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Ricardo Borja
Kindergarten Teacher
Ricardo Borja was born and raised in East Los Angeles. After high school, Ricardo moved to San Diego where he attended Grossmont College and San Diego State University. Ricardo was fascinated by social group interactions, which led to a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and minor in Anthropology.

After college, Ricardo joined the High Tech High team as an academic coach at High Tech Elementary. He enjoyed working with his kindergarten class and being a part of students’ academic growth. Ricardo’s year as an academic coach sparked his passion for education and his journey to become a teacher. Last year, Ricardo was an Apprentice in a Second Grade classroom. This year, he is one of the Kindergarten Teachers and is excited for the school year.
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Aja Brydie
Kindergarten Teacher
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Ashley Micallef
Kindergarten Teacher

Ms. Ashley is very happy to be on HTe's Kindergarten team! This is her 5th year teaching Kindergarten and the little one's truly have her heart. Prior to HTe, she began her career in a Project Based Learning school and is happy to have found another school that aligns with her passion! She is a huge advocate for Social Emotional Learning and is happy to have the opportunity to bring it into the classroom.

Ms. Ashley is a San Diego native! She attended San Diego State University to obtain her Bachelors Degree and California State University Los Angeles for her Multi Subject Teaching credential.

In her spare time, Ms. Ashley loves spending time with her husband and her large Pacific Islander family! She enjoys traveling, road tripping, hiking, camping and just being in the great outdoors!
1st Grade
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Lydia Callis
1st Grade Teacher
Lydia Callis is a transplant from Michigan, where she was born and raised, then attended Western Michigan University (WMU) to acquire her undergrad in English Literature with a Spanish Language Minor.  Post graduation, she took her BA to sunny San Diego.  In her former life she worked to improve transportation for the elderly and disabled, as a planner at the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) and project manager for the American Red Cross, San Diego Chapter.  Her realization to transform into an educator came through active involvement and initiating projects at the project based learning (PBL) schools her two children attended over the last several years.  She was captivated to see the PBL approach creating deeper and more equitable learning environments for students of all backgrounds.  Coupled with her love of children, she achieved her teaching credential through the High Tech High Apprentice program from 2015-2017, working in grades K-2. Lydia then spent the following year working with the 2nd grade team as an Academic Coach. In 2018 she became a joined the 1st grade team as a classroom teacher and is beyond excited to continue her work at HTe in 1st grade this year.

Lydia is married, has two amazing kids, an equally amazing husband who she spends time with during, before and after she’s done her yoga, reading, running and photography.  Most importantly she’s never stopped learning and looks forward to expanding her education through all the many and wonderful perspectives her students and colleagues will bring to her work everyday over the coming years.
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Claire Deken
1st Grade Teacher

Claire is very excited to continue teaching and learning with the first grade team in the fantastic community of HTe teachers, students, and families. Claire joined HTe in the spring of 2016, and is thankful to have found a grade level that matches her sense of humor and attention span. Her teaching style takes a healthy mix of influences from Maria from The Sound of Music, Tim Gunn from Project Runway, and the experiences of former students who will forever hold space in Claire's heart.

Claire received her Bachelors in Mathematics from the College of Creative Studies at UC Santa Barbara, and worked for a finance firm in Philadelphia before moving back home to San Diego and entering the childcare and education field. When she's not at school, Claire enjoys being outdoors, spending time with family, and eating delicious food.

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Samantha Tellez
1st Grade Teacher
2nd Grade
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Alexandra Adams
2nd Grade Teacher
Alex is excited to be working at High Tech Elementary for her second year of teaching! She started her career at HTe as an Academic Coach in first grade in 2017 received her teaching credential through High Tech's Teacher Center in 2020. Alex is also the co-founder and co-advisor of HTe's Black Student Union.

