Lower Elementary Faculty

Barry Turner is the Lead Teacher in California Poppy. This is his third year teaching at UMCS. Barry received his Bachelor’s in Communication in 1999 at Queens College in Charlotte, North Carolina, after which he taught for two years at Sugar Creek Charter School in Charlotte. He moved to California in 2001 and taught kindergarten-through-3rd grade at Archway School in Oakland for twelve years before joining UMCS. Barry also served on the Board of Trustees at Archway School for three years. Barry is currently working towards his Montessori Elementary 1 credential at the AMS Training Center in Sunnyvale, to be completed by the end summer, 2015. Barry played three years of Division Two soccer while attending Queens College in North Carolina and was a referee for boys under age nine for four years. It is Barry’s dream to start a Middle School soccer team.


Mahie Ismail is the Support Teacher in California Poppy. This is her first year with UMCS. Previously, Mahie taught math and science for the BELL summer program in Oakland along with teaching earth science workshops to K-2nd graders. She has over 20 years experience with children in various educational settings, a BA degree in English and is working on completing her credential through the Cal State Teach program. In her free time, she enjoys time with her family, exploring nature, swimming at the YMCA and taking long walks on the Alameda shoreline.


Lisa Gonzalez is the Lead Teacher in Leopard Lily. This is her fourth year at UMCS. Lisa currently holds a clear, multiple subject teaching credential and is working towards her Lower Elementary Montessori credential through the Montessori Training and Education Center of the Bay Area. In addition, she holds a Bachelor’s in Feminist Studies and a minor in Education from UC. Santa Cruz. She worked as a support teacher for two years in the Sage and Leopard Lily classes before transitioning into the lead teacher role for Leopard Lily last year. Lisa has worked with youth throughout East Oakland since 2008. She spent three years working in the Fruitvale District supporting struggling readers. During that time, she designed curriculum that targeted specific literacy skills as well as socio-emotional characteristics related to resiliency, confidence, openness, and empowerment. Prior to that, Lisa worked with non-profit organizations in the Peninsula and South Bay focused on community empowerment and social justice. Lisa fell in love with the Montessori method and she hopes you do too! I She enjoys trips to the beach, double-scoop ice cream cones, and old-fashioned movie theaters.


Julia Preston is the Support Teacher in Leopard Lily. She graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a BA in Environmental Studies and has been working with children/youth for the past twelve years. During this time, some of her most formative experiences have included working as a leader on a service learning trip to Israel for teens, a Lead Science Instructor for kindergarteners at Camp Galileo, and a Teaching Associate with the program Citizen Schools at Elmhurst Community Prep middle school in East Oakland. In her spare time she loves hiking, dancing, seeing live music, and spending time with loved ones.

Tiarra Knox is the Lead Teacher in Lupine. This is her fourth year with UMCS. In the first year, Tiarra created and introduced UMCS’s core safety guidelines, leading lessons around the Law of the Space Bubble, Walking Feet, and Quiet Voices. Before beginning Lower Elementary instructional training with Montessori Training USA in 2013, Tiarra could be found outside of UMCS delivering art and science lessons to hundreds of students throughout Alameda County, and sharing STEAM-curricula arts integration techniques during professional developments with K-8th grade teachers. In 2006, Tiarra earned her double-Bachelor’s in Creative Writing and Marketing from SFSU, and discovered her love for working with youth during her residency as a teaching artist at MOCHA, the Museum of Children’s Arts in 2007.  Between 2007 and 2013, she taught with Mad Science © and Ruby Bridges Elementary LEAPS program; coordinated Park Day School’s PM Program, and has served school residencies via Opera Piccola, Pro Arts Gallery and her own company Anew Day Arts. As an experience creator and a teacher of changemakers, Tiarra is passionate about her work with Oakland youth and incorporating radical healing into her teaching. She believes that this radical healing approach transforms urban communities by inspiring and empowering youth to courageously embrace a political stance and take political action in avenues that they have yet to create. She loves to love, meditate, explore, cook, eat, bike, do hand-stands in the pool, and surrender to ocean waves.  She especially loves to spend time with her family and to see her 14-year-old stepson Brooklin smile.


