Carlos Aguayo, PE Coach & Athletics Director

Coach Aguayo has been teaching and coaching for eleven years in San Francisco and the Peninsula. His goal for students is to enjoy movement and to be active throughout their lifetime.

  • B.S., Kinesiology (Physical Education) - San Francisco State University 

  • Teaching Credential - California 

  • Additional Language - Spanish (fluent) 

Justin Engelbrecht-Larkin, History & English

Justin is a recent transplant to the Bay, having moved to Alameda after several years teaching at international schools in Saudi Arabia, China, Pakistan, Togo, and most recently India. During this time he has been a fifth grade classroom teacher, a middle school English, Social Studies, Math, and Science teacher, a high school English and AP Languages and Literature teacher, and once even had time to direct a student play. Justin's practice is focused on student driven inquiry and project based learning in order to foster deep, meaningful, and transferable connections between students and the subjects being studied. He is also a vocal proponent of the serial comma. In addition to his great affection for evergreen forests and the Pacific Ocean, Justin enjoys culinary and epicurean pursuits, and has already begun working down the list of San Francisco's many Michelin starred restaurants. 

Greg Garrison, Science

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” (C.Sagan)

 

Greg has been teaching for decades with the goal of helping students discover the wonder, the incredible, and the amazing all around us and in us.  Whether we are looking at the vastness of the universe and how a star is born, or considering the simplicity and complexity of a DNA molecule, if one brings what they are looking at into focus, one cannot help but discover how amazing it all is.  Greg has taught every level of student from 5th grade to PhD candidates and long ago discovered his own love for middle school students.

 

Middle school can be a very chaotic time for a young person. Along with the increased academics, students are discovering the wonder of who they are and deciding what kind of person they want to be. It is a time when our students are questioning everything, desiring to be adults, and at the same time still longing for the guidance and safety of the grown ups that love them. Greg, embraces the opportunity to teach, guide and support our middle schoolers during this journey helping them to achieve their true potential both personally and academically.
 

  • BS, Communication, Psychology - Arizona State

  • MDiv, Counseling - Southern

  • MEd, Gifted and Talented -Mary Washington

  • Ph.D, Environmental Ethics - Southern

Ryan Hobbs, History​

As a middle school student, Ryan often felt bored and disengaged from school. Out of that feeling, he decided to become a teacher dedicated to engaging, hands-on, and discovery-based learning. He believes that students should have a voice in their education and that they should be allowed to discover and pursue the topics and inquiries that naturally interest them. Prior to joining Alta Vista, Ryan spent three years working at a private boarding school in West Virginia where he taught 6th grade History, coached middle school soccer and basketball, and lived in a boys dormitory. When he is not teaching, he enjoys spending time with his wife, traveling, trying new food, and cheering for his beloved Pittsburgh Steelers.
 

  • B.A., History – Bethany College

  • M.Ed., Social and Comparative Analysis in Education – University of Pittsburgh

Garry Joseph, Science

Born in London and raised in Los Angeles, Garry has been teaching and learning science with middle school students for 15 years. His “aha” moment came after a visit to the old Exploratorium site at the Palace of Fine Arts where he found himself being pulled into the exhibits and realized that science was infinitely interesting if presented the right way. Years later, he was selected to join the Exploratorium Teacher Institute, which is one of the many teacher networks he is active in. Garry is also passionate about creating innovative educational experiences in virtual reality (VR) and has presented on this subject at the National Science Teachers Association conference in 2017. Furthermore, Garry is a technology integration specialist, CUE Rockstar, Google Certified Educator, and in 2019 a Schoology Ambassador. He has trained with the Learning Design Group at Lawrence Hall of Science and has implemented and field-tested much of their curricula. In December 2018, he was awarded National Board Certification in Early Adolescent Science. In 2017, he won a Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching and visited schools throughout India to implement an innovative science fair collaboration between students in Los Angeles and leaners in India. Before moving to the Bay Area this summer to work for AVS, Garry will join Steve Spangler and a group of science teachers in the ‘Science at Sea’ program in Alaska. He is also committed to the practice of community building, having been trained by the Ojai Foundation to do council in schools. To keep a healthy work/life balance, Garry likes to spend quiet time in nature, hiking, reading, writing, listening to music, and travelling. In addition to his Fulbright travel in India, his educational travel include hiking glaciers and volcanoes in Iceland, snorkeling in Belize on an Earth Watch expedition, and scuba diving with teachers at the Flower Banks National Marine Reserve in the Gulf of Mexico. 

