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Staff Directory

  • Lisa Gore
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    Lisa Gore
    Kindergarten Teacher

  • Vanesa Murrieta
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    Vanesa Murrieta
    Kindergarten Teacher

  • Adylan Rigdon
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    Adylan Rigdon
    Kindergarten Teacher

1st Grade
  • Dana Gaertner
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    Dana Gaertner
    1st Grade Teacher

    My name is Dana Gaertner, and I’m excited to join the HTeX team this year as a First Grade Teacher!

    I grew up and went to school in a small dairy farming community in rural Wisconsin. From there I gradually made my way West, teaching and learning in large urban school districts in both Minnesota and Colorado. I began my career in education as a Kindergarten and First Grade teacher in Denver Public Schools, and then worked as a Data & Instructional Coach, and School Improvement Partner while I finished graduate school for Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Denver (DU).

    In 2017 I visited the HTH system with my leadership cohort at DU, and was intrigued by the joy and visible Project Based Learning that I saw in every classroom. Later that year, I moved to San Diego to work as a Mentor Teacher for Thrive Public Schools. At Thrive, I taught a 3rd and 4th grade combination class, and led exciting projects in Aquaponics, Constellations, and Circuitry of the Human Brain. I also mentored intern teachers, and created professional development for all staff in teaching early writers. 

    Along with my passion for early literacy and the design process, I also enjoy cooking, urban homesteading, engineering and design, the beach, and travel. I’m thrilled at the opportunity to teach our earliest learners again, and am really looking forward to learning more about each child’s individual strengths, interests, and experiences!

  • Patricia Lim
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    Patricia Limclick here to go to Patricia Lim\s digital portfolio
    1st Grade Teacher

    Patricia Lim loves teaching at Explorer! She is passionate about teaching and learning with her students and encouraging creativity and deep thinking. Prior to teaching at Explorer, Patricia taught for three years at a charter school in the Chula Vista Elementary School District. She holds a B.A. in Psychology, a Multiple Subject teaching credential, and a Master of Education degree from UCSD. Aside from teaching, Patricia enjoys traveling, painting, making jewelry, and spending time with her son who is a graduate of Explorer.
2nd Grade
  • Marissa Funk
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    Marissa Funk
    2nd Grade Teacher

    Marissa has been teaching at Explorer since 2010, primarily in second and third grade. She holds a B.A. in Sociology, a Multiple Subject Credential and Masters of Education from UCSD. When she isn't teaching, Marissa loves spending time with her family in the great outdoors.
  • Mara Gonzales
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    Mara Gonzales
    2nd Grade Teacher

  • Rhea Manguil
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    Rhea Manguil
    2nd Grade Teacher

    Rhea absolutely loves teaching at Explorer. She has been at Explorer since 2007 and continues to thoroughly enjoy growing and learning as a teacher, mother, and human being. She earned her teaching credential at San Diego State and recently earned a M.Ed. in Educational Leadership at the HTH Graduate School of Education. Rhea has taught every grade in the K-5 setting, except for fourth grade.

    Rhea and her husband, Brandon, met when they were ten years old. They have been married for nearly twenty years and have three children (all Explorer alum and current students at HTH schools). In her spare time, she likes to play the ukulele, woodwork, and enjoy beach days with Brandon and the kids.
3rd Grade
  • Danielle Phillips
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    Danielle Phillips
    3rd Grade Teacher

  • Anna Tom
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    Anna Tom
    3rd Grade Teacher

    Hello all. My name is Anna. I was born in San Francisco with my twin sister, but I spend my first five years in Guangzhou, China. At age 6, I moved back to California where we were raised in Los Angeles. I  decided to move to San Diego to earn my B.A in Sociology at University of California, San Diego. After receiving my B.A  I brought my passion for teaching to the rural parts of South Korea to serve English language learners from K-6th grade. When I  finished teaching in South Korea, I decided to go back to UCSD to earn my Multiple Subjects Credential and Masters in Education Studies. During that time, I learned a great deal about bilingual education, so once I finished my Masters program I went abroad and taught 1st and 3rd grade in an International School in China. There I continued to work with English language learners and learn more about the Chinese language and culture. Although I love to travel, I am California girl at heart. After teaching in China, I moved to Berkeley, California, where I taught Kindergarten for the last two years.

    In my spare time I like to spend time with my sisters and drink boba milk tea. I also likes outdoor activities such as hiking, running, and cycling. I  identify herself as a lifelong learner and enjoys taking professional development and binge on TED Talk videos. ​
4th Grade
  • Shira Feifer
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    Shira Feifer
    4th Grade Teacher

  • Meg Hassey
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    Meg Hassey
    4th Grade Teacher

    Meg graduated with her Bachelor's degree in Anthropology and Education from Colby College, in Maine. After college, she moved to Boston, where she completed her Master's in Effective Teaching. She spent two years teaching second grade at a Boston charter school before returning to sunny California! Meg began at Explorer in 2018, and has taught both third and fourth grade at the school.

