Virgil de Voldère - Founder & Director   
Claire Orban  - Educational Director

See Also: Artists in Residence at La Petite Ecole


Virgil de Voldère 
Founder & Director

Virgil de Voldère is a former gallerist, an educator and a pioneer of French bilingual education. A French New Yorker with a childhood steeped in the art world, Virgil believes in emphasizing the importance of the arts in education, and the understanding of culture through the arts.

Virgil’s experience led him to develop a unique teaching method, one that is influenced by the philosophy of Reggio Emilia, one of the best progressive teaching methods in the world, the values of the International Baccalaureate with its emphasis on curiosity, critical thinking and compassion, and his commitment to developing autonomy through creativity and the practice of the arts.

This method is the foundation for La Petite Ecole, a preschool Virgil founded in 2010. It is a school where teachers are coached by psychologists, speech therapists and artists, where painters, musicians, and dancers take residence, and where preschoolers not only acquire the skill of speaking French, they also learn the language of drawing, the language of music, the language of food, and beyond the arts, a certain “Art de vivre.”

In addition to founding La Petite Ecole, Virgil has been instrumental in creating French language programs throughout New York. Through his efforts, thousands of families have been provided with a French dual language education through the New York City public elementary school system. His road map has served as a model for other language communities in New York and across the United States.

In 2015, France awarded Virgil with an Order of Academic Palms, one of France’s highest awards, in recognition of his vision and major contribution in promoting French language and education in America.

Virgil is on the board of P.S. 84 Lillian Weber and the Community Education Council in New York’s District 3 (CEC3). From 2005-2012 he ran the Virgil de Voldère Gallery that represented emerging contemporary artists of international renown. He has a BA in Art History and Intellectual History from the Gallatin School at New York University. 

Select Press:

France honors Virgil de Voldère

Un pionnier de l’éducation bilingue distingué à New York

Upper West Side

Evodie Caduche - Assistant -Aid nap and lunch designer, Upper West Side
Aminata Cissé - Co Teacher , Upper West Side
Jimena Faerber - Co Teacher , Upper West Side

Josephine Ancelle - Musician in residence
Nicolas Duchamp - Musician in residence

Aminata Cisse Co Teacher, Upper West Side

Mrs Aminata Cisse , was born in Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire). After 2 wonderful years of experience as assistant and substitute since 2016 it will be her fourth year as Co Teacher. Aminata was also a parent at La Petite Ecole in 2011 and her son graduated from PS 84's French Dual Language program. 
After she had her first baby, she ended her career as midwife. Mrs Ami loves being surrounded by kids. Having had 6 boys on her own made her realize we can only understand them by being close. La Petite Ecole gives her the opportunity to work with children. It makes her feel alive and makes her grow every day.

Jimena Faerber Co Teacher, Upper West Side

Jimena Faerber was born in Uruguay, moved at an early age to Geneva, Switzerland where she obtained her BA and MA in Psychology. Before finishing her studies Jimena started working
with autistic children and decided to specialize in the field. She moved to New York with her husband in 2006, started working in specialized schools and kept training in multiple therapies. Jimena has 3 boys who taught her a lot and thanks to whom she realized the importance of play. She has since her arrival in New York always worked doing in-home intervention focusing
on play.
At la Petite Ecole, Jimena will always encourage the children to learn while having fun. During her class, patterns of completion can be taught while hopping on one and 2 feet and letter
recognition while playing a memory game. She remains after many years of practice fascinated by the emergence and development of language in children. Teaching at La Petite Ecole is a new challenge for Jimena, she takes it with great pride and values greatly a workplace where she can brainstorm to marry creativity with fun and pre-academics.
Jimena sits on the Board of The In Kind Project who’s mission is to provide community programming in the arts for children of all backgrounds and income levels and created a small Non Profit Organization called GEMO to promote Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in the sport of sailing. During her free time Jimena loves to cook and play with her boys.

Josephine Ancelle Musician in residence

Joséphine Ancelle grew up in Paris in a family of actors and musicians. She took her passion for singing to New York at the age of 18, where she developed her career by regularly performing at many of New York’s renowned venues, such as The Bitter End or The Living Room. She has been invited to play numerous times for French Institute Alliance Française’ (FIAF) events, as well as other French festivals. Between 2007 and 2011, Joséphine released one full length album, two EPs, and two singles of her Franco-American compositions, with her song Les “Je T’Aime” receiving radio airplay in France and Germany.

