Katherine Stark

Art and Tinker

B.A., Studio Art - Lewis & Clark College
Master of Arts in Art Education - New York University
Teaching Credential - New York, California

As an educator and an artist, Katherine approaches art as a means of creative expression and understanding. Katherine has a breadth of studio skills, including ceramics, sculpture, painting, drawing, printmaking, and digital arts. She is a talented artist in her own right with prior exhibitions of her work. Katherine has significant prior art teaching experience, including digital media arts, studio workshops, Playworks, and theater. She also was an elementary school teacher in the visual arts classroom at The Earth School, a progressive elementary school in New York City. One of Katherine's main goals as a teacher is to help students find a personal visual voice to communicate complex ideas, and she supports this exploration with visual art foundations paired with collaborative and explorative exercises.

Annie Kyle


B.S., Studio Art - New York University
Master of Arts in Art Education - New York University
Teaching Credential - New York

Annie is a talented and accomplished artist and arts educator, and is very excited to be part of the AVS community. As an artist, Annie has exhibited her work in group shows nationally and internationally, as well as a solo exhibition in New York City. As an arts educator, Annie has taught diverse groups of students in a variety of instructional settings, including elementary and secondary public schools, a weekend art program for high school students at NYU, and a pre-college summer program held at Barnard College in New York. Annie’s teaching philosophy is centered on the importance of learning through active and imaginative artistic discovery. She believes that playful, multi-sensory learning has a profound positive effect on students’ intellectual, social, emotional, physical, and creative development. She encourages students to strive for excellence while learning from their “mistakes,” providing opportunities for them to reflect, problem solve, and grow.

Mio Fukushima

Bookends/Adventures Director
Physical Education

B.A., Film & Media Studies - University of California, Santa Barbara
Additional Language - Japanese (fluent)

Mio has previously worked in programming and administration in various educational environments, including The Lyceum of Monterey and the Ecologic Design Lab. She also was a physical education instructor at Santa Catalina School, where she coached tennis after having played Division I collegiate tennis. In addition to being the welcoming face of our front office, Mio brings rich components to our Bookends enrichment program based on her background in Japanese culture and arts.

Sarah Kronisch


BFA in acting from The University of Connecticut
Specialized Degree in theater from The Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts
Completion of Hydrama Greek Theater Program (Hydra, Greece)

Sarah believes the skills learned through basic acting techniques are of the utmost importance to everyday life! Sarah is excited to engage her students in a magnitude of teamwork and inclusiveness to create and tell stories that are engaging and meaningful. Previously to AVS she spent 4 years teaching acting for film and television at The Playground Acting Conservatory in Los Angeles. Sarah believes in the power of ensemble and individualized expression! She is wildly proud to be part of the AVS team!

Katie McGee


A., Theatre & Communications - St. Louis University
Master Coursework in Multiple Subject Special Education - Loyola Marymount

Katie enjoys sharing stories and inspiring students to tell their own. Through storytelling, she challenges all of her students to expand their self-awareness, critical thinking skills, and empathy. Her curriculum is developed to be age appropriate and guided by students' interests, while also grounded in a belief that students deserve to be challenged and given the space to grow. Katie has taught a wide variety of theatre-based courses, including musical theatre, playwriting, costuming, film, and improvisation. Aside from teaching, Katie is a Bay Area actress and often performs for young audiences with Bay Area Children's Theatre.

   Megan Szrom

B.S. Environmental Science with a minor in Ecological Remediation, University of South Florida
Permaculture Design Certificate - Grow Permaculture, Florida

Megan has a lifelong passion for sustainability and healthy food. She has worked with diverse communities who share these values around the world, including food security projects with the Lakota Sioux Nation in South Dakota, and a biological survey of contaminated soil in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Megan first came to San Francisco to join the Rainforest Action Network's agribusiness team, which allowed her to find creative ways to make sustainability and activism fun and engaging. She loves to share healthy cooking, science, games and stories in her gardening lessons with students.

Brennan Blazer Bird
 Garden/Sustainability & Bookends/Adventures

B.A., Nature & Culture, University of California, Davis
Permaculture Design Certificate, Regenerative Design Institute, Bolinas, CA
Additional Language – Spanish

Brennan has led a diverse array of artistic and ecological projects with youth around the world. He is a zero waste activist who has inspired thousands of students to transform plastic waste into bottle bricks to build earthen benches on their school campuses. Check out his TEDx talk: Brennan Bird on Bottle Bricks.  He also is a natural builder and greatly enjoys teaching students how to use clay, sand, and straw as building materials. Brennan has a diverse range of experience as a naturalist, garden and nutrition educator, wilderness guide, and the leader of his own ecological education and natural building nonprofit. He is incredibly excited to share his passion for ecological stewardship with the students and community at Alta Vista.

