Meet the Educate78 Teacher Advisory Group

Teacher Advisory Group
Teacher Advisory Group
Teacher Advisory Group
Teacher Advisory Group
Teacher Advisory Group
Teacher Advisory Group
Teacher Advisory Group
Teacher Advisory Group
Teacher Advisory Group Member
Teacher Advisory Group Member
Teacher Advisory Group
Teacher Advisory Group Member
Teacher Advisory Group
Teacher Advisory Group
Teacher Advisory Group
Teacher Advisory Group Member
Teacher Advisory Group Member
Teacher Advisory Group
Teacher Advisory Group Member
Teacher Advisory Group
Teacher Advisory Group
Teacher Advisory Group Member
Teacher Advisory Group Member
Teacher Advisory Group
Teacher Advisory Group

Teacher Advisory Group

Adam DeAvilan

La Escuelita

Grade & Subject: 7th Grade- ELA, Math, Science, History
BA-  Social Science & Economics
In progress: Masters in education

Growing up, my parents taught me to love truth and justice. It was our family tradition to enter into countless debates on just about any subject. Living in this environment showed me how to reason through claims and how to recognize and deconstruct different perspectives. I am thankful to my parents for this exposure, as it has heavily influenced the viewpoints I bring with me to the classroom and try to impress on my students.

Another significant impact on my views of education was my father’s participation in the Vietnam War. Learning about Vietnam from my father’s stories, as well as from history and fictional books, through songs, and by traveling there, taught me that truth must be vigorously sought. We all have our underlying biases; because of this, truth-seekers must work hard to avoid their own confirmation bias, as true justice can only emerge from that which is true. There is a lot of misinformation out there, as well as a lot of unsubstantiated beliefs and half-truths that have a dramatic effect on how teachers teach and how kids learn. I think it is incumbent that teachers teach their students how to think, not what to think.

Our middle school team is in the midst of a transition to personalized learning. Implementing these new changes is a real opportunity to make a difference in how our kids see and interact with the world. In short, personalized learning empowers students to take control of much of their own learning by giving them choice and honoring them as people with existing knowledge, talents, and interests. Working in this environment- one where we are attempting to marry the best of standards/skills based education with the best of constructivist pedagogy in a student-centered classroom- is both challenging and rewarding.



Teacher Advisory Group

Ashley Henry

East Bay Innovation Academy

Grade & Subject: 8th grade- ELA
UC Santa Barbara: BA
Cal State Northridge: MA- English Literature

I was in 9th grade English class at Grover Cleveland High School in Reseda, CA when I decided I was going to work in education. My teacher, Jennifer Harrison, always spoke the truth and taught from her heart, and her passion for the material she was teaching inspired me to become a teacher. She taught me that it is possible to facilitate learning by using engaging and relevant material.

It’s no secret that our country has a history of intolerance––racial discrimination and violations of women’s rights, to name a few. Previously, I taught in schools where high achievement was the primary goal instead of fostering an environment where learners could explore their passions. I believe we can combat intolerance with education, so I include a heavy dose of social justice in my curriculum to build a more tolerant culture. I create an environment in my classroom where students feel safe to explore new things and take charge of their own learning.

It’s important to me that my eighth graders connect current events to literature. When students discuss material that is relevant to them and are able to make connections to what they are learning, they are more fully engaged. For example, after learning more about the #NoDAPL and Rezpect Our Water movements, my students were able to make connections between the events in the movements and classic Native folktales and poetry about losing land, rights, and identity. Additionally, bringing current events like the protests in Standing Rock into the classroom inspires my students to think critically about our country and society, which allows them to start thinking about solutions for change.

EBIA is working to build a rigorous and inclusive learning environment for a diverse group of learners using project based learning and social-emotional learning. I believe in the educators in this community and feel positive about the real changes we can make in the future.


