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.

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 has been Head of School for the past ten years. 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, and moved to Alameda in 2004. This is Josh’s sixth year on the Aurora Staff. When he is not as 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.

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.

Faculty

Kindergarten & 1st Grade

Alexa Eurich, K/1 Lead Teacher

Lyla Weinstein

Lead Teacher (Rm. 3)

Weekly Schedule   Curriculum Overview

Email  |  Extension 303

Lyla Weinstein earned her undergraduate degree at Occidental College; and her teaching credential and Master of Education from BATTI (Bay Area Teacher’s Training Institute) through the University of the Pacific. Lyla taught at Marin Country Day School before joining Aurora School, and taught preschool for many years prior to that. Some of Lyla’s favorite things about teaching are connecting with her students and helping them develop a love of learning. She is thrilled to have joined the Aurora School community. In her free time, Lyla likes to garden, play with her two kitties (Taco and Potter), and spend time with her partner, Kim.

Fran Edwards, K/1 Lead Teacher

Annalyse Sheppard

Lead Teacher (Rm. 3)

Weekly Schedule   Curriculum Overview Email  |  Extension 303

Annalyse always knew she would be a teacher. Born into a family of educators, teaching is in her blood. Annalyse earned her teaching credential from Loyola Marymount University and has since taught at both public and private schools across Los Angeles and the Bay Area. Annalyse feels fortunate to be teaching at Aurora, a school that teaches rigorous academics in a progressive, hands-on way. She is passionate about teaching mixed-age classrooms and mindfulness to children. In her free time, Annalyse can be found adventuring around National Parks in her van or deepening her meditation practice. 

Cheaunie Sparks

Teaching Assistant

 Email  |

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

Maggie Breuner

Lead Teacher (Rm. 1)

Weekly Schedule   Curriculum Overview

 Email  |  Extension 301

Maggie earned her teaching credential from Mills College and is currently pursuing her Masters of Education there. She strives to support all types of learning by building strong relationships, prioritizing creative expression, and teaching content in a way that best serves the needs of her students. She has been working with children in a wide variety of educational settings for the last eight years. From working as a Pediatric Mental Health Specialist at Seattle Children’s Hospital to teaching pre-kindergarten in Berkeley, Maggie has always been inspired by children’s ability to learn, grow, and care for themselves and one another. When she’s not teaching, Maggie loves to run, tend to her garden, and adventure through the Bay Area with family and friends.

Photo coming soon

Elise Frank

Lead Teacher (Rm. 2)

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.

Danielle Deaver

Teaching Assistant

 Email  |

Danielle is overjoyed to join the Aurora team. With three years of experience in education as a preschool teacher, kindergarten aide, and aftercare teacher, she is excited to bring her knowledge and passion to Aurora. Her passion for working with children began long before as she worked as an ice skating coach for 12 years and volunteered with people that have developmental and physical disabilities through Special Olympics and REACH West for over 20 years. She is currently working toward a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. When Danielle is not working with children or volunteering, she enjoys ice skating, skiing, four-wheeling, and camping.

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

Danielle Aguilar

Teaching Assistant

 Email  | 

Having grown up in a family of artists and educators, Danielle knew two things at a very young age: she loved expressing herself creatively, and she wanted to be a teacher. After being a paraeducator in Highland Park for 5 years, Danielle pursued a Fine Art degree from Otis College of Art + Design in Los Angeles. When she’s not in the classroom, Danielle is in her studio painting with acrylic and gouache or dancing to Radiohead. She also enjoys coffee tastings, hiking, beautiful views, and windy days. Danielle is excited to be part of the Aurora community.

6th Grade

Photo coming soon

Andrea Cartwright, Humanities Guide

 Email  |

Andrea brings over a decade of experience in independent and public schools to Aurora. She earned her bachelor’s degree from UC San Diego; her credential and Master in Education are from Brandman. Andrea is passionate about the humanities because she knows that stories shape our world. She strives to empower students’ voices and to understand and value the perspective of others. An East Bay native, Andrea is excited to learn and explore alongside her students within the classroom and beyond. In addition to working with young people, Andrea loves to run, read, and tend to her chickens and children. 

Photo coming soon

Jeri Countryman, STEM Guide

 Email  |

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  |

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

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. Casey is happily married and has an adventurous 10-year-old daughter.

Emily Dmytryk

Emily Dmytryk, Physical Education, Yoga & Aftercare

 Email  |

An Aurora alumna, Emily brings years of experience as a volunteer, Counselor in Training (CIT), and Camp Counselor at Aurora’s Summer Camps. It was during her time at Aurora that Emily discovered her passion for working with kids and made the decision to become an elementary school teacher. Emily has volunteered at Emerson Elementary School, traveled to Thailand and Costa Rica to teach English to children, and tutored in schools and afterschool programs. In 2017, Emily graduated with a degree in Education Sciences and English from UC Irvine, and is thrilled to be back at Aurora.

Photo coming soon

Jeri Countryman, STEM

 Email  |

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.

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!”

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.

Nicole Thomas, 4/5 Teaching Assistant

Nicole Thomas, Library

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.

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