As an Expeditions Team, we’re pretty darn proud of who we are and what we do. Here’s the low-down…
Each member of the Expeditions Team ensures a high-achieving, engaging learning environment that pushes students to do more than they think they can, giving students the opportunity to explore passions and career paths that they may not have been exposed to before or even considered.
Our Mission: Expeditions Team plays an essential role in helping and supporting Summit Public Schools mission of preparing a diverse student population for success in college and to be thoughtful, contributing members of society. Expeditions is not only to support in teaching you academic skills - content, cognitive skills, and habits of success - but to also provide you with in-depth studies and real-world experiences in areas you are passionate about to help you discover new interests, explore existing ones, and dive into authentic experiences that will get you out of the classroom and into the world.
So, meet our team for the 2015-16 academic school year!
Kelly Shannon originally hails from the East Coast. Kelly attended a unique public school in New England which had a mission statement of ‘expanding your comfortable limits’; a formative experience in her teenage years that proved very supportive beyond the walls of high school. After completing her Bachelor's degree and then Masters in Social Work, Kelly traveled to developing countries with NGO’s where she was greatly enriched by this work but also experienced burn out. Kelly returned to the states, sought out additional practices to refuel and worked with organizations that focused on Advocacy, Training and Education.
Having been more aware of global issues including having had the opportunity to advocate for policy issues regarding a youth’s right to education, Kelly saw that she could create the most impact in the world within the education sector. Kelly brings a strong and diverse background working with youth, with a special focus on wellness, mindfulness and social emotional learning. Her passion for Restorative Justice in schools has already supported the Expeditions Team in their curriculum and instruction and will be an asset to all Summit schools. She was introduced to the Summit community by being an instructor with the Intersession program in it's last and taught as a founding teacher in Expedition's first year. Kelly loved her role as Assistant Director with Expeditions last year and is thrilled to be heading into the third year with the Expedition program in the role of Executive Director; a position and program which aligns well with her educational philosophy and purpose.
Kelly’s in San Francisco with the love of her life. Her preferred sweet treat is dark chocolate and she loves to paint using bright colors. Kelly enjoys finding ways to transform seemingly complex yet important topics into engaging and empowering experiences for and with others!
Caitlin Reilly is the Assistant Director of Expeditions and will lead the team at Summit Prep, Everest, Rainier and Tahoma. Caitlin is a DC native who, after growing up in northern Virginia and beginning her education career in DC, recently made the move to the West Coast and is incredibly excited to join the Expeditions Team. After studying Accounting and Spanish at the University of Virginia, she joined the Teach for America program in DC and began as a high school Spanish teacher. During that time, she earned her Masters of Teaching from American University, and grew into teacher leadership as an instructional coach for Spanish, art, music and PE teachers. Through a partnership with LearnServe International, Caitlin led diverse groups of DC-area students on service-learning trips to Paraguay for three summers. Following five years of teaching, she moved to Boston, earned a Masters of School Leadership at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and then returned to her DC charter network. She led the middle school as Vice Principal of Instruction, and her work focused on instructional coaching, professional development, academic interventions and assessment and data use. Caitlin is a die-hard baseball fan (go Nats!) and is on a mission to continue a tradition that her family began to see home games in all 30 stadiums. She has seven to go!
Linda manages the Internship Program and Independent Study Program in San Jose. She is the co-leader, alongside Kat Hopkins, of the Internship Program in Redwood City.
Linda Stevenin is co-leader of Career Expeditions at SPS. She brings huge passion and over 30 years experience to her work with Summit Public Schools’ Expeditions Team. In addition to her recent Facilities Development work, Linda directed Summit Public Schools’ unique experiential learning focused Intersession program for 3 years and launched the Internship program for the Redwood City schools. As Bay Area Regional Director for High Tech High, Linda managed the $4 million renovation of an industrial building into a design award winning high school. Concurrently, she created HTH Bayshore’s internship program based on the HTH model. Prior to High Tech High, she worked with educators and local parents to open a charter high school, San Carlos High School, where she served on the Board of Directors and acted as Interim Executive Director. Linda joined CAS Architects in 1981, became a Principal in 1988, playing a leading role in the architecture and interiors firm until 2001, when she resigned to pursue her dream of transforming local public education on a full time basis. Linda received a B.A. in Education/Organizational Studies from Pitzer College and a MA.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction at Notre Dame de Namur University. She is a licensed architect in the state of California.
