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Bios

SHERYL AHRENS

GABY ALVAREZ

Gabriela Alvarez is our school counselor at J.M. Gaby received her teaching credential and masters degree in Education at Stanford University  and served as an intern Spanish teacher for 1 year at James Lick H.S. She was a Spanish and ELL teacher for 3 years at Chatsworth H.S. and a Spanish and Enrollment Coordinator for 1 year at Leadership Public Schools. She later obtained her a masters degree in Counseling at San Francisco State University and was a counseling intern at LPS and Presidio M.S. where she later became the 8th grade counselor. She will help run various programs here at J.M. including the WEB team, SSA, conducting lunch and after school groups, 504 meetings and providing individual academic and emotional support to students who are in need.  For fun Gaby enjoys swimming, going camping and snow boarding in Tahoe and spending time with her family especially her two twin boys.

JIM BILAFERJim Bilafer

JULIE CARLSON

 Julie is thrilled to be working at JM as a writing tutor for 7th and 8th graders.  She's lived in Moraga for over 20 years and has two sons in college.  Julie has a B.A. in English from UCLA, and an MBA from Santa Clara University.  After college, she taught high school English for the Peace Corps for two years.  She also worked as a investment analyst for over a decade.  In her spare time, she loves to write, garden, and go for walks with her two beagles. 

KEITH CHRISTIANKeith Christian

JOAN DANILSON

Born and raised in the Bay Area, Joan received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre Arts from San Francisco State University. After receiving her Single Subject in English and Physical Education from San Francisco State University, she spent ten years at the high school level teaching drama and dance. During this time, Joan entered into leadership roles and returned to school to earn her Administrative Credential and Masters in Educational Leadership from California State University, Hayward. After four years as a high school assistant principal and eight years as a middle school assistant principal, Joan joined Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School as a principal in 2010.  On a personal level, Joan is married with three children.  They enjoy weekends on the soccer field, winters skiing and summers boating.  She is committed to the success of all students and working in partnership with families to ensure their success.

Leslie DetterLESLIE DETTER

This is my tenth year as a teacher.  My teaching experience has been primarily in the Oakland Unified School District, where I taught multiple subjects in grades 3 through 5, 7th grade English, and specialized reading instruction. I live in Walnut Creek with my husband and have two college-aged daughters, as well as three cats and a dog. I am an avid reader and movie-goer, and a novice horse rider.

OLIVIA FLINT

Olivia is excited to be the School Psychologist at Joaquin Moraga. This is her 16th year of working in schools and with children. She taught in Osaka, Japan, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Mill Valley.  She has experience doing counseling and psych-educational assessment in schools in Berkeley, San Leandro, and San Ramon. Olivia has worked with children between the ages of two and twenty, and most recently, was a Transitions Counselor at Orion Academy in Moraga. She is passionate about disability rights and making sure that all children are supported and welcomed at school. She loves collaborating with teachers and parents to this end. 

Olivia has a BA in English Literature and Psychology from Smith College, an MS Ed in Elementary Education from the University of Pennsylvania, and is currently completing her PhD in School Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. 

Olivia lives in Berkeley with her husband and son. She loves reading mysteries and adventure novels, watching comedies, and singing silly songs with her toddler (and anyone else, really). 

Jerry GruenJERRY GRUEN

Jerry Gruen teaches Physical Education at JM, and  has led the eighth graders of Joaquin Moraga to Washington D.C. since 1996.  Before coming to Moraga, he taught in the West Contra Costa Unified School District and at Fairmont Private School in Anaheim.  Mr. Gruen received both his Bachelor’s Degree, in Kinesiology, and his Master’s Degree, in Applied Physiology, from Long Beach State University.  His teaching credential was earned at Chapman University.

He enjoys working with his wife, Lisa Gruen, who is a sixth grade Core teacher at JM.  In his free time, Mr. Gruen enjoys coaching, reading, running, and exploring with his family.

