Lower School (JK-4th) Core Faculty

Sophie Koshland

Junior Kindergarten ("JK") Classroom

Simone Busuttil

Kindergarten Classrooms

Allison Winter


B.A., Elementary Education with a Spanish Minor- University of Wisconsin-Madison
Teaching Credential- Wisconsin and Minnesota
Additional Language- Spanish (fluent)

Allison comes to Alta Vista School from Phoenix, AZ. She recently taught kindergarten at the Academy of Math and Science- Phoenix and Hiawatha Academies in Minneapolis. She has experience teaching students in all grades from K-8. For her four summers in college, she taught in Minneapolis at LearningWorks at Blake: A Breakthrough Program for middle school students in their English department. Allison believes in making sure that every student feels like they have a vital role within the classroom community by incorporating activities where students work together as a team. She is excited to share her love of physical activity and games with her students. She is a former Division I rower for the University of Wisconsin-Madison and currently has her ACE group fitness certification. In her free time, she loves going to various group fitness classes and spending time with her friends and family who live in the Bay Area.
Caitlin Bicknell

Amanda Litan


B.A., cum laude, Elementary Education - Florida Atlantic University.
Master of Science, in Education with a concentration in Literacy and Language (K-6) - Kaplan University.
Teaching Credential- New York, Florida

Prior to joining AVS, Amanda spent two years teaching kindergarten and first grade in South Florida public schools. She then went on to teach pre-kindergarten in progressive and child-centered learning environments in New York and Washington, D.C. Through these opportunities, she continues to discover her passion for instilling a love for learning in young children. She is fascinated by the learning process and seeks to meet each student at their unique place in order to best support their growth. Amanda loves spending time with her family and exploring all that California has to offer.
Katie Fielding

Prior to teaching at the Alta Vista School, Katie spent four years teaching preschool through second grade in progressive classrooms in New York City and one year as a head elementary teacher in Seoul, South Korea. For Katie, inquiry based learning is at the heart of her teaching philosophy, and she focuses on creating interdisciplinary units of study that are full of child centered experimentation and hands on learning. Katie was awarded Mastery on the EdTPA (New York Teacher Certification Exam) for creating a multi-modal curriculum that focused on the social and architectural landscape of her school's particular Upper West Side neighborhood. When Katie is not in the classroom, she enjoys skiing, traveling and playing tennis.

Teacher B.A., Art - Queens College (Charlotte, NC) 
Multiple Subject Teaching Credential and Mild/Moderate Learning Disabilities Specialist - California State University, Sacramento 
Cross-Cultural, Language Acquisition and Development (CLAD) Credential - Stanford University 
Santa Reparata Graphic Arts Center (Florence, Italy) 
Exploratorium Leadership Institute 
Dawn has been a classroom teacher for over 15 years, with experience spanning kindergarten through middle school. She comes to Alta Vista after 10 years teaching middle school science at KIPP Bayview Academy. Dawn brings her love of science, art, hands-on learning, and skilled instruction to the classroom. Her background teaching students with specific learning needs and her experience working with the Exploratorium have molded her as an educator.   Dawn loves to garden, cook, travel, and spend time with her son, Owen.

Emily Reagan


BA in English, Rice University in Houston
Multiple-subject credential and Master's in Education, Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont
This is Emily's fifth year in education. Prior to Alta Vista, she taught in single-gender schools both in San Francisco and New York. Most recently, she was a lower school science teacher at The Chapin School in Manhattan as well as a middle school coach. Her thesis focused on increasing reading motivation for young students. Enthusiastic and curious, she is excited to impart these attributes to her students. A Bay Area native, Emily is excited to be back and is looking forward to enjoying the variety of athletic endeavors San Francisco and its surrounding areas offer.

Kate Woodruff-Nelli


Kate's passion for fostering young children's confidence and love of learning brought her to Alta Vista. She cares deeply about developing strong academic skills and social and emotional literacy in her students. Kate believes that learning happens when children feel safe and respected and she strives to create a classroom community that is inclusive and fun for all. Prior to joining AVS, Kate taught Kindergarten at Katherine Delmar Burke School in San Francisco and at The Latin School in Chicago. She also has worked with nursery and preschool children in her native Connecticut. She loves the enthusiasm, interests, and joy that young children bring to school. Kate's training in Mindfulness and Responsive Classroom and her  professional development and graduate school work support her teaching in the classroom. When not in school, she enjoys reading and exploring all of the outdoor adventures the Bay Area has to offer with her husband, Patrick, and dog, Remy.  

Kelsey Grich

Kelsey believes in instilling a love for learning early on in life. She creates learning environments in which children thrive and become the problem solvers we need for the future. A New York native and Tar Heel graduate, Kelsey was a founding second grade teacher at Leadership Prep Ocean Hill Charter School in Brooklyn, New York. She got her Masters in Teaching at RELAY Graduate School of Education. Kelsey enjoys taking advantage of everything San Francisco and the surrounding area has to offer. She loves the outdoors and likes to travel often.

