Lower School Faculty

Junior Kindergarten 

Sophie Koshland, Junior Kindergarten

For more than ten years, Sophie has taught children of various ages, from preschool to fifth grade. Now in her seventh year teaching Junior Kindergarten at AVS, she continues to be inspired by the infectious enthusiasm and fearless resiliency unique to such young learners. Sophie strives to design explorative curriculum that engages the fun-hearted imagination of her students and sparks their endless curiosity. She believes the classroom environment should be inclusive and empathetic, and learning should be child-centered and hands-on. She especially loves to infuse her passion for science into integrated units. During a favorite study, students visit local redwood forests to inspire wordless storytelling of prehistoric life, and return to find their classroom transformed into an active dinosaur dig. Sophie is grateful to be part of a vibrant community where both teachers and students are continuously challenged to open their minds and hearts.

  • B.S., Chemistry; minor Biochemistry - Haverford College

  • M.Ed., Elementary Education - University of Pennsylvania

  • Credential: Multiple-Subject Teaching - Pennsylvania and California

Elizabeth Russell, Junior Kindergarten

Prior to joining Alta Vista School, Elizabeth taught kindergarten and third grade at The Nueva School. Elizabeth believes in a student-centered approach to learning, evident in her dedication to teaching hands-on and inquiry-based instruction. She strives to create an inclusive environment where every student feels seen and comfortable to take on the next challenge. Elizabeth loves history and art and enjoys infusing these passions into units of study. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring different areas of San Francisco and spending time hiking or running outside. Elizabeth is overjoyed to join the Alta Vista community and is eager to grow and learn alongside her students and colleagues.

  • B.S., Elementary Education; minor in Special Education - University of Vermont 

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Kindergarten

​Caitlin Bicknell, Kindergarten A

Prior to joining Alta Vista School, Caitlin taught first grade and kindergarten at Town School for Boys and worked as an associate kindergarten teacher at Katherine Delmar Burke School, while receiving her master’s degree in education and teaching credential. Caitlin is looking forward to using her experience from teaching in single sex schools for the past four years to create a balanced curriculum catered to each student’s interests. Caitlin works to create a classroom environment that promotes curiosity and creativity through experiential and hands-on learning; and a safe space where mistakes are welcome. Caitlin grew up in Marin County, where she still loves to hike and bike on the weekends, and in her spare time, she enjoys planning her next adventure to new places around the world.

  • B.S., Psychology - San Francisco State University

  • M.A., Education - University of the Pacific

  • Credential: Multiple-Subject Teaching - California

Mamie Pepper, Kindergarten A

Mamie joins the Alta Vista School community from Marin Country Day School were she co-taught second grade for two years and fourth grade for one year. Passionate about early childhood education, Mamie worked for 15 years as a preschool teacher in San Francisco, which culminated in operating her own school. After the birth of her son in 2008, Mamie was a stay-at-home mom. She then worked as an enrichment teacher and lead classes in art, music, dance, and yoga to young children. Mamie creates a classroom community that is nurturing, safe, and joyful and loves to keep her students moving and engaged. Her students know that she cares deeply about each of them and their education while having high expectations for them as learners. Mamie works to differentiate lessons ensuring each student has the opportunity to reach their full potential. She strives to address the needs of kinesthetic and tactile learners while incorporating social and emotional learning throughout. In her spare time, Mamie enjoys taking her dog for long walks in GGP, upcycling arts and crafts, and spending time with her family. 

● B.A., Psychology - University of California, Santa Cruz 

● M.A., Education - University of the Pacific 

● Credential: Multiple Subject Teaching - California

Catherine Cunning, Kindergarten B

Catherine believes her role as a teacher is to help children fall in love with learning. She focuses on building a warm community, fostering individual curiosity, and encouraging student inquiry in order to facilitate social emotional growth and academic discovery in the classroom. Passionate about language and literacy, she strives to support children to understand and experience the world through storytelling. Prior to joining AVS, Catherine taught Spanish in K-8 classrooms and served as a lead educator in first and third grades. She is entering her fifth year of teaching kindergarten at AVS after spending a year traveling, during which she was inspired by the way children play and learn around the world. When she's not teaching, Catherine enjoys exploring the Bay Area through running, hiking, and exploring new places with her husband Jeff.