Alex graduated from San Diego State in 2017 with a Bachelors of Arts in Liberal Studies - Elementary Education. Before her career at HTe, Alex was a writing tutor on SDSU's campus and spent her summers as a camp counselor for the Mission Valley YMCA. When not at school, she enjoys playing with her puppy, Risa, discussing the latest TV shows and movies, eating good food, practicing her tap dancing, and spending time with her family.
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Janice Swaisgood
2nd Grade Teacher
Janice is more than excited to continue on the second grade team this year, and this will be her 5th year teaching second grade at HTe! She earned her B.A. in Liberal Studies with an emphasis in Spanish from San Diego State University, where she went on to complete her Bilingual/Cross-Cultural Teaching Credential. After teaching for a few years, she completed her Master's Degree in Teaching, Learning and Curriculum Design from the University of California, San Diego. For her Master's thesis, Janice did research analyzing how parent/family engagement impacted student achievement, and she wrote curriculum for several workshop series for parents in which participants wrote stories in collaboration with their children. Through this work, coupled with ongoing experiences, Janice is a firm believer in the value of the whole child, including the family that comes with them.

Janice has enjoyed serving students and families in a variety of capacities throughout her educational career -- as a classroom teacher, a mentor teacher, a literacy specialist/intervention teacher, a resource teacher, an academic liaison for parents/families, and as a world language teacher (Spanish as a Second Language for grades 1-2).

For over 6 years prior to joining the team at HTe, Janice worked for the Children & Nature Network (C&NN), a non-profit that is dedicated to connecting children, families and communities to nature for their health and well-being, and for that of our planet. As the Director of Family Initiatives for C&NN, her work carried her to several corners of the globe where she taught and trained people from a variety of backgrounds and philosophies about the many benefits of time spent in nature, as well as how to work with children and families in fostering their connections with each other and the natural world.

Still very connected to nature, you will often find Janice outside with her family, where they enjoy hiking, camping, exploring and traveling the world and creating other adventures together. Both of her sons are students down the street at High Tech High.
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Kayla Wisniewski
2nd Grade Teacher
Kayla is so excited to continue working with the second grade team at HTe and share her passion for learning! Kayla believes in the importance of creating a safe classroom community where all students feel supported and inspired to be lifelong learners. She loves the imagination, curiosity, compassion, and laughter that fills second grade classrooms.

Kayla grew up in Northern California and moved to San Diego 13 years ago to attend UCSD. She earned her Bachelors degree in International Studies with a focus in Sociology. After college, Kayla decided to pursue her love for learning and joined High Tech High. After working as an Academic Coach for HTHMA, she completed the 2-year HTH District Intern Credential Program, earning her Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential while working as an Apprentice Teacher in Kindergarten and 2nd Grade. Kayla taught fifth grade at HTeNC and started teaching second grade at HTe in 2019. She feels very lucky to have gained experience across the organization and to be a part of the amazing HTe community.

Outside of school Kayla enjoys taking her dogs to the beach, practicing yoga, cooking, dabbling in interior design, reading, hiking, and being outdoors with her husband and two dogs.
3rd Grade
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Charlotte Askem Smith
3rd Grade Teacher
Charlotte was born and raised in London, United Kingdom. She earned her BA in Primary Education and Qualified Teacher Status from the University of Roehampton. After graduating, Charlotte taught Fourth-Grade at Queen's Gate School located in South West London. Charlotte and her husband, David, moved to San Francisco, where Charlotte taught middle school Math, Language Arts, and Literature at My City School.

Charlotte joined the High Tech family in January 2020 as a Kindergarten Support Teacher at High Tech Elementary Explorer and is excited to join the 4th grade team at HTe for the 2020-21 school year!

Charlotte loves spending time with her husband and their dog, Kenji, who is very spoiled with long walks, long hikes, and trips to the beach.
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Tiffany Florio
3rd Grade Teacher
Tiffany is a native New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn. Coming from a family of teachers, she also began to study early childhood education at CUNY Brooklyn College, where she earned her bachelors degree. After taking classes and working with a variety of grade levels, it was clear to her that she wanted to work with children in education.
In Brooklyn, she began working with preschoolers through the practice of Reggio Emilia. Following her passion for traveling, she moved to beautiful San Diego, continuing this practice, working on long term child centered projects with preschoolers. Her passions in teaching are incorporating the arts and sciences into her projects with the goal of giving children multiple outlets for their learning. She believes the bond between teacher and parent are highly impactful in a child's success.
When exploring elementary schools, she came across HTe and immediately felt connected to their philosophy and values. When beginning to work here, she also quickly formed connections with students and colleagues. She is absolutely excited to be working at this grade level and with such an amazing third grade team!

