I want to start by saying I am extremely happy and excited to be a new member of the WCSC team.
I grew up and attended high school in Sacramento, California. I am a graduate of the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California and an Alumni of City Year Chicago, an AmeriCorps program. Through this program I mentored, tutored and volunteered over 1500 hours in the span of 10 months. I love finding studentâs passion and helping them turn that into their motivation and drive to succeed. After graduation, I began a program, Motivation, Outreach and Development for Education at my high school to influence more students to seek higher education.
This great experience led to me becoming a Special Education Teacher in the Los Angeles area where I have served since 2012. I believe that all students have the right to education and it is my job to advocate for it. In 2014-15 I was awarded Master Teacher based on the college ready promise evaluation system due to my ability to provide fair and appropriate learning environments to all students. I promise to bring this same enthusiasm to WCSM and aide in the development of students to their greatest potential.
Adam Brock, A recent transplant from the East Coast, Adam Brock holds a Masters in Teaching from the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education. In the past year, Adam has taught 9th Grade English & Language Arts at Monticello High School in Charlottesville, VA, as well as a course in songwriting at the Young Writers Workshop, a world-renowned creative writing summer camp for talented high schoolers.
Besides teaching. Adam's passion is music. Before dedicating himself to teaching full time, he wrote, recorded, and toured with several indie rock bands over the better part of a decade. His love of literature sparked his initial interest in becoming an English teacher, and when he's not studying books and stories with his students, he's probably tucked into a good book by himself, or trying to write one. He is both excited and honored to join the team at Westchester this year.
(8th, 10th grade English and Theatre)
Kimberly Gallagher, a native of central Ohio, graduated from Bowling Green State University with a degree in Vocal/Choral Music Education. She also has done graduate work in choral conducting at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia and holds a Masters of Arts in Education with an emphasis on Curriculum and Instruction. Ms. Gallagher is also proud to be an Air Force veteran, having spent four years as the soprano section leader in the USAF Singing Sergeants. She has also performed professionally with the Austin (TX) Vocal Arts Ensemble, Conspirare, the Austin (TX) Symphony Orchestra. She currently sings with the Angeles Chorale and the Angel City Chorale and had the pleasure of performing at New York City's Carnegie Hall and recording an album, "The Drop That Contained the Sea", which was a Billboard #1 release for Classical Choral Music.
Ms. Gallagher will be starting her 15th year of teaching and has taught both choir and yoga to students ranging from K-12th grade and beyond. Ms. Gallagher is a member of the California Music Educators Association, the American Choral Directors Association, the National Association for Music Educators, and the Southern California Vocal Association. Her vision for teaching young people is to instill in them a sense of creativity and confidence so that they believe in themselves and can achieve great things. Aside from teaching, Ms.Gallagher enjoys spending time with her husband, practicing yoga, hiking, reading, and enjoying this beautiful life.
(Chorus, middle/high school; Yoga)Ms. Gallagher's Staff Page
Prior to joining the WSCS faculty, Sam Innes taught English, American History, and Art at Channel View High School in Queens, NY since the school's inception in 2004. He was a New York City Teaching Fellow and completed his Master's in Secondary English Education at Brooklyn College. As an undergraduate, Mr. Innes double majored in English and Art at Lafayette College in Easton, PA, and studied in London during his sophomore year. In New York, he helped develop and pilot the innovative ASD Nest program with NYU to support students with autism in the general education setting. He also founded and coached a varsity women's lacrosse team that rapidly rose to win two league titles, and grew to include JV and middle school programs. Committed to community service and development, Mr. Innes is an Eagle Scout and member of the Playa Venice Rotary Club.
(English 9 and 11 (AP), Journalism)Mr. Innes' Staff Page
Kelly McMath, one of our Mathematics teachers, has recently returned to the Los Angeles area and is very excited to be joining the WSCS family! Kelly graduated from USC in 1989 with a B.A. in Mathematics. She has taught in a variety of environments and locations, including a refugee school and an alternative high school, and will be starting her 24th year in the classroom this year. Kelly knows she will learn as much from her students as they learn from her and cannot wait to share her love of mathematics with them! She believes that when the beauty and joy of mathematics is understood and experienced in a positive way it opens up a whole new world of exciting possibilities and opportunities for learners to explore and grow!
