Middle School Teaching Staff
Our middle school teaching staff...
Becky Bob-Waksberg - 6th Grade Math and ScienceBecky B-W
Becky 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 HumanitiesRachel
Originally 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. 
Alisa Peres, K - 2nd and 6th Grade SpanishAlisa
Alisa grew up in Brooklyn, NY.  She fell in love with Spanish in the fourth grade through a weekly class offered in her school, and told her parents she was going to live in a Spanish speaking country one day.  Since then, she has travelled or lived in Ecuador, Chile, Peru, Argentina, Mexico, and El Salvador.  Alisa went to Boston University, where she received her teaching degree.  One of her first jobs as a young teacher in California was teaching Spanish at the Walden School in Berkeley, where she was deeply and permanently impacted by progressive education.  After seven years at Walden, Alisa went on to teach Spanish and music in a number of other schools in the east bay, most recently, at Manzanita SEED Dual Immersion Elementary School in Oakland.  Through her work with an organization called Guitars In The Classroom, she has also taught many classroom teachers throughout the Bay Area to play guitar and integrate music into all aspects of their curriculum. In 2015, Alisa earned her Master's in Education with a concentration in Language and Literacy.

Alisa was a founding member of the performing group Colibrí, with whom she performed Latin American folkloric music for twenty years. She currently has one more year of study to complete a master’s degree in Language and Literacy.  She lives in in Berkeley with her teenage son, and enjoys travel, playing music, gardening, and hiking.

Celia Richard - Lower School and 6th Grade Physical Education CeliaR
Celia has 12 years' experience working in independent schools. She has served as the Athletic Director, K-5 Physical Education teacher, and Middle School Physical Education teacher at Children's Day School in San Francisco over the past 8 years. Previously, Celia was the Head PE and Swimming Teacher at St. Paul's here in Oakland, and holds her California Clear Single Subject Teaching Credential in K-12 Physical Education. 

Celia has a BA in journalism from Pepperdine University where she was on scholarship for swimming. She is a native of Oregon and loves all things outdoors, especially the beach. She enjoys gardening, baking, and any adventure with her two daughters. 
Beatriz Rivera - 7th & 8th Spanish New Beatriz
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.
Jeff Allen - 7th & 8th Mathjeff
Jeff 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 - Small Group Math lisa
Lisa 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 is thrilled to join the Park Day community. As Middle School Math Specialist, Lisa looks forward to designing authentic learning opportunities with the students in math class and to incorporating some of her favorite projects into our curriculum. We're excited to see her put her twenty years of teaching experience to work here at Park Day School. Recently, Lisa has had the opportunity to participate in a number of math professional development programs including Action Research Cohort at Nea and a "teaching fractions" intensive with Professor Wu at UC Berkeley last summer. This summer, she will attend AIM, a weeklong workshop for math teachers focusing on problem solving strategies. When she is not teaching, you might find Lisa running with her dog, Ramona, bike riding with her two sons, or performing on a local stage.
Rob Underwood - 7th & 8th Grade Science Rob
Rob Underwood has taught in Bay Area high schools and middle schools for thirteen years. Prior to coming to Park Day School, Rob worked at Oakland School for the Arts (OSA) for eight years teaching earth science, life science, physical science, math, and visual art. Previously, Rob taught earth science and visual art at School of the Arts (SOTA) in San Francisco for four years. He began his teaching career as a substitute teacher for the San Francisco school district. Before becoming a teacher, Rob worked as an illustrator and graphic artist for fifteen years. He received his Bachelor degree of Fine Arts from Pratt Institute and his teaching credential from Dominican University. In his spare time he is a painter and amateur geologist and astronomer. Rob and his partner, Mira, know Park Day School very well. Their child Zoe is a rising 3rd grader here, and has been a student at Park Day since kindergarten.
Timnah Steinman - 7th Grade Humanitiestimnah
A Bay Area native, Timnah earned her BA in English Literature from Mills College and her MA in teaching from Tufts University. She has taught students at the elementary, middle, and high school levels in California and Massachusetts. A classroom teacher since 1995, Timnah has taught classes in Literature, Composition, Public Speaking, and Creative Writing. She has also taught performing arts and worked as an actor, director, and performing artist. Timnah's interests include writing, swing dancing, crafts, anything on or in the water, and fat civil rights education.
Andrew Risinger - 8th Grade HumanitiesAndrew
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
Amber 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
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 JimSO
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 Art
Cristina 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.

Cristina enjoys riding her bike, swimming, traveling, making art and hanging out with her best friend and partner Joe. Some of Cristina's work can be found at Cristinaportela.com
Ilya PrattDirector, Design+Make+Engage Program Ilya
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. Diverse lifelong interests including building, racing bicycles, industrial arts and woodworking, have complemented her professional work. Ilya founded Park’s Design+Make+Engage program and the Innovation Workshop. She is a Maker Leader for the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Project Zero, Agency by Design project, exploring the promises and practices of maker-centered learning. 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, Ullens School in Nepal, and she is currently an adjunct professor for Sonoma State University. 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.

Sooz Worthing, Middle School Drama