Faculty and Staff

Helios cultivates a faculty of gifted learners who can appropriately challenge and meet the needs of our student body. By design, our faculty are innovative, creative thinkers with diverse perspectives and backgrounds committed to working as a cohesive team to build a positive school community.

Administration

Cindy McLeod, Head of School

BA in Elementary and Special Education, Gifted and Talented and Learning Disabilities Emphasis; MA in Counseling and Educational Leadership

Cindy McLeod has been involved with innovative educational approaches for elementary students for over 40 years, as an administrator, teacher and school counselor.  She is known as an expert in working with children with special needs, including the gifted as well as the academically challenged student. Her passion is to provide children with experiences that honor their intelligence through rigorous and engaging academic challenges, with an emphasis on theme-based education that brings a multi-disciplinary, multi-modal approach to learning. Her work with gifted students led them to create a hands-on science museum with 35 exhibits designed by students and built by local artists, scientists and builders.

Cindy is committed to protecting and strengthening children’s social/emotional lives through sensitive responses to conflict, parent education and teaching solid communication skills between peers and within families. Her desire to expose and engage children in wilderness and farm settings has led her to co-found three schools in her career.

Anne Beneventi, Giftedness Specialist

BA Elementary Education/Special Education; Certified Master Practitioner of Qualitative Assessment and Director of the AM Roeper Method of Qualitative Assessment for Giftedness.

As co-founder, Anne has guided Helios’ vision and mission to support the emotional and educational needs of gifted children since the school’s inception. She taught for several years at the Nueva School (a school for the gifted) and co-founded two schools for gifted children; Roeper West School in Berkeley, and Kamuela International School in Alexandria, Egypt.

John McLeod, Co-Director of Curriculum & Instruction

BS Early Childhood Education, University of Vermont; Masters Certificate: Environmental Conflict Mediation, Antioch College; MA Social Change, Pacific Oaks College

John oversees theme development and fieldwork at Helios.  He has been on the cutting edge of creative curriculum development for children of all ages over the past 43 years. Most of his work is based in the use of story. His favorite literacy tools include circus skills, puppetry, video, cartooning, wilderness living skills, storytelling, music, and travel. He has a gift for creating compelling theme-based literacy expeditions that engage students and challenge them to apply their creative selves to all forms of capturing and illuminating stories. John loves to play ice hockey on Sunday nights.

Heather Danforth, Co-Director of Curriculum & Instruction

BA Communications, Print Journalism Emphasis, Brigham Young University; MA Curriculum and Instruction, Gifted and Talented Education Concentration, University of Denver

Heather oversees skill development by leading our Singapore Math program and MAP assessment; including aligning state and core standards to our curriculum. Heather found her calling in the education profession through Teach for America after completing her undergraduate degree in journalism and Italian. She taught in a third grade classroom in the Mississippi Delta and fell in love with the joys and challenges of teaching. She selected the University of Denver for a master’s program because of its dual strengths in urban and gifted and talented education. While there, the gifted and talented education program led her on a voyage of self-discovery that has informed her educational practice ever since. She is passionate about meeting the needs of gifted learners in and out of the classroom. She has worked with Duke University’s Talent Identification Program (TIP) both as a young student and an adult staff member, and has served on the staff of the Center for Innovative and Talented Youth (now Center for Bright Kids) in Colorado for multiple summers. She comes to Helios after four years leading the K-5 gifted and talented program for the public school district in Cody, Wyoming. Heather also cares deeply about helping teachers reach their individual potential and improve their teaching practice. Recently, she spent a summer in India working with teachers at a school for children of leprosy-affected families. There, she was reminded of the power of learning to transform not only the mind but the heart of children and adults. She strives to bring that gift to the students and teachers she is privileged to work with at Helios.