Teacher Advisory Group

Austin Razavi

Oakland Unity Middle School

Grade & Subject: 6th & 8th Grade- Social Studies
St. Cloud State University, Minnesota: BA- Social Studies Education

My very first of year of teaching was a real eye-opener for me. I was teaching at a first year school serving fifth and sixth graders in deep East Oakland. The work was hard but rewarding, but the rest of my colleagues must have seen it from a different perspective. By late January, all of the other teachers and the principal left the school. We had to send out sixth graders to different schools in the middle of the year. It was crazy to think that all these students were robbed of learning not because of anything that they could control, but because all the adults quit on them.

I think of this experience every single day and it has been instrumental in shaping my current views on education. Being an educator is a commitment not to be taken lightly. Every child deserves a top notch education and it’s our job as teachers to provide them with everything we can. At Unity Middle School, also in deep East Oakland, I work every day to help students pursue their academic and life goals. My students deserve the best, and I am driven to provide them with my full presence and attention.

I am proud of the progress we have made at Unity Middle School and in public education in Oakland in general. Daily, I’m inspired by the work ethic and ambition of my students. We have established and grown relationships that are meaningful and trusting. None of my students will ever have to worry about me quitting on them.


Teacher Advisory Group

Christine Parker

North Oakland Community Charter School

Grade & Subject: K through 8- Special Education
The George Washington University: BA- Psychology
Loyola Marymount University: MA- Special Education & Teaching

My high school economics teacher Ms. Terhar was instrumental in my growth and social development in high school. She was my teacher at a time when school was not the most important thing on my mind, and she truly understood that factors outside school were shaping my ability to be a student. She created a safe place for me to be vulnerable and let those feelings be important, and also kept me on track academically and never gave up on me. She inspired me to place great importance on social emotional support and safety with my students. I am continually trying to emulate the lessons she taught me.

My dedication to my work as a Special Education Program Specialist is grounded in my belief that having access to a transformative education should not be a privilege given only to some. A high quality education is a right that should be available to all students, including those with language needs, social emotional challenges, or learning and behavior disabilities. Giving students access to support across all of these areas will only empower them to lead their own learning and carve a unique path for themselves.

I am most proud of the relationships I have built with families and the levels of support I am able to provide to students because of those relationships. Having the trust of parents is key to ensuring that they know that my recommendations are always in the best interest of their child. Historically, many families have not felt supported by schools through the special education process, so when families tell me they finally feel heard I am motivated to build out the best programs I can for the children who need it most.

Developing a long term model of inclusion for our school gets me excited. I look forward to seeing the looks on my students’ faces when they accomplish something they didn’t know they could do. Making sure that all of my students have at least one of those “a-ha” moments every day is what moves me to do better for them, and it gives me hope for the future of public education in Oakland.

Teacher Advisory Group

Cicely Day

Bio Coming Soon!

Teacher Advisory Group

David Nutt

Aspire Monarch Academy

Grade: 2nd Grade
University of the Pacific– MA
Dartmouth College– BA

The moment I knew I wanted to teach came upon me suddenly. It was late, past midnight, but the streets were packed. Jerusalem was alive as it is only during a holiday. I had never seen Jerusalem this way; I had never seen it at all. “Jerusalem is your city. Welcome home,” a young Israeli whispered to me amongst the chaos. It felt good to be immediately accepted, yet I was unsettled by being welcomed unconditionally for being Jewish. At the age of 17, I knew this young man was unlikely to welcome a Palestinian, even one whose family had roots in the city. It was then that I knew I wanted to be an educator. I realized that for the world to become more peaceful, respect and dignity must be taught from an early age.

I spent my first year teaching at the Ramallah Friends School in Ramallah, Palestine. I had several students, all from middle-upper class families, tell me about the fear they felt when Israeli soldiers shot tear-gas canisters at their cars. I felt helpless at the thought of armed groups harming my students. Upon arriving in Oakland, I continued to feel helpless to protect my students against violence, poverty, and structural racism.