Lisa GruenLISA GRUEN

Lisa Gruen is a Sixth grade Core teacher at Joaquin Moraga. She is happily married to one of JM’s Physical Education teachers and mother of two.  This energetic, artistic, and gentle Hawaii-raised woman is a perfect example that the Aloha spirit can live outside the islands. She focuses on the whole child in her classroom and lends a patient hand in each of her students’ efforts towards reaching their developmental goals.

Lisa moved from Oahu to attend Marymount College after high school.  Later, she transferred to Saint Mary’s college where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Developmental Psychology and Teaching Credential.  She taught first and second grades at Hidden Valley Elementary School before she became a mother.  When her children were small, she enjoyed volunteering at her neighborhood school in Pleasant Hill.  In fact, she earned the Presidential Volunteerism Award in 2010 by helping create a school garden and computer lab, and also raising thousands of dollars to enrich their educational programs.  Her favorite events were the walk-a-thons, carnivals, and book fairs because she worked as a team with fellow parents and enjoyed watching the children participate in fun and productive events! In her free time, Mrs.Gruen enjoys nature, photography, travel, and cooking. As long as her family is with her, she is happy.

GENEVIEVE HUTTMAN

This is Genevieve’s second year teaching in the Moraga School District. She grew up here in the Bay Area and went to undergraduate school at DePaul University in Chicago. After college she moved back to the Bay Area and attended St.Mary’s College to receive her teaching credential. She has spent much of her career teaching students with disabilities but also works with teachers on how to best service all students. She loves spending time with her family and friends in the outdoors and travelling.

BESS INZEO

Bess Inzeo is joining the Joaquin Moraga Intermediate staff as a School Counselor.  Bess was born and raised in San Diego, Ca. She later attended the University of San Diego and earned her teaching credential as an undergraduate student. Bess decided to volunteer teach in the South Bronx for her first year of teaching in the poorest Congressional District in the nation in 1996. After her adventure in NYC, she headed to teach in Oakland for two years, while obtaining her Master’s Degree in Counseling and earning her Pupil Personnel Services Credential at St. Mary’s College. Bess had been teaching kindergarten for 19 years at Donald L. Rheem School before becoming Moraga School District’s School Counselor this fall.  Bess lives in Moraga with her two children and her cat Dolly. Bess is very excited about working with our JM students and staff this year!

HARVEY KAMIAN

I was born in Berkeley and raised in Lafayette.  I attended UCLA for my undergraduate studies where I earned degrees in Scandinavian Literature and National and International Business Administration.  I also completed the pre-medical curriculum.  I did all of the work for my teaching credential in mathematics at St. Mary’s college.  I taught high school math for six years, and I have been teaching math at JM since the year 2000.  In my spare time, I enjoy playing golf, fishing, hiking, camping, and swimming.  I am passionate about teaching, and I am proud to serve the community my family has lived in for three generations.

DADavid LanuzaVID LANUZA

David Lanuza grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and moved to San Francisco with his wife 28 years ago.   David earned his B.A. in Psychology from Beloit College in Wisconsin, an M.A. in Adolescent and Child Psychology from JFKU, and a Learning Specialist credential from San Francisco State University.   Early in his career he worked as a counselor in group homes while completing his graduate degree; during this time he determined he could be most impactful by working in schools. David taught at Campolindo High School as a learning specialist for 13 years while concurrently teaching graduate students at San Francisco State University. He worked at the Acalanes Union High School District as a Special Education administrator for 4 years before accepting the position of Assistant Principal at Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School in 2017. David loves collaborating with staff, teachers, and parents to optimize student achievement. David has 2 children, age 11 and 13, and a dog named Pickles. He is passionate about his family and spends most weekends watching his children play basketball, soccer, and lacrosse.  His personal interests include surfing the waves of Ocean Beach, yoga, basketball, and indulging in the wonderful cuisine of the Bay Area.

Elizabeth LaucherELIZABETH LAUCHER

Prior to joining the JM staff, Liz was the Library Media Specialist at Camino Pablo School.  She has lived in Moraga for over 20 years and has 2 children who attended Moraga Schools.  She is a graduate of UC Santa Cruz.  She enjoys the outdoors, watching movies, and reading, of course!