Some of Tiffany's favorite things:
The color blue, watching her favorite NY sports teams (Jets, Mets, Rangers), boating and jet skiing; San Diego sunsets, traveling, her two nieces Brooklyn and Reese, Christmas, Comic Con, and cooking.
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Allison Kucia
3rd Grade Teacher
Allison is incredibly proud to be a founding teacher at HTe. She is originally from Connecticut, where she attended the University of Connecticut and graduated from their Integrated Bachelor’s/Master’s Teacher Education Program with her B.S. in Elementary Education, B.A. in English and M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction. Originally her intention was to attend a teacher education program in Connecticut to eventually teach in that state, but after a harsh winter on the East coast leading to a spur-of-the-moment trip to visit friends in California, she fell in love with San Diego. By the end of her week long stay, she had made up her mind to relocate across the country to begin her teaching career.

Allison is ecstatic to announce that her journey at HTe has provided her with 4 years in Third Grade, 1 year in Fifth Grade, "Yearbook Advisor" in the school's student-led Yearbook Committee, leadership opportunities in science (NGSS) and mathematics (MAIC), and most recently a spot on the Third Grade team for her 6th year of teaching!

Outside of the classroom, Allison most enjoys traveling, reading, and spending time with family and friends.
4th Grade
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Michelle JaconetteDP
4th Grade Teacher
Michelle grew up in Santa Barbara, California and came to San Diego to attend UCSD. As an undergrad, Michelle worked as a photographer for the UCSD Guardian, and a writing mentor at the UCSD Writing Center. After graduating with a BA in Literature/Writing, Michelle joined the High Tech community as an Academic Coach at High Tech Middle Media Arts. It was during her year as an AC that Michelle realized she wanted to be teacher.

In order to pursue teaching, Michelle decided to leave sunny California to attend Columbia Teachers College in New York City where she earned a MA in English Education and her teaching credential. After a year of hard work and a winter of snowy commutes, Michelle was thrilled to come back to the High Tech family as a 4th grade teacher at High Tech Elementary! Michelle was a founding faculty member at HTe in 2015.

When she is not at school, Michelle enjoys traveling, reading, swimming in the ocean, camping, doing word puzzles, hiking and watching Jeopardy!
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Jennifer Merrill
4th Grade Teacher
Jenny was born and raised in sunny San Diego, California. She received her BA in Liberal Studies in 2015 from San Diego State University where she also earned her Multiple Subject Credential in 2016. During this time, Jenny worked for an after school care program in La Mesa and began substitute teaching for San Diego Unified. Wanting to gain more knowledge about Project Based Learning and Culturally Responsive Pedagogy, Jenny went back to school to earn her MA in Elementary Teaching from SDSU in 2018.

She joined the HTe family during the 2019/2020 school year as an Academic Coach in Kindergarten and then took over as a Fourth Grade teacher during the 2020/2021 school year. Jenny is extremely excited to be returning to Fourth Grade for her second year of teaching! She can't wait for a *normal* year to explore, play and create with her students and is looking forward to building strong relationships with all of her families.

In her free time, Jenny loves to binge Netflix with her two cats, go line dancing, and hang out around Mission Bay either walking, biking, or paddle boarding. Jenny also loves to try new places to eat around San Diego and is obsessed with everything Disney!
5th Grade
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Jeff Govoni
5th Grade Teacher
Jeff is very proud to be a founding teacher for High Tech Elementary schools.  Going on his 10th year (in 2019) of project based teaching at High Tech!  He grew up in Boston spending summers on the Atlantic and feels very lucky to now spend his summers on the Pacific.

Jeff is into hands on, messy projects that challenge students to figure out the results on their own.  But he also understands that learning great basic skills and developing successful habits of mind also needs to be covered at the elementary level.  In Jeff's class your child should feel safe to be his or herself and know that he or she is an important part of the classroom community.
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Kalif Price
5th Grade Teacher
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Julie Schneider
5th Grade Teacher

Julie is excited to begin her fourth year at HTe! Before teaching at HTe, Julie taught 5th grade for two years in the Pattonville School District in St. Louis, Missouri.

