HTEM Staff Directory
- Jennifer Johnson Kindergarten TeacherXJennifer JohnsonKindergarten Teacher
Jen Johnson is thrilled to join the High Tech Elementary Mesa team this year! A Kindergarten teacher, this is Jen's first year teaching at High Tech and her 12th year teaching! As part of a military family, Jen had the unique opportunity to grow up all over the country and overseas. She graduated from Millersville University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor's in Elementary Education, and after college, moved to Baltimore to begin her career as an educator. There, Jen earned her Masters of Education in Leadership in Education with a specialization in Teaching English as a Second Language from Notre Dame of Maryland University. In addition to classroom teaching, Jen has worked as a teacher professional development facilitator and literacy curriculum writer, so Jen brings a strong passion for early literacy to the HTeM team. An avid yogi, Jen is a registered yoga teacher and kids yoga teacher and loves incorporating movement and mindfulness in her classroom. When she's not in her classroom, Jen loves spending time with her family and friends, exploring new restaurants, and practicing and teaching yoga to both kids and adults!
- Stephanie Lance Kindergarten TeacherXStephanie LanceKindergarten Teacher
Stephanie believes that each student has the potential to grow and thrive emotionally, socially, and intellectually. She is dedicated to learning about her students’ experiences and creating a safe and supportive classroom for her students to develop a sense of communal belonging, challenge themselves, reason, and reflect on their learning. Stephanie is a passionate teacher who will always strive to bring out the very best in every child while keeping their needs at the heart of her service.
Stephanie is excited to be joining the HTeM team of staff and parents this year as a Kindergarten teacher. She holds a Masters in Education and Elementary Mathematics Certificate from the University of California San Diego. Prior to joining the High Tech team, Stephanie worked as a Marine Science Instructor in San Diego teaching and learning about the local ocean environment. She grew up in Colorado and loves to be outdoors. When not working, Stephanie likes to spend her time in the ocean, hiking, camping, traveling, and training for triathlons. She is looking forward to sharing her passions with her students, diving into rigorous and fun classroom projects, and being inspired by her students as they explore together.
- Michelina Miedema Kindergarten TeacherXMichelina MiedemaKindergarten Teacher
Michelina is a Clairemont local and a High Tech High Alum! Her first teaching experiences were during elementary school helping out in her Mom’s Montessori Kindergarten classroom. She attended SDSU and received her Bachelor’s Degree in Film Studies. After graduation, she worked in the film department teaching set design and construction, which lead her to pursue a teaching credential through the High Tech High Graduate School of Education. She earned her credential and taught 4th grade and Kindergarten at HTeCV. She is continuing her studies and will earn her M.Ed. in Teaching and Learning.
As an HTH alum, Michelina is inspired by project-based learning. She feels that it provides an incredible platform for students to learn, explore and grow! She strives to create a home-like classroom setting where students feel safe to take risks, explore their passions, and grow their minds! She is a culturally-responsive teacher who cares deeply about students’ families, backgrounds and traditions; she believes it is important for all students to celebrate their differences and learn from each other.
In her free time, you can find Michelina surfing, fishing, or searching for reptiles on a hike! She is a lover of ALL nature, from spiders to leopard sharks. She also loves to cook, explore, and spend time with family, friends, and her cat; Cricket and her snake; Happy.
- Mary Lau 1st Grade TeacherXMary Lau1st Grade Teacher
Every truth has four corners: as a teacher I give you one corner, and it is for you to find the other three." -- Confucius
A child learns the first and most enduring lessons in the presence of family and then heads off to school where learning happens in the presence of teachers and peers. As a teacher, I see myself as one of the people who will help your child uncover and construct some "corners" of learning. It is rewarding work to guide your little scholar and to help you with your child's education.
