Teachers & Staff

Tierra Pacifica is extremely fortunate to have excellent teachers and staff. They are the foundation of our school.

Administration

Jennifer Proudfoot

Director

I have been a part of the Tierra Pacifica community since before our very first day of school back in 1998, and I’m so proud of everything we have accomplished together along the way. I have served in several different capacities here: parent, TA, teacher, board member, assistant principal. Now I hold the distinct honor and privilege of being the director. Tierra Pacifica’s mission to teach to the Whole Child has never wavered. My vision is to keep our mission and incredible programs strong. We still have art, music, movement and stewardship of our environment as key components in every classroom. We continue our school-wide focus on reading and providing early interventions for students with diverse needs. We continue our focus on diversity and making our community welcoming and inclusive to all. We continue to work on ways to strengthen our ties with the Live Oak district and local community organizations like the Live Oak Family Resource Center and the Boys and Girls Club. And we strive to deepen our commitment to incubating new educators by working with college and university programs to invite student teachers to learn alongside us and take what they learn from Tierra Pacifica out into the wider teaching community. After all, the purpose of charter schools is to innovate and share, so we all improve, and every student has the opportunity to get the education they deserve, no matter where they live. I hold a BS in Life Sciences from Cal Poly, a Master’s in Educational Leadership from CMU, a certification in Charter School Leadership: Policy, Finance, and Administration from UCLA, and teaching credentials in Science, and Multiple Subjects (Elementary). I am currently working on clearing my California Administrative Services Credential.

Satisha Furnish

Finance Manager

Satisha Furnish has been in charge of the finances at Tierra Pacifica is since 2003. She has weathered lots of ups and downs with the school during the ups and downs (lots of downs) of the state economy. During this time the school purchased facilities and paid off a loan. None of it would have been possible without the awesome finance volunteers that help monitor the fiscal health of the school. Satisha has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and graduated summa cum laude with distinction. She also attended a multitude of workshops on Charter school finance and laws and completed CSDC's Chief Business Officer Training in 2015.

Sofie Radilla

Office Manager

I am so very blessed to be a part of the TPCS community! I am a Santa Cruz native (born and raised), and I attended Soquel high school. In my 20’s I earned a Criminal Justice degree, and quickly learned that criminal justice was not my passion, but I continue to be passionate about working and helping others.

I have worked managing small nonprofits in Santa Cruz for about ten years and now LOVE the work I do here for Tierra Pacifica!

I love spending my weekends with my five children. (Well that's if I’m lucky and my teen will join us!) You can find us most weekends walking along West Cliff or the beach, or taking a leisurely stroll downtown

Kim Shankland

Finance Assistant

Tierra Pacifica is extremely fortunate to have excellent teachers and staff. They are the foundation of our school.

Amber Radwanski

Administrative Support

Amber was raised in Austin, Texas. She’s a California girl with a Texas heart. Upon graduation she worked in the Office of the Governor of Texas, assisting with speech writing and organizing press conferences. Life in politics was not to taste, so returning to school for an Agriculture and Horticulture degree seemed to be the next obvious choice. She soon realized that gardening was more enjoyable as a hobby. Yet again, it seemed like a foray into a new career was in order, so she began working at the Texas State School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Being helpful, especially to children, sat a little better, so back to school she went.

This time around Amber received a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies and a BA in Special Education, inspired by the time she spent at the School for the Blind. After graduating, Amber taught 6th grade in Monterey, Mexico for a year. She returned to Austin and taught 1st grade at an inner-city Title 1 school, followed by a teaching stint in Jeju Island, South Korea. Then a move to sometimes-sunny-Santa Cruz was in order.

Amber has two children, Joaquin and Lizzie, who attend Tierra Pacifica. In 2016, she was thrilled to be asked to work in the office as staff. Currently she works as an Administrative Aide and an EL coordinator. When she’s not at school or volunteering, she likes to cook, knit, sew, garden, and listen to friends. Amber has had a steady yoga practice for 24 years, which has given her the poise in which to move through life with grace, she thinks.

