Meet the Lower School Faculty
KA - Emily Rubin
I currently teach TK in the neighborhood at Glenview Elementary School. As a Head-Royce alum, I was thrilled to return to my alma mater several years ago as an Associate Teacher in the Lower School Program and now as a member of the Summer Program Faculty. If I weren't teaching, I'd be making music and doing arts and crafts, but it's way more fun doing so with a bunch of kids. I believe teaching is the most important job in the world and I hope that students learn to make positive change in the world and become the truest versions of themselves.
KB - Nicole Sanders
I currently teach kindergarten at St. John Catholic School. I taught Kinders in last year's summer program and have taught as an intern in the Heads Up Program. There are so many wonderful aspects of teaching but the most rewarding, hands down, is seeing the students’ growth. It’s so exciting when a student makes a mistake, works through their challenges, then the light bulb turns on and they figure it out! I work hard to develop a caring classroom culture that is welcoming to everyone. When children feel the support and love from their teacher and peers they do not have to be fearful about being “wrong” or “right” they can just grow! I believe this helps their self confidence as scholars, instills a growth mindset, and will be something they carry with them for the rest of their lives.
1A - Nikkie Toliver
During the school year, I am a teacher at St. Paul’s School and have been teaching for 17 years. This is my fourth year teaching in the Head-Royce Summer Program. My 5th grade teacher, Ms. Siegel, made me fall in love with school. I have wanted to be that teacher that made kids fall in love with school; my students would describe me as fun! I attended Cal State University East Bay for my B.A, and the University of the Pacific M.ED. I’m looking forward to meeting new students this summer and teaching reading workshops. I love swimming, and when I’m not teaching I love to spend time at the pool with my children.
1B - Bret Turner
During the school year, I am on the first grade team at Head-Royce, where I've been teaching for seven years. I love what I do because kids teach us about what it means to be human. I also adore singing with kids; fewer things bring me greater joy. I earned my B.A. in linguistics from Pomona College and an M.A. in curriculum and instruction from University of the Pacific in partnership with the Bay Area Teacher Training Institute. On my own time, I write about education and parenting and lives with my wife, Jessica (a fellow elementary-school teacher); our two young kids, Alice and Louis; and our three-legged dog. You can check out some of my work with Teaching Tolerance by clicking here.
1C - Victoria Bellas
I am currently teaching as an associate teacher in the 4th grade classroom at Head-Royce School. If I weren't teaching I'd likely be a zoologist because I love studying animals in their natural habitats. I teach to inspire a lifelong love of learning and joy for my students and for myself!
1D - Ruth Flores
During the school year I teach at Washington Elementary in San Leandro, and have been teaching for 15 years. This is my fifth year teaching in the Summer Program. I attended Holy Names University and wanted to become a teacher to address the need to help our bilingual children succeed, like many teachers did for me. This summer, I am really looking forward to creating an environment where kids can relax and have fun all day long. I enjoy teaching reading comprehension, and my students would describe me as funny, positive, and encouraging. When I’m not teaching, I love running the Oakland trails.
1E -Niesha Johnson
I have been teaching for 5 years and spend my school year teaching at Chabot Elementary. I attended Holy Names University for undergraduate studies and the University of the Pacific for graduate school. I was led to teaching through my love of helping students reach that “lightbulb” moment. I enjoy teaching lessons that are highly engaging and allow students to take ownership of their learning. My students would describe me as caring, understanding, and funny. A fun fact about me is that I have 6 sisters. When I’m not teaching, I enjoy dancing, traveling, napping, and spending time with friends and family.
2A - Andrea Kneeland
I am currently the Library Media Specialist at Holy Names High School. This will be my third year teaching in the Head-Royce Summer Program. I teach because kids give me the brightest hope for the future. There is nothing I love more than watching a child get excited and curious about the world. I live in Oakland and if I weren't teaching, I'd likely go back to school to get a degree in Computer Science and Machine Learning.
