ELEMENTARY & MIDDLE SCHOOL FACULTY

ELEMENTARY FACULTY (grades K-4)

YOLI SHERIDAN
Lead Teacher, Kindergarten Program
& Art and Makers Director

Yoli joined the Spring Hill faculty team in 2013. She is the Lead Teacher for the Kindergarten program, and Spring Hill’s Art and Makers Director. She has also taught in the Lower Elementary classroom (grades 1 & 2) as Lead Teacher. Yoli holds a BFA from the University of California, San Diego, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude, and a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential and Art Teaching K-8 grade Credential from the University of California, Davis. Prior to joining Spring Hill, Yoli spent seven years as Head Teacher in a multiage age classroom at Sonoma Charter School and then Napa Valley Montessori Children’s House. She taught art at Sunrise Montessori School, Sonoma Valley Schools, and the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art. She spent two years interning in five different extremely diverse bilingual and GATE (gifted and talented education) schools in San Diego and Davis. Yoli believes in teaching from the heart, values social and emotional learning. She feels inspired by her students’ unique and authentic gifts and talents, and their beautiful and interesting work every day. She is passionate about integrating artistic expression in creating engaging and meaningful academic curriculum and believes in teaching and learning as a meaningful, deep discovery process of developing the creative mind. Personally, she enjoys painting in acrylic and encaustic, photography, many forms of world dance, and acting in community theater. Yoli is also passionate about wellness and enjoys yoga and wellness and nutrition retreats. She loves the ocean, water activities, and sailing. Yoli is very proud of her two amazing, compassionate, and joyful daughters, Bella Rose and Zoe Blue, who enjoy equestrian sports, playing violin, creating things, and soccer.

MOLLY HILL
Lead Teacher, Lower Elementary, Grades 1 & 2

Molly Hill joined Spring Hill in 2020. Molly has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Mills College and a California Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential. She has completed the Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University Teachers College and Making Learning Visible at Harvard Graduate School of Education. Prior to joining Spring Hill, Molly was a member of the leadership team at Sonoma Country Day School from 1991–2020. She was a master teacher for grades K–5 (including 15 years in 1st grade), a math specialist for grades 4 and 5. She was the lower school director for five years.

Molly is a great advocate for her students’ academic, social, and emotional progress and success. Inspired by the Brightworks (San Francisco) school model, and as a lifelong learner, Molly believes in an education that encourages exploration and expression, creative and critical thinking, collaboration, and integration. She brings a metacognitive approach to the classroom and supports her students in knowing themselves as learners. Molly embraces the “bigger picture” in education and strives to help her students see themselves as confident, capable, and kind human beings. Molly always aims to create a fun, safe, and challenging learning environment for every child.

When not exploring new ideas for teaching and learning, Molly loves creating things from paper—letterpress, bookmaking, origami, cards, etc. She loves all things art and design related. She also loves to hike/walk, especially around westside Petaluma neighborhoods. She enjoys trying new recipes, spending time with friends, family (especially her twin nieces), and her partner Tom. She loves reading, writing, and seeing live music, and is also a huge fan of New York City.

CYNTHIA DIAZ
Teacher, Lower Elementary  Grades 1 & 2
& Spanish Teacher, Grades 1-4

Cynthia joined the Spring Hill faculty team in 2015. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and a minor in Early Childhood Development from Sonoma State University. She also has a Montessori Elementary credential from American Montessori Society. Cynthia has worked with students from 1st through 5th grade since 2009 in a variety of different capacities in the classroom, including a behavior and education specialist, student support instructional assistant and tutor in many subjects, and an after-school classroom director. She is a native Spanish speaker and enjoys integrating cultural studies in her Spanish lessons. Cynthia believes it is important to encourage conversational Spanish throughout the school day as well as after school help to connect Spanish as a second language with real-life experiences and activities. She enjoys listening to her students sing and speak Spanish throughout the day, play games and read in Spanish. Cynthia is a graceful, respectful, and positive role model with strong organizational and leadership skills. She absolutely loves being with children. Cynthia enjoys cooking and baking, as well as hiking and camping with her husband Arthur and their son Rylan.

