Hebrew/Jewish Studies Teacher / Lower School (K-4) Hebrew Curriculum Coordinator
Ms. Ayalon loves working with students of all ages at CCJDS. This year she is teaching first and fourth grade Hebrew and Jewish Studies and coordinating our Kindergarten-fourth grade Hebrew program. As a teacher of Hebrew and Judaics, she infuses her work with warmth and creative energy that motivates and delights her students. Prior to moving to the United States, Ms. Ayalon taught both middle school and high school in Israel. She graduated with honors from Hebrew University with a BA in English Linguistics and an MA in Education. Joined CCJDS in 2011.
Hebrew/Jewish Studies Teacher / Second-Eighth Grade Tefillah Coordinator
Ms. Bar-Klein currently teaches second and third grade Hebrew and Jewish Studies and joins Ms. Loewenberg and Ms. Grembek in coordinating our second-eighth grade tefillah (prayer) program. At CCJDS she has also taught kindergarten and fourth grade Hebrew and Jewish Studies and seventh grade Hebrew. Prior to joining CCJDS, Ms. Bar-Klein taught Hebrew at Krieger Schechter Day School in Baltimore, Maryland and General Studies and Science in Israel. She received her Bachelor of Education from the Kaye Academic College for Education in Beer-Sheva, Israel. Joined CCJDS in 2020.
Racheli Ben Shushan
Fine Arts Specialist
Ms. Ben Shushan is a talented artist and dedicated teacher. Born in Israel, she worked in the Iriyah Matnas V’Votizor V’Naamat – a highly regarded children’s art program – until moving to the US. Since arriving in the Bay Area in 2005, Ms. Ben Shushan has taught art at Jewish Day Schools. At CCJDS she has taught art and Hebrew. Currently, she teaches our Fine Art Elective in Middle School, our K-5th grade art classes and a popular after-school art enrichment program. Trained at the Michlelet Oat Art School in Jerusalem. Joined CCJDS in 2006.
Aftercare Director / K-4th Grade PE Coordinator
Originally from Alabama, Mr. Dean spent five years as a substitute teacher in Southern California. After moving to the East Bay in 2019, he worked first as an After School Specialist and then as a Teaching Associate for Bentley School. Mr. Dean graduated from the University of North Alabama with a BS in Education. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking, golf, baking, and reading. Joined CCJDS August of 2022.
Middle School Science Teacher / Middle School PE Coordinator
Mr. Filice, a Bay Area native, brings to CCJDS a strong passion for the outdoors and for engaging students in active, joyful learning. He seeks to apply his scientific background to inspire himself and others to better understand and appreciate the wonders of nature. Prior to working at CCJDS, Mr. Filice worked for several years as an outdoor educator with children of all ages, teaching environmental science curriculum and team building. He is thrilled to teach sixth and eighth grade Science and upper school Physical Education this year. Mr. Filice holds a BS in Earth and Planetary Sciences from UC Santa Cruz. Joined CCJDS in 2018.
Fifth Grade General Studies Teacher, SHIR HaLev Service Learning Coordinator
Ms. Finne loves teaching fifth grade and empowering her students as leaders of the lower school while preparing them academically and socially for a successful transition to middle school. Ms. Finne has a special passion for the fifth grade’s service learning theme, supporting literacy, and she is looking forward to her new role as co-coordinator of our school-wide SHIR HaLev Service Learning program. Ms. Finne graduated with a BA in Justice, Community, and Leadership, as well as an MA in Education from Saint Mary’s College of California. Her thesis focused on social-emotional learning through the act of gardening. She is inspired by garden-based learning and enjoys being outdoors. Prior to joining CCJDS, she taught first grade at a Title 1 school. She joined the CCJDS community during the pandemic and found a home in our caring, vibrant community. Joined CCJDS in 2020.
Fourth Grade General Studies Teaching Support
Mr. Fox’s teaching career began in New York City when, while pursuing a career as a performer, he was a certified Long-Term Substitute in the NYC Public Schools. He returned to the Bay Area and was a Long-Term Substitute at CCJDS in both lower and upper grades, and supported our Drama department. Mr. Fox then worked at the Wornick School in Foster City as part of the Delet Program, an intensive, year-long Teacher-Training Experience focused on preparing educators for a career in Jewish Day Schools. Immediately prior to CCJDS he taught in supplementary schools while working in sales and marketing positions. Mr. Fox graduated from Jewish Day School (Brandeis Marin) and earned a BA in Global Studies from UC Santa Barbara. Joined CCJDS in 2021.