Kathryn Hopkins manages the Internship Program and Independent Study Program in Redwood City with Linda Stevenin.
Kathryn Hopkins is co-leader of Career Expeditions at SPS. She is passionate about the opportunities and real-world learning that occurs in experiential education programs. Prior to joining SPS she was a co-founding Director of Aim High in Redwood City, a summer education program for underserved youth. She loves reconnecting with Aim High graduates who are now students at Summit Prep and Everest.
Kathryn’s experiences as an educator also include teaching US History at the Dunn School, and environmental science and outdoor education at the Headlands Institute of Naturebridge. After returning to graduate school she served as Policy Research Associate for the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and their Communities at Stanford University where she researched state and local policy, published several briefs, and co-authored a book on the field of youth development. Currently, Kathryn serves as a founder of a new elementary charter school in Redwood City and has served on the Board of Directors of several educational non-profit organizations in the Bay Area. Kathryn received a BA in Education and Public Policy from Brown University, MA in Administration and Policy Analysis from Stanford’s Graduate School of Education, and MA in Sociology from UCSC. She loves to be outside whenever possible and spend time with her two young children who often lead their mom on mini-expeditionary adventures.
As a child of immigrants from Vietnam, Abdulwahid (Abdul) Duso was born and raised in San Jose, attended San Jose High Academy, received his B.A from UC Berkeley in Arabic Language and Literature (minor: Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology), and his M.A from Columbia University. While in college, his love for language and literature took him to Cairo, Egypt, where he had the opportunity to travel throughout the Middle East and teach English to refugee adult learners. After completing grad school, he was inspired to enter the college access field, where he worked as a College Access Counselor and supervisor at HS2 Academy. After having gone through college applications and putting himself through both undergraduate and graduate schools–—both firsts in his family–—he firmly believes that, with the right resources and support, ALL students can attend and succeed in college. He is excited to continue on the Expeditions Team at Summit Public Schools, helping students to take charge of their education and futures!
Abdul teaches College Readiness to 11th graders at Tahoma, Rainier, Everest, and Summit Prep.
Tia was born and raised in Southern California, but for the past seven years she has had the privilege of calling beautiful Northern California her home. She received a BA in Psychology from Sacramento State University (Go Hornets!). During her time at Sac State, she participated in a program to help foster youth, like herself, graduate from college. It was during this experience where she realized her passion for education, specifically in the college access and retention field.
Since 2009 Tia has worked with a range of students from middle school to graduate school including: adult learners, refugees, undocumented youth, homeless/at-risk youth, and first-generation college going students. She is passionate about every aspect of her work and displays this while working with her students and their parents. She wholeheartedly believes a college education is the path to empowerment and changing the world. She strives to have every last one of her students feel the power higher education can give them!
Tia teaches College Readiness to 11th graders at Shasta, Rainier, Everest, and Summit Prep.
Anndrea Fernandez is a California native who grew up in Southern California and moved to sunny Santa Cruz to attend UCSC. After graduating with high honors from UCSC with her degree in English Language Literature including an emphasis in both History and Theater she took three years off from school to work for a plane ticket so she could travel and explore. She has had the great privilege of visiting 15 countries (there’s a prize for anyone who can guess them all) and her trusty backpack has the wear and tear to prove it! She believes that reaching outside of your comfort zone to discover humanity in as many places as possible is one of life’s greatest joys. This core belief is what lead her into teaching at a very young age. She comes from a long line of educators and has been tutoring or mentoring professionally since she was 11 years old. Some would say teaching is in her bones.