DAWN LEZAK

Dawn Lezak has been teaching in the Moraga School District since 1991. She earned her B.A. at Mills College in Economics and German Studies, her Teaching Credential and Masters in Teacher Leadership at Saint Mary's College. She began her career teaching elementary school at Rheem, then moved to Joaquin Moraga to teach 6th grade Core and 6th grade Science. She currently is teaching 6th grade Science and the EARTH class. Her hobbies include gardening, hiking, swimming, skiing, traveling, and most of all learning from each day.

KIM LOCKETT

Ms. Lockett has been teaching at JM since 2001. She grew up in Los Angeles and has 1 sister. She moved up north for college, attending UC Berkeley. She was a double major in Integrative Biology and Environmental Science. She worked a few different jobs with the YMCA after graduation and then went back to UC Berkeley to get her Masters in Education and Teaching Credential at the same time with a specific focus on science education. During that program she student taught at JM and then was fortunate to get a job here upon completion of her degree. She also volunteers with the YMCA and is involved in a program called Youth and Government. She enjoys traveling and photography which has helped her teach the Yearbook class since 2010. She enjoys working with all the students and teachers collaboratively in the ECO club and helping to provide opportunities for others to truly make a difference for our future.

DANIELLE MANZI

Jessica McDevittJESSICA MCDEVITT

Jessica McDevitt is excited to be teaching history at JM to 7th and 8th graders. Before coming to JM, Jessica taught world and U.S. history at private high schools. She earned her master’s in history and her teaching credential at San Francisco State University and did her student teaching at Berkeley High School’s International Baccalaureate School. She has a bachelor’s in English and history from the Claremont Colleges. Jessica enjoys sharing her passion for history, politics, and current events with JM students. She lives in Piedmont and has two children in elementary school. 

STEPHEN NICOLINIStephen Nicolini

LEANN NIXDORFF

Leann Nixdorff has enjoyed teaching in Moraga for the last two decades.  After spending 21 years at Camino Pablo in 3rd, 4th and 5th grades, she is thrilled to have moved to 6th grade core at J.M.  Helping students develop and cultivate a love of learning is a passion for Leann. In her spare time, she loves spending time with her family including her twin CP 4th graders.  

Marie OlsonMARIE OLSON

Marie is a speech therapist at JM and LP. She holds a Masters in Journalism and Mass Communication from NYU and a Masters in Communicative Sciences and Disorders from Cal State East Bay.  Before becoming a speech therapist, she worked as a teacher and a journalist and editor in New York and the Bay Area, and she became certified as a yoga instructor. When her oldest child was born with congenital deafness, she decided to change careers and start helping children and adults with communication impairments. She lives in Orinda with her husband, their 3 children ages 11, 9 and 2, and a rather interesting cat.  In her spare time, she likes to cook, hike, read, listen to music and go to her kids' soccer games.

Cathy SchultzCATHY SCHULTZ

QUINN SILBERMAN

DEBBIE STANDRING

Debbie Standring has been teaching at Joaquin Moraga since 2008. Debbie went to UC Davis and got a B.S. in Biological Sciences. She got her teaching credential at Sonoma State University in 1990. She taught elementary school in Marin and Santa Cruz. She took time off to raise 3 children, all who went to Camino Pablo, JM, and Campolindo. The oldest two are now in the workforce, and her youngest in finishing his last year as a Duck, at The University of Oregon.  Debbie has taught 6th, 7th, and 8th grade science at JM. Currently, she is teaching 6th grade Science and Robotics. In the fall, she coaches JM Girls Volleyball. Besides spending time with her family, Debbie enjoys gardening, traveling, working home projects around her home.

Karlene SteelmanKARLENE STEELMAN

Karlene Steelman is a fifteen year veteran math teacher at Joaquin Moraga.  Karlene has been a Moraga resident since the 8th grade and attended both Joaquin Moraga and Campolindo before going to the University of The Pacific to get her degree.  She is passionate about teaching and inspiring students to see the beauty in math. She also teaches the Magic of Electrons elective. In her spare time, when she is not busy with her four children, Karlene enjoys running, reading, and playing basketball.