MELISSA KANG
Lead Teacher, Upper Elementary, Grades 3 & 4

Melissa Kang joined Spring Hill in 2020. She has a Master of Arts degree in Curriculum and Instruction and a Clear Multiple Subject Teaching Credential. She has completed the Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University Teachers College, and Making Learning Visible at Harvard Graduate School of Education, and holds a Maker certificate from Sonoma State University. Prior to joining the Spring Hill faculty, Melissa was a member of the lead teaching team at Sonoma Country Day School from 2012–2020, and a Lead Educator at Da Vinci Innovation Academy.

Melissa’s mission is to create a warm classroom community that fosters ultimate growth, academically, socially, and emotionally. She achieves this goal by taking the time to forge meaningful connections with students, families and colleagues. Through frequent assessments, mindful grouping, and understanding each student’s learning modalities, strengths and interests, she masterfully offers differentiated learning for all students to fulfill their potential and thrive. In her downtime Melissa can be found chasing her two toddlers around the yard with her husband Hiroshi. She enjoys spending time in her new garden coaxing the vegetables to grow and bemoaning the pesky gophers, family campouts on the deck, and having barbecues with friends.

TRICIA GARCIA
Dean of Elementary Curriculum
Math & Spanish Teacher – Upper Elementary, Grades 3 & 4

Tricia Garcia joined the Spring Hill faculty in 2017 as Upper Elementary (grades 3 & 4) Lead Teacher. She has years of exceptional global teaching experience. She is a fluent Spanish speaker and brings a rich cultural perspective to her students. Tricia holds a BA in Applied Linguistics, a Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) certification, licenses in Early Childhood Education and Elementary Education, and a Master of Education from Portland State University. She is an International Baccalaureate® certified teacher who brings years of experience applying inquiry and concept-based teaching.  Before coming to Spring Hill, Tricia taught 3rd grade and English as a Second Language (ESL) at The American School Foundation in Mexico City. She has also taught ESL to adults through various community-based programs and at Oak Grove Elementary in Oregon, and she taught kindergarten at Future Talent Academy in Ethiopia.

Tricia is enjoying being back in Sonoma County and spending time with her family and friends. She and her husband Raul have a beautiful daughter Galia, a Spring Hill elementary student. 

JEAN HICKS
Lead Learning Resource Specialist, Grade K–6

Jean joined the Spring Hill faculty team in 2004 as the Lower Elementary (grades 1 and 2) Lead Teacher. She rejoins the Spring Hill faculty as our Lead Learning Resource Specialist. Jean spent the 2019–20 school year following a passion teaching project in Nepal and has recently returned to Petaluma. Jean is a master Montessori credentialed educator, founder and principal of a successful K–8th grade Montessori school in Michigan, and an expert in learning resources. Jean led her own tutoring center for many years that offered Orton Gillingham phonics, Read Naturally for fluency, and BAL A VIS X (balance-auditory-visual exercises) to support her students to gain academic confidence and skills to succeed in their education. Jean deeply cares for each child and connects with them with respect and joy, and builds deep relationships based on trust, responsibility, and care.

JOSEPH TRUM
Elementary & Resource Teacher
D
igital Arts, Electives & After-school Enrichment Instructor

Joseph holds a double major degree in English and communication, as well as a teaching credential for mild moderate special education. Joseph founded Common Sense Special Needs Tutoring in the Bay Area in 2012. His talent and passion for teaching for the past 15 years has led him to teach a variety of subjects, including K-12 math, biology, language arts, and digital arts. In addition, Joseph is currently a Mixed Martial Arts Instructor at Esteem BJJ in Petaluma. He is a musician and has taught music, an advanced chess player, and creator of educational short films and documentaries. Joseph’s calm, positive, and confident presence, his gift of connecting with students with different learning styles, enriched teaching experiences, and philosophy that each student should positively achieve 100 percent learning to fulfill their potential align with Spring Hill’s mission, vision, and teaching philosophy.

