Our team


Our staff reflects the interculturality and international mindedness of our school with as many as 12 nationalities among our members of staff. Each class benefits of a teacher as well as a full- or part-time teaching assistant and specialist support. In group 1 we have full-time teaching assistance.


Team Optimist International School at the start of our school (1/8/2018)

From left to right top: Remco Brandt (head of school), Désirée Heeren van Gijzel (teacher), Carrie van Amstel (teaching assistant), Daniela Musso (teacher), Dinah Otto (SEN coordinator), Anne-Marie van Holst (head of international school), Tanya Gray (teaching assistent/teacher)

From left to right bottom: Gijs Bruijnzeels (leader of learning), Wendy van Vliet (project manager), Leila Kar (teaching assistant), Katie Zalewska (teacher), Jenny Allen (teaching assistant, teacher)


Let us introduce ourselves: 


Désirée Heeren

Teacher group 5/6/7

I would like to introduce myself to you as I will be one of the teachers at Optimist International school. My name is Désirée Heeren and I am married to Jaap, the love of my life! We have two children, Philippe who works with elderly people with dementia and Nastassja who works as a teacher in special education. We are blessed with our children but also blessed with a beautiful, cheeky and loving grandson Jonathan, who is 4 years old and whose brother is about to be born! We are very much looking forward to meeting this little miracle.


Jaap and I also have two cats, Milky and Yentl. Milky is an ordinary cat but very loving and sweet natured. Yentl is a Ragdoll, beautiful fur and blue eyes, blond but not very intelligent, but she is very loving too. Jaap and I play badminton twice a week and I go for combat HIIT at the local swimming pool on Tuesdays. So we try to keep fit!


Before I came to the international school I worked in Haarlem for 7 years in the Internationale Taalklas Haarlem. Children that come to this school are new to the Netherlands and have to learn to speak, read and write Dutch. These children came from all over the world as well, but often fled their country because of war. Now the time has come to start a new challenge and that’s why I applied for a job at Optimist International School. I am very much looking forward to start and meet all of the children and parents. See you soon and in the meantime I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and a healthy, happy and Dutchy 2018!


Tanya Gray

Teaching assistant group 5/6/7

Hi! My name is Miss Tanya, or Juf Tanya; if you prefer! I am very excited to be joining the team at Optimist International School and I can’t wait to welcome the children, together with you all! I will be the teaching assistant for groups 5,6 & 7 in our lovely new school and I will also be teaching EAL (English as an Additional Language) to children who don’t have English as their mother tongue. Before coming to Optimist International School, I was a teaching assistant and English language teacher in a variety of schools and kindergartens in Northern Ireland, England and The Netherlands.

I was born in Northern Ireland and moved to the Netherlands 6 years ago, together with my Dutch partner and our 4 children; aged 15, 14, 12 and 10 years old. We now live in the lovely town of Zeewolde, in Flevoland, with our white Swiss shepherd dog; Kaiser and our two cats; Zeus and Jinxy.

I am passionate about education and I am so excited to work in an international school that is so closely connected to a Dutch school, such a fantastic opportunity for us all to learn so much from each other. So, if you see me around the school, stop and say hi; in whatever language, you prefer. My Dutch is basic, but I love to learn just as much as I love to teach!


Daniela Musso

Teacher group 3/4


My name is Daniela Musso and I will be the group 3/4 teacher together with Ms. Jenny. I will work from Monday to Thursday. On Friday Ms. Jenny will have the class together with Ms. Leila. Before starting at Optimist International School, I’ve worked at another international school in the Netherlands for 2,5 years as a group 4 teacher.


I was born and raised in the Netherlands with Italian roots. I live in Amersfoort together with my wife and our two cats. In February we will move into our new house, can’t wait for it! I’m really excited to be a part of the Optimist international school team as we are starting a new adventure!


Jenny Allen

Teaching assistant group 3/4

I’m 29 and live in Nederhorst den Berg (near Hilversum) with my Dutch partner and our two cats – Ben and Jerry. I was born in England and have lived in the Netherlands for almost six years. I speak English and Dutch. I enjoy cycling and playing tennis. I love Italian food and camping. My brother lives in Australia and my sister and parents live in England. I have a Scottish uncle and a Welsh grandfather.

I have visited Spain, France, Germany, Belgium, Ireland, Australia, Italy and America, and would love to see more of the world. I studied English and Creative Writing at the University before starting a degree in Primary Education. For the last 3 years I have been working in online publishing. I am excited about returning to the field of education. I will be working as a Teaching assistant in ‘Groep 3 and 4’ with Daniela Musso.