2nd Grade Classrooms

Glenn Heuser ("Mr. H")


B.A., Speech/Communication - Cal State Long Beach 
Master in Education - Portland State University 
K-5 Teaching Authorization - Portland State University 
Teaching Credential - California, Oregon & Georgia&nbsp
Glenn approaches teaching with a view of the student as apprentice, acquiring a diverse collection of skills and broad knowledge from teachers' modeling, engaging and monitoring. He previously was a 4th/5th grade teacher at Piedmont Ave. Elementary School in Oakland. He also has traveled the world for many years as an in-flight purser for international flights on United Airlines. Glenn's educational philosophy is reflected in the words of Dr. James Comer: "No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship."

Kathryn ("Katie") Rizzo


BA, Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction - University of the Pacific 
Katie is absolutely thrilled to be joining the Alta Vista community this year. Both her teaching and learning experiences have led her to embrace education as a continuous and exhilarating life journey. From an early age when books were passports to ancient civilizations or a world where a big, friendly giant could be a friend, to her life in San Francisco where the city is an expansive and exciting classroom, education continues to be the catalyst for Katie's adventures. She has a wide array of prior teaching experience, including teaching 3rd grade at the Katherine Delmar Burke School, 7th grade at Aim High, preschool in an arts-focused bilingual program, and in the education department of the Museum of Chinese in America in New York. Katie is particularly proud of her work in nurturing students' social and emotional needs within the classroom. Compassion, inclusion, and mutual respect are the anchors of her teaching. This is supported through her educational training in Mindfulness, Responsive Classroom, Classroom Yoga, diversity work with Blink Consulting, and roles as a committee member in her past positions developing inclusive and social-emotional learning curriculum. Katie's educational philosophy stems from her passion for learning and dedication to fostering this same love in each of her students.

Kristy Hui


B.A., Communication Studies – Loyola Marymount University
Master of Arts, Education – Pepperdine University
Teaching Credential (California) 

Kristy is passionate about creating a community of lifelong learners and fostering social-emotional learning. She has taught students ranging from Kindergarten to 5th grade in diverse school settings. Prior to joining the Alta Vista community she taught for 3 years as a K/1st grade multi-aged teacher at Turning Point School, an independent school in Los Angeles with a whole-child focus. She has also taught Elementary Science (K – 3rd grade) at Escuela Plus Elementary School in Los Angeles and most recently at The Dalton School in New York City, focusing on inquiry-based learning. During her time in graduate school she developed and implemented a weekly science program for 5th graders who previously had had minimal exposure to science education, with the goal to foster understanding through hands-on scientific learning. She has also taught internationally through the World Teach program as a volunteer high school English teacher in Chile. During her free time she enjoys traveling, photography, hiking, reading, and exploring the beautiful Bay Area. Kristy’s ultimate goal as a teacher is to see students as responsible, respectful, empathetic, and confident members of society.

Amy VanBuskirk


B.S., Interdisciplinary Liberal Studies (Math Focus) - James Madison University
Master of Arts in Teaching - James Madison University
Elementary Education Teaching Credential (Virginia)
Lessons In Literacy Training
Amy has a passion for teaching and helping to instill a sense of independence in young children.  Prior to joining AVS, Amy taught first grade at a public school in Virginia.  In college, the power of inquiry-based learning resonated with her and she began her focus on the importance of fostering a creative learning environment for children.  Amy brings a passion and love for learning and teaching to AVS every day.  In her free time, she enjoys traveling, running and hiking, and exploring the Bay Area.

3rd Grade Classrooms

Erika Noel ("Ms. Erika")

Teacher - Science

B.A., Cultural Anthropology and Environmental Sociology - University of Michigan 
California Clear Multiple Subject Credential Program - Dominican University 
Erika is a seasoned K-12 educator with specific expertise in the creation of thematic curriculum that engages, inspires and deepens students' understanding of math and science through hands-on, inquiry-based activities. Now in her 14th year of teaching, Erika previously held teaching positions at The Hamlin School, the Lawrence Hall of Science (University of California Berkeley), Urban Promise Academy, Washington Elementary, and the Headlands Institute. She is the author of the article "Classroom Earth" featured in Terrain Magazine. Erika has participated in a variety of professional development programs, including Bay Area Center for the Performing Arts Teacher Training, JASON Expedition Teacher Training, Teaching for Understanding Summer Institute, and the Exploratorium Institute for Inquiry. In addition to pioneering the use of technology tools in the classroom, Erika makes learning come to life by integrating visual art, theater, movement, and music into her teaching.

Danny Blum

Teacher - Humanities

B.A., American Studies - University of Colorado at Boulder 
Multiple Subject Teaching Credential - San Francisco State University (Bay Area Teacher Training Institute) 
Danny passionately encourages his students to challenge themselves and be confident in who they are, arching his teaching philosophy along the principles of Growth Mindset. He has supported and mentored youth in a variety of formal and informal learning environments, including Camp Tawonga, Aim High, Nueva Summer Camp, and The Mosaic Project. Danny was previously a 4th grade teacher, as well as athletics coach, at Woodland School. Danny has participated in a wide range of professional development opportunities including The Klingenstein Summer Institute at Columbia’s Teacher College and The Social Emotional Learning Institute at Nueva. He also facilitated four one-week long teacher training workshops in Pakistan. Danny loves to spend his free time outdoors riding his bike, gardening, taking photos, snowboarding, and exploring the wild places of Northern California.

