Meet the Team

We have an incredible team of committed educators and administrators who step up every day to extend the wonder of childhood for our students. They model what real leadership looks like while at the same time create opportunities for students to practice the many ways to lead.


Kindergarten & 1st Grade

Lead Teacher, Room 3

Andie DiBiase

Growing up on a boarding school campus as the daughter of educators, Andie has always loved being part of a learning community. Andie ventured out to the west coast for school and has lived here ever since. She earned an undergraduate degree in Environmental Science at Willamette University and her teaching credential and Masters in Teaching from BATTI (Bay Area Teacher Training Institute). Andie spent several years teaching outdoor education before transitioning into the classroom at Marin Country Day School. She is excited to share her appreciation of nature and passion for experiential learning with the Aurora community. In her free time, Andie likes to explore hiking trails, read, practice yoga, and climb.

Video: Andie teaches K/1 language arts
Teaching Assistant, Room 3

Cheaunie Sparks  |  Extension 303

Cheaunie has over 25 years' experience in education. She has taught pre-school; been a school admissions director, a school office manager, a grade-level reading tutor, a one-on-one aide to students, and a teaching assistant; and run summer camps. She started her career in education while studying to become a child psychologist and fell in love with early childhood education. While Cheaunie never finished her psychology degree, her many years working with children and raising her own four kids have given her a vast amount of knowledge and experience to pull from—along with a passion for working with students. When not teaching, Cheaunie is busy gardening, baking, spending time with her big family, or running her two dogs.

2nd & 3rd Grade

Lead Teacher, Room 1

Tanya Grove

Tanya grew up in Oklahoma but fell in love with California when she went to Pomona College, where she got her B.A. in English. After she got her credential at SF State, she taught in public school for a few years while she lived in Santa Cruz but moved back to the Bay Area in 1989 to teach for 19 years at Prospect Sierra. She took a detour from education to write children’s poetry, a middle-grade novel, and many plays before spending a few years editing books. For the last five years, she was an Independent Studies Teacher at Five Keys, which is a charter school that originated in San Francisco jails and caters to adults who want to get their high school diploma. Including her summer stint as a pre-school teacher, her year subbing, and her time as an after-school director for middle school, she has taught every level from pre-K to 12 th grade and has had students from age 2 to 56! She loves to play games, sing, strum her guitar, do the daily Wordle, and go to the theater.

Video: Tanya teaches math
Lead Teacher, Room 2

Isaac Pasternack

Isaac is excited to be part of the Aurora community. He has taught for the last three years at a public school in Oakland, serving a diverse community of learners. Before that he worked as a teaching assistant for many years at an East Bay independent school, and looks forward to returning to a small community of families at Aurora. He holds a bachelor’s degree in History from the University of Washington, and obtained his master’s degree in Education through the BATTI (Bay Area Teacher Training Institute) program at the University of the Pacific. Isaac is committed to infusing joy, social justice, and social emotional learning into all subject areas he teaches. When he’s not at work he can be found listening to music, sewing, or riding his bike through the many parks in the East Bay hills.

Teaching Assistant, Rooms 1 & 2

Dana Culpepper

Dana is a San Luis Obispo native who relocated to the Bay Area to attend Mills College, from which she recently obtained her bachelor’s degree. Her passion for helping children thrive began over eight years ago with the preschool program attached to her high school. Her interest in childhood education and extracurriculars was further fostered with her three years working with YMCA day camp and summer school programs, where she worked with diverse groups of children as young as kindergarteners and as old as middle schoolers. She is dedicated to providing an equitable experience for all students that recognizes their full social, emotional, and academic potential. When not in the classroom, she can be found playing on a tennis court, legal observing for activism demonstrations, or out exploring the Bay Area.

4th & 5th Grade

Lead Teacher, Room 4

Erica Ryan

Erica came to Aurora in 2018 with many years of experience teaching fourth and fifth grade, and she loves the mixed-grade model of teaching 4/5s. She enjoys working with upper elementary students because they bring their insights, empathy, and desire for independence to the learning community. Erica values the relationships she develops with students and families in their two years together and preparing students for the next big step in their education.
Erica graduated from the College of Natural Resources at UC Berkeley with an emphasis on Environmental Education, and she earned her teaching credential at Mills College. Outside of teaching, Erica enjoys bicycling, competitive sailing, and traveling.