CAITLIN DOWSWELL
Lower Elementary Assistant Teacher
Lead Elementary Aftercare Teacher

Caitlin joined the Spring Hill team in  2018. She holds a BA in political science, and she is currently pursuing a Master’s in Education in School Psychology. Caitlin’s  love for teaching led her to create Sunny Starts Home Childcare in San Francisco, which lovingly and successfully served children from 2 1/2–6 years old for three years. She also led a school gardening program for three years in San Francisco. Caitlin has the highest respect for her students, their intelligence, and their capabilities. Caitlin offers an engaging after-school program, including a relaxed free-play environment, optional arts and crafts activities, weekly cooking lessons, daily homework club with weekly prizes, outdoor games, and small-group personalized attention. Caitlin’s calm and mindful presence, her organizational skills, and professionalism provide a safe and joyful after-school program where students love to be, play, and learn. Caitlin loves gardening, cooking, sewing, knitting, and brings many talents to our after-school program.

ZAK KOWAL
Athletic Director & PE Teacher

Zak holds a BA in business management and a teaching credential in physical education. He has years of experience as athletic director, PE, and movement teacher and coach at independent schools in Silicon Valley. He has also led all seasonal sports, including baseball and basketball, and has a love for sports, health and nutrition, community, and team building. Zak is a motivated, personable, and skilled teacher who has worked with students of all ages. As an advisor in middle school, he is passionate about reaching out and connecting with his students for maximum mentoring, coaching, and success. He is also passionate about music—at his previous school, Zak DJ’d dances, and events!

BARBARA GOLDEN
Art Specialist

Barbara has 15 years of experience teaching comic and mixed media art using a wide array of artistic mediums in the US and Germany. She strives for positive and constructive teaching and cultivates strong relationships with her students. Barbara’s teaching has included 2D animation, digital art, plein air painting, live sketching, sequential cartooning, aquarelle art, acrylic art, soft pastel art, and mixed media. Barbara’s goal is to apply a mindful approach to technical instruction, ensuring each student reaches their full creative potential. Barbara works closely with teachers in support of their themes and projects.

 

PABLO RODRIGUEZ
Music Specialist, Grades PK-2

Pablo Rodriguez is a well-known singer, guitarist, and teacher in the North Bay area. He has performed in a wide variety of styles including classical, Brazilian music, jazz, gospel, pop, and Eastern European music. He has collaborated for years with songwriters, poets, dancers, choirs, and multi-media artists in many venues. He is an experienced teacher both in classroom and private instruction.

 

 

MAX JENT
Music Teacher, Grades 3-8

Max Jent joined Spring Hill in 2020 as the Middle School music teacher. Max has a BA in Music Performance from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. He received his teaching credential from Sonoma State University. Max has studied the Orff music approach (Levels I and II) at the San Franciscan School, Pasadena Conservatory of Music, and the San Francisco International Program in Carmel, California. (The Orff approach is a developmental approach used in music education that combines music, movement, drama, and speech into lessons.)  Max is the principal bass player in a local Symphony and is the band leader of a performing Jazz Band. Max is a composer, arranger, and multi-instrumentalist. For fun Max enjoys cooking, hiking, camping, skiing, world travel, gardening, and spending time with his dog.