Linda Zadik, Director of Science and Math Curriculum

BS Chemistry, California Institute of Technology; MS Chemistry/Molecular Biology, University of Oregon

Linda’s dedication to teaching gifted children began in her own childhood, with a vow to help the next child who could not thrive in a mainstream classroom. She still keenly remembers the isolation of that time. While never forgotten, Linda’s dream of teaching specifically to gifted children was put on hold while she pursued a scientific career. From an intense undergraduate experience at Caltech, to a deeper study of molecular biology at the University of Oregon, to the fast-paced world of biotech startups, she loved the thrill of discovering how the universe truly operates. As her children grew, Linda volunteered in a variety of venues, including five years in the classroom teaching fun activities at the intersection of math, art, and science. She strongly believes in teaching science as a method of learning about reality rather than as a collection of facts. At Helios, she is able to share the wonder of what we know about the world while meeting every child where they are, without preconceptions of what they are ready for.

wrenWren Gray-Reneberg, Director of Communications
BA Psychology, California Lutheran University; MA Counseling Psychology, expected ‘18
Wren loves being a part of the Helios community, an environment that so closely aligns with her own values and interests. As children, Wren and her sister were placed in the GATE program briefly, but differentiated education was mostly absent for her growing up. After rediscovering what it means to be gifted through her work with Helios, she has also gained a greater understanding of herself and her own childhood experiences. She values a well-rounded education, the arts, and a relational and emotionally connected educational environment. After receiving her Bachelor’s degree, Wren worked in Berkeley for a couple of years before acknowledging that her passion lies in relationships and communication. The drive to pursue higher education in her field of high interest initiated a move from Berkeley to the south bay area, where she is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology at Santa Clara University. She expects to graduate in spring of 2018 and looks forward to becoming a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and incorporating the calming and teaching effects of animals into her work and life. In the meantime, she is training Penny, her future therapy dog partner, who can be seen greeting people at Helios. When not doing schoolwork or working with Penny, Wren enjoys Irish step dancing, swing dancing, and stories.
 Linda Hayer, Head of Lower School
BA Liberal Studies, SDSU, MA Private School Administration, University of San Francisco; Massachusetts-Early Childhood, Elementary Education, Middle School Math and Science; California- Professional Clear Multiple Subject, supplemental authorization in Middle School English, Administrative Services Credential
After 24 years in the field of education, serving in independent, public, charter, and parochial schools, teaching at every grade level Pre-K through eighth, Linda has found a home at Helios.  Here she is able to use her knowledge and experience to support lower school teachers, students, and parents in their efforts to provide the strongest possible learning environment for gifted children.  As a gifted learner who went through school without any services, she is passionate about the individualized learning and camaraderie that students at Helios receive.
 Maija Kelley, Director of Finance & Operations
BA Human Development in completion; AA in Finance, Sierra College
Maija is Helios’ Director of Finance and Operations and has over twenty five years of finance experience working in public, nonprofit and government sectors. Maija’s prior experience consists of Finance Manager for a higher education university in Palo Alto, public high school and local city government. Maija has been a  key contributor within the finance field with audits, budget forecasting, donations, human resource, fiscal operations and community support. In her free time she is an avid soccer player and loves to knit and read.
 Robert Drake, Director of Technology
MA Critical and Creative Thinking, University of Massachusetts, Boston  

Robert Drake is a life-long learner and educator.  His interests invariably fall somewhere between science, education, technology, the environment and the design thinking which connects it all.  While deaf since birth, Rob has never seen that as anything but an advantage which give him a unique vantage point on the world. He understand issues of difference and bias and is often asked to speak and present on the topics of Anti-Bias work and social justice, particularly as it impacts education. His overriding passion is environmental impact, and has had businesses over the last 20 years that address those concerns in the areas of environmentally considerate construction, technology, and coral reef conservation. His studies in the work of Buckminster Fuller and design thinking influence his creative approach to problem solving, and are evident in the many projects he has undertaken through the years from the design and construction of his own home to helping create a school in a South African township to working continually to find new ways to help save our ocean environment through his work as a Scuba Instructor and Technical Diver. Together with his wife, their four multiracial children, and two diverse pets (one hearing, one Deaf) they bring their home and family passions with them wherever they go.
 Daniel Popplewell, Director of Admissions, Marketing and Development 

BA in European Literature, Cambridge University, MA in European Literature, Oxford University, PhD in French Literature, Columbia University

Daniel is Helios’ Director of Admissions. Daniel has over twenty years of deep experience in K-12 education. Most recently, Daniel helped establish the SF Schoolhouse, a small progressive elementary school in San Francisco.  Prior to that, he was Middle School Head at the Odyssey School in San Mateo. Before moving into full-time administration, Daniel served as a teacher, dean and department chair at Bentley School in Oakland and at the Archer School in Los Angeles.  At both Bentley and Archer, he was a member of the admissions committees. Daniel was brought up in England and came to the USA in 1998. In his spare time, Daniel loves learning languages and can get by in seven, including Mandarin and Spanish. He also enjoys making ceramics on the wheel, hiking and camping, and writing detective novels.

