Staff & Faculty

At Aurora we are privileged to 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.

Faculty

Kindergarten & 1st Grade

Alexa Eurich, K/1 Lead Teacher

Andie DiBiase

Lead Teacher (Rm. 3)

Weekly Schedule   Curriculum Overview


Email  |  Extension 303

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.

Cheaunie Sparks

Teaching Assistant

 Email  | Extension 303

Cheaunie is very excited to join the Aurora community, with over 25 years 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

Tanya Grove

Lead Teacher (Rm. 1)

Weekly Schedule   Curriculum Overview

 Email  |  Extension 301

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. Her dream is to one day go to Spain.

Photo coming soon

Elise Frank

Lead Teacher (Rm. 2)

Weekly Schedule   Curriculum Overview

 Email  |  Extension 302

Elise is excited to further her commitment to community-centered schooling, critical thinking, and rigorous, joyful learning at Aurora. Before joining the Aurora School community, Elise taught at Caliber: Beta Academy in Richmond, worked in K-8 classrooms in the Walla Walla public school system, and worked as a teacher and administrator for Breakthrough Denver. She strives to cultivate joy in her classroom, incorporate social-emotional learning into all aspects of the school day, and teach content through a conceptual, inquiry-based lens. Elise holds an undergraduate degree in Race and Ethnic Studies from Whitman College and a master’s degree in education from Loyola Marymount University. When she is not teaching, Elise enjoys hiking, reading, cooking, and spending time with family and friends.

Siena Meeks

Dana Culpepper

Teaching Assistant

 Email  |

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

Tony Cifra, Assistant Head of School

Erica Ryan

Lead Teacher (Rm. 4)

Weekly Schedule   Curriculum Overview

  Email  |  Extension 304

Erica graduated from the College of Natural Resources at UC Berkeley in 2002 and earned her teaching credential at Mills College. For over a decade, she worked at Berkwood Hedge School where she served on the Board of Directors and taught K-5 Environmental Science and fourth grade. Erica went on to hone her teaching practice and understanding of progressive education at Park Day School where she taught fifth grade for four years. In her free time, Erica enjoys riding her bicycle, gardening, playing cards, and traveling. She is also involved in the Bay Area sailing community where she often competes in regattas. Erica is excited to bring her passion for teaching and learning to the Aurora community.

Nicole Thomas, 4/5 Teaching Assistant

Nicole Thomas

Lead Teacher (Rm. 5)

Weekly Schedule   Curriculum Overview

Email  |  Extension 305

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.

Photo coming soon

Mandy Mudde, 5th Grade Math Teacher

 Email  |

Mandy Mudde has over 14 years of experience in education and has taught math in both middle and high school around the Bay Area at Contra Costa Christian, Bentley, and Nueva. Amanda holds a B.A. in Education and Mathematics from Calvin College and an MA in Mathematics Education from San Francisco State University. Her research study focused on ways to combat anxiety in the classroom through journaling and reflection. Her favorite moment in the mathematics classroom is seeing that look on a person’s face when they understand a mathematical concept—what she calls the “Aha! Moment.” Outside of school, she loves to spend time with her toddler as she explores the world around her. Mandy is so excited to be a part of the Aurora community.

Siena Meeks

Sophia Xiques, Teaching Assistant

 Email  | 

An Oakland native, Sophia and recently 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

Photo coming soon

Lynsey Kamine, Humanities Guide

Weekly Schedule

  Email |  Extension 306

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.

Photo coming soon

Jeri Countryman, STEM Guide

 Email  |  Extension 306

Jeri Countryman received her bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Simmons College, a master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Computer Science from Mills College, and a master’s degree in Education from UC Santa Cruz. For the past six years, she created and taught students the design process in the Innovation Lab at Children’s Day School in San Francisco. When Jeri is not teaching, she is spending time with her two children and husband. As a family they love to camp, hike, and paddleboard. Jeri is excited to join the Aurora community as a founding member of the middle school team.

