Our Teachers

Kindergarten Teachers We are proud of our dynamic, caring and talented teachers.

Our faculty is comprised of 51 full- and part-time educators, including experienced 30+ year veterans as well as a few newly certificated teachers.

ACDS is a fun, upbeat place to teach and learn; consequently our teachers enjoy long tenures at ACDS and our rate of faculty retention ranks among the best independent schools nationally.

Taken from our #WhyITeach social media spotlight, discover why our teachers love to teach and why they love teaching at ACDS.


Early Childhood


Mrs. Elizabeth Lasher knew she wanted to become a teacher from a young age. She started teaching in a small dance studio and eventually became a Dance Masters of America certified dance teacher. "I've been fortunate enough to share my love of dance with students as young as two and as old as eighty-five years of age. When I came to ACS I was able to continue sharing my love of dance and movement working with the youngest and oldest students at ACS with musical movement and teaching period dances of the 20's to the 8th graders."

She chose #ACDS because she firmly believes that no significant learning can happen without a significant relationship and she knew that ACDS offered this type of environment. “In working with ECE students I know I've got the foundation of a great relationship when a child slips and calls me mom. Once that happens I know we will grow to amazing places in the school year. There is nothing like the mind of a young child.”

Fun fact: She loves being a forever learner, who keeps her heart and mind wide open at all times. “I teach because this journey as a teacher requires all the best parts of my humanity.”


Junior Kindergarten

Mrs. Julie Hackett
has wanted to be a teacher ever since she was a child. She loves to encourage her students to try new experiences and enjoys learning right along with them. "Teaching for me is about loving children, bonding with children and helping children develop a love of learning."

She chose #ACDS because the community at ACDS is like no other. "Being a parent to a student here as well as a teacher, I feel like I have the best of both worlds. As a teacher, I love that I can collaborate with my fellow teachers and produce the best environment for my students to thrive in. As a parent, working together on committees and social events with other parents has given me lifelong friends here at ACDS."

Fun fact: She is the queen of useless information and usually knows answers to random trivia questions that involve pop culture, TV shows, and music but most especially song lyrics!


Extended Care


Mrs. Leah Morter
was inspired by the her first boyfriend's mother who taught Kindergarten at Marshall Lane school in Saratoga. "I was her aid for a short time and that was it! I was hooked on teaching!"

She chose #ACDS because she's an ACDS alumna and it "completely changed my outlook on school. ACDS showed me that great teachers take time to get to know their students and they embrace and nurture what makes those students shine."

Fun fact: Mrs. Morter plays roller derby and is known as "50 Shades of Pain."

Mrs. Tanya Baggese
became a teacher because it was what she had always wanted to be. "I come from a long line of teachers, so it is in my blood. My mom is a retired teacher, and I loved helping her everyday. Seeing her love for children and how they looked up to her inspired me to become a teacher."

She chose #ACDS because when she was in high school, her mom taught first grade at ACDS. "I always felt it would be a great place to work. I was right. I love how the school embraces the whole child and encourages them to learn through music, drama, language, and hands-on experiences! I absolutely love ACS!"

Fun fact: She is only 4'11''!



Mrs. Debbie Ray
had a third grade teacher, Miss Janowiz, who made her want to be a teacher. "She had the prettiest bouffant hair style and the cutest kitten high heels and I wanted to be just like her. But it wasn't the hair or the high heels at all. It was how she made me feel. When I was in her class she made me feel valued, she made me feel smart, she made me feel like I could do anything and be the best at it. She taught me about self-esteem and confidence." Mrs. Ray wants to influence young lives and help create a sense of value and attitude.

She chose #ACDS for her children because of the small class sizes and the philosophy of teaching the whole child. And she chose #ACDS to become a teacher because she is encouraged to use her creativity in teaching and was provided great support from co-teachers and the strong administrative staff. "ACS made me feel the way Miss Janowiz had. I knew right away I had to be a part of the team."

Fun fact: She has a song for everything; ask any kindergartner. "But I only sing in the company of 5 and 6 year-olds,” says Mrs. Ray.

Ms. April Orleans When asked why she chose to be a teacher, she replied, "Many years ago I asked myself what I wanted my life’s work to be. At the time, I thought I had the answer as I pursued a degree in Community and International Development. This field would afford me the opportunity to work with people around the globe to solve community based problems and create positive change.