I began my teaching career nine years ago while working on my multiple-subject teaching credential at High Tech High's Graduate School of Education. Prior to that, I was a preschool teacher, an at-home mother, and a substitute teacher. I've worked within project-based learning models my entire career because I value how a thoughtfully planned project has such potential to capture and animate a child's broad imagination. Great projects buoy and inspire children as they explore fundamental skills like reading, writing, and calculating through interconnected lessons and learning moments. My hope is that your child comes home from school each day enlivened by learning.
I am a San Diego native, a graduate of SDSU, a Mom to two kids (ages 18 and 23), a wife, a tai chi practitioner, a devoted reader, a fan of fountain pens and notebooks, and an armchair baker (I watch baking shows). What I'm keen to do at HTeM is to spend nine dynamic months working with you and your child as we make our way through a prosperous school year.
- Rizelle Murallon 1st Grade TeacherXRizelle Murallon1st Grade Teacher
Hello families and visitors! My name is Rizelle Murallon, and I am so excited to continue my work with the High Tech High organization, this year as a first grade teacher! A little bit about myself: I grew up both in the Bay Area and in Sacramento, but always had a love for San Diego's beautiful weather and beaches. School and education have always been my passion, and after helping raise my little brother Liam (who is fourteen years younger than me), I always knew I wanted to work with children and be a part of their development and love for learning.
When the opportunity came for me to pack up and make San Diego home in 2015, I took it! Transferring to SDSU, I later graduated in 2017, receiving a Bachelors of Arts degree in Liberal Studies with an emphasis in Elementary Education and Literacy. Throughout the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school year, I worked as an Academic Coach at HTe, Point Loma, in kindergarten and 1st grade classrooms. I completed my student teaching in a fifth grade and kindergarten classroom at HTeCV, receiving my multiple-subject teaching credential in May 2019. Currently I am working on my Masters in Teaching degree with Point Loma Nazarene University, and I'm looking forward to starting my third year with the HTH organization as a founding HTeM teacher.
Outside of the classroom, a few of my favorite things to do are: eating really good food (noodles are my favorite!); planning and doodling in my Passion Planner; and I especially love being outdoors, it means I can spend some quality time in the sun with my husband Jimmy and our Olde English Bulldog Blu(berry).
I look forward to spending this year learning and growing with you!
- Maya Perez Gainey First Grade TeacherXMaya Perez GaineyFirst Grade Teacher
I am so excited to join the first grade team at High Tech Elementary Mesa, because of my wholehearted passion to help young students learn and grow. After graduating from Wellesley College, I joined Teach For America (TFA) in Houston, Texas where I taught kindergarten at a KIPP charter school. After a few years teaching in Houston, I studied at the University of Texas at Austin in order to develop a better understanding of current and challenging education policy issues affecting students across our country. After my masters program, I worked at TFA as a development officer raising funds for teachers for three years. Last year, I returned to the classroom as a kindergarten academic coach at High Tech Elementary North County. In my classroom, it is my priority to build strong, trusting relationships with each one of my students while guiding them to fulfill their full potential. I look forward to this year at High Tech Elementary Mesa!
- Christine Kuhl Improvement CoachXChristine KuhlImprovement Coach
I am thrilled to be a founding staff member of HTeM as a 2nd grade teacher. I’ve been an educator for 21 years. I graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a B.A. in Psychology, earned multiple subject teaching credential through Cal State San Marcos, and earned a Master’s in Education from Chapman University with an emphasis in reading instruction. This school year I am pursuing my Special Education credential through the HTH Graduate School of Education.
I started my career in my hometown, San Diego, working in San Diego City Schools as an upper grade teacher and later as a literacy instruction peer coach where I served primarily emergent bilingual and refugee students. Afterwards I worked at an international school in Valencia, Venezuela for two years. It was during my time in Venezuela that I met my future husband, Robert. I made my way back to San Diego with Robert in tow, and luckily found a position working at High Tech High Explorer Elementary as an upper-grade teacher, where I worked for ten years. My family and I moved to Hawaii for the 2017-2018 school year to open up an elementary school at the Asia Pacific International School on North Shore, Oahu. After one enriching year in Hawaii, we made our way back to San Diego. My most recent work was with the HTH GSE’s Center for Research on Equity and Innovation.
