Faculty & Staff
HOLLY CAMPBELL - LEVEL III LEAD TEACHER
This is Holly's eighth year at Synapse. Holly is excited for another year in Level III. Prior to teaching at Synapse, Holly received her BS in Education at Middle Tennessee State University. She taught fourth grade for five years at a Title 1 school in Murfreesboro City School District where she was awarded “Teacher of the Year” in the 2012-2013 school year. Holly served gifted and special education students in an inclusion classroom. She was a presenter to principals on Tier 1 Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports. Holly also served as a lead teacher for Body and Mind, as well as Families Understanding Nature and Nutrition. In her free time, she enjoys painting, reading, music, and photography.
SARAH CARR-BERRY - LEVEL I LEAD TEACHER
Sarah has been teaching students of all ages since 2005 and joined the Synapse community in 2012. Sarah LOVES teaching in Level I - this year marks year number nine! She is a native Californian and earned a BA in History with a Theatre Arts minor from University of California Santa Cruz and an MA in Education and a teaching credential from Pepperdine University. Sarah began her career in education as a middle school social studies teacher and advisor in downtown Los Angeles. She then ventured overseas, teaching in Tokyo, Japan, for nearly five years. While in Tokyo she taught English to students ranging from four to 80 years old and then taught Kindergarten at an international school. While at the international school, Sarah helped to develop curriculum for the school’s International Baccalaureate accreditation. Back home in the Bay Area, Sarah loves playing in her band, seeing live music, watching Liverpool FC win the Premier League, and being in the Redwoods.
PAIGE CAREY - LEVEL I LEAD TEACHER
Paige is excited to be starting her fifth year in a lead position in Level I. After attending the University of San Diego and receiving a BA in Marine Science, Paige moved back to the Bay Area to pursue a career that intertwines both education and marine life. She recently completed her Masters in Education - Curriculum and Instruction at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont. She has worked with Galileo Learning Inc. for six years and has been a Team Leader, Lead Instructor in Art, and Lead Instructor in Science for a variety of ages. Paige is passionate about instilling a sense of creativity and confidence in children in all aspects of life and learning, as well as having loads of fun. She possesses many talents and passions such as singing, playing piano and ukulele, dancing, swimming, kayaking, painting and crafting, cooking, and spouting off fun facts about sea life.
ALLY FROMSON-HO - ASSOCIATE TEACHER
Native to the Bay Area, Ally recently graduated from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine with a BA in Environmental Studies and History. A four-season varsity swimmer and an award-winning scholar, Ally exemplifies excellence and hard work. Since college, she has served as a full-time teaching fellow at Citizen Schools in Redwood City and worked as a swim instructor at the YMCA of the East Bay. In her free time, she enjoys painting and running. She is excited to take the next step in her teaching career by joining us at Synapse.
HANNAH GALLAGHER - LEVEL III LEAD TEACHER
After three years as an Associate Teacher in Level II and Level III, Hannah is excited to be returning for her fourth year in the role of Level III Lead Teacher. Prior to Synapse, Hannah taught Kindergarten for two years at Brandeis Hillel Day School in San Francisco. She studied English at University of California Santa Barbara and received her teaching credential at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles. She enjoys collaborating with her team and engaging her students. In her free time she does improv comedy, takes guitar lessons, sings whenever possible, and loves to explore Bay Area hiking and restaurants with family and friends.
ELIZABETH GIBBONS - ASSOCIATE TEACHER, LEVEL II
Elizabeth is excited to be starting her second year as an associate teacher with the Level II team. She recently completed her Masters in the Art of Teaching from Santa Clara University and has worked on and off for over 15 years as an instructional aide, primarily at Ohlone Elementary School in Palo Alto. She has also worked as a youth director where she helped build a program based on connection and acceptance. She has a strong commitment to social and emotional learning and building a strong classroom community. She cares deeply about communication, social justice, animals, and environmentalism. Elizabeth has lived in Palo Alto for over twenty years and raised three children there. She enjoys strategic board games, hiking, and spending time with her husband, adult children, and her beloved dog.
ADAM HATFIELD - ASSOCIATE TEACHER, LEVEL I
Adam returns to Level I this year as an Associate Teacher. Originally from Pittsford, Vermont, Adam moved to Florida in 2004 and earned his degree in Secondary Social Science Education from Florida Gulf Coast University in 2016. After teaching history and government in a high school setting, Adam developed an interest in working with younger students and moved to a second grade classroom. He is passionate about independent schools and aspires to create a positive environment to foster a lifelong love for learning in his students. In his free time, Adam enjoys cooking, drumming, riding his bicycle, reading, and hiking with his dog, Bear.
BLAIR JOHNSON - ASSOCIATE TEACHER, LEVEL III
Born and raised in Menlo Park, Blair attended the University of Vermont, where he earned a BS in Social Work from the College of Education and Social Services. After graduation, he moved back to California, where he began working for the Menlo Park City School District as a substitute teacher for grades K-8. Most recently he worked at Encinal Elementary in Menlo Park as a long-term substitute within the severe/medical special needs classroom and as a resource teacher. In his free time he enjoys getting outdoors any way he can - snowboarding, fishing, sailing - or restoring vintage motorcycles in his garage.