One of the courses in this path of study changed my life. Through Service Learning: Sustainable Development in Island Economies, I, in conjunction with fellow students, professors and local community members, implemented a successful public health education program for elementary age students in several villages on the island nation of St. Lucia. Soccer was the medium by which we were able to reach and teach students. In the years to come I worked on developing and implementing a variety of specialized education programs in the nonprofit sector. Moving from one program to the next made me realize I wanted the opportunity to work with the same students each day throughout the school year. This would allow me to develop stronger student/teacher/family relationships and enhance my ability to track and guide positive growth for my students." So, she went back to school to pursue a Master’s of Arts in Education from The College of William and Mary, thus beginning a new chapter in her teaching career!

She was specifically drawn to ACDS because of its commitment to providing an innovative approach to education and "building a strong and welcoming school community." She added, "The first time I stepped on to the ACDS campus it was apparent that this school was a unique and special place - a school community that I wanted to be a part of."

Fun fact: She spent two summers working as a deckhand on commercial fishing vessels in Alaska.

First Grade

Mrs. Jodi Quigley
has wanted to be a teacher since the age of nine! Her fourth and fifth grade teachers made learning exciting and inspired her to do the same for young children. She wants to teach to show children that learning is fun and encourage them to have a lifelong love of learning. "I love to learn and it gives me great joy to share this passion with my students!"

She chose #ACDS because it is a school that values childhood and the developmental needs of students. "It was also important for me to find a school that understood the importance of educating the whole child. ACDS also allows its teachers to creatively design their instructional program to meet the individual needs of their students."

Fun fact: She is recently married and you may still hear students calling out, "Hi, Ms. Gomes!"

Second Grade

Mrs. Tina Davis
became a teacher because she was inspired by teachers who made learning fun and creative. "I am a perpetual student, I love to learn and realized one of the ways to continue learning was to become a teacher. I love children, their energy, enthusiasm, honesty, personalities, and the joy they are to be with each day."

She chose #ACDS because she appreciates the well-rounded education that ACDS offers. Five of her six children have graduated from ACDS with one more to go. "My students love the enrichment classes, small class sizes and supportive community."

Fun fact: She danced on a competitive dance team in high school and they won state championships her senior year. "I still love to dance!"

Mrs. Elizabeth Pombo
says that teaching allows her to be part of something much larger than herself. She doesn’t teach children to be future inventors, explorers, scientists or community leaders. “I support young learners in breaking through barriers, believing in themselves, celebrating mistakes and understanding struggles.” She says that every year her class takes hold of her heart with their successes, large and small. She can’t imagine feeling this level of joy in any other occupation.

She chose #ACDS because it offers a place where education is fluid and progressing, while keeping focused on a child’s developmental needs. "As a teacher and a parent, ACDS has nourished my family for the past 10 years."

Fun fact: Her first career was in the travel industry, which allowed her to travel on a dime. She traveled to amazing places and stayed with locals in various countries and learned different life perspectives. "I often had to step out of my comfort zone, such as jumping off cliffs into the ocean, or eating a dietary staple — worms!" From these experiences, she works to translate the importance of cultural respect to her students.

Third Grade

Mrs. Michelle Ahlgren became a teacher because it was something she loved doing from the time she was very young. She organized summer school, and recruited neighborhood children to join her; she also produced and directed plays in her back yard. "I absolutely love to tell a good story, entertain my students with humor during a lesson, and occasionally burst into song when feeling inspired to do so. I continually marvel at the talent, intelligence, creativity, and problem-solving skills of the children I teach. They are so inspiring!"

She chose #ACDS because she had heard about it when she lived in New York and then years later she attended a community play directed by Mrs. Curtis, recently retired longtime ACDS drama teacher. "I knew then that this was the place for me. My two youngest children enrolled, and later graduated. I substitute-taught, taught music, and then had the opportunity to teach my favorite grade — third, which I am currently enjoying."

Fun fact: She attended a semester of college at BYU Hawaii and learned to Tahitian dance. "I have a great love for Hawaiian culture and history."

