Our Team

Cara Lesser

Founder and Executive Director

Cara founded KID as part of a longstanding dream to establish a local children’s museum. In her previous professional life, she held a number of leadership positions in nonprofits and the federal government, focusing on health policy and reform. In late 2011, Cara shifted gears to create a unique local resource to cultivate kids’ creativity and empower the next generation of imaginative and compassionate leaders. Cara holds master’s degree in public policy from University of California, Berkeley and a bachelor’s degree from Barnard College, Columbia University.

Gene Burkett

Finance Manager

Gene oversees all accounting work, performing analysis and budgeting for the board and grants, and managing the annual audit. Gene’s previous expierience includes serving as Finance Manager at Children for Children Foundation and over 27 years in the Finance Department of ExxonMobil Corporation.

Grace Center

Maker Educator

Grace designs and implements programs, manages KID’s weekend operations, and helps direct our Apprenticeship and Excel Beyond the Bell programs. Grace first partnered with KID Museum to launch Community KIDs, a summer service program for Middle Schoolers. She loves wielding power tools, being a doofus, and learning as many new skills as she can.

Holly Christensen

Business Operations & Member Services Manager

Holly oversees KID's internal operations, including financial and grant management, CRM processes, and data tracking. She also assists with membership inquiries and other support. Holly has ten years of experience in the education and nonprofit sectors, including positions at American University, and The Carter Center in Atlanta. She holds a master's degree in public administration and nonprofit management from American University.

Claire Cocciole

Director of Maker and Community Partnerships

Claire connects the expertise and inspiration of others to KID Museum’s audience. She has extensive experience in international education, museum exhibit design, and event management. She holds a master’s degree in museum studies from Harvard University, as well as a master’s in ethnic and minority studies from ELTE University in Budapest. Claire is also a trained visitor services volunteer for the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Rob D'Amato

Development Manager

Rob leads all fundraising efforts, include grant seeking targeting government and foundations, securing corporate sponsorships, managing special fundraising events, and developing strategies to reach and retain individual donors. He has eight years of experience in nonprofit development, having served in development roles at many other local non-profits. He is a graduate of Fordham University.

Amanueal Daba

Maker Educator

Amanueal has been part of the TEEN WORKS program through Montgomery County Recreation Department for over 3 years and also works for the YMCA Arylawn as a summer camp counselor. He loves working with kids and teaching them new things. He is currently studying biology at University of Maryland Baltimore County and hopes to become a heart surgeon.

Meg Goetz

Education Team Lead

Meg leads our team of Maker Educators. Meg began making and educating at the Science Museum of Minnesota, where she taught classes that combined robotics and programming with cardboard, feathers, and tape. She partnered with MIT's Lifelong Kindergarten Lab to bring technology into informal learning spaces, including the American Visionary Art Museum and Smithsonian's Invention At Play exhibit. She holds a master’s degree in elementary education from George Washington University. When not inventing at museums, she is an avid gardener, mom, and accordion player.

Laurel Harrington

Director of School and Group Visits

Laurel is excited to be working with educators, students, parents, and other groups as they learn about our programs. She has spent her career in the field of education in a variety of roles and with students from preschool age through undergraduate level. After beginning her career in educational research, she became a teacher, working in urban schools. She has also worked with science camps, the education department at a zoo, and in school admissions. Laurel holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and a master’s in education from Duquesne University.

Dya Ishak

Maker Educator, Manager of Cultural Programs

Dya produces events organized around a different country every month, working with cultural organizations and embassies in the DC area. Dya believes the most effective way to teach respect for and understanding of other cultures is through traditional games and hands-on activities brought to the museum from all over the world. She grew up in the culturally-diverse nation of Indonesia and worked for many years as a journalist. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from Sahid University in Jakarta.