  • B.A., History - University of California, Los Angeles

  • M.A., Educational/Instructional Technology - Cal State University, Northridge

  • Credentials: Multiple-Subject Teaching - California

  • Single Subject Science Teacher - California

  • Google Certified Educator Level 1 and 2

K Khozein, Math and Computer Science

K aims to foster a problem-solving spirit in all students. It is K's goal that students will develop fluency as mathematical and logical thinkers, with the confidence to attempt to solve problems (in math or otherwise) even if they do not necessarily know how. K builds class dynamics with care and equity in mind, so that everyone knows their voice is equally heard and valued in class.

 

K graduated from Brandeis University in 2017 with a B.S. Honors in Computer Science, holding double minors in Classical Studies and Medieval and Renaissance Studies. K chose to return to Brandeis a mere month after graduation to pursue a Master of Arts in Teaching. K holds an MAT in Secondary Mathematics Education, with extensive work in Special Education, and graduated July 2018.

 

Outside of math, K is deeply passionate about maker and tinker culture, small plane aviation, hiking, and issues of social equity. K also plays bass viola da gamba (a bowed ancestor to the modern guitar).

  • B.S. Honors in Computer Science - Brandeis University ‘17

  • MAT Secondary Mathematics - Brandeis University ‘18

  • Sheltered English Instruction Endorsement - Massachusetts DESE

  • Special Education Mild and Moderate Disabilities Training - Massachusetts DESE

  • Mathematics Teaching Credential grades 5-8 and 8-12 - Massachusetts DESE

Marissa Klein, English

Marissa's favorite part of teaching middle school English is helping kids find books they love and then setting them on the path to become lifelong readers. Her goal is to guide students in understanding how to read, write, and tell stories across multiple genres and styles. In so doing, the students gain a greater understanding of themselves and the world around them. She appreciates the curiosity and quirkiness of middle schoolers most of all. For over ten years, Marissa has taught grades six through ten in independent and public schools in the Bay Area, which has given her a clear vision of what skills students need as they prepare to enter high school English courses. Previously, Marissa worked in journalism, marketing, and consulting before discovering her passion for education while teaching English as a Peace Corps Volunteer at a university in China. Marissa is from Southern California, where she attended a beloved independent K-8 school similar to AVS. She has been in the Bay Area off and on since 2004, when she moved north to attend Stanford. When she's not teaching, Marissa enjoys traveling (she has visited nearly 70 countries) and updating her spreadsheet of every book she has read.

  • B.A., English - Stanford University

  • M.A., Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages - American University

  • M.A., Education - Stanford University

  • Credentials: Teaching English - California

Kristin Landowski, Art & Tinker

I have been an artist my entire life, but at the tender age of 7, I found art, clay in particular, as the vehicle to find myself, my individuality, uniqueness and expression." Art allows the space to discover and try to connect all the things we question in the world. Art creates a place to explore those questions through a multitude of different mediums in which we can express. Kristin is constantly problem-solving to make sense of the world we live in and question how art can inspire, complicate, address social injustice, question and make the world a better place. She believes that art can save lives and create a community.

 

Kristin has a plethora of experience teaching all ages. She managed an art center in the Midwest, designing and teaching classes to young students  and to the young at heart. Upon moving to the Bay Area, from the center of Wisconsin, she began teaching at multiple art centers in the Bay Area, prestigious independent high schools and at the California College of the Arts. Her skills are bountiful with experience in ceramics, sculpture, drawing, painting and creating installation work and art via interdisciplinary means.