YVONNE KUNSTENAAR - LEVEL II LEAD TEACHER
Yvonne is thrilled to be starting her eleventh year at Synapse and her ninth year as Level II Lead Teacher. After working in the corporate world, Yvonne discovered the joy of working with elementary school children. She has taught all school ages from Kindergarten through sixth grade as a teacher and science specialist. Yvonne’s passion is to inspire all children to love to read, which has led her to volunteer with several organizations where she has tutored young readers. She received her teaching credential from Notre Dame de Namur University, MBA from The University of Pennsylvania, and BA from Columbia University. Yvonne loves spending time with her family: her husband, two daughters, and several rabbits. After many years of long distance running, she now enjoys going on long walks and most recently, taking yoga classes. In her moments of free time, Yvonne also enjoys time with a good book.
MIKE LEE - ASSOCIATE TEACHER, LEVEL I
Upon graduating from UC Berkeley, Mike started his career as an accountant. After much soul-searching, several years teaching English as a Second Language in Korea, and several more years working as a substitute teacher in a variety of Bay Area schools, he has decided to follow his heart and pursue a career in teaching. We knew he would feel at home at Synapse when we saw his deep commitment to Social-Emotional Learning, his interest in neuroscience and philosophy, and the kind, curious way he connected with our students. Mike is currently enrolled in the Bay Area Teacher Training Institute.
DEVIN MACRAE - LEVEL II LEAD TEACHER
After two years as a Synapse Level II Associate teacher, Devin is thrilled to be coming back to Synapse for his fourth year in a Level II Lead Teacher position. He holds a degree in Biology from California State Monterey Bay. Devin has worked with children in a number of ways. He was an educator at Marina Vista Elementary School in Marina, California, where he worked with students ranging from Kindergarten to 5th grade. At the Marine Mammal Center, he educated the public on marine biology and conservation. Devin is also the proud parent of a 6-year-old daughter and a 4-year-old son. He enjoys cooking for his family, road trips, gardening, and practicing the ukulele.
CORA POE - LEVEL III LEAD TEACHER
Cora is thrilled to be starting her second year at Synapse and with the Level III team. Cora graduated from UC Davis with a double major in English and Cultural Anthropology. She loves to bring her interests in reading, writing, people and history into the classroom. Cora worked in public school in Davis, CA, then moved to the Bay and the independent school system at The Nueva School in 2015. She hopes to promote a pattern of lifelong learning in the students she teaches. Things that bring Cora joy outside of school include reading, playing board games, and hiking with her dog, Tommy.
STEPHANIE POO - ASSOCIATE TEACHER, LEVEL I
Stephanie is excited to be starting her second year in Level I and third year at Synapse. In the last few years, Stephanie has taught Level I, Level II, and children's art classes, exploring various mediums such as acrylic, watercolor, relief printing, and ceramics. She studied Art and History of Art and Visual Culture at University of California Santa Cruz and recently received her Masters in Education at Santa Clara University. In her free time, Stephanie enjoys gardening, collecting children books, and spending time with her family and dog, Nugget.
PAXTON ROUNTREE-JABLIN - ASSOCIATE TEACHER, LEVEL III
A geology major who graduated from St. Lawrence University in 2015, he has spent the last five years in a wide variety of pursuits: graduate studies in geology in British Columbia; teaching and leading trips at the High Mountain Institute in Leadville, CO; and substitute teaching, teaching in afterschool programs, and teaching outdoor education programs in the Eastern Sierras. Additionally, he has worked as a camp counselor, a firefighter, and a snowboard instructor. Paxton is enrolled in the Bay Area Teacher Training Institute (BATTI), a 2-year Masters and Credential program in San Francisco tailored uniquely for people working concurrently as associate teachers in Bay Area Independent Schools.
TORI SCHERBA - ASSOCIATE TEACHER, LEVEL III
Tori will be returning to Level III as an Associate Teacher this year. Tori graduated from the University of Arizona in 2018 with a degree in Psychology. She has tutored elementary aged children in various subjects as well as volunteered at Brentwood school in East Palo Alto. She has always had a love of working with children and is excited to start her first full year at Synapse! Besides education, Tori's other passions include animals, cooking and hiking!
KAREN SHIN - LEVEL II LEAD TEACHER
Karen is thrilled to be returning to Synapse for her third year as a Lead Teacher. She grew up in the Bay Area and graduated from the University of California Santa Cruz with a BA in Psychology. Her first teaching assignment was a long-term substitute position, where she taught second grade. This experience ignited a passion for children, and Karen spent the next eight years teaching in a Special Ed Preschool and Transitional Kindergarten classroom. In addition to education, she has a passion for the healing arts and is a certified Reiki Master and Ayurveda health counselor. She enjoys seasonal cooking and spending time hiking with the love of her life, her dog, Maggie.
SUSAN TACHNA - ASSOCIATE TEACHER, LEVEL II
Sue wandered around the field of education for years before landing at Synapse. She’s job-shared in a 2nd grade class, been a Science and a Math Specialist, a Farm Science teacher on Ohlone elementary’s school farm, and has substitute taught at most K-12 levels. When not at work teaching, she volunteers teaching. Highlights include a six-week teaching assignment at a residential school in south India and tutoring at Belle Haven Library’s new Homework Center. Because her own two sons have grown, she gets her baby fix by cuddling infants in LPCH’s NICU on weekends. A native Detroiter and proud graduate of the University of Michigan, she always appreciates a heartfelt “Go Blue!"
