Puzzles- Astoria's newest learning center, NY
A special education teacher for over ten years, Sofia Christakis founded Puzzles
with the premise that every child is unique in his or her own way. When it comes to helping a child grow and realize their potential it's important for a teacher to recognize each student's individual learning style and personality.
At Puzzles, Sofia Christakis has created a warm, nurturing environment where your child can build their independence both academically and socially. They will be part of something very special, indeed. The team at Puzzles provides academic and social tutoring in a structured yet fun after-school care setting.
Sofia enjoys collaborating with parents and learning about the family so that she really gets to know your child. This is personalized teaching done right.
For most parents, the past year has been extremely frustrating. The city's teaching professionals have done their best, trying to keep their student's attention focused with remote, Zoom classes. But, as we've all discovered; there is simply no substitute for in-person interaction between teacher and pupil.
And, that's exactly why Sofia's approach is so refreshing and so desperately needed during these times.
A young, vibrant business, worthy of your support, Puzzles has been open for a little over a month.
Yet, this exciting venture is already starting to make a positive impact on the surrounding community, particularly with moms and dads who have not been totally happy with the after-school care options already in the area.
A new mom herself, Ms. Christakis knows exactly where you are coming from as a parent and what your concerns are.
Sofia simply adores her twin babies Dimitrios and Venetia and spends every minute she can with them. Juggling motherhood with running a business is certainly not the easiest task in the world. But, she is totally up for the challenge!
This talented young teacher definitely believes that Astoria is the perfect setting for Puzzles. There's a strong feeling of family wherever you go, from Ditmars and Broadway to 34th Avenue. Young professionals see Astoria as an ideal place in which to raise their kids.
Puzzles has been in the planning stages since November of 2019. The onset of Covid, though, understandably delayed the opening of this one-of-a-kind after-school educational center.
Better late than never, as the saying goes.
A proud member of Astoria's thriving Greek-American community, Sofia's grandparents immigrated here from their Hellenic homeland. Her mom and dad, Jordan and Venetia were both born and raised right here in the neighborhood.
Sofia spent the first four years of her life in Astoria before the family made the move out to Long Island. However, Sofia never strayed far from her roots and a return to Astoria was always part of her life plan. She now resides here with her husband Pete and their twins.
"I love the sense of community in our area. There are a ton of cultures represented here. Anywhere you turn, you can see and taste something different. My favorite place would have to be Astoria Park. Every aspect of the park is so special; the river, the playground, the large grass area. I started taking my twins there when they were just a few days old. People around me would stop me in the park or on the street and admire the twins, asking me if I needed anything. That sort of kindness made the transition of becoming a new mom very welcoming and positive."
Although her time is extremely limited, Sofia still enjoys a night out, whenever she can grab one. Some of her favorite restaurants include The Bonnie, Stamatis, Gergory's Taverna and the legendary Trattoria L'incontro.
And the Coffee Pot, over on 23td Avenue and 29th street, gives Sofia a great caffeine boost whenever this ultra-busy educator needs one.
At Puzzles, your child will be in very good hands. Sofia holds two degrees from St. John's University; a Bachelor's in special education/childhood education as well as a Master's in school building leadership. The founder of Puzzles also earned an Advanced Certificate in applied behavioral analysis from Hunter College.
Not bad at all for someone who, at the tender age of eight, was told by one of her teachers that she probably would never get into college. Far from being discouraged by that teacher's callous words, Sofia became determined to prove that she could excel at whatever her goals in life were.
" I went into teaching to give students the ability to feel amazing and brilliant. I always celebrate my students, no matter how small or large the victory maybe."
To say that Sofia identifies with life's underdogs would be an understatement.
" I seldom felt amazing or smart when I was in school," explained Sofia. " I was constantly picked on and was very quiet in grade school. I want a child to know their worth, no matter what their ability is. I will always advocate for their individual rights and the need to feel welcomed and accepted in the classroom and throughout the community."