Algebra II, Geometry, Pre-Calculus and Calculus
Before joining WSCS, Will Molenkamp worked as an industrial laboratory scientist and consultant in fields widely ranging across chemistry, advanced materials, biotechnology, laser and optical spectroscopy, plasma physics, and nanotechnology. However, the call of and memory of teaching students drew him back into education. He has many years of experience teaching as a college laboratory instructor, chemistry teacher and fondly recalls spending college summers as a science camp director and teacher for middle school students at the parks district in his hometown of Livermore, California. He completed his undergraduate studies in Chemistry at Saint Mary's College of California, and his graduate studies were at UCLA under the tutelage of Professor Sarah Tolbert in Physical Chemistry within the department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the California NanoSystems Institute. He was awarded a National Science Foundation fellowship for Graduate Research under the NSF-IGERT Materials Creation Training Program, has scientific publications in the Journal of the American Chemical Society and Nature Materials, as well as holding two patents. He spent a summer living and working in Japan for Canon's Leading-Edge Technology Development Headquarters.
Outside the classroom, he enjoys the outdoors, fly fishing and camping.
His vision and desire for teaching is to instill in students a curiosity for the natural world, creativity and effectiveness in solving problems big and small, and a passion for science. He is very excited to be a part of the WSCS community and looks forward to spending time with students!
(Chemistry, Physical Science, Environmental Science, Physics)
Richard Myers, a lifelong musician who has performed in styles ranging from classical and jazz to thrash metal, completed his Bachelor's degree in Music Business at Cal Poly Pomona, and his Master's degree in Music Education at USC. While at Cal Poly, he interned with Warner Brothers. As an educator his goal is to empower students to explore music on their own and to find their connections and interests within the musical realm. Outside the classroom he is a surfer, backpacker, and basketball and soccer player who enjoys the occasional Mario Kart 64 tourney. He is excited to help WSCS students on their musical journeys. "Music is the one incorporeal entrance into the higher world of knowledge which comprehends mankind but which mankind cannot comprehend." (Ludwig van Beethoven)
(Guitar, Music Suite, Rock and Roll Suite)Mr. Myers' Staff Page
Luis Ramirez is a Physical Education teacher who graduated with a B.S. from Florida State University. As an ACSM certified personal trainer, he helped athletes at Velocity Sports Performance gain speed, agility, and power to compete in the NFL combine or the NCAA. He is an advocate of strength and conditioning who primarily focuses on Olympic style lifting, Crossfit, and TRX suspension training. His goal for his middle school students is to break the perception of P.E. as a freebie class and to show the aspects of physical education that can increase self-esteem by obtaining a healthy body. When not teaching, he enjoys the outdoors, especially surfing, cycling, hiking, tennis, basketball, and football.
(PE, grades 6 and 7)Mr. Ramirez's Staff Page
Florina Rodov holds a BA in English from Columbia University and an MS in Teaching from Fordham University. As a NYC Teaching Fellow who taught in Washington Heights, New York, she was instrumental in propelling students into Columbia, Skidmore, and Fordham on scholarships; all were the first in their families to attend college. Florina is the co-founder of Authentic Manhattan, a nonprofit that supports low-income, gifted students through after-school programs, scholarships, and mentorship. She is also a prolific writer whose work appears in The Atlantic, CNN, Education Week, Entrepreneur and many other publications.
(English 7, 9, 12, Journalism)
Ajaya Ram is from Sacramento, California and teaches Math and Science. He graduated from Loyola Marymount University and earned a masters degree in Policy and Administration from Loyola Marymount University. Mr. Ram is in his fourth year of teaching Math and Science and began teaching through the Teach For America program.
Aron Rudnick, began teaching in 2004 at Monkey Bay Secondary, a three-classroom school in the nation of Malawi in Central Africa. His morning walk to work included exotic bird sightings, warthogs and the occasional hippopotamus. The experience helped cement a love of nature and a passion for travel. Mr. Rudnick is thrilled to be joining the staff of Westchester Secondary Charter School as a biology teacher. He previously taught biology at Culver High School and PE/Dance for LAUSD. Mr. Rudnick earned a BA in Liberal Studies at Cal State Los Angeles, a teaching credential at UCLA and is currently enrolled in a Masterâs program in Science Education at Cal State Northridge. Mr. Rudnick is a founding member of the Venice Oceanarium, a marine âmuseum without wallsâ that sets up weekly at the Venice Pier. His hobbies include watching baseball, reading science books, playing capoeira, dancing to hip-hop and hanging out with his amaz Aron Rudnicking two-year-old daughter.
