MS 226 Teaching Staff & Personnel


Mr. Potwardski (aka, Mr. P) has been a proud member of the District 27 community for the past fourteen years. During this time, he has been an English Language Arts teacher, a Literacy Coach, and an assistant principal.

As an assistant principal, Mr. P worked with teachers, students, parents, and other members of the school community to create an engaging learning environment for all students. He oversaw a technology program that provided all students with iPads through which they accessed course materials and submitted work. He facilitated professional learning sessions for teachers on questioning and discussion techniques, strategies to support student engagement, and utilizing data. He also worked with a team to pilot Virtual Enterprise Junior Venture (VEJV) at the middle school level. This program teaches students about all aspects of running a business as they create and run their own virtual company.

While officially new to the MS 226 family, he has worked closely with the school community in the past. He taught in the Specialized High School Program at MS 226 between 2009 and 2010, and collaborated with teachers and administration as part of the Learning Partners Program from 2017 to 2019.

His educational philosophy is rooted in two core beliefs. The first is that all students can achieve at high levels. The second is that a strong middle school education that fosters academic, social, and emotional growth for all students is a necessary step in ensuring that all students graduate prepared to face the opportunities and challenges of the 21st century.

Assistant Principal

Dr. Jennifer Shirley-Brown hails from the sun-kissed island of Jamaica. During her thirty-two years as an educator, Dr. Shirley-Brown has served as a teacher of English Language Arts, a Lead teacher, a Literacy Coach, and an Assistant Principal. She holds a Diploma in Teacher Education from Shortwood Teachers’ College in Kingston, Jamaica West Indies, a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Hunter College, a Master of Education degree from Cambridge College, and a Master’s degree in Administration and Supervision from Touro College. She is a recent graduate of the Sage Colleges of Albany where she obtained a doctorate in Educational Leadership. This is Dr. Shirley-Brown’s ninth year as the Assistant Principal of the Renaissance Academy at Middle School 226. Her mantra; Effort, Grit, Success serves as a guiding principle for members of her learning community. She has initiated several programs and residencies during her tenure in the school and strives daily to ensure the social and academic development of her students.

She firmly believes that educators serve as role models for their students. She asserts, “I constantly strive for excellence because I believe it is my responsibility to operate from the pinnacle of my craft. It is important for me to be a model of success not only for the students and teachers in my school but for my four sons who have to navigate the complex demands of the 21st century. Pursuing a doctoral degree has always been a goal for me but with the demands of life and work, I had placed it in the pile of long term, not right now, things to do. I thought I was too busy and could not find an hour in any of my days to accommodate it. However, one should always be audacious and go boldly in the directions of his/her dreams.”

She is a proud member of the New York Academy of Public Education, The Association of Assistant Principals, The Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, The Black Caucus of the Council of School Supervisors and administrators, and The Concerned Parents of Baldwin.

Assistant Principal Michelle Cohen

I started out as a Common Branches licensed teacher in 1995 and as I developed my pedagogy in teaching 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 6th graders, I began to turn my focus toward my first love: Mathematics. I completed my Masters in Elementary Math Education and started teaching Math to several classes where I had an opportunity to develop my understanding of how students with and without disabilities learn most effectively. I channeled my talents into serving as an Assistant Principal for several years in Brooklyn until I came to serve the staff, students, and parents of the MS226 community in September 2013 under the guidance and inspiration of Principal, Dr. Rushell White. My goal is to develop students into self-guided learners using the tools and opportunities that MS226 affords them through the guidance and inspiration that our staff members offer. If we continue to teach them to think and dream, while helping them to create their own paths to attain their goals, then we will have collectively done our jobs!

Assistant Principal Lucia Lengua

Lucia Lengua was born in Brooklyn, New York and realized by the tender age of seven that she had a passion for writing and literature. She began to hone her skills at Mark Twain Junior High School for the Gifted and Talented in Creative Writing Talent and later at Midwood High School where she discovered her love for the stage and theater. Before graduating high school, she decided to pursue at path in secondary education as a literature teacher. Ms. Lengua received a scholarship to attend the Scholar’s Program at CUNY Brooklyn where she studied under esteemed professors such as Robert Viscusi who inspired her to write her Bachelor’s thesis on the literature of Italian-American women. She graduated Summa Cum Laude in 1998 and went on the receive her Master’s degree in Liberal Studies where her thesis explored the transformation of her students’ definitions of heroism in the post-9/11 era.

In 1998, she began her twenty-year career as a teacher of literature at Madison High School in Brooklyn where she taught two generations of students with the passion and love for literature that inspired her into the most noble profession. From 2001-2018 she was the coordinator of the NYC Mentoring Program, in partnership with the Federal Reserve Bank of NY, where her love for mentoring was further cultivated as many graduates became successful in their chosen fields. From 2006 to 2018, she taught a college course in Mass Communication in conjunction with Kingsborough Community College. In 2012, she became a dean, in addition to teaching, and found fulfillment in attending to the social-emotional needs of students through restorative practices such as conflict resolution, restorative circles and meditation.

She joined the MS 226 family in August 2018 as AP Safety, Security and Organization. Her work is led by a deep love and fundamental belief that student learning is best achieved when students’ social-emotional needs are developed. She hopes to continue to enrich the lives of the MS226 students through youth development programs.

When not at work, she enjoys spending time with her family and especially her daughters, Violeta and Juliette. She loves to listen to music, cook, travel and spend time on the North Fork beaches and vineyards.

7th Grade Humanities Academy

for Performing Arts

Assistant Principal

Lawrence R. Melamed was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. He always loved school and learning, and had wonderful teachers throughout his primary and secondary school careers. It’s no wonder that he began his teaching career in 1998, after just having graduated with two Bachelor of Science Degrees in English Literature and World Religion from Binghamton University. For twenty years, he taught English at James Madison High School in Brooklyn, NY, during which time he taught well over 5,000 students. He earned his Master of Science Degree in Education from the College of Staten Island in 2006.

During his time at Madison, Mr. Melamed was a teacher, a dean, a grant writer and a public relations officer. Aside from teaching, which was his greatest pleasure, his most rewarding experiences came from producing and directing numerous school musicals, and from the public relations work he did, which enabled him to liaise between the school and its many distinguished alumni—like Judge Judy, Cousin Brucie, Carole King and Chris Rock—as well as local, state and national politicians, like Senator Chuck Schumer, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Presidential Hopeful—Senator Bernie Sanders. In 2016, Mr. Melamed was accepted into LEAP (Leadership in Education Apprenticeship Program), through which he earned his School Building Leadership Certificate. He went on to pursue his School District Leadership Advanced Certificate at Baruch College a year later.

In the late summer of 2018, Mr. Melamed joined the MS 226 community as the Assistant Principal of the 7th Grade Humanities Academy for Performing Arts, and supervisor of the math, science and arts departments. Working with a phenomenal staff, generous and supportive colleagues on the administrative team, and amazingly funny and smart students from a variety of backgrounds has been such a wonderful learning experience for him. He has especially enjoyed his close work with Young Men’s Leadership and Young Women’s Leadership, and on the robust College Access 4 All menu of offerings of access opportunities provided to his 7th graders—including a trip to London, England in the spring of 2019. His favorite part of the job is, of course, seeing his students learn and thrive—academically, socially and emotionally. He looks forward to leveraging existing and building additional professional partnerships with members of the broader MS 226 community to bring more opportunities and access to its students and their families