Video: Erica teaches history
Lead Teacher, Room 5 & Aurora Librarian

Nicole Thomas

Nicole holds a bachelors in Ethnic Studies from Mills College in Oakland, a Masters of Fine Arts in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. and a 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 manages Aurora's wonderful school library 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, writing, and spending time in nature with her family.

 Video: Nicole teaches social justice
Teaching Assistant, Rooms 4 & 5

Sophia Xiques

Sophia was born and raised in Oakand, and graduated from San Francisco State University as a transfer student majoring in Social Work with a minor in Queer Ethnic Studies. They have worked with children for years as a nanny and camp counselor and joined Aurora during the 21-22 school year as a substitute and aftercare teacher. They are committed to education that is accessible, community- and relationship-oriented, centers the most marginalized, and prepares kids to understand who they are as a part of our world. When they aren’t working with young people, Sophia is reading sci-fi, organizing in Oakland, and spending time with their loved ones. Sophia is so excited to bring their passion for working with young people and learning in community to Aurora!

Middle School (grades 6-8)

Middle School Humanities Guide

Lynsey Kamine

Lynsey thrives given opportunities to be authentic and creative, and to empower students to be their most dynamic selves.
Since graduating from The Ohio State University with a BA in English and Creative Writing, Lynsey has worked as a teacher and administrator in Memphis, TN and San Jose, CA, specializing in approaches for diverse learners, writing workshops, and restorative practices.  Outside of school, Lynsey is either attempting to teach her cat to enjoy camping and hiking with her and her dog, trying out a new craft, kayaking, or reading.

Video: Lynsey teaches Humanities

Middle School STEM Guide

LaCardia Walker-Strickland

LaCardia has always considered herself to be a knowledge seeker driven by her own curiosities. She loves being able to empower students to find the paths that allow them to be their most authentic selves.
LaCardia received a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science and Wellness from UTM, a master’s degree in Exercise Science and Wellness from Ashland University, and a master’s degree in Education from the Relay Graduate School of Education. She has guided students through Science, Math Intervention, and Facing History throughout her teaching journey thus far. LaCardia enjoys working with the youth outside of school and has been a coach on several Step Teams.
LaCardia loves spending time with family, cooking plant based meals, exercising, Marvel movies, reading, gardening, and enjoying all of the moments that life offers her.

Video: LaCardia on STEM and SEL
Middle School Math Guide & 5th Grade Math Teacher

Dr. Tom Howard

Dr. Tom received his Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of California Santa Barbara and a BS in physics from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Tom has taught math and physics for over 14 years, working with students from elementary school through university. He is passionate about sharing the beauty and power of these fields of study, understanding how they shape the world around us, and discussing the cutting-edge research being done by the mathematicians and physicists of today.

Video: Tom teaches Middle School math


Learning Resource Specialist

Ann Levinsohn |  Extension 206

Ann earned her MS in early childhood education from Bank Street College of Education in New York. While raising her two kids in Chicago and then East Bay, she held teaching positions in pre-K through first grade. In 2002 Ann made the jump to working with kids with learning challenges, acquiring her Educational Therapist certification from UC-Berkeley Extension.  She has been working with these amazing and diverse students for the last 19 years, in private practice and at The Berkeley School.  Ann enjoys hanging out with her grown children and her two dogs (Bea and Esty).

Woodshop Specialist

Casey Nutt

Casey grew up fishing and sailing at the Berkeley Marina. He developed an affinity for carpentry in high school while building sets for plays. He graduated from the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding in 2002. Since then he has worked as a marine and residential carpenter. In 2008 he began teaching classes and summer camps around the Bay Area with Kids’ Carpentry. He enjoys exploring hands-on education with his students and is passionate about primitive survival skills, permaculture, and martial arts.