First Grade General Studies Teacher / SHIR HaLev Service Learning Coordinator
Mrs. Fox brings warmth, enthusiasm, humor, and an open mindset to the classroom to help facilitate meaningful relationships with students. Her ability to engage, challenge, and support all kinds of learners stems from her love of learning and many years of experience in the classroom, including 10 years at Ronald C. Wornick Jewish Day School in Foster City. Mrs. Fox is a graduate of UC Santa Cruz with a BA in Language Studies and is a graduate of the DeLeT program for Jewish Day School Teaching. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she loves languages and was raised bilingual by her Israeli parents. Mrs. Fox is passionate about storytelling, music, dance, and board games! Joined CCJDS in 2020.
First Grade General Studies Teaching Support
Ms. Geisen is thrilled to join CCJDS as a teaching assistant in first grade. Early on in life she discovered a passion for education and psychological development. After receiving her BA in Psychology from California State University Northridge, Ms. Geisen completed an MA in Education at Harvard University, focusing on Human Development and Education. Starting out as an educational research scientist, Ms. Geisen discovered that her greatest joy lies in creating genuine connections with students. She is excited to have the opportunity at CCJDS to do the work she finds most fulfilling – supporting children – while also applying what she learned through her academic studies.
Middle School Language Arts Teacher / K-8 Learning Support Coordinator
After a fabulous first year at CCJDS as a middle school math teacher, Laurie Gold is excited to move into two new roles next year – as a middle school Language Arts teacher and as our Learning Support Coordinator. During her educational career, which spans over 20 years, Ms. Gold has developed a passion for working with students across disciplines – including teaching middle school Humanities at Tehiyah Day School – and supporting teachers as a coach and learning specialist. As our Learning Support Coordinator, Ms. Gold will work with teachers, students, and families to support differentiation in curriculum and teaching. She will offer professional development and coaching to faculty to strengthen our ability to understand our students’ diverse learning styles and differentiate teaching to help all students thrive. For students with diagnosed learning differences, she will facilitate a strong home-school partnership (including serving as a point person for parents and outside providers) and work with teachers to develop and implement appropriate interventions and accommodations to support student success. Joined in 2022.
Second Grade General Studies Associate Teacher
Ms. Hunt is thrilled to join second grade as General Studies Associate Teacher. Over the past three years at CCJDS, she has worked as a full-time substitute teacher and teaching assistant. Last year, Ms. Hunt served as the long-term substitute lead teacher for third grade general studies. That experience cemented her love of teaching. Ms. Hunt is the proud parent to three CCJDS students – Lilah (1st), Judah (3rd), and Mirah (6th). She holds a BA with honors in political science from Barnard College and a JD with honors from American University Washington College of Law. Professionally, Ms. Hunt has practiced law, worked in Congressional Affairs and as Assistant to the Ambassador at the Embassy of Israel in Washington D.C., conducted research at a political think tank in Israel, and taught courses in Constitutional Law to public high school students in Washington, D.C. Joined CCJDS in 2021.
Third Grade General Studies Teaching Support
Ms. Lazzara is excited to return to CCJDS after spending the last year on maternity leave with her son Luca. She is delighted to join the third grade team as a teaching assistant. Ms. Lazzara has worked at CCJDS for five years – starting as a teaching intern for two years and then serving as the First Grade General Studies ead teacher. She also taught kindergarten at Queen of All Saints School for three years. Ms. Lazzara has a BA in Sociology, with a minor in Italian Studies and Music Performance, from Gonzaga University. She received her teaching credential and MA in Teaching from St. Mary’s College of California. When she’s not teaching in the classroom, you can find her coaching swim teams. Joined CCJDS in 2014.
