The foundation of the Aurora experience is the balance of educating the heart and the mind equally. Aurora teachers and staff are dedicated to nurturing a love of learning along with a rigorous academic education and social/emotional growth for all Aurora students. Aurora faculty members embrace this philosophy and use it as their guide – offering meaningful, challenging and rigorous academic curriculum to help their students acquire the skills necessary to become confident, independent life long learners and thinkers.
Abigayil Koss, Head of School
Abbie has over 25 years of experience in education including: administration, staff development, curriculum development, and teaching. Abbie holds a Master Degree in Education from Bank Street College of Education in New York City. Over the course of thirteen years, Abbie taught in New York City and Mill Valley public school districts. In 2003, Abbie began working as an educational consultant with several EBISA schools, including Aurora School. In 2007, she returned to Aurora as the school’s Curriculum Coordinator. In 2008, Abbie was promoted to Assistant Head of School. In May 2009, Abbie accepted her appointment as Aurora’s Head of School. She has a passion for progressive education and continues to be fascinated by how children learn and how teachers teach.
Adrian Herrera, K/1 Teaching Assistant
Adrian is excited to be back at Aurora for his fourth year and even more so to be working with the K/1 team! Adrian is a Los Angeles native that came up to the Bay Area for college. He attended Holy Names University where he received his B.A in psychology. He looks forward to creating more fun memories and having a blast with the students of Aurora. Outside of the Aurora community you can find Adrian voice acting, playing video games, cosplaying, and spending time with family and friends.
Aisha Carabello, Yoga Grades K/1
A Bay Area native, Aisha graduated from San Diego State University with degrees in Liberal Studies and Child Development. She has enjoyed working with children of all ages and cultures for the past 17 years. In 2009, Aisha completed her first Children’s Yoga Teacher Training and Mindfulness training programs. A few years later, she launched her own business, Aisha’s Little Om’s, where she provides yoga classes to schools, camps, programs and private groups throughout the Bay Area. A mother of two, Aisha enjoys spending time with family/friends, practicing yoga and mindfulness, being outdoors, cooking, gardening, painting, reading and laughing!
Alex Vittum, Woodshop Grades 2-5
Alex comes from several generations of woodworkers. He grew up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire where he learned shop skills from his grandfather, father and uncle. As a high schooler, he home-schooled and attended the Community School in Tamworth, NH where he studied with local woodworker Bob Wright. There, Alex was given the opportunity to integrate woodworking into his daily curriculum, honing his skills from a young age. Alex has taught woodworking at Aurora School since 2008 and continues to work as a freelance craftsman, consultant and sound artist. He holds a B.A. from Bennington College and an M.F.A. from Mills College. You can see more of his work on his website.
Alexa Eurich, K/1 Lead Teacher
Alexa Eurich earned her undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley. She earned her teaching credential and Masters in Education from Mills College. Alexa taught at The San Francisco Children’s Art Center and has worked in both public and independent K-5 schools in the Bay Area for over seventeen years. She is thrilled to have found her teaching home at Aurora. In 2014 Alexa earned her credential as a Certified Reading Recovery Teacher. Some of Alexa’s favorite things about teaching are: helping kids learn to read and directing the class musical every year. Alexa loves to sing along with her iPod and beat her husband Joe at Monopoly.
Ashley Bellouin, Woodshop Grades K/1
Ashley received her MFA in music from Mills College. While at Mills, she studied instrument building with Daniel Schmidt – Aurora’s first and long-time woodshop teacher – and assisted him with the construction of new gamelan instruments. Upon graduating from Mills, Ashley was awarded a residency at the Paul Dresher Ensemble Artist Residency Center to further her studies in instrument building. Rather than using traditional instruments, Ashley prefers to prototype her designs and build custom stringed and glass instruments with which to compose. In addition to teaching woodworking at Aurora School, Ashley teaches sound art at the San Francisco Art Institute. Her work can be viewed here.