Mrs. Amy Sandler
had a childhood next door neighbor, Mary Grace, who remains one of her dearest friends. By the time they were three years old, they began playing school in Mary Grace's garage. Since her friend was already in elementary school and it was her play idea, she naturally chose the role of teacher. And so they played, day after day, year after year. "Most of the time I was her student, but somedays we’d trade roles. I think our many years of Garage School imprinted on both of us. We both embraced teaching as our calling. Mary Grace, and each of my subsequent teachers, created a path for me into classrooms: not only as a student, but also as a teacher."

Mrs. Sandler wants students to learn about themselves, through their work and our studies in the classroom. "The content of our units may one day be a distant memory for some, but a sense of self, an understanding of their potential for learning and growing will be enduring."

"Our family chose ACDS for our children. ACDS respects their students as individuals. We appreciate that childhood is valued. We celebrate that education is multidisciplinary: including visual and performing arts in addition to sciences."

She appreciates that her children are nurtured and supported by caring teachers and administrators. "ACDS has been an enriching community for our children and our family. It is an honor to join this team of dedicated and talented educators."

Fun fact: She has summited three mountains over 10,000 ft: Telescope Peak, Mt. Whitney, and Kilimanjaro.

Fourth Grade

Mrs. Lisa Turnbull
found out she wanted to be a teacher when she was six years old. "I used to play school with all my friends and stuffed animals too." But in all seriousness, it's very important to her that all children learn to love learning. She says there is nothing better than hearing a child say, "I love school."

She chose #ACDS in 2008. At her previous school, teachers were asked to do an observation at another school and she chose ACDS. She walked on campus to do her observation in Mrs. Pombo's kindergarten classroom. "As I was walking across the playground I felt an overwhelming sense that I was home. I turned in my résumé and the rest is history."

Fun fact: Mrs. Turnbull's children say that she can make up a song about anything and she has one heck of a bee collection in her classroom! "Come and take a peek!"

Mr. Brian Trinh
chose to be a teacher to brighten the minds and lives of students. He believes in students and sees the best in them so they can tap into their potential and make a difference to the people around them and in the world.

He chose ACDS because the school nurtures and cherishes the gifts in every child. He says there is something truly special about this school that exudes kindness, respect, and charisma.

Fun fact: Gummy candy is his Achilles heel!

Fifth Grade

Mr. Alejandro De La Cruz
(aka Mr. DLC) says, “I’ve worked with kids in various programs, from coaching to summer camp, where participating in neighborhood-organized gym programs was a rite of passage for kids who grew up around Boston." Surprisingly, Mr. DLC earned his undergraduate degree from University of Massachusetts-Amherst in...Pre-Law! After graduation, he moved to New York and worked as a Paralegal for a Civil Litigator. But the “fire in his belly," as he describes it, is for teaching. So, he began his teaching career by immersing himself as a teacher at Brooklyn Elementary School. This sealed his fate and he hasn’t looked back since.

He chose #‎ACDS because he loves the “professionalism, the camaraderie and friendliness of the faculty, leadership and staff at ACDS." He likes the openness of the campus, and feels ACDS’s role as the “container” to successfully bring each student into the world is similar to his philosophy. He asks the rhetorical question of “Who does the Child want to be in the World?”, and then steps aside to “get out of the way” and gently guide this “dance." Mr. DLC believes that, “children need to be heard and seen” and "be instilled with confidence."

Fun fact: He could do the “splits” over chairs at 10 years old as part of his love of yoga, which he continues to practice today.

Mrs. Jen Voelkel
became a teacher because she wanted to reach a lot of people and make a real difference in the world.

She chose #ACDS because it was a great fit for her twin boys. "When we walked on campus, it felt like home. We knew our boys would thrive here. When a teaching position opened up in 4th grade, I knew it was meant to be."

Fun fact: She does dog agility in her spare time. "I have a Border Collie that I've competed with nationally and internationally and am training a younger Border Collie also."

Middle School

Sixth Grade

Mr. Travis Linquist became a teacher because after his first career in government, he knew he needed to do something that made him happy. "My dad once told me to find a career that I loved because once I did, I would never work a day in my life. He was right."

He chose #ACS because his best friends from high school went here (and they are all still close). He met Coach Chris Wardner through them; Coach Wardner hired Mr. Linquist to coach some football and basketball teams. "After meeting a lot of the kids and families, I knew I wanted to be a part of the community as well. Luckily, when I was ready to get a teaching job there was a sixth grade job open."