Laura Steinmetz, a Social Studies teacher, is a native of Los Angeles and excited to be joining the WSCS family! Laura graduated from Loyola Marymount University in 2007 with a B.A. in Classics and European Studies with a minor in Archaeology. After graduating from college, Laura moved to Greece for a year where she taught English as a Foreign Language and immersed herself in Greek history and culture. This experience inspired her to get a Masterâs Degree in Late Antique and Byzantine Studies from Kingâs College, London in 2011. Although she loved living in London and partaking in all it has to offer, she did not like all the rain and thus moved back home to Los Angeles to pursue a career in education. In 2013 she received her Masterâs Degree in Secondary Education from Loyola Marymount University and spent the next two years teaching at a project-based learning school in South Los Angeles. Outside the classroom, Laura has worked on archaeological projects all over the world and loves learning new things and having new experiences. She believes that learning should be interesting and enjoyable, and tries to instill the fun of learning into her students!
(History Grades 6 and 9)Ms Steinmetz Staff Page
Christopher G. Tsichlis is a California Credentialed Social Studies and English teacher from south Orange County. A graduate of Boston College, Harvard, and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, he has a Masters of Arts in Teaching from USC with a focus in Social Studies. Additionally, Mr. Tsichlis is widely travelled, visiting over 13 countries, with schooling in Oxford and Cambridge as well as language and culture studies in Germany and Greece. Previous to his employment with WSCS, he spent time teaching at a continuation high school and Title I middle school in South Orange County as well as working as the Program Director for FOCUS OC, a charity to serve the homeless. Mr. Tsichlis is dedicated to making Social Studies relevant to understanding the world and to developing critical thinking among students.
(History, Grades 7 and 10 (AP)Mr. Tsichlis' Staff Page
Spanish teacher Mayra Zendejas is a native of Los Angeles. Growing up, Ms. Zendejas proudly attended and graduated from Westchester area schools, where she served as a student representative on English Learner and Compensatory Education Advisory Committees, and the School Site Council. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and Sociology from the UC Santa Barbara, and a Master of Arts in Education and a Single-Subject Teaching Credential from Pepperdine University. She serves as Treasurer for the California Association for Bilingual Education (CABE), Pepperdine Chapter. Ms. Zendejas is very excited to be teaching at WSCS where she will have the opportunity to share her love of Spanish with students from diverse backgrounds.
(Spanish, Grades 6-11)Ms. Zendejas' Staff Page
Patrice LaPorte, MA OTR/L,a licensed and registered occupational therapist, holds a Masterâs degree from USC and a Bachelorâs degree from UCLA. Originally from western New York state, she graduated from USC in 2000 and worked in a private pediatric O.T. practice in west Los Angeles until 2013. She began to work in the public school setting in 2012, and currently contracts with charter schools in Culver City, Westchester, and the greater Los Angeles area. She has been the O.T. for WSCS since it opened its doors in 2013. She has two teen-age boys at home who consistently deepen her understanding of the needs of children. She loves to work, hike, jog, cook, and watch her boys surf.
Mentor teacher Joel Matus taught for 35 years with LAUSD. He was a Department Chairperson in English and Reading. He has a B.A. from UCLA with a major in Theater and a minor in history, and he has an MA in Child Development from the College of the Center for Early Education. Mr. Matus has mentored new teachers from Teach for America and the UCLA Graduate School of Education. His children's novel, Leroy and the Caveman, was published by Atheneum Publications.
