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Ali Felman's picture

Ali Felman

Middle School Language Arts Teacher
ali@synergyschool.org
Ali Felman's picture

Ali Felman

Middle School Language Arts Teacher
ali@synergyschool.org
I come from a home in Kansas City where my mother, a lifelong educator, encouraged my twin sister and me to read anything and everything. I especially loved the backs of shampoo bottles. I spent this past year at The Park School working with middle school students in the Humanities. Before that, I was a Sociology student at Wesleyan University, where I spent most of my time performing improv comedy and other dramatic projects, playing the viola in various ensembles, and running a tutoring program. I love reading, running (slowly), cooking, traveling, and appreciating all dogs that come my way. I look forward to reading my favorite books and poems with Synergy’s creative, kind, loving community of learners! 
Annie Aguirre's picture

Annie Aguirre

Rainbow Room Teacher
annie@synergyschool.org
Annie Aguirre's picture

Annie Aguirre

Rainbow Room Teacher
annie@synergyschool.org
Ever since I began teaching in 1999, I've always been a champion for change in the way curriculum is designed and taught. The freedom to develop curriculum based on my students and my own interests drew me to Synergy. Over the years I've developed a passion for bringing environmental studies to my students. I enjoy teaching them about the Earth, its landforms, oceans, and life cycles. Those interests have grown into school garden programs at Synergy. What I love about teaching is encouraging my students to express what they know, challenging them to think critically about new information, and helping them connect the dots along the way. It's amazing to watch how their minds grow and develop when these connections are made.
Ariel Leighton's picture

Ariel Leighton

Director of After School
Middle School Aide
ariel@synergyschool.org
Ariel Leighton's picture

Ariel Leighton

Director of After School
Middle School Aide
ariel@synergyschool.org
I am a proud alumna (Class of 1992), a proud staff member (since 1999), a writer, poet, and explorer. Since the age of 17, I have traveled to a different part of the world every year from the deserts of Egypt and Kenya to the lush terrains of Central America to the incredibly beautiful landscapes of the Philippines, Thailand and beyond. My travels inspire me to grow and change, to explore and think differently, and to learn and respect different cultures. It’s this same journey of exploration and growth that I see in my students and informs my love, compassion, and respect for them. When I’m not globetrotting or caring for my students, I’m writing, journaling, and immersing myself in my community of dancers, artists, and writers. I also find time to sharpen my skills at reading people in my other passion… as a semi-professional poker player.
Becky Barmore's picture

Becky Barmore

School Secretary
bbarmore@synergyschool.org
Becky Barmore's picture

Becky Barmore

School Secretary
bbarmore@synergyschool.org
I have been a part of the Synergy community for many years now. My son was a Young K student who graduated in 2013 and my daughter graduated in 2015. I volunteered in their classrooms, drove to many field trips, and eventually became a substitute teacher. In 2014, I was hired to work in the front office and it allows me to continue to support this wonderful school. My background in both the legal and athletic education fields affords me a unique perspective to bring to this community.
Becky Leighton's picture

Becky Leighton

Financial Assistant
becky@synergyschool.org
Becky Leighton's picture

Becky Leighton

Financial Assistant
becky@synergyschool.org
I’ve worked full time in Synergy’s office since 1990. I did a few years of part time work in the office before that and was an After School teacher as well. I love helping Synergy families and staff take care of their everyday business.
Carolyn Kruse's picture

Carolyn Kruse

Star Room Teacher
carolyn@synergyschool.org
Carolyn Kruse's picture

Carolyn Kruse

Star Room Teacher
carolyn@synergyschool.org
I began working at Synergy in September 1999. I have taught kindergarten with Rita Franklin my entire time at Synergy. I believe kindergarten is a very unique year in school for children. I really enjoy watching children learn, grow, and become responsible and confident during our time together.
Cynthia Louie's picture