In my Oakland classroom, we talk frequently about race, justice, and activism. My second-graders discuss historic injustice and identify ongoing injustice in their own communities. They write letters to people in power, seeking to have their eight-year-old voices heard. I no longer feel helpless because I am confident that my students are developing the tools they need to be assertive in the face of injustice. Do I have confidence in an eight-year-old? I sure do!

Like all teachers, I teach for my students. I teach so that they can learn dignity, respect, and empowerment. But I also teach for me. I teach because leading student learning is a puzzle that I can get better at but that I must face every day. I teach because I want my students to know how they can make change– whether the world is ready or not! I teach because I never want to stop learning.

Teacher Advisory Group

Elizabeth Woodward

Bio Coming Soon!

Teacher Advisory Group

Jamilah Jones-McLean

McClymonds High School

Grade & Subject: 9th Grade- Teacher Development
Masters in Education, National Board Candidate

It should come as no surprise that I ended up being a teacher. I have been surrounded by educators all my adult life. I looked up one day and realized that all of my friends were teachers and I had never thought about becoming one myself. The vibe and passion they exhibited in their discussions about teaching and schools was always so inspirational. Being involved in these discussions made realize that teaching was what I was meant to do.

I had many educational experiences that challenged me to push myself beyond what I may have thought I was capable of. Coming through these experiences with newfound knowledge and perspectives really motivated me to keep exploring and growing. I have a deep interest in reading, which was inspired by reading Shakespeare. I never thought about Shakespeare until I was introduced to him by my high school English teacher. She encouraged me to look deeper into the text and pull from it what I saw as valuable.

I use that same approach in my work with both students and teachers. I remember one student in particular from my first year teaching special education. A student remarked to my mentor, and his veteran teacher at the school, that he really liked my class because he could tell that I was really trying to teach them something. This stays with me as a reminder that teachers have a deeper obligation than to just regurgitate what’s in the text books. We are given the opportunity to really make a difference, and I believe that it is our duty to take full advantage of it.

My main role is to support the growth and development of teachers in their practice. I look forward to helping teachers become the inspiration for their students. There are a lot of great teachers who are dedicated to Oakland and the city’s students. It is the teachers who I feel are the most promising thing about the future of education in Oakland.

Teacher Advisory Group Member

Jennie Herriot-Hatfield

Bio Coming Soon!

Teacher Advisory Group Member

Jeremy Crouthamel

Bio Coming Soon!

Teacher Advisory Group

Juan Manuel Mendoza

Roosevelt Middle School

Grade & Subject: 6th, 7th & 8th- Special Education & Math
UC Berkeley: BA- Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies
Loyola Marymount University: MA, Urban Education, Policy and Administration

I wouldn’t be a teacher today if it weren’t for Angela Marino, my thesis advisor at UC Berkeley. Her influence on my understanding of education cannot be underestimated. I walked into her class, and was exposed for the first time to the idea of learning using different modalities. She also inspired me to focus on my community and identity––asking me, “What communities does your identity belong to?” This questions spurred me on to create work that allows me to support and grow in communities that intersect with my identity.

As a Special Day Math teacher at Roosevelt Middle School, working on differentiating materials for students at every level, the lessons I learned from Professor Morino come into play every day. I work closely with families of students with IEPs, and I collaborate with the Math department towards moving our school into a full inclusion model. I am most proud when I see my students understanding and using the skills we learned in class.

Another experience that shaped my views on education was when I was one of ten students to receive a full-ride scholarship to study the arts in London. My focus of study was Shakespeare. It was the summer of 2012 and I remember visiting Shakespeare’s burial site, exploring different parts of the city, and seeing the Queen and the royal family. This exposure was another great opportunity to explore the intersection of identity and community.

Oakland is a wonderfully diverse city with students and families from all kinds of backgrounds. I look forward to working with all of these students, helping them enjoy learning, and helping them identify how their unique identities fit into our very heterogeneous city. Working alongside so many new and veteran teachers who are creating a more inclusive and welcoming learning environment for all students is really inspiring.