Scott Joftus, EdD

Managing Director

Scott is helping to shape KID’s efforts to implement a new strategic plan and to support school partnerships. He is the co-founder and president of the education consulting firm Cross & Joftus, which helps education leaders achieve big results for youth. Scott also serves as an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education, where he teaches leadership and program evaluation. He holds a bachelor’s degree in public policy from Duke University, a master’s degree in public policy from the University of California at Berkeley, and a doctorate in education policy and leadership from The George Washington University.

Jen Kwan

Web Manager

Jen manages KID's digital presence, streamlining production processes, integrating a new CRM, and leading a functional redesign effort. She embarked on her digital odyssey when the web was but a collection of bulleted lists and blink text. She has managed digital projects large and small, from cable networks to newspapers to arts festivals to Fortune 100 companies. Jen has trained in interaction design and user experience at the School of Visual Arts and holds a bachelor's degree from Duke University.

Maureen Lexner

Director of Operations

Maureen oversees daily operations of the Museum and helps enhance the visitor services experience. She also oversees our volunteer program and helps plan weekend programming and staffing. Maureen has worked in museum education, project management, and operations in several prominent art and cultural institutions. She holds a master’s degree in museum studies from New York University. When she is not working, Maureen loves to spend time with her family working in the garden and traveling.

Liza Manfred

Maker Educator

Liza develops and teaches a variety of workshops and programs and loves integrating many different content areas. She co-manages KID’s Coding Corps program and also coaches a First Lego League team. Exploring the intersection of education and evaluation in informal learning settings, she has worked at the International Spy Museum and the National Building Museum. She holds a master's degree in museum education from The George Washington University.

Ram Mosher

Maker Educator

Ram designs and implements compelling, dynamic, hands-on STEAM programing at the museum. He also manages KID's wood shop. He combines over 15 years of experience in the building trades with an eclectic array of intellectual pursuits and a love of teaching children. Ram has built houses, taught wilderness survival skills to teens, recorded rock albums and radio plays, and led tours at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. He holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland. He loves cooking, gardening and being outrageously silly with his young daughter. If you can’t find him, he is in the woods.

Benjamin Owsley

Maker Educator

With formal training in industrial design, Benjamin develops and facilitates programs. He comes to KID with a broad range of experience, having worked as a shoe cobbler and a tooling designer in a large manufacturing plant. He has worked with a wide range of materials, machinery, and software. He loves all things design, and enjoys sketching with pen and paper in his free time. Benjamin holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial design from Virginia Tech.

Jordan Ouro

Maker Educator

Jordan designs and facilitates workshops. Originally from Brazil, he comes to us with a breadth of experience. When not working at KID, he is a formally trained musician. He studied music education at Washington Adventist University and holds an undergraduate degree from the Federal University of Bahia in Brazil.

Ashima Mathur Shah, PhD

Manager of Evaluation and Research

Ashima analyzes our operations and programming to help us to continually improve our offerengs. With a background in educational research, she has managed the nationwide implementation of a STEM program quality tool. Ashima has also developed elementary and middle school curricula, as well as coaching materials for practitioners. She divides her time between KID and the PEAR Institute at Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital. Ashima holds a bachelor’s degree in child development and biology from Tufts University and a doctorate in science education from the University of Michigan.

Emma Sussman Starr

Director of Communications

Having been with KID since early 2013, Emma is responsible for our print and digital marketing efforts, including messaging, publications, advertising, newsletters, and website content. She's worked in publishing and writing for over twenty years, and past positions include Senior Editor at ELLE.com, Communications Director at Planned Parenthood of New York City, and Chief Writer, also at Planned Parenthood of NYC. Emma is also the written voice of Larry the Labrador, a letter-writing, globe-trotting canine. She holds a master's degree in English and creative writing from the University of Texas-Austin and a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Amanda Puerto Thorne

Maker Educator

Amanda designs and leads workshops and programs in robotics and programmming. She co-manages KID’s Coding Corps program, and also coaches a First Lego League team. Her experience includes work with the US Botanic Garden and the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center. She focused her undergraduate studies on emerging educational technologies. Amanda holds a master’s degree in museum education from The George Washington University.