The Carlthorp School classroom teachers strike an important balance between emphasizing academic rigor, while retaining a nurturing learning environment. Our faculty is committed to providing a safe place for our students where they are encouraged to take risks while striving for excellence. 


MEET THE CLASSROOM TEACHERS

Kindergarten Team

List of 4 items.

  • Caitlin Dunleavy

    Caitlin graduated from Villanova University with her Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education. After teaching 1st Grade in the Philadelphia suburbs, Caitlin relocated to New York City where she continued her education at Fordham University, earning a Master of Arts degree in Education with a focus in Literacy. She quickly found a school in Manhattan to call home for eight years, St. Hilda’s & St. Hugh’s, where she enjoyed developing and implementing new curriculum while teaching Pre-Kindergarten, Kindergarten and 2nd Grade classes. During her time at SHSH, Caitlin had the opportunity to travel to Chengalpattu, India, to teach English to children in grades K-6. A firm believer in professional development and continuing education, she was also able to organize and facilitate teaching workshops for the school’s faculty. Caitlin is thrilled to be living near her family in sunny Santa Monica without a hint of winters in sight! In her free time, she enjoys cooking, cheering on her Villanova Wildcats and taking her chocolate lab to the beach!
  • Rebecca Lepore

    Rebecca is originally from Simi Valley, California, where she grew up helping in her mom’s 2nd grade classroom. From a young age she has been passionate about education and that passion has never waivered. Rebecca received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Liberal Studies from Loyola Marymount University after which she went on to teach 3rd grade at Playa Vista Elementary School. Rebecca then moved to Dublin, Ireland, where she worked in the Foster Care Unit at Child Protective Services helping families in need. Specifically, she was the instructor for the children in temporary foster care. Rebecca also served as the academic liaison when the children were relocated to a more permanent home and academic setting. When she moved back to California, Rebecca taught a Kindergarten class at Short Avenue Elementary School. Outside of school Rebecca enjoys crafting, hiking, and stargazing. However, her greatest hobby is traveling. So far she has been to 40 states and 24 countries!
  • Jenny Morgan

    Jenny,a proud Southern California native, was born and raised in Palos Verdes, who graduated from Pepperdine University with a Bachelor of Arts in Theater and Television. Shortly thereafter, Jenny felt the call to work with young people, which led her to USC’s Rossier School of Education, where she graduated with a Master of Arts in Education. While completing her M.A., Jenny taught a summer Kindergarten readiness program, and also began teaching a 6th and 7th Grade study skills course at Rolling Hills Country Day School, which she continued to do for three years. Just prior to joining the Carlthorp School team, Jenny taught 11th and 12th Grade English Language Arts at YES Prep East End in Houston, Texas, an urban charter school that serves mostly underprivileged students. In her free time, Jenny enjoys being with family and friends, riding her beach cruiser on the strand and appreciating the California sunshine!
  • Adrienne Rizk

    Born and raised on the Central Coast,Adrienne moved to Los Angeles where she received her degree in English from California State University Los Angeles. She went on to earn her Master of Arts degree in Literacy and Language Arts as well as her teaching credential from Loyola Marymount University. Before arriving at Carlthorp, Adrienne taught Kindergarten and filled the role of Literacy Lead for Kindergarten through 2nd Grade at Chadwick School in Palos Verdes. More locally, she also taught at Mayfield Junior School in Pasadena and at the UCLA Lab School in Westwood. Less locally, she spent time working with students in Ghana, West Africa, where she continues to serve as a board member for a community primary school. Adrienne spends her time outside of school exploring Los Angeles with her husband and two children. At home she indulges in her passion for literature and reading.   

1st Grade Team

List of 5 items.

  • Jessica Garrabrant

    Jessica is a native of Morris County, New Jersey, who was a three-­sport student athlete at Morris Knolls High School. She went on to play college basketball at Montclair State University, where she received her B.S. in Nutrition and Dietetics. She then attended Caldwell College. There, Jessica earned her teaching credential in elementary education. Prior to Carlthorp School, Jessica taught 4th-­8th Grades at Lacordaire Academy in Montclair, New Jersey, where she coached soccer and basketball for the upper school, and was in charge of the middle school running club. An avid marathon runner, Jessica also enjoys hiking, bike riding, hot yoga, the beach and, of course, spending time with friends and family.
     