Toni Ratzburg, School Counselor

BS Psychology and Studio Art, University of LaVerne; MA Counseling Psychology, Prescott College.  California licensed Marriage & Family Therapist.

After many years of supporting Helios students in her private practice, Toni is excited to be onsite as a resource for all students.  As one of four gifted children, Toni grew up witness to the diversity in gifted learners and their unique needs.  Bringing personal and professional experience together, she aims to support the biopsychosocial wellness of students.  Toni has conducted research on self-esteem and body image in adolescents and has presented at local public and private schools on topics such as perfectionism, anxiety, development of gifted girls, and parenting gifted children.

Teachers

Carmen T. Frostholm, Co-Teacher of Kindergarten

BS Environmental Science, Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines

Carmen was born and raised in the Philippines, immigrating to the United States in the fall of 2010. Because of her background in Environmental Science and her passion for the outdoors, she took an internship at the Richardson Bay Audubon Center in Tiburon working in wildlife monitoring and environmental education. This led to a desire to continue engaging students in outdoor experiences and learning. After an AmeriCorps internship where she did habitat restoration and watershed education, she decided that helping children learn was incredibly fulfilling and was something she wanted to continue doing. So Carmen started taking classes for a Certificate in Early Childhood Education. Most recently Carmen was an environmental educator for Watsonville Wetlands Watch where she taught teens and elementary students about wetlands ecosystems and conservation practices.

In her journey as a teacher, Carmen has come to realize that students learn best when they become interested and when learning is developed in different forms. This philosophy is something she deeply values and strives to achieve in every subject matter. Encouraging children to take ownership of their own education is important to her and she aims to create a space where that is possible. One of Carmen’s interests outside of teaching is scuba diving. She learned how to scuba dive at the age of 12 with her family and is currently certified as a Rescue Scuba Diver. She is also passionate about conservation, reducing her carbon footprint, and about spending time with her family and community. In her free time, you can find Carmen with her husband out in nature or curled up at home with a cup of tea and a good book.

Rachel Bagnani, Co-Teacher of Kindergarten

Rachel has been a Kindergarten teacher at Helios since 2013 and before that she was a teacher at the Google Children’s Center for seven years. She is a San Francisco native, was born and raised there and still loves visiting her mom in the city in the house where she grew up. She has three adorable kids, Skye and Drake, who are also Heliosians, and Angus. Angus was born with four legs and a tail, but she still loves him. Rachel likes taking pictures, especially goofy ones with her family. She loves collecting South Western and Indian American art and antiques from flea markets and garage sales.  She also has a growing collection of preserved specimens.

Victoria Katz, Co-Teacher of 1st and 2nd Grade

Victoria had a pretty adventurous childhood. She grew up in Northern California, Colorado and Canada with her two siblings and single college student mom. Her parents had divorced when she was six and her father was a professor at the Veterinary School at UCD. While dad stayed put in Davis, mom and kids set off on a journey that took them through many places, meeting interesting people and gleaning rich experiences. Summers were spent camping across the United States and backpacking in California. It was from these experiences that she developed a lifelong love and appreciation for nature. When she was fourteen her little brother was born. She became his babysitter and it was then that she discovered a natural affinity for teaching and nurturing children. She went on to support herself through college at UCD working as a lifeguard/swim instructor, teacher’s aide and daycare teacher. She met her husband, Walter, the day he had just finished his last final his last year of law school. They were married the following year and now have two young adult daughters. While teaching at public and private schools and through raising Mariah and Sandrine, two gifted young women, she realized the very important need for education catered to gifted children’s unique and wonderful minds.