Teacher Advisory Group Member

Juliana Germak

North Oakland Community Charter School

Grade: 2nd & 3rd Grade
Masters in TESOL

My mother and my grandmother were both teachers, and after some initial resistance, I became a teacher too. While I was growing up, I was always provided with high quality educational experiences. Every time we moved, my parents sought out the best school district––schools with loads of extracurricular activities, small class sizes, inviting libraries with lots of books, and teachers that communicated their passion for teaching. I wouldn’t say that my family influenced me to work in education, but the way I was raised led me to enjoy success as a teacher.

My first experience with urban, high-needs schools was when I began teaching in New York City. My school was 90% English Language Learners and received large amounts of Title I and III funding. Most students’ families were recent immigrants, and they communicated their gratitude daily, despite not speaking much English. The students worked hard, and their parents supported them at home as best they could. Working with these students and their families helped me to understand how important it is for all students––regardless of family background, language, economic status, race, or culture––to receive the high quality education that I experienced as a child.

I look forward to seeing my students’ growth on a daily basis. Even if it’s one step forward, two steps back, in the end, there is always progress, and I like to see that we are working hard together to achieve something tangible. I’ve built strong relationships with students and families, and I love hearing from former students that they are in college or got into a great high school. I like to feel like they have remembered the work we did together and that it was meaningful to them on their journey through education.

This year I am working with colleagues and administration to pilot a teacher leadership and teacher support model at our school through a coaching program. We are hoping to improve levels of support and retention among both our newer and experienced staff members. Meeting teachers from all across Oakland in the Teacher Advisory Group has shown me that there are committed, innovative, and determined teachers in so many of our city’s schools.


Teacher Advisory Group

Kate Krumrei

Urban Promise Academy

Grade & Subject: 6th, 7th, & 8th Grade- ELD
Texas Christian University: BS, Education with ESL certification
American University: MA- Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs
Teaching Credentials in Texas and California

I was born into a family of teachers.  My grandparents were both teachers, my aunt was a first grade teacher for 30 years, and my mom is in her last year of a 34 year middle school teaching career. However, it wasn’t until I traveled to India when I was 19 and volunteered at an orphanage and school that I truly realized what opportunities education could provide and the injustice of quality education not being equally available to all. My quest to open doors for and with young people had begun.

I had a professor, Dr. Cecilia Silva, her sophomore year at Texas Christian University who inspired me to go into ELL education. From the first class, she pushed me to expand my thinking and focus on why vulnerable populations––especially refugees and new immigrants––were so important to me, and figure out what roles I could play. Dr. Silva got me my first teaching job as a student teacher at the International Newcomer Academy, which turned into a full time teaching position.

Due to my love of diverse cultures, travel, and people, I have worked with diverse populations of young people from all around the world––middle schoolers from Somalia, Burundi, Myanmar, and Sierra Leone; elementary school kids from Mexico and Central America in a dual language program; and college-aged students from Saudi Arabia, China, and Brazil. I am thankful for the opportunity to help so many young people from many different backgrounds study and learn a language––from the week after they arrive in the US to when they walk across the stage at their high school or college graduations.

Oakland is in an exciting time of growth, change, diversity, and development. Young people are resilient and want to be proud of where they live. There is such a sense of pride and grit that derives from growing up in Oakland public schools. I look forward to interacting with my students every day––and I am encouraged by their energy, optimism, and their drive to achieve.  The stories of the students and their families in the newcomer program at UPA are both heartwarming and heart wrenching––but at the end of the day, they persevere.

Teacher Advisory Group

Kathyrn Hall

Bio Coming Soon!