While earning her B.A. in Elementary Education with an emphasis in Science Education at Maryville University in St. Louis, Julie enjoyed partaking in outdoor education opportunities. She volunteered weekly at Litzsinger Road Ecology Center and spent a Summer working at Teton Science Schools through Americorps in Jackson, Wyoming. During her time as a student she also worked as a Lead Behavior Assistant, providing ABA therapy for children with autism.

Julie believes in creating a classroom community where kids feel seen and heard. Her classes are focused around the students' interests, mental health, equity, and laughter. This creates an encouraging and safe environment to learn other important subjects such as literacy and math. Sometimes her lessons don't go as planned and she doesn't have everything figured out. Her classroom and teaching style changes a bit every year!

In the past five years her students have created a viral challenge to save the big cats and reduce palm oil deforestation, raised and cooked crickets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, hosted student-led writing workshops for parents, and rewritten fairy tales to be more gender-inclusive.

When Julie is not teaching and learning from her students, she is bikepacking, attending PT from bikepacking injuries, playing music, or using her ADHD super powers to learn a new hobby.

All School
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Alicia WongDP
Alicia "Allie" Wong is extremely passionate about High Tech High's mission and philosophy, mainly because as a graduate of High Tech High International herself, she has seen firsthand the benefits of student-centered, project-based learning. After completing her bachelor's studies at Soka University of America, she went on to obtain her Master's degree in teacher education and teaching credential from the University of Pennsylvania. Knowing that she wanted to go back to her HTH roots, Allie taught at High Tech Middle from 2012-2016 and then attended the High Tech High Graduate School of Education for her second master's degree in Educational Leadership. She then became the Dean of Students at High Tech Elementary, and has been continuing her learning journey with all of the students, families and staff there for the last four years. Outside of school, Allie's interests include soccer, musical theatre, reading, and traveling.
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Jonathan Origel
Site Manager
My name is Jonathan Origel, Site Manager at HTe! My previous role over the past two years was Before/Aftercare Director for HTe. I enjoy quality time spent with my family and friends, playing sports, riding my motorcycle & all outdoor activities that involve nature. I earned my BA in Management while employed at National University, but found my passion in child education working for years at the YMCA.
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Josh Benedick
Dean of Students
Josh is thrilled to teach 3rd grade this year at HTe. He was born and raised in Eastern Pennsylvania where he earned his bachelor’s degree from Penn State University in Elementary Education. He began his career as a kindergarten teacher for four years before moving to Brooklyn, New York. In NYC, he taught 2nd and 3rd grade over the five years he lived there. During this time, Josh also earned his master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Relay Graduate School of Education. After many years of dreaming about life on the west coast, Josh and his wife Lacey moved to San Diego. Josh was hired at HTe, Chula Vista as a full-time substitute for the 2017-2018 school year and taught 2nd grade at HTe in point Loma for the past 2 years. 

Josh always creates a welcoming environment within his classroom believes in building strong relationships with his students and their families. Josh holds all of his students to high expectations and values honesty and respect.

In his free time Josh enjoys hiking, playing basketball, motorcycles and riding dirt bikes, hanging out at the beach and taking his dogs for walks at the park. Josh’s door is always open and welcomes you to come by and say hello!
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Elizabeth Brown
Education Specialist
I am so excited to enter my third year as the 4th and 5th grade Ed Specialist at HTE!

I grew up in rural Wisconsin and moved to Cambridge, MA to complete my B.S. in Counseling at  Lesley University.  While in college I selected internships focusing on mental health, homelessness and inclusive programs for children.  I deeply value my time working in inclusive environments that provide  access and opportunities to all participant, which led me to work in education. When I moved to San Diego I began working as an art teacher and instructional assistant in an inclusive school and transitioned to supporting students with crisis-intervention and behavioral/academic interventions. In my first two years at HTe, I completed the HTH Ed Specialist credentialing program so I can better serve students with special needs. I am passionate about social-emotional learning, social justice and helping develop the next generation of changemakers.

