Faculty & Staff
- Leadership & Admissions Team
- Curriculum Directors
- Lower School Teachers
- Middle School Advisors
- Specialists & Coordinators
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 high school Senior and a Synapse Middle Schooler.
LIZ DAVIS - ASSISTANT HEAD OF SCHOOL
Liz has done many things and has worn many hats in her 20+ year career. She holds a BA in Psychology from Dartmouth College and an MAT in Elementary Education from Simmons College. Liz sits on the board of the Independent Curriculum Group. Prior to Synapse she worked as Director of Curriculum for Keys School in Palo Alto and before that at Belmont Hill School, near Boston, where she was the Director of Academic Technology, a 7th grade English teacher, and an upper school digital video teacher. Liz began her education career as a public school teacher in Brookline and Wellesley, Massachusetts. At heart, Liz is a teacher who is dedicated to ensuring that the classroom experience for both teacher and student is extraordinary. Liz is also dedicated to the well being of her family, her husband Rob and her two children, Abby, a recent Synapse graduate, and Ben, a high school sophomore.
JOSH MOREAU - CFO
This is Josh's third 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 - SENIOR DIRECTOR OF TEACHING AND LEARNING
Now in her ninth year at Synapse as an instructional leader and Level III Lead Teacher veteran, Katie works outside of the classroom driving our humanities curriculum and assessment process, as well as working on school-wide feedback and assessment models. Katie works with students in each 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 new baby, 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.
STEPHANIE SETO - SENIOR DIRECTOR OF MIDDLE SCHOOL
Filled with enthusiasm for her fifth year at Synapse, Stephanie is excited to step into her role as Senior Director 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, her husband, and Albert the dog.
LENA CHANE - DIRECTOR OF ADVANCEMENT
Lena started and chaired SynC, the Synapse PTA, chaired the Head of School Search Committee on behalf of the Synapse Board, and located Synapse’s first building on Edison Way. After two years working as the Director of Outreach, she moved into the role of Director of Advancement. She is is excited for her second year in this role, leading communication and development and supporting Admissions. She feels a true sense of belonging at Synapse, is inspired by the Mission and Vision of Synapse, and is thrilled by the momentum at hand. She enjoys engaging with peer schools, the community, and prospective parents. She leads development efforts at Synapse, supporting strategic and intentional growth. Lena graduated with honors from Emory University with a BA in English/Creative Writing and returned to the Bay Area shortly thereafter where she settled into a ten year career in interactive television technology. Lena’s greatest joy is her family: her husband and three children, two of whom attend Synapse and one recent Synapse graduate.
MARSHA RIDEOUT - DIRECTOR OF ADMISSIONS
Marsha’s career in education, spent in elementary classrooms and in administration at The Nueva School prior to Synapse, has revealed a lifelong dedication to the practice and development of social emotional skills in children and adults. Marsha joined the founding team that developed the now world-wide Six Seconds EQ Network in 1997, and fulfilled its dream of creating Synapse Lab School in 2008. Since Synapse's inception, Marsha has been the Director of Admissions, fostering the school’s growth from 8 students to 255. She was also the Director of SEL for our first seven years, teaching the weekly lessons to all grade levels. Her creative spirit and commitment to innovation in the field of human relations will continue this year as she focuses on building the growing Synapse community. Marsha received her BA in English and Art from Whitworth College and earned her California life teaching credential from San Jose State University. Special interests are reading, nature, travel, and family, including her yellow lab, Gusto.
SARAH HILL - ADVANCEMENT ASSOCIATE
Sarah is excited to start her second year at Synapse, supporting development, marketing, and communication. She comes 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 STORY - ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF ADMISSIONS & FINANCIAL AID
Now in her fourth 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.
MAY DUONG - DIRECTOR OF SEL, PROGRAM & COMMUNITY
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.
