alison web pic

Alison Khalaf

Executive Director

Alison comes to Families First with more than 10 years of experience working for the City of New York; serving as the Director of Revenue and Claims and the Director of Special Initiatives for the Department of Homeless Services, as well as Senior Analyst at the Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget. She has been involved with Families First for almost 6 years, when her eldest son started in Practically Preschool, and most recently served on the board of directors. Her youngest son also attended classes and the playspace at Families First. Alison is currently a member of the PTA at PS58. She holds a BA in Psychology from Johns Hopkins University and a Master of Public Administration from the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. She lives in Carroll Gardens with her husband and two children.

mariana web photo

Mariana Zenteno

Program Associate

Mariana joined Families First over the summer of 2018. An early exposure to art classes led to an interest in making art, which inspired her to pursue an education in photography. In 2016, Mariana received a BFA in Photography and Imaging from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. Throughout high school and college, she worked at various children’s summer camps on Martha’s Vineyard including programs in art, music and gymnastics. Most recently, she was a filmmaking instructor at The Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival. She enjoys working with children and experiencing the ways in which they use the world of art to express their unique point of view. In addition to being a member of the Families First team, Mariana works as a nanny and freelance photo editor at Women’s Wear Daily.


Erin Burns

Practically Preschool Lead Teacher

Playgroup / Level 3

Erin has been teaching at Families First since 2011.  She has an associates degree in Early Childhood Education from Touro College and is CPR/First Aid certified. Since Erin was seven years old she has wanted to be a teacher.  Her goal as an educator is to continue growing as a professional: to give the children at Families First an enriching learning experience that will help them to develop the skills they need to be successful in Kindergarten and beyond. Erin lives in Red Hook with her husband and four children.


Nanette DeCillis

Practically Preschool Lead Teacher

Level 1 & 2 / Drop-In Art

Nanette came to early childhood education through the birth of her son in 1991.  In 1993, she pioneered the first Music Together program in Brooklyn, igniting the "mommy and me" class explosion in the borough.  From 1998 to 2013, she was Director of ArtsCetera - a Cobble Hill storefront teaching space and community hub for young families and children, with an emphasis on play-based, child-focused creative experiences.  She has had the honor of being "first teacher" to thousands of infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers, and is thrilled to be a part of the Families First community.

Daniela Contreras

Practically Preschool Assistant

Level 3

Daniela has been a part of the Families First community since 2014. She has also worked as a caregiver for a local family in Carroll Gardens for five years. Daniela enjoys working with children and having the opportunity to watch them grow and flourish. She is thrilled when she observes her students applying skills that were taught in her classes. Daniela values patience and fun when working with little children and enjoys being a part of the community of Families First. She lives in Bay Ridge with her family, including her four year old daughter who has attended classes at Families First.

Dan Zweben
Music Teacher
Drop-In Music

Dan Zweben is a professional musician and songwriter whose songs have been featured all over TV (Smallville, Ghost Whisperer, Men In Trees) and Dan’s song “Oregon” was the soundtrack to Barack Obama’s “Youth” Ad which aired during The Super Bowl. As a teacher, Dan launched Songbird Kids in 2015 and has been teaching privately ever since. He lives in Cobble Hill with his family.