Fun fact: He lived on a farm until he was six-years-old.

Mrs. Jane McGinnes became a teacher because when she was 19 years old she worked for a theatre company that toured educational plays around schools in the United Kingdom. They would run drama workshops with the children after the show, and she grew to love that aspect of the work - enabling young people to discover their creativity. "It was a natural progression for me from acting to teaching theatre, and then to teaching literature and language arts."

She chose #ACS because she was excited to work at a school where the arts are central to the school's philosophy - there aren't many schools where every grade performs a play! Now as a classroom teacher too, she loves that she has the freedom to bring creativity into her language arts and literature teaching. "It is extremely rewarding to enable a child's talents to be unlocked, whether on the stage acting and singing, behind the scenes painting a set or designing a costume, or in the classroom writing a poem."

Fun fact: The most unusual place she's taught is in a men's prison, and the most unusual skill on her resume is stilt walking!

Seventh Grade

Mr. Cosmo Mejia
became a teacher because when he was little, he spent a lot of time with his little sister and younger cousin. "I had three and two years on them, respectively. As my primary playmates, I desperately wanted them to be able to do the things I could, so I was always thinking of ways to help them understand things that were beyond their ages." Then in his elementary and middle school years, he became hyper-sensitive to the wide range of learners in his classes, particularly to his friends who struggled. "Seeing how my friends avoided being called on in class or getting helped by the teacher because of fear and embarrassment was like a call for me to become an advocate for them."

He chose #ACDS because he was in a transitional time in his life and career. He had been doing a lot of work in the nonprofit sector with youth programs in low-income communities. The nature of the compensation in that work required him to hold multiple jobs to get by. But then ACDS chose him. "It was time to put down some career roots, and I hoped to land in a place that supported what I brought to the table, offered me a place to grow as a leader and advocate, and provided the space to be creative."

Ms. Jillian Hanley 
Before she went to graduate school, she knew that she wanted to do two things in her life: (1) engage deeply in the study of literature and (2) use her work to help others. "At the time, I couldn’t think of a profession that could satisfy these objectives more effectively than teaching ELA. Now, after having experienced what it means to be an English teacher, I believe I was right, and I wouldn’t even want to imagine doing anything else," she said.

She chose ACDS after visiting and speaking with faculty and parents, She realized that it was the perfect fit for her. "The community element of the school is strong, making both parents and faculty members feel like part of a family, and every student I have met possesses an inspiring curiosity."

Fun fact: She is a little obsessed with Meyers-Briggs personality types! "In my experience, people regularly misunderstand and confound each other. If we use tools like Meyers-Briggs, it becomes easier to interact with and understand people who are different from us; exposing ourselves to different perspectives is one of the most effective ways to learn new things and become more compassionate people."

Eighth Grade

Ms. Brittany Atkinson
became a teacher because she really loves to learn and loves to share that learning with others. "One of my favorite things in the world is to see kids get excited when they've learned something new, whatever it might be."

She chose #ACDS because her friend, ACDS's music teacher's daughter, had been singing its praises for years. During her application process, she had the opportunity to teach a sample lesson to middle school students. "I had truly never had so much fun teaching a lesson, and I was so impressed with the students. They were enthusiastic and engaged, and they were kind and generous with each other and with me." She fell in love with ACDS pretty quickly, and was thrilled to be invited to stay.

Fun fact: She speaks Thai.

Mrs. Jennifer Demetrus
truly enjoys seeing children excited when they grasp a difficult math concept or work their way through challenging problems. "I like guiding children to be their best academically," she mused. Recently, she ran into a former student with his parents and it made her so happy to see him: a confident, hardworking, successful high school student. "He told me all about his classes and how well he’s doing, and then he looked me straight in the eye, thanked me enthusiastically for being his teacher, and gave me a big hug. That's why I teach!"




Ms. Weronika Zaluska 
For Ms. Weronika Zaluska, teaching art is like a powerful magnet, which attracts diverse types of intelligence, and activates the school community on many levels. She believes making art engages different modes of thinking simultaneously: critical, analytical, intuitive, and contemplative, among others, as well as has the power to transform a community through creative collaboration. Ms. Zaluska is passionate about integrating art into the classroom curriculum. Her favorite aspects of teaching are: cultivating the spirit of discovery, as well as deepening students’ relationships with the material.