 Video: Casey teaches Woodshop
Library Specialist

Grace Deaton

Grace grew up in Grass Valley, a small town in Northern California, but relocated to Oakland in 2016 to attend Mills College. There, she obtained her bachelor’s degree in creative writing and economics. She is now pursuing her master’s degree in library science at San Jose State University. Grace has loved reading her entire life, but in recent years she has found a passion for instilling that same love of reading in the younger generation. Her goal in working as a youth librarian is to teach kids that reading is a great resource for learning or purely for enjoyment. She believes reading should bring joy first and foremost, and that joy pushes kids to want to learn. When Grace isn’t teaching or in the library she can be found playing tennis, playing board games with friends, or, of course, reading!
Working with Head Librarian Nicole Thomas, Grace manages Aurora's expansive school library.

Art Specialist

Julie Pollack |  Extension 210

Julie 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 young adults, Julie emphasizes process over product, and follows the Aurora motto, “Take Risks, Make Mistakes!”

 Video: Julie teaches Art
Middle School Learning Specialist

Kaitlin Higuera |  Extension 210

Katie is an Oakland native who obtained her bachelors degree at the University of California Santa Barbara. From 2003-2019 she worked at Aurora schools summer camp as a counselor and CIT director. She is passionate about supporting the diverse needs of students. Katie obtained her mild/moderate teaching credential and a masters degree in special education at Holy Names University. She taught for 14 years as a 4/5 classroom teacher and 6-8 learning specialist at a school for students with learning challenges.
Outside of school Katie enjoys spending time with her husband and two young boys whether it be bubbles on the balcony or a trip to the beach. She will take any opportunity to travel and tries to explore a new state or country every year.

Music & Spanish Specialist

Moisés Osorio

A native of El Salvador, Moisés has over ten years of experience teaching elementary school students music and Spanish. Moisés received his B.A. in Music Education from CSU East Bay. As a music teacher in El Salvador, Moisés planned and implemented special events and activities, including seasonal concerts, holiday celebrations, and ceremonies. Moisés is also a professional musician, and in his spare time, he enjoys playing jazz and Latin piano at gigs and events throughout the Bay Area. Moisés taught Spanish with Viva el Español for four years and is excited to become a full-time member of the Aurora community.

 Video: Moisés teaches Music
 Video: Moisés teaches Spanish
Physical  Education & Mindful Movement Specialist

Otillia Hoops

Otillia was born in South Africa and came to the USA in 2004. While completing her  bachelors here in San Francisco she discovered her love for hula hooping, and was performing and teaching all over the Bay Area. Otillia holds a teaching credential and focuses on physical education aligning with her personal beliefs and experiences. She believes hooping, and any sport is, a joyful activity with health benefits both for the mind and body at any age.

 Video: Otillia teaches Phys Ed
8th Grade Spanish Specialist

Selene Durán

Selene has been teaching Spanish since 2009, along with managing elementary education programs and bilingual library story hours. She believes multiculturalism is critical to helping kids understand the world they live in, and loves the opportunity to share the culture of her native Mexico. She recently returned to the Bay Area after seven years back in Mexico and is excited to be teaching in Aurora’s social-emotional learning model.
She holds an engineering degree from the Technological Institute of Culiacan in Mexico and a Master Teacher certificate in Early Childhood Education from Chabot College in Hayward. When not teaching she likes to spend time hiking with her kids Aurora and Santi.

Leadership Team

Head of School

Abigayil Koss |  Extension 202

Abbie has over 30 years of experience in education, including administration, staff development, curriculum development, and teaching. Abbie has been Head of School at Aurora for 15 years. She believes deeply in the Aurora teaching philosophy and a student-centered approach to decision-making at all levels from curriculum to Board decisions. Committed to progressive education, she continues to be fascinated by how children learn and how teachers teach. Abbie holds a Master’s Degree in Education from Bank Street College of Education in New York City. When not working, Abbie loves to hike, dance, and spend time with her family.