My teaching passions are rooted in pedagogy that is culturally responsive, project-based, and service oriented. I believe that developing students to be socially-emotionally skilled is critical to helping students become their best selves and to make a true difference in the world. My hope is that all my students experience joy and feel a strong sense of belonging within our classroom community.
Outside of school you will find me outdoors, practicing yoga, hiking, traveling, learning, being a mama to my 4th-grade son and 1st-grade daughter, and spending time with family and friends.
- Madeline Roland 2nd Grade TeacherXMadeline Roland2nd Grade Teacher
I am very excited to be a founding staff member at HTeM as a 2nd grade teacher! I have recently received a multiple subject teaching credential as well as a special education teaching credential through Point Loma Nazarene University. I am currently pursuing my Master’s of Teaching through PLNU, as well.
I am originally from Columbia, Missouri and moved to San Diego in 2013 to attend the University of San Diego. There, I earned my Bachelor’s in Business Administration with a minor in Leadership Studies. After graduating, I spent time volunteering at the Monarch School as well as substitute teaching. These experiences grew my passion for teaching and empowering students.
Outside of the classroom I enjoy eating and making delicious food, shopping for new plants, and hanging out with my older brother (who moved to San Diego just last year)!
I look forward to growing and learning with you this year!
- Ruth Smith 2nd Grade TeacherXRuth Smith2nd Grade Teacher
Hello there! My name is Ruth Smith and I am a 2nd grade teacher. After graduating in June of 2008 from the University of California, San Diego, I took some time to travel and reflect on my next steps... After a year of traveling and volunteering for March of Dimes I went back to UCSD in which I received my Masters in Education and a Teaching Credential with an Elementary Mathematics Emphasis Certification. I began my career in August of 2011 as a Guided Reading Specialist and after a year I transitioned into my own classroom as a 1st grade teacher for the next 3 years. Just as soon as I was feeling all comfy and cozy, I decided it was time for a change, SO I transferred to a school that is located in an amazing community, and that's where you'll find me today! I have taught 2nd grade 3 of the past 4 years and it has been one of the most incredible experience of my career. The 2019-2020 school year will mark my 9th year as a teacher! This is such an amazing community and school and I am extremely excited to work here. I look forward to meeting all of you. Thank you and I look forward to a productive year!
- Monique Knight DirectorXMonique KnightDirector
More than anything else, I feel my true calling is in the classroom with teachers and students. And it is this love for classroom teaching and learning that I hope to bring to my leadership role at HTe Mesa. Prior to joining the High Tech High community, I taught primary grades in New York City public schools for seven years and served as a literacy specialist for another ten years at the Columbia Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. In that role, I had the privilege of supporting teachers, coaches and administrators across the United States, and in international cities such as Paris and Shanghai. Wonderful as that work was, I missed being in a school community on a day to day basis––a yearning that led me to forge a role as an academic director and instructional coach at the Harlem Village Academy in Harlem, New York. This was a particularly thrilling role that allowed me to combine these administrative duties with daily teaching in a kindergarten classroom.
I’m thrilled to be joining the Clairemont neighborhood and the greater High Tech High community alongside my husband and four children. We all look forward to making San Diego our new home.
- Paula Camarda Site ManagerXPaula CamardaSite Manager
I have been with the High Tech organization for 10 years and currently serve as the Site Manager at HTeM. For the past 10 years, I have worked at High Tech Elementary Explorer and am very excited to begin a new chapter at HTeM. What I love most about my job is building relationships with the children, families and staff. I currently reside in San Diego where I have 2 children, and in my free time I enjoy going for hikes and spending time with my family.
