Faculty and Staff

Jen Heeter, Director of Instruction

Jen Heeter is the Director of Instruction for UMCS. She is a member of the founding faculty of UMCS and taught in Lower and Upper Elementary classrooms. She came to Urban from Valley Montessori School in Livermore, CA. Prior to that, Jen taught in a public school in the small town of Avalon on Santa Catalina Island. She received her Elementary training from the Montessori Teacher Education Center in San Leandro and her California Teaching Credential through CalStateTEACH. Jen is a licensed boat captain and previously worked leading ecological, snorkeling, and whale watching tours around Catalina Island. Jen loves dancing, travel, hiking, yoga, camping, printmaking, and spending time with her husband and son. She has also taught yoga, Pilates, Zumba, and dance to both children and adults.

Kelley Gardner, Director of Special Education Programs

Kelley Gardner is the Director of Special Education, working with students across all classrooms. This is her fifth year at UMCS. During her time at UMCS, she has had the opportunity to work with a variety of students in multiple roles, ranging from Student Support teacher to Co-Teacher.  Kelley moved to the Bay Area from New York, where she completed her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and her Master’s degree in College Student Services Administration at The College of Saint Rose. Kelley is currently pursuing her second Master’s degree, in Special Education, at San Francisco State University. In New York, she spent five years working with students in both academic and extracurricular settings.  She has worked with students of all ages, from pre-school to college, in varied roles from math teacher to career counselor. Kelley enjoys exploring all California has to offer, including soccer, hiking, and traveling up and down the coast.

Kristin Burke, Lead Montessori Teacher in Hummingbird

  • Kristin Burke is the Lead Teacher in the Hummingbird classroom. This is Kristin's 4th year at UMCS. She holds a B.A. in English from U.C. Berkeley and a California Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from CSU East Bay. She completed her Primary Montessori Teacher Training at MTEC. Prior to joining UMCS, Kristin worked for three years as a Kindergarten teacher and five years as a preschool teacher. In addition to teaching, Kristin spent six years working as an editor in the educational textbook publishing industry. True to Maria Montessori's vision, Kristin feels committed to education that begins in the body and reveals itself through purposeful, connected, and creative movement. She is currently nurturing her enthusiasm for education and body movement by working towards a Foundations of Dance Teaching Certificate through Luna Dance Institute and an Integrated Learning Specialist Program Certificate through Alameda County Office of Education.

Marquita Carter, Lead Montessori Teacher in Caterpillar

Marquita Carter is the Lead Teacher in Caterpillar. This is her third year at UMCS. She came to us from San Leandro Montessori where she taught Primary for 5 years. Marquita began her teaching career over 10 years ago teaching children with special needs and continues to advocate for Autism Awareness. She earned a BA in Psychology with an emphasis on children, families, and communities, from San Francisco State. After earning her AMS Credential from Montessori Teacher Education Center in San Leandro, she went on to teach there for two years. Marquita enjoys Oakland Raider Football, gardening, music, cooking, reading, spending time with friends and family, and large bodies of water. She and her husband of nine years have an amazing eight-year-old son who has Autism and inspires her beyond measure. She is currently attending Bay Area Teacher Training Institute to complete a California Teaching Credential and Masters in Education.

Lisa Gonzalez, Lead Montessori Teacher in Leopard Lily

Lisa Gonzalez is the Lead Teacher in Leopard Lily. Lisa is a California State Credentialed teacher with Montessori Lower Elementary training. In addition, she holds a Bachelor of Arts in Feminist Studies and a minor in Education from U.C. Santa Cruz. Lisa is a UMCS founding teacher beginning her UMCS journey as a support teacher. She has been working in East Oakland since 2008 finding her love of teaching early elementary while serving at two public schools in the Fruitvale District. Lisa's teaching interests beyond reading, writing and math cover subjects such as ethnic studies and youth as Changemakers in their communities. The focus of our classroom is that students have opportunities to be resilient, open, and empowered. Outside of work Lisa enjoys eating all types of food, enjoying the sun, and is a newbie meditator. Just breathe!

Laura Esparza, Support Teacher in Leopard Lily

Laura Esparza-González is the Support Teacher in Leopard Lily. This is her second year with UMCS. Laura comes from the University of California at Santa Barbara where she earned her Sociology and Chicano/a Studies degrees. She loves the color orange, reading, watching sunsets, dancing , and going to music festivals.

