Faculty & Staff

Administration, Faculty and Staff by Program

Elementary Program:

Randall Johnson, Elementary Program Director

Randall JohnsonRandall Johnson joined Katherine Michiels School in 1985 as an art specialist and preschool teacher, and became a Kindergarten teacher in 1993 and Elementary Program Director in 1995. A graduate of Washington State University, Johnson continued his studies at the San Francisco Art Institute. He also has trained with High Scope and Reggio Emilia for project-based learning, and received additional training in crisis prevention and intervention from Hanna Boys Center in Sonoma. A member of the Open Mind Board of Trustees, Johnson comes from a family of educators; two sisters are teachers, and his mother, Arden Johnson, taught Kindergarten for more than 20 years. Johnson’s son, Sam, and daughter, Elly, graduated from KMS. His background and devotion to children made him an excellent candidate to join the Open Mind Board of Trustees, which he did in 2000.

“I’ve learned so much about what truly matters in life from working with the children and staff here. Being an educator has taught me an amazing amount about what children can do if given the chance. I am proud to be helping to create progressive, innovative school programs that benefit and love children.”

Laura Zellerbach, Director of Curriculum and Staff Development

Laura website photoLaura Zellerbach initially discovered the world of children while working at the Toddler Center in the Psychology Department of Barnard College in New York City. It was here she first saw the excitement, wonder, and emotion that young children bring to every moment. After college she went on to graduate school at Bank Street College of Education where she received her Masters of Science in Education. She became certified to teach newborns through second grade, and has since worked extensively with young children and their families in multiple settings. She believes passionately that every child should have high quality education starting from the very youngest years; she has worked with infants and toddlers in rural South Africa, and serves on the board of directors for Tandem, which is a non-profit promoting early literacy and family engagement in the bay area.

“I believe that all children should be provided with a stimulating, play-based setting where they can explore and interact with the world around them. The sense of community and connection between home and school at KMS create a wonderful environment for children. I feel so lucky to be able to spend my day working with children, parents, and teachers, and to experience the world through their eyes!”

Maria Luna, Director of De Colores Spanish Language and Culture Programs.

Maria LunaMaria Luna has been at KMS since 1983, and is the parent of a KMS Graduate. She is a qualified teacher with over 25 years of experience and a BA in Humanities. Maria has been teaching children from Preschool to 8th grade in public and private schools in the Bay Area, she’s a professional dancer with Ballet Folklorico Ensembles. Over the years, she has developed creative, innovative programs and curriculums that have reached a large number of students.

Mrs. Luna has collaborated with educational organizations such as World Arts Wests and Young Audiences of Northern California. She has been a KMS Director for the last four years.

 

IMG_9241Allen Kushinsky, Upper Elementary Teacher

Allen joined KMS in 2008 as an Upper Elementary Teacher. He received his master’s degree and teaching credential from Teacher’s College, Columbia University. Upon graduation he taught for one year at an independent school in Manhattan. The following year he returned home to start a career with Katherine Michiels School. After five memorable years with KMS, Allen traveled to Thailand, where he taught first grade at an International Baccalaureate School, and spent those two years cultivating a wonderful bond with a special person to whom he is now married. Oom and Allen live happily together in the Bay Area, just down the street from school. Allen returned from Thailand in 2013, and he is back on board the elementary program at KMS.

“KMS is a very special place for me because it puts the image of the child at the forefront of her learning journey. I am so happy to be re-united with a school that values the child as a competent collaborator and explorer, honors the relationships between students, families, and teachers, and fosters awareness of the learning environment at any given moment. It’s great to be back home!”

Charlotte Mosher, Elementary Math Specialist

Gaydean Valdez, Kindergarten Teacher/Garden Coordinator

Gaydean ValdezA classroom and garden teacher, Valdez received her certification from the Center for Horticultural Therapy Studies in Denver, and is a member of the American Horticultural Therapy Association, Northern California Chapter. Valdez joined KMS in 2002, bringing to the school her experience as a vocational supervisor and counselor for developmentally disabled adults and disturbed teens. She received her preschool teacher certificate from the American College of Early Childhood Education.

“I love being a teacher. Working with young children and their families is a daily gift. Each child is so unique with his or her own personality, temperament and talents. Yet they all show me the same thing-how to love unconditionally.”