  • Leslie Keper

    Leslie was born and raised in the northern Chicago suburbs and attended the University of Iowa for her bachelor’s degree in elementary education. Upon graduation, she moved back to Chicago and lived in downtown Lakeview for ten years. Leslie began her teaching career not too far from where she had grown up in Mt. Prospect, Illinois. She was fortunate enough to be a part of a wonderful neighborhood school and spent the first ten years of her career there. During those ten years Leslie taught Kindergarten, 3rd and 4th grades, each one for three years. She also spent one year teaching 5th grade. Leslie earned her reading specialist master’s degree at Olivet Nazarene University and then continued her education by taking several additional classes to broaden and deepen her knowledge as an educator. In her free time she enjoys being outdoors exercising, traveling to see friends and family, reading, and taking her dog, Barkley, outside to play! 
  • Tanya Friedman

    Tanya, a New Jersey native, moved to New York City to begin her teaching career after having earned her degree in the SUNY system.  In fifteen years as a teacher in the New York City Public School System, Tanya taught each of the grades from Pre-Kindergarten through 5th.  She also spent time as a Teacher/Coach for the Department of Education in New York City.
     
    Tanya received her undergraduate degree from SUNY New Paltz and two master’s degrees from CUNY at City College, one in Elementary Education and the other in Building Leadership.  She participated in a think tank for implementing the Common Core Curriculum in NYC schools, where she led a team of teachers in developing curriculum and rubrics. In addition to her degrees, Tanya has facilitated workshops at New York University and Fordham University on best collaborative practices for future teachers. Outside of the classroom, Tanya enjoys playing sports, spending time with her family and heading to the beach on weekends.  She is excited to be teaching at Carlthorp School!
     
  • Julie Paiva

    Julie is excited to join the Carlthorp School community after 16 years of teaching at the elementary level in Brentwood’s Kenter Canyon School of Advanced Studies. She has a passion for inspiring students to become life-long learners and compassionate members of the community. Julie graduated from UC Davis with her bachelor’s degree in Rhetoric and Communications, and a minor in Theater. She went on to receive her Masters in Teaching and a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from Chapman University. In 2009, Julie was awarded the Lori Petrick Award for Excellence in Education from the Palisades Charter Schools Foundation. When she is not in the classroom, she enjoys writing, performing, being outdoors, and traveling to new places.
  • Nicole Pak

    Nicole is a native Angeleno who as a Harvard-Westlake student spent her spring and summer breaks volunteering with medical teams in developing countries throughout Africa, Central America, Central Asia, Europe and East Asia. Through these volunteer service trips, Nicole developed a passion for delivering a high-quality education to every community. Soon, she was working with children in rural villages in Southeast Asia and East Africa, at-risk youth in an Australian juvenile detention center, Syrian refugees in the Middle East, and under-resourced elementary, junior high, and high school students in the United States. After spending the better part of a decade serving, studying, or living in all of the continents except for Antarctica, Nicole is delighted to be back in Los Angeles with such a vibrant community of service-oriented learners at Carlthorp. Nicole acquired her passion for education at Harvard-Westlake, her B.A. in Global Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and her Master’s in Education at Pepperdine University. Outside of school, she enjoys medium-length hikes, mentoring college students and writing songs.

2nd Grade Team

List of 4 items.

  • Kate Cushman

    Born in Michigan, Kate graduated from Hope College with a B.A. in Psychology and Sociology, followed by her Master’s in Education at Pepperdine University.  She has taught for sixteen years, twelve of them at Carlthorp School. Yoga, running, hiking, biking, traveling, cooking and learning are Kate’s favorite pastimes.  She loves spending time with friends and family and is madly in love with her apricot poodle, Scully.  
     