Cynthia Louie

Administrative Coordinator
cynthia@synergyschool.org
Cynthia Louie's picture

Cynthia Louie

Administrative Coordinator
cynthia@synergyschool.org
My love for Synergy and its teachers began in 2002 when my oldest son started kindergarten. It continues today as an alumni parent of two boys (Class of 2011 and Class of 2015), a member of the Board of Trustees, and a member of the administrative staff since 2009. My role is to support the teacher-administrators in the areas of communications, admissions and financial aid, high school placement, and the board. I find that my background as a broadcast journalist has come in handy juggling the many hats that I need to wear. I will always be grateful to the dedicated, hard-working teachers who helped nurture my sons into the confident, caring young men they are today.
Dan Gelfand's picture

Dan Gelfand

Middle School Math Teacher
dan@synergyschool.org
Dan Gelfand's picture

Dan Gelfand

Middle School Math Teacher
dan@synergyschool.org
I grew up in what was a small town in Somerset County, New Jersey and I loved it.  I spent much of my early childhood catching salamanders and frogs, riding my bike around the paths and streets of my town, walking miles to fishing holes, and creating explosions with makeshift science kits.  As I have aged, I expanded that exploration of my environment to the world at large, spending many months of my life hiking, biking, kayaking, and camping throughout the planet. I find that travelling resets my world-view and reinvigorates my desire to help make this a better place for us all.

I liked math as a student, but struggled with memorizing my times tables and suffered through all of the rote practice worksheets we had. I love math as an adult and have come to see it as an innate human language. All of us are capable of learning to read, write, and speak it, but we all learn to do so at different rates. I support the educational ideals of the Common Core State Standards, which help created more developmentally appropriate grade level standards, as well as broadening access to math by emphasizing a variety of modalities and processes for accessing math. Prior to joining Synergy in 2016, I spent several years working on developing pieces of the SFUSD's new mathematics curriculum. Despite my recent personal focus on mathematics, I am passionate about all areas of our curriculum.

Learning is a life-long passion for me and I have a BA in Political Science from Washington University in St. Louis, an MBA from NYU, and have finished all the coursework for an MA in Mathematics at SFSU. Teaching is my third career: publishing/distribution, volunteer recruiting, then teaching. I taught in the SFUSD for for 12 years, with a one year break teaching middle school math at Megan Furth Academy. I was thrilled to have been invited to join the Synergy community as the middle-school mathematics teacher and could not be happier to be here.
Dominic Altieri's picture

Dominic Altieri

Middle School History Teacher
dominic@synergyschool.org
Dominic Altieri's picture

Dominic Altieri

Middle School History Teacher
dominic@synergyschool.org
I am originally from Kansas City, Missouri, where I attended the University of Missouri KC. I hold a BA in Liberal Arts and another in Secondary Education Social Studies, along with a Masters in Special Education. After college I worked in a number of public high schools in both suburban and urban school districts. After moving to the Bay Area, I taught middle school for four years at a private Montessori school in Palo Alto before coming to Synergy. My children, Isaac Zinn and Noa Bell, and I live in Bernal Heights. I love teaching at Synergy and being a part of this community.
Ebony Manion's picture

Ebony Manion

Rainbow Room Teacher
ebony@synergyschool.org
Ebony Manion's picture

Ebony Manion

Rainbow Room Teacher
ebony@synergyschool.org
I started my teaching career in San Francisco public schools in 1998. In 2004, I came to Synergy School to teach 1st and 2nd grade. It was a change from years of 4th and 5th graders, but I soon grew fond of teaching younger students. I help to lay the foundation and watch how it is built upon as the children grow up around me. It is a remarkable feeling, and a rewarding experience to be there at the beginning and see success at the end.
Jana Barber's picture

Jana Barber

K-5 PE & Drama Teacher
jana@synergyschool.org
Jana Barber's picture

Jana Barber

K-5 PE & Drama Teacher
jana@synergyschool.org
I came to Synergy School in the fall of 1990 because I was drawn to its unique, progressive, and cooperative approach. Throughout the years, I have held the positions of after school director, a myriad of summer school positions, and for more than 10 years as the K-5 PE and K-8 drama teacher. As the drama teacher, I love sharing my passion for the arts with these fantastic children, their families, and my co-workers. It is indeed delightful!
Jeff McMahan's picture