Alden Fletcher, Atelierista

Alden FletcherAlden attended KMS from age 3 through 2nd grade. She is an alum of The Oxbow School, the country’s only studio arts high school semester program, where arts and academics are taught in an interdisciplinary, integrated approach – similar to KMS. She went on to get her degree in Painting with High Honors from the College of Creative Studies at UC Santa Barbara. Before coming to KMS she worked as an Assistant teacher at the UCSB Summer Arts Institute and as an Instructional Aid at the San Roque School in Santa Barbara. In addition to being an Ultimate Frisbee athlete, she has been co-director of “Cool camp: Summer camp” for the past 12 years.

“KMS formed the foundation of the person I am today. While I gained many things from my time at KMS, most important was a strong sense of self-confidence. It was a confidence that grew from the teachers trusting each child’s ability to make their own decisions. Having experienced the power of that teaching style and the effect it can have on a person’s approach to life, it is my goal in the classroom to continue to instill that quality in my students. I want them to know, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. (Dr. Seuss)””

Stephanie Espinoza, Kindergarten Teacher

Stephanie Espinoza joined KMS in February 2016 as a Preschool teacher. Born and raised in San Francisco by her Nicaraguan parents she became fluent in Spanish at a young age. Upon graduating from Immaculate Conception Academy, she followed her passion for early education and enrolled at City College of San Francisco as a Child Development major. Stephanie began her professional career as a preschool teacher for the Mission YMCA, where her love for working with children continued to grow.

“Every child has their own personality, there is no comparing. Each one is different, special and beautiful with minds full of interesting inquiries. One of the many reasons I love working with children is having the privilege to meet so many bright students with unique stories of exploration.”

Preschool Program

Yolanda Ancheta, Infant & Toddler and Preschool Director

YolandaYolanda Ancheta earned a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education from the National Teachers College in Manila, Philippines, majoring in History and minoring in Library Science. She taught high school for seven years and two years as a part time Colllege instructor at the De Lasalle Univeristy – Manila.  In 1993 she received her Certificate of Completion in early childhood education from the City College of San Francisco. Two years later Ancheta joined KMS where she says she finds “inspiration and challenge” in her young students’ intelligence, eagerness and curiosity.

“My goal is to provide a happy and successful beginning to the child’s learning experience away from the home, with the hope that such a beginning will have a lasting effect on that child’s future development.”

Laura Zellerbach, Director of Curriculum and Staff Development

Laura website photoLaura Zellerbach initially discovered the world of children while working at the Toddler Center in the Psychology Department of Barnard College in New York City. It was here she first saw the excitement, wonder, and emotion that young children bring to every moment. After college she went on to graduate school at Bank Street College of Education where she received her Masters of Science in Education. She became certified to teach newborns through second grade, and has since worked extensively with young children and their families in multiple settings. She believes passionately that every child should have high quality education starting from the very youngest years; she has worked with infants and toddlers in rural South Africa, and serves on the board of directors for Tandem, which is a non-profit promoting early literacy and family engagement in the bay area.

“I believe that all children should be provided with a stimulating, play-based setting where they can explore and interact with the world around them. The sense of community and connection between home and school at KMS create a wonderful environment for children. I feel so lucky to be able to spend my day working with children, parents, and teachers, and to experience the world through their eyes!”

Carlota Arteaga, Preschool Teacher

Carlota ArteagaLoty joined KMS in 2006, supporting the Pumpkins in the KMS Preschool Program! She is also an essential component to the success of the De Colores Spanish Culture and Language Program under the direction of Maria Luna; by contributing her energy and knowledge she acquaints children with key concepts through conversation, song and play. Loty worked as a High School advisor for six years in her native Peru. She is currently completing her degree in Child Development at City College of San Francisco. Loty is the devoted mother of two children.

“I love the way KMS lets the children explore and choose, so that they can learn and discover new things on their own. I admire the teamwork and cooperation that exists between the teachers.”

 Gioconda Obando (Mama G), Preschool Teacher

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Giaconda Obando hails from Costa Rica and has been a KMS preschool teacher since 2006. Known as Momma G, she nurtures the Pumpkin children, supporting their positive self-image through a warm nature that engages them with song, stories and a welcoming smile. Momma G enjoys the garden and creating beautiful vases full of flower arrangements for the KMS library.