Teacher Advisory Group

Kyle Svingen

Oakland International High School

Grade & Subject: 11th Grade- English (Newcomers)
St. Olaf College: BA- Physics and Religion
Loyola Marymount University: MA- Urban Education

I grew up in a very white suburban neighborhood in Nebraska. I took pride in always being one of the more progressive people in my circle through college in Minnesota. Quickly after I moved to Oakland, though, I realized that I had a lot to learn about race, racism, and oppression. As a privileged white guy, I’ve tried to shut up and listen to people in my communities; I feel indebted to those that have taken the time to help me see all the powerful forces in our society that I had not seen before. Each day, I’m the only white person in my classroom, and I’ve become more conscious of the ways that race affects my relationships with students.

100% of the students I teach are newly arrived immigrants who are learning English. Our kids come from more than 40 different countries and speak more than 30 different languages. I am so amazed and impressed by my students as they daily try to figure out who they are––some trying on a different personality each week. I love watching them and helping them figure out their own identities. To facilitate this process, OIHS creates a school culture where every child feels safe.

I know from personal experience that a safe school environment really matters. I was (and am) a person who stutters. From late elementary to early high school I felt somewhat uncomfortable in my own skin. Knowing that my teachers would be my champion and defender if and when I stuttered in class was essential to my personal and academic growth.

My students depend on having a safe environment to succeed. One-third of the 11th graders I teach are reading at a pre-K level, but with a lot of scaffolding and hard work, by the end of the year they are able to write five-paragraph essays about race and gender in The Raisin in the Sun. Students don’t think that they will be able to do something like that, but when we break down a monumental task into smaller parts, they knock it out of the park. This gives me hope.

Teacher Advisory Group Member

Logan McWilliams

Bio Coming Soon!

Teacher Advisory Group Member

Meredith Lewis

Meredith is an experienced history teacher with a background in using the arts to teach social studies in urban settings. She is currently working at EBIA  in Oakland as the 8th grade U.S. History teacher and enjoys working in a design-based environment where students can use various resources to become true historians.

Previously, Meredith served as the Social Studies Department Head at the Hyde Leadership Charter School in Bronx, NY where she designed, tested and implemented the U.S. History curriculum and initiated and led a professional learning community for all staff. She was also heavily involved in student life, organizing class trips, coaching basketball and softball, and directing a vocal ensemble.

Meredith has a B.A. in Individualized Study and an M.A. in Educational Theater and Social Studies Education from New York University, a M.Ed. in Arts in Education from Harvard University, and holds a National Board Certification in Social Studies. In her free time, Meredith rides her two horses – Ridge and Valor – as much as she can. She swam and played water polo in college, and loves to be active and play almost any sport!

Teacher Advisory Group

Michael Lee


Grade & Subject: 8th Grade- Math and Science
University of Southern California: B.S. Business Administration

I always had an interest in education, but was apprehensive about pursuing it as a career because it deviated from my undergraduate studies in business. Then one day I reached out to a friend at Teach for America and shared my desire to step into the education industry, but also my concerns about such a drastic career change. He told me something that resonated: “Follow your passions. It’s your life and your story. So, make it count.” I embraced this principle, and pursued a career in education with confidence, and a sense of fearlessness. I am passionate about education, and that is what brought me to where I am today.

I struggled a lot my first year in the classroom, but I honed my pedagogical strategies, built solid relationships, and started to contribute to the reduction of educational inequalities. Or so I thought. Last winter, as I was leaving school, I witnessed a grand theft auto suspect in pursuit. Upon seeing his face, I realized that the suspect was not that much older than my own students, and I was shocked to see that a child was committing
such a crime when he should have been in school.

This experience was pivotal because in that moment I was a witness to the pervasive environmental and socioeconomic issues that threaten the lives of our youth. I was able to make a positive impact in my own classroom, but if I wanted to continue to fight for educational equity, I needed to do more to address the social, cultural, and political complexities that continue to hinder progress.

Thankfully, there is an influx of socially conscious educators and entrepreneurs who are actively striving to make Oakland’s public education system the best for its students. All of my students have such great attitudes and truly make an effort to do their best in my class. It brings me joy when they show excitement after mastering a particular concept or skill. What moves me to do better is simply the desire to help students develop a strong enough foundation to be academically self-sufficient in the future.