2B - Jahi Johnson
I worked at Head-Royce School (HRS) as a Lower School Intern Teacher for three years (1st-3rd grade) and this will be my second year as a Lead Teacher in the Summer Program. I love teaching in the summer because I think children gain a better sense of independence, become more confident, better understand the purpose of going to school and build community. Children also have a chance to further develop their academic skills while strengthening previous relationships created with others and a chance to make new connections. Children can also understand that it is important to be balanced in life, by having a healthy amount of work and play, while having fun.
2C - Melissa Cox
As a graduate of Head-Royce School, I love returning during the summer to teach in the Lower School Program. During the academic year, I work at Laurel Elementary in the 2nd grade classroom. I enjoy teaching the whole spectrum of subjects and live for the moment something "clicks" for my students. The best part of my job is seeing when the growth and learning happens. Teaching during the summer gives me the flexibility to build new curriculum, try new things and challenge myself in the short time I have with the students. While I'm not teaching, I like to cook for friends, see movies and hike in Redwood Regional.
2D - Stacy Sanchez
I’ve been teaching and assisting classes for five years, and just finished up my second year of teaching full time. I attended undergraduate school at Northwestern and graduate school for math at the University of Notre Dame. I spent the last two years teaching at St. Joseph School. I recognize the potential in everyone and hope for the success of those I encounter, so it was only natural for me to teach. In teaching, everyday I’m given the opportunity to help students grow. This summer, I’m excited to connect the students with their community. I find joy in teaching all subjects, so long as I am able to make real world connections. My students would describe me as having high expectations for them, which comes from a place of really caring for them and their success. When not teaching, I enjoy reading, watching documentaries, exploring indoor and outdoor places, learning to do something new each month, and picking up new recipes. One day I would like to be able to speak, read, and write proficiently in 10 languages, or more!
2E - Joon Yeider
This will be my second summer at HRS Summer Program, but my 15th year teaching. In the academic year, I teach first graders at Anthony Chabot Elementary School. I love the process of curriculum design and how to best teach to the students in the room. One effective tool in teaching is being culturally responsive to the student, which means asking questions and making connections to the student and the student's family and history. Being culturally responsive means being willing to see and encourage students to use a variety of means to express themselves. I love the work of summer because I believe it benefits the students in two ways. One is the opportunity to exercise their academic muscles in order to keep the "summer slide" at bay and the second benefit is keeping socially connected with other children.
3A - Stephi Dellar
I have been a teacher for 23 years and have spent the past 18 teaching third grade in the Head-Royce Summer Program. During the school year, I am a middle school English teacher and a HUGE Oregon Ducks Fan. I attended the University of Oregon and was led to teaching because of the teachers I had throughout my schooling. I love the summer program, meeting new students and seeing familiar faces. I love teaching lessons that allow me to see the students' creativity. My students would describe me as fun, caring, outgoing, yet very structured. When I'm not teaching, I enjoy swimming, reading, crafts and hanging out with friends and family.
3B - Amie Wenzell
During the academic year, I teach at Burton Valley Elementary School in Lafayette. This is my second year in the Head-Royce Summer Program. I believe in building a strong classroom community. I think it is very important that you create a safe space for kids to learn everyday. In Lafayette we use the workshop model to teach reading, writing and math. The workshop model allows you to differentiate and reach every learner. It gives them the space to work at their own pace and time to check in individually with each student. My class does morning meeting every morning. We use this as an opportunity to build community as well as talk about current events, issues in the classroom. I'm excited to utilize some of these same strategies with my summer program students to create the best summer experience possible.
3C - Douglas Evans
I taught for 25 years and currently write children’s books full time. I attended school at the University of Oregon, and in realizing that early education is the foundation for everything, became a teacher. My favorite subject to teach is writing, and I am looking forward to the mixture of teaching as well as having fun this summer. I’ve traveled to over 130 countries and when I’m not teaching, I spend my time traveling, writing music, and camping.
