Ryan Padrez, Medical Director
Ryan is a pediatrician and Assistant Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at Stanford University's Division of General Pediatrics. While at The Primary School he continues to care for patients and teach pediatric residents and medical students at Gardner Packard Children's Health Center. Prior to medical school, Ryan spent years engaged in health policy work at Avalere in Washington DC and then helped launch the Center for Medical Technology Policy. He focuses on projects that integrate systems of care and promote models that ensure high quality care is accessible to all children.
Ryan graduated from Stanford University with a BA in Human Biology and earned his MD at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). He completed his pediatric residency at UCSF and participated in UCSF's Pediatric Leadership for the Underserved (PLUS) program. He went on to complete a chief resident year at The San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center before joining the pediatric faculty at UCSF.
Valentina Helo-Villegas, Director of Parent Program
Valentina combines mental health, community empowerment, and education to guide families towards a path of transformation and resiliency. She has extensive experience developing and executing support programs for populations that have been victims of severe trauma. Previously, she was a Bi-Lingual Lead Therapist at CHAC where she led a team of trainees in providing mental health and psycho-educational services to Elementary School students and their families. Prior to that, she was a Clinician at Momentum for Mental Health, and a Clinical Case Manager at Edgewood Center for Children and Families.
Valentina earned a degree in Psychology from Los Andes University in Colombia, her native country, and an M.A. in Counseling Psychology from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology. She is fluent in Spanish, French and English.
Cristina Matthews, Manager of Parent Wellness Coaching
With a passion for empowering individuals to discover their inner strengths and access advancement through cultivating agency and self-efficacy, Cristina has worked with youth and families for the past 7 years in a variety of community and school based settings in the Bay Area. Before joining The Primary School, Cristina worked as an MFT trainee through Youth & Family Services of Fremont counseling at risk families and youth on probation.
Cristina firmly believes that every human being holds innate potential to rise above their circumstances and succeed beyond expectation in life with the presence of a supportive community that fosters kindness, empathy, and equal opportunity.
Cristina Earned her BA in Psychology from Sonoma State University and later went on to attend Santa Clara University where she graduated with an MA in Counseling Psychology and an emphasis in Correctional Psychology.
Shawneece Stevenson, Family Success Coach
Shawneece has joined The Primary School as the Manager of Parent Program. Shawneece began her work in Early Childhood Education as a Parent Educator in Parents as Teachers Program in Cincinnati, Ohio. This work inspired her to pursue a Masters in Social Work Administration from the University of Cincinnati. Shawneece has had variety of organizational and family service experience working with young children, their families, and communities in which they live. Most recently, she managed a local Regional Center’s California Early Start Program serving infants and toddlers with developmental disabilities and their families. Shawneece has a strong value of supporting families through the development of their child. Most importantly, she is a wife and parent of three children with a variety of health and educational needs. She is a proud parent of the Ravenswood and Sequoia Unified School Districts.
Stephanie Coy, Parent Wellness Coach
Stephanie is a Belle Haven native and attended high school in East Palo Alto. During and after college, Stephanie volunteered in Oakland preschools and interned at law firms that provided pro bono services. She has always been driven to serve and find her own meaning of social justice.
She is now excited to serve the community she grew up in. With a background in crisis counseling and intervention, Stephanie feels privileged to have the opportunity to witness people in her community pursue growth and happiness in an educational setting.
Stephanie received her Bachelor of Liberal Arts in Women and Gender Studies with a minor in Spanish at Saint Mary’s College of California. She is currently pursuing her Executive Master’s in Public Administration at Golden Gate University.
Marla Romero-Melendez, Parent Wellness Coach
Marla Romero is a bay area native who has learned to love the diversity and uniqueness of her home town, Redwood City.
Growing up in a single parent home and with an amazing grandmother who taught her the importance of love, compassion, unconditional support and knowledge, Marla’s curiosity in exploring human behavior, emotions, communication and coping strategies inspired her pursuit of education. After completing her undergraduate studies in Psychology at The William Jessup University, she had the privilege to volunteer with a humanitarian group that traveled to Africa and Cambodia offering medical support. After her return she became a part of the SES Team (Support Enhanced Services) with The Bill Wilson Center in San Jose which focused with at risk youth on probation and their families. Marla provided rehabilitation services in collaboration with Probation officers, other mental health providers and family support. Marla has a strong belief in supporting children, youth and parents. She believes that if we can all learn to find confidence in our strengths we can be empowered to use them to make a difference and impact our future in a positive and joyful manner.