Caitlin Kenney, 2/3 Lead Teacher
A Bay Area native, Caitlin hails from a family of educators. After graduating from UC Davis in 2009 with a degree in International Relations and Education, she decided she wasn’t suited to a diplomatic career. Instead, Caitlin decided to embark on a trip that would take her to five continents. During her travels, she found purpose and passion teaching ESL to preschoolers, primary students and adults in Taiwan, the Czech Republic, Berkeley, and Honduras. Caitlin holds a Multiple Subject Credential from CalState TEACH, which she earned while assistant teaching 2nd and 3rd Grade at Redwood Day School. When not teaching (and sometimes while she is), Caitlin can be found cooking, writing short plays with her partner, keeping aphids out of her garden, choreographing, hiking, learning a new language, or planning her next trip.
Charles Smith, 4/5 Lead Teacher
Charles was born in New Mexico, but grew up in Sacramento. He moved to Los Angeles to attend Loyola Marymount University. After earning his B.A. in education and his multiple subjects teaching credential, he began working at a progressive independent school in Los Angeles as a fourth grade teacher. He is extremely excited to be living back in northern California and part of the warm community at Aurora. When Charles is not teaching he enjoys biking, hiking and traveling to new places.
Cydney Nero, Extended Care
Cydney earned her BFA in Illustration from the California College of the Arts. In an effort to combine her passion for art making with her passion for working with kids, Cydney gained experience through internships, volunteering, summer camps, and art education courses. Most recently, Cydney worked as an art instructor at Park Day School in Oakland and Searles Elementary in Union City. We welcomed Cydney into the Aurora community this summer where she taught Coding and Art during the Creators and Explorers Camp, as well as directed costume and set design during the Musical Theatre Camp. In her free time, Cydney likes painting, drawing, sewing, walking around Lake Merritt, and taking adventures with friends and family.
Daniela Acevedo, Spanish
Daniela, a native of Venezuela, has spent much of her time living in Mexico. She is a young and vibrant teacher with a passion for children, dance, and movement. Daniela studied Communications & Advertising at the Anahuac University, Mexico Norte. When she isn’t teaching kids Spanish, she can be seen Salsa dancing…she is sure to teach the kiddos a few steps!
Darlene Richard, Administrative Assistant & HR Coordinator
This is Darlene’s 14th year at Aurora where she is responsible for the management of the Front Office and for Human Resources. Darlene studied business administration at the College of Sequoias. Upon returning from performing for troops in a DOD USO Tour of the Orient, she moved from the Central Valley to the Bay Area in 1981. Darlene came to Aurora with over 18 years of telecommunications experience and two years in education. Her major interests are singing and songwriting. She is married with one daughter and two sons. She is also intimately involved in the “Women of Vision and Virtue Network”, an organization that provides empowerment training and mentoring for women and girls of all ages, which she founded in 2000. She established Ministry Unlimited in 2013, a ministry that provides teaching and training programs for potential ministers operating outside of the traditional four walls of the church. Darlene also enjoys cooking, reading, traveling and spending time with the family and friends.
Denise Townsend, 4/5 Lead Teacher
Denise has served as an educator in a myriad of capacities in the field of education, holistic medicine and the arts. She has 24 years of teaching experience with students ranging in age from pre-school through 8th grade as well as extensive experience teaching in mixed-age classrooms. Denise has also served as an adjunct faculty member in the School of Education at the University of Colorado Boulder, a staff developer for the Public Education and Business Coalition in Denver and has been a nationwide private consultant in the field of literacy learning. She holds a Masters of Education in Creative Arts in Learning from Lesley University and a Masters of Fine Arts from the San Francisco Art Institute. Denise is passionate about inspiring the love of learning, cultivating creative leadership experiences, and facilitating creative consciousness retreats. She is thrilled to be returning to the creative hub of the Bay Area after a recent international teaching assignment in the Middle East and for the wonderful opportunity to join the Aurora teaching team!