FEDERICO CHIALVO - DIRECTOR OF MATHEMATICS
Federico holds a BS in mathematics and an MA in education from the University of Arizona. He believes all students deserve to experience the thrill of mathematical discovery and to feel empowered to understand and change the world through mathematical thinking. His journey as an educator started 14 years ago teaching math at City High School. Later he taught K-8 in Micronesia, then managed a non-profit in Costa Rica while completing his masters degree. Federico finally settled in the Bay Area with his wife in 2008. Prior to joining Synapse in 2012 as a Math and Science Specialist, Federico worked at The Nueva School for two years as a math specialist in both the lower school and middle school. Besides his passion for mathematics, he loves spending time with his wife and children, traveling, gardening, eating good food, swimming, and playing Ultimate.
NATALIE EINHORN - DIRECTOR OF PERFORMING ARTS
Natalie is thrilled to return for her seventh 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 life in Half Moon Bay where she lives with her loving husband and two children, both of whom attend Synapse.
JEAN GOULD - DIRECTOR OF SEL
Following careers in international community development and private sector management, Jean now dedicates her pursuits to her lifelong love of children and education. Entering her sixth year at Synapse, Jean earned a BA from The Johns Hopkins University where she studied Anthropology and Russian language, and an MBA with distinction from Yale University. She views Social and Emotional Learning as essential to lifelong learning, and is eager to share her passion in this vital field as a member of the Synapse community. As Director of SEL, Jean merges her program skills and love of teaching to bring Self Science to the classroom, and integrate SEL into curriculum, Nature Day, After Care, PE, and school and community life. In her free time she loves cooking, hiking, skiing and, most of all, spending time with her husband, two boys, and dog.
NOA MENDELEVITCH - DIRECTOR OF INNOVATION
Noa is a passionate educator dedicated to cultivating a lifelong passion for innovation and the skill set necessary to achieve fluency in creativity. Noa’s interdisciplinary teaching methodology enables students to experience the interconnectedness of all things and arrive at multiple solutions to every problem. Noa is a professional mixed media artist (her work can be seen at the Main Gallery in Redwood City) and has taught at both public and private schools on the Peninsula. She has studied architecture, multi media, fashion, marketing and design thinking in the United States and abroad. Noa expresses her love of fine art through her ever-growing body of creative work, but her greatest inspiration comes from spending time with her husband and two boys, a Synapse 8th grader and a recent Synapse graduate, along with the family’s beloved pooch, Alfie.
SARAH CARR-BERRY - LEVEL I LEAD TEACHER
Sarah has been teaching students of all ages since 2005. She joined the Synapse community in 2012 when she returned to California after living and teaching in Tokyo, Japan, for nearly five years. While in Tokyo she taught English to students ranging from four to 80 years old. Subsequently, she taught Kindergarten at an international school. While at the international school, Sarah helped to develop the curriculum for the school’s International Baccalaureate accreditation. Before moving overseas, Sarah created and taught project based middle school social studies curriculum in downtown Los Angeles. Sarah 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. She loves playing in her band, seeing live music, and being in the Redwoods.
PAIGE CAREY - LEVEL I LEAD TEACHER
Paige is excited to be starting her third 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.
CHRISTINE CAMPBELL - ASSOCIATE TEACHER, LEVEL I
Christine has a passion for teaching students and tapping into their creative side. Christine earned her BS and Master of Arts in Education from Bethel University in McKenzie, Tennessee, where she managed the University's Fitness Center and was on the track team as a sprinter and a javelin thrower. Christine moved to California to be closer to her family and began teaching students at the Riekes Center, where she worked with children in speed training, taught physical education classes, and was an instructor for Nature Days at Synapse. She subsequently became an Administrative Assistant and After-School Enrichment Coordinator at Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School in Palo Alto. When substituting for instructors, Christine enjoyed being in the classroom so much that she chose to join the Synapse team last year as an Associate Teacher in Level I. In her spare time, Christine enjoys traveling, going to the beach, fishing, hiking, and camping.
ALYSSA BOMAR - ASSOCIATE TEACHER, LEVEL I
Alyssa is thrilled to be joining the Synapse team as an Associate Teacher for Level I. She recently moved back to the Bay Area from Norfolk, Virginia, where she spent the last year and a half teaching ages 3-6 at the Montessori Academy of Virginia, while completing her Montessori Certificate. Prior to that, she earned a TOEFL instructor credential while living in southern Spain. Alyssa attended Chico State, where she completed a degree in Anthropology. Having grown up in Half Moon Bay, she is excited to be living on the west coast once again, doing what she loves!