Ever since she first got a taste of what it means to help a student achieve and learn at such a young age she has worked with private institutions, UCSC, and individual clients to help students reach literacy and content goals. And she has loved every minute of it! Knowing she wanted to take her life’s passion to the next level she recently completed the Masters of Art in Teaching program at USC with a 4.0 cumulative GPA before finding her way to Summit Public schools last year. She steps into the classroom everyday ready to help students explore their common humanity, personal empowerment and hidden skills through Theater and Creative Writing. These themes have been a major influence in her life and she relishes the chance to help foster a love for these disciplines in as many young minds as she can!
This year, Anndrea is teaching Empowerment Through Creative Writing and Introduction to the Dramatic Arts.
Alex Pelletier was born in Boston, MA. He went to UMass Boston and got his degree in Liberal Arts. Interested in all things digital media, Alex was always experimenting with cameras and technology, and enjoyed documenting everyday life; traveling, cycling, exploring, and camping. His experience behind the lens allowed him the opportunity to work on commercials for companies such as Nike, Mountain Dew and Converse.
Alex had a great experience mentoring high school students at a video production company, and his love for this ignited a passion to continue teaching film at the high school level. While Alex has taught photography and guitar in the past with Expeditions, this year - due to popular demand - he is focusing solely on imparting his passion for Film and Video Production to students!
Rebecca Mesch is originally from Sunnyvale, CA and graduated from the University of California, Irvine where she studied choral music, French and Japanese as well as obtaining her teaching credential in Music. Rebecca has sung extensively in choirs at the university level and beyond, competing in international music competitions in England and Wales as well as conducting and leading choirs at various levels from elementary through university.
After spending two years abroad teaching in Japan from 2012-2014, Rebecca is back in California and thrilled to share her passion for music (and intercultural education!) with Summit students. Rebecca currently sings with the Santa Clara chorale which performs regularly around the Bay Area. When she’s not singing or teaching, she enjoys dancing, learning languages, and travel.
Kalyn Olson was born in San Diego, CA. She played every sport possible before discovering a love for lacrosse, which she played all four years at UCLA. After having the opportunity to study contemporary art in high school, Kalyn decided to major in Art History at UCLA and added a second major in Economics because she was convinced that would be more applicable in the real world. Upon graduating, she put both degrees to good use working at a fine art gallery while also coaching lacrosse at a local high school. Before becoming an Expeditions Teacher, Kalyn was the West Coast Gallery Director representing the fine art publications of the artists’ workshop Gemini G.E.L. She is excited to share her love of art with Summit Public Schools!
During the 2015-2016 school year, Kalyn will be teaching Introduction to Visual Arts at Denali, K2, Shasta and Summit Prep.
Matthew Hesby has been an educator for over 8 years, and has experience teaching middle schoolers, high schoolers, as well as adults from various socioeconomic backgrounds. He graduated from University of California, Santa Cruz with a Bachelor's degree in Molecular Cell Biology, a Teaching Credential, and a Master's degree in Education. This is Matt's first year on the Expeditions team, and he is eager to share his knowledge and excitement for Computer Science.
Matt will be teaching Introduction to Coding to Denali Middle School students and Computer Science and Information Technology to High Schoolers at Shasta, Everest, and Summit Prep.
Tatyana Rikhter is a passionate and dedicated educator who has over 8 years of experience of working with youth in a variety of different settings. Her professional background includes teaching at a community college and high school as well as working with students through mentoring and tutoring programs. She also assisted in teaching undergraduate college courses and spent over four years doing empirical research at two State Universities. Tatyana graduated summa cum laude from University of North Texas, where she earned a master’s degree (MS) in Development and Family Studies. She also holds a bachelor of arts (BA) in Psychology and bachelor of science (BS) in Child Learning and Development from The University of North Texas at Dallas.
After teaching at Summit for the past two years as a Psychology Intersession teacher, she joined the Expeditions Team as a full time faculty last year. As an Expeditions Teacher, she hopes to continue to support and empower students through each of her classes and help students reach full potential in all aspects of their lives. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and enjoys reading, traveling, and taking long walks around the city.
Tatyana teaches Psychology and Human Sexuality at Tahoma, Rainier, Summit Prep, and Everest.