Elizabeth Seaton, Learning Resource Department Educational Therapist
Elizabeth has worked in public and private Bay Area elementary, middle and high schools for over 20 years. She began her career in education as a classroom teacher. When Elizabeth moved to Oakland in 2000, she started working at Aurora in the 2/3 classrooms. Since 2002, Elizabeth has worked with Joyce Kelley in Aurora’s Learning Resource Department. Elizabeth has a B.A. from Connecticut College, earned her teaching credential at San Francisco State and holds a masters in educational therapy from Holy Names University. In addition to working at Aurora, Elizabeth has a private practice as an educational therapist in Oakland. She enjoys walking in the woods, reading, being in or on the water, textile crafts and art, gardening, singing, yummy food, friends, family…and being a part of a progressive school community.
Erina Atkins-Hadad, Finance Manager
Erina works for our accounting firm, Moss CPA, in Walnut Creek. She took over as Aurora’s Finance Manager at the beginning of 2013, working part time helping to manage all aspects of Aurora’s finances. Erina has over 10 years of business and accounting experience. She provides a wide variety of client services, including accounting, tax and tax planning, and QuickBooks consulting services. Erina is working towards a CPA license. She joined the Moss CPA team in 2007. Erina is a 2001 Cal graduate who enjoys spending time with her family.
Eve Decker, Music Specialist
Eve Decker received a bachelor’s degree in theater arts from UC Berkeley and a certificate of mastery in Orff Schulwerk (a wonderful pedagogy for teaching music to children) from Mills College. Eve has been teaching music and theater to people from preschool age through adults for twenty years – all of her adult life. This included working at Aurora School as the music and drama teacher from 1996-2007. In 2012, Eve rejoined the Aurora community and we are thrilled to have her back! In addition to her work teaching Music and Movement classes, she is responsible for coordinating our wonderful Tuesdays morning community assemblies.
Fran Edwards, K/1 Lead Teacher
Fran is thrilled to be entering her fourth year at Aurora. Since 2006 she has been teaching kindergarten, first grade, and art and design at progressive schools in San Francisco and Portland, OR. Fran earned her B.A. in art at Lewis & Clark College and her M.A. in teaching from Western Oregon University in conjunction with Arbor Center for Teaching. She has a passion for early elementary education, where creativity and character development permeate every part of the school day. When she isn’t teaching, Fran enjoys making art, going on outdoor adventures, and practicing yoga.
Jessica Rampel, Development Coordinator
Jessica was raised in the Bay Area and attended progressive schools from elementary all the way through high school. She has been part of the Aurora community for two years and has a daughter who is an Aurora 2nd grader. Jessica was the volunteer co-chair of the 2015 Aurora School Online Auction and joined the staff as Development Coordinator in the Fall of 2015. She holds a B.A. in Liberal Arts from New York University. When she isn’t fundraising, Jessica enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters and sewing up a storm.
Josh Johnson, Extended Care & Camps Director and Facilities Manager
Josh worked within the St. Paul’s after school program before coming to Aurora. Josh has also spent 6 years as the Assistant Camp Director at Adventure Day Camp, a traditional summer camp in Walnut Creek. All together, Josh has over 19 years of experience in the recreation field, both in school and camp settings. Josh grew up in San Francisco, and moved to Alameda in 2004. This is Josh’s sixth year on the Aurora Staff and his fifth year as an Aurora Parent. When he is not as Aurora, Josh enjoys spending quality time with his wife and daughter and enjoys the many family attractions of the East Bay, from the Oakland Zoo to the Alameda Beach.
Joyce Kelley, Learning Resource Specialist
Joyce has been part of Aurora’s educational team since the fall of 2000. Joyce offers support to students, faculty and parents in order to enhance the success of students with learning differences. She provides information about how to support a diversity of learning styles in classrooms. Joyce has a B.S. in psychology from San Francisco State University and an M.A. in education with a certificate in Educational Therapy, from Holy Names University. Joyce has lived in the Bay Area for all of her adult life and has a 25-year-old daughter who works in publishing. Mindfulness, environmental sustainability, and equality are some of her passions. In her free time, Joyce likes to garden, write, read, upcycle found furniture items and spend time with family and friends.