Office manager Sylvia Nicholson is an experienced school office manager who believes in making a school's front office a welcoming and efficient place for parents, faculty and staff, and, of course, students. She held a similar position with CLAS (Culture and Language Academy of Success) Charter School and was a Parent Representative at Westchester High School. Mrs. Nicholson has trained staff, and her proactive approach in student recruiting helped increase student enrollment at her previous schools. She also has a background in loans and escrow from prior employment with Coldwell Banker and West Coast Escrow. Mrs. Nicholson enjoys working with children of all ages, and is a willing volunteer for academic programs when needed.Mrs. Nicholson's Staff Page
Genevieve Peters, founder of Peters Procedures: Total Classroom Transformation is an award-winning, California-credentialed teacher born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. She earned her teaching credential from California State University, Long Beach in 1992. Ms. Peters began teaching for Long Beach Unified School District and developed Peters Procedures after she saw too many of her students failing, socially and academically, because they did not possess basic behavior skills. She developed a systematic program of instruction to cover behavior in all parts of a school day. Within the first year of implementation, her behavior methodology transformed her classroom, and she and her program achieved community, district, and state recognition.
Ms. Peters went on to implement her program in challenging and diverse environments, ranging from a juvenile prison, a school for severely emotionally and mentally disturbed students, traditional and charter schools, a gifted and talented high school, and a language school in Santiago, Chile. The common thread in all of these environments were children who took responsibility for their own behavior and achievement, consistency from one classroom to another, and teachers both veteran and new who were grateful for the increased time available for instruction. The program includes classroom management, conflict resolution, leadership training and civics, and social skills.
Ms. Peters is a dynamic, high-energy teacher who is passionate about sharing her proven methods to transform learning environments. She has dedicated her life to making a difference in the lives of teachers and children by helping educational professionals love their jobs by creating learning environments where students, teachers and parents can thrive.
Trennell Palacio began to build her professional foundation at California State University, Los Angeles. There, she earned a Bachelor of Arts. Following a vision for her future, she obtain Pupil Service and Attendance credential from California State University, Dominguez Hills. She also pursued a Master of Arts in Counseling from Loyola Marymount University. Trennell is currently working on a Clinical Counselor License. Ms. Palacio has almost two decades of experience, serving public and not public schools. This included working as a Counselor Coordinator, Behavioral Interventionist, and Designated Instructional Service (DIS) Counselor.
Trennell is passionate about working with exceptional students in Special Education Programs. Her high standards are based on Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), while abiding by the Educational codes. She is still able to create safe alternative environment that supports the social-emotional needs of her students/clients. Ms. Palacio believes in offering students choices based on the academic, vocational, and behavioral needs. This student-centric philosophy is based on equity and maintaining the Least Restrictive Environment.
Admissions Coordinator Monica Titan worked at Coeur d'Alene Elementary School as a Teacher's Assistant and has privately tutored elementary school students. Previously, she worked in the financial field for companies including as Prudential, Drexel Burnham Lambert, and Merrill Lynch. She is the parent of a WSCS 7th grader and is glad to help school operations run smoothly.Mrs. Titan's Staff Page
A Los Angeles native, Diana Hanson received her BA, MA, and CPhil degrees from UCLA in English, with a focus in Contemporary Poetry. After teaching freshman English as a grad student, Diana became interested in helping students to write effectively. She taught English Composition at East LA College before starting a Legal Writing program at Southwestern University School of Law. She then went on to raise two sons while working in corporate training. Her heart, however, was always in education, and after helping her own sons and their friends navigate the college process, she returned to school to become a college counselor, earning her Certificate in College Counseling with Distinction from UCLA. Diana has been helping students and their families prepare for college and discover the college or university that best meets their needs. Since beginning her practice in 2005, Diana has worked with diverse groups of students, assisting them in every aspect of the college process, from selecting colleges to helping them write effective college essays.
Diana is an active member of WACAC (Western Association for College Admission Counseling), NACAC (National Association for College Admission Counseling), HECA (Higher Education Consultants Association), and IECA (Associate Member); she adheres to their high standards of professional ethics.
Speech Therapist Jeremy Zubery grew up in Israel and moved to the United States in 2004. He received his Bachelor's degree in Communication Disorders from California State University Northridge (CSUN) where he also went on to receive his Master's degree in Speech Pathology. Jeremy has been providing individual and small group therapy services for children and young adults in schools, clinics, and home settings since 2011.
Jeremy's passion for providing speech-language services stems from his own early challenges with stuttering as a child and young adult. He is committed to helping students improve their own speech and language challenges so they can pursue their most ambitious goals without speech and language obstacles.