Ph.D. & Founder of Elliott's Classes
Elliott Cortez, Ph.D. is the founder of Elliott's Classes, movement education classes that have been improving the physical, cognitive and emotional development of children in New York City since 1992. As a child psychologist and former gymnast, Elliott designed Elliott's Classes to optimize learning through movement science to enrich all aspects of a child's life. This unique approach has been coined, "The Elliott Method". According to Elliott, "I like to see the world through childrens' eyes and speak to them as if they are my equals." Elliott provides every child with individualized attention and believes addressing a child's special needs at an early stage is critical in enhancing their development.
Elliott found his passion for gymnastics at a young age and began competing professionally at the age of 7. Following his retirement from professional competition, he joined the world renowned Bela Karolyi Training Center in 1985 as a trainer certified by the United States Gymnastics Federation.
In 1987, Elliott earned his Ph.D. in child psychology from Texas A&M, after which he formed his own practice. As part of treatment, Elliott often advised patients to enroll in gymnastics to build social and behavioral skills. He put his technique into practice by developing a National Gymnastic Training Program for high risk children at the YMCA and elementary public schools in Houston, Texas. This program ultimately formed the basis for "The Elliott Method". Ultimately, these children showed improvement in their overall school performance and behavioral problems were minimized.
Following the success of this program, Elliott began leading classes at several children's gymnastics centers in New York City. The response to his programming was overwhelming and compelled him to open Elliott's Gymnastics Center. Today, Elliott's Classes has evolved into a center with a full range of children's programming with the goal of making a positive impact on as many children as possible.
Elliott's Classes have earned recognition from many early childhood specialists including physicians who recommend parents with at-risk children as young as 8 weeks to enroll in Elliott's Classes. Elliott's work has brought him significant recognition for early childcare services:
- Elliott's Classes Named Among "Best Gyms for Kids in NY" by CBS News in 2012
- 1999 New Yorker of the Week by NY1 in recognition for "working to do what is right and good for our children and our future"
- 1999 Hero of the Year award by Big Apple Parents Guide, recognized for "good deeds in helping others and improving the quality of life in NYC"
- Appearances in several "Sesame Street" videos including "Elmocize" and "Count on Sports"
- 1995 release of "Elliott's Gym for Kids" video, bringing exercise to children in their homes
Meagan Van Ahn
Kids In Bloom & Art Instructor
Meagan Van Ahn is a teacher and visual artist. Meagan received her Bachelor of Arts in Spanish for the Professions with a minor in Political Science from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Meagan has years of experience developing curriculum and teaching Spanish and visual art to children ages 2 and up. Prior to joining Elliott's Classes, she has worked with Hudson River Arts Workshop, The Little Masters, El Taller Latino Americano and its "Spanish through Culture" after-school program at Central Park East 1 Elementary. She has also served as a lecturer at the City University of New York (CUNY) - School of Professional Studies. As an art educator, she has also led workshops for children at the Children's Museum of the Arts, New York University and more. In her spare time, Meagan is also a painter and illustrator, focusing mainly on themes related to how different cultures use animals in myths and storytelling.
Meagan brings warmth, creativity and a strong background in teaching children the Spanish language. Meagan is currently working to further incorporate visual art and Spanish within the Kids in Bloom curriculum.
Kids in Bloom Instructor
Briana Ostrow is an instructor in our Kids in Bloom and Art at Elliott's Classes. As a graduate of Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, she studied child and adolescent psychology, early childhood education, and art education.
Briana has always enjoyed working with children. During college, Briana interned as a 2nd grade teaching assistant at Mosier Elementary School in South Hadley Massachusetts. She also studied with the infant and preschool programs at the Hampshire College Children's Center. In high school, she interned at the 92nd St. Y Harkness Dance Center as an assistant in a 3 year old tap dancing class and volunteered as a teaching assistant in a 3-4 year old ballet class at Steps on Broadway. She has over 10 years of caregiver experience with newborns to children up to age 12.
Briana has helped develop a preschool curriculum that centers around encouraging students to have fun in a creative environment. In this nurturing environment, the Kids in Bloom program incorporates creative play, circle time, art and gymnastics to build a child's social, emotional and mental development.
Alejandro Jurado Hidalgo
Gymnastics, Kids in Bloom and Sports/Fitness Instructor
Alejandro Jurado Hidalgo was born and raised in Malaga, Spain and now resides in NYC. He holds a Bachelors Degree from Malaga University, in Southern Spain, in Early Childhood Education with a focus on Physical Education. Alex started his career upon graduation from University in the same elementary school he attended as a child. He was happy and proud to work under the same roof with some of his former teachers, leading Spanish Grammar, Math and Gym classes to student’s ages 3-10 years old. In NYC, Alex spent two years coaching soccer and softball for the NYC DOE, and various youth soccer academies throughout New York. He has a strong belief in learning and physical development through sensorial stimuli and believes that learning should be fun and engaging; he incorporates this methodology into all his classes. Personally, Alex is an avid traveler, soccer player and enjoys long-distance running.
Jeff Severson joined the Elliott’s Classes team in 2007. He is most instrumental in supporting the gymnastics and Kids in Bloom preschool alternative programs.
Jeff has a long history of teaching children. He earned a BA in Secondary Education Language Arts/Speech and Theatre from the University of Iowa and a Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) from Western Illinois University. Following his education, he taught varied levels of swimming and lifesaving classes and was a journeyman and instructor for Isabel O’neill School of Painted Finishes. As an artist, he has painted notable murals on display in New York, New Jersey, Iowa, Virginia, Connecticut and California.
It is his latest work, however, playing a role in helping children learn and grow through Elliott’s Classes that he finds most rewarding.
Dance & Gymnastics Instructor
Melissa Geidel joined Elliott’s Classes in 2011 as a Dance and Gymnastics Instructor. As a competitive dancer for most of her life, Melissa has trained and competed all over the east coast and has won numerous titles and awards.
Melissa earned a BA in Business Management from St. John’s University. During her time there, she was a collegiate dancer, helping to bring her team to top 5 rankings in Division 1 competitions. She has also performed regularly at Madison Square Garden and has earned awards for choreography.
Following graduation, Melissa sought to extend her passion for dance and gymnastics to children. She has dedicated the past eight years to teaching children to develop a love for the movement arts. Melissa strives to continuously learn and improve her trade and regularly takes dance classes and studies under master teachers. Her goal is to transfer this dedication to dance and gymnastics to her young students.