Tiarra Knox, Lead Montessori Teacher in Lupine

  • Tiarra Asia Knox, aka Ms.T is entering year 3 as Lupine's Lead Teacher, and is Urban Montessori's founding.   In 2012, She created and introduced UMCS’s core safety guidelines, facilitating schoolwide mindfulness lessons with an emphasis on Space Bubbles, Walking Feet, and Calm Voices.   Before beginning Lower Elementary instructional training with Montessori Training USA in 2013, Tiarra could be found delivering art and science lessons to hundreds of students throughout the Bay Area.  She has been contracted to share STEAM-inspired curricula arts integration techniques in professional developments for 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 and as a Lead Art/Science Instructor with Camp Galileo.  Between 2007 and 2013, she has also worked with Mad Science ©, 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.  Tiarra is entering the 2017/2018 school fresh from a summer spent with Science Camps of America in Hawaii and Flourish Agenda's Camp Akili hosted at Sonoma State University. As an experience-creator and a changemaker-maker, Tiarra is passionate about her work with Oakland youth and incorporating Radical Healing into her teaching. She understands that this Radical Healing approach transforms the trauma urban communities carry by inspiring and empowering youth to courageously embrace a political stance and take political action in avenues that they have yet to create.  She is actualizing as an activist and changemaker by training year-long with Practice in Transformative Action (PiTA) and earning her certification as a Coach for "Check Your Attitude", both programs that explore the neuroscience of meditation and success. She loves to love, meditate, explore, learn, teach, eat, hula-hoop, do hand-stands in the pool, surrender to ocean waves, and in service of life, explore the elasticity of comfort zones. She is a courageous, collaborative, determined, visionary, and reflective innovator committed to being the change.

Martha Georgie , Lead Montessori Teacher in Tidy Tips

Martha is a Lower Elementary lead teacher in the Tidy Tips classroom. She is coming with four years of experience in different Montessori school settings. Martha found the Montessori theory through her Master's course where she received her MA in Educational Psychology. Since then she has been seeking to know more about the philosophy and how to implement it in an Urban community such as UMCS. She also received her BA in philosophy at California State of Los Angeles. Prior to teaching, Martha was an Intern Coordinator at a Sensory Integration occupational therapy clinic in Southern California. There she worked with children at different levels of sensory delays.Martha Georgie  is an avid sports follower and is the biggest fan of the following teams: Los Angeles Lakers, New York JETS and University of Southern California. Therefore, it's safe to say that while she's not teaching, she's checking up on how her favorite teams are doing!  In addition, she loves to spend time with her husband, create crafts, sew and crochet.

Frederic Mooradally, Lead Montessori Teacher in Redwood

Fred Mooradally is the Lead Teacher in the Upper Elementary class of Redwood. He was born in Paris, France and worked in Finance in Asia and Europe for over 10 years. Once in the US, he embraced a career that is rewarding for the heart: Education! He taught in Upper and Lower Elementary for four years in a private school. He then chose to teach at Urban, a -free for all- Montessori school that is representative of the people of Oakland. Fred received his Montessori (AMI) Elementary training in San Diego in 2015. Fred is a happy husband and father of a little girl named Louise Marie. He loves swimming, playing computer games,  and hang out with friends. He sings in a band, plays guitar, ukulele and learns how to play the piano!

Brynn Ogilvie, Support Teacher in Redwood

Brynn Ogilvie, born in San Diego, CA and raised in Olympia, WA, has two passions in life: teaching youth and dancing. After graduating from Knox College with her B.A. in Elementary Education and two minors in Japanese Language and Dance, Brynn found a position teaching ballroom dance styles to adults. While teaching ballroom dance, she discovered nonverbal communication through dance and how listening to one another is important to dance gracefully and enjoyably. These concepts, she realized were important to understand as early as possible and wanted to bring that to students that were at a younger period in their life. To get her foot in the door as an educator in Washington, she applied and accepted a position teaching reading at Madison Elementary School through the Washington Reading Corps. For a year, Brynn implemented the nonverbal cues from ballroom dancing into her teaching practices to help students understand reading as well as how to interact with each other effectively. This position, while incredibly fulfilling in her teaching world, did not fulfill her dancing needs. Brynn wanted to teach dancing in public schools to have the best of both worlds but didn’t have the appropriate credentials to do so. That is when she began applying to graduate schools for dance. She was accepted into the M.F.A. program in Performance and Choreography at Mills College and quickly moved down to Oakland, CA to begin a new chapter in her life. Having just finished her M.F.A. program, Brynn is incredibly excited to work as a Support Teacher in Redwood at UMCS and hopes to spread her love of teaching, dancing and community to her students.