 

Art is the space when words fail that imagery, designing, making and creating become the driving force to express our inner most thoughts, feelings and things we question. Kristin is interested in showing her students how art, history, science, math and writing all coalesce.  Creating a safe place for students is paramount for them to explore, push the boundaries and fail with grace. It is through our failures that we learn the most about ourselves and hone our problem-solving skills, and grow. Art is everywhere and in everything. “I believe that we are all artists.

 

  • BFA, Ceramics, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

  • BFA, Sculpture, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

  • Art History  Minor, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

  • MFA, Interdisciplinary/Installation Art & Ceramics, California College of the Arts

  • MA, Concentration on the Representation of Breast in Popular Culture, California College of the Arts

Jay Levin, English

Jay has been teaching Language Arts for more than 20 years and loves working with the next generation of writers and thinkers. As a teacher, he has worked in both private and public schools in the Bay Area to help students to develop their distinct voices. For Jay, active hands lead to an active mind that is always searching for more to learn. He looks forward to inspiring students to be committed participants in their own education and empathetic community members. Jay is also an award-winning playwright with productions in San Francisco.

  • B.A. Language Arts - San Francisco State University

  • M.A. Fiction Writing - San Francisco State University

  • M.F.A. Playwriting - San Francisco State University

MK McAdams, History

MK believes that students need opportunities to examine how they live and how they want to live.

Her interest in school as intentional community began at a small, public preK-8 in Illinois. Thrust into one of the largest and most competitive public high schools in the nation (it inspired Mean Girls), MK successfully lead student movements to increase student voice and choice. She is a grateful alumna of the “Perspectives Program” at Boston College, an honors great books community that integrates the humanities and natural sciences. MK trained as an educator in boarding schools, serving as a dorm parent, coach, and the creator of projects like adapting sports for people living with disabilities. She also trained in school chaplaincy and educational leadership at Yale, earning the Mersick Prize for effective public address, the Michael Norman Thompson Memorial Scholarship for academic writing, and a spot as a Scholar in Residence at the Anglican Centre in Rome, the Anglican Communion’s “embassy” to the Vatican. MK gets her curiosity from her artist grandmother who banned the word “bored” at her family farm in Pawling, New York. MK shares her life with former Yale classmate and current pre-K-3 chaplain, Taylor. MK and Taylor bounce teaching ideas off each other, and are co-moms to a regal creamsicle cat named Sheba.

 

  • B.A. Honors Philosophy; Theology - Boston College

  • M.Div. Professional Ministry - Yale University

  • Cert. in Educational Leadership and Ministry - Berkeley Divinity School, the Episcopal Seminary at Yale

Katie McGee, Drama

Katie enjoys sharing stories and inspiring students to tell their own. Through storytelling, she challenges all of her students to expand their self-awareness, critical thinking skills, and empathy. Her curriculum is developed to be age-appropriate and guided by students' interests, while also grounded in a belief that students deserve to be challenged and given the space to grow. Katie has taught a wide variety of theatre-based courses, including musical theatre, playwriting, costuming, film, and improvisation. Aside from teaching, Katie is a Bay Area actress and often performs for young audiences with Bay Area Children's Theatre.

  • B.A., Theatre & Communications - St. Louis University 

  • Master Coursework in Multiple Subject Special Education - Loyola Marymount

Madison Pulliam, Spanish

Madison is thrilled to be joining the AVS team this year.  She enjoys teaching Spanish and sparking that curiosity and hunger for more knowledge in her students.  Before joining AVS, she was the Bess K. Gallard fellow recipient at the Branson School after graduating from Spelman College in 2017.  During her years at Spelman she studied abroad in Madrid and Perú. In her free time she loves to go on hikes, play volleyball and travel.