JESSICA BEATTY - STEAM TEACHER; MIDDLE SCHOOL ADVISOR
Jessica comes to us from San Francisco Day School where she was a fifth grade teacher and designed and implemented constructivist, cross-curricular, and project-based learning. She has also taught at the Bentley School in Oakland as a second grade associate teacher and as a marine educator at the Marine Science Institute. Jessica is excited to bring her experience in marine research and seabird fieldwork at the Institute of Marine Research and the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, both in Norway, to the position and to Synapse. Jessica recently completed her Masters in Education through BATTI, and she holds an MS in Biology from the University of Bergen, Norway, and a BS in Biology (with a minor in Education) from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Along with spending time with her two cats Jack and Jane, Jessica enjoys baking delicious treats, crafting, and bird watching both from her balcony and while hiking.
CAROLINE BURD - SPANISH TEACHER
Caroline is excited to be joining Synapse this year as a middle school Spanish teacher. Born and raised in in San Francisco, Caroline earned her BA in French from Smith College, her master’s in Basque Studies from the Université de Bordeaux III, and her PhD in French at the University of Colorado. After helping a Boulder-area charter school start up a French program for their middle and high school, she spent four years at Missouri Western State University as an assistant professor of French before returning to the Bay Area. Caroline has lived in France, Spain, and Germany, and loves traveling, languages, cooking, reading, and spending time with her family.
MICHELLE CHANEY - WRITER'S WORKSHOP TEACHER
Michelle is excited to return for her fifth year at Synapse. Originally from the Bay Area, she moved across the country to earn her BA in Psychology from Princeton University and her MSEd in Elementary Education from the University of Pennsylvania. After graduation, Michelle moved to Sydney, Australia, where she taught first grade for three years. Michelle then returned to California in 2015 to work as a second grade associate teacher at The Nueva School. In addition to teaching, Michelle also enjoys coaching springboard diving at her local pool. Some of her greatest passions include traveling, hiking, and collecting beautifully illustrated picture books.
ANNE CHANG - STEAM SPECIALIST
Anne is entering her 9th year of teaching at Synapse and has experience teaching both lower and middle school classrooms from 3rd through 8th grade. Anne came from a sixteen-year career in health care operations and consulting prior to pursuing her passion for teaching. She received her Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from Notre Dame de Namur University, a Masters in Public Health from the University of Michigan, and a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Stanford University. In addition, she is the parent of a high schooler and enjoys singing, photography, writing, and cheering on her daughter's sports teams.
JOHN GREGORY - HUMANITIES TEACHER; MIDDLE SCHOOL ADVISOR
John is excited to return for his sixth year in the Synapse Middle School. Growing up in Portland, Oregon, John attended independent schools that instilled him with a lifelong curiosity and passion for education. Seeking to expand his horizons, he attended Vassar College, where he majored in English and Political Science, and enjoyed exploring the Northeast with the rowing team. After graduation, John worked in book publishing before he was accepted as a New York City Teaching Fellow, which allowed him to begin teaching in a new public middle school and earn an MEd in English Education from Fordham. After several years, John took a position teaching English at Columbia Prep and attended City College of New York for an MFA in Creative Writing. John moved to the Bay Area five years ago; he enjoys spending time outdoors with his dogs and discovering all that the area has to offer.
ISHA JAIN - DIRECTOR OF DISTANCE LEARNING; MATH TEACHER; MIDDLE SCHOOL ADVISOR
Isha holds a Masters in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from Boston University and an undergraduate degree in Business Administration. As a child, Isha had the opportunity to go to an experiential and project-based school and is a strong proponent of this approach to education. She believes that learning takes place internally and that the role of an educator is to hone the natural curiosity of young adults and convert it into powerful learning opportunities. Isha has worked as the head of two departments: Technology and Business Management of the International Baccalaureate Middle Years and Diploma Programmes at the Mahatma Gandhi International School in India. She also launched and led a course in Creative Media Production in Filmmaking accredited by Cambridge University. She curated and taught interdisciplinary projects for grades five and six. Isha speaks many languages including English, Gujarati, Hindi, and French. She enjoys cooking and traveling with her husband, practicing Kung Fu, violin, and exploring Bay Area food and culture.
STUART LANGSAM - MIDDLE SCHOOL PERFORMING ARTS SPECIALIST; MIDDLE SCHOOL ADVISOR
Stuart is a multi-faceted percussionist and music educator originally from Southern California. He holds a BA in Music Performance from San Jose State University, a Master's of Music from Oklahoma State University, and is currently studying towards a Doctorate of Musical Arts at the University of Oklahoma. Stuart was a member of the Oklahoma City Philharmonic for eight seasons performing Classics, Pops, Ballet, and Youth concerts. He is also a member of Orphic Percussion, a California based professional percussion quartet. He has worked with learners of all ages in the classroom, on the marching band field, and in private lessons. He enjoys helping students grow and progress in their study of music by guiding them into finding solutions and answers to the questions they ask. He is excited to be joining the Synapse team as the Middle School Performing Arts Specialist and learning our unique and innovative approach to education.
EBEN LAPIER - MATH TEACHER; MIDDLE SCHOOL ADVISOR
This is Eben's eighth year as a Synapse teacher. After three years as an Associate Teacher in Level III, Eben joined the middle school team as a math teacher and 7th/8th grade advisor. Eben graduated from the University of Puget Sound in 2010 with degrees in Mathematics and Medieval Literature and received his credential from Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont in 2012. Eben is happiest when teaching his students to not fear math, or running simulations and hands-on projects. When he is not teaching he enjoys riding his bike, playing tabletop games, and "marching" with his tuba in the Stanford Band.