  • Keara Devitt

  • Lisa George

    Lisa graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a double major in Liberal Studies and Dance. She was on both the swimming and the water polo teams there. Lisa has a Master’s in Educational Psychology from California State University Northridge. She began her teaching career in the 2nd Grade classroom at Pinecrest, Chatsworth, where she had also attended middle school.  Lisa joined the Carlthorp School faculty in 1998. Since then she has taught 1st and 2nd Grades, as well as reading to 4th, 5th, and 6th Grades. Currently she enjoys playing tennis, running, reading, volunteering, raising her two children and caring for numerous pets.
  • Kristen Morrissey

3rd Grade Team

List of 4 items.

  • Jacqueline Corsini

    Jacqueline graduated from Boston College with dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in Elementary Education and English Literature in 2008. She began her career as an English Language Learner specialist in the Boston Public Schools, working with students from a variety of native languages across the elementary grade levels. She then lived in London for six years, during which time she obtained her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership and School Improvement at Cambridge University, and taught 4th Grade at TASIS England. This fall will be her ninth year in the classroom, and her third at Carlthorp School. In her free time, Jacqueline enjoys chasing after her toddler Charlotte, and eating chocolate chip cookies.
  • Julia Ho

    Ms. Ho graduated from Hamilton College in New York, where she studied sociology and studio art, ran varsity track, and captained the women’s rugby team. After that, she was accepted into the New York City Teaching Fellows program, which allowed her to earn a M.Ed. from Mercy College. She has diverse teaching experiences across the globe including The Lamplighter School (Dallas, Texas), a village in rural Namibia (Africa), and most recently, The Horace Mann School (New York). Her hobbies include petting cheetahs and diving with sharks, but on a more regular basis, Miss Ho prefers riding her bike and eating cupcakes—separately, of course.
  • Regina “Gigi” Niekrash

    Gigi is a University of Maine graduate with a B.A. in History and a minor in Elementary Education. She continued her education at Southern Connecticut State University, where she earned her teaching credential and master’s degree in History. Gigi started her career at Carlthorp as the library assistant and has since taught 4th and 5th Grades at the school. She took a one-­year hiatus during which she taught 5th Grade at Achievement First Charter School in Bridgeport, CT. She is currently in her 7th year at Carlthorp School and teaching 3rd Grade. Outside of school, Gigi enjoys reading, cooking and watching football, especially the Patriots.
  • Elizabeth Worrell

    Elizabeth grew up in Wisconsin and attended Concordia University in Chicago, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education.  She continued at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, where she completed a Master of Science degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on Literary Studies. Throughout her graduate program, she focused mainly on identifying and overcoming the social constructs that may cause boys to develop early and negative attitudes towards reading. Elizabeth has acquired a broad range of teaching experience in both elementary and middle schools. Her first assignment was in suburban Chicago teaching 2nd Grade.  After moving to California, she spent eight years teaching 7th Grade and 8th Grade students at Venice Lutheran, an independent school just down the road from Carlthorp. While there, Elizabeth started an astronomy partnership with a local university, helped rethink the school’s reading curriculum, directed and co-directed numerous theatrical productions and incorporated many forms of educational technology into her classroom. In her free time Elizabeth is an avid reader who is always on the lookout for high interest books to add to the 3rd grade library.

4th Grade Team

List of 4 items.

  • Laurie Anderson

    Laurie attended the Malibu campus of Pepperdine University where she earned her bachelor’s degree. For her post-graduate work, however, she went to the Vermont Avenue campus where she earned a Masters in Reading and in School Management and Administration.  She has been at Carlthorp School, either full-time or as a “resident sub” since 1975. Currently she teaches 4th Grade. Mrs. Anderson enjoys making quilts, riding her bicycle, boogie-boarding, doing crossword puzzles, riding horses, reading, traveling up and down California and spending time with her family.
  • Nicole Fahey

    Nicole is thrilled to join the Carlthorp community for her 16th year in education. She has previously held roles as a 4th Grade teacher, a 5th Grade teacher, and a literacy coach in Fairfax County, VA; Saudi Arabia; Madrid, Spain; and Dubai, UAE. With a Master of Education degree from the University of Virginia and certifications as a Reading Specialist and National Board teacher, Nicole is passionate about modeling a growth mindset and lifelong learning for her students. In her spare time, she enjoys spending being outdoors in nature and with the people she cares about.
  • Ron Burwick