Sofia's favorite subjects were art and history, passions which she carries with her
to this day. Her dad encouraged Sofia, and her siblings, (sister Katerina and brother, Theo), to learn about their Hellenic heritage and the great contributions that the Greeks made to the world.
" I always loved to read and was super interested in different novels. It always fascinated me reading how people and countries reacted to various situations they were faced with. "
In order to bring out the best in a child, Sofia knows from experience that one has to treat that child with respect and make a genuine effort to discover what motivates them; what their interests are.
Aplez.com wanted to know just why Sofia choose to be a special ed teacher. What led her down that path?
"I was seventeen when I decided that I wanted to make a difference with special education kids, I was a volunteer Sunday school teacher in kindergarten. I was introduced to a very introverted five-year-old boy. He was non-verbal and refused to enter my classroom.
Later on, I found out that he was autistic. I had no knowledge of autism and then learned everything I could about it."
Sofia went on to become very close with the boy's family, keeping in touch over the years. That boy is now 21 years old, verbal and communicative and, to top things off; he works part-time at a local community center. So, some stories DO have a happy ending.
It's been my pleasure watching him succeed in life. He was my very first inspiration. There have been many others since."
The story behind the name of the business tells a great deal about Sofia's approach to her students. A lot of thought went into the name Puzzles.
"A puzzle piece has always been associated with autism. However, my logo, or symbol, if you will, is a whole, complete puzzle. The reason being is I don't believe that kids are missing pieces . I feel like they have many amazing and complete "puzzles" in their brain. You could say that it's not my job to put the pieces together since they are already there. But, it IS up to me to adjust my teaching to fit all of the "puzzles" that are in my classroom."
We also wanted to know about the brand's tagline " You'll fit right in".
"The meaning behind those words is simple. Each and every child will fit in at Puzzles no matter what their level or ability is. Everyone is welcome as they are. I want to ensure that all of my students feel included."
Puzzles offer a vast, well-curated array of services that both parents and children are sure to feel comfortable with.
Currently, Sofia is offering group lessons as well as one-on-one lessons. No matter what path you choose for your child, rest assured that they WILL succeed here.
At Puzzles, students will also learn how to engage with their peers while working on their socialization skills.
Music therapy is a ton of fun. Sofia has some very talented artists working with her students in music class.
These sessions will," support children in developing their gross motor skills while also providing the opportunity to learn through song and dance."
Art classes are something that your child can look forward to at Puzzles.
"Our art classes build on creativity and imagination." explained the founder. Students are encouraged to communicate with other pupils about their individual projects, thus creating a sense of artistic community.
Speech therapy classes help students to build up their expressive and receptive communication skills while occupational therapy works to improve sensory integration, while also fine-tuning one's motor skills.
Parents can feel secure that, when their kids are attending classes at Puzzles, they will be in a completely safe environment.
Sofia disinfects and cleans the premises constantly. The bathrooms are thoroughly cleaned after each use; tables are endlessly wiped down and Sofia makes sure that her students wash their hands frequently.
As a small business owner, Ms. Christakis wears many hats. But it's all in a day's work. She wouldn't have it any other way.
"The best part of owning my own business is not having to worry about anyone else's opinion or rules. I really enjoy creating my own space in order to serve the community. I absolutely love meeting new people every day." added Sofia.
There has never been a better time to try Puzzles. They are now offering a 10% discount for new and returning students for the month of September.
And, just listen to this promotion: If a family recommends Puzzles to a new student and them sign-up, then the referring family will receive an ADDITIONAL 10% off of the next month's tuition.
Puzzles are the kind of place where your child will actually look forward to attending class. Sofia Christakis provides an educational experience that is engaging and the results are sustainable. Puzzles will help to set up your child for a more enriched life.
Location and Contact Info :
28-05 23rd Avenue
Astoria, N.Y. 11105
Hours : By Appointment