When I’m not at school, I love hanging out with my two cats, chickens and dog. I also love cooking, hiking, my vegetable garden, and finding new building projects!
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Kelsey Cagatay
Academic Support Teacher
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Jonathan Carillo
Aftercare Assistant I
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Magdalena Cervantes
Academic Coach
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Lauren Dodds
Aftercare Program Leader
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Kristin Elia
School Psychologist

I'm a relatively new transplant from Hilo, Hawaii. My psychology history began as a senior in high school, where I became so interested in learning about "why people do what they do," I took Psych in the fall and AP Psych in the spring, and knew it would become my future. I received my undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. Before applying to graduate school, I worked as a researcher at the Kamehameha Schools in Honolulu, HI. My project focused on the effects of culture-based education on student academics and well-being. I then headed back to the northwest to receive my Education Specialist degree in School Psychology from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR. I returned home where I was a school psychologist for nine years. I then took up the exciting opportunity to relocate to San Diego and High Tech High (Elementary and International) with my family. I love this profession as a combination of edu cation and psychology, and have special interests in executive functioning, cultural/ethnic identity, mindfulness, and resiliency.

As a self-identified "nerd" and "lifelong learner," I am always looking for opportunities to learn more about myself, others, and helping others learn more about themselves. I identify with traits such as "introvert, "empath," and "Highly Sensitive Person," and believe that these qualities allow me the compassion, care, strength, and drive to help others define and develop themselves to succeed (their definition of the word). When not doing this, I am exploring San Diego with my little family.

Some of my favorite things include: nature, the ocean (it's cold here!), traveling, Harry Potter (Hufflepuff represent!), sea otters, baking, learning and experiencing other cultures, spa activities, my family, and animal encounters.
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Ana Gonzalez
Academic Coach
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Sarah Heller
School Based Mental Health Intern
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Shana JonesDP
Inclusion Specialist
Shana is a native of New Jersey but always knew she would end up on the West Coast.  Although she will begin working with Inclusion this year, she has taught First Grade for 8 years and Kindergarten here at HTe for 2 years. Despite her love for teaching, this is her second career.  She earned a degree in Art Studio with a minor in Theatre Arts from the University of Maryland. After moving out to California to pursue theatre, she realized that teaching was really her passion. This came through working with San Diego Youth Repertory Theatre and teaching young children to create sets. She earned her teaching credential at SDSU and was thrilled to begin working in the classroom.  Her background in theatre has really lent itself to working with young children and teachers because of the experience with collaboration and creating beautiful work.

Shana also received A Masters in Language Arts and a Reading Specialist Credential from SDSU. This year she transitions to Inclusion at HTe and looks forward to learning more about helping support students with special needs through their Inclusion Program.

In her free time Shana enjoys spending time with her son Waylon and her husband Zach.  She loves surfing, running, hiking, camping, traveling, home projects and reading non-fiction books about music and adventures. Her last trip was to Peru for her Honeymoon where she hiked Machu Picchu and surfed the coast (Haunchaco). She hopes to go on many more adventures including New Zealand, Iceland and Ireland.
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Natalie Juarez
Aftercare Asstiant 1
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Starry KruegerDP
Theater Teacher
When Starry was four, she played a cow in a production of "Farmer Duck" and fell in love with theater forever.  She holds a bachelor's degree in theater from Skidmore College and a master's degree in elementary education from the University of New Haven.  After graduating, Starry spent a year touring the U.S. and Canada with the Missoula Children's Theater.  In 2015, Starry founded Imaginary Theater Company, a children's theater in New Haven, CT whose mission is to produce original plays that empower children to be the heroes of their own stories.  When she isn't teaching, Starry can be found doing yoga and writing new plays.
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Andrea Lacuesta
School Psychologist
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Danny Lizza
Movement & Mindfulness Teacher
Movement & Mindfulness with Mr. Lizza is designed for students to build meaningful connections with one another through play. In M&M classes, students meditate - focusing on their feelings, thoughts and their breath. They yoga stretch - improving their strength, flexibility and coordination. And they exercise to warm up their muscles before playing a movement game. Sometimes students play sportsmanship games, sometimes they play teamwork games, and sometimes they play resilience games. M&M classes conclude with a reflection circle or a round of celebrations. Before, during and after movement games, students practice social-emotional concepts, like sportsmanship, collaborative problem solving or resilience.

Mr. Lizza was born and raised near Detroit, Michigan. He earned a B.A. in elementary education and a multiple subject teaching credential from University of San Diego. He acquired a physical education credential through UCLA, a childrens meditation and mindfulness certification from Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga, and a kids yoga teacher certification through Cosmic Kids Yoga.