Ms. Zaluska chose ACDS because of its nurturing environment, and its commitment to interdisciplinary learning. She believes ACDS has the three elements necessary for success: vision, leadership, and an active / caring community.

Fun fact: In 2013, Ms. Zaluska co-curated an art exhibit in Los Angeles called A Point of View of a Cat. It considered possible ways in which an indoor cat might perceive / experience everyday objects and materials.

Athletics & PE


Coach Larry Hyde chose the field of education based on his desire to gain a better understanding of motor development, and while in college he learned about the developmental aspects of K-12 learning. "The most meaningful part of becoming a teacher is the love of building positive/learning relationships with young children."

He chose #ACDS because of their unique approach toward developing the whole child through creative and broad-based enrichment programs. "I was so impressed during my interview when I learned that elementary students were offered physical education classes three times per week. What a great opportunity to become an important part of the total educational process of each child. Match this with small class sizes and this equals a recipe for success!"

Fun fact: He did a short dance on the top of Yosemite's Half Dome the first time he hiked to the summit. "I was very happy to be there!"

Athletics Director Derek McIntyre
(known as Coach Mac on campus) knew from the time he was 13 that he wanted to coach and work with kids. "I loved watching the progression and seeing the improvement kids were able to make. I was fortunate to have had a number of great mentors that made me want to do the same for others."

He chose #ACDS because when he visited ACDS, he realized what a wonderful community it was and it reminded him of his childhood school. "We also felt that this would be a great place for our children to continue their education."

Fun fact: His family lived in Egypt for two years. "We vacationed on the Red Sea, took a cruise down the Nile and saw the Great Pyramids every day. We made a number of wonderful friends while there and have memories that will last us forever."

Coach Chris Wardner
(as he's known around campus) is both the coach for speech & debate as well as for PE. He believes that when children are engaged, challenged and supported they do amazing things. "Even if my role is a small one, I relish the opportunity to work with students." He became a teacher because he loves the energy that students bring to the classroom. The kids remind him constantly that school can be vital to the growth of a child.

He chose #ACDS because the school values life skills as an important element of education and has a great deal of respect for the individual. "Each of us has a great deal to offer, and allowing everyone to flourish is a unique trait of ACS."

Fun fact: Mrs. Morter and Mrs. Galante were his students when they attended ACDS. Mrs. Morter also happens to be his sister and Mrs. Galante was his son's first grade teacher.



Mr. Ian Leonard
Mr. Leonard was inspired to teach by his father who is a teacher who has taught for three decades (and counting). He witnessed as a child how energized and fulfilled his father was doing a job he loved and knew he wanted to teach children too. "By the time I got to high school - just to reinforce completely how big of a nerd I am - most of my best friends were my teachers!"

Mr. Leonard is at ACDS because his teaching style and his experiences in theater aligned well with the school philosophy of engaging every child. His friends who have children enrolled at ACDS told him all about the school and the next thing he knew, he was teaching a demo lesson! "I don't remember everything from that day but I do remember that we all laughed a lot!"

Fun fact: Between national and international theater tours, as well as a prolonged stint in Vegas, Mr. Leonard has more or less spent three years of his life in hotel rooms. "I love everything about hotels - the tiny soaps, the coffee for one, the accessible stationery. If I could live in a hotel, I would - depending on if they had free wireless."

Foreign Language

Ms. Veronica Garrido
became a teacher because when she moved from Mexico to California she was very impressed with the multi-cultural environment and saw the opportunity to inspire children and opening their eyes to the culture and language she loves. "Becoming a teacher has been one of the most eye opening, magical and transforming experiences of my life. Students are my inspiration in many ways. Every day I see innocence, adventure, creativity, love, potential, energy, and more in every child."

She chose #ACDS because she likes to be challenged and ACS has given her that opportunity every day in the classroom. "It has shown me a new way to celebrate learning and grow together with my students not only as a teacher, but also as a person."

Fun fact: She loves to try exotic dishes from the countries she has visited; her husband calls her an adventurous epicurean. "One experience that I will always remember was when I spent the summer in Peru. One evening some friends and I tried the local delicacy, Cuy Chactado: Guinea Pig! Muy rico but a little rubbery."