MARK LEITCH - MATH TEACHER; MIDDLE SCHOOL ADVISOR
Mark has been in love with mathematics for quite a while now. He holds a BS in Energy Engineering from Penn State University with a focus on studying renewable energy. Toward the end of college, Mark discovered a passion for teaching. He moved to New Orleans and taught 7th/8th graders in math, science, and special education for 3 years. In his last year in New Orleans, he also enjoyed tutoring advanced mathematics to students up for a challenge. Mark moved out to the west coast last summer and has now been at Synapse for one year as a 5/6 math teacher and advisor. Mark’s favorite thing about Synapse is that he gets to explore mathematics through unique and exciting projects! In his free time, you can find him hiking, marathon-ing and playing Magic The Gathering. He is incredibly excited for his third year at Synapse!
BEN MEISELES - MATH TEACHER; MIDDLE SCHOOL ADVISOR
This is Ben's third year as a Math Specialist and Middle School Advisor at Synapse. Earning his BS in Mathematics from Duke University, Ben went on to work in professional services at Red Hat for several years. Despite his foray in the tech world, Ben has always wanted to serve as an educator and role model for children. As a math teacher, Ben strives to enable students to embrace the skills and mindsets that create great mathematicians, lifelong learners, and intentional global citizens.
MARISHA RODRIGUEZ - DIRECTOR OF LANGUAGE; SPANISH TEACHER
Marisha is overjoyed to join the Synapse community. She is excited to serve us as we re-imagine how we learn and acquire language. She has recently relocated back “home” to the Bay Area from Nashville, TN. Career directions since graduation from Barnard College, Columbia University and study at the University of Seville (Spanish and Latin American Literature) have led her to opportunities in the fields of education, digital publishing, workgroup management, performing arts, and entertainment. She also studied voice at the Manhattan School of Music. Marisha’s passion for independent school education was born as a graduate of The Branson School in Marin County. There she experienced the transformational power of mentors and teacher-friends. She hopes to instill in her students this same love of learning, language and people. Her morning routine includes morning pages, a big cup of coffee (light and sweet) and a nice run outdoors. One day she hopes to get a dog.
SHELLY WHITTET - HUMANITIES TEACHER; MIDDLE SCHOOL ADVISOR
Shelly comes to us from three years at Nueva, where she taught in third grade and Kindergarten. Shelly brings a range of diverse experiences and perspectives to the Synapse community, from managing playground builds with the nonprofit KaBOOM!, to working with Galileo Learning, to serving with the U.S. Peace Corps in Malawi and Niger, to working as a writer for Habitat for Humanity International. Shelly completed her Masters in Education and California teaching credential through BATTI, and she holds an BA in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Shelly loves reading, being outside, hanging out in her hammock, and embroidering.
SHERRY ZHANG - MANDARIN TEACHER
Sherry is excited to start her second year back at Synapse teaching Mandarin! Born and raised in China, Sherry started teaching Mandarin to foreign employees at Caterpillar Inc. in China in 2009 while pursuing her undergraduate degree in English at Tianjin Foreign Studies University. After she obtained her Middle School teaching credential in 2011, she started teaching English to children in China, and later taught Mandarin at Tallahassee Chinese school while in graduate school at Florida State University, majoring in International Comparative Education. She is now in the third year of her doctoral program in Chinese medicine and acupuncture at Five Branches University in San Jose. She is thrilled to share this historical and beautiful language and its rich cultural aspects with Synapse students with a modern, spontaneous, simplistic and student-centered method!
GWYN GORDON - GARDEN SPECIALIST
Gwyn has been contributing to the Synapse community since her daughter - now an 8th grader - entered Level I. She has coordinated or created special projects such as Family Camp, the staff salad bar, Operation Gratitude candy drive, and now the Synapse Garden. Gwyn's favorite activity is to create something new, then watch it grow far beyond her original expectations. Gwyn holds a BA in psychology from Stanford University, and before parenthood was a professional equestrian competitor and coach. She enjoys hiking, yoga, writing, all kinds of sports and movement, and of course gardening.
PEGGY MCLEAN - MATH SPECIALIST, LOWER SCHOOL
Peggy received her BA and MA from San Jose State University. For the past 45 years she has been training teachers across the nation in the use of manipulative math materials to foster greater understanding of math concepts presented in the elementary grades. Peggy trained pre-service teachers at Notre Dame de Namur University for 25 years and has had the joy of visiting their schools in the Bay Area and other sites across the nation. With Mary Laycock, she created the elementary math program at The Nueva School, where she was Math Specialist from 1975 - 2015. Peggy joined Synapse full time in 2016 and currently works with teachers in Levels I, II, and III. She is the co-author of several books on the use of various manipulative materials, many of which are currently used at Synapse School.
BRITNEI MERCKLE - ART AND INNOVATION SPECIALIST
Britnei received her MA in Art Education in 2012 from NYU Steinhardt in New York City. She also holds a BFA in Fine Art Photography from Ohio University with a minor in Theater Arts. Britnei is a New York State Certified Arts Educator and has taught art at a variety of private schools including the United Nations International School, where she designed and implemented lesson plans for a digital photography class. She has developed a theme-based curriculum for art classes and curated exhibitions of student work. She also has a great deal of studio experience. Britnei looks forward to her fifth year here at Synapse supporting the arts and innovation programs.
EMILY MICHIELUTTI - ASSOCIATE PERFORMING ARTS SPECIALIST
Emily is a composer, pianist, and educator who recently relocated to the Bay Area from Chicago. Over the last five years, her compositions have been performed by Chicago’s New Music ensembles. She strives to find beauty in composition by experimenting with extended techniques using acoustic instrumentation and a digital approach to sound. Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Emily began her professional music career at an early age singing for the Michigan Opera Theater Children's Chorus. Emily holds a Bachelor's of Music in Composition and Piano Performance from Columbia College Chicago. While at Columbia College she began teaching so she could share her joy for music with students of all ages. She believes education is about finding one’s passion while achieving continuous improvement and progression and aims to instill values of creativity, diligence, and curiosity in her students.