Jeff McMahan

Middle School Language Science Teacher
Jeff@synergyschool.org
Jeff McMahan's picture

Jeff McMahan

Middle School Language Science Teacher
Jeff@synergyschool.org
I am thrilled to join the Synergy community. I have been working with youth my entire career, from teaching basket weaving as a camp counselor in my teenage years, to teaching English Language Arts in both high school and middle school, to spending the last five years engaging San Francisco 7th graders in project-based science. It is my belief that students find the most success in school when they know that they and their experiences are valued and affirmed, and that their learning is relevant and empowering.

I hold a BA in English from The University of Iowa (my home state!) and am currently pursuing an MS in Science Education through Montana State University, focusing my research on critical place-based pedagogy. In my scant but precious free time, I enjoy being in the mountains, the desert, or the woods… anywhere I can see all the stars and hear nothing but the wind.

 
Jesse Kitses's picture

Jesse Kitses

Sun Room Teacher
jesse@synergyschool.org
Jesse Kitses's picture

Jesse Kitses

Sun Room Teacher
jesse@synergyschool.org
I’ve been teaching at Synergy since 1998. I have been extremely lucky to learn so much about myself as a teacher from my students and my fellow faculty members. I have the freedom to create curriculum, which allows me to engage students on subjects I am passionate about. I love how Synergy helps children become responsible learners and become very thoughtful about themselves and their actions as they move through the world. I enjoy having courageous conversations with children, and my favorite curriculum areas include science, hands-on math, dinosaurs, and city planning and building.
Jessica Raygoza's picture

Jessica Raygoza

Learning Specialist
jessica@synergyschool.org
Jessica Raygoza's picture

Jessica Raygoza

Learning Specialist
jessica@synergyschool.org
Being from a sprawled and disconnected suburb of Los Angeles, I was drawn to community centered and compassionate San Francisco, 10 years ago. Knowing that I had a passion for books and reading anything I could get my hands on, I quickly began immersing myself into various literacy programs around the city. As soon as I was able to confidently strengthen a student’s skills in reading, spelling, writing, comprehension and language, I knew I had found my dream job. The most exciting and unique takeaway is seeing a student’s insecurities begin to melt away and replaced with confidence and curiosity. I love going to workshops, lectures and refreshing my knowledge when it comes to learning differences, strategies and advocacy.

My other passions would include traveling and getting to appreciate different cultures, cooking in my tiny San Francisco kitchen and swimming in the beautiful Yuba river. I’m honored and grateful to be a part of the progressive and proactive Synergy community.
Kim McClain's picture

Kim McClain

Music Teacher
kim@synergyschool.org
Kinne Chapin's picture

Kinne Chapin

Sun Room Teacher
kinne@synergyschool.org
Liz McDonald's picture

Liz McDonald

Director of Development
liz@synergyschool.org
Liz McDonald's picture

Liz McDonald

Director of Development
liz@synergyschool.org
I have been the Director of Development at Synergy since 2007. I am an alumni parent and have been involved with Synergy as a parent and volunteer since 1999. I have helped in the classrooms, been a room parent, worked on the auction, and chaired the Parent Involvement Committee in addition to my current job. Synergy is a vibrant community and rewarding work environment. I love the energy and enthusiasm of the students, parents and my co-workers.
Melvin Smith's picture

Melvin Smith

Director of Finance and Operations
Middle School PE Teacher
melvin@synergyschool.org
Melvin Smith's picture

Melvin Smith

Director of Finance and Operations
Middle School PE Teacher
melvin@synergyschool.org
I first came to Synergy in 2001, drawn by the school’s philosophy of social justice and personal responsibility. I love to see my students grow and gain confidence in their abilities. I have also been fortunate to send my two children to Synergy (Class of 2005 and Class of 2011), and have watched as they benefited from such a nurturing environment. Previously, I was the executive director of a non-profit organization in San Francisco, providing gang intervention, academic, recreational, and social services to at-risk youth and their families. In that capacity, I was the recipient of the Western Addition Unsung Hero Award and the Willie Brown Youth Task Force Agency Award. In 2016, I assumed the role of Synergy’s Director of Finance and Operations. It has allowed me to come full circle while having the best of both worlds – working with spreadsheets and stakeholders and teaching my students.
Pam Heyda's picture