Madame Tanya Jorgenson
became a teacher because she knew she wanted to make a difference. She trained as a reading specialist and hoped to reach children by teaching a love of literature. "Some of my early teaching positions were in rough neighborhoods serving at-risk children. I learned that even though I could reach children with literature, if you want to make a difference, it was often more about the relationship than the curriculum. I've held that core belief ever since."

She chose #ACDS for her family. "We knew it was the right place for us when we moved here from Hawaii. I remember our daughter shadowing in kindergarten and how happy and excited she was after class. I'm proud to be both a parent and teacher at ACS."

Fun fact: She has lived in 10 different countries! "I suppose that gives me a global perspective on things."

Mrs. Lorraine McAndrew
became a teacher because she wants to pass on her passion and love of language to another generation. Her love of language started at age 11 when she began learning French, Latin and German at school. "I used to make my two younger sisters sit on the bottom stair step and repeat the days of the week in French. I also made recordings on cassette tapes for my dad to play in his car on the way to work so you might say it was pretty inevitable!"

She chose #ACDS because she appreciates the enthusiasm and love of learning that is so evident in the classroom. She was friends with Mrs. McGinnes, who had always been enthusiastic about ACDS, so when she learned about a part-time French position, she felt like it was meant to be. She loves the real sense of belonging and community over the entire campus.

Fun fact: She has almost gotten to the top of Half Dome. Twice!


Mark Nelson
teaches 7th and 8th grade history as well as related electives.

He became a teacher because he believes that education is the path to building a better future. "By fostering informed, caring, and conscientious young people we are preparing them to become leaders and change-makers and to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing the world today."

He chose to teach at ACDS because he "loves our holistic approach" to education. "My experiences have taught me that every child has unique talents and genius, and I'm excited by ACDS' affirmation of 'discovering the gifts in every child.'" He's excited to teach history and help students draw connections to their lives and the world around them, thinking about how they can learn to change the world.

Fun Fact: Mr. Nelson has driven across the country (coast-to-coast) 6 times and visited 47 states! "I love exploring the diverse histories, cultures, and landscapes all over our country."



Ms. Shannan Williams
became a teacher because of her wonderful parents but also because of all the incredible teachers who impacted her life ("Really. It hit me. I must have been gathering notes all along.")

  • Mrs. Briskie, her kindergarten teacher who hugged her every time she would visit (no matter the age) and continued to write every Christmas. Love.
  • Mr. Zern, her middle school math teacher that gave up lunch every day to help her understand the lesson he just taught. Dedication.
  • Mr. Bobo, her high school history teacher who jumped on the table or ran down the hall (in front of all the windows) in a pink T-shirt and a sheet cape holding a yard stick like a sword so they wouldn't fall asleep during the lesson. Determination/Energy!
  • Prof. Cunha, her college geography professor who inspired her when he walked into the lecture hall with incense burning dressed as a monk (respectfully) instantly changing the tone of lecture. Inspiration. ("He had amazing stories to share about backpacking around the world with his wife. It was so much more than a lecture.")

She chose #ACDS because she can jump on tables, wear a tiara (or a clown nose — or both), spend time with children, hug them and be the nutty librarian she is today.

Fun fact: Ms. Williams is an under-cover creative genius as anyone who has been to a book fair or author event knows. This woman can think outside the box, create the most gorgeous and welcoming signs and make every single author, teacher, parent and especially student feel special.


Ms. Corinne Leary

As a music teacher, Ms. Leary spends each day "watching joyous students sing, dance, play, create, and find their voice through a means of expression utilized throughout our world. To me, there is no happier way to spend my days."

Ms. Leary knew ACDS was the right place for her because of the students and philosophical fit. "The day I visited ACS, I knew that this was a school that was worth moving 3,000 miles to work for -- students at ACS beam with energy and enthusiasm.

They are eloquent, compassionate, and eager to try new activities. But most of all, my personal philosophy is that it is my job is to help each child find their personal connection to #music -- that there is no cookie cutter way to make music meaningful to a child. ACS allows me the freedom to do so by valuing the unique gifts in every child."