 

 

EUNICE LEUNG
Chinese Teacher

Bio coming

 

 

MIDDLE SCHOOL FACULTY (grades 5-8)

MEGAN GALLAGHER
Lead Teacher, Middle School, Grade 5
Spanish and Global Outreach Director
Middle School Spanish Teacher
Advisor, Grade 5

Megan Shelton is the lead teacher for Spring Hill’s Middle School 5th grade class. She focuses on humanities, Spanish, and our Global Outreach Program. Megan holds a bachelor’s degree in speech communications and Spanish from Texas A&M University and a master’s degree in education with an emphasis in English as a Second Other Language from Fort Hays State University. Megan has also taught in Spring Hill’s Lower Elementary Classroom and led the school’s first international service learning project to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Before joining Spring Hill’s faculty team, she was Program Coordinator for the Volcanes Community Education Program in Mexico, where she lived eight years. She is a fluent Spanish speaker, and her experience living in Mexico contributes to her passion for global outreach. Megan continues to expand her capabilities: she recently attended training at the Equity and Inclusion Institute to enrich her lessons rooted in social justice. She enjoys spending time with her husband Chaz, traveling, and riding horses, and especially her new adventure as a mom to her beautiful daughter Siena Rose. Her “teaching partner” is Buddy, a certified therapy dog whom she rescued while living in Mexico.

ED LONGNECKER
Lead Teacher, Middle School, Grade 6
Middle School Math Teacher
Advisor, Grade 6

Ed Longnecker joined Spring Hill in 2020. He holds a BA in Communications from Sonoma State University and has also earned a California K-12 Multiple Subject Clear Teaching Credential, a Cross-cultural Language and Academic Development Certificate (CLAD), and an Administrative Service Credential from Sonoma State as well. Ed brings a lot of enthusiasm and experience to Spring Hill. He has been working with middle schools in Sonoma and Napa Counties for the last 17 years. During that time he has worked as both an assistant principal and a teacher. Ed comes to us from the Napa Unified School District where he has recently had three teacher of the year nominations, as well as nominations for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching Mathematics, and won runner up as Napa Valley’s Male Role Model of the Year in 2019.

JEN KLEM-CLARKE
Lead Teacher, Middle School, Grades 7 & 8
Middle School Division Head

Advisory Coordinator & High School Placement Counselor
Advisor, Grades 7 & 8

Jen brings to Spring Hill her passion and over 20 years of middle school teaching, leadership, and advisory experience, including 5 years of teaching in Pleasant Hill and San Francisco, 4 at the International School of Geneva, Switzerland, and 11 years at Marin Primary and Middle School in Larkspur. She holds an MA in educational administration and curriculum development, a BA in liberal studies, a California K-12 Multiple Subject Clear Teaching Credential, and a Giftedness: Realizing the Potential credential. Her wealth of training and certificates also includes a Clear, Cross-cultural Language and Academic Development Certificate (CLAD), and she has focused her professional development on learning and the brain, global citizenship and humanities curriculum development, project-based learning, student leadership, and mindfulness. After moving to Petaluma six years ago, Jen is very excited to be working close to home so she can spend more time with her husband, Kevin; their always entertaining sons, Finn and Kai; and their adorable Cocker Spaniel, Zoe. She enjoys yoga, cooking, gardening, crafting, reading, and most of all, exploring the world with her curious boys.

KRISTEN SORENSON
K-8 Science Department Lead
Middle School Science Teacher
Educational Technology & Innovation Support Educator
Advisor

Kristen holds an MA in education, a California multi-subject teaching credential, and a Maker certificate. For 25 years she has taught interdisciplinary studies across grade levels, including coding and programming, lab-based science lessons, making and tinkering, including video production and website creation. She has chaired science departments in the San Francisco Unified School District and at Sonoma Country Day School. Kristen nurtures 21st century problem-solving and inquiry-based skills in her students and fellow teachers, models lifelong learning, and develops relevant and rigorous curricula with an emphasis on student partnership and choice. She always seeks ways to integrate what students learn in the classroom with the world outside while making connections across content areas. She believes students learn best as members of diverse communities, giving structured and informal opportunities for them to work together in multi-age groups and thrive through differentiated instruction and assessment. Kristen greatly values community building and incorporating social-emotional learning into her daily routines, allowing the students to be fully present for their learning and each other. Explore Kristen’s professional e-portfolio here.