Katarzyna Zalewska

Teacher group 1/2


My name is Katarzyna (Katie) Zalewska and I am going to be the teacher for group 1/2. Teaching is an absolute passion of mine! To start off, I would like to tell you a bit about myself both personally and professionally. I am originally from Poland. I graduated from Faculty of Humanities in the field of Philology with major in English Philology and Postgraduate Studies in the field of Pre-School and Early-Years Education. I have lived in the Netherlands since 2014.


During my free time I enjoy reading, cooking and doing sports. This will be my eighth year of teaching. Before, I taught 2,5 years of Pre-K in an International School in the Netherlands. I absolutely love teaching. It is my passion to instill a love for learning in my students. I attempt to teach with a passion for my subject so that my students develop a desire to become life-long learners. I am looking forward to having a wonderful school year with both you and your children!


Carrie van Amstel

Teaching assistant group 1/2

Hello! My name is Carrie van Amstel and I have been an educator for the past 15 years. I have taught Biology at the high school level, English and Dutch to children and adults and am a Substitute Teacher at the International School in Amsterdam. This school year, I have embarked on a another journey: becoming part of a wonderful, dedicated team to start up a new primary international school in Hoofddorp, Optimist International School! As a Teaching Assistant, I look forward to welcoming all the new children and parents to our school and providing an in depth curriculum that will engage all those inquiring, little minds. Laughing and learning together!


In my free time, I enjoy both watching and playing tennis, putting puzzles together that have 1500 pieces and playing with lego with my two little boys. I also enjoy trying out new recipes on my husband and children and travelling the globe. I still have Costa Rica and Madagascar on my Bucket List. I hope to see all of you soon!


Leila Kar

Teaching assistant group 1/2 and 3/4


My name is Leila Kar and I am 27 years old. I am French, German and Turkish by origin and grew up going from one international school to the next, going back and forth between Germany and the United States. Besides education I studied sociology in Canada and Intercultural Communication and Management in Paris, all the while working for four years as a substitute in an International School in Paris as well. I spent years in childcare with smaller children and tutoring teenagers and must say, I strive within all stages of education!


I moved to the Netherlands over a year ago and decided to turn to education once again. I am now a happy teaching assistant in the beautiful Optimist International School, impatiently waiting for the children to start in January. I live in Amsterdam Noord with my cat Lucy, my roommate Lucy and my other roommate Martina. I love to go to my ice skating lessons and go to nice dinners with my very Dutch partner Leon.


In short: I love teaching, children, animals and ice skating, and I cannot wait for the children to share what they love, with me, too! See you soon!



Remco Brandt

Head of School (Dutch and International departments)


Optimist: Get inspired by the magical world of knowledge!

Learning has to be a journey of discovery for children, where they are challenged, inspired and guided.

Every child has a unique talent. It's our task to recognize that and to give children the self-confidence that makes them feel competent.

By doing this together, children experience that everyone is different, but that we all belong together!



Anne-Marie van Holst-Steenmeijer

Head of Optimist International School

I am very familiar with this school De Optimist from different perspectives. I have been a teacher for 8 years. Since a couple of years I am behavior specialist, special educational needs coordinator and a member of the management team. During these 8 years I have also been a parent at our school as a mother of 3 sons and 3 foster daughters.


From the 8th of January I will be Head of Optimist International School. I love new challenges! Together with Remco I look forward to develop this new department and find ways to integrate it with our Dutch department.


Dinah van Bronkhorst-Otto

Special Educational Needs Coordinator (Senco)

I am Special Educational Needs Coordinator (Senco) at our Dutch department and at Optimist International School. I support teachers and help them examine and deal with special educational needs of our students. For example a student might need extra support in a different way (intensifying) or extra challenge. A teacher might also have questions about other development areas.


Extra support can be offered by a specialist staff member of our school or a professional of our external support team, like our school coach. I coordinate this extra support. I am looking forward to play this role at Optimist International School.


Wendy van Vliet

Project Manager

No colleague, but a familiair face in this school as a parent of my oldest son Senja (who just made the transfer to secundary education) and Kibo, in group 6a. I am employed by the municipality of Haarlemmermeer as a strategic policy advisor. Amongst other things I am responsible for (higher) education in relation to sustainability, knowledge and innovation.


Since the start of 2016, I am also responsible for international education. From that perspective I was involved in the development of Optimist International School. Because of the excellent cooperation with the school board (SOPOH), I was asked to become project manager of the development of the international school. It has been an amazing project and I am proud of the results. I will be involved in the further development of the international school this school year.


Gijs Bruijnzeels

Leader of learning

My name is Gijs Bruijnzeels, 33 years old and almost 5 years a teacher at our wonderful school: OBS de Optimist. So far I have been a teacher for students in group 8 (our Dutch system knows 8 groups). From now on I will also be Leader of learning. As a Leader of learning I will be primarily concerned with educational processes within the school. As a school we are focused on making learning visible. I will make sure our set course will be continued and both our departments (Dutch and international) will be integrated.