Mr. Lizza taught within the world of special education, and he directed an outdoor day camp for 3-10 year olds. Throughout college, he worked as a head lifeguard and led swimming lessons. Mr. Lizza taught K-12 patients with chronic health care needs at University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. And he taught kindergarten in Michigan, at HTeNC and at HTe. Movement & Mindfulness is Mr. Lizza’s passion project.

Mr. Lizza is a beach volleyball player, a backyard trampolinist, a sidewalk jump roper and an inventor of games. He loves laughing with his cousins, eating spoonfuls of peanut butter and biking beside the ocean. Adventure is out there!
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Gina Lopez
Academic Coach
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Trisha MagoonDP
Instructional Coach
Trisha was born and raised in San Diego and is proud of her local roots! She earned her Bachelors Degree and Teaching Credential from SDSU, and after teaching for several years, she returned to school to earn her Masters Degree in Education at National University. She worked for 16 years in two elementary schools where she taught 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th grades. She also left the classroom for a few years to work as a Peer Coach (supporting teachers with their literacy instruction), then as a Literacy Resource Teacher (supporting small groups of striving readers).

Then, in 2011, she was very fortunate to join the High Tech family as a founding faculty member at our first elementary school, HTe Chula Vista, where she enjoyed four great years as a 1st grade teacher! In fact, she enjoyed the challenging and rewarding work of project based learning in the elementary classroom so much that she decided to help bring that same work to a new community by becoming a founding faculty member at HTe Point Loma in 2015! There, she taught 1st grade for 3 years, and is currently working to support teachers and students across the school as an Instructional Coach.

In her free time, Trisha enjoys spending time with her friends and family, swimming, reading, watching movies, traveling, watching sports, and being near the water (preferably a tropical beach, but just about any body of water will do)!
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Kelsey Mcgloon
Education Specialist
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Riley Meehan
Engineering Teacher
Riley is an engineer, maker, designer, educator, tinkerer, and lifelong learner. He believes that all children are budding engineers and that engineering provides authentic and practical opportunities to employ math, science, and critical thinking skills.
Before joining the High Tech High team, he spent time working as an engineer, educator, and researcher. He has experience working on state of the art engineering projects with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He has taught engineering to learners from kindergarten to college and in many places from El Salvador to Minnesota. Most recently, he was a researcher in Boston while getting his Masters of Science in STEM Education at Tufts University. While working at Tufts, his research lived in the worlds of education, engineering, design, and sociology – focusing on how educational institutions design and make sense of the use of makerspaces as reflecting the existing commitments of a school community. He hopes to bring the lessons from that work to HTe and continue to cultivate learning spaces that support children in their science and engineering endeavors.

Riley is really excited to be a part of the HTH family and is always looking to make new connections. His biggest weakness is not being able to say no, so feel free to contact him with any new ideas or ask him to get involved with whatever you’re working on – he'll definitely say yes.
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Nicole NunezDP
EL Teacher
Nicole is elated to begin her new journey at High Tech Elementary and High Tech Middle as the EL Teacher! She is originally from Manhattan, New York, but was raised in North Bergen, New Jersey. Her parents are from the Dominican Republic. She received her BA in Liberal Studies from Florida International University, and her MS in Education from St. Thomas University in Miami, Florida. During her 14 years in the elementary classroom, she has taught Kindergarten, Third, Fourth, and Fifth grade in South Florida and Las Vegas. 

Most recently, she taught at Doral Academy Las Vegas for 6 years. There, she learned from the Kennedy Center Teaching Artists how to implement arts integration strategies in her classroom. After school, she led student clubs like Battle of the Books, yoga, and fashion sketching. She also served as a mentor for apprentice teachers. 

Nicole hopes to effectively assist her emerging multilingual learners with strategies to help them reach their individual academic goals. Outside of teaching, she enjoys traveling, watching period series and films, spending time with her partner Mike, and their Yorkshire Terrier, Max. 
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Vianca Rivera
Academic Coach
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Christopher Schmidt
Aftercare Assistant 1
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Valerie Vaca
Academic Coach
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Elizabeth Vallejo
Academic Coach
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Aliaya White
Aftercare Assistant 1