Teacher Advisory Group Member

Michelle Batlle

Oakland Unity High School

Grade & Subject: 9th Grade- Biology
Stanford University: BA/BS- Human Biology: Youth Development,
MA/MS, Secondary Education, Science Curriculum and Instruction
Single Subject California Teaching Credential

Growing up in the Dominican Republic, I credit my father for instilling in me a very high regard for education. In his pursuit to escape the racial and wealth disparities that plagued the Dominican Republic, he permanently moved us to New Orleans when I was nine years old. I was enrolled in private school and most of my friends were wealthy and white. Soon, I began to notice the obvious segregation of wealth and race between my school and the public schools. This experience shed light on the shameful link between socioeconomic status and education that burdens our country, and I started thinking about the roles of teachers in achieving social parity and developing youth resiliency.

Academically, it was Ms. Gordon, my 11th grade AP English teacher, who first taught me about intrinsic motivation. It was not until then that I began to earn grades for myself––rather than for my parents or teachers. Ms. Gordon ingrained in me that I should strive for excellence even though it may seem that I would never reach it. She believed that anyone can learn and that everyone deserves to learn––beliefs I have carried with me into my teaching. My students feel challenged, but even more importantly, they feel comfortable to approach and tackle those challenges. I work every day to ensure that they are motivated to succeed from within and not from extrinsic factors. Ms. Gordon taught me to never stop expanding and to never stop learning from my students.

I come to work each day eager to build genuine relationships with my students. My students often reflect that they feel that I truly care about them and that they feel comfortable and safe in my classroom. It is remarkable to me that simply showing a student that you care about who they are as a person can greatly empower them to succeed and foster their sense of belonging in their community.

There is so much to be hopeful about the 510 community. I have seen Oakland rise up and advocate for its public education students––both young people and adults alike are not just hoping for change, they are demanding and creating change. I believe Oakland has the power to be a model for other cities in reinvigorating and rethinking public education.

Teacher Advisory Group

Michelle Palasek

Berkeley Maynard Academy (Aspire)

Grade 7 Subject: K–2nd- Reading Intervention
San Francisco State University: BA Liberal Studies
San Francisco State University: Multiple Subject Teaching Credential

My decision to pursue education was inspired by my dad, who taught middle school for decades. Through his profession, he taught me the value of hard work, helping others, and how immersing yourself in something meaningful can be incredibly powerful. I love getting new perspectives on the inner workings of a school and am always grateful for opportunities to grow and expand my understanding.

When I was completing my Bachelor’s Degree at San Francisco State University, I chose an emphasis in Ethnic Studies. Now, in my role as a K–2 Reading Interventionist, I get to work with an incredibly diverse population of students– approximately 45% African American, 45% Latino and 10% other ethnicities. Over the years, I have worked with incredible students and families who endure so much, yet come to school eager to learn. I look forward to working with these students every day.

Berkeley Maynard Academy is an incredible school for students, families and staff. We have a great school culture, and working alongside my peers and administration makes me hopeful for the future. The school is doing so many things right, from a supportive admin who makes decisions based on the needs of our scholars, to high retention and rigorous teaching practices. There is a true feeling of joy working at BMA and our students and families can feel it.

I am proud to serve the families and children of Oakland––a city with a tremendous and fascinating history. Oakland has been home to families who have overcome generational poverty. I am proud to be a part of these families’ lives and I’m always touched by the love, hope, and spirits that exists. The landscape of Oakland is experiencing dramatic changes, and I wonder what will become of the families who will be displaced––how will Oakland schools support a broader, inclusive common narrative? I know that as long as I’m working in Oakland education, I will do my part to tell the complete story.