Jessica Torrez Ferro, Parent Wellness Coach
Jessica Torrez was born and raised in Redwood City and for the past 13 years has lived in East Palo Alto and now Belle Haven. She grew up in a single parent home with her older brother. Her mother, was an immigrant from Mexico, full of life and joy, who showed them the true meaning of an American Dream. From her, Jessica learned the meaning of dedication for work, passion for her culture and community, the importance of family and the eagerness for growth.
She has three beautiful daughters who have all attended Belle Haven school where her husband and her have had the great opportunity to volunteer and lead other parent volunteers. Six years ago, She had the wonderful opportunity to work in Education. She worked for the Ravenswood City School District, Special Education Department, where she had the experience of serving her community. Her and her family also volunteered and joined a group at church where their mission was to unify at risk families. It was during these years of working in education, volunteering for Belle Haven and in her church group that she found her passion for helping others discover their inner strengths and power to overcome any circumstance.
Yadira DiSiena, Parent Wellness Coach
Yadira DiSiena was born in Guadalajara, Mexico and raised in Los Angeles. She is the oldest of three sisters and the first in her family to graduate college.
Yadira graduated with a Bachelors in Sociology from California State University Northridge. After graduating, her true journey began. Yadira moved from Los Angeles to Menlo Park with her husband and 5 pets. Seeking the opportunity to work with her community, Yadira connected to the local Head Start program. Yadira was an Early Head Start Home Base Specialist in East Palo Alto, Belle Haven and Redwood City. She became familiarized with the local community agencies and partnered with them to support the families she served.
Yadira enjoyed serving the community she worked in so much that she eventually became a member of the Belle Haven community.
Joyce Latu-Fahamokioa, Parent Wellness Coach
Joyce is an East Palo Alto native and a first-generation college graduate. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Dominican University of California where she worked in Admissions as a student ambassador. While working as an ambassador at Dominican University, she realized her passion for providing access to higher education for underrepresented students and their families.
She brings ten years of experience working with families in East Palo Alto and the surrounding communities. She began her work providing student and parent support and education around college access through her work at Foundation for a College Education. She continued to deepen her commitment to students and families at Building Futures Now where she worked with 4th grade through high school families.
Joyce believes that equipped with the proper tools everyone can have access to higher education regardless of their socioeconomic background.
Gabriela Acuna Martinez, Parent Program Operations Associate
Gaby was born in Mexico and has lived in East Palo Alto since she was 4 years old. She attended Menlo Atherton High School. Gaby has always had a passion for early childhood education and has worked as an administrator in various fields. Prior to The Primary School, Gaby worked as an administrative assistant at the Stanford child care center.
Zoe Duskin, Principal
Zoe joins The Primary School as principal. She has leadership experiences in PreK-12 schools and non-profits. She has a demonstrated ability to build organizations and manage teams. Prior to The Primary School, Zoe was San Francisco Site Director and Lead for Site Directors’ Professional Learning Community at College Track, where she managed a team of program directors to assess student data and ensure student success. Before joining College Track, Zoe was the founding principal at the Inspired Teaching Demonstration Public Charter School (pre-K-8th grade) in Washington, DC. She spent five years in that role, growing the school each year. Zoe credits her career in education to Aim High, a non-profit summer learning program for Bay Area nonprofits, of which she is still an active supporter. Zoe has a BA and Initial Teacher’s Certification for Secondary Social Studies from Barnard College and a Master's Degree in Policy, Organization, and Leadership Studies, from Stanford University. Outside of work she spends her time with her husband raising their two sons.
Kyndal Easter, Assistant Principal & Early Childhood Lead
Kyndal has spent the majority of her ten years in education in the early childhood setting. Her years teaching preschool and pre-K in underserved communities, taught her how imperative it is to provide quality education and experiences even before Kindergarten. Early Childhood Education, quickly became her passion. Kyndal feels most successful when the teachers and students she works with demonstrate that they feel both respected and capable. One of her favorite things to hear students say is, "I did it!" She strongly believes in the importance of creating joyous and intentional classrooms. Kyndal is inspired by the innovation The Primary School brings to early childhood education and its mission to include and empower families while addressing the needs of the whole child. She looks forward to the opportunity to work with a team motivated and focused on the model’s mission and is humbled at the potential to effect change on a deeper level. Kyndal has a B.A. in Communication from the University of Southern California and a Masters in Early Childhood Education from Loyola Marymount University.