Briah Luther, Lead Montessori Teacher in Sequoia

Briah Luther is a Lead Teacher in Sequoia. This is their second year teaching at UMCS. Previously, Briah was a middle school Montessori teacher at Bowman School for four years. Prior to that, Briah obtained an MA in Comparative Literature at SFSU while also working as a Program Manager at an RDNC, where Briah helped implement a strong socio-emotional, restorative justice, art and recreational program throughout the various schools within the Richmond District. Briah received their 9-12 Montessori training through METTC in Boston, and has a BA in Comparative Literature from Cal State Long Beach. Briah loves critical theory, social justice, activism, reading, creative writing of all forms, playing sports, going to conferences and plays, and traveling.

Eileen Lindley, Support Teacher in Sequoia

Eileen Lindley is the Support Teacher for Sequoia Classroom in Upper Elementary, grades 4-6. Eileen has worked with children since she was fifteen, as a swim instructor and lifeguard at her local YMCA. Since then, she has worked at many different organizations and schools with children, in the water, out of it, and in many classrooms as well. Eileen became a certified kid's yoga instructor with Melissa Mayes of the stretch.play.yoga organization and has since completed her 200 hour vinyasa yoga certification with Yoga to the People in San Francisco. Teaching yoga to adults and children allows her to bring a mindful perspective to academic curriculum in the classroom. She incorporates physical and mental awareness into her everyday teaching practice as it is an essential part of lifelong learning. Eileen has a multiple subject teaching credential and a masters in education curriculum from San Jose State University. She taught with Oakland Unified School District from 2016-2017, and is happy to continue her teaching career here at UMCS.

Emily Ahsoon, Lead Montessori Teacher in Manzanita

Emily Ahsoon is the Lead Teacher in Manzanita. This is her second year at UMCS. She attended the University of Hawai’i at Manoa and double majored in Political Science and Women’s Studies with a special focus on Indigenous Women’s Feminism. She attended the AMI Elementary Teacher training at Montessori Northwest in Portland, Oregon, holds a Master’s in Education from Loyola University Maryland, and participated in the CalStateTeach program for her California Teaching Credential. Emily has been practicing the Indonesian martial art, Poekoelan (Pu- ku- lan), for over 20 years and holds the rank of forth degree black belt. She has taught self-defense classes to children and adults throughout California, Oregon, Washington and Hawai’i. When she's not in the studio, Emily enjoys cooking, traveling, dancing and being outside.

Bill Price, Support Teacher in Manzanita

Bill Price, “Mr. Bill,” is the Support Teacher in Manzanita. He has been with Urban since 2014 when he joined as a Substitute Teacher. Previously Mr. Bill was a teacher at Peter Pan Co-Operative Pre-school, where he worked as a Parent-Teacher. He received his state credential through Cal State Teach and AMI Montessori Assistants Certificate from AMI Montessori Teacher Training Center of Northern California. He obtained his BA from the University of Massachusetts at Boston in English and Africana Studies. Mr. Bill is a mid-life career-changer, who worked in Operations for 20 years, but heard the call to teach. When not at school Mr. Bill enjoys baseball, music, poetry, and especially spending time with his family.

Evan Fortin, Lead Teacher in Amethyst

Evan Fortin is the Lead Teacher in the Amethyst Middle School Classroom.  This is his 5th year at UMCS. Evan received his California Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, and is working on his MA at Mills College. Evan began his work as an educator at various schools and summer programs throughout East Oakland. Evan holds a liberal arts degree from the Evergreen State College with an emphasis in Multicultural Studies. He has a passion for bringing care, social justice and critical thinking into every classroom. Evan loves working at a school where everyday holds something new, and the spark of learning is always lit.