YVONNE KUNSTENAAR - LEVEL II LEAD TEACHER
Yvonne is thrilled to be starting her ninth year at Synapse and her seventh 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.
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 second 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. He spends summers at Camp Galileo as a science and outdoor instructor teaching innovation. Devin is also the proud parent of a four-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old son.
KAREN SHIN - LEVEL II LEAD TEACHER
Karen is thrilled to be returning to Synapse for her first 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.
ELIZABETH GIBBONS - ASSOCIATE TEACHER, LEVEL II
Elizabeth is excited to be moving to the Level II team as an associate teacher this year. 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.
BLAIR JOHNSON - ASSOCIATE TEACHER, LEVEL II
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. Blair is excited to be moving to the Level II team this year at Synapse.
STEPHANIE POO - ASSOCIATE TEACHER, LEVEL II
Stephanie is excited to be joining Synapse school as a Level II associate teacher. Most recently, she taught art at the Marvegos Fine Art school in the Bay Area where she discovered her passion and love for teaching and making kids laugh through bad puns. She studied art at University of California Santa Cruz where she focused on oil painting, watercolor, and intaglio printmaking. In her free time, Stephanie enjoys cooking and making her own recipes, painting with her sisters, and admiring flowers.
JENNIFER BOURQUE - LEVEL III LEAD TEACHER
This is Jen’s fourth year at Synapse and she is thrilled to be returning to the Level III team. Jen is passionate about social justice, constructivist math curriculum, storytelling, and cross-curricular learning, and she exudes an absolute love of her work. Jen has experience throughout the elementary school grades and taught in many progressive schools in NYC including Poly Prep, City and Country, and LREI. Jen attended college in New York’s Hudson Valley. She earned her BA in Psychology and Film at Bard College and received her MSEd in Early Childhood and Childhood General Education from Bank Street School of Education.
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 second 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.
HOLLY CAMPBELL - LEVEL III LEAD TEACHER
This is Holly's sixth 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.
MELISSA GUERTIN - ASSOCIATE TEACHER, LEVEL III
Melissa is excited to join the Level III team for her third year at Synapse. Originally from Menlo Park, Melissa received her BA in Art History and a teaching credential from Santa Clara University. After teaching fourth grade at a local private school, she decided to pursue other interests and ventured to Los Angeles to attend the University of Southern California to study Heritage Conservation. Melissa moved back to the Bay Area and worked as an Architectural Historian at an architecture firm that specializes in historic preservation. After a short while, Melissa realized she missed inspiring curious young minds in a dynamic classroom environment and decided to return to teaching. Melissa is passionate about the environment, the arts, and old buildings. She enjoys traveling, photography, reading, and baking.
ADAM HATFIELD - ASSOCIATE TEACHER, LEVEL III
Adam returns to Synapse this year as an Associate Teacher in Level III, after one year in Level I. 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.
AMY PEREDO - ASSOCIATE TEACHER, LEVEL III
Amy is thrilled to be returning as a Level III associate teacher again for her third year at Synapse. Over the past few years Amy has worked in Level I and Level III, and as an academic tutor in subjects including math, science, english, and history. She earned her BA in Elementary Education with focuses in Special Education and Fine Arts from Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, as well her Kansas state teaching license. Amy has worked as a co-director for Summer Camps for Kids, swim instructor, and nanny, all of which contributed to her passion for working with children and incorporating creative teaching moments into everyday activities. In her free time she enjoys reading historical fiction and mysteries, pursuing her artistic talents in ceramics and photography, and spending time cooking and playing games with her loved ones.
ISHA JAIN - MATH SPECIALIST; 5/6 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.
MARK LEITCH - MATH SPECIALIST; 5/6 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 the past 3 years. Last year, he also enjoyed tutoring advanced mathematics to students up for a challenge. Mark’s favorite thing about education is showing kids that math provides a unique lens through which to view the world. In his free time, you can find him hiking, marathon-ing and playing board games. He is incredibly excited for his first year at Synapse!