Lia Pinelli is teaching Girl Club and Human Sexuality at Tahoma, Rainier, Summit Prep, and Everest.
Lissa Thiele teaches Holocaust: An In-Depth Study and Sociology of Law at Tahoma, Rainier, Summit Prep, and Everest.
Lissa Thiele was born in San Francisco, CA. She attended UC Santa Cruz where she majored in History. She received her Master’s Degree in History and Graduate Certificate in Jewish Studies, from San Francisco State University. She also has her California State Teaching Credential Single Subject in Social Science. Before becoming a teacher, Lissa was the Director of Community Outreach and Speakers Bureau at the Holocaust Center of Northern California (HCNC). As an educator, Lissa strives to look closely at the past to help create awareness and leadership today and in the future. The quote “If you cannot remember the past, then you are condemned to repeat it,” resonates in her classroom and throughout life. Lissa will be teaching two year-long expeditions including Sociology of Law, and Holocaust and genocide Part II; an in depth study. One thing you may not know about Lissa is that she played four years of NCAA women’s basketball for the UCSC Banana Slugs, and can dunk on you. This year will be her third year as an Expeditions Teacher at Summit Schools.
Nicole Saal was born and raised in Portola Valley, CA. She has earned a Master’s Degree in Education and a Bachelor’s Degree in Spanish Language Arts and Culture from the University of San Diego. She has also obtained a Professional Designation Associate of Arts Degree in Merchandise Product Development from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles.
As a yoga instructor, Nicole holds a 500-hour Advanced certificate, specializing in Yoga for Teens, Next Generation Yoga for Kids ages 2-13, along with Restorative and Hatha Yoga. She is a passionate teacher and student, an endless pursuer of knowledge and lover of all things beautiful. Nicole has been practicing yoga for over 10 years, striving to redefine what it means to be a yogi through injecting fun and laughter into her classes, making yoga accessible for everyone.
From an early age, Nicole has also had a passion for art, fashion and design. Working her way up from unpaid apprentice to lead designer for two well-respected brands in the industry, she immersed herself into the trenches of the elusive fashion world. She continues to find inspiration from her surroundings, including her students. She loves sharing her enthusiasm for yoga and health, as well as fashion, encouraging her students to take risks, have fun, and most of all, be authentic.
This year, Nicole will be teaching Fashion and Yoga at Shasta, Everest, and Summit Prep.
Practiced Educator and Social Worker, Audry Welch is passionate about creating culturally-minded, globally-oriented, community-centered experiences for youth. Audry graduated from University of Dayton in 2005, with a degree in Education. Since that time, Audry has taught recreation, design thinking, and restorative justice courses in schools, summer camps, and youth mental health centers.
Audry began her career teaching in the Midwest in 2005, relocating to the Bay Area in 2013 to teach design thinking and entrepreneurship in summer camps for international students. In 2014, Audry had the privilege of leading a group of young women entrepreneurs in pitching their inventions to Maker Faire: European Edition in Rome, Italy. Altogether, Audry’s strongest educational passion includes preparing youth to develop their personal identity within a rapidly changing global culture. Audry's is passionate about helping students develop their unique personal identities, better understand their role within their local communities and best engage in critical global issues. In her free time, Audry enjoys Ecstatic Dance, SLAM poetry, singing in the car, and playing with kittens.
Zev Vernon-Lapow (Mr. Z) is excited to join the Expeditions team this year teaching Computer Science and Creativity Unleashed. was born in a creative household. His dad, an artist, educator and musician, taught him about creativity as a way of life. Zev has played with visual art, design, video production, music production and more in both personal and professional capacities. He has showcased photos in museums, colleges in coffee shops, videos in film festivals and designed t-shirts sold in major retailers. He finds joy in creating new things and is absolutely excited about embarking on a study of creativity with students as they find their voice, play with new mediums and solve a range of creative challenges.