    When not at school, you can find Meg doing something active outside (hiking, biking, running, playing soccer, or swimming at the beach), reading, traveling, or spending time with her family and friends.
  • Jessica Lewis
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    Jessica Lewis
    4th Grade teacher

    Jessica moved to San Diego 6 years ago from Northern California to attend SDSU. She received a degree in  Education. with an emphasis in Elementary Literacy and Performing Arts. During her time at SDSU, she had the opportunity to study abroad and realized her passion for traveling and global education. She received her teaching credential and Master's from the University of San Diego last year. During this time she student taught at High Tech Explorer and was ecstatic to stay on board for the 2017-2018 school year.

    When Jessica isn't at school she loves cooking, traveling, reading, and yoga.
5th Grade
  • Kalin Cameron
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    Kalin Cameron
    5th Grade Teacher

  • Rebecca Frost
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    Rebecca Frost
    5th Grade Teacher

    Becky Frost earned her B.A. in Diversified Liberal Arts at the University of San Diego. She has been at Explorer since 2004 and prior to that taught 5th grade in San Francisco for five years. During those years she led a Technology Leadership Academy and led teacher workshops in the use of technology to support classroom curriculum.
Education Specialists
  • Jeff Burnham
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    Jeff Burnham
    Apprentice Education Specialist

  • Heather Love
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    Heather Love
    Education Specialist

    Heather Love is a native of San Diego and a graduate of Point Loma Nazarene University. She studied abroad on Semester at Sea visiting 11 countries while earning a Bachelors degree in Elementary Education and Studio Art. She is dual credentialed in both Elementary Education and  Special Education. Heather's love for travel began at an early age. She experienced her first study abroad experience by living with a family in Japan for the summer after 6th grade.

    In her free time, Heather enjoys reading, photography, Disneyland and going on adventures around San Diego with her sons (One a student at HTe and the other at HTMMA).

    An experienced educator, Heather was a founding faculty member at HTe and has now been a part of the amazing HTeX community for three years.
  • Taryn Serna
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    Taryn Serna
    Education Specialist

    Taryn has spent the last five years working as a Resource Specialist, most recently at High Tech Middle North County. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from UC Santa Barbara and an Education Specialist Credential and M.Ed. in Special Education from the University of San Diego. Aside from teaching, Taryn enjoys gardening, hiking, and taking road trips with her husband. She is thrilled to be joining the staff of Explorer Elementary!
School Wide Support
  • Briony Chown Director
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    Briony Chown

    Briony is thrilled to be going into her fifth year as Director of High Tech Elementary Explorer and her eighth year with the Explorer team.

    After beginning her teaching career in her native London, England,  Briony sought out High Tech High after researching schools around the world where students were engaged, empowered and able to create work that mattered to them and their communities. In her work in High Tech Elementary Explorer, Briony has seen the transformative potential of project-based learning and intentional social and emotional practices. As a teacher Briony specialized in projects that empowered students as artists and writers, taking her class camping and partnering with local bookstores and organizations which support military families. She has worked with teachers across the United States and in Hong Kong on developing projects that engage students and empower teachers.

    Outside of school, Briony enjoys hiking, camping, reading, theater and traveling with her husband and twin two year olds.
  • Kamilah Abdul-Alim Dean
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    Kamilah Abdul-Alim

    Kamilah Abdul-Alim is an experienced educator, mentor and teacher leader. She has an extensive background in Readers, Writers and Math Workshop models as well as, social emotional learning. Kamilah feels strongly that teaching students about the impact of their emotions and effective ways to address adversity is essential to their social-emotional well-being and academic success. She has been with HTeX for the last two years teaching 4th and 5th grade.  One of her core beliefs is that in a PBL environment, projects must be transformative.  In her words, "Projects should have a lasting impact on yourself, your community or the world." 

    Kamilah grew up three hours north of San Diego in Oxnard, California. She attended UC Santa Barbara and double majored in Political Science (emphasis Public Service) and African/African-American Studies.  She has a Masters degree in Teaching and Curriculum from the University of Rochester. She spent five years teaching in Rochester, NY and thirteen years teaching in Seattle, Washington before moving back to California and joining HTeX.

    As Dean, Kamilah is eager to utilize her knowledge and experiences to create positive learning opportunities for all students and educators.  When away from school, Kamilah enjoys walking on the beach, reading, watching movies, traveling, swimming and spending time with the men in her life (husband, 3 sons).

  • Maggie Fragoso Site Manager
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    Maggie Fragoso
    Site Manager

  • Tatiana Steward Aftercare Manager
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    Tatiana Steward
    Aftercare Manager

  • Brad Bookser IT Director
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    Brad Bookser
    IT Director

  • Laura Bookser Librarian
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    Laura Bookser

  • Luar Cervantes Student Support Coordinator
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    Luar Cervantes
    Student Support Coordinator

  • Tony Thomas IT Systems Manager
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    Tony Thomas
    IT Systems Manager

    Hailed from the Keystone State, Pennsylvania, where I grew until my early twenties. Then started my journey west to start college, at the University of Montana, in Missoula. Earned a Bachelors of Science in Nursing, from Montana State University, in Bozeman. Along the way I studied ceramics in Missoula as well. That is where I realized my interest  in the arts. Over the years since I have occasionally joined a studio to throw pots. More recently I have been in a Ceramics Career Tech Education class at Coronado Adult Education. Joined HTH from Mater Dei Catholic High School. Where I worked as a IT Systems Administrator for 8 years. I love being a part of the education system. When away from school I enjoy anything outdoors and active. I love the mountains and the ocean.