BRIAN LUCETT - HUMANITIES TEACHER; 5/6 ADVISOR
This is Brian’s eighth year at Synapse in the middle school. Brian holds a BA in philosophy and a single subject teaching credential in English from CSU Fullerton. Prior to joining Synapse in 2011, he spent three years teaching high school English and after-school classes in U.S. History, literature, SAT writing, and SAT critical reading. Brian believes that education should help students develop the critical thinking skills and creativity necessary to understand and contribute to the world around them, while providing opportunities for laughter because, above all else, learning should be fun. Outside of the classroom, Brian spends his time performing improv and comedy, reading, playing guitar, and enjoying the art and culture around San Francisco.
ANN MARIE MACARA - SCIENCE SPECIALIST; 5/6 ADVISOR
Ann Marie became a scientist because of her love for animals! She earned a BS with Honors in Animal Physiology from the University of Toronto and went on to obtain her PhD from the University of Michigan, where her studies focused on environmental concepts and how they shape animal behavior. In addition to her research, she served as a graduate student instructor, a tutor to fellow students, and a mentor for younger students through community outreach programs. After moving to the Bay Area, Ann Marie worked as a marine educator at the Marine Science Institute in Redwood City. She most recently led a group of high school students on a camping and kayaking trip around Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Her main goal as a teacher is to use her scientific expertise to engage the next generation of students in STEM and environmental stewardship. When Ann Marie is not teaching, she loves being outside, flipping over rocks in search for invertebrates, and going on adventures in the wilderness with her rescue dog!
MICHELLE MORIKAWA - WRITERS WORKSHOP TEACHER; 5/6 ADVISOR
Michelle is excited to return for her third year at Synapse in a brand new role, as Writers Workshop Teacher and 5/6 Advisor in the Middle School. 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.
BRIAN BICKNELL - MAKER SPACE COORDINATOR; 7/8 ADVISOR
This is Brian’s ninth year at Synapse teaching middle schoolers. 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.
JOHN GREGORY - HUMANITIES TEACHER; 7/8 ADVISOR
John is excited to return for his fourth 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.
EBEN LAPIER - MATH SPECIALIST; 7/8 ADVISOR
This is Eben's sixth 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.
BEN MEISELES - MATH SPECIALIST; 7/8 ADVISOR
Ben embarks on his first full time teaching position, joining Synapse’s middle school math team. After earning his BS in Mathematics from Duke University, Ben worked in professional services at a software company called Red Hat for several years. However, seeking adventure and a higher purpose, Ben's path led him away from software, on an epic journey around the world; since mid 2017, he has visited a dozen countries including Nepal, China, France, and Switzerland. Now that he has settled in the Bay Area, he is eager to bring his passion for mathematics education to Synapse.
DANIELLE OLIVER - SPANISH TEACHER; 7/8 ADVISOR
Danielle is starting her fourth year as the Middle School Spanish teacher at Synapse. She believes in the power of multilingualism to foster empathy and support diplomacy. Prior to her work at Synapse, Danielle's educational efforts focused primarily on increasing educational access for low-income, underserved communities in Southern California and the San Francisco Peninsula. Danielle holds a Bachelor's Degree in Latin American Studies with a focus on Environment and Ecology from UCLA and a Master's degree in Spanish Language and Literature from CSUN. In addition to language learning, Danielle loves writing, sewing, piano, organic vegetable gardening, and travel.
ELIZABETH BLOOM - ATHLETICS COORDINATOR & PE TEACHER
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.
TRINA CURRIER - COORDINATOR OF SYNAPSE TEACHER MENTOR PROGRAM
Trina returns to Synapse for her third 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, two Synapse middle schoolers and two recent Synapse graduates. 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.
ANNE CHANG - SCIENCE SPECIALIST
Since joining Synapse in 2012, Anne has taught in 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 BS 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.