Teacher Advisory Group

Nhi Truong

ARISE High School

Grade & Subject: 10th & 12th Grade- English
BA, American Studies & Sociology
Masters in Education

When I first came to this country in fifth grade, I was placed in Mr. Nguyen’s class because he was Vietnamese like me. I didn’t know then how influential he would be in my life. Mr. Nguyen provided a safe home for me at school when home did not feel so safe. He was my teacher, role model, and second father. He laid down the foundation for what it means to be a great teacher––he held high expectations, showed tough love, worked hard, and had a great sense of humor. I remember telling myself, “I want to be a teacher just like him when I grow up.” And here I am.

As a student, and now as a teacher, social justice has been a continuous thread. I went to middle and high school in Alameda. My junior year, I came to McClymonds High School, and was shocked to see the disparity of resources between the communities. I learned first-hand about systemic oppression and the struggles that students of color face. This reality pushed me to graduate from high school, go to college, and come back and teach in my community. Now my students are learning critical skills to improve the material conditions in their own lives, as well as the lives of their families and communities.

As a proud Oaklander, I love what I do because I get to inspire students who look like me and who are experiencing the same struggles as I did. I look forward to seeing my warrior intellectuals every day. They are my teachers, and my heart is full whenever I see my students question their own realities and equip themselves with the tools to do better. My students and I are building authentic relationships. I have great hope that these brilliant and beautiful young people will grow into leaders, come back to Oakland, and make positive changes in our community.

I’m building a safe and fun community, where the learning is rigorous, and just as importantly, we are holding each other accountable as a family. Mr. Nguyen would be proud of me.

Teacher Advisory Group Member

Nina Portugal

Life Academy of Health and Bioscience

Grade & Subject: 9th Grade- English & LLI Reading Intervention
University of Southern California: BA- English Literature
Loyola Marymount University: MA- Urban Education, Literacy

While an undergrad at USC, I was thinking of going into nonprofit or social work, when I started mentoring a fourth grade girl named Raquel. She complained a lot about school and her teachers, and I couldn’t understand her because I had always loved school. But when I began working in the schools in Los Angeles, I quickly saw the discrepancy between her education and my public school education back in Chicago. Much of my work today is motivated by the inequity I saw Raquel experience.

After my first year of teaching, I achieved even greater clarity about the role I wanted to play in my students’ education and the communities I wanted to work in. In the Spring of that year, one of my boys was unjustly suspended from school and I refused to allow this. I stood together with him and his mother and we raised our voices. We shared a deep understanding of our values and we wore our integrity on our sleeves. This young man, Jody, not only helped me find my voice on behalf of my students, but also taught me what integrity looked and sounded like, and how to teach with and model integrity each day for my students.

Outside the classroom I’m also a yoga teacher in Oakland. This balances me and has informed my classroom practice a lot, bringing even more calmness into my daily space. I’m interested in becoming involved in educational technology or foundation work. I would also love to work in outdoor education since there is nothing better than getting outside with students.

Teaching at Life Academy motivates me endlessly. The parents, teachers, and students work together to really provide a beautiful home for students as both learners and humans, and it is an honor to work there. I have so much admiration for the students I get to work with. Every single one of them encourages me to do better, and I love seeing them walk across the stage with their high school diplomas in hand with so many opportunities ahead of them.


Teacher Advisory Group Member

Robbie Torney


Grade & Subject: K-2nd- Math
Stanford: BA, MA

While still an undergraduate at Stanford, I had an amazing mentor teacher in East Palo Alto who heavily influenced my views on education. I volunteered in her classroom during her first two years of teaching, and I got to see the highs and lows of her first few years from an external perspective. It was inspiring to see someone who was actually working to make the world a better place. Her example showed me that I, too, needed to do direct service for schools, students, and families.

I’m proud to be one of the designers and founding teachers at Lodestar, a brand new school in East Oakland with a new model built around agency and belonging. There are a lot of people who talk about what’s broken in education, but there aren’t a lot of people who are pushing the envelope and innovating the way we are at Lodestar. Why is that? Because the work of innovating and doing something completely new is hard and challenging. Yet, our students deserve new schools for a changing world, and we’re doing this work alongside them and their families.