Pam Heyda

Visual Arts Teacher
pam@synergyschool.org
Pam Heyda's picture

Pam Heyda

Visual Arts Teacher
pam@synergyschool.org
I have been teaching at Synergy since 2014 and in Bay Area schools since 1996. For the first 11 years of my career I worked as a K-3 classroom teacher. As an art specialist, I have written curricula for pre-kindergarten through 8th grade, led professional development for classroom teachers, and have been trained in Visual Thinking Strategies. I hold a BFA from The San Francisco Art Institute and several teaching credentials.

I believe all children can benefit from art education and am committed to bringing depth to my teaching practice. In my experience art provides opportunities for self-expression, understanding the world we live in, and developing problem-solving and small motor skills. Art lessons include class discussions, literature, games, demonstrations, historical reference, integration of the core curriculum, playful practice and reflection.

As an artist, I like to work in many different styles and materials. My personal artwork includes painting, drawing, printmaking, mixed-media sculpture, and jewelry- making. When not making art or teaching, I love to cook vegan recipes, hike, and camp throughout our beautiful state with my husband.
Rea Inglesis's picture

Rea Inglesis

4th/5th Grade Teacher - Skylights
rea@synergyschool.org
Rea Inglesis's picture

Rea Inglesis

4th/5th Grade Teacher - Skylights
rea@synergyschool.org
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”  For me, it’s important to be more than the change. It’s important to also have the most impact – that’s why I’m a teacher. I love teaching social studies and history and pushing my students to think critically, to stretch their thinking, and to look at different points of view. I also love teaching math and science; nothing is more gratifying than to see my students make new discoveries and connections in their learning.

I became a Synergy teacher in 2000 because of its social and environmental justice mission, the shared responsibility of the teachers’ cooperative, and the freedom to develop curriculum. It fit my goals as a teacher, having completed the nationally known Teacher Training Course at the Shady Hill School, a program that believes the development of the person is the most important element in the education of a teacher. I also received my bachelor’s degree in English from Cornell University, and my Masters in Education from Lesley University.

My wife, Kat, and I love living in San Francisco and are constantly inspired by its beauty and the many places around the Bay to enjoy nature. We are avid birders and sailors, and parents to Emerson, our rescue terrier.
Rebekah Cantor's picture

Rebekah Cantor

Spanish Teacher
rebekah@synergyschool.org
Rita Franklin's picture

Rita Franklin

Director of Admissions and Curriculum
Star Room Teacher
rita@synergyschool.org
Rita Franklin's picture

Rita Franklin

Director of Admissions and Curriculum
Star Room Teacher
rita@synergyschool.org
I always knew I would be a teacher even as a child. Perhaps it was because I had great teachers growing up, women and men who knew me, cared for me, and encouraged me.

I began as a preschool teacher, and then became a preschool director at the Audrey L Smith Developmental Center in San Francisco, and later at the Cross Cultural Family Center in the city, serving low-income families of color. In 1993, the decision to send my two young boys and later my daughter to Synergy was an easy one, but the decision to become a kindergarten teacher here six years later was not. I felt my families in the poorest areas of the city needed me. I later came to realize that the students of Synergy needed me too; it was important for them to see and learn from teachers of color.

However, my commitment to the poorest segments of the city remains strong. In addition to teaching at Synergy and taking on the role of Director of Admissions and Curriculum in 2010, I was a consultant to First Five California, the state’s health and education program for children. In that capacity, I helped guide program development and held workshops for teachers on kindergarten readiness. Currently, I sit on the board of the Cross Cultural Family Center and Mission Neighborhood Centers, and lobby Congress to fund programs for low-income health centers.