Hebrew/Jewish Studies Teacher / 2nd-8th Grade Tefillah Coordinator
Ms. Loewenberg teaches fifth and sixth grade Jewish Studies and Level I Hebrew for fifth-eighth grades. She loves teaching at CCJDS because students get to embody the Jewish values they learn about by putting them into practice. Ms. Loewenberg previously taught at Tehiyah Day School in El Cerrito, Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley, Oakland Hebrew Day School, and Yavneh Hebrew Day School in Los Gatos. She also worked in the Life Lab Science Program promoting resource conservation and environmental stewardship. She has a BA in Cultural Anthropology from McGill University. Joined CCJDS in 2018.
Hebrew/Jewish Studies Teacher / Eighth Grade Israel Trip Leader
Ms. May has taught Hebrew and Jewish Studies to CCJDS students of all ages. She is thrilled to work with our youngest learners this year in Kindergarten, as well as the oldest learners in sixth and eighth grades. A native of Israel, Ms. May loves bringing Israeli culture (and food!) into her Hebrew curriculum. She also excels at helping her students to make connections between modern life and ancient texts and to put values into action through our SHIR HaLev service learning program. Prior to joining CCJDS, Ms. May taught Hebrew and Jewish Studies to students at Congregations B’nai Tikvah and B’nai Shalom. Professionally, Ms. May has also been a court reporter and court clerk in the trial courts in the Southern District of Israel. She received specialized training for Hebrew teachers of Hebrew at the Tal Am Language Institute in Jerusalem. Joined CCJDS in 2016.
Drama Specialist / Middle School Humanities Teacher
Ms. Penegor brings a rich tapestry of experiences to her role as a teacher of English Language Arts, History, and Drama. Ms. Penegor graduated with an MFA from American Conservatory Theater and has over 20 years of experience acting and teaching in both private and classroom settings. Since 2016, Ms. Penegor has successfully directed the annual school musical and orchestrated a variety of other K-8 performances. Ms. Penegor brings her passion for integrating the arts with core academic subjects to CCJDS, aiming to engage students and inspire a lifelong love for learning. Her academic foundation in English Literature, Theatre, and Women’s Studies, with honors from the University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse, underscores her interdisciplinary approach to education. Joined CCJDS in 2016.
Middle School Science Teacher
Ms. Sansani is excited for her new role as the seventh grade Science teacher at CCJDS. Previously she was both a substitute teacher and a teaching assistant for third grade at the end of the 2022-2023 school year. Over the past year, she has also been a Hebrew teacher through the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto. Ms. Sansani is excited to share her extensive background in the sciences, which includes a BA in the Life Sciences from Bar Ilan University, as well as four years of Veterinary school at Hebrew University. She was previously a practicing pediatric Occupational Therapist in Israel after receiving her OT degree from Tel-Aviv University. Ms. Sansani loves to travel and spend time with her three kids, who are all going to be CCJDS students this year. Joined CCJDS in 2022.
Lower School Jewish Studies Teaching Support
Liberty Schubert is happily returning to her CCJDS roots – she was a CCJDS student from kindergarten through fourth grade. She is excited to work with students as the Lower School Jewish Studies Teaching Assistant. Ms. Schubert honed her teaching skills as a Hebrew and Religious Studies teacher at Congregation Bet Haverim in Davis and as a Sprout Up classroom instructor teaching ecology to first and second graders. She received her BS in Biological Sciences and BA in Classics, with a minor in Linguistics, from Davis. Joined CCJDS in 2023.
Kindergarten General Studies Associate Teacher / Drama Specialist (Kindergarten & First)
Ms. Simmons is passionate about integrating arts in education and bringing song, movement, crafts, and games to learning environments. Prior to CCJDS, she taught collaborative playwriting and improv at the San Francisco Mime Troupe and was a nanny and Drama Specialist at Camp Tawonga. Ms. Simmons graduated with honors from Saint Mary’s College of California with a BA in Justice, Community, and Leadership. She loves teaching at CCJDS! Joined CCJDS in 2021.
Fourth Grade General Studies Teacher
Ms. Snyder brings to CCJDS her experience as an elementary teacher in Moraga and Hayward and her passion for language, math, and science. She is an honors graduate from Bentley University with a BS in Economics and Finance. She earned a Holistic Nutritionist Certificate with honors from Bauman College. She received her Multiple Subject K-8 CLAD Teaching Credential with Honors from California State University, Hayward. In her free time, Ms. Snyder enjoys hiking, gardening, mountain biking, and reading. Joined CCJDS in 2021.