Michaela TondiMICHAELA TONDI

Michaela Tondi has been a science teacher at JM for three years.  After completing her undergraduate degree in Marine Biology from UC Santa Cruz, she continued there for another year to earn her Masters in Science Education. She enjoys learning and teaching about marine ecosystems and conservation biology. Ms.Tondi lives in Berkeley and loves swimming, yoga, hiking and visiting her family in San Diego.

Hongmei WangHONGMEI WANG

This is Hongmei Wang's fourth year to work for the Moraga School District as an intensive instructional aide.  She has her masters degree in physics, and in her spare time, enjoys reading and walking.

Kerry WarmboeKERRY WARMBOE

Kerry Warmboe has always had a passion for history; she is delighted to be able to teach both 7th grade World History and 8th grade US History here at JM. Kerry grew up on the Central Coast. She received her BA from UC Santa Cruz and teaching credential from Sonoma State University. In her free time she enjoys traveling, reading, and going out to AT&T Park to see Giants games.

CAITLYN WIRE

Robin AndersonROBIN ANDERSON

Teaching in a variety of positions, Robin Anderson has been with the Moraga School District since 1990. Currently, she teaches Debate and sixth grade Core. Before teaching in Moraga, she taught in rural Alaska. She recently earned her Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Mills College. Prior to that, she earned her Master’s in Education as well as her Teaching Credential from Mills. She is thrilled to be working in Professional Learning Communities at Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School to foster 21st century learning among her students. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, reading, visiting with friends and family, and cheering on the Oakland A’s.

KRISTIN ANDERSONKristin Anderson

SEAN ANDERSEN

Jason BlalockJASON BLALOCK

Mr. Blalock has been teaching at JMIS since 2011. He currently teaches Earth Science, Computer Science, and Drama. After attending Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University and receiving his BA in Anthropology from San Francisco State University in 2005, he went on to get his teaching credential in science with a focus on the geosciences from SFSU in 2010.

Teaching our young ones the ability to think critically in an increasingly technological world is an imperative of Mr. Blalock’s approach to teaching science. Only by having an educated and discerning citizenry will we be able to choose the right applications of scientific knowledge and ultimately create a more sustainable and just society.

He is proud to have a ten year old son at Cragmont Elementary in Berkeley. His interests include: reading, music, hiking, camping, and nature.

KRISTIN CORTRIGHTKristin Cortright

IRENE CONTRERASIrene Contreras

Pawan DattaPAWAN DATTA

Pawan Datta has 16 years of experience as a Special Education (SPED) teacher. She has been the 8th grade Learning Center Teacher at JMIS since 2004. Prior to joining the JM community, Mrs. Datta taught at Antioch Middle School for two years as a Special Education teacher. She received her Special Education teaching credential at St. Mary's College in Moraga. Three of Mrs. Datta's children passed through the Moraga and Acalanes School Districts. When Pawan is not teaching, she is knitting and spending time with her grandchildren.

VALERIE DESHONG

ALBERTA FALCONEAlberta Falcone

Jimmy FlowersJIMMY FLOWERS

Jimmy Flowers has been an educator for nearly two decades. After earning an English education degree from Miami University he journeyed to Korea and Japan to teach ESL. After an extended stay abroad he earned his English and History credentials in California and is keen to continue to inspire and enlighten young learners. As a passionate reader he aims to transfer the power of reading and writing to his students. Aside from educating the leaders of tomorrow, Jimmy enjoys mountain biking and ceramics in his free time.

JUDI GAVELLO

JERRY GILBERTJerry Gilbert

Susanna GomezSUSANNA GOMEZ

Susanna has been working in the Moraga School District for over five years, first as a TA and then as an one-on-one aide at Camino Pablo.  Currently, she works at Joaquin Moraga as a Special Ed aide.  She loves working with children, and they like to call her Mrs. Gomez or Mrs. G. She has an eighth grader at JM and a tenth grader at Campolindo.