Megan Ryan, Co-Teacher of 1st and 2nd Grade 

Megan is a California native who grew up in the North Bay and studied History at Pepperdine University in Southern California. After that, she moved to Seattle to earn her Masters of Education from the University of Washington. Although she loved living there, eventually her family and the California sunshine drew her home. Growing up, she had always dreamed of traveling the world, but did not have the opportunity to leave the US until she was in college–but when the opportunity presented itself, she took full advantage of it. She studied in London for a year, during which time she traveled throughout Europe and around the Mediterranean. She became enchanted with seeing new cultures and cities, and has now traveled to 21 countries. Her new goal is to have traveled to as many countries as she is old, which will ensure that she continues to ardently explore the world every year.

Jordan Burns, Co-Teacher of 1st and 2nd Grade 

Jordan grew up in the heart of South Seattle, near lake Washington, with a younger brother and a couple beloved dogs. As a child, she loved going to summer camp, singing in a choir, going to her family’s cabin in the San Juan Islands, and dancing. She has been interested in teaching for as long as she can remember, and she went on to study education and psychology at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. A couple years ago, she decided to move to the South Bay area, where she started out as an environmental educator and then transitioned to Helios. She has loved every minute of it. In her free time, she likes to do yoga, garden, rock climb, have dinner with friends, and explore the region.

Mary Kate Smith, Co-Teacher of 1st and 2nd Grade

Mary Kate is a Florida native who grew up loving the sun, beaches, her dog, and learning. She is passionate about sports, but early on focused her attention on softball, which she quickly grew to love. On her competitive team, she traveled around the country and internationally, and continued to play when she attended college at Stanford University, where she studied Clinical Psychology. She made her new home on the West Coast, which is where she met her husband, Jason. Jason and Mary Kate were married in the summer 2016, and share enthusiasm for the Giants, scuba diving, biking, recreational softball, farmers markets, and traveling.

Alyssa Carlson, Co-Teacher of 3rd and 4th Grade

Alyssa grew up in a small town right outside Princeton, New Jersey and attended college in Upstate New York. During college, she studied abroad in Australia and New Zealand. While she loved growing up on the East Coast, she has always dreamed of living in California. She moved to Monterey right after graduating college. There she studied at the Monterey Institute of International Studies earning my master’s degree in International Environmental Policy. She was also given the opportunity to study abroad during grad school and traveled to Ecuador and El Salvador for project based learning courses. She has been living in California for 11 years and she loves living on the West Coast and enjoy going on road trips near and far. Some of her favorite places to visit are Big Sur, Oregon, and Utah. She loves animals and has 4 chickens, 2 cats, and 1 corn snake.

Michelle (Shelley) Esposito, Co-Teacher of 3rd and 4th Grade

Michelle’s real name is Michelle, but everyone calls her Shelley. She is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but lived in Philadelphia, PA for the past 6 years before moving to California. She is a big Pittsburgh sports fan, and especially loves the Steelers. Growing up, she played soccer from when she was 3 years old all the way through college. She even has her high school jersey and number (2!) retired and it is still hanging up at her high school today. She recently got married and spent two weeks in Italy on her honeymoon – which was amazing! Some of her favorite things to do are to teach children, learn new things, and travel the world.

Amanda Chappell, Co-Teacher of 3rd and 4th Grade

She was born in Wisconsin, but spent most of my childhood years growing up in Alpharetta, GA. She attended the University of Georgia where she studied Early Childhood Education and Spanish. She spent the first five years of her career teaching second and third grade at a public school in Athens, GA, where she earned her Gifted Certification. After getting married in 2015, she moved to Sunnyvale with her husband. She has enjoyed exploring the west coast and was excited to adopt a dog shortly after moving. In her free time, she enjoys running, cooking, watching and/or playing sports, and traveling.