John Bachner, Assistant Principal & Lower Elementary Lead
John is thrilled to be joining the Primary School this year as Assistant Principal for the Early Elementary program (Kinder and First Grade). In the years prior, John served as an ESL certified 3rd grade teacher, 4th grade teacher and lead math planner at Match Community Day Charter Public School in Boston, MA. More recently, John worked for three years at Rocketship Discovery Prep in east San Jose as assistant principal. During this time, John coached and supported teachers and students from Kinder to 5th grade and is excited to share this perspective on the later elementary years as the Primary School continues to grow. As an undergrad at Lafayette College John studied international affairs, traveled abroad in Ecuador, volunteered in education and wrote a thesis on international efforts to close the gap between environmental conservation and economic development in the tropical developing countries. As such, he remains deeply passionate and committed to causes that seek to improve learning outcomes, promote sustainability and build human capital both here and abroad.
Clare McGuire, Manager of School Operations
Clare has worked in education for the past six years, most recently as a Teach for America corps member working with kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade students who receive special education services at Francis D. Pastorius Mastery Charter School in North Philadelphia. Prior to that, Clare worked for three years as an Operations Specialist in the Office of Human Capital supporting the Chief of Staff at DC Public School’s Central Office. She is excited to join The Primary School because of its mission to create schools and programming that addresses the diverse needs of the whole child. She brings joy, enthusiasm and love with her to the classroom every day.
Clare received her BA in Psychology from the University of Delaware, her MA in Organizational Development from George Washington University and her Teaching Credential in General and Special Education from the University of Pennsylvania.
Nishi Mehta, Manager of Integrated Supports
Nishi is committed to building more holistic systems of care to deeply impact the trajectories of children in underserved communities. At The Primary School, she has focused on our team-based approach to care and whole child programs. Prior to this, she was a consultant helping healthcare clients solve strategic challenges. Nishi became deeply interested in the intersections between education, health, and social-emotional development while serving as a 7th grade literature teaching fellow for Breakthrough Collaborative. She also previously trained college students to teach health education in Boston public high schools through the organization Peer Health Exchange.
Nishi has a B.S. in Psychology and English from Tufts University. She was a visiting student in Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford.
William Vosa Cavu-Litman, Lead Teacher
William, better known by his middle name, Vosa, was raised in Redwood City, and is an educator specializing in Early Childhood with an added passion for working with high school and university populations. In his nine years of teaching and leading, Vosa has enjoyed working with students in achieving their potential and creating a safe and trusting atmosphere. Vosa strives to build a life-long love for learning and to build a team of committed educators determined to create a sense of leadership and a strong community. Vosa started working in education as an undergrad at San Jose State University and formally started teaching in Los Angeles as a corps member in Teach for America. Vosa joins us from Korea where he taught and lived for six years. During his summers, Vosa helped to develop young leaders into culturally aware and globally responsible citizens throughout Spain, Chile, Peru, and Ireland and has traveled extensively throughout Asia and many parts of Europe. Vosa believes working with The Primary School will be an adventure of lessons and looks forward to working with a population of families is representative of how he grew up.
Courtney St. Amand, Lead Teacher
Courtney was born in Poughkeepsie, New York. She attended the University of Scranton where she received her B.S. in Elementary/Special Education and Touro College where she received her M.S. in Literacy. For the last 8 years, Courtney has been a 2nd/3rd grade Special Education teacher in charter schools located in Brooklyn and the Bronx. Courtney is dedicated to helping scholars reach their full potential and become lifelong learners. In her free time, Courtney enjoys spending time with family, running, reading, and trying new foods!
Jen Merz, Lead Teacher
Jen worked as a teacher in East San Jose for the last seven years. She is passionate about early literacy and developing a love for reading and learning. Jen believes in supporting all students by working closely with families to meet the diverse needs of each child.
Jen received her BA in Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles. She discovered her love for teaching working as an Assistant Teacher at the UCLA Lab School. Jen is proficient in Spanish.
Karla Cienfuegos, Lead Teacher
With twelve years experience in urban education, Karla delivers her curriculum through the lenses of academic rigor, culturally responsive teaching, and mindfulness. Whether it’s meditating, discussing community activism, or creating dynamic and interactive units of study, her passionate students love to be in nature, think critically, and communicate with empathy across cultural and demographic boundaries.