Julie Bruins

Lower School Music

B.A., Flute Performance, New York University
Level III Orff Certification, San Francisco International Orff Course
Orff Latin Master Class
Orff-Afrique Master Class

Julie has been a music teacher for a dozen years, at both private and public schools in the Bay Area and New York City.  She has studied Orff music education for many years.  In addition to being an accomplished flutist and a pianist, Julie studied West African drumming, dancing and culture in Ghana.  Over the summer, she taught a Master Class on polyphonic singing in African and Georgian cultures.  In her free time, Julie teaches piano lesson and is learning to tap dance.


Don Benham

Middle School Music

B.A. Music, Cal State Univ. Hayward, 1979
M.Music, Performance, Univ. of Georgia, 1985

Don is a professional concert performer specializing in Trombone. He has played and recorded with the San Francisco Opera, Symphony and Ballet.
In addition to his experience as a working musician, Don has taught Middle School Band in Oakland and Richmond Schools for nearly ten years. He arranges and writes music for all his ensembles. Before branching into Middle School Music, Don taught Music and directed the Brass Ensemble and College Choir at Patten College in Oakland.
He is especially excited to be training and challenging the talented and inventive music students at Alta Vista. His hobbies include marathon running, film music, and antique cars.

Abbie Ackerman ("Miss Abbie")

Physical Education and Dance

B.A., Fine Arts, cum laude, Dance and Choreography - Ohio University
Master of Fine Arts, Dance and Choreography - Mills College

Abbie is a talented dancer who has also studied dance pedagogy, dance history and criticism, somatics, kinesiology, choreography, and both classical and modern technique. Most recently, she has been an instructor of ballet and hip/hop.

Carlos Aguayo

Physical Education

B.S., Kinesiology (Physical Education) - San Francisco State University
Teaching Credential - California
Additional Language - Spanish (fluent)

Carlos has been teaching and coaching for eleven years in San Francisco and on the Peninsula. His goal for students is to enjoy movement and to be active throughout their lifetime.

Lori Castillo Frediani

Middle School Spanish

B.A., Communications and Sociology with a minor in Spanish - California State University Fullerton
Master of Arts, Romance Languages with an emphasis in Italian Language and Literature - San Francisco State University
Foreign Language - Spanish (fluent), Italian (fluent)

For more than eleven years, Lori has dedicated her career to education and language teaching. Her goal as a language instructor is to equip her students with valuable skills for learning, speaking and appreciating new languages and cultures. She has taught elementary, middle school and high school students and spent many summers in Italy teaching. She also founded and directed an after-school language program for various public and private schools in San Francisco. In her spare time she enjoys traveling, running and spending time with her husband, daughter and dog. Lori loves working with young children and brings music, stories, arts and crafts to her teaching.

Teresa Contreras

3rd-5th Grade Spanish

B.A., Government, Spanish Language and Literature – Mills College
Master of Arts, Spanish – New Mexico State University 
Foreign Language - Spanish (fluent), French (Intermediate) 

Teresa was born and raised in Mexico. She has been a language teacher for different age groups and levels, from Kindergarten to adults. She likes to bring the langue to life through music, acting, stories, dancing and much more, to engage her students. Her goal is to create a path towards appreciation of the langue and its different cultures. Apart from teaching in the US, Teresa had the opportunity of being an English teacher in France for a year. Along with music and reading, traveling is one of her greatest passions. This has taken her to explore various Spanish-Speaking countries.

Gustavo Mondoy

JK-2nd Grade Spanish

B.A., Spanish - Universidad Hispanoamérica de Nicaragua.
Currently pursuing B.A. Education -CCSF/SFSU

Gustavo was born and raised in Granada, Nicaragua where he pursued his college education. Gustavo began his career in education in 2007 teaching Spanish at a bilingual elementary school in Granada, Nicaragua. In 2013, Gustavo moved to the United States to pursue his teaching career and enhance his education. Gustavo believes every student is precious and has special gifts and talents; he believes it is his mission in life to encourage children and help them believe in themselves. In his spare time, Gustavo loves traveling, hiking, exploring nature, and coloring adult coloring books.