She was born and raised in Hong Kong.  She speaks Cantonese and Mandarin.  She obtained her bachelor’s degree from SFSU and her MBA from Columbia University in New York.  Before focusing on spending time with her children, she was a Marketing Manager at American Express, a Vice President at BNP Paribas, and the Head of Marketing at Fidelity Investments in Hong Kong.

JARI HAZARD

This is my 4th year with the Moraga School District and first year at JM , where I am working in the testing center. I have an MS in Counseling and a Ph.D in Higher Education Administration. My free time is spent helping students with their college application essays; trying not to micromanage my son, who is a Junior at Campo; dealing with a yappy, high strung dog; and watching too much MSNBC, HGTV and Colbert.

Annette HerbertANNETTE HERBERT

Moving back to the States from Singapore was a "re-entry" experience of epic proportion. Watching our children adjust to Moraga honed my compassion for students coping with all sorts of changes, and prepared me for my 20-year career as the District’s student support specialist.

I work under the supervision of the school psychologists at Camino Pablo, Los Perales and Rheem as the director of Kids’ Connection – our 28-year supportive play room program. I create and implement our kindergarten “Get-Along Gang” problem-solving program.

At JM I provide counseling support; assist with Safe School Ambassadors, WEB, lunch groups, and Peer Tutoring; meet with students in need of academic and emotional help, and support Student Success Team meetings.I am a member of the District’s Wellness Committee and its Student Safety Committee.

MARCIA HOLBROOK

HARLEEN HUNDAL

KATY KEOUGH

TARA LARSEN

Tara Larsen previously taught middle school for 15 years in the Pleasant Ridge School District located in Grass Valley, California. She taught sixth- grade multiple subjects and 7/8 grade science. She took a break from teaching to earn a second bachelor’s degree in Information Technology and to be a stay at home mother. In her spare time, she loves to bake, scrapbook, hike, ski, climb, raft and backpack.  She loves anything to do with science and the outdoors. She missed teaching and she is excited to get to know the community at JM.

Jill LichtiJILL LICHTI

Welcome parents and students!  I have been a classroom teacher for 31 years. Twenty of those years have been here in Moraga, the first 11 in Fairfield.  All 31 years have been teaching 7th and 8th grade English. In addition, I am now in my third year of teaching 6th Foods in the Wheel and also teaching the 7/8th Foods Elective Class.  My B.A. is in English, I have a teaching credential from Hayward State, and a masters degree in Humanities from San Francisco State. Second, why I do what I do. I love teaching! Whenever someone asks me what level I teach and I respond middle school, there is always one of two responses, "You're crazy." or "You're an angel."  I just smile. I think teaching middle school is fun, never the same experience twice. From the 6th graders who are getting their feet wet, to the 7th graders who are starting to be independent, to the 8th graders who need help bridging to high school, middle school provides an important learning experience for all.

Brett LorieBRETT LORIE

Entering my 16th year of teaching (all at JM), my excitement levels are just as high as they were on my first day of teaching.  In those days, I had just completed my Master's degree and Teaching Credential at U.C. Berkeley.  Since that time I have worked hard to make math fun, engaging, and challenging.  I have also made a point to give students the opportunity to see other important aspects of life by coordinating field trips to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a variety of theater shows in San Francisco, and multiple volunteer opportunities, from Glide Memorial Church to programs at Cambridge Elementary School.  I believe that a lot of learning can take place in a wide variety of places.  I look forward to another wonderful year!

STACEY NAVARRO

This is Stacey Navarro’s fourth year teaching Physical Education. Prior to teaching at JM, Stacey taught in Oakland Unified. She has coached countless kids and young adults for over 20 years in many sports, with positions ranging from the Saint Mary's College Division I Volleyball team to youth camps in Europe and Southern California. Stacey was a professional athlete for 7 years, playing volleyball for teams throughout Europe and the Great Britain National Team. She played volleyball collegiately at Saint Mary’s College where her senior year team advanced to the Sweet 16. Stacey is passionate about living a healthy lifestyle and loves being home in the Bay Area where she can hike, run, cycle in boundless beautiful places. Stacey married Bryan Navarro, a fellow Gael, in March 2018. They love taking road trips, visiting Yosemite, and spending time with friends and family.