Christina Chung, Co-Teacher of 3rd and 4th Grade

Christina has worked with children for 15 years, teaching swimming, dance, and science in various capacities. She graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a bachelor’s degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and then moved to Australia and eventually New Zealand to complete her master’s degree in Conservation Biology at the University of New South Wales. She lived in New Zealand for several years before coming back to California to work in outdoor education. Christina joined Helios as a Jays teacher last year and has immensely enjoyed learning alongside her students. An avid crafter, when she is not spending time outdoors, you will likely find her knitting, sewing, weaving, spinning fiber, upcycling, painting, drawing, playing music, and creating (sometimes also outdoors). She has an unabashed relish for fresh office supplies, and she hopes that in her lifetime, she will be lucky enough to swim with a pod of dolphins in the wild.

Andrew “Frosty” Frostholm, Co-Teacher of 5th and 6th Grade, Science

BS Neuropsychology, University of California at San Diego

Andrew is a Silicon Valley native, born and raised in Mountain View. Growing up, he developed a passion for nature through hiking and camping, sparking his interest in biology, ecology, and other sciences. A scientist by training and disposition, Andrew followed his BS in neuropsychology at UCSD with professional fieldwork addressing environmental problems. After a summer working at a UC Berkeley research station in the Tahoe National Forest, he spent two years working with the AmeriCorps program. First he worked as a wildlife technician at Point Reyes National Seashore where he monitored and tagged threatened & endangered species. The second year he worked at the Richardson Bay Audubon Center & Sanctuary performing habitat restoration, wildlife monitoring, and leading field trips with school groups. Having discovered a passion for teaching with the Audubon Center, Andrew began working at Walden West Outdoor Science School. He spent three years there working with diverse groups of students while teaching hands on, interactive science around the subjects of biology, ecology, geology, conservation, and natural systems. Andrew believes that the best way for students to learn is to engage them in their passions. He brings to Helios his love of learning and the appreciation for nature that he shares with students each day. Andrew and his wife, Carmen, can often be found spending their weekends hiking, biking, and tending to their lush backyard vegetable garden.

Mike Orlando, Co-Teacher of 5th and 6th Grade, Humanities, and Director of High School Placement

AB English Literature, Occidental College; JD UCLA School of Law

Mike brings perspective, passion, and gifted education experience to the Helios faculty. Before arriving at Helios, Mike was the head of school at GATE Academy, Marin County’s independent school for gifted K-8 students. He also taught for a number of years at Presidio Hill, a K-8 progressive school in San Francisco, served on the board of Aurora School in Oakland, and spent ten summers as a residential instructor and director at the Summer Institute for the Gifted. Deeply connected in the independent school community, Mike completed a summer Klingenstein Fellowship at Teachers College, Columbia University, and has served on multiple CAIS/WASC accreditation teams. Like a number of other Helios staff members, Mike came to teaching as a second career; he briefly practiced tax law before entering education. An Orange County native, Mike enjoys hiking, reading, struggling with the ukulele, and discovering the occasional geocache. He also is (or is led to believe he is) a somewhat accomplished Indian vegetarian cook.

Christie Trott, Co-Teacher of 5th and 6th Grade, Humanities

BA Political Science, Wesleyan University; JD Santa Clara University School of Law

Christie is a southern California native who comes to Helios with over 15 years’ teaching experience. After practicing criminal law for a few years, she decided to pursue a more optimistic career as an educator which would combine both her passion for learning and for working with children. She began teaching as a long-term substitute in a bilingual education classroom in Redwood City. She then moved to Washington, DC and taught Upper School English and Spanish at the Parkmont School, a small 9th-12th grade private school which provides an individualized environment where teachers work directly with students to build their self-confidence. She then moved back California and taught for over 10 years at the Laurel School in San Francisco, a small, private 1st-8th grade school which serves students with learning differences. At Laurel she taught Middle School English, 8th Grade United States History, and served as the 8th Grade Class Advisor and High School Placement Counselor. After taking time off from teaching to raise her two children, she first went back to work as a long-term substitute teaching AP Language to 11th graders at Eastside School. She is now thrilled to be at Helios. She hopes to help children reach their full potential and to develop their self-confidence. She has a particular passion for helping middle school girls develop their self-esteem and voice in the classroom. When not at school, Christie enjoys spending time with her family going biking or hiking, playing board games and going to see independent films. Christie has also traveled extensively and hopes to live abroad for a summer with her family. She also loves playing with her beloved dog, a Papillion named Buddha.