Lily de la Espriella

Finance Assistant

Tierra Pacifica is extremely fortunate to have excellent teachers and staff. They are the foundation of our school.

Teachers

Margo Ross

Hearts

I have been involved with Tierra Pacifica since the early days -- attending backyard meetings and working on fundraising before the school opened its doors, then as a parent, classroom volunteer, class rep, electives teacher, board member, teaching assistant -- even as janitor for a while. I helped draft the school charter and many of its policies, and believe wholeheartedly in the school and its mission. I have been the kindergarten teacher since 2006. I did my undergraduate work at Johns Hopkins University, before attending law school at the University of Chicago. I practiced law for several years then moved to California, where I got an MSW from UC Berkeley and worked as a social worker. I moved to Santa Cruz in 1995, when my oldest daughter, Laurel, was a year old. I got involved with Tierra Pacifica when she was 3, because I wanted her to go to a school with Tierra Pacifica's values. From there, I developed a passion for teaching, and returned to school to get my credential from CalStateTEACH. In addition to teaching, my interests include spending time with my daughters and partner Julie, taking care of the animals on my ranch, watching birds, checking for critters in creeks and under rocks, drawing, reading and doing puzzles. I am grateful that my life is full of things I love.

Justin Trinh-Halperin

The Spot

I have been teaching middle school since 2000, however, I began immersing myself in the Tierra Pacifica culture since December of 2003. I have a passion for teaching Math, Language Arts, Social Studies, and Environmental Science, which blossomed at Lee Mathson Middle School in San Jose.

My credentials include a BA in Environmental Studies, Minor in Biology, Masters in Business Administration, emphasis in nonprofit management and a California Multiple Subject Teaching Credential with CLAD certification.

I also understand and appreciate that a great part of our learning comes from life experiences. I have traveled to 49 countries around the world and 31 of the United States. I am comfortable speaking several languages including Vietnamese, Japanese, French and some Spanish.

My pride and joy is my family, my wife Nga and my two sons, Milo and Khai (both who attended TPCS K - 8th). When the rare opportunity of free time comes my way, I surf, shape surfboards (mostly retro-boards), white water raft, travel, or just sleep!

My philosophy on education is edutainment, having fun while learning. I am a firm believer that our students need to lay down a strong foundation for learning through the California Common Core Standards, but it doesn't need to be boring. I use creativity to engage students in the learning process through interactive means whenever possible. Thus, don't be too concerned if your child comes home with an assignment to write a song or poem about the fall of the Roman Empire or the election process.

I love to Teach!

Stephanie Drake

Art

Tierra Pacifica is extremely fortunate to have excellent teachers and staff. They are the foundation of our school.

Elana Sifry

Oaks

Elana has been a member of the Tierra Pacifica community for over 19 years. She has worn many hats at school including supporting the school director in the office, teaching kindergarten and first grade, and taking over for teachers on leave across the spectrum of grades. She has taken time off over the years to raise her two amazing kids.

Juliet Lohrey

Suns

My name is Juliet Lohrey and I have had the privilege of teaching the second and third grade class at Tierra Pacifica since 2010. I attended UCSC and have a B.A. in performing arts with a Masters of Education. I love being able to incorporate my love of the arts with my dedication to working with children. Before coming to work at Tierra Pacifica I worked with preschool age children. I was also a math intervention teacher for 4th and 5th graders. Having experience with children at different ages really helps me have a better idea of the bigger picture of a child’s education. When I plan my curriculum I am thinking about the knowledge and skills that they already possess, as well as what I am trying to prepare them for in the future. I enjoy working at Tierra Pacifica because of the intimate setting, as well as the encouragement for students, teachers and parents to share their passions in the classroom.