Adam NoelADAM NOEL

Adam has taught Music in Moraga Schools since 2002. He teaches Band, Choir and Jazz Band, and continues to teach the Strings program he founded in his first year. Musically, Adam grew up in Lafayette Schools playing the bass in orchestra. He received his BA in Music Composition and Education in 2001 from CSU Hayward (East Bay,) during which time he had the played with the CSUH Orchestra, harp ensemble, opera orchestra, the Prometheus Orchestra, Barry Green's Lafayette Bass Ensemble, several Musical Theater companies, and even subbed for the Berkeley Opera company! After 7 years in the MSD, Adam worked online through Boston University to acquire a Masters in Music Education in 2011.

NORIKO O'NEAL

ALISA OLIVERAlisa Oliver

Margaret RossoMARGARET ROSSO

PATCH SEERS

Mary Ann ShimerMARY ANN SHIMER

Mary Ann Shimer, who teaches Math at JM, strives to foster a love of learning in her students.  After receiving her degree in Math/Applied Science (Engineering) at UCLA, Mary Ann designed data networks for AT&T.  Mary Ann obtained her teaching credential from Cal State East Bay and values the positive collaboration of JM teachers.   With three children who attended Camino Pablo, JM and Campolindo, Mary Ann appreciates the value placed on education in the community.  In her spare time, Mary Ann loves to garden, read, and spend time each summer at the beach in Maine.

KARIS SYKES

John TsubotaJOHN TSUBOTA

This is my 31st year teaching at JM and it has been an interesting ride.  I teach 6th, 7th and 8th grade Physical Education and I have coached just about every sport at JM as well as coaching swimming.  I have coached high school swimming at Pleasant Valley High School, Las Lomas and Campolindo as well as summer recreational swimming for Walnut Creek and Dana Hills.

I live in Brentwood with my wife and two boys.  In my free time I enjoy abalone diving, fishing, camping and reading.  I grew up in Walnut Creek, Ca. and attended Pleasant Hill High school and then Chico State University.  

VIRGINIA VU

MOOSE WESLER

Moose Wesler has been a practicing artist since she was in her teens. Her art studies have taken her to London and Florence, Italy, and she has an MFA in printmaking and a Masters in Teaching. Ms. Moose loves to see what students come up with, and how each child expresses his/her own creative self. 

http://www.doodlecity.com/

Ben WayneBEN WAYNE

Ben Wayne has been teaching 7th and 8th grade English since 2000.  He started his career with San Francisco Unified School District and has recently made the move to the East Bay.   He has a degree in literature from UC Santa Cruz and received his teaching credential from SFSU.  He enjoys the vitality of students in middle school--they are eager to learn and full of energy.  He loves teaching writing and encouraging students to become lifelong learners.  When he's not teaching, Ben enjoys spending time with his wife and three children.  In addition to being a teacher, Ben is a drummer and an avid fisherman.

Victor ZerpaVICTOR ZERPA

Mr. Zerpa moved to the Bay Area in the summer of 2009 and by all accounts it was a great move for him. He loves everything the Bay Area has to offer. Mr. Zerpa is originally from Miami, Florida and his family still lives there.  His parents are from South America (Ecuador and Venezuela). He grew up speaking English and Spanish, and he can also speak some French. Mr. Zerpa attended the University of Florida and is a die-hard Gators fan. If you cut him, he bleeds Orange and Blue. He is proud to have served as the drum major for The Pride of The Sunshine, The University of Florida Fightin' Gator Marching Band.  Go Gators!!!  In his spare time he enjoy watching television (live sports and too many other shows to mention), trail running, CrossFit, new adventures, trying ethnic foods, and spending time with friends. Mr. Zerpa is very happy to be a part of the JM family!