SARAI GOULD - COMPUTER SCIENCE SPECIALIST
Sarai is excited to start her third year leading the Computer Science Program at Synapse! Sarai teaches Computer Science to all levels and often leads after-school programs and programming clubs for the students as well. Sarai graduated from Stanford University with a BS in Symbolic Systems (a major that included philosophy, psychology, linguistics, and computer science). Early in her career, she worked with young children and led a team of tutors at East Palo Alto Tennis and Tutoring. She also taught introductory computer science classes at Stanford, mentored new section leaders, and worked with professors to improve their training program. Sarai has taught summer programming classes through various programs and developed her own curriculum to engage her students. In her final years at Stanford, she worked to further the fledgling Stanford Pre-Education Society, a society bringing Stanford students into the world of education. When Sarai is not teaching, she enjoys coding side projects, ballroom dancing, playing board games, and baking altogether too many cookies.
ANDREW HALL - MUSIC ASSOCIATE TEACHER
Andrew “Carnegie” Hall is a Bay Area pianist, guitarist, bassist, vocalist, composer, and teacher, performing and instructing in a variety of styles and genres. His career began in Fresno, California, where he studied jazz theory and classical piano performance at Fresno City College and won scholarships for his achievements on the piano in both jazz and classical. Andrew moved to San Francisco in 2012 to study with Dr. Victoria Neve and Dr. Dee Spencer at San Francisco State University, where he earned his BA summa cum laude in Jazz Theory and Piano Performance, with a minor in LGBT studies. Andrew was honored with numerous awards at SFSU and was the music director and accompanist for many productions, projects, and workshops. He has been the resident artist at The Battery Club since August 2014 performing with a jazz trio, has a traditional jazz band that performs regularly in the Bay Area, and has been teaching privately to students of all ages for over fifteen years.
PEGGY MCLEAN - LOWER SCHOOL MATH SPECIALIST
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 fourth year here at Synapse supporting the arts and innovation programs.
KEIKO SATO-PERRY - LOWER SCHOOL SEL SPECIALIST
Keiko is excited to be returning to Synapse for another year as an SEL specialist for the Lower School. She believes in the power of respect, connection, listening, and play. Keiko grew up in Tokyo, where she was educated at an independent progressive school throughout her childhood. She majored in English Literature at Keio University in Tokyo, where she completed her first MA in Educational Psychology. Keiko was awarded a Fulbright scholarship for international educators to attend a summer American Studies program at Amherst in Massachusetts. She then completed her second MA in Curriculum and Teacher Education at Stanford University School of Education and received her teaching credential for High School Japanese from Notre Dame de Namur University. As a parent she has become a Parenting by Connection trainer, instructor, and consultant at Hand in Hand Parenting. In search of a healthy, firm and gentle approach in education, she has gone through trainings outside of education such as interpersonal communication, holistic health, theater, and mindfulness. Keiko loves her two sons and enjoys listening to audiobooks, cooking, dancing, yoga and hiking.
MACARENA SOSNIK - ART & SPANISH TEACHER; 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. Macarena coordinated Synapse's first booth at the Maker Faire last year. She is a mom of two, a four year old and a Synapse fifth grader, and she enjoys camping and spending time outdoors.
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 married and moved back to the U.S. where she now lives with her son, who is a Synapse middle schooler. 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. Nicole loves working with children and loves being a part of the Synapse 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 Synapse's first Brainwave Learning Center employee. 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 also 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 also enjoys exploring new state and national parks and trying out new recipes.
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.
CRISTABEL FUENTES - CUSTODIAN
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.
JOANNE MULL - ASSISTANT TO THE 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 28-year resident of the North Fair Oaks neighborhood, Joanne has watched Synapse grow and thrive and is excited to join the staff team.
PRISCILLA BARRIOS - RECEPTIONIST
Priscilla grew up in the Bay Area and received a BA in Criminal Justice from Chico State University. She moved back to the Bay Area after graduating and has dedicated herself to helping her brother who has a disability. Her brother has also inspired her to start working for nonprofit organizations. Priscilla also works as a nanny and a Registered Behavioral Technician. Prior to working at Synapse, she was at Mayview Community Health clinic as their Behavioral Health Coordinator. Priscilla is pleased to continue working with children and is excited to learn a lot from the amazing community at Synapse.