Karla grew up in Los Angeles and is the first person in her family to graduate from college. She holds dual bachelor degrees in Chicano studies and film studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She went on to obtain a master’s degree in elementary education at Loyola Marymount University through the Partners in Los Angeles Catholic Education Corps program. In the fall 2016 Karla was a National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellow and took an expedition to the Galapagos Islands.
After having had a significant transformation of shedding over 65 pounds, Karla became a health and fitness coach who loves to encourage and support people to transform their health. She also serves as a founding board member to the non-profit SugarWatch.org where local Los Angeles school communities will be able to achieve dynamic health and wellness. Karla is committed to researching issues facing public education, one of which is the relationship between health, technology, and environment to educational access for students. Through traveling, networking, and creating content she strives to share access to information that will empower her community and beyond.
Jessica Pablo, Lead Teacher
Jessica was born in Panama City, Panama, but raised in the Bay Area for most of her life. She loves the diversity that is found in our region, and also realizes the importance being an agent of change for equity. She has been teaching in early childhood education for twelve years in a variety of roles from teacher's aide to behavioral therapist to classroom teacher. Jessica has a B.A. in Child and Adolescent Development from San Francisco State University, and a M.S. in Educational Leadership from California State University, East Bay. She loves connecting with children, families, and the community. She is a lifelong learner who aspires to create a love of learning in everyone that she meets. Jessica enjoys marveling in children's curiousity and helping them to reach beyond expectations.
Tajmah Martin, Lead Teacher
Tajmah joins The Primary School from Hope Technology School, a fully inclusive private school for both typically developing and special needs students, where she has been since the fall of 2007. There, Tajmah worked as a para-educator in the HTS elementary program from 2007-2013 before becoming a fully qualified preschool teacher. Tajmah has volunteered for a non-profit soccer program for children with special needs and has worked one-on one with children with special needs in both school and home settings. She has also had experience working in the public school system through volunteer work and community service.
Olivia Thomas, Lead Teacher
Liv is both an educator and an advocate for high quality early childhood education. She seeks to combine her passion, energy, and love of data to build a safe, loving, and joyous classroom. She was born and raised in a small town in New Jersey and moved to California to attend Stanford University, where she received her Bachelor's in Human Biology with a focus on Youth Development and Mental Health. Liv became deeply interested in early childhood education during her time at Stanford and went on to join the Teach for America corps, teaching preschool in Richmond. She instantly fell in love with teaching and knew that this would be a lifelong career. She then decided to complete her Master's in Education at Johns Hopkins University. Her favorite part about teaching is seeing the moment when a child first discovers they are actually reading! Liv is thrilled to be a part of The Primary School's team and vision of creating a more comprehensive and holistic education for kids.
Cynthia Toscano, Lead Teacher
Cynthia was born and raised in East San Jose. Over the past nine years she has worked with students of all ages. She has worked in both rural and urban communities to help recruit and advise high school students towards accomplishing their dreams of higher education. After earning her Associate’s degree, Cynthia was the site director for several after school programs for children in low income neighborhoods. Prior to joining The Primary School, Cynthia spent five years working with elementary aged children, providing specialized instruction to those with higher behavioral and educational needs. Her passion has always been to not only serve her students but families and communities as well. Being a mom of two little girls also inspires her to show all her students the love, care, and devotion that she would give her own daughters. It is her honor to bring to her experience and passion to families of The Primary School. Cynthia was a founding Assistant Teacher at The Primary School and joins the 2018-19 team as a Lead Teacher.
Karen Melendez-Alvarenga, Lead Teacher
Karen Melendez-Alvarenga is a passionate early childhood educator. She has over 12 years’ experience working in preschool and school environments with children ranging for 1-5. She is creative and enthusiastic and attentive to children’s individual needs. Karen grew up in East Palo Alto and is fluent in Spanish. Most recently, Karen was part of the founding preschool team at St. Elizabeth and has spent summers working with Iridescent, leading children to explore engineering design. Karen strongly believes that a quality early childhood education can have enormous impact on the lives of children. For this reason, Karen is excited to partner with families and the larger community to support children and their growth.