PAMELA TAMBE
Middle School Math Teacher

Pam loves helping students gain solid mathematical skills and become confident, capable problem-solvers. She holds an undergraduate degree in mathematics from Johnson State College in Vermont. Her expertise is in middle and high school mathematics teaching and in education research of math and science curricula, assessment, teacher leadership, and professional development. Pam enjoys spending time with family and friends, outdoor activities, and traveling. Her youngest daughter is a recent Spring Hill graduate.

CHRISTINE KUBOTA 
Associate Teacher, Grades 5-8
After-School Lead Teacher

Christine joined the Spring Hill faculty team in 2016. She holds a BS in biology with a concentration in marine science from Sonoma State University. Prior to joining Spring Hill, she worked at Sonoma State University as summer camp director and student instructor. Christine is part of the middle school advisory team and builds strong and trusted connections with her students. As a Math Associate Teacher, Christine guides and engages her students to gain confidence in learning math with joy. As part of the after-school program, Christine offers daily “homework club” providing 1:1 support in math, humanities, as well as Spanish. She also teaches macramé, a favorite elective class of Spring Hill middle school students. Christine is a graduate of a Spanish bilingual school and is fluent in Spanish. Christine enjoys scuba, macrame, traveling, and watching true crime documentaries. 

ZAK KOWAL
Middle School Athletic Director & PE Teacher
Advisor

Zak holds a BA in business management and a teaching credential in physical education. He has years of experience as athletic director, PE, and movement teacher and coach at independent schools in Silicon Valley. He has also led all seasonal sports, including baseball and basketball, and has a love for sports, health and nutrition, community, and team building. Zak is a motivated, personable, and skilled teacher who has worked with students of all ages. As an advisor, he is passionate about reaching out and connecting with his students for maximum mentoring, coaching, and success. He is also passionate about music—at his previous school, Zak DJ’d dances, and events!

MAX JENT
Music Teacher, Grades 3-8

Max Jent joined Spring Hill in 2020 as the Middle School music teacher. Max has a BA in Music Performance from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. He received his teaching credential from Sonoma State University. Max has studied the Orff music approach (Levels I and II) at the San Franciscan School, Pasadena Conservatory of Music, and the San Francisco International Program in Carmel, California. (The Orff approach is a developmental approach used in music education that combines music, movement, drama, and speech into lessons.)  Max is the principal bass player in a local Symphony and is the band leader of a performing Jazz Band. Max is a composer, arranger, and multi-instrumentalist. For fun Max enjoys cooking, hiking, camping, skiing, world travel, gardening, and spending time with his dog.

BARBARA GOLDEN
Art Specialist

Barbara has 15 years of experience teaching comic and mixed media art using a wide array of artistic mediums in the US and Germany. She strives for positive and constructive teaching and cultivates strong relationships with her students. Barbara’s teaching has included 2D animation, digital art, plein air painting, live sketching, sequential cartooning, aquarelle art, acrylic art, soft pastel art, and mixed media. Barbara’s goal is to apply a mindful approach to technical instruction, ensuring each student reaches their full creative potential. Barbara works closely with teachers in support of their themes and projects.

 

CARA WASDEN
Public Speaking Coach

Cara Wasden has been teaching public speaking at Spring Hill since 2018. Cara has been a member of the international public speaking organization, Toastmasters, since 2005. She has won numerous speaking and storytelling competitions over the years and has helped many others achieve the same success. These days her passion lies in helping younger people gain public speaking skills and confidence early on. Throughout the last four years, Cara has coached and co-coached a number of Toastmasters youth leadership programs throughout the Bay Area. She continues to co-coach public speaking sessions for programs such as Tomorrow’s Leaders Today and Chop‘s Teen Center.  She also co-coaches interviewing workshops for high school seniors involved with The Lime Foundation. Cara loves teaching public speaking to Spring Hill’s middle school students and is enthusiastically passing on her passion to others!