Director of Admissions and High School Placement

Lisa Piccione |  Extension 204

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 most of her life. She has been an active member of the Aurora parent body, where her three children attended school. This is Lisa’s 20th year as the Admissions Director at Aurora. Lisa enjoys yoga, gardening, making mosaics, cooking, the beach, and taking hikes with her wife Kate.

Extended Care & Camps Director and Facilities Manager

Josh Johnson |  Extension 208

Josh has over 20 years of experience in the recreation field, both in school and camp settings. Josh grew up in San Francisco, moved to Alameda in 2004, and started working at Aurora in 2009. When not at Aurora, Josh enjoys spending quality time with his wife and daughter enjoying the many family attractions in the East Bay, from the Oakland Zoo to the Alameda Beach.

Assistant to the Head of School and HR Coordinator

Katheryn Negrosa |  Extension 201

Katheryn manages the Front Office and Human Resources. An Oakland native, she is happy to work with the community she was born and raised in. Katheryn studied Early Childhood Education and Psychology in college, and comes to Aurora with an extensive background as a former preschool teacher, banker, and most recently, school administrator. Katheryn “lives in the details” and enjoys helping people, thanks to her patient, understanding demeanor. A passionate mother of two boys, she believes that any time with her kids is time well spent! Her favorite pastimes are indulging in delicious cuisine, traveling near or far to explore different cultures and events, exploring nature, and exercising.

Communications and Marketing Director

Mike Woolson |  Extension 226

Mike is a writer, designer, photographer and cartoonist. His previous experience includes positions as marketing and communications director for Oakland First Fridays, creative director for a Silicon Valley marketing agency, freelance producer of interactive educational materials, design editor for a newspaper in Taiwan and even some time as a classroom teacher. He’s documented art and artists in the East Bay for more than twenty years, created a couple of obscure but clever comic strips, and has had his photography and art published in several books and shown in venues including the Smithsonian Institution and the Oakland Museum. He's a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence and part of the Oakland artist collective Five Ton Crane, and holds a Master’s in Journalism and Visual Communication from Ohio University, and a Bachelor’s in English from the University of Michigan. Mike lives in West Oakland with his partner, two cats, and an astonishingly lazy dog.

Finance Manager

Aimee Moss |  (925) 482-2620

Aimee works for our accounting firm, Moss CPA, in Walnut Creek. She has been assisting Aurora’s Business Office since 2021, helping to manage all aspects of Aurora’s finances. Aimee has over 20 years’ experience working with public and independent schools in a variety of capacities. She finds it gratifying to support the work of such an inclusive and welcoming community.
Aimee is a native of the Bay Area and graduated from Smith College with a degree in Education. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, baking, puttering in the garden, and finding new places to explore around the bay.

Development Coordinator

Jennifer Lombardi

Jennifer earned her Bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University and her law degree Hofstra University. With over 15 years of experience in non-profit fundraising and board development, she excels at managing annual fund campaigns, major gift asks, gala auction events, endowment asks, and parent association activities for independent K-12 schools. In addition to her fundraising skills, Jennifer has also spent three years as an appointed Berkeley City Council Committee Member. Most recently, she has worked as a grant researcher and writer, fundraising consultant, and development director for a local nonprofit school and therapy center. Jennifer currently lives in Berkeley with her husband, three sons, and rescue dog. In her spare time, she enjoys playing competitive mahjongg.

Board of Directors

Our Board of Directors is a supportive and forward-thinking group comprised of Aurora parents and friends who care deeply about the school. They volunteer their time and expertise to ensure that Aurora stays fiscally strong and that the Aurora mission continues to thrive for years to come.

Board President

Meaghan Thomas-Kennedy

Meaghan is an Aurora parent, East Coast transplant, and attorney by day (and sometimes night too). She is Senior Legal Counsel – Antitrust Litigation at Apple..  Before law school, Meaghan handled the marketing function for several New England boarding schools.  She is a graduate of Smith College and University of Virginia School of Law.  In her rare spare time, Meaghan enjoys spending time with her partner, Jackie, and their two kids.