Elisa Madrigal, Associate Teacher
Elisa was born in Mexico but raised in East Palo Alto, where she attended Elementary and Middle School. After spending time as a Ronald McDonald House volunteer and a parent advocate for her children in their schools, Elisa became passionate about working with students and their families. Following her passion was what lead Elisa to become a member of The Primary School community. Elisa attended Ashford University where she received her B.A. in Early Childhood Education and a minor in Educational Psychology. Elisa is an advocate for the creative arts and her love and passion allowed her to initiate an Art Club through a nonprofit organization, the Rosalie Rendu Center. Elisa strongly believes that the freedom of creative expression and early intervention are essential for helping and preparing students for higher education and to strive in life.
Marisela Alvarez Salazar, Associate Teacher
Marisela Alvarez was born in Mexico but grew up in East Palo Alto, attended middle school and high school in her community. Marisela is the first generation to attend College and obtain her BA in Child Development with a concentrationon Youth and Families Development.
After graduating from College she worked as a program coordinator for Youth Adelante, a tutoring program for middle school students. Unfortunately the program ended due to funds. Marisela then started as a substitute teacher for preschool students and felt in love with the age group. Marisela then joined the Peninsula Family Service team to work as a preschool teacher. There she had the opportunity to work with children whose families were in transitional homes. She had the opportunity to work with children with disabilities, challenging behaviors and children who experience trauma. As a preschool teacher, Marisela wants to make a positive impact in children and their families and to continue to encourage families to support their children in different aspects such as academically, emotionally and socially.
Akriti Jain, Associate Teacher
Prior to joining The Primary School, Akriti was a Fellow with Teach for India, the sister organization of Teach for America. There, Akriti saw what good healthcare and nutrition could do for a student, and the direct relationship between academic growth and child health. As a teacher, Akriti conducted community visits and helped foster growth of both parents and students. Akriti started with The Primary School in its founding year as a substitute teacher and joins the 2018-19 team as an Associate Teacher.
Viridiana Luna, Associate Teacher
Viridiana is a mother, wife and teacher willing to learn and grow with her community. She was born in Mexico City but raised in the ever so growing and diverse city of East Palo Alto. She attended the University of California, Davis, where she became inspired to embrace her culture, society and community. It is now her mission to inspire her community through teaching, giving future generations an equal opportunity in all aspects of their lives. In her spare time she enjoys painting, dancing, traveling and photography, but most of all spending time with family.
Brenda Quezada, Associate Teacher
Brenda was born and raised in East Palo Alto in a single parent household. Being from East Palo Alto has pushed Brenda to want to give back to the community she grew up in. Brenda initially pursued an associate degree in Criminal Justice as a means to start a career as a probation officer for juveniles. It was through her work as a mentor through one of the local Boys and Girls Club after school programs, that Brenda realized that she wanted to support children as a teacher. Since then she has become the mother of two boys and transferred to a local State University where she will be completing her Bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education.Brenda is proud to be part of The Primary School team and contribute to its formation in her community through all her identities which include her experience as daughter, student, mother, wife and now teacher.
Belen Barragan, Associate Teacher
Belen is a Bay Area native. She was raised in the Belle Haven community and attended Belle Haven School, Menlo Atherton High School, and Woodside High School. Belen began to root for the East Palo Alto Community while working for YUCA (Youth United Community in Action), helping community members with rent control. Belen attended both Foothill and Chabot Community College in Hayward. Her love for children started when she herself was an adolescent helping her mother raise her sisters. This love fueled her drive to become a teacher, rather, a preschool teacher. Belen strongly believes that education and health go hand in hand and are important. Belen has worked for centers in the Stanford community, but after learning about The Primary School and how its team believes in the importance of unifying health with education, she decided to embark on this journey and fulfill her purpose as a devoted educator in her community.
Martha Paramo Garcia, Associate Teacher
Martha is a Nicaragua native raised for most of her life in Belle Haven. From a young age, Martha enjoyed working with children and taking care of her younger family members. Martha joins The Primary School from the CCLC at Stanford West where she has spent the last four years working with infants and toddlers, first as a floater teacher and later as a lead teacher. Martha enjoys watching children grow and learn, and is thrilled to bring her passion for teaching and giving back to the community that she grew up in.
Rachel McGarvey, Associate Teacher
Rachel started her teaching career as an AmeriCorps Spanish literacy tutor in Austin, Texas. She became a substitute teacher in the primary and elementary schools that she attended as a child in New Jersey. Rachel's volunteer and work experience include teaching English to students of various ages and backgrounds. She graduated from Arcadia University with a BA in International Studies. While attending college, she had the opportunity to live in Chile and learn Spanish. Rachel is grateful to be a part of The Primary School where, along with families and all team members, she can support the growth of all children.