Prior to working at Summit, Zev worked in schools, summer camps, recreation centers and educational non-profit organizations. He earned his BA in History at UC Santa Cruz, where he focused on Student Media, having a funk radio show and editing the City and Campus news desks for the student newspaper. He earned his teaching credential through the Public Allies fellowship at Eagle Rock School, an alternative residential school that prioritizes project-based learning in an intentional community. Outside of school Zev loves to spend time in nature, travel, and do creative activities, such as design, music and video production.
With a life-long focus in communication arts and education, Skye has worked in television, documentary and web production, overseen a nationally recognized film nonprofit, co-founded a film festival, and taught communication courses at San Francisco State University and City College of San Francisco. Currently consulting for innovative media nonprofits, such as Art With Impact, Skye applies a decade's worth of experience in youth arts education at world-renown institutions such as the San Francisco Fine Arts Museums and the American Museum of the Moving Image to facilitate community, audience and student engagement. Besides these professional interests, Skye loves spending time with her family, cooking/eating diverse food, and dancing. Skye earned a B.A. from UC Berkeley’s Film Studies program and a M.A. from San Francisco State University’s Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts program.
Skye is teaching Media Literacy at K2 and Shasta.
Veronica is proud to be a San Jose native. As the daughter of a Portuguese immigrant father and a SoCal transplant mother, the ocean is her honorary parent and she learned to swim before learning to walk.
She attended San Jose High Academy and then entered UC Berkeley in 2005. Worried a degree in history might prove too profitable one day, she chose a concentration in Medieval Europe. In a desperate attempt to make her father stop complaining about her field of study, she also minored in Luso-Brazilian Language and Literature with an emphasis on post-colonial development in Lusophone areas.
Veronica started teaching after being rejected for employment by all of Silicon Valley’s finest companies, but it quickly became the only profession she can imagine doing for the rest of her life. She began teaching World, European, and US History at an after-school college-prep program and eventually transitioned into the role of college admissions counselor.
As the first woman in her generation, on either side of the family, to earn a college degree, she is passionate about expanding access to a college education for all students, regardless of resources or background. When she’s not collecting embarrassing anecdotes about US Presidents to spark students’ interest in history, you can find her drinking far too much coffee and singing far too loudly along with her car stereo.
Alex Mendiola teaches Music Production for students at Rainier and Tahoma.
Alexander Mendiola is a Media Mentor for Peapod Adobe Youth Voices Academy, MACLA’s academy for digital media and youth arts education. Experienced in youth development, he has served as an instructor of recording arts at PAYVA since 2011, and has previously worked with a local YMCA teen center. A Santa Clara Valley native, Mendiola grew up in his parents' independent video and music shop, where he developed a passion for and understanding of eclectic genres. He has also trained in voice and in a wide variety of instruments, including violin and bass guitar, which furthered his knowledge of both the technical and evolutionary aspects of music, as well as audio engineering. In addition, Mendiola has worked as a stagehand at large venues, including the San Jose HP Arena and the Oracle Arena. Mendiola holds a Pro-tools Certification from the Music Technology Program at Foothill DeAnza College.
Alex Flores teaches Film and Video Production for students at Rainier and Tahoma.
Since his early days, Alex Flores has always had a passion for art, specifically visual and performing arts. He attended high school in an East San Jose community where he began to fine tune his craft. During his senior and junior years, he partook in the Adobe Youth Voices program and found his love for documentary filmmaking. While his love for dance never stopped, he produced a documentary short based on his journey in dance. This project influence him to pursue Film Production as a major in college.
While studying his new craft in filmmaking, he continued his pursuit in dance. Nine year later he is now teaching at two different studios and organizations. He teachers adult but Alex especially loves helping out youth in his hometown of San Jose through after school hip hop programs. His passion for dance how now commended a journey across the states to compete and he has plans to take his talents overseas. He is now a part of a local video production group that is responsible for making high-quality event coverage, documentary, and dance videos.
Alex’s mission is to share the benefits that his crafts has has given him with others. He seeks “life-giving” work that helps enrich the soul of others as well as himself.