- Cynthia Aguilar Aftercare AssistantXCynthia AguilarAftercare Assistant
- Tawny Dealva 1st Grade STEM Exploratory TeacherXTawny Dealva1st Grade STEM Exploratory Teacher
Hello students, families, and the community! My name is Tawny De Alva and I am thrilled to be a part of the launch of High Tech Elementary Mesa this year. I will be your child's STEAM exploratory teacher as well as an induction mentor for new teachers. This is very exciting-- all the creative tabs of my mind are open right now!I was born and raised in San Diego, California, where I completed my undergraduate degree at UCSD, majoring in Sociology and minoring in both Teacher Education and Ethnic Studies. I have been teaching since 2005, where I have taught TK-2nd grade, with a long emphasis in Kindergarten. In 2013, I received my Master's of Art in Teaching at SDSU with a concentration in Language Arts Curriculum and Instruction. In my teaching career, I have been honored "Mama Cub of the Year" at King/Chavez Primary Academy in Barrio Logan, as well as served on the founding team of Hawking STEAM Charter Schools in Chula Vista. I hope you feel my passion in building kindness and empathy, transforming education, as well as connecting with your child, as we explore projects and STEAM together!I have three children myself, and I know how much time, energy, and commitment it takes to fully prepare them for the world. Hats off to you, parents! In all honesty, a beautiful moment to me is enjoying a cup of coffee, fresh air, and laughter. A clean house and occasional shopping doesn't hurt either, right?I am so privileged to work alongside this amazing team of educators, and I look forward to crossing paths with you on campus. Go Mesa!!
- Candice Drain Academic CoachXCandice DrainAcademic Coach
- Gabrielle DuThinh Art Exploratory TeacherXGabrielle DuThinhArt Exploratory Teacher
Gabrielle DuThinh was born and raised in the Metropolitan Washington DC area where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Studio Art at the University of Maryland, College Park. Before moving to San Diego she taught visual arts, ceramics and pottery for three years at a private art school. Upon arriving in San Diego she worked as a Vietnamese interpreter for the EUSD while earning her multiple-subject teaching credential at CSUSM. Shortly after her credentialing program she became one of the founding faculty members of HTeNC. After one year she moved to HTMNC where she taught 6th grade Humanities for four years. She then branched out and taught visual arts at another public charter school in the San Diego area. She is thrilled to return to the High Tech High organization as a part of this new and exciting time for the Mesa campus and community.
When not at school, Gabrielle loves to be with her family and friends. She loves all things active, outdoors, and anything that exercises her imagination and creativity.
- Victoria Hankins Academic CoachXVictoria HankinsAcademic Coach
- Clare Jones Academic CoachXClare JonesAcademic Coach
- Kaylee Jones Aftercare AssistantXKaylee JonesAftercare Assistant
- Sarah Kelly Academic CoachXSarah KellyAcademic Coach
- Kalani Krause Aftercare AssistantXKalani KrauseAftercare Assistant
- Cathryn Magielnicki School PsychologistXCathryn MagielnickiSchool Psychologist
- Madison McGrew Academic CoachXMadison McGrewAcademic Coach
- Angel Mendoza Academic CoachXAngel MendozaAcademic Coach
Hello! My name is Angel Mendoza and I am extremely honored to be starting my new journey at High Tech High Mesa as an Academic Coach. It is truly amazing finding a community that is so passionate and determined to facilitate such a unique and empowering environment for all students. I am currently pursuing my M. Ed in Special Education with Multi-subject Credential at the University of San Diego. I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology at National University. I am proud to say that I grew up experiencing the rich culture of Barrio Logan, where community, unity, and family, were constantly being celebrated.
My biggest passion has to be living an active and healthy lifestyle. I grew playing soccer, football, and basketball with the neighborhood kids. I learned how to play the drum set, timbales, and congas to play at cultural events with my friends and family. When I got older I learned how to dance many Latin dance styles from Salsa, Merengue, Batchata, Cha Cha, Ballroom, and more. As I got older, I got into boxing, kickboxing, and rock climbing. However, Music was my main passion.