Danny Boyer, Co-Teacher of 7th and 8th Grade, Science

BS Geological Sciences with emphasis in Paleoecology

Danny has loved science and the outdoors as long as he can remember.  When he was young he was especially interested in Paleontology and in high school he volunteered weekly in the paleontology department at the San Diego Natural History museum where he helped on digs, in the lab, and building displays.  At UCSB he loved his studies in geology and paleontology, however, he also learned he was more interested in working with people than fossils so after graduating he got a job as a naturalist, teaching outdoor education in the mountains of Southern California. Danny spent his next ten years alternating between teaching and traveling the world. He continued to work as a naturalist throughout California; he was a sea kayak guide and instructor working in California, Mexico, and Alaska; he taught English in Korea; and he lived and traveled in over 30 countries. After becoming a father, Danny moved into the more formal school setting and has worked as Dean of Students at a charter school and as a science teacher at Bay Area private schools since 2007.  Danny is passionate about teaching science, especially when it relates to his personal interest of sustainability.  Danny likes to lead by example and has led efforts to green large music festivals, conferences, and schools.  He also collects fog and rain for his edible garden and drought tolerant landscaping.  Danny lives in Half Moon Bay, close to the ocean where he loves to surf with his wife and two sons.

Melissa Vineyard, Co-Teacher of 7th and 8th Grade, Humanities

Melissa is a Nor-Cal native raised in Humboldt County and educated both locally and abroad (Humboldt State University, St. Andrews University Scotland, and UCLA). Because of her love for caffeinated drinks and history, she created the wildly popular elective titled: Scones, Tea, and History. She is excited about bringing her knowledge and expertise to Helios classrooms. She has experience teaching the history of Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Medieval/Byzantium, as well as colonial and civil-war era US. When she’s not busy explaining what “A.D.” means, she is singing, reading Smithsonian magazine, losing a bet with her husband, or caring for her adorable sons, ages 4 and 1.5 years old.

Nicole Laverty, Director of Aftercare and Spanish Teacher

BA Spanish and Psychology, Drew University;  MA in Teaching, Monmouth University; Spanish credential;  Multi-subject credential in Elementary Education

Nicole has been teaching for fifteen years.  She has taught mainly Spanish in both private and public schools.  Now entering her third year at Helios as a both a Spanish and an Aftercare teacher, she remains excited and enthusiastic about the students and the curriculum.  When Nicole began working at Helios, she knew she had found a home.  After teaching in many different educational environments, she realized that the students and staff at Helios possessed the creativity, acceptance, and intelligence she sought. Growing up in Chicago, Nicole would set up a “classroom” in her backyard for friends. She also would also create “plays” with her peers to perform for the neighborhood.  She always wanted to teach. In her free time, Nicole enjoys reading, baking, exercising, walking on the beach with her husband and dog, fine dining, and great movies.

Specialists

Haiqiang ChenHaiqiang Chen, Cornerstone Learning Foundation, Mandarin Specialist

BA Chinese Literature, South China Normal University, China; MA Education, San Francisco State University

Prior to coming to the US, Mr. Chen was a qualified Chinese teacher in China with 18 years teaching experience in private and in group classes. In the San Francisco Bay Area, he spent two years with the Confucius Institute teaching Chinese as a second language to students of different ages. Additionally, he was a tutor and a group instructor in the Chinese Flagship Program. Mr. Chen is an experienced, open-minded teacher for students of all ages who is devoted to enhancing inquiry-based learning skills for students.

David Silverman, Art Specialist

BA cum laude, Art Education, San Francisco State University; Hood Recipient for the College of the Creative Arts, SFSU; Multiple subject credential; Art credential