Julie Pollack, Art Teacher
Julie Pollack received a BFA (Bachelors of Fine Arts) from the University of Michigan in Photography and Graphic design. Since graduation, she has worked as a freelance designer, stylist, and consultant for home interiors, events, print, and textile design. Julie started her teaching career as a volunteer in the art room at Tehiyah Day School in El Cerrito. This position eventually led to assisting and substitute teaching roles with the school. Since 2012, Julie has been the Art Director at Mr. D’s Music Camp, teaching thematic, integrated art classes to children ages 7 to 13. A mother of two teenagers, Julie emphasizes process over product, and follows the Aurora motto, “Take Risks, Make Mistakes!”
Kaiya Hatcher, K/1 Teaching Assistant
Kaiya was born and raised in Oakland, going to progressive schools. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from California College of the Arts in Oakland, where she majored in Textiles. She has worked with children for over 10 years, first with summer camps and after school programs, and eventually making her way into the classroom as an Assistant Teacher. Kaiya is passionate about progressive education, especially the focus on cultivating the whole child, project based learning, and addressing issues of social/environmental justice. She is excited to deepen her knowledge and skill as she works towards her credential though Bay Area Teacher Training Institute, along with a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of the Pacific. In her free time Kaiya enjoys embroidering and working with natural dyes, gardening, studying South Indian dance (Bharata Natyam), being outdoors, cooking/nutrition, mindfulness, fitness, riding her bicycle, spending time with loved ones and playing with her bunny, Muka.
Kathy Shepler, Librarian
Kathy attended UC Berkeley where she majored in fine arts history. She started her second career at Aurora with a long-held interest in the study of children’s literature. Kathy is active in many national, state and local librarian organizations. She was elected and served on the American Library Association 2011 Newbery Award Committee. She is the co-chair of the Distinguished Books Committee for the Association of Children’s Librarians of Northern/Central California. She was recently a 3-year member of the USBBY Committee of Outstanding Books for Youth with Disabilities. She is also very active in the Northern California independent Children’s Booksellers organization. Kathy runs a long established and successful Mock Newbery book club for adult reviewers of children’s literature. She teaches workshops to librarians, parents and teachers about the book arts and library curriculum she developed here at Aurora, and has taught at many venues, including other local schools, the San Francisco Center for the Book, the University of Utah and many state conventions. Kathy is the proud mother of three Aurora graduates. She is a native to the Bay Area and has been a part of the school library crew since its inception.
Lisa Piccione, Admissions Director
Lisa is responsible for managing the school’s admissions process, re-enrollment, school events, serves on the Financial Aid committee and supports our fifth grade outplacement. Lisa went to Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts and studied midwifery. She is originally from New York, but has lived in Oakland for the last 33 years. She has been an active member of the Aurora parent body for over 20 years, where her 3 children attended school. This is Lisa’s 14th year as the Admissions Director at Aurora. Lisa enjoys yoga, gardening, making mosaics, cooking, the beach and taking hikes with her wife Kate and little dog, Bella.
Michelle Tiamiyu, 2/3 Teaching Assistant
Originally from the Central Valley, CA, Michelle attended the University of California, Merced for two years before transferring to California State University, East Bay to pursue a degree in English Literature. Michelle has worked in Education since 2007 and is passionate about working with people of diverse backgrounds. Her experience includes working for local after-school programs, and as a tutor, Reading Resource teacher, and YMCA summer camp counselor. In the near future, Michelle plans to pursue a California Teaching Credential in Elementary Education. In her spare time, Michelle enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling, making jewelry, writing poetry, dancing, and attending cultural festivals.
Moises Osorio, Spanish and Music
A native of El Salvador, Moises has over ten years of experience playing piano and saxophone for special events including church services, weddings, special events, and hotels. Moises also has over five years of professional curriculum development and music teaching experience for elementary school students, including students with special needs. He has planned and implemented special events and activities at an elementary school in El Salvador, including seasonal concerts, holiday celebrations, and ceremonies. Moises is currently pursuing an AA Degree in Music at Peralta College and hopes to transfer to the San Francisco State music program to obtain a BA in music education.