Shortly after joining the team of visiting artists at La Petite École in 2012, Joséphine began writing songs for the preschool, which focus on accompanying the children in their daily routine. She loves knowing that her songs are helping young children learn about the world around them!

In addition to pursuing her career in music, Joséphine completed her master’s degree in Speech Language Pathology from Teachers College, Columbia University in 2016, having found a new passion for this field that combines science, compassion, and creativity. Joséphine also became the mother of twin girls in 2016; her daughters inspired her to start teaching music classes for toddlers in French…

Nicolas Duchamp Musician in residence

Nicolas Duchamp has served for many years as principal flutist for the National  Opera Comique in Paris and toured extensively in his native France as well  as Europe, Japan, China, Vietnam and North America. He taught with Jean  Ferrandis as his assistant at the Ecole Normale  Superieure in Paris and regularly presents master classes in the US, Canada, Japan, China, Vietnam, France and at the Music Academy International in Italy during the summer

Greenwich Village
Evelyne Irié - Assistant -Aid nap and lunch designerGreenwich Village
Freeda McMahan - Co Teacher, Greenwich Village
Jennifer Smith-Miller - Co Teacher, Greenwich Village

Josephine Ancelle - Musician in residence
Nicolas Duchamp - Musician in residence

Evelyne Irié Assistant, Greenwich Village

Evelyne Irie grew up in Ivory Coast. From her early age , she started drawing and painting. She then entered an artistic high school from where she holds a high school diploma in Fine Arts. She has tutored fine Arts in some elementary school and in 2013 after obtaining her professional license in applied Art, she moved to New York  where she holds her Child Development Associate (CDA) after studying early childhood education. 

As a painter and designer, collage is her technique. She uses all kinds of supports and materials. She mainly uses natural objects such as fabric , African prints , jewelries, nails polish , etc ... to create her artworks. 

She is currently studying cinematography on her own so at her spare time , she immerses herself in the cinema’s world.

Freeda McMahan Co Teacher,  Greenwich Village

Freeda was born in France and began her career as a street performer in Paris at the age of 13 years old. Later on, after studying Light Opera with the cantatrice "Sylvia Rossi" and theater/acting in Paris at the "Théâtre du Tourtour" and "Studio Alain de Bock", she developed her singing experience as a backup vocalist and lead singer touring with her Jazz-fusion Quintet " Lindaloo" and many afro jazz and african artist such as Sam Mangwana, Guy Nsangue Akwa, Viviane Arnoux, Mory Kante, etc. 

She moved to New York City 10 years ago where she performed as Freeda Lou - singer songwriter  and started a new career as a preschool French and music/drama teacher using at different times the Kodaly, Montessori and Reggio Emilia approach. She has been teaching French and Art to children 2 to 4 years old  for 6 years. 
Freeda focuses mainly  on developing and encouraging children's creativity through improvisation, composition, tuneful singing, rhythm, storytelling, games, movements, along with pre-literacy and pre math concepts. In Freeda 's class Children are made collaborators and are actively engaged to co-learn with her, through exploratory activities and play. She continues to sing and act  as well and expands her art skills through drawing and painting.  

Jennifer Smith-Miller Co Teacher, Greenwich Village

Jennifer is a Native New Yorker, and has been teaching in Early Childhood in NYC for over 10 years. She studied French in high school and has a Bachelors in English from Long Island University, a Masters in Childhood Education from Pace University and an Advanced Certification in Early Childhood from City College and an Advanced Certification in Early Childhood Special Education from Bank Street College. She is certified in childhood, early childhood, and early childhood special education. 
In her free time Jennifer enjoys painting, going to the movies, theater, and dancing. Jennifer is also an avid traveler who has lived abroad in Switzerland and Montreal. She also has a five year old son whom she enjoys spending time with in and around the city.

Nicolas Duchamp Musician in residence

Nicolas Duchamp has served for many years as principal flutist for the National  Opera Comique in Paris and toured extensively in his native France as well  as Europe, Japan, China, Vietnam and North America. He taught with Jean  Ferrandis as his assistant at the Ecole Normale  Superieure in Paris and regularly presents master classes in the US, Canada, Japan, China, Vietnam, France and at the Music Academy International in Italy during the summer