ANITHA NANDURI - K-8 COMPUTER SCIENCE SPECIALIST
Anitha is excited to start her second year at Synapse School!Her goal is to bring out students’ joy and creativity in learning by emphasizing communication, collaboration and an open mind. She comes to Synapse with over four years of working with and teaching K-8 children in both public and independent schools. Prior to teaching Engineering Design, Coding, and Technology at a local independent school for the past two years, Anitha worked as an Electrical Engineer for over seven years for both large corporations and start-ups. She holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Arizona. She is the parent of three children and enjoys attending their sports games and/or music performances on the weekends.
CHA CHA PILLAI - BRAINWAVE LEARNING CENTER RESEARCH & PROGRAM COORDINATOR
Cha Cha studied the Neurobiology of Identity in the Human Biology department at Stanford University. At Stanford, Cha Cha taught “Peer Counseling on Comprehensive Sexual Health” and counseled at the Sexual Health Peer Resource Center. She worked as a 24/7 residential health educator and wellness specialist in a freshman dorm where she supported individuals in building their own personal frameworks for flourishing. Cha Cha strives to create warm spaces built on respect and open communication where people feel safe to have harder, important conversations. At the Brainwave Learning Center, she is excited to experience kids see their own brains at work and develop a deeper more intentional relationship with their mind and body. Cha Cha spends her free time doing yoga, making people dance as DJ HONEY, and vinyl hunting for more jazzy-cosmic-disco jams.
CHRISTOPHER POPE - MAKERSPACE SPECIALIST
Christopher is a carpenter, educator, and artist. Since 2012, he has been practicing carpentry in one form or another. Christopher has an extensive history of teaching kids at the intersections of arts and carpentry. He received his BA from CSU East Bay in 2014 with a focus in Art History. In 2015 he joined the Project Ember team as their first staff hire, teaching kids creative arts and engineering. Also in 2015, Christopher joined the Stepping Stones Project to mentor and counsel young boys on their journey into young-adulthood. He is passionate about social justice education and has been involved in anti-racist and anti-sexist organizing for the past five years. He currently co-organizes a mutual aid project in El Cerrito, CA looking to serve at risk communities being impacted by COVID-19. At Synapse, Christopher loves tinkering and is dedicated to bringing the principles of justice and equity, as well as SEL, into the work he does with students in the Makerspace. When he isn’t working, Christopher can be found at home with his family and beautiful daughter, Salma, the love of his life!
KEIKO SATO-PERRY - SEL SPECIALIST, LOWER SCHOOL
Keiko is thrilled and grateful to continue serving as a Social Emotional Learning Specialist for the Lower School. Her ever-evolving Noble Goal is “to co-create a humane community through connection and play so all lives will reach and celebrate their full potentials.” Keiko has two masters degrees in education, one from Keio University in Tokyo (Educational Psychology) and the other from Stanford University (Curriculum and Teacher Education.) In search of a healthy, firm and thoughtful approach in education, in addition to Six Seconds EQ certifications, she has benefitted from trainings in peer counseling/Listening Partnership, Equity and Inclusion, trauma-informed education, Social Thinking, non-violent communication, holistic health, theater, zen and guided meditation and mindfulness. As a parent she practices and teaches Parenting by Connection through Hand in Hand Parenting. Keiko loves her two teenage sons and enjoys listening to audiobooks, dancing and spending time with friends.
MACARENA SOSNIK - ART AND INNOVATION SPECIALIST
Macarena is a graphic designer by training from the Universidad Finis Terrae in Chile and a crafter by passion. A native Spanish speaker, she seeks to inspire children to create the things they use, wear, and play with. She was most recently a curriculum developer and instructor at EQV, a mobile classroom SEL program benefiting underserved youth in the Bay Area. Macarena brings together the worlds of design and SEL in her unique educational art and communication classes, and offers students empowering Maker opportunities during the school day and after school. She is a mom of two, a five year old and a Synapse sixth grader, and she enjoys camping and spending time outdoors.
ANNIE TURNER - GARDEN SPECIALIST
Annie is thrilled to bring her passion for gardening to the students and community of Synapse. A love of the natural environment and deep appreciation of food and cooking has kept Annie in the garden throughout her life and this is the second school garden that Annie has helped to grow from seed. Annie believes school gardens are a rich resource for integrating project-base learning into core academic subjects like science and social studies, helping to connect our food choices to social, environmental, political and economic impacts. Mom to 5th and 2nd graders at Synapse, Annie hopes to inspire kids to feel the healing power of getting dirt under their fingernails, explore the garden dichotomy of control versus chaos, and discover the sheer delight of tasting a sweet juicy tomato grown from seed. Annie is from the Pacific Northwest, where she earned degrees in English and Fine Arts from Pacific Lutheran University.
CARYN TRAN - COMPUTER SCIENCE SPECIALIST
Caryn spends half her time as a software engineer at TeachFX, Entrepreneurs-In-Residence at Synapse, where she is a full-stack web developer and machine learning engineer who writes software to enable teachers get feedback on their classroom discourse. Caryn is a recent graduate of UC Berkeley, with a BA in Computer Science and MA in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science with a focus on Artificial Intelligence and a secondary focus in Education. She did research in Machine Learning and Wireless Communications, and taught or supported many courses: introductory CS in Snap!, Core CS in Lisp and Python, and Artificial Intelligence in Python. She also was an instructor for Girls Who Code and volunteered in 6th through 12th grade classrooms. Caryn wants to make computer science a community of practice as opposed to a skill or subject to master and is excited to help inspire Synapse students.