Third Grade General Studies Teaching Support
Ms. Starczewski is excited to join CCJDS this year as a third grade teaching assistant. Over the past 20 years she has been an active stay-at-home parent, raising two daughters and a son and volunteering in their classrooms and school libraries. In her freetime, Ms. Starczewski enjoys reading, sewing, and traveling. She loves animals and has three cats and six chickens. She received her BA in Social Work from San Diego State University. Joined in 2023.
Lower School Music Specialist
Ms. Strong brings more than 15 years of experience and a passion for empowering young people to create and enjoy music. She has taught music in elementary schools in Oakland, Walnut Creek, and West Contra Costa County. Certified in Orff Schulwerk education, which has been a focus of the CCJDS music program for many years, Ms. Strong also has a Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential from Mills College and BA with Honors in Geography from UC Berkeley. She respects the needs and curiosity of each student, creating an engaging musical learning environment that incorporates a wide variety of games, songs, body percussion and movement into a curriculum that is true to the creative, child-centered spirit of the Orff approach. Joined CCJDS in 2023.
Middle School Math Teacher
Ms. Vermeer has taught over 20 years and currently teaches eighth grade Algebra 1. She is excited to teach at CCJDS because she loves the community that feels like family. Brooke also loves the opportunity to practice and enhance her craft to differentiate student learning with smaller class sizes. Ms. V previously taught at Charlotte Wood Middle School in Danville for 13 years before taking time off to be a mom. Once her children were in preschool, Ms. V took on long term substitute positions at Seven Hills School and Walnut Creek Intermediate, to name a few. Brooke has a BSEducation, and a multiple subject teaching credential and a single subject credential in math. Joined CCJDS November of 2022.
Second Grade General Studies Teacher
Ms. Warburton infuses her second grade classroom with kindness, intellectual curiosity, and creativity. Before coming to CCJDS, she taught science in the Lafayette School District for five years and spent two years as a second grade instructional aide at Lafayette Elementary School. Ms. Warburton has a BA in Biological Sciences and German Language and Literature from UC Santa Barbara and her Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from Notre Dame De Namur University. When not at CCJDS, she enjoys knitting, cooking, and spending time with her family. Joined the CCJDS in 2018.
Middle School Humanities Teacher
Mr. Widmann is entering his seventh year teaching at CCJDS. Earlier in his career, Mr. Widmann taught public and private middle school in Tennessee and South Carolina. Before returning to teaching, Mr. Widmann was a reporter, columnist, advertising writer, and author. He holds a BA in History from Connecticut College and an MA in American Civilization from Brown University. Joined CCJDS in 2017.
Middle School Math Teacher
Ms. Winer is excited to return to middle school this year as the sixth grade math and SHIR HaLev teacher as well as a sixth grade advisor. In the past five years at CCJDS, Ms. Winer has been the school-wide PE coordinator, taught fifth and sixth grade math and science, and fourth grade general studies. Prior to CCJDS, she worked for eight years in the Lafayette School District, leading the Physical Education Program at Springhill Elementary and supporting classroom teachers in general studies. Ms. Winer has a BA in Political Science and Business from the University of Arizona. Joined CCJDS in 2018.
Diane Schon Wirtschafter
Third Grade General Studies Teacher
Ms. Wirtschafter is thrilled to return to the Jewish Day School world, having taught over two decades in Jewish day schools in Minneapolis and El Cerrito. For the past 13 years, she taught fourth grade at Black Pine Circle School in Berkeley. A native of New York, Ms. Wirtschafter studied psychology at Barnard College in New York City and studied for her MA in education at Bank Street College of Education and at the University of Minnesota. She has twice won the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics Education at the state level. Ms. Wirthschafter is passionate about life-long professional development, and she’s been particularly excited in recent years to bring to her classroom best practices from workshops from Project Based Learning World, Reading and Writing Workshop, and Responsive Classroom. Music is at the heart of her life, and, accompanied by her husband on violin and mandolin, she has sung with klezmer bands, washboard bands, and students and colleagues. Twice during the pandemic, her family’s musical parody videos of Fiddler on the Roof songs went viral.