    Ron graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, with a major in Communications.  He also attended the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England. Before starting to teach at Carlthorp, Mr. Burwick spent nine years in the Los Angeles Unified School District, where he taught in the GATE program, as well as in a regular classroom.  Outside of school, he enjoys scuba diving, completing the New York Times crossword puzzles, and anything related to the New England Patriots or the Boston Red Sox.
  • Ashley Greenberg

    Originally from Rhode Island, Ashley taught 2nd Grade in Hawaii before moving to Santa Monica. She is excited to be teaching 4th Grade at Carlthorp.  Ashley received her Master of Science degree in Elementary Education from Johns Hopkins University after studying psychology at Georgetown University. Prior to becoming a full-time teacher, Ashley discovered her love for working with young people by volunteering her time both with an after-school reading program for elementary school students and with an after-school cooking program for high school students.  In addition, she taught summer school to incoming 4th and 5th Graders when she was in college. When she’s not teaching, Ashley loves hiking, camping, and card and board games.

5th Grade Team

List of 4 items.

  • Sachi Hillson

    Sachi completed undergraduate studies at the University of Oregon and subsequently earned her Teaching Credential and Master’s in Education from Loyola Marymount University. She joined the Carlthorp School faculty in 2000 and spent a number of years teaching 1st Grade, 2nd Grade and then 5th Grade before becoming Head Librarian in 2009 with a Library Media Teacher Services Credential from California State University, Long Beach. During her time as Librarian, Sachi was a member of the selection committee for the Judy Lopez Memorial Award for Children’s Literature. In 2015 she returned to the 5th Grade classroom in her current position. In her free time Sachi enjoys going to concerts and exploring Los Angeles with her husband Michael and son Trent.
     
  • Dylan Porter

    Dylan is a University of Kansas graduate who earned his B.S. in Elementary Education and a master’s degree in Education with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction. His passions of teaching, traveling, and public service came to fruition when he was accepted as a Peace Corps volunteer. Dylan was sent to Moldova where he served as an English teacher to local students. Following his two ­year commitment in the Peace Corps, he continued to follow his passions by teaching at independent schools in the countries of Kenya, Nepal, and the Czech Republic before moving back to the U.S. He is now in his third year at Carlthorp School.  Outside of school he enjoys reading, running, yoga, hiking, swimming, cycling, travelling and spending time with his wife, Erin Murphy, who is a 6th Grade teacher at Carlthorp School.
     
  • Polly Weller

    This is Polly’s second year teaching at Carlthorp School. She was born in Hong Kong and raised in Princeton, New Jersey. She attended Colgate University in upstate New York, where she majored in Latin. Polly then moved to London, where, after completing her teacher training, she taught the equivalent of 1st Grade for three years. After a total of six years in the U.K., Polly moved to Los Angeles and earned a Master of Education in Teaching from Pepperdine University. In her free time Polly loves to read, spend time on the beach and go on hikes.
     
  • Janeth Zavaleta

    Janeth started working at Carlthorp School in 1999. Her first duties involved helping out in a number of classrooms. Thanks to those experiences she realized she had a passion for teaching. She then went on to receive both her B.A. in Liberal Studies and her multiple subject California Teaching Credential (K – 6) at California State University, Northridge. Later, she earned her M.Ed. from Indiana Wesleyan University. Janeth has been an integral part of the 5th Grade teaching team for many years. In her spare timeshe loves to travel. Her favorite activities include playing with her dog, Gordo, biking and camping.

6th Grade Team

List of 5 items.

  • Erin Murphy

    Erin graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with degrees in International Relations and Journalism andMass Communication. A spunky, travel-loving human rights activist with a passion for education, she met her husband (5th Grade Teacher Dylan Porter) while studying in Moldova as a Fulbright Scholar. She has extensive experience helping students to prepare for standardized tests, including the ISEE. In the past Erin has also worked to help students complete their university applications.  Together, these experiences give Erin a strong frame of reference for working with 6th Grade students at Carlthorp School and for helping families navigate the secondary school application process. She enjoys sharing with students the experience she has acquired in her years working with government agencies and managing operations for non-government organizations in places such as India, the Czech Republic and Nepal.
     