Lea Lamzon, Preschool Teacher

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Lamzon is a teacher originally from the Philippines. She has extensive experience working with children as a babysitter and in private schools. She is also a Certified Nursing Assistant.

“For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. I enjoy being part of a team of people that shares the same passion for working with children, wonderful parents and a supportive staff.”

Saachi Dhingra, Preschool Teacher

saachiSince her own preschool years Saachi has had a strong desire for nurturing others. She began after college working with a child with special needs, and then moving on to working in an integrative preschool program that focused on bridging socioeconomic gaps and providing care that would give advantages to children that needed them. While there she had the opportunity to receive yoga for children training which she then used to explore and create her own curriculum around social emotional regulation and development with yoga. She never imagined the positive results and how much the kids would love it! To see and help kids explore their emotions through art is also an important aspect of the way Saachi teaches.
“My  favorite part of being with children is the innate understanding that the world is an exciting place and sharing that with them is a gift everyday. I cannot wait to explore and learn at Katherine Michiels School!”

Meryem Bouayad, Preschool Teacher

 

Infant & Toddler Program

Yolanda Ancheta, Infant & Toddler and Preschool Director

YolandaYolanda Ancheta earned a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education from the National Teachers College in Manila, Philippines, majoring in History and minoring in Library Science. She taught high school for seven years and two years as a part time Colllege instructor at the De Lasalle Univeristy – Manila.  In 1993 she received her Certificate of Completion in early childhood education from the City College of San Francisco. Two years later Ancheta joined KMS where she says she finds “inspiration and challenge” in her young students’ intelligence, eagerness and curiosity.

“My goal is to provide a happy and successful beginning to the child’s learning experience away from the home, with the hope that such a beginning will have a lasting effect on that child’s future development.”

Laura Zellerbach, Director of Curriculum and Staff Development

Laura website photoLaura Zellerbach initially discovered the world of children while working at the Toddler Center in the Psychology Department of Barnard College in New York City. It was here she first saw the excitement, wonder, and emotion that young children bring to every moment. After college she went on to graduate school at Bank Street College of Education where she received her Masters of Science in Education. She became certified to teach newborns through second grade, and has since worked extensively with young children and their families in multiple settings. She believes passionately that every child should have high quality education starting from the very youngest years; she has worked with infants and toddlers in rural South Africa, and serves on the board of directors for Tandem, which is a non-profit promoting early literacy and family engagement in the bay area.

“I believe that all children should be provided with a stimulating, play-based setting where they can explore and interact with the world around them. The sense of community and connection between home and school at KMS create a wonderful environment for children. I feel so lucky to be able to spend my day working with children, parents, and teachers, and to experience the world through their eyes!”

Asako Nishihara, Infant/Toddler Teacher

AsakoNishiharaAsako’s professional experience with children dates back to 1999, after she earned BA degree majored in English Literature in Tokyo, Japan.  She worked as a teacher and program coordinator for preschool/kindergarten entrance exam preparation program for ages 1 to 5, mostly focusing on development in fine motor skills, basic mathematic skills, music, language, science, and art.  She also tutored 6th grade and high school students in English and Japanese grammar to assist in preparation for high school and college entrance exams.  During that time, she developed a strong passion for early child development and education.  She came to the U.S. to expand her knowledge and pursue her career in ECE.  She spent two years as a full time student at City College of San Francisco to complete five certificate programs including the Child Development Infant/Toddler Care Certificate.

My fascination, passion, curiosity, and affection toward young children seem to have no inner limit.  I am a mother of a boy and a girl; therefore healthy child development is a very important and personal issue to me.  I always strive to support my students’ healthy, optimal development.”

Ruth Lu De Hu, Infant/Toddler Teacher

Ruth Website PhotoRuth Lu De Hu began working with children in 2003. Her interaction with kids during her employment at a pediatric clinic made her realize her calling.  For seven years she worked for a non-profit group helping children and teens with their educational goals and giving them resources to go to college. In 2008, Ruth started working with younger children as a nanny and pursuing her education in Early Child Development. Ruth holds a Child Development Infant/Toddler Care Certificate.