My religion is also important to me. As a member of the San Francisco Christian Center, I teach Sunday school, serve as a greeter at my church, attend bible study regularly, and help lead the center’s Daughters of Destiny group.

 
Roy Wise's picture

Roy Wise

4th/5th Grade Teacher
roy@synergyschool.org
Roy Wise's picture

Roy Wise

4th/5th Grade Teacher
roy@synergyschool.org
I love coming to work every day because Synergy is a special place. The minute I walked into the building in 2000, it felt like home. I previously worked in magazine production for three high-tech publications, but found my calling first as a parent volunteer in my son’s school, then as a teacher’s aide at Cesar Chavez Elementary School in San Francisco. Later I became director of the After School program at Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King Middle School. I come from a family of educators; my sisters are teachers and one of my aunts was a school principal, the other was a librarian.
Russ Curtis's picture

Russ Curtis

Director of Technology
russ@synergyschool.org
Russ Curtis's picture

Russ Curtis

Director of Technology
russ@synergyschool.org
Trained in journalism, photography, and IT/Web development, I gladly accepted the role of Synergy’s first Director of Technology in 2006. My efforts include planning, deployment, and supporting the technology needs of the staff and students to help realize their common goals. With the support of the board, the co-op, and the parent technology committee, the school is evolving its tech uses with thoughtful purpose.

I’ve also been a proud parent here since 2005. The community continues to amaze me with its dedication to providing a loving, supportive, and inclusive place where young minds are inspired to grow.
Sam Heminger's picture

Sam Heminger

Music Teacher
sam@synergyschool.org
Sam Heminger's picture

Sam Heminger

Music Teacher
sam@synergyschool.org
I have found two things for which I am passionate: playing music and teaching kids. After graduating from college, I decided that teaching music was something of a dream job for me. As an alumnus of Synergy School, I was already familiar and comfortable with the philosophy of the school, so it seemed like the perfect fit. And now that I work here, I can say for certain that it is.
Sandy Barra's picture

Sandy Barra

4th/5th Grade Teacher - Eastenders
sandy@synergyschool.org
Sandy Barra's picture

Sandy Barra

4th/5th Grade Teacher - Eastenders
sandy@synergyschool.org
I have been teaching at Synergy since 1988. I currently am teaching the 4th and 5th graders and taught 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders at our Grove Street site. Working at Synergy has taught me a huge amount about myself and how the wonderful minds of children work. Being able to laugh with children and my colleagues at work is a gift that I don’t think I could have in any other job.
Susanne DeRisi's picture

Susanne DeRisi

Librarian
library@synergyschool.org
Susanne DeRisi's picture

Susanne DeRisi

Librarian
library@synergyschool.org
The best thing about being the Librarian at Synergy is that our students love to read and are curious about everything. I use the library program to provide students with opportunities to feed their imagination, follow their interests, and develop information literacy skills they will need to thrive in high school and beyond. I have a Masters in Library and Information Science and have worked in high school, undergraduate, graduate, and special libraries. I have spent most of my career as a website producer and in online scholarly publishing, and I am an advocate for open and equal access to information. It is a special privilege for me to be Librarian at my daughters' school.
Sydney McGhie's picture

Sydney McGhie

4th/5th Grade Aide
sydney@synergyschool.org
Tanya Baker's picture

Tanya Baker

Director of Administration
Star Room Teacher
tanya@synergyschool.org
Tanya Baker's picture

Tanya Baker

Director of Administration
Star Room Teacher
tanya@synergyschool.org
I started teaching at Synergy in 2001 and became the Director of Administration in 2010. I teach half-time in the kindergarten classroom. I love teaching this age group because the kids are so enthusiastic about life and learning. Each new concept and skill that the kids acquire is like adding a block to his or her foundation. I am also very interested in brain development and how children learn. Teaching at Synergy allows me the opportunity to use multi-sensory instruction to help all kids learn and grow. As Director of Administration, I work to strengthen Synergy’s role as a leader in progressive education. This position also allows me to develop and maintain relationships with all the families from Kindergarten through high school placement.