Courtney Bowman

Math

I started teaching at Tierra Pacifica in 2005. I have an educational background in geology, math, and biology. I started my professional career at the U.C. Berkeley Herbarium working on the first online database of botanical collections. While working there I started volunteering at a local middle school and fell in love with teaching. We had an amazing science classroom including the gardens started by Alice Waters at Martin Luther King Middle School in Berkeley. I went back to school to get my credential and worked for several years in the Bay Area before relocating to Santa Cruz. I found my way to Tierra Pacifica through my children.

My goal is to create a classroom that is supportive, rigorous, open to big ideas, and fun. With lots of additional training such as attending The Exploratorium Teacher Institute in San Francisco, CPM's Ideas and Inspirations Math Program, and Jo Boaler's Growth Mindset Class, I try to bring hands' on experiential lessons to the classroom everyday. Students are encouraged to take academic risks and to not be afraid to try new things...... and make mistakes.

I also work at the University of California, Santa Cruz in the Cal-Teach program.

When not working, I enjoy spending time with my family (husband, Erik and children, Elan, Jesse, and Mia) hiking, going to the beach, playing games, and traveling.

Morréa Grillo

Redwoods

My name is Morréa, and I am so grateful to be a part of the Tierra Pacifica community! I was born and raised in the SC Mountains (Felton and Bonny Doon) and graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a BA in Environmental Studies and a Minor in Education in 2017. During my time at UCSC I became heavily involved with teaching kids through Lifelab, a local outdoor education program, which developed my deeper love for teaching in general.

I went on to get my Multiple Subject Credential and Masters in Education from San Jose State University. My student-teaching placement lead me to Tierra Pacifica and I quickly knew the school aligned with my own values and philosophies about learning. I believe students need as many learn-by-doing opportunities as possible, and time outside is never wasted. I love using the principles I have learned in outdoor education in the classroom environment - and strive for hands-on projects and activities whenever feasible. I aim to find ways for each student to fall in love with their own learning journey and create a positive and growth-mindset classroom culture.

Morréa Grillo (she/her)
Redwoods Teacher
Tierra Pacifica Charter School
mgrillo@tierrapacifica.org

Erin Edwards

Dragonflies

I started my teaching career in 1995 and joined the Tierra Pacifica Charter School community in 2002. I have a teaching credential from Cal State San Marcos and a Bachelor's degree in Radio-Television from San Diego State University. Before I began teaching, I spent a number of years in radio and concert promotions, working for radio stations and as assistant producer for a syndicated radio show/jazz festival.

I enjoy teaching kids how to discover things for themselves and pass along their new knowledge to others. I believe it is important for students to challenge themselves in many areas from mental challenges such as public speaking and academics to physical challenges such as long hikes and trying new activities. My desire is to get kids out of doors to enjoy this beautiful world of ours and to stay physically active for health and happiness. Frequent opportunities to move throughout the day are as important as the curriculum we teach. Academically, I think it is important for students to figure out what their personal learning style is and to work at their own level while pushing their limits. I am excited about team teaching with Jennifer, and Verena this year so that we can provide many opportunities for growth.

When I'm not at work, the thing I enjoy the most is spending time with my family and pets in and around our home in Boulder Creek. We enjoy bike riding, hiking, baseball, motorcycle riding and exploring new places together. As for personal hobbies I am an avid reader/researcher of history, including family history, and I enjoy working with multimedia computer programs such as i-movie and Powerpoint. My husband works for an international telecommunications firm, my daughter currently attends Cabrillo College and my son attends San Lorenzo Valley High School. I have three cats and a hermit crab which was given to me by a Tierra Pacifica student many years ago. My favorite books are historic fiction and non-fiction, I love adventure and romantic comedy movies, I enjoy listening to alternative rock music and when I go out to eat I almost always choose to eat Indian or Cajun food.