“I believe it’s not really teaching because children learn without teachers. Teachers are tools and helpers for children to understand where their place is.”

Adelina Lopez, Infant/Toddler Teacher

AdelinaLopezAdelina has worked in the Early Childhood Education field since 2007. She started as a Floater/Sub and eventually was offered a permanent position as an Infant/Toddler Teacher. She knew at an early age that she wanted to work with children. She entered the Infant Room one day and never looked back!
“I love bonding with a baby and having the privilege of watching these little beings discover the world around them, and celebrating their milestones.”

Jette Dahingo, Infant/Toddler Teacher

JetteDahingoJette is a graduate of BS Child Development and Education from Miriam College, Philippines.  For over ten years, she has taught all subjects in preschool and English in grade school.  She has also worked as a preschool coordinator and assistant to the director, all in the Philippines.  She just moved to the United States in 2014 and feels privileged to continue her teaching career at KMS.
“This is my first year at KMS and I am very excited to meet and work with a new community.  I’m looking forward to share my skills and talents and learn from everybody in the KMS family.”

Vicky Galdamez, Infant/Toddler Teacher

vickyVicky Galdamez joined KMS in 2016 as an Infant/Toddler Teacher. After becoming a first-time mother eight years ago Vicky’s maternal inspiration led her to pursue her degree in Child Development. Since graduating in 2010, she has expanded her knowledge and training in the education sector by working as an Infant/Toddler Teacher for Contra Costa County. Earlier this year Vicky decided to pursue a new endeavor and became a part of the KMS staff.

“My time as a KMS Teacher is a wonderful learning experience, and I’m excited about growing with this passionate team!” 

 

After School & Enrichment Programs

Vincent Arroyo, After School Director and Director of Summer Camps

VincenVincentArroyot Arroyo has an Associates in Sciences Degree in Child Development and Behavioral Sciences from City College of San Francisco.  He comes to KMS from the Mission YMCA where he was the After School and Summer Day Camp Coordinator. His passion in caring for children comes from his childhood, where he was given so many opportunities in the arts, that he hope to give that to children today. He hopes to complete his BA in Human Development at Pacific Oaks College online.

“I have a true passion for working with children and having a lasting impression on their lives. Being at KMS, with other people who have the same passion is very rewarding.”

Catalina Paz Tapia, Lead After School Teacher

CatalinaTapiaCatalina holds training in dance, physical theater, and circus arts. She was born and raised in Chile and lived in Mexico where she attended the National Institute of Fine Arts. She moved to the US to pursue language studies, English and French, at City College of San Francisco. Catalina has taught theater, dance, yoga and languages to adults and children through Mexico, United States, and China. She uses movement as a universal language that reaches everyone, bringing understanding of the self and its surroundings. Through discipline and playfulness, she offers space for research and discovery. With emphasis on improvisation and creativity, she connects with the art of listening to the mind, body and soul. Catalina enjoys working with children from all backgrounds and ages. She currently works with Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, Middleground Collective, and various dance companies through out the Bay Area.

Catalina tiene formación en danza, teatro físico, y artes circenses. Ella nació y se crió en Chile y vivió en México donde atendió al Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes. Ella se mudó a Estados Unidos para estudiar idiomas, Inglés y Francés, en City College of San Francisco. Catalina ha enseñado teatro, danza, yoga e idiomas a niños y adultos en México, Estados Unidos y China. Ella utiliza el movimiento como lenguaje universal que todos entienden trayendo consigo la comprensión de uno mismo y de su entorno. A través de la disciplina y el juego,ella crea espacio para la investigación y el descubrimiento. Con énfasis en la improvisación teatral y la creatividad, ella logra conectar con el arte de escuchar, a la mente, el cuerpo y el alma. Catalina disfruta trabajar con niños de todas las edades y procedencias. Actualmente ella trabaja con Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, Middleground Collective, y compañias de danza en el área de la Bahía.

 

Open Mind Administration:

Vincent Arroyo, Admissions Director

VincenVincentArroyot Arroyo has an Associates in Sciences Degree in Child Development and Behavioral Sciences from City College of San Francisco.  He comes to KMS from the Mission YMCA where he was the After School and Summer Day Camp Coordinator. His passion in caring for children comes from his childhood, where he was given so many opportunities in the arts, that he hope to give that to children today. He hopes to complete his BA in Human Development at Pacific Oaks College online.

