Nov 13, 2013
Brazilian 'Supermoms' Launching STEM Enrichment Venture in Greenwich, Zaniac
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After Lehigh University and receiving his MBA from Wharton Business School in 15 months at age 22, he became Citibank’s youngest officer, and then its youngest vice president at age 25. He was appointed a professor at New York University at age 24, where he taught for 21 years and was five times voted “best teacher,” the bio says, explaining that he has started, and/or taken public, six companies in healthcare and K-12 education.
One of those ventures was Zane Prep, founded in 2011, which spawned Zaniac—and Zaniac is arriving in Greenwich through a serendipitous meeting between Naslausky and Pilzer during a skiing holiday last winter in Utah.
In the interview at the Greenwich Zaniac location, Naslausky and Gazal explained their journey to launching a STEM enrichment venture that they hope to bring to other places in the Connecticut/metro New York area once the flagship effort is established.
Both have strong backgrounds in the financial services industry, are fluent in several languages and are mothers with a natural and intense focus on education—Naslausky has two sons, 9 and 6, and Gazal has a son, 11, and two daughters, 8 and 6.
Naslausky, who has bachelor’s degrees economics and political science from New York University, currently works as Director of Latin American Currency Strategy at Royal Bank of Scotland in Stamford, and before that she worked at Chase Manhattan Bank in New York.
With a Master’s Degree in hospitality industry studies from New York University, Gazal has served in senior management positions with several major financial service firms in New York City, including Santander Investments Securities and BBVA Securities Inc.
For some time, they have wanted to own a business together, and were inclined toward something tied to education. They had talked about a venture as long ago as 2008, but “then the [financial] crisis hit and we said, ‘Let’s keep our jobs in finance,’” Gazal recalled.
Meanwhile, with their own children they were pursuing the principles of STEM and things like Singapore math. “We saw a market no one was talking about,” Naslausky said.
Then she was in Utah skiing over winter break and met Pilzer, and “we started talking about economics,” Naslausky said. Zaniac naturally came up, and the path of the new venture for the STEM-focused moms from Brazil became clear.
“We absolutely loved the program that Zaniac has,” Gazal said.
“Kids will only excel when they master the concept,” Naslausky added, stressing that Zaniac is unique and customized for every child, as part of its mission to find and achieve every child’s potential. That happens, in part, through focused and constant interaction with parents.
One way Zaniac Greenwich will be unique is that Naslausky and Gazal have handpicked six “rising” high school seniors—taking AP STEM-related courses—to work with the Zaniac students.
Even the building itself was chosen with a purpose. “We saw these [sweeping, floor-to-ceiling] windows and said, ‘This looks so STEM,’” Naslausky recalled.
Once the operation is up and running, the hours will be Monday through Friday, from 4 p.m. to around 7, and Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The courses will rollover, and students can take more than one at a time. According to Zaniac’s descriptions of the courses:
Zane Math lets children experience a world-class curriculum that is coordinated with what they are studying in school. Using a custom software program tailored to fit each individual's needs, Zane Math engages kids in conceptual problem solving, rather than drills and repetition.
Minecraft Exploration builds science and engineering skills through fun and engaging games and lessons taught by trained tutors. Children work in teams to plan and design civilizations as a way to explore scientific and engineering concepts.
LEGO Robotics is a fun way for children to learn about principles of physics and mechanics by building and programming robots. The program helps children develop critical thinking skills for problem solving.
Chess Instruction helps children develop strategic thinking skills while enhancing creativity and improving memory.
“Zaniac will help us as individuals, parents and a community to get our kids more engaged in STEM subjects, and to make sure that our kids have the opportunity to grow with STEM. Zaniac is designed so that kids can have fun in the process of learning, while at the same time gaining confidence by teaching each other and sharing the experience. It is a wonderful package," Gazal said in the release announcing Zaniac’s arrival in Greenwich.
“It doesn't matter if you are in the private or public school system. We should all be involved in promoting STEM within our community and making sure our children are exposed to it,” Naslausky said in the release. “Zaniac provides a fun, safe and highly motivational environment for children. Zaniac provides feedback on every child after each session to parents, providing them the opportunity to more closely participate in and follow their child's development.”
Zaniac is a part of Zane Prep, a privately held company headquartered in Park City, Utah. To learn more about Zaniac, see the parent website.