Katie Deras, Assistant Teacher
Born and raised in East Palo Alto, Katie is thrilled to be back in her community. While working for a non-profit for 5 years, Katie gained a lot of experience with an age range of 1-5. She has always had a passion for teaching young children and is excited for the success of the students and families at The Primary School.
Daisy Torres, Assistant Teacher
Daisy Torres was raised in East Palo Alto, California. She previously attended Cañada Community College in Redwood City where she received her A.S. in Early Childhood Education, and her A.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies. She currently attends San Francisco State University where she is working towards her B.S. in Sociology. Daisy worked as a Floater Teacher at a private childcare and preschool center in Stanford from November 2015 to October 2017. She has been with The Primary School since October 2017, first as a Bench Teacher, and now as an Assistant Teacher. Daisy is excited to be part of a diverse school community that provides high quality education to underserved children.
Melissa Woolley, Speech Interventionist
Melissa was born and raised in Mountain View. She has worked with children as a Speech and Language Specialist in schools and clinics for over 30 years. She is passionate about working with children and loves that the Primary School has an integrated model with a pediatrician,
parent coaches, wonderful teachers and support staff. Melissa believes in building relationships with children and parents to support their best outcomes. Outside of work, Melissa spends time with her husband and four grown children.
Karla Sanchez, Behavior Interventionist
Karla was born in San Mateo and raised in San Leandro. Since volunteering at a preschool while in high school, she has been passionate about education and working with children and families to help students reach their full potential.
Karla attained a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and minor in Education from UC Davis. While at Davis she interned in many schools and also tutored in an after school program at Marguerite Montgomery Elementary School. After graduating, she continued working at MME as a Para-educator for Special Education.
She loves traveling, being with friends and family, and hanging out with her husband and their dog Max. Karla is enthusiastic to work at The Primary School because she believes that education is empowering and wants to help create equitable opportunities for children in underserved communities.
Elizabeth Varela, School Operations Associate
Liz graduated from the University of California of Riverside in 2016. She received her BA in Sociology. Throughout her college career she worked for Riverside’s Child Development center as a teacher assistant, and served as an AmeriCorps Tutor for 7th graders mentoring them in Math and Language Arts. Right after college Liz joined The Primary School and this is her third year at TPS. Liz is excited to continue helping and serving the East Palo Alto community.
Nerissa Broughton, Early Intervention Specialist
Nerissa joins The Primary School after 8 years of being a Special Education Preschool Teacher with San Francisco Unified School District and Newark Unified as well as an Early Interventionist at West Contra Costa Unified. Before moving back to the Bay Area she spent several years down in San Diego as a Behavioral Therapist with Bridges ABA. With over 13 years in the Special Education field, Nerissa has seen first hand the benefits of providing supports as early as possible and feels very passionately about Early Intervention. This is why she is excited to shift her focus to even younger children and work in close partnership with health providers and families to help prepare them for preschool and beyond.
Nerissa was born in the Philippines and grew up in Palo Alto. She received her B.A. in Psychology from UC Santa Barbara and her Masters in Early Childhood Special Education from San Francisco State University.
Priscilla Chan, Co-Founder and Board Chair
Priscilla is a pediatrician and an education entrepreneur. In particular, she is interested in integrating her work in health and education through designing and implementing interventions addressing adverse childhood experiences. Prior to entering medical school, she ran an afterschool program in Boston and taught 4th and 5th grade science at the Harker School.
Priscilla earned her BA in Biology with Spanish Citation at Harvard University and her MD at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). She also completed her pediatrics training in the UCSF/PLUS Pediatrics Residency. Priscilla is also the co-founder of the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative.
Courtney Garcia, Chief Executive Officer
Courtney is passionate about providing stronger, more equitable supports to children, young people, and families in under-resourced communities. She has worked in urban public schools for 17 years, starting with her role supporting the growth of school networks at NewSchools Venture Fund. She then held program and operating roles with PUC Schools and Aspire Public Schools. She deepened her commitment to providing rigorous, integrated wraparound services while at BELL, a national summer learning and after school program. Courtney comes to The Primary School most recently from her role as Chief Sites Officer with Peer Health Exchange, a national health equity organization that works to empower young people with the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to make healthy decisions. She grew up the proud daughter of two public school teachers, and has called the Bay Area home since arriving as a college freshman in 1995. She holds a BA in Public Policy as well as an MBA and Masters in Education from Stanford University.