Photo coming soon

Mandy Mudde, Math Guide

 Email  |  Extension 306

Mandy Mudde has over 14 years of experience in education and has taught math in both middle and high school around the Bay Area at Contra Costa Christian, Bentley, and Nueva. Amanda holds a B.A. in Education and Mathematics from Calvin College and an MA in Mathematics Education from San Francisco State University. Her research study focused on ways to combat anxiety in the classroom through journaling and reflection. Her favorite moment in the mathematics classroom is seeing that look on a person’s face when they understand a mathematical concept—what she calls the “Aha! Moment.” Outside of school, she loves to spend time with her toddler as she explores the world around her. Mandy is so excited to be a part of the Aurora community.

Specialists

Photo coming soon

Jeri Countryman, STEM

 Email  |  Extension 306

Jeri Countryman received her bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Simmons College, a master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Computer Science from Mills College, and a master’s degree in Education from UC Santa Cruz. For the past six years, she created and taught students the design process in the Innovation Lab at Children’s Day School in San Francisco. When Jeri is not teaching, she is spending time with her two children and husband. As a family they love to camp, hike, and paddleboard. Jeri is excited to join the Aurora community as a founding member of the middle school team.

Nicole Thomas, 4/5 Teaching Assistant

Otillia Hoops, Physical Education and Mindful Movement

 

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.

Photo coming soon

Casey Nutt, Woodshop

Casey Nutt 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.  

Moises Osorio, Spanish and Music

Moisés Osorio, Spanish & Music

 Email  |

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.

Julie Pollack, Art Teacher

Julie Pollack, Art

 Email  |  Extension 210

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!”

Mike Woolson

Ann Levinsohn, Learning Resource Specialist
  Email  |  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).

Nicole Thomas, 4/5 Teaching Assistant

Nicole Thomas, Library

Email  |  Extension 223

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.

Emily Dmytryk

Grace Deaton, Librarian

 Email  |

Grace Deaton 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!

Emily Dmytryk

Yael Schy, Drama

 Email  |

Yael Schy is a dynamic theater and dance instructor, improviser, storyteller, singer/songwriter, and stand-up comedian known for her creative approach that makes learning FUN! Yael has been performing and teaching theater and dance for almost 50 years. She is the director of All That Jazz, a San Francisco Bay Area musical improv troupe, director of the improv troupe at Alameda Comedy Club, and a Main Stage Cast member at All Out Comedy Theater. Yael is also a founding member of the Applied Improvisation Network, an international association of practice professionals and academics who use improv tools, experience, and theory for human development, training, and coaching in communities and organizations. She is the Founder of Zoomers to Boomers Improv, a virtual programconnecting people of all ages around the world through the magic of improv!

 

 

Leadership Team

 

 

Abigayil Koss, Head of School

Abigayil Koss, Head of School

 Email  |  Extension 202

Abbie has over 25 years of experience in education, including administration, staff development, curriculum development, and teaching. She joined Aurora in 2007 and became Head of School the next year. Thanks to her expertise in education and administration, Abbie was recruited by and joined the Board of Marin Horizon School in the spring of 2019. Committed to progressive education, she continues to be fascinated by how children learn and how teachers teach. Abbie holds a Master Degree in Education from Bank Street College of Education in New York City.

Lisa Piccione, Admissions Director

Lisa Piccione, Admissions Director

 Email  |  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.

Josh Johnson, Extended Care & Camps Director and Facilities Manager

Josh Johnson, Extended Care & Camps Director and Facilities Manager

 Email  |  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.

Katheryn Negrosa, Assistant to the Head & HR Coordinator

 Email  |  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.

Erina Atkins-Hadad, Finance Manager

Erina Atkins-Hadad, Finance Manager

 Email  |  (925) 482-2631

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.

Mike Woolson

Mike Woolson, Communications and Marketing Director

  Email  |  Extension 226

Mike is a writer, designer, photographer and cartoonist. His previous experience includes positions as marketing and communications director for Oakland First Fridays and the KONO Community Benefit District, creative director for a Silicon Valley marketing agency, 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 hung shows of his photography and art. He’s a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence and a member of the Oakland artist collective Five Ton Crane. Mike holds a Master’s in Journalism and Visual Communication from Ohio University, and a Bachelor’s in English from the University of Michigan. He lives in West Oakland with his partner, two cats, and an astonishingly lazy dog.