Vice President

Arjun Saroya

Arjun is an LA native, a New Yorker at heart, and an East Bay resident since 2013. He’s a proud father to Kailash and aspiring partner to his better half (Deepali), who both seem to have an eye rolling condition.
With a degree in mechanical engineering and a lifelong dedication to the environment, he co-founded an energy efficiency company in 2009. Its helped hundreds of thousands of small businesses reduce their carbon emissions while improving their buildings.
Today, he is an advisor to startups, a consultant on product and corporate development, and an investor focused on India. His latest professional interests are at the intersection of blockchains and global public goods.
In his down time he likes tinkering on DIY projects, trying to kite board, and playing tennis and pickle ball with friends.


Brian Gleeson

Since 2006, Brian has worked as a consultant for Kaiser Foundation Health Plan where he currently leads a regulatory affairs team addressing clinical and legal matters. He conducts ethnographic and historical research with California Indians and serves as Editor in Chief and Co-founder of the digital journal, California Cultures: a Monograph Series. Since 2015, Brian has taught Cultural Anthropology courses at CSU East Bay with an emphasis on the Indigenous Peoples of North America and California. Brian currently serves as President of the East Bay Council where he leads seven schools in the California Council of Parent Participation Nursery Schools. Brian has lived in Oakland since 2001, enjoys coffee, Futures studies, playing drums and guitar, and is the proud parent of Aurora students Theo and Camila.


Josh Stern

With over 20 years in educational administration, Josh Stern draws on a combined understanding of school finance, management, and process improvement in his work at WestED.  His specific projects include assisting districts in applying continuous improvement methodologies to leadership development, district-wide strategy, and school-based resource allocation processes. His current focus is assisting schools and districts in Southern California. Before joining WestEd, Josh was Head of School at St. Paul Episcopal School in Oakland, CA. Josh has a master degree in Educational Policy Analysis and Evaluation from Stanford University.


David Hinton

A native of Cleveland, OH, David arrived in the Bay Area in 2007, by way of Boston, and has lived in Oakland since 2010. He has over 20 years of institutional money management experience at Boston Partners Global Investors, Inc., and currently serves as a member of the 3-person team responsible for managing the firm’s Small Cap Value strategy, which has $5B of assets under management. He is the proud parent of Daniel and Nora (an Aurora 4th grader), and lucky to call Chinwe his wife and better half.
In his spare time, he enjoys staying physically active, spending time with family, traveling, cooking and learning new things.


David Lemberger

David Lemberger is a Certified Public Accountant and IRS-registered tax preparer with 35 years’ experience emphasizing control and tax compliance for startup companies, venture capital, individuals and businesses from his office in Oakland’s Montclair neighborhood.


Mark Schirmer

Mark is an Aurora parent to Ayla (‘25).  He was sold on the Aurora mission observing the amazing teaching team in action as he chaperoned the overnight class trip to Walker Creek.

As an architect, his focus has primarily been multi-family housing, with design experience including a wide variety of projects from colleges, theaters, and dance studios, to wastewater treatment plants and community gardens.  He is dedicated to mentoring the next generation of architects daily in the office and outside, writing educational study material for the Architectural Registration Exam and coaching licensure candidates. Mark enjoys building, whether on his own or a friend’s house or volunteering for Habitat for Humanity.  Early in the morning you can find him running the trails in the East Bay hills. He has a BA in architecture from Syracuse University.


Suzanne Roosevelt

An east coast transplant, Suzanne lives in the East Bay with her husband, Jonathan and their two sons. She is the parent of a current Aurora Middle School student (Jackson ‘24). Aurora’s integrated academic curriculum, emphasis on experiential learning, and supportive, nurturing environment drew the Roosevelt family to Aurora.
Suzanne spent her career Massachusetts General Hospital and Stanford Medical Center working to improve the quality and efficiency of patient care in big and small ways. She brings almost two decades of experience with team building, problem (re)framing, brainstorming, rapid design iteration, and cross-departmental implementation to solve intractable problems and bring innovative ideas to life.

Rolling admissions are open for the 2024-25 school year! Learn More
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