 

  • B.A., Spanish - Spelman College

Diana Ramzy, Math

Diana is a recent transplant to the Bay, she moved to the United States after ten years of teaching at international schools in Dubai. During this time she taught math and science to grades five through nine. Diana’s favorite part of teaching math is building student confidence in their mathematics skills by developing knowledge through project-based learning and real-world applications. One of her most rewarding experiences is to see a student, who may have initially been struggling, gradually blossom and start liking math.

 

B.S, in Education with a major in math.

Keith Ross, Spanish

Keith is enthusiastic about teaching Spanish and Hispanic Literature and believes that it is possible to teach the love for knowledge. He is joining AVS after being a professor of Spanish and Literature in the Department of Humanities at the University of Baja California Sur. He has published two fiction books in Spanish: a short stories book, "Callejón sin salida" (2012), and a novel, "Los piratas vienen de lejos" (2016). He has been published in several anthologies of Mexican writers.
 

  • B.A., Spanish & Literature - University of Baja California Sur (Mexico).

  • Master in Spanish Philology - Spanish National Research Council (Spain)

  • Master in Social Studies and Humanities

Steve True, Math & Science

Steven is a driven educator who has been working with 5th & 6th graders for over fourteen years. Steven grew up in the Bay Area, but is returning to San Francisco after living in the Chunichi region of Japan for a decade. Chunichi Dragons Banzai! There he worked in public elementary and middle schools teaching English as a second language and then as the 5th and 6th grade teacher and Science Specialist for a small English language international school. Steven’s classes emphasize the joy of curiosity and the thrill of discovery. Being a math and science educator, Steven often thinks in terms of deep time. He sees a classroom as a place where students can take their place on the long voyage of thought and discovery that the human race has been embarking on for millennia. In his classes, students are driven to develop and understand their own capacities to interrogate the universe around them through well considered questions, inductive and deductive reasoning, hands on experience, application of knowledge, and careful reflection. Beyond mathematics, Steven has a keen interest in cosmology, history, economics, technology, and the history of technology. In his free time, you can find Steven whipping down the street on his bicycle, in the garage with a tool in his hand, or out and about with a camera to his eye.  

  • B.A., History – University of California Irvine

  • Masters of Education, Science Curriculum & Instruction – University of Texas, Arlington 

  • C.L.A.D. Single Subject Mathematics Teaching Credential  – California State University, Sacramento

  • C.L.A.D. Single Subject Science Teaching Credential: Physics – California State University, Sacramento

  • C.L.A.D. Multiple Subject Teaching Credential – California State University, Sacramento

  • Additional Language - Japanese

Andrew Verrilli

Andrew has had a passion for math and science for as long as he can remember. It was no

surprise he fell in love with computer science after taking an introductory course in high school. This led to Andrew enrolling at Bucknell University as a Computer Science major. Initially, Andrew had aspirations of starting his own company like his father, and it was not until his sophomore year that Andrew became interested in education. As a teaching assistant within Bucknell’s Computer Science department, Andrew’s passion for teaching grew rapidly. He would teach lessons and he even wrote his own code to automatically grade assignments… much to the relief of his fellow TA’s. After Andrew graduated from Bucknell University in 2019, Andrew immediately started taking education courses at the University of the Pacific. 

 

Andrew tries to create a classroom that encourages exploration and creativity. He enjoys working with other teachers to make lessons that apply computer science to everyday situations.

 

B.S. Computer Science, Bucknell University

Don Benham, Music

Don is a professional concert performer specializing in Trombone. He has played and recorded with the San Francisco Opera, Symphony and Ballet. In addition to his experience as a working musician, Don has taught Middle School Band in Oakland and Richmond Schools for nearly ten years. He arranges and writes music for all his ensembles. Before branching into Middle School Music, Don taught Music and directed the Brass Ensemble and College Choir at Patten College in Oakland. He is especially excited to be training and challenging the talented and inventive music students at Alta Vista. His hobbies include marathon running, film music, and antique cars.

  • B.A., Music - Cal State University, Hayward

  • M.M., Performance - University of Georgia

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Middle School Faculty

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for curious young minds 

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