PAULO VALENCIA - PE TEACHER
Paulo is a graduate of San Jose State University and holds a BS in Kinesiology. He comes to Synapse after working with children under 2 in the Stanford community and over 10 years at the athletics department of the Boys and Girls Club of Redwood City. He enjoys teaching sports and motivating youth to develop an interest for staying active and healthy. Paulo is excited to join the Synapse team and inspire students through Physical Education. He loves to spend time with his two year old at the park and watch him throw, shoot and kick a ball. He enjoys attending sporting events, barbecuing and spending time with family and friends.
BOB BEAR - CHIEF OPERATIONS OFFICER (COO)
Bob was Synapse School's facilities project manager for a year and a half and is thrilled to be our school's first Chief Operations Officer (COO). Bob will continue to lead the strategic development of our growing physical spaces as well as taking on more roles in the Synapse team. Bob knows about rapidly growing entrepreneurial ventures from his years in start-ups and software and adds a seasoned voice to our leadership team.
BRIAN BICKNELL - DIRECTOR OF MAKERSPACE; MIDDLE SCHOOL ADVISOR
This is Brian’s eleventh year at Synapse. Brian is a former high school English teacher and is considered to be a “jack of all trades.” Brian believes in experiencing people and the world to guide his own learning and has a goal of visiting 100 countries by the time he’s 40. Brian enjoys music, running, making things, solving problems, and traveling. Brian earned a BA in English and a single-subject teaching credential in English from San Diego State University. He is an avid runner and fad-dieter and enjoys working to make the world a better place to live and learn.
TRINA CURRIER - COORDINATOR OF SYNAPSE TEACHER MENTOR PROGRAM
Trina returns to Synapse for her fifth year of leading our Associate Teacher Program, which is designed to support and develop our lower school associate teachers. Throughout her career, she has taught in a variety of schools, including Potomac School in McLean, Virginia, the Newton, Massachusetts, public schools, and San Francisco Day School. She earned her BA from Harvard and her Masters in Education and Reading Specialist Certification at the University of Michigan, where she also worked in the Detroit Public Schools supervising and teaching student teachers. She home-schooled her four boys for a year and spent seven years volunteering and collaborating with teachers at Ohlone School in Palo Alto. For many years she has been interested and involved in helping teachers, new and old, to be reflective about their work. Trina lives in Palo Alto with her husband James and their four sons, all of them Synapse alums. She is a personal and professional growth junkie and loves to share this work with others. Besides education, her interests include yoga and meditation, cooking and reading, and enjoying the great outdoors with her family and doggy.
HILIARY CUTSINGER - BUSINESS AND TRANSPORTATION MANAGER
Hiliary, a native of the Bay Area, received a BA in Sociology from Arizona State University. She joined Synapse School in 2015 as the Front Desk and Head’s Assistant. Hiliary was appointed to Business and Transportation Manager starting in the 2016-17 school year. Her primary role is to support the business office as well as oversee operations of the school and shuttle program. Outside of Synapse, Hiliary has spent time volunteering in the San Mateo County Emergency Room and with the Airmen & Family Readiness Program.
MAY DUONG - DIRECTOR OF SEL (SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING)
May is passionate about helping individuals connect with their emotions to find calm, joy, and meaning in their lives. Blending her expertise in emotional intelligence, mindfulness, and coaching, May develops deeply impactful programs for individuals, families, and schools. For the past several years, May has been a leader in the Synapse community through her monthly Self Science for Parents and EQ Cafes. Most recently, May held the position of Director of Parent Education with Six Seconds. May is excited to share her passion for SEL, along with her strong leadership skills, to continue directing the Synapse SEL program. May earned an MBA from New York University Stern School of Business and a BA in Philosophy and Asian Studies from Mount Holyoke College. When not working, May enjoys reading, cooking, and yoga. Alongside her husband, she enjoys looking at the world through her children’s eyes and discovering new beginnings every day.
JIM EAGEN - HEAD OF SCHOOL
Jim has enjoyed an outstanding career as classroom teacher, coach, and seasoned administrator. A graduate of an independent school himself, he went on to receive his BA from Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York, spent a year at St. Clare’s College, Oxford, studying art history, and completed a master’s degree in international and comparative education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Jim has served on numerous committees emphasizing school leadership and teacher professional development and was granted a Ford Fellow for Aspiring School Heads from the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). On a personal note, he has authored short stories and books for young readers, climbed 6000 meter peaks in South America and Asia, competed at the Ironman World Championships, and loves spending time laughing and learning with his wife and their two kids, a Sophomore in college and a recent Synapse graduate.
NATALIE EINHORN - DIRECTOR OF FINE ARTS
Natalie is thrilled to return for her ninth year at Synapse as the Director of Performing Arts. She has a deep passion for guiding students through the world of music and performance. She uses an interactive approach that specializes in integrating performance curriculum with social studies, language arts, STEAM, and design thinking. Natalie has taught in private schools on the peninsula since 2001. She also taught for four years at Cantabile Youth Singers of Silicon Valley. Natalie received her BA in music from University of California Santa Cruz and her Masters in Vocal Performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. She has also completed the three levels of Orff Schulwerk training at Mills College along with other Orff specialty courses. When not teaching, Natalie enjoys spending time in Redwood City where she lives with her loving husband and two children, both of whom attend Synapse.