  • B.A., English Writing and Spanish - DePauw University

  • M.A., Education - Marian University

Chloe Scholes, Kindergarten B

Chloe joins the Alta Vista School community after co-teaching first and second grade at The Nueva School. Before moving to the Bay Area, Chloe taught at Ascend International School in Mumbai, India where she worked with pre-kindergarteners and solidified her belief that the first few years of school are some of the most influential. Having lived and worked abroad, she seeks ways to bring international awareness into her classroom. Chloe takes a learner-centered approach to teaching and believes that students learn best when they know that their thoughts, feelings, and ideas are valued. With this foundation, she uses student interests to drive curriculum. In her spare time, Chloe loves to bake, kayak with orcas, travel, and spend time with her cat Carmen.

  • B.S., Human Physiology, Women’s and Gender Studies - University of Oregon

  • International Baccalaureate Certified

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First Grade

Beverly Sotelo, First Grade A

Prior to joining AVS, Beverly taught kindergarten and third grade at The Nueva School in Hillsborough. She has extensive background in theatre with speciality in Suzuki movement, improvisational theatre, and Viewpoints ensemble work. Beverly hopes to continue to mix the tenets of theatre with inquiry-based learning so that the classroom provides a safe and exciting space to leap into creative thinking. Although Beverly spent many years in Los Angeles and toured other parts of the country as a professional actor, she was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is glad to return to the Portola neighborhood, where she grew up visiting her family members on Goettingen Street. In her spare time, Beverly can be spotted at Fairyland or the Academy of Sciences running after her preschooler, who is very fast. 

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  • B.A., Drama - University of California, Irvine

  • M.F.A., Acting - University of Washington

  • M.A., Curriculum and Instruction - University of the Pacific (BATTI)  

  • Credential: Multiple-Subject Teaching - California

Madelin Braun,  First Grade A

Prior to teaching at AVS, Madelin has worked at many preK-8 schools in the Bay Area. Most recently, she taught first grade at Marin Country Day School in Corte Madera. Madelin has also been teaching various forms of dance for over ten years. Graduating from San Francisco State University with a degree in Mathematics and a Minor in Dance, Madelin's philosophy on exercising all sides of the brain is the foundation of her teaching. When Madelin is not teaching or dancing, she is gardening in her backyard. 

 

  • B.A., Mathematics for Teaching, Minor in Dance - San Francisco State University

  • M.A., Educ Con Teaching - University of the Pacific (BATTI)

  • Credential: Multiple-Subject Teaching - California

Kate Lewin, First Grade B

Kate is an enthusiastic educator who is passionate about facilitating empathy and creativity through project-based learning. Before making her way to AVS, she taught kindergarten and second grade at Hamlin School. She also teaches creative writing and writes children's books. When not reading, sharing, or listening to kids' stories, Kate enjoys flea markets, nature walks, and iced mochas. 

 

  • B.A., Sociology, Minor in Creative Writing - University of California, Santa Cruz

  • M.A., Curriculum and Instruction - University of the Pacific (BATTI)

  • Credential: Multiple-Subject Teaching - California

Susan Garrison, First Grade B

For over 30 years, Susan has dedicated herself to creating engaging, joyful learning experiences. As a student of mindfulness, Susan incorporates the practice into her daily morning meeting to set a tone of peace and kindness that guides our interactions. She has taught grades K-5 at both private and public schools and designed hands-on learning opportunities that challenge children’s thinking and cooperative learning skills. One of her favorite learning experiences is the Science Fair in which students work in pairs on any topic of interest to them, follow their curiosity, and freely explore. Most recently, she taught fifth grade at Blue Oak School in Napa, where she worked for the past eight years. Her classroom expanded beyond the four walls where students learned that math applies everywhere, whether it’s the speed of the river, shadows created by the sun, or the design of a building. She is confident that working with children is what keeps her young. Susan loves living in the Mission District with her husband, Dr. Greg Garrison, who teaches science at the AVS Middle School Campus. They spend their free time camping, sailing, hiking, and traveling across the country.

  • B.A., Elementary Education and Reading - Kean University

  • Credentials: Multiple-Subject Teaching K-8; Reading K-12 - California 

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Second Grade

Glenn Heuser, Second Grade A

Glenn ("Mr. H") approaches teaching with a view of the student as apprentice, acquiring a diverse collection of skills and broad knowledge from the teachers' modeling, engaging, and monitoring. Previously, he taught 4th/5th grade at Piedmont Ave. Elementary School in Oakland. Glenn's educational philosophy is reflected in the words of Dr. James Comer: "No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship." 

Glenn has been a member of the AVS 2nd grade team since 2012, He has enjoyed watching and supporting the tremendous growth of our school as a teacher and an AVS parent. 

  • B.A., Speech/Communication - Cal State Long Beach

  • M.Ed., Elementary Education - Portland State University

  • Credentials: K-5 Teaching Authorization - Portland State University
    Multiple-Subject Teaching - California, Oregon, and Georgia