Middle School Teaching StaffOur middle school teaching staff...
Becky Bob-Waksberg - 6th Grade Math and ScienceBecky grew up in the Bay Area playing math games and taking the redwoods for granted. After receiving her BA from Oberlin College, she came back to get her teaching credential and MA at Mills College. She has taught a variety of subjects in 4th through 8th grade, and she especially loves giving students tools and opportunities to think critically and creatively about their environment and world. Becky is a Teacher Leader with the Park City Math Institute. She has training in teaching mindfulness, English language acquisition, and conflict resolution, and is certified in facilitating and mediating with a social justice lens. Outside of school, Becky sings with the Oakland Symphony and volunteers with the Ella Baker Center in their work against mass incarceration. She and her sister have a sibling cover band in which she sings and plays the ukulele and autoharp.
Rachel Stone - 6th Grade HumanitiesOriginally from Oakland, Rachel has a BA from Wesleyan University focusing on gender and ethnicity in a post-colonial context. Trained at Mills College, her philosophy of teaching has been shaped by her own experiences in Bay Area progressive communities and eleven years at Park Day School. Rachel strives to help the next generation understand the world critically, find their voices, and become citizens that transform their communities. Rachel has worked with students from the third grade to the twelfth, but to her nothing compares to the middle schooler's openness and sense of humor. Rachel can also be found walking two Shiba Inus around the Dimond district, listening to audiobooks and podcasts. As an artist, she uses calligraphy, paper cutting, and embroidery to express herself and her vision of social justice.
Beatriz was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, but soon after moved to the East Bay with her family. Beatriz has been a part of Park Day School since 1997, when her daughter, Janette entered first grade. Throughout the years, Beatriz has taught Spanish at every grade level. Since 2006, she has worked specifically with the middle school students. She has been instrumental in leading annual week-long trips to Mexico and Costa Rica.Erica Morales - 7th & 8th Spanish SabbaticalErica Morales is a native of Los Angeles, California where she grew up speaking Spanish with her family from Mexico. She realized at a very young age that her affinity for the language was immense and decided to remain close to her Mexican heritage as much as possible. She received a Bachelors Degree from UC Santa Cruz in Latin American/Latino Studies. She has taught at several Bay Area schools including Beacon Day School, Synergy School and Schools of the Sacred Heart in San Francisco. Her teaching philosophy is based on acknowledging that learning is a process and that in order to learn a language successfully, one must provide a solid platform for students to be supported, encouraged and engaged. In her most recent years of teaching, she has focused on developing Social Justice curriculum specifically for students of Spanish. In her free time, Erica enjoys swimming, dancing, and spending time with her family.Jeff Allen - 7th & 8th MathJeff grew up in Albany and Berkeley and received his BA in architecture at UC Berkeley. He spent fifteen years in the design, engineering and construction industry in Saudi Arabia and throughout the U.S., followed by fifteen years in hardware and software development. He volunteered weekly for math labs in his two kids’ Albany school classrooms and decided on a major career change. After receiving his teaching certification, Jeff taught at Albany and Berkeley high schools, Helms Middle School and the Aim High middle school summer program in Oakland. Jeff joined Park Day School in 2012.In his spare time, Jeff manages data for his partner’s international children’s oral health project and tries to squeeze in time for windsurfing on the bay.Lisa Appleyard - Middle School Math SpecialistLisa has been teaching since 1995, just after earning a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from St. Mary's College. She's taught at several Bay Area schools, most recently Nea Community Learning Center, Archway Middle School, and Windrush School (2000-2012) where she instructed students in Math, Science, and Performing Arts. Lisa was thrilled to join the Park Day community last year and is looking forward to another fun year. As Middle School Math Specialist, Lisa enjoys designing authentic learning opportunities with the students in math class and incorporating projects involving art and design into the curriculum. Recently, Lisa has had the opportunity to participate in a number of math professional development programs including Action Research Cohort at Nea, a "teaching fractions" intensive with Professor Wu at UC Berkeley and Math Teachers Circle at AIM, a weeklong workshop for math teachers focusing on problem solving strategies. When she is not teaching, you might find Lisa running, strolling with her with her dog, Ramona, bike riding with her two sons, or performing on a local stage.Carrie Moy - 7th & 8th Grade ScienceCarrie grew up in Arizona and received her Bachelor's of Science in Psychology with a Medicine Minor at the University of Arizona. During that time, she went to India to teach about HIV/AIDS prevention and help curb a public health crisis. That's when she fell in love with teaching. Post college, she pursued a career in education and received her Masters in Education from Northwestern University. For the past eight years, Carrie has been a middle school math and science teacher in Chicago. During her time there, she has worked to develop an engaging science curriculum for 7th and 8th graders with an emphasis on social justice and service, as well as developed her skill set as a teacher leader with the Alaine Locke Initiative. Outside of school, Carrie volunteers with her dog, Harvey, or spends her weekend camping.Molly Aaronson-Gelb - 7th Grade HumanitiesMolly is a Park alum and an experienced educator, having spent the last fourteen years teaching and working at College Prep, Orinda Academy, and the Bentley School. She brings solid expertise as a language arts teacher and advisor as well as experience teaching drama at other East Bay public and independent schools.Andrew Risinger - 8th Grade Humanities
Born in Washington, D.C., Andrew was raised in small town Pennsylvania, in an area that is affectionately called "the Wilds". Educated at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, he taught a variety of grade levels at a number of independent school in the East Bay, including working at Park Day last year. Andrew returns to from the Pacific Northwest, where he taught fifth grade humanities. In addition to teaching, Andrew has helped lead youth outdoor programs in the California wilderness.