CRISTABEL FUENTES - CUSTODIAN AND CAFÉ
Cristabel was born and raised in El Salvador. She is the mother of two boys and the grandmother of two beautiful little girls, and a brand-new grandson. Cristabel worked at the U-Me cafe on the site of the Synapse Innovations building and was their facilities manager before transitioning to Synapse. She loves to cook and travel with her large family. Cristabel is always willing to step up and help and is a great addition to our staff.
SARAH HILL - DIRECTOR OF COMMUNITY PROGRAMS
Sarah is excited to start her fourth year at Synapse, supporting development, marketing, and communications. She came to Synapse from The Nueva School, where she worked as the school’s Event Coordinator and managed the international 2017 Innovative Learning Conference. Prior to her entrance into the world of independent schools, she coordinated author events at Books Inc in Palo Alto. Sarah originally hails from the Pacific Northwest, where she grew up in Eugene, Oregon, surrounded by green trees and rain, and received her BA in History, with a minor in Classics, from The University of Puget Sound in Washington State. She loves photography and the outdoors, spreadsheets and organization, reading and researching obscure historical figures, and playing with and loving her kitten, Gustav.
DANA KUPER - DIRECTOR OF SYNAPSE LITERACY CENTER IN THE LOWER SCHOOL
Synapse is very excited to welcome back Dana to develop a brand new Literacy Program! Dana is coming back to us after two years at Town School for Boys in San Francisco where she was a learning specialist. She was with us for the four years prior as a learning specialist, but more broadly and importantly, Dana helped our young and emerging school develop a learning support program and process. Dana started her career in education at The Kildonan School where she was trained in the Orton-Gillingham Approach and taught math. She taught elementary and middle school students at The Churchill School and The Children's Storefront in NYC. An Amherst College graduate and top-notch college athlete, she received her MS in Special Education from Hunter College in NYC. Outside of teaching, she is an expert off-road cyclist and enjoys painting landscapes inspired by her rides.
DEANNA MAYER - ASSOCIATE HEAD OF SCHOOL; INTERIM DIRECTOR OF ADMISSIONS
Over the past twenty-plus years, Deanna Wylie Mayer has served schools in a variety of roles from classroom to administration. For the past 5 years she lived in Rome, Italy where she served as a Dean of Students at an international university. Prior to that wild adventure, she worked on the east coast at both an all-girls school and a Quaker boarding school. Deanna has a Master's of Divinity from a Quaker seminary with a focus in Peace and Social Justice as well as an MFA in Creative Nonfiction. A mother of four children, Deanna loves kids of all ages, but especially loves the work of supporting the adults (parents and teachers) who are raising up emotionally intelligent change makers. She is thrilled to be at Synapse and welcomes any opportunity to get to know the fabulous members of this community.
JOSH MOREAU - CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER (CFO)
This is Josh's fifth year as Synapse's CFO. Josh is also the CFO and COO of boostED Finance. Prior to becoming CFO and COO, Josh served as Victory Education Partners’ Director of Accounting and Finance and was responsible for oversight of the organization’s accounting and finance department. While at Victory, Josh’s duties included the oversight and management of all accounting functions, development of annual financial budgets, and preparation and review of monthly, quarterly and annual financial statements. This enabled schools to gain access to federal entitlement dollars in a regular, expedient manner. Josh is a graduate of DePaul University in Chicago, and currently splits his time between New York and California.
KATIE MORGAN - HEAD OF LOWER SCHOOL
Now in her eleventh year at Synapse as an instructional leader and Level III Lead Teacher veteran, Katie works with students in each Lower School level, leading literacy efforts, advising staff, and acting as Synapse’s master teacher. A transplant from Virginia, Katie taught 4th grade in a public school in southeastern Virginia and then moved to work as a research associate at The University of Michigan’s Autism and Communication Disorders Center (UMACC) for two years. Katie has a BA in Psychology and an MA in Reading, Language and Literacy from The College of William and Mary. In her free time Katie enjoys playing with her young daughter, as well as reading and traveling. For years her bio has said that she “is working to enjoy running.” That hasn’t happened yet, but there’s still hope.
JOANNE MULL - ASSISTANT TO HEAD OF SCHOOL
Joanne emmigrated with her family from the Island of Malta as a young woman. Joanne was a stay-at-home mom for many years and joined the workforce again after her children graduated Middle School. She has a son who lives in North Carolina and a daughter who teaches close-by in Woodside. She has had previous careers in accounting and customer service. As a 30-year resident of the North Fair Oaks neighborhood, Joanne has watched Synapse grow and thrive and is excited to be a part of the staff team.
CARMEN O'SHEA - COMMUNICATIONS & LEADERSHIP PARTNER
Carmen will be our school's first Communications and Leadership Partner. Over the past 20 years, Carmen has served in a variety of leadership roles in Marketing, Strategy & HR at IBM, SAP and the Air National Guard. She has now turned her passion towards building leadership and engagement skills in purpose-driven organizations, using her expertise in the intersections of leadership development, talent development, culture, communications, and diversity & inclusion. She is a Commissioner of the San Mateo County LGBTQ Commission, a Board member of the East Palo Alto YMCA, school liaison to the Palo Alto-based Children's Health Council, and a Commissioner of the Women's Refugee Commission. Carmen is mom to 2 Synapse middle schoolers and served has Co-Chair of SynC parent organization in the past. She loves travel, learning languages, meeting new people, music and dance.
