The Work and Play Staff

Deborah Engel

Founder & President

Deborah conceived the idea in 2010, shortly after her first child was born, while she was living the daily grind of commuting into the city with her best friend and worst enemy, the breast pump. She loved working in an office surrounded by colleagues, but wished she could nurse her infant throughout the day.

Two years later, in 2012, after daughter number two arrived, Deborah left her job as Vice President of public relations firm, The Lippin Group, to freelance from home. Before long, she grew lonely “hiding” in her small home office all day long. She started attending networking events, met other entrepreneurs and talked about her idea for a flexible workspace, that would also offer customizable child care.  Inspired by the support and ideas given by the community, Deborah closed on a fixer-upper in South Orange weeks before delivering her third child on “Thanksgivukkah.”

Deborah loves meeting fellow working parents to chat about balancing careers and children. She also still dabbles in PR, is a Director on the South Orange Village Center Alliance’s board, and consults with other coworking space owners who are interesting in combining coworking with childcare at their existing or proposed spaces. 

Becky Gartman

Director, Early Childhood Education

Becky Gartman is the Director of Early Childhood Education at Work and Play.

Becky has been working in the education field for 12 years, teaching children, training teachers, developing curriculum and programming, contributing to research, and writing about education. She is excited to join Work and Play to build a program that welcomes creativity and innovation, and join a community celebrating young children and their natural curiosity.

Becky received her Masters in Early Childhood Education from Eastern Michigan University and her Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education from the University of Michigan.

Becky lives with her husband Lev and their two rescue dogs, Jake and Elwood.

Sarah McNamara

Community Manager

Sarah McNamara is the community manager and the one most likely to greet you at the front door.

After 12 years of staying home with her kids while creating, managing and directing a new ultimate frisbee league for the Maplewood Recreation Department, Sarah decided to return to the workforce and join our community.

Prior to having children, Sarah worked in finance and compliance, and owned and operated two start up businesses. She lives at home with her husband Brian and visits her two sons regularly at college and graduate school.

Michelle Fernandez

Teacher

Michelle Fernandez is a teacher in our early childhood education program, working with toddlers and preschoolers every day. A graduate of Seton Hall University, Michelle knew she wanted to be a teacher ever since she was a little girl. As an education major, Michelle interned at elementary schools and was an aide at Franklin School in Kearny, Governor Livingston High School in Berkeley Heights and Ann Street School in Newark.

Michelle is a vegan, avid traveler, an active member of Woodstock Farm Sanctuary, and she owns her own bath bomb business.

Anna Maxwell

Infant Teacher

Anna Maxwell is a teacher in our early childhood education program, working with infants and toddlers.

Anna holds a Masters of Teaching in Early Childhood Education and has over 10 years of experience teaching young children in the private and public school settings.  Anna’s philosophy of education is rooted in the idea that children learn best through open-ended play and experiencing their natural environment. 

Anna recently started a consulting business called Kids Live to Learn Consulting.  She specializes in supporting parents and educators refine their own teaching skills and foster a love of learning in young children.

Anna lives in Maplewood with her husband and two daughters who are the inspiration for her continued dedication to early childhood education.