Nicole Thomas, 4/5 Teaching Assistant
Nicole Thomas received her bachelors degree in Ethnic Studies from Mills College in Oakland, and law degree from UC Berkeley. Before joining Aurora, Nicole taught cooking at the Edible Schoolyard at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Berkeley and at Urban Montessori Charter School in Oakland. She also teaches cooking in the summer at CAMP 510. She is looking forward to another great year of learning with children in an academic setting while adding lots of deliciousness to the Aurora community. When she is not teaching, Nicole enjoys playing music with her band, knitting, and spending time in nature with her daughter.
Niki Rouda, 2/3 Teaching Assistant
Niki grew up in Southern California. Most of her childhood years were spent in the water whether it was the beach or swimming competitively during her high school and college years. Niki received her bachelors degree in psychology from San Diego State University and moved to the Bay Area in 2002. She taught for ten years at various grade levels and then spent four years at Berkwood Hedge School as an Instructional Aide and Teaching Assistant before joining the Aurora team in 2013.
Rebecca Wilkowski, Marketing & Communications Director
Rebecca comes to Aurora with almost two decades of experience working in the field of digital communications for tech firms, non-profits, higher ed and healthcare institutions. Her extensive experience includes website and social media development, public and media relations, advertising, branding, writing and editing, and community outreach. Rebecca’s passion is connecting organizations to their audiences by creating compelling content delivered via innovative technologies, while simultaneously improving the user experience by integrating feedback from data analysis. A native of Wisconsin, Rebecca graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in cultural anthropology and fine art. After graduating with honors, she relocated to California where she began her career in advertising and marketing. The daughter of a photographer, Rebecca also runs one of the most well-known corporate photography studios in the Bay Area. She’s had the privilege to work with notable clients such as Apple, Google, Time, Inc, FORTUNE, L’oreal, Hitachi, MIT, Harvard, Tony Fadell (Nest/Alphabet), Reed Hastings (Netflix), Mayor Ed Lee, Governor Jeb Bush, and others. In her free time, Rebecca enjoys volunteering, learning to unicycle, traveling, playing music, antiquing, hosting dinner parties, playing with her pug, and searching for the perfect soy latte.
Regina Sorey, 2/3 Lead Teacher
Regina earned her teaching credential at Cal State East Bay and has been teaching ever since. She also holds a B.A in cultural anthropology and dance from SFSU. Regina has taught at several Bay Area elementary schools, and is thrilled to have landed in the amazing Aurora community. She loves working with the wonderful staff and families who feel like an extended family to her. When Regina is not teaching she enjoys spending time with her two beautiful children, cooking, reading, and laughing with friends.
Tony Cifra, Assistant Head of School
Born and raised in New York City, Tony relocated to the Bay Area in the Summer of 2008. In past years, he has worked as an educator with homeless adults, LGBT adolescents, 4th graders in NYC’s Greenwich Village, and novice teachers in San Francisco. He received his bachelor’s degree in human development from Cornell University, and completed a masters in childhood education at New York University. During his spare time he enjoys playing tennis, softball, biking, and visiting his family in NYC. Tony is eager to share and grow with Aurora’s diverse community of learners.
Torre Meeks, Physical Education & Computer Specialist, Extended Care Staff
Torre was born and raised here in Oakland and first joined the Aurora family in 1994 as a kindergartener! After graduating from Aurora and attending Montera Middle School and Skyline High School he went on to earn a BS degree from San Diego State University. He returned to Aurora as a Teaching Assistant in 2013. He is thrilled to be taking his talents around the school as the Physical Education and Computer Specialist, as well as a member of the Extended Care team. Torre has a rich history in athletics and continues to stay active in a variety of sports. He is excited to teach Aurora students creative and fun ways to hone their skills in both the physical and technological worlds. Torre has a passion for the outdoors, music, sports, and education which he loves sharing with the future leaders at Aurora.