Erin O’Connell

Language Arts

Before teaching at Tierra Pacifica I was a professor of Classics (ancient Greek and Latin languages and literature) at the University of Utah for 18 years. I grew up outside of Washington, D.C., earned my BA in English Literature and Composition at Beloit College in Wisconsin, and then earned a PhD in Literature at UC-Santa Cruz in 1996. Our family moved back to Santa Cruz a few years ago, and though we loved living in Salt Lake City, we are so happy to be back in town near family and friends! My wife Marianne is a Registered Nurse at Dominican Hospital. I am also teaching in the English Department at Cabrillo College part-time, so my attempt to retire has not been entirely successful.

I enjoy the challenge of adapting my college-level teaching practices to middle school students, and I’m eager to help them practice thinking and writing skills that will serve them well in their future lives in and outside of school. I feel very lucky to be working in such a supportive, nurturing environment.

When I’m not being a teacher, I enjoy playing with my kids, cooking, singing, bicycling, yoga, and bobbing in the ocean.

Classroom Support

Corinne Guihaire

Oaks, Redwoods

Tierra Pacifica is extremely fortunate to have excellent teachers and staff. They are the foundation of our school.

Jade Zerpa

Hearts

Tierra Pacifica is extremely fortunate to have excellent teachers and staff. They are the foundation of our school.

Nga Trinh-Halperin

Oaks

I have been blessed to be part of the TPCS community since 2005, first as a proud parent of two alum, then as the Development Director, and now in support of the awesome 1st and 2nd grade classroom! My 25 years+ career in nonprofit management evidenced that true, lasting social change begins with teaching our children the values of love, compassion and respect for all life on this planet. I have a BS degree in Public Relations and minor in Art History, and Masters in Public Administration from San Jose State University, and am trained in various aspects of Positive Discipline (for parents and teachers), transformational youth development, cultural responsiveness and inclusion, and emotional trauma healing.

My husband, Justin, is the 7th/8th grade Spots Class teacher, and we like to hang out with our boys, Milo and Khai, as well as a menagerie of animals at home when we are not traveling. I enjoy being outside in nature, cooking vegetarian food, and volunteering with the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter in the Humane Education Program and as a Foundation Board Member. I also work at Harbor High School as the Library Media Services Assistant and as the Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) Coordinator for their International Baccalaureate diploma program. Being with students of different ages and stages all day long expands my practice of mindfulness and presence for which I am so grateful!

Tiger Prior

Oaks, Suns, Tech Support

Tierra Pacifica is extremely fortunate to have excellent teachers and staff. They are the foundation of our school.

Lorena Clark-Luna

Hearts

Tierra Pacifica is extremely fortunate to have excellent teachers and staff. They are the foundation of our school.

Veronica Carrion-Brandenberg

Hearts

Mother to my 3 most favorite humans. Lover of all things art and creative, along with baby everythings. Lifetime humble student of life, I'm drawn to the spark of learning and charged and recharged watching kids learn and thrive.

Student Support

Sarah Chen

Reading Specialist

As the reading specialist at Tierra Pacifica, I meet with small groups or one on one with students to strengthen their reading and writing skills using the Orton-Gillingham teaching approach. This approach is specifically designed to help struggling readers by explicitly teaching the connections between letters and sounds. This is achieved by incorporating all learning pathways: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic/tactile. It is a pleasure and a privilege to work with each student as they develop their literacy skills.

I received my bachelors degree in Psychology from the University of California, San Diego. After a year as a research assistant in UCSD’s Teacher Education Program, I continued on to receive my Multiple Subject Teaching Credential. From 1998 to 2000, I taught second and third grade in the Los Angeles Unified School District. In 2000, I moved to Santa Cruz where I taught at Happy Valley Elementary School. I taught kindergarten and first grade, and became a trained Reading Recovery teacher. In 2003, I took a leave from teaching to spend time at home while my two children were young. When my daughter entered kindergarten at Tierra Pacifica in 2011, I worked as a teaching assistant in the Oaks classroom, until 2015 when I became the English Language Coordinator. Finally in 2018, I took on the roll as a Reading Specialist. I have been fortunate to participate in trainings at both Chartwell School and the Institute for Mulit-Sensory Education to learn the Orton-Gillingham approach.