Michelle Wilson -- AP Art Teacher
Michelle has been teaching art to high school and college students for over ten years including workshops in handmade paper, printmaking and folded paper structures. She received her MFA in Book Arts and Printmaking. She is also an active practicing artist. Her work takes the form of installations, sculptures, prints and artists books all made from or on paper she has made herself. The paper is typically made from plants she has grown or invasive plants she harvests. Her studio becomes a means of clearing habitat space for native ecology. Her work becomes narratives that contain dualities of ideas: the crossroads of politics and ecology, colonialism, natural history, wordplay, migration, vegetation, hidden truths and the loss of diversity. Her art has been exhibited throughout the United States as well as in Japan.
Michelle works with Expeditions as a contractor through the California School of Music and Arts. This year, she will be teaching AP Studio Art: Drawing to students at Tahoma, Rainier, Summit Prep, and Everest.
Geoff is a guest teacher with Expeditions through a contract with the Riekes Center. He leads the Rock Ensemble Course.
Geoff grew up in Menlo Park, California, and went to public school until high school, when he attended St. Francis in Mountain View. He then attended Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where he played water polo for four more years earning NCAA Division III All-American Honorable Mention in his last two seasons. He graduated with a degree in political science focusing on theory and philosophy. Shortly after, Geoff McCann attended and graduated from Musicians Institute in Los Angeles. Now Geoff teaches guitar lessons, jam class, electronic music production and helps out when needed in other areas.
Ron Johnson is a co-teacher of Modern Acting and Theater (alongside Estrella Esparza). He is an actor, rapper, musician, filmmaker and writer born and raised in northern California.
He has released numerous albums under the alias “PHILASIFER” and has had a career in Hiphop , Theatre , and TV/Film for the past 17 Years. He holds an AA Degree in Theatre Arts from Gavilan College in Gilroy ,CA, and graduated from the MCTC Acting Conservatory Program in San Diego , CA. He is a member of the industry’s professional association, Screen Actors Guild ( SAG/AFTRA).
Roberto Romo is co-teaching the class (alongside Elba Martinez) called Visual Arts: From Tienda to Tianguais at Tahoma and Rainier.
Born in Jalisco, México, Roberto Romo is a San Jose based illustrator. He studied art and design at Evergreen Valley College and at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco where he received his BFA in Illustration. Currently he is working on a series of 54 paintings based on Lotería Mexicana traditional board game. Each painting presents a simple narrative in which the subjects loosely relate to others in the series. Working from intuition, Romo paints directly on the boards; he never plans the images, nor does he do preliminary sketches: “My brush is my tracing pencil.”
Elba Raquel is co-teaching the class (alongside Roberto Romo) called Visual Arts: From Tienda to Tianguais at Tahoma and Rainier.
She was born and raised in San Jose. She studied at the San Francisco Academy of Art University and graduated in 2008 with a BFA in Illustration. Currently she teaches at the School of Arts and Culture @ MHP and the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Her colorful illustrations are reminiscent of the vibrant colors of her Mexican heritage. She creates art to get people talking about the social issues that affect people on a global scale, and to raise awareness on topics that are important to her and her community.
Veronica Vasquez is the lead teacher for the Art of Dance Course taught at Tahoma and Rainer.
A San Jose native, Veronica is trained in Contemporary, Modern, Jazz, Ballet, Cheerleading, Tap, Liturgical, Hip Hop, basic ballroom dance and various fitness formats. Veronica has trained with leading instructors and choreographers in the area including Danny George, Teresa Hawker, Nina Haft and Eric Kupers among others. In 2009 and 2010 she took her hip hop team to compete at Star Quest and Thunderstruck Competitions where they won 2nd place in their division. In 2010, Veronica also received a Judges award for best choreography at the Thunderstruck Competition regionals. She has choreographed for various dance and cheer groups in the area such as Raiders Pop Warner and Alpha Omega Sorority Debutante Ball. She is a certified AFAA Group Fitness instructor with certifications in Kickboxing, Zumba Fitness, Aqua Fit and Bodyworks. Most recently, she has joined the faculty of Dance Academy USA, which is among the top-rated dance studios of the Bay Area.
Please check out some of the amazing organizations that Expeditions partners with to provide life-changing experiences for your students!