Jenny Huang, Support Teacher in Amethyst

Jenny Huang is the support teacher for middle school. She is new to UMCS this year and comes with the goal of furthering her path in education. She received her BA in Asian American Studies and minored in Education & Labor Studies at UCLA. She found her passion in education through her experiences of working with preschool and middle school children in Los Angeles and Oakland. She hopes to close the opportunity gap that students face in education. Jenny loves to spend time with her family, mastering the challenges of parallel parking and teaching her old dog new tricks.

Kimberly Chism, Reading Specialist

Kimberly Chism is the Reading Intervention Specialist. This is her 3rd year with UMCS.  Kimberly received her BA in religious studies from University of South Florida, her CA state teaching credential and MA in education from San Francisco State University and is trained in Lindamood-Bell Learning Process's Seeing Stars and Visualizing & Verbalizing. Her career in education has included early childhood instruction at Child & Family Institute in Menlo Park, cofounding and leading Nature School, a parent cooperative outdoor preschool in Oakland, nine years of teaching 3rd grade at E.R. Taylor Elementary School in San Francisco, and working as a therapeutic assistant for children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder both privately and at The Nueva School in Burlingame. When not reading with kiddos Kimberly loves to swim in the warm Atlantic waters off the coast of Florida, snorkel, dance, hike, camp, travel and spend time with her family and friends. She is passionate about her work with our young readers and very excited to begin another year at Urban.

Lauren Runkel, Speech Language Pathologist

Lauren is the Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) at UMCS and works with students in grades K-7. Originally from the east coast, Lauren moved to the Bay Area in 2015 and although she'll always love Boston, she has been enjoying the California sunshine. Lauren studied at Boston University where she received her bachelors degree in psychology and then her masters degree in speech language pathology. Lauren has worked as an SLP for over 6 years and has worked in various settings including schools and outpatient pediatric rehab. Outside of work Lauren enjoys baking, spending time with her friends and family and reading on the beach.

Lee-Anne Bloom, Occupational Therapist

Lee-Anne is a Bay Area native with her Master’s in Science in Occupational Therapy from San Jose State University, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Arts and Sociology from San Francisco State. During her time in pediatric private practice, pediatric medical clinics and school-based occupational therapy, Lee-Anne gained experience with a wide range of diagnosis including neurological disorders, orthopedic impairments, and learning disabilities. Lee-Anne has special expertise in self-regulation including emotional, sensory and social regulation, and qualifies as an autism specialist. She has many tricks up her sleeve for addressing a wide range of goals, including: neuro-developmental, sensory integration, visual-motor integration, The Zones of Regulation, DIRFloortime ®, SCERTS®, Pediatric feeding and assessment, Social Thinking ®, Handwriting Without Tears, and motivating fine and gross motor activities.   Most importantly, Lee-Anne makes therapy fun while building on the child’s strengths.  Lee-Anne believes that the most successful clients are those whose families are involved in the collaboration process. Lee-Anne’s vision as an OT is to make the world more accessible for those with sensory sensitivities. Through collaboration, we craft the "just-right" environment for children with specific sensory preferences. Lee-Anne has many creative pursuits outside of the OT profession such as working as professional DJ, photographer, dancer, and artist. She has a passion for health and wellness through physical activity (snowboarding, cycling, hiking, yoga/Pilates/barre) and nutrition.

Dean Larwood, Student Support Assistant

Dean Larwood is the new special education student support specialist at UMCS’s new Mountain Campus. He’ll be working with our Upper Elementary students. When he and his wife, Julie, lived in San Jose, he thoroughly enjoyed working at Orchard Elementary School as an instructional aid. After moving to Oakland, he worked at The Phillips Academy, again as an instructional aid. Dean has a long list of things he loves, such as nature, hiking, camping, biking, traveling, history, alternative energy, and other environmental issues. His many trips across the country and the long periods of time he’s spent in rural places provide a seemingly endless variety of ways to open up curious minds, igniting kid’s desire to learn. Installing solar power systems, cleaning up creeks and parks, and creating drought tolerant plantings have been his way of giving back to the community.

Sahar Miller, Music Teacher

Sahar Miller is in her 6th year at UMCS and 4th year as Music Teacher. She graduated from Barnard College/Columbia University with a degree in anthropology.  Since college she has worked as a music teacher in schools and privately.  Currently she teaches saxophone, clarinet, and beginning piano in her music studio in Oakland.   You can also find her performing around the Bay Area with her band, “The GroWiser Band.”