Fun Fact: My favorite activity outside of teaching music is performing and training on the circus apparatus, the aerial lyra.


Mrs. Barbara DeMoss
became a teacher because she really likes to learn and figure things out both logically and with her hands.

She chose #ACDS because she was given the opportunity to specialize in elementary science after a long career in classroom teaching. "Being able to create a hands-on curriculum for the elementary school has been an ongoing huge learning opportunity for me and I love it!"

Fun fact: She has taught in many places, including four countries and 11 schools. "I have learned that children all over the world are more alike than they are different."

Mrs. Kaitlyn Johnson
loves science. "I have loved science as early as first grade!" A San Jose native, Mrs. Johnson's mentor was her teacher at Holy Family School, Karen Talbot. Talbot promoted "hands on learning" which influenced Mrs. Johnson's approach to teaching her own students. Knowing early on that she wanted to bring her love of science to all students (even those who think they are "not good at science"), she went on to earn her Master's degree in Education to complement her Biology degree and Chemistry minor. She even has a Special Education credential!

Fun fact: Mrs. Johnson is a huge Disneyland fan!

Mrs. Laura Kitagawa became a teacher because she loves working with children and she has wanted to be a teacher for as long as she can remember. In high school, she volunteered as a teacher’s aide in a special classroom for deaf children. In college, she worked at an infant development center and a day care for school age children. "Also, I have been really lucky to have had many inspirational teachers along the way, and I wanted to do my best to inspire the next generation of students."

She chose #ACDS because she attended school on this campus when it was Henderson Elementary. "I really wanted to circle back to the same place that my own schooling began, and create many new memories, but this time as the teacher. Now, I have grown to love ACS because of the warm and caring community of staff, parents, and students."

Fun fact: She can recite the alphabet backwards in less than 5 seconds. This special talent was the result of an extra credit assignment back in 3rd grade. "Not only do I still remember it, but I actually know the alphabet better backwards than forwards. Just goes to show what an inspirational teacher can help you accomplish!"


Mr. Buck Crockett
works as our Systems Administrator, which allows him to "tap into my three primary passions: technology, leadership, and education." His inspiration for technology came from his childhood where he spent his free time tinkering with various mechanical projects from fixing engines to playing with Legos. The inspiration for leadership and education came from his time in his undergraduate education when he worked as an outdoor guide. During that time, he learned from great teachers and mentors about how limitless a person's potential for growth and learning can be. "I fell in love with the process of learning in an ongoing manner throughout life. Teaching, technology, and system administration are the outcome of those experiences and interests."

Mr. Crockett chose to be at #ACDS because "a progressive educational environment like ACDS's is a perfect place to live an ethic of lifelong learning. There are numerous schools in the Bay Area; however, ACDS is an outlier in that the educational process starts with the goal of providing an environment that allows children to learn and grow in a creative and empowering manner. That contrasts with other institutions that focus on broad learning structures that are not necessarily the best for every child. Lastly, the first time I visited the campus it felt both homey and kinetic, which jives well with my personal sense of place."

Fun fact: He grew up working with and riding horses in Colorado! "Living in the heart of Silicon Valley now, I sometimes feel nostalgic for my experiences of evening rides across the sagebrush rangeland with my father. I am proud of my western roots."

Mrs. Mary Beth Gay
knew she wanted to be a teacher by the end of Kindergarten. "I loved my kindergarten teacher and wanted to be just like her when I grew up." When she was a senior in high school, she was, unbeknownst to her, in an "experimental" class where otherwise capable students who historically didn't do well in math were put together with this teacher. "My teacher was a magician in my eyes because I learned to think like a mathematician. Besides seeing math as more than a set of algorithms to be memorized, the most important lesson I learned was that all children can learn. As teachers, we must find the way to reach, then draw them in."

Through her friendship with Mrs. Cecilia Robb, Mrs. Gay came to #ACDS in December 2001 and has taught many subjects including language arts. "ACS has supported my efforts to bring to children whatever they need to engage and then embrace learning. Last year, I saw one of my former fifth-grade students and he introduced me to his boss by saying, 'This is Mrs. Gay and she taught me how to write.'"

Fun fact: Mrs. Gay has eaten small black ants called lemon ants, while hiking in the rain forest in Ecuador. "Crunchy."

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