ALEXIS ROSEN - COORDINATOR OF EXTENDED LEARNING
Lexi recently moved to California from Virginia, where she received her MA in Education and Curriculum Content from George Mason University. Lexi has lived in five different states throughout her life and experienced being both a student and teacher in a number of diverse school systems. This insight inspired her to pursue working in a non-traditional school, like Synapse, whose experimental methods could, one day, positively transform the American education system as a whole. Before Synapse, Lexi worked as a teacher and administrator within an innovative early childhood center. She has also taught high school English and completed research examining the benefits of art integration into traditionally “academic” subjects for high school students, her subject for her Masters’ Thesis. When not at Synapse, Lexi enjoys exploring her new home in San Francisco, camping, playing with her cat ‘Big Kitty”, and eating enough blueberries to keep her hair from turning back to brown.
ELIZABETH SCAFANI - ATHLETICS COORDINATOR; MIDDLE SCHOOL ADVISOR
Elizabeth came to Synapse after a career as a fitness trainer and coach. She graduated magna cum laude with a BA in Psychology from Sonoma State University with an interest in child development and first explored education at Lydiksen Elementary in the east bay as a special education classroom aide. After a fulfilling college cross country and track career, Elizabeth took the opportunity to become the assistant cross country coach at SSU, where she enjoyed mentoring the team of young women and facilitating their strength training program. Entering her third year at Synapse, Elizabeth is excited to continue developing Synapse's athletic, physical education and wellness programs. She loves to run, bike, swim, ride her motorcycle and enjoys cooking (and eating) plant-based cuisine.
SOPHIE SCAFANI - ASSISTANT TO HEADS OF LOWER AND MIDDLE SCHOOL
Sophie was born and raised in the bay area. Prior to joining Synapse, she studied Early Childhood Development at Cañada College and worked as a preschool teacher where she found a love for aiding in children's education. She is excited to be a part of the Synapse family and help support the lower and middle school faculty and students. Sophie has a long-held love for film photography and can often be found shooting pictures of friends, family, dogs, nature, and foods around the Bay Area or Lake Tahoe. Another passion and talent she holds is baking elaborate vegan sweets and sharing them with others. Sophie enjoys music, movies, and petting every dog that comes her way.
STEPHANIE SETO - HEAD OF MIDDLE SCHOOL
Filled with enthusiasm for her seventh year at Synapse, Stephanie is excited to continue her role as Head of Middle School. Stephanie was previously the Director of STEAM, and her passion for exploration and education grew from roles as a field researcher and educator in museums and nature centers throughout college, graduate school, and as a professional. Stephanie earned her BS in Biology and Anthropology/Zoology from the University of Michigan and her MA in Conservation Biology from Columbia University. Prior to joining Synapse, Stephanie taught and developed K-12 science curriculum in New York City at The Browning School, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Black Rock Forest Consortium. Outside of Synapse, Stephanie loves laughing and exploring with her toddler & new baby, her husband, and Albert the dog.
NICOLE STONE - AFTER CARE COORDINATOR
Nicole was born in Tobago and moved to New York City when she was six. She went through school in the United States and at 18 returned to Tobago to help manage her family’s business – a popular restaurant, bar, and guest house. Working with many different kinds of people and personalities there to develop and support successful teams, she learned a great deal early on about organizational skills, responsibility, hard work, and relationships. Nicole moved back to the U.S. where she now lives with her son, who is a Synapse graduate. She has worked at Synapse in a number of roles, including receptionist, teacher’s assistant, and as a leader in the After Care and After School Programs. She has also worked as an early childhood teacher. Nicole loves working with children and loves being a part of the Synapse team.
DANA STORY - ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF ADMISSIONS & FINANCIAL AID
Now in her sixth year in Admissions at Synapse, Dana is excited for the upcoming admissions season and engaging prospective families. Dana is passionate about building community, social emotional learning, and the education of the whole child. Before joining the admissions team at Synapse, Dana was a teacher at Barron Park Preschool in Palo Alto, SynC Co-Chair, and the founder of Beresford Montessori Parents Group in San Mateo. Her support of our wildly successful Family Camps in the Fall and Spring benefits Synapse teachers and families alike. Before she discovered the wonderful world of schools, Dana spent many years managing the business operations for Hang Art in San Francisco and was an exhibiting artist. She has a BA in Visual Arts from the University of California San Diego. This blend of organization, creativity, and approachability is the perfect combination of attributes for a member of our unique admissions team.
LIZ TOOMARIAN - DIRECTOR OF STANFORD-SYNAPSE BRAINWAVE LEARNING CENTER
Liz has always loved being in school environments, both as a learner and an instructor, and is thrilled to be a part of the Synapse community as the leader of the Brainwave Learning Center, a collaboration with Stanford University. As an educational neuroscientist, she strives to bring together neuroscience researchers with educational practitioners to better understand and improve the learning process. Liz earned a BS in Cognitive Science/Neuroscience from University of California San Diego and a PhD in Educational Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she taught the undergraduate course “Mind, Brain and Education.” Her doctoral research focused on numerical understanding, spatial thinking, and how the brain develops associations between numbers and space. Since moving from Wisconsin, Liz has been enjoying the beautiful California weather. She enjoys exploring state and national parks and trying out new recipes.
The Synapse Leadership Team moves our school’s strategic vision into every day practice. Members of Leadership hold diverse functions and areas of expertise but operate in the best interests of the school as a collaborative and supportive group. The Team proactively resolves issues, models empathy, and supports each other when making decisions. Our doors are always open!