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Read an interview with two of our instructors, Cindy Schaffer and Lesley Countryman.

Cindy Schaffer

Cindy Schaffer is beginning her 11th year as an Instructor with Rutgers Community Programs. She teaches Handprints, Art Play and Once Upon an Artist, where children learn about famous artists, while creating their own work. She has also been active in the afterschool program at PS 9 on the Upper West Side. Cindy has a BA from NYU and an MA from Columbia University.

Cindy says: “I have the best job in the world! Watching young children paint for the first time brings me great job because they can express themselves before they can even speak. Our art studio allows children of all ages (and adults, too!) the freedom to create, imagine and play. I love helping people find their inner artist.”



Lesley Countryman

Lesley Countryman is beginning her 10th year as an Instructor with Rutgers Community Programs. She teaches Art Play and Once Upon an Artist. Lesley is also the Community Programs Outreach Advisor, handling marketing and outreach efforts for our programs. After a career as a performing artist in dance, theater, film and television, she taught in the afterschool program at PS9. Lesley has a BA from Connecticut College.

Lesley says: “I love being an instructor at Rutgers because I get to witness uncensored joy of discovery — every day.”



Somer Adams

Somer Adams has been an Instructor at Rutgers for 5 years. She teaches in the Ready, Set, Go! Preschool Alternative Summer and School Year program, as well as musical theater and dance classes. As a performing artist Somer has been in national and international road shows of several Broadway musicals. She is a graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy of New York and holds a teacher’s associate degree from the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing.

Somer says: “The team of staff at Rutgers Community Programs are wonderful and I am thrilled to that I have the opportunity to work alongside them. After many years of teaching, I am a firm believer that through play, art and theater, children are able to grow as individuals, improving self-expression and promoting good self-esteem. I am thrilled to work for a program dedicated to the development of children, and passionate about doing so in a warm and creative environment.”


Monika Fisher

Monika Fisher began at Rutgers in 2004, assisting classes in art, dance, musical theater and storytelling. After spending a few years in her native Sweden, she returned to Rutgers in 2009. At present she teaches in the Ready, Set, Go! Preschool Alternative Summer and School Year Program, as well as musical theater and assisting in art classes. She studied at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, and holds a BA from City College.

Monika says: “I love being an instructor at Rutgers Community Programs where we provide a nurturing environment for children to discover their individual voices through creative play. Everything from my wonderful co-workers to the kids that bring their contagious curiosity and energy, make each day a new learning experience filled with adventures!”



Denise LeDonne

Denise LeDonne has been working with Rutgers for 6 years, heading up the toddler movement classes and as an instructor in the On My Own Playgroups. Denise has more than 20 years of experience as a performing artist in dance, theater, and television. She has a BA from Montclair State College.

Denise says: “I never tire of the perspective of a child, and find that their special clarity on any topic is what fascinates and energizes me as an instructor at Rutgers.”



Jing Jing Ra

Jing Jing Ra has been directing the Chinese language and culture program at Rutgers for 4 years. She is a native of Beijing, China, and lived in Tokyo for many years, where she was a medical researcher at Tokyo Women’s Medical University. In 2011 she was a Chinese language teacher on Semester at Sea’s around-the-world voyage. She also teaches Japanese at Columbia University.




Shadrach Fher

Shadrach Fher is a native of Patagonia, Argentina. He has played college and professional soccer in his native country. In New York, he founded the popular Soccer by Coach Fher program, offered at schools and churches throughout the city. His classes are offered during the fall and winter at Rutgers. He has been teaching soccer at Rutgers Community Programs since 2002.





Holly Nedelka

Holly Nedelka has been working with Rutgers Community Programs for 21 years. She created the Child’s Play Program (Mommy & Me Toddler Playgroups) when she was a stay-at-home mom with two small children, looking for a place where she could connect with other parents as well as a fund activity for her kids. Today she is an instructor in the On My Own Playgroups. Holly directs programs at three other churches in NYC and also works with the Children’s Aid Society. She attended Butler University as a dance major and Marymount NYC for early childhood education.

Holly says: “I enjoy listening to children and parents, as a teaching guide, here in the spirited Rutgers Community.”



Jennifer Moore

Jennifer Moore is an instructor in the Toddler Playgroups and On My Own Playgroups. She has been with Rutgers Community Programs for 5 years, and attended our Playgroups and  and worked as a group leader when her own daughter was younger. Jennifer is also the Programs Coordinator handling registration and communications. She has a BA from NYU.

Jennifer says: “Every day the children make me laugh! Their joy, playfulness and energy are infectious, and it’s very gratifying to see them learning and growing over the course of a semester or a year. It’s also nice to encourage and support parents as they navigate their way through everything from sleepless nights to preschool applications.”



Weiling Wang


Weiling Wang was a school teacher and tutor in Jiangxi, China for 12 years. Since coming to the United States in 2009, she has worked with children extensively. She incorporates her love of traditional Chinese dance into her work as a teacher in our Mandarin program. She has an Associate’s Degree in Statistics Science from Jiangxi Finance and Economics University.




Jonathan Hack

Jonathan Hack is an Instructor in our Ready, Set, Go! Preschool Alternative and Musical Theater programs. He has written, directed, and composed musical theater productions for several years, including at Rutgers. After working as chair of the music department at the Patel Conservatory in Tampa, Florida, he returned to New York in December 2010, giving private voice lessons and coaching actors at his own studio. Jonathan has a BFA in Musical Theater from the Hartt School in West Hartford, Connecticut, and counts the national tour of “Miss Saigon” and “Hair” amongst his theater credits.