistics from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. She taught in international schools in Hong Kong for many years before she received her AMI Primary diploma from MISD in 2017. After completing her Montessori training, Chen Chen began working as the lead guide in a Montessori school located in Southern California.

    Chen Chen joined the Higher Ground Education team in June 2018 and began working on the China teacher-training program, partnering with the trainers to tailor the content to China’s culture and teacher force. She found it deeply fulfilling to exchange ideas with pioneers of education in China. Chen Chen is pleased to now join Polis World School as a Mandarin Lead Guide and cannot wait to bring her various skills and extensive knowledge to the classroom once again. In her leisure time, Chen Chen loves to read and travel.

  • Felix Huang

    Felix Huang

    Mandarin Lead Guide, Toddler

    Felix Huang enjoyed working as an art teacher in a Montessori school in Wuhan, China, for six years. He also has experience serving as an assistant guide in Montessori classrooms. Felix received his AMI 0–3-year certificate in 2015 from the Training Center of Hangzhou and graduated from Central China Normal University in Wuhan in 2018. Felix is excited to promote the Montessori approach to education, and he endeavors to help children develop and grow into their best selves, one day at a time.

  • Susan Zhou

    Susan Zhou

    Mandarin Lead Guide, Children's House

    Susan Zhou has fifteen years of experience working with children, ten of which she spent in Montessori settings. She has worked as a lead teacher, teacher supervisor, and director of a school that taught kindergarten-age children. Susan holds her Montessori Primary certification from the Association Montessori Internationale in Hang Zhou, China. She is excited to partner with parents to help each child in her classroom grow, learn, and thrive both inside and outside of school. Susan is the mother of a wonderful one-year-old boy and enjoys listening to music, reading, and traveling in her leisure time.

  • Becky Simkhai

    Becky Simkhai

    Head of School

    After receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in art history from Yale University, Ms. Becky Simkhai worked as a landscape architect in New York City and Los Angeles. While designing school gardens, Ms. Simkhai became involved in the field of education and discovered her passion for working with children. She received her master’s in the science and technology of education with a NYS Certification in K-12 Visual Arts. Soon after, she discovered Montessori and became certified as a Children’s House Lead Guide. As a Head of School, Ms. Simkhai enjoys working closely with parents to facilitate their children’s learning and development, supporting staff members in achieving excellence in their professional pursuits, and being part of a team of like-minded individuals deeply committed to the Montessori method. In her spare time, Becky can be found in the kitchen or garden with one of her three children, practicing hot yoga or tending to her layer hens.

  • Honor Finnegan

    Honor Finnegan

    Assistant Head of School

    Ms. Honor Finnegan is a New York State-certified early childhood educator with more than 15 years of experience working with children in NYC. Ms. Finnegan received her Montessori 3–6 credential through the Center for Montessori Education in New York and holds a dual master’s degree in early childhood education and early childhood special education from the College of New Rochelle.

    After teaching at The Caedmon School on the Upper East Side for years, Ms. Finnegan served as Special Education Itinerant Teacher in a variety of Manhattan preschools. This led her to HudsonWay Immersion School, where she eventually became the Educational Director and supported staff and families with a shared passion for Mandarin immersion.

    Ms. Finnegan has worked in Europe and the Middle East, but feels most at home in NYC. She is an award-winning songwriter, a Moth storyteller, and a Heartfulness meditation trainer.

  • Monna Istranyi

    Monna Istranyi

    National Director of Admissions

    Monna Istranyi has extensive experience in Mandarin immersion, early childhood education, school administration, project management, and communications. She is excited to bring her wide-ranging experience to her role as the National Admissions Director for the Polis World School network of campuses. She will assist in launching the first Polis campus in Manhattan and then will shift her focus to expanding the Polis network within the U.S. and ultimately around the world.

    As the former Assistant Director at HudsonWay Immersion School in New York City, Monna was responsible for the overall operation of the school, working closely with administrators, teachers, and parents to ensure that the school met and exceeded growth goals. Monna's experience as a Mandarin Head Teacher, teaching students from nursery through kindergarten, is the basis for her enthusiasm for the Montessori approach to immersion language learning. Monna has also worked as a Project Specialist at Tory Burch and Royal Caribbean. In these roles, she helped the Chief Information Officer and the IT Executive Leadership Team define each organization’s mission, vision, and strategies, and was involved in all IT communications and organizational design activities at each company.

    A Shanghai native, Monna holds an M.S. in Early Childhood Education and Special Education from Touro College (New York, NY) and an M.Ed. in Language Education from Rutgers University in New Jersey, as well as a Professional Certificate in Early Childhood Education and Special Education in New York State. In her leisure time, Monna enjoys art, movies, and exploring new restaurants in New York City.