3D - Katie Reilly
This is my 10th year teaching and 5th summer in the program. During the academic year, I teach kindergarten at Head-Royce School. In my time in this profession, I have learned that the more empathy we can develop for others while also working toward a common understanding that we are all different and unique, the more accepting of these differences our future generations will be. I love teaching in the program because of all the fun people I get to meet each year as well as the smart and awesome students. In my spar time, I enjoy backpacking and really doing anything outdoors in the sunshine.
4A -Sita Davis
I’ve been a teacher for 12 years at Head-Royce, and spent the 2016-17 school year on sabbatical, worldschooling my 10-year-old daughter in India, Spain, France, Colombia, and Mexico. I was led to teaching through my love of learning, sharing, and kids. I attended Willamette University, studying Spanish and visual arts, and got my teaching credential at Mills. I love teaching about why the seasons change, and why the moon has phases using globes and flashlights. My students would describe me as a nature-loving, Spanish-speaking, community building yoga lady. This summer, I am looking forward to taking kids to the garden for poetry reading and writing, and to study the Fibonacci sequence in nature. When I am not teaching, I enjoy camping, hiking, yoga (I am also a yoga teacher and yoga therapist), art, practicing the ukulele, and dancing salsa!
4B -Barry Turner
I have been teaching for 17 years and am in my first year teaching 4th grade at Head-Royce School. Prior, I taught at Urban Montessori and The Archway School. I attended Queens College in Charlotte, North Carolina. An interesting fact about me is that I played college soccer for four years. When I’m not teaching during the summer, I enjoy cycling, fishing, and spending time with my family. What led me to teaching was the gratification in helping people and students achieve their goals. I sometimes struggled in school and had difficulty with concepts, so I want to be there for the children like my teachers were there for me. During my time at Head-Royce this summer, I am looking forward to spending time with students and getting to know families. My favorite lessons to teach are botany and zoology; my students would describe me as tough, kind, fair, and fun.
4C - Katie Dascomb
In the academic year, I teach kindergarten at Treeview Elementary School in Hayward, CA. This is my second year in the Head-Royce Summer program and the reason I love teaching during the summer months is because children gain the academic skills that are needed to succeed in the beginning of next school year. There is less of a possibility of subject matter being lost or forgotten over summer in children's minds. It also provides students with an opportunity to view school in a stressless way through low stakes learning assignments in a new classroom full of new students. It is also an opportunity for students to enjoy being back in a classroom if they struggled academically or socially the previous school year.
4D - Joseph Salazar
During the academic year, I teach at Bentley School and this is my third year teaching during the summer at Head-Royce. I love teaching because it provides me the opportunity to to develop and implement a curriculum that is both progressive and culturally responsive. Within my curriculum, I am able to incorporate social-emotional learning which enables students to practice fundamental life skills that build self-esteem, leadership skills, cooperation and decision making abilities. One of my greatest joys of being a teacher is to observe students learn to respect each other's differences while discovering commonalities within a truly diverse community of learners.
5A - Christy Betts
I'm thrilled to join the 5th grade team of the Summer Program. I currently teach gardening during the academic year at Head-Royce and am looking forward to expanding my work into the summer months. As a teacher, I love to witness the "ah-ha" moment with my students. When we make connections to new ideas, places, or people... we change our brains. We see the world in a different light and become more open to different possibilities for ourselves and others. I often do this through nature. Connecting kids to the outdoors inspires me. I love showing students how to grow and prepare their own food and share it with their families and community.
5B -Tanja Gubser
During the school year I can be found at Donald Rheem Elementary, and have been teaching for 7 years. I’ve always been a teacher; first to my little sisters and brother, then swim teacher, babysitter, mom, and finally, a credentialed teacher. I received my teacher credential at BATTI (Bay Area Teacher Training Institute), and I’m looking forward to working with old friends, meeting new students, and trying out some fun projects in the classroom. I love creative projects that ask students to research write, create, and design – like travel brochures! My students would describe me as fun, and a little wackadoodle. I have purple hair and enjoy camping, swimming, reading, and BBQs when I’m not teaching.