When not teaching, Andrew can be found chasing his three year old son around, fixing something on his house, walking in the woods, or dreaming of big league baseball.Amber Balquist - Learning Specialist: 6th - 8th GradesAmber first worked with students with special needs as a swim teacher while attending UC Santa Cruz. At UCSC, she studied Sociology with an emphasis in Environmental Justice. After the swim instructor job, Amber knew she wanted to become a special education teacher. She received her teaching credential and Master's Degree in Education at San Francisco State University, completing both programs with honors. She was a classroom teacher at Children's Learning Center in Alameda for twelve years, then developed and ran the Middle School Resource Program at Oakland School for the Arts. She joined the Park Day School team in the Spring of 2013. She has attended many trainings and certification programs including BICM (Behavioral Intervention Case Manager), Certificate in Autism Studies, Making Math Real, and Otter Creek Institute workshops. Beyond teaching, Amber is the co-owner of Oakland Floats, a floatation tank business that she and her husband began in 2012. She also enjoys creating adventures with her two young children as well as urban farming, seeing live music, taking ceramics classes, traveling and vegetarian cooking.
Augie Valdez, Middle School Director of Athletics and Student Activities, 7th - 8th Grade Physical Education
Augie has been teaching Physical Education for 7 years in independent schools in the Bay Area. He will be in lead our Athletics program, Student Activities, and teach 7th and 8th grade physical education. Growing up in Humboldt County, Augie played various sports year round. He played basketball in high school and college and has been coaching basketball at the high school and college level for the past seventeen years. He holds a BA from San Francisco State University and has completed the coursework for his Masters from St. Mary’s College. Augie comes to Park Day from Redwood Day School, where he was the middle school PE teacher, advisor, and part of the diversity steering committee. Professional development is a passion of his as he attends various PE and coaching conferences throughout the year. "Every year my goal is to introduce a unit that is unique and that can be appreciated by all of my students."
In his free time enjoys going to his daughters' basketball and soccer games on the weekends, watching baseball games (Go DODGERS!), hiking, going to musicals/theater, playing video games, Salsa Dancing, and is also a personal trainer for basketball players in the East Bay.
Jim Santi-Owen, Middle School Music
Jim has extensive experience working with students ranging in age from pre-school to the post-graduate level. Trained and certified in the Orff-Schulwerk method, Jim has taught music to children in numerous schools throughout California and around the world, including Synergy, the San Francisco School, Marin Country Day School, and the Greenwood School. Jim holds a Bachelor's of Humanities from New College of California and a Master's degree in World Music from California Institute of the Arts. Jim was a featured clinician at the 2002 and 2007 AOSA (American Orff-Schulwerk Association) National Conferences. He has been a guest clinician, an art specialist for youth, a director of a K-8 music program and a lead teacher with Cal Art's Community Arts Partnership. As Music Director for the San Francisco World Music Festival, Jim directed a Youth World Music Orchestra and collaborated with master musicians from around the world.Cristina Portela, Middle School ArtCristina was born in Puerto Rico and still has all of her family there. She loves the Island’s warm ocean breeze. Her first degree was a BBA, in Marketing. She worked in the field for a few years before hearing the call to pursue her real passion. That’s when she moved to San Francisco to attend the San Francisco Art Institute, were she obtained a BFA, in Sculpture and Photography and MFA, in Sculpture.
Cristina’s first teaching experience was at Creativity Explored, a San Francisco non- profit that helps people with disabilities become artists within their own right. “These artists with disabilities are true to who they are,” says Cristina. “They aren’t afraid to create. Experimenting with materials gives them freedom and joy." Cristina’s artwork resonates with this joy; the playfulness and the process of experimentation. She has been teaching Art to children for the past 8 years, and joined Park Day School in January 2013.Ilya Pratt, Director, Design+Make+Engage Program
At the heart of Ilya’s educational practice is an unrelenting drive to figure out how things work, whether it is a child’s approach to problem solving or an engineering design solution. Ilya has worked with children and educators for over three decades, in school and non-school settings. Ilya founded Park Day’s Design+Make+Engage program and the Innovation Workshop. She is a Maker Leader for the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), Project Zero, Agency by Design project, exploring the promises and practices of maker-centered learning. In addition, she is a coach for the HGSE course, Thinking and Learning in the Maker-Centered Classroom, and an adjunct professor for the Sonoma State University Maker Certificate program. Previously, Ilya founded Park Day School’s Learning Resource Program, one of the first in Bay Area independent schools. She has taught for the Boston Children’s Museum and Ullens School in Nepal. Ilya’s lifelong learning includes B.A. Studio Art/Art History; M.A. Special Education and Certificate in Educational Therapy; extensive trainings in neuropsychological perspectives and addressing learning differences; and a host of workshops related to industrial arts, digital fabrication, and maker-centered learning. Ilya joined the Park Day staff in 1989.