Staff Bios

Behind the Book’s talented, dedicated staff are helping to inspire young people in New York City public schools to love reading.

Alana Benoit, Director of Programs
Alana is a writer and arts education programmer with extensive experience working in non-profit arts management and youth development. Most recently, Alana was an English and Writing teacher at Saint Joseph High School in Brooklyn, NY, where she taught ninth and tenth grades. She has worked with prominent cultural arts institutions such as the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, Brooklyn Children’s Museum and The Harlem School of the Arts. Alana holds a BA from Union College and MA from the English University of York. She was raised and currently lives in Harlem, NY with her box-turtle Citrus, and her cats Disco and Nova.

Nicole Daniels, Program Coordinator
Nicole is a former classroom teacher whose passion for project-based creative learning drew her to Behind the Book. Nicole became a reader and historian because of her childhood love for the American Girl books; she continues to pursue those interests today as a Museum Educator at the Tenement Museum. Nicole is a graduate of Hampshire College where she studied Theatre and Education.

Nina Dunhill, Graphic Designer
Nina worked in children’s publishing for 8 years, most of them at Viking Children’s Books. More recently, she has worked as a freelance graphic designer, designing a wide variety of printed and digital material. She serves as a book designer for Behind the Book’s publishing program as well as a graphic designer for the organization at large.

Christine V. Fleming, Program Coordinator
Christine served for a decade on the Chelsea Day School Board of Directors, including eight years as president. As co-chair of the Parent Association Literary Committee at Little Red School House Elisabeth Irwin High School, she helped organize book weeks and author visits to every classroom. She has also worked in production for Joseph Papp at the New York Shakespeare Festival.

Myra Hernandez, Program Coordinator
Myra is an educator with over 14 years of experience in the classroom and has taught in public schools on the west and east coasts. She has a MA in Education with an emphasis on Critical Pedagogy and a BA in Cultural Anthropology. After leaving the classroom, Myra worked as a Program Coordinator for the New York Public Library developing Out-of-School-Time public programming for students from underserved communities. Myra continues to provide educational support as an early childhood literacy consultant and curriculum developer.

Candice Humphries, Teaching Artist
Candice is a new addition to Behind the Book. She is an art educator and artist with an MA in Art Education and a BA in Studio Art and holds a NYS K-12 Visual Arts Teaching certification. She has been teaching for two years and has experience teaching students between two and fifteen years old. She loves incorporating literacy and books into her art lessons and is excited to teach students all over New York City.

Kara Matthews, Director of Development & Communications
As the Development Manager at Behind the Book, Kara conceives and executes all of the varied fundraising activities that support our programs. She previously worked in development at a New York City-based social services organization and at a regional environmental organization that serves the greater metropolitan area north through the Catskills. There, she secured and stewarded millions of dollars in major gifts from foundation, corporate, and government sources. Kara holds a Master’s degree in Nonprofit Management from the New School and a Bachelor’s in liberal arts.

Sara Reynolds, Teaching Artist/Book Designer
Sara served as art director of Dutton Children’s Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, for 19 years. In addition to working as an art director and book designer, Sara also taught studio art and art history in grades 2 – 12 earlier in her career. Sara serves as classroom teaching artist, book designer, and consultant for the student books publishing program.

Emily Rosenberg, Volunteer Coordinator
Emily is a communications professional who served for more than 20 years in the press offices of New York City elected officials. She continues to provide writing, design, and public relations services to non-profit advocacy groups, political organizations, and solo business practitioners in the arts, law, and medicine. She is also the creative director in the development of a database-driven iOS app, a featured blogger for a website covering TV and music, and is at work on a novel.

Milagros Seraus-Roache, Program Coordinator
Milagros is currently a doctoral student in Urban Education at the CUNY Graduate Center. Her research investigates the intersection between the histories of progressive education and the black educational experience in the United States. She is also an instructor at the City College of New York, where she teaches an undergraduate course titled Urban Schools in a Diverse American Society. In addition, Milagros previously served a 5-year tenure as a special education elementary public school teacher in East Harlem, NY. She holds a B.A. from Cornell University and an M.A. in Educational Leadership in Politics and Advocacy from New York University.

Jo Umans, Executive Director and Founder
Jo worked for 25 years in television production. She was an Associate Director and Script Supervisor on shows including Good Morning America, Kate and Allie, The Chris Rock Show, and Liberty! The American Revolution. For the last five years of her TV career, she also worked part-time as a school librarian, and for two years ran the visiting-author program in her school. This experience inspired her to leave her career in television to found Behind the Book.