Meredith Liu, Co-Founder and Chief Design Officer
Meredith is a deep believer in the power of education to eliminate racial inequity. Prior to co-founding The Primary School, she was the chief financial officer at Match Education, a charter management organization and teacher training program, and served as a dean and then board member at Codman Academy, a Boston high school co-located with a health center. She has worked with and for a variety of non-profits, state education agencies, and school districts to build stronger education systems. She began her career at Bain & Company.
Meredith earned a BA in Economics from Dartmouth College and an MBA at the Harvard Business School. She is also a proud graduate of the D.C. Public Schools.
Lindsey Luebchow, Chief of Staff
Lindsey is dedicated to making the education system more equitable so that it can meet the needs of underserved children. She has worked in education policy, government, and school operator roles at the federal and local levels. Most recently, she was an attorney and school advisor for Success Academy Charter Schools, a high-performing charter management organization in New York City. Prior to that, she worked at the U.S. Department of Education on civil rights monitoring and policy development for federal education programs. Lindsey earned a BA in Public Policy Studies from Duke University and a JD from Yale Law School.
Awara Mendy Adeagbo, Interim Director of Talent
Awara is passionate about social justice and providing equitable opportunities for all families. She strongly believes that addressing the health needs of a child and supporting a child’s parents is just as important as addressing their educational needs. Awara earned a BA in Government with a Spanish language citation from Harvard University. She also earned her MBA and a Certificate in Public Management and Social Impact from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. She has worked in a number of industries including healthcare and technology, and she began her career as a management consultant at The Boston Consulting Group. As an undergraduate, Awara tutored elementary students in an after school Spanish language immersion program and is very excited to be back in a joyful student environment.
Jessica Cho, Director of Operations and Strategy
Jess is passionate about disrupting inequitable practices and building just, inclusive systems and conditions that ensure all students have the opportunity to achieve their dreams. Jess joins The Primary School from Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) where she served as the Strategic Initiatives Manager in the Office of English Language Learner and Multilingual Achievement. There she directed a number of strategic initiatives intended to accelerate outcomes for ELLs including developing and implementing a 3-year strategic plan and leading a multi-year transformation initiative to launch more dual language and newcomer programs in district schools. Prior to OUSD, Jess worked at Education Pioneers developing, managing and evaluating its national fellowship program.
Jess graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a B.A in Political Science and Mass Communications. Go Bears!
McHale Newport-Berra, Director of Innovation and Learning
McHale joined The Primary School in 2017. With an interdisciplinary background in both education and health, she has content and technical expertise related to child development, child mental health, health promotion strategies, and school health, as well as deep practical knowledge of schools. McHale has worked in schools in multiple capacities, including as an elementary school teacher, a community health organizer, and a researcher. She has presented her work at national conferences on topics such as the evaluation of school and community-based obesity prevention initiatives; implementation of school wellness policies; and the relationship between school organizational climate and students’ socio-emotional development. McHale holds a Ph.D. in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University and a Master’s in Public Health from the University of Michigan. She has a Bachelor’s degree in English from Duke University.
Nora Razon, Manager of Parent and Community Engagement
Nora is originally from Mexico and grew up in East Palo Alto. Over the course of her career, Nora has worked closely with youth and families in a variety of different roles, including at the Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center, the Legal Aid Society, and College Track. Most recently, she was a program coordinator at the Renaissance Entrepreneur Center in East Palo Alto, responsible for developing and leading financial literacy programs for families.
Victoria Whittaker, Site Director
Victoria has spent the last ten years of her career in pursuit of a school model that could address all the needs of our communities–integrating healthcare and education, while deeply partnering with parents. She began her career teaching preschool on Chicago’s Southside. Eventually, she moved to roles where she coached and managed teachers across the entire city, focusing on special education and classroom turnaround work. She joined a team of three to help found the Teach for America San Diego region and led the Teacher Leadership Development team as it launched in a new city. Most recently, she has consulted for her hometown school district and worked as a Summer Consultant with The Parthenon Group.
Victoria earned a BA in Psychology from Stanford University and an MBA from UC Berkeley Haas. She was born and raised in San Bernardino, CA