“I have a true passion for working with children and having a lasting impression on their lives. Being at KMS, with other people who have the same passion is very rewarding.”

Jennifer Atristain, Marketing and Community Outreach

JA HeadshotAs a Katherine Michiels School alumni and parent of 2 KMS alumni, Jennifer Atristain has developed a deep connection to the KMS mission, values and community.  A native San Franciscan, Jennifer graduated cum laude from San Francisco State University with a degree in Interior Design and a minor in Holistic Health.  While attending graduate school she taught art classes at Archbishop Riordan High School.

During her fourteen-year tenure as senior designer, project manager and Vice President of Stephen Shubel Design, Inc., a high-end residential interior design firm, she developed her administrative and project management skills.  Her responsibilities included client and vendor relations, human resources, training, product development, quality assurance, project and budget management and strategic planning. Jennifer joined the Open Mind Board in 2011.

My core belief to respect all living things and my passion for learning stemmed from experiences as a KMS student.

Sharim Shoman,  Receptionist

​Sharim is a New York City native, calling the city of San Francisco home for over a year now. She has been working and volunteering in the non-profit and educational sectors for many years, and is very passionate about her work. In her free time, she loves exploring hiking trails, volunteering, coaching, traveling, and creating new recipes.

 

Mentors:

Katherine Michiels, Founder

Katherine MichielsA graduate of San Francisco State University with a major in biology and a minor in dance, intending to become a physical therapist. In 1976 Katherine Michiels decided to change her interest to Early Childhood Education and continued her studies at Skyline College. There she met and was profoundly influenced by David Giveans and his progressive early-childhood teaching model. At his suggestion, she studied the British Infant Schools in London, and later visited more than 50 educational facilities in various countries. Michiels’s daughter, Mary Katherine, graduated from KMS.

All my life I have been drawn to children and felt their joy. When I realized I wanted to make a difference in this world, I decided I could do it best by working with and being an advocate for children and childhood.  Establishing the Katherine Michiels School and later accepting the invitation to Chair the Board of Open Mind: A Project for the Education and Development of Children are the direct result.

Naama Zoran, Developmental Psychologist and Education Consultant

Naama photo from internet

Naama Zoran began her mentoring relationship with KMS in 2000 and continues to consult and provide training sessions with the school. She has worked in early childhood development for over 30 years, has extensive experience with the Reggio Emilia educational philosophy, and was among the founders of the birth – three Early Childhood Department for the Ministry of Education in Israel. Naama brought the Reggio Emilia approach to Israel in 1998, and she is the Reggio Children International representative for Israel, in the Reggio Emilia International Network. Since 2011, Naama has been the Director of Education of MJP, a preschool in Mequon, Milwaukee.

Naama’ s extensive experience with the Reggio Emilia early educational philosophy, her annual lectures at the N.A.E.Y.C. conventions, her publications and her hands-on work with children in Israel and here at KMS, have led to the development of the KMS approach based on the best of the Reggio Emilia philosophy and the relationships between child, parent and teacher, between home and school.

Bonnie Murray Tamblyn, Certified Council Facilitator and Trainer

Bonnie photo from internetBonnie Tamblyn is a Certified Council Facilitator and Trainer with the Center for Council Training at The Ojai Foundation and serves in an advisory body to the TOF Board. She currently is writing curriculum for the Council in Schools Program. Bonnie first interned as a Council Facilitator in 1993 at Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences and then taught there for 17 years. She facilitated at Palms Middle School, where she met Joe Provisor, and brought the program to Santa Monica Alternative School (SMASH) and Archer School for Girls. She conducts yearly Council Intensives for GiRLFeST Hawaii, whose mission is to prevent violence against women and girls through education and art. A singer-songwriter as well, Bonnie’s passion is building community, giving voice to the human story, whether told in a Council Circle, or shared on stage with a guitar in her arms.

Bonnie’s mentor-ship with KMS started in 2011 when she trained our founder, faculty and directors to be facilitators of Council, connecting social-emotional to academic learning.  With her continued mentor-ship and deepening of Council, KMS is the first preschool/elementary in northern California to embrace the practice of Council.