In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, hiking, running, and reading.

Kent Tipton

Resource Support, Yard Duty

I was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1954. I moved to California when I was fifteen.

I earned a B.A. from U.C.S.C. and a teaching credential from Bethany University.

Since college, I directed the first after-school program at Soquel Elementary. I’ve spent years as a teachers instructional aid and I specialized in art. Most of my employment I have been delighted to work with school-aged children, especially kindergarten.

Lisa Zee

Speech and Language

Tierra Pacifica is extremely fortunate to have excellent teachers and staff. They are the foundation of our school.

Mariam Gates

Resource Specialist

Mariam Gates, M.Ed. attended Harvard Graduate School of Education to earn her Master's Degree. Originally from Boston, Massachusetts, she moved here to Santa Cruz with her husband and two children (Jasmine, 16 and Dylan, 13).

Mariam is also a children's yoga and mindfulness teacher. She has written eight children's books on yoga and mindfulness which have been translated into 17 languages.

Cynthia Strauss

Speech and Language

Cynthia Strauss is a Speech and Language Specialist who has worked for the Live Oak School District for 18 years. She loves her work and believes every person should have the chance to communicate their spirit to the best of their potential.

Stephanie Tam Rosas

Counseling

Stephanie Tam Rosas, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (#116439), and a Positive Discipline Parent and Classroom Educator. She earned her masters in counseling psychology from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology which helped lay a foundation for her therapeutic approach of whole-person, systems-based counseling. Stephanie incorporates experiential strategies that include art therapy, sand tray, mindfulness, child-centered approaches, CBT, and body work. She supports students in one on one counseling, small groups, and conflict resolution.

Stephanie also supports TPCS in its diversity and anti-bias work leading staff trainings, strategic planning, and ongoing reflexive discourse. Her work in this area closely ties in with her doctoral program in Social Psychology at UCSC, where her research focuses on educational equity, systems of power, and youth engagement.

As a Positive Discipline Parent and Classroom Educator, Stephanie helps parents and schools learn how to support young people through fostering respectful relationships and accountability from an Adlerian and systems change approach. She previously served as the board president of Positive Discipline Community Resources before stepping down to focus on her baby.

Prior to working at Tierra Pacifica Stephanie was a counselor and advocate for at-risk youth, teen parents, foster youth, and those experiencing domestic violence. She has also worked with youth of all ages as a preschool family literacy coordinator, youth participatory action research program coordinator, Girls Circle facilitator, and martial arts instructor.

Rebecca Turvy

Speech and Language

BA in Psychology, Wesleyan University
MS in Counseling, CSU East Bay
PPS School Psychology

Fundraising

Amber Radwanski

Fundraising

Amber was raised in Austin, Texas. She’s a California girl with a Texas heart. Upon graduation she worked in the Office of the Governor of Texas, assisting with speech writing and organizing press conferences. Life in politics was not to taste, so returning to school for an Agriculture and Horticulture degree seemed to be the next obvious choice. She soon realized that gardening was more enjoyable as a hobby. Yet again, it seemed like a foray into a new career was in order, so she began working at the Texas State School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Being helpful, especially to children, sat a little better, so back to school she went.

This time around Amber received a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies and a BA in Special Education, inspired by the time she spent at the School for the Blind. After graduating, Amber taught 6th grade in Monterey, Mexico for a year. She returned to Austin and taught 1st grade at an inner-city Title 1 school, followed by a teaching stint in Jeju Island, South Korea. Then a move to sometimes-sunny-Santa Cruz was in order.

Amber has two children, Joaquin and Lizzie, who attend Tierra Pacifica. In 2016, she was thrilled to be asked to work in the office as staff. Currently she works as an Administrative Aide and an EL coordinator. When she’s not at school or volunteering, she likes to cook, knit, sew, garden, and listen to friends. Amber has had a steady yoga practice for 24 years, which has given her the poise in which to move through life with grace, she thinks.