Claire Graves

Teacher - Math

B.S., Elementary Education K-9, with an emphasis in Science; ESL Minor - Loyola University Chicago
Claire joins Alta Vista from Chicago, where she taught 4th grade math and science for the past three years within the Concept charter school system. While at Concept, Claire had vast experience working with students of all ages through various NPO initiatives, including the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Chicago Cares, and the Open Books literacy program. Outside of her volunteer experience, she has a ton of professional development endorsements, including Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). In addition to being a teacher, Claire views herself as a constant learner - she relishes new experiences. Claire hails from Tucson, Arizona, loves RHCP, exploring the world, and burritos.

Wendi Kruger

Teacher - Language Arts

B.A., Elementary Education-State University of New York at Oswego
M.S., Literacy-Long Island University, CW Post
Wendi believes in a child-centered approach to teaching, where children make meaning from experience and active engagement. She caters to the diverse learning styles by creating stimulating and creative projects for her students. Wendi recently moved to the Bay Area from New York City. Prior to joining the AVS community, she taught third and fourth grade for ten years at the Manhattan New School, a progressive public school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The past few summers she attended the Responsive Classroom workshops and has made the power of language a focal point of her teaching. Wendi participated in study groups around the professional text,  Making Thinking Visible. She applies her best practices to creatively assess what her students are thinking. She is a passionate educator and uses her experiences outside the classroom to motivate her students. She is an avid triathlete and runner and is currently training for her tenth triathlon.

4th Grade Classrooms

LeAnne Devol

Teacher - Language Arts

B.A., Art, Concentration in Photography - University of North Carolina, Asheville 
C.L.A.D. Multiple Subject Teaching Credential - San Francisco State University (Bay Area Teacher Training Institute) 
LeAnne has a varied teaching background, including in Kindergarten, 1st, 3rd and 4th grades, as well as in summer school and after-school programs. She has been active with Girls Incorporated in furthering the mission to foster educational values, life skills and the social-emotional health of girls. LeAnne has participated in a variety of professional development programs, including The University of Chicago School Mathematics Project, Teaching for Understanding through Harvard Project Zero, The Responsive Classroom, the Toolbox Project (focused on conflict resolution and building empathy), and Columbia University's Teacher's College Writers' Workshop. Previously a Gallery Assistant and Archivist at the John Berggruen Gallery, LeAnne is a talented photographer and devotee of the arts.

Jonathon (Jon) Polly

Teacher - Science

B.S., Public Affairs - Indiana University 
Master of Science, Applied Geoscience with Concentration in Oceanography - San Francisco State University 
Jon joined Alta Vista after spending three years at the Nueva School as an active lower school faculty member and coach for track and field and cross country. He co-led a weekly literature club as well as implemented social-emotional learning and design-thinking curriculum. Jon also acted as coach for the Futures Problem Solving Program to engage students in creative problem solving and critical analysis, specifically mentoring a student team to develop ways to reduce their carbon footprint. In connection with his graduate work in geoscience and oceanography, he has conducted a variety of research projects and published scientific articles focused on earthquake faults, marine biogeochemistry, and intertidal sediment. Jon loves outdoor adventures and is an avid runner (trail, 50k and marathons), rock climber, wake boarder, swimmer and kayaker.

Justin Mazzola

Teacher - Humanities

B.A., Journalism & Broadcast Communications - Elon University (North Carolina) 
Master of Education and Credential, English & Moderate Disabilities - University of Massachusetts, Boston 
Justin is a committed and creative classroom teacher with experience in both special and general education, as well as outdoor education, after-school programs, and camps. He previously was a Field Science Educator with the Headlands Institute in Sausalito where he created and implemented lessons targeting marine ecology, geology, and the importance of natural resources. He also worked in Mill Valley and Boston schools. Justin is particularly proud (as is Alta Vista!) of his two-year service in the AmeriCorps, both in Washington DC and traveling around the West doing service projects, including environmental work on  Catalina Island, teaching reading at a Tucson Charter School, distributing food at the Sacramento Food Bank, and fighting wildfires in the El Dorado National Forest.
Lauren Gadie

Teacher - Math

B.S., Mathematics and Chemistry (Dual Honors) – University of Leeds (England)
Postgraduate Certificate in Education – Liverpool Hope University (England)
Teaching Credential - Massachusetts
Lauren is joining Alta Vista from Boston, Massachusetts. She hails from England where she taught science. Never one to turn down an exciting opportunity, she "jumped ship" and has been teaching in the U.S. for the past 2 years. Lauren has experience teaching both math and science in public and charter schools, teaching 5th – 12th grade students and serving in the position of Grade Chair Head. Teaching runs in Lauren’s family; her father is a deputy headteacher, her uncle is a university professor, and her grandmother was an elementary school teacher. She loves that she can continue the tradition! Lauren is extremely excited to join Alta Vista and begin this new chapter in her life. Her favorite aspect of teaching is interacting with students, and she believes that strong relationships build strong foundations for learning.