Bill Price is the Support Teacher in Lupine. This is his second year at UMCS. Before joining the staff full-time in 2014, Bill was active as a parent volunteer in the cafeteria and on the playground, and also served as a weekly Reading Buddy. He has a teaching assistant certificate from the Montessori Teacher Training Center of Northern California and began substitute teaching at UMCS in the spring of 2014. He is currently enrolled in CalTEACH Monterey Bay for his multi-subject K-5 credential. Bill was a parent preschool teacher at Peter Pan Co-Op Preschool for three years and has coached t-ball for NOLL/SOLL. He has a Bachelor’s in English with a Minor in African-American Studies from the University of Massachusetts. Before changing careers to become a teacher, Bill worked in logistics and operations in warehouse settings for products ranging from touch-screen jukeboxes to fine wines. His personal interests include family, baseball, poetry, and playing guitar and singing.


Margarita Acosta is the Lead Teacher in Sage. She joins UMCS from the Latin American Montessori Bilingual (LAMB) public charter school in Washington, DC, where she taught a Spanish-language immersion Montessori class of 37 students, grades 1-3, for the two years. Ms. Margarita earned her California State Multiple Subject Credential at UC Berkeley, with a focus on teaching linguistically and culturally diverse learners in urban settings by integrating the arts. She is excited to return to the Bay Area, which she considers her home. She is a certified yoga instructor. 


Jennifer Khadir is the Support Teacher in Sage. She joins UMCS from the Oakland Unified School District, where she taught 2nd grade. Jennifer earned her CA Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential from the University of Southern California. Before joining UMCS, Jennifer has been a parent advocate and an active presence at the school. She has a Bachelor's degree in Journalism from St. John's University. In her spare time she enjoys picnics at the park and visits to the beach with her husband and two sons.


 Ana Carrasco is the Lead Teacher in Sunflower. This is her fourth year with UMCS. Previously, Ana was a Montessori Early Childhood educator for three years. She received her Montessori Primary and Elementary credentials from St. Mary’s College of California and she is currently completing BTSA to obtain her CA state credential. In her free time, she likes to garden, cook, and read. She also loves playing volleyball and dancing. 


Jamie Wai is the Support Teacher in Sunflower. Before joining UMCS, Jamie taught maritime science and history at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. She is a US Level 1 certified sailing instructor and has taught sailing in various places on the West Coast.  Jamie has a B.S. in Environmental Studies from the University of Oregon. In her free time, she loves hanging out with her pet chickens, spending time on boats and gardening.


Sahar Miller is the UMCS Music Teacher and a part-time classroom aide in Sunflower. This is her fourth year at UMCS. Sahar graduated from Barnard College/Columbia University with a Bachelor's degree in Anthropology. Since college, she has worked as a music teacher both in schools and privately; in addition to her position at UMCS, she currently teaches saxophone and clarinet lessons in her music studio in Oakland. She also performs as a professional saxophonist around the Bay Area in her own ensemble, “The GroWiser Band."


Gilberto Parada is the Lead Teacher in Tidy Tips and the Level Lead for Lower Elementary. This is his fourth year with UMCS. A UC Regent and Biology Scholar, he graduated from UC Berkeley with a Bachelor’s in English, emphasizing modern and contemporary literature. He completed Pre-Medical studies, but chose to pursue teaching instead, spending a year observing San Francisco high school students and the Action-Research Program’s efficacy in improving student achievement. He has taught two college courses through UC Berkeley's DECal program as well as Anatomy to kindergarten children. Gilberto has a Preliminary California State Teaching Credential from CalStateTEACH Monterey Bay and a Montessori Elementary 1-2 (1st-6th grades) credential from Saint Mary’s College of California. Gilberto especially enjoys finding new ways to be silly and helping people smile more.


Kisha Maddox is the Support Teacher in Tidy Tips. Previously she taught at a public school in Oakland, California as an Intern Mild/Moderate Special Education Teacher. She worked with lower elementary students, and taught upper elementary students and high school students during summer academic programs as well. Currently, Kisha is working towards completing her Mild/Moderate Education Specialist training, and Masters of Arts in Urban Education at Holy Names University. Kisha enjoys yoga, meditating, watching documentaries, walking, hiking, and anything that has to do with technology.


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Montessori, Design Thinking and Arts Integration Charter School in Oakland, California