David’s approach in the classroom is informed by his personal relationship with the challenges and rewards of process-oriented creative learning. His methodologies for joyful creative inquiry have been forged, over years of real-world experience as a professional performer and artist. One of his mottos for sustaining focused engagement is “Creating a new answer is good, creating a new question is even better.” As a multiple subject educator, David has developed and implemented art and theatre curricula with the nonprofit Children’s Center of the Arts in Pasadena, CA. He has worked with the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Emergency Immigrant Education Program where he helped to teach English as a second language to at-risk youth through collaborative art projects. David developed workshops to foster self-esteem and non-violent conflict resolution skills for underserved youth during his artist-in-residency at ArtShare in Los Angeles. As a fine arts painter David has had various exhibitions in Los Angeles and San Francisco, most notably including two juried group shows at The de Young Museum: A Tribute to Gilbert and George (2008); and Warhol and Beyond (2009). Before committing full-time to education, David performed in theatre, television, radio and films. His feature film work has included scenes performed with Sigourney Weaver and Holly Hunter (Copycat, 1995); Eddie Murphy (Metro, 1997); and Will Smith (Pursuit of Happyness [sic], 2006).

Radhika Rajgarhia, Instructional Specialist for 1st and 2nd Grade

BBA Business Management, University of Georgia; MEd Elementary Education, George Washington University

Radhika is an elementary teacher; she is passionate about helping young children develop sound reading and writing skills. Her interests include practicing yoga, hiking with her husband and two daughters, and traveling to new places!

Michele Newman, Aftercare Teacher and Music Teacher

BA Theater Arts & Education, University of CA, Santa Cruz; BA Music Education & Jazz Studies and Vocal Performance, San Jose State University

Michele has taught music in public and private schools for over 12 years.  She loves to help kids become their best selves, utilizing expression through beat, rhythm, melody, harmony, lyrics, movement, story & imagination.  She’s very happy to be working with the Helios kids, exploring new avenues of expression for their needs.  She appreciates co-creating projects with the teachers based on curriculum so that their music classes integrate and support all their learning. Michele was a Bay Area Jazz Vocalist with her own band & actress for many years.  Her musical journey expanded when she studied sound healing at California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco.

Colleen Vandevoorde, Choir Elective

BS Chemical Engineering, Tulane University; MS Chemical Engineering Practice, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; PhD Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Colleen began her foray into the music world while raising her three children. Having studied piano theory and performance from middle school through college, she felt equipped to volunteer as an accompanist at her children’s schools. Soon families began asking her for private piano lessons for their children, and a small business was born. Colleen plays the piano and sings in local churches as well. Colleen became inspired to orchestrate sacred music to include in music ministry the church members who play instruments, and to compose sacred works for choir/orchestra. This work led to her current positions of directing choirs for both children and adults, including some combined choirs in multiple languages for special services. Colleen augmented her choral music education with voice studies under Michael Morris and continued her study of piano performance and pedagogy with DeAnna Howe. One of Colleen’s children attended Helios New School and was in the first graduating class, back when the school was a K-5 school. Her love of music and her desire to provide quality music instruction for gifted children combined to compel her to seek a position at Helios teaching music. Although her son has moved on, Colleen has not – she leads the choir elective for the Upper School. And she LOVES it!!

Sean Keenan, Specialist

Sean grew up nearby in the heart of the Santa Cruz Mountains. He enjoys traveling, reading, playing music, camping, and working with children. At the University of California, Santa Cruz, he studied agroecology as part of the environmental studies program. At Helios he is the garden, PE, and math teacher. He currently resides in Santa Cruz and loves visiting its amazing gardens, state parks, open spaces, and beaches.

Julie Loredo, Van Driver

Julie looks forward to interacting with the students in her van, as they commute back and forth to school. She is a retired Correctional Officer and she is currently taking an ASL class at night to become certified as an Interpreter. While she is fluent in S.E.E. (Signing Exact English), the deaf community mostly uses ASL. She enjoys getting involved in the community by volunteering her time in Respite Homes. She likes to attend poetry slams, lawn bowling, art shows and taking care of other people’s animals. She has two grown daughters, both in college.

Rain Eterno, Van Driver

Rain was born locally in Mountain View at El Camino Hospital. He has traveled to Europe (England, Switzerland, France, and Italy). He found Italy the best for its food, culture, and friendly people. He has a younger sister named Erica, and she has five girls so he is five times an uncle. He has always loved to draw ever since his mother would buy him coloring books at grocery stores and he could hold a crayon. He once earned a First Place Award for a painting he did at the Saratoga Art Rotary Show.