Lodestar is in the Lighthouse Family of Schools, which I’ve been a member of for many years now. Our flagship school is K-12, and a few years ago, we graduated our first class of students who started with us in kindergarten. This was really profound––to see how our work and partnership with families transformed us, our students, and their families. Our community tangibly empowers our students to be lifelong change makers who contribute to a healthier, more joyful world.

We live in a community that has a legacy of activism, social justice, and change makers. This is my community, and I’m excited to build and strengthen it with Oakland families, students, and my fellow educators. We have much more in common than people assume. When we start thinking about what school can look like when it’s built around agency and belonging, we empower our students and colleagues to come together and do great things.

Teacher Advisory Group

Susanne Lynch

Hoover Elementary

Grade: 3rd Grade
BA, English
Masters, Education: Curriculum, Instruction and Technology

My third grade teacher Mrs. London always had exciting hands–on activities for us. She also had a way of looking at you that made you feel special––it was clear that she was delighted with your presence. Her class felt magical. It took some time for me to find my way into the classroom myself, but years later I still remember what it felt like to be part of her class. I strive to bring that feeling to my students.

When I started teaching, I had no direct experience with real poverty. The living conditions and deprivation that some of my students experience daily shocked me. It was getting to know the children that changed me. I want for them what I would want for my own children––a future full of possibility and promise. I always imagine that they are traveling across a rushing river and looking for stepping stones to get to the other side. They travel on their own power, but the journey is precarious and they need places to land for support and direction on their route. I always strive to be one of those stepping stones.

Every day I look forward to seeing children who really want to be at school and to be with me.  Really, in what other job do people hug you to greet you in the morning? I feel like my job is new for me every year––and every year the job is still fun for me. I’m proud of my relationships with students, and I enjoy interacting with so many parents who are eager to support their children and look to me for guidance.

I like supporting my colleagues through their first years, if only to listen. I believe that all teachers have the ability to improve their practice and enrich their professional satisfaction through reflection with a partner. I love being that partner. And working with young energetic teachers improves my classroom practice in so many ways. I continue to be impressed by the quality and education of the newly minted teachers. They are professional, smart and dedicated to children.

Teacher Advisory Group

Tory Petite

East Bay Innovation Academy

Grade & Subject: 7th Grade- History
Simpson University: BA- Cross Cultural Studies
Alliant International University: MA- Education
Social Studies Credential

My life mission is to make communities stronger. A few years ago, I was looking to find a better career fit than social work. I had done some substitute teaching but wasn’t sure if it was right for me, until I talked with my brother, Ruben Quinones, who teaches ELD at a Title 1 high school in Concord. It was through that conversation that I realized how important education is to community development on so many levels. I knew then I wanted to be in education, because teachers are change makers in society, and that’s what I wanted to be.

Several experiences have shaped my views on education: studying abroad in Uganda, teaching English in South Korea, assisting in job placement for immigrants. The 2016 presidential election has made the work that I do even more meaningful. As a world history teacher I believe in learning about other cultures, understanding them, and critically assessing how the media portrays them. This has been the focus in my classroom, beginning with our first unit: Muslim history. My students learned about Islam, the contributions of the Muslim empire, and the nasty stereotypes that are spread worldwide about them. They were also exposed to the reality that in some states, Islamic history is being erased from history books and teachers are receiving threats for so-called Islamic bias.

Watching my students become passionate about understanding Muslims and advocating for rights on their behalf instilled in me a new purpose for this job. It’s hard to put it into words, but teaching is more than just a service––there’s real social progress involved, too. I’m proud of the growth I’ve made as an educator in the years I’ve been teaching.

I’m always looking for ways to make learning meaningful, exciting, and enjoyable. I’m more energized than ever and I am especially proud of my curriculum this year. Although it isn’t perfect, I see clearly that I am pushing my students to reach a greater depth of knowledge, to think more critically about the world around them, and to be change makers in their communities.