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.


Kindergarten & 1st Grade

Alexa Eurich, K/1 Lead Teacher

Andie DiBiase

Lead Teacher (Rm. 3)

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)

  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

Isaac Pasternack

Lead Teacher (Rm. 2)

 Email  |  Extension 302

 Isaac is excited to join the Aurora community. He has taught for the last 3 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. 

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)

  Curriculum Overview

  Email  |  Extension 304

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: See Erica teaching History.

Nicole Thomas, 4/5 Teaching Assistant

Nicole Thomas

Lead Teacher (Rm. 5)

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.

VIDEOS: See Nicole teaching Social Justice and Critical Thinking


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

  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.

VIDEO: See Lynsey teaching Humanities

Photo coming soon

LaCardia Walker-Strickland, STEM Guide

  Email |  510-463-6160

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. 


Photo coming soon

Dr. Tom Howard, Math Guide

  Email |  510-463-6160
Dr. Tom received his Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of California Santa Barbara and a BS in physics from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Dr. 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.

Nicole Thomas, 4/5 Teaching Assistant

Selene Durán, 8th Grade Spanish Teacher


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.


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.

VIDEO: See Otillia teaching PE

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.  

VIDEO: See Casey Teaching Woodshop


Moises Osorio, Spanish and Music

Moisés Osorio, Spanish & Music


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. He’s excited to be a member of the Aurora community.

VIDEOS: See Moisés teaching Spanish and Music

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

VIDEOS: See Julie teaching Art


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).

Mike Woolson

Kaitlin Higuera, Middle School Learning Specialist


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.”
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


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!

Leadership Team

Abigayil Koss, Head of School

Abigayil Koss, Head of School

 Email  |  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.

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 8th-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. Lisa has been Aurora’s admissions Director for more than twenty years. She 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

Aimee Moss, Finance Manager

 Email  |  (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.

Tony Cifra, Assistant Head of School

Jennifer Lombardi, Development Coordinator

 Email  |  Extension 205

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.

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 spouse, three cats, and an astonishingly lazy dog.


Rolling admissions are open for the 2023-24 school year!
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