  • Nadia Shields

    Nadia grew up in a military family and lived in Europe, Asiaand throughout the United States.  This fueled her interest in geography and other cultures. Teetering between science and pre-law, she graduated from the University of California with majors in History and Russian Literature and a minor in Science. Harkening back to her days in elementary school when she set up a classroom in the garage and paid her sisters and their friends out of her allowance to sit through her Saturday lectures about why “ph” actually makes an “f” sound and the myriad ways to begin a composition, she realized that the classroom is what she loved. She taught for 13 years in Northern California.  She also found time to earn a Master’s of Science in Counseling and an Administrative Credential at California State University, Sacramento. A few years after moving to Southern California with her husband, the Reverend Dr. Charles Shields, and two young daughters, Sarah and Elizabeth, she earned her PhD in Administrative Policy from UCLA. Dr. Shields has been a teacher at Carlthorp School since 1991. Her passion for the classroom remains unabated. In her spare time, she teaches Sunday school, sings in her church choir, jogs, travels, reads, writes, dances, and bakes. She also loves going to movies.
     
  • Ausra Venckus

    A native of Los Angeles, Ausra was born and raised in the foothills of the Angeles National Forest.  She attended Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy in La Canada Flintridge and matriculated, not far, to UCLA where she double majored in International Development Studies and in History.  While in college, Ausra enjoyed the opportunity to study in France at the American University of Paris. Ausra’s first professional classroom experience was in a private K-8 school in Seoul, South Korea, teaching both in-person and remote English classes.  Ausra later studied at Columbia University Teachers College in the City of New York, where she earned her master’s degree in Curriculum & Teaching of Elementary Inclusive Education and her teacher certification. Sunny California lured her back home to teach in Brentwood at St. Martin of Tours School.  Ausra became the Math Department Chair and taught grades 5-8 advanced math.

    Ausra has been a teacher at Carlthorp School since 2015.  She is delighted to funnel her past towards Service Learning, math, ELA, and the expansive global studies curriculum that is a hallmark of the Carlthorp School 6th grade experience.

    A fun fact about Ausra is that she is a dual American-Lithuanian citizen and frequently travels to her other motherland.  She has an overwhelming TASCHEN art book collection (she worked in the Beverly Hills TASCHEN gallery for a few years). Ausra loves the challenge of hiking Mt. Whitney, San Gorgonio, and around Denali.  She named the six hummingbirds who swirl around her balcony and has a baby foster orangutan in Borneo named Trudeau.
     
  • Brent Vernon

    Brent was born and raised in Harrah, Oklahoma, a small suburb of Oklahoma City. He graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma with a major in Theatre Education. After that, he moved to Toronto, Canada, to work for a leading international children’s education NGO called WE as a lead program facilitator and motivational speaker. Following two years in Toronto he moved to Santa Monica. Mr. Vernon has been a teacher at Carlthorp School since 2008 with experience in Kindergarten, 3rd Grade, 6th Grade and lower grade drama classes. In his spare time, he enjoys writing and directing children’s plays, reading, watching documentaries (Won’t You Be My Neighbor? being his favorite), and journaling while viewing the sunset at Palisades Park.
     
  • Derrick Williamson

    Derrick was born and raised in the Detroit metropolitan area before repairing to Washington, D.C., as a matriculate of Howard University. At Howard, he earned his undergraduate degree in Business Administration. After graduating, he moved to Los Angeles and earned his master’s degree in African-American Studies at UCLA. He’s the proud father of two Carthorp School students. Derrick’s career in education began seven years ago as an assistant in a 1st Grade classroom at Lou Dantzler Elementary, a charter school in the ICEF network. Soon after, he earned his multiple-subject teaching credential and began as an Intervention Teacher at KIPP LA (Knowledge Is Power Program). Following that, Derrick taught in a Kindergarten classroom at KIPP Empower Academy, after which he moved to 1st Grade for three years and finally to 4th Grade for two years.