It has always been a passion of mine to teach, guide, motivate, and inspire children. Becoming an educator helps me practice that every day. My goal is to look into the eyes of each student and reinforce the endless potential they hold within themselves. To show that education is a powerful resource that can truly empower them in the future. I aim to inspire their inner determination, tenacity, and innovation beyond their own expectations and break through any limitation they have set before themselves. As a teacher, I intend to model respect, compassion, and positive self-esteem every day with interpersonal connections and empathetic conversations. My hopes are to lay a foundation for a community based atmosphere. By creating an environment that facilitates personal growth, productivity, self-efficacy, and students can and will be equipped to be positive role models now and in the future.
It is a passion of mine to create an inclusive educational system that is conducive to all students. To accommodate the diversity of needs, recognize the pace of development, and respond with flexible ranges of responses and recommendations. I want to identify barriers and aim to reduce or eliminate them. It is essential that all students invest in themselves, take pride in their culture, and find their own creative way to utilize education to make this world a better place.
- Alexandria Osei-Amoako Instructional Coach XAlexandria Osei-AmoakoInstructional Coach
Alexandria is so grateful to join the team at HTeM. She was an early childhood teacher (pre-K through 2nd grade) for six years before moving on to work as a Director, Programs at Teach For America. There she coached teachers on bringing diversity, equity and inclusion into the classroom using culturally relevant pedagogy.
She has a Masters in Women's History (Sarah Lawrence College) and a Masters of Science in Childhood Education (Progressive Education Institute). She is passionate about helping students feel valued, confident and secure in who they are. She is excited about the journey ahead and hopes to work closely with both parents and teachers in order to create the best outcomes for students.
- Lisa Quintana Aftercare Program DirectorXLisa QuintanaAftercare Program Director
Lisa was 10 years old when she moved back to the United States after living 9 years overseas in Japan. California became her forever home and she finished her schooling in the South Bay community. Lisa first joined the High Tech team in 2012 as a youth leader for High Tech Elementary in Chula Vista. She worked part time for the after school program until she moved on to become an academic coach. She briefly left High Tech to finish her Liberal Studies Degree at Cal State University, Monterey Bay. There she continued to work with extended services at a number of different schools in Northern California. After receiving her BA she returned to San Diego to once again join the High Tech family. She worked at HTMCV as a program leader, activities coordinator and athletic director until she transferred to HTMMA.
During her free time, you can catch her strolling through the Little Italy’s Mercato or out with her dog. She loves to be active in the Italian community and enjoys spending time with her niece and nephew. She is highly competitive and plays in a number of adult leagues around San Diego with her husband.
- Aileen Rittal Aftercare AssistantXAileen RittalAftercare Assistant
- Samantha Sevilla Academic CoachXSamantha SevillaAcademic Coach
- Bethany Tipton Inclusion SpecialistXBethany TiptonInclusion Specialist
Bethany is the HTeM team as an Education Specialist supporting the K-2nd teams in her 8th year of teaching. Bethany is excited to continue to develop the culture of inclusion by providing specific structure and supports for learners to thrive in her 5th year within the High Tech High community.
Bethany is one part, local San Diegan, and one part San Franciscan. Prior to joining the HTeM team, Bethany worked in the San Francisco Bay Area as a special education teacher of the upper elementary grades. She received her Masters in Special Education from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, and her Bachelors of Science in International Studies from Point Loma Nazarene University. Through her formal education, Bethany has explored the characteristics of a successful school and community garden in San Diego, and San Francisco. She developed the conviction that experiential learning (and sometimes rolling up our sleeves and getting dirty) acts as the best medium for cultivating genuine engagement and intellectual growth when she established a school garden at an elementary school. She is passionate in supporting teachers with the implementation of Universal Design for Learning and is relentless about developing best practices for her field. She is a major proponent for the Zones of Regulation and Social Thinking programs. Bethany believes that fostering student self-advocacy is essential for transformative educational growth.
Outside of HTeM, Bethany is finding the perfect cup of coffee, practicing yoga, playing a card game, training for the Rock and Roll Half Marathon, and planning a wedding.
- Tiffany Zuniga Aftercare Assistant XTiffany ZunigaAftercare Assistant