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Our Teachers

Hagit Ayalon, Hebrew and Judaics

Ms. Ayalon loves working with students of all ages at CCJDS!  In 2019-20 she will be welcoming our youngest students to the joys of Hebrew and Judaics – teaching both subjects in Kindergarten and First Grade. Ms. Ayalon’s warmth and creative energy are a great fit for our eager learners. Prior to moving to the United States, Ms. Ayalon taught both middle school and high school in Israel.  She graduated with honors, BA in English Linguistics and a Masters in Education from Hebrew University. Joined CCJDS in 2011.

Daniel Baselj, 3rd Grade General Studies

Mr. Baselj came to CCJDS from Northern Lights School in Oakland, where he taught for two years.  He loves teaching at CCJDS because he loves the sense of community he feels from the families he meets each new school year. He also feels that the work his class does in SHIR HaLev service learning and the impact it has on each student can last a lifetime.  Previously, Mr. Baselj served four years as a classroom teacher at the Highlands School in Birmingham, Alabama. He entered teaching through his eight years of experience as a Learning Specialist in Pittsburgh, PA. Colleagues, parents, and supervisors describe him as a gifted educator, strong team member and delightful person. His classroom has a rigorous curriculum which values creativity in a child centered environment. His BA and MA are both from the University of Pittsburgh.  Joined CCJDS in 2016.

Racheli Ben Shushan, Fine Arts

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.

Courtney Butler, 1st Grade General Studies

Ms. Butler start started her career as an educator here at CCJDS. She served as our lower school teaching intern for two years. She built wonderful relationships with her students and demonstrated a natural gift for nurturing their personal and academic growth. Parents and colleagues praised her warmth, energy and creativity. Ms. Butler then led her own classroom at Queen of All Saints School, where she was a Kindergarten teacher for three years. In the fall of 2019, Ms. Butler was delighted to return to CCJDS, and we were delighted to welcome her back, as our 1st Grade General Studies teacher. Ms. Butler 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.  Joined CCJDS in 2014.

John Buschiazzo, Music Specialist

Mr. Buschiazzo brings tremendous experience, creativity and enthusiasm to his work as our K-5th grade music teacher. For 27 years prior to joining CCJDS, Mr. Buschiazzo was the music specialist at John Swett Elementary School in Martinez, CA. He taught students from Transitional Kindergarten through 5th grade. He is a Master-level music teacher and created the curriculum and activities to serve hundreds of students. Mr. Buschiazzo uses the Orff Schulwerk philosophy of teaching. Upon completion of the Orff levels training, he became involved in the Northern California Chapter of Orff Schulwerk by serving as the registrar, vice-president and president. From 2012-2015 he was elected to the National Board of Trustees for the American Orff Schulwerk Association (AOSA). In addition to teaching, John is an active musician. He has played or conducted for over 80 musical theater productions throughout Contra Costa and Solano Counties. He performed with the Diablo Symphony Orchestra, Brazzissimo Brass ensemble, and many Big Band groups. Joined CCJDS in 2019.

Lawrence Delaney, Assistant Principal and Humanities Teacher

Mr. Delaney, originally from Wales, taught second through sixth grades in Oakland, Germany, and Dubai prior to coming to CCJDS. He brings great enthusiasm for teaching, as well as musical and athletic talents as leader of our rock band program, a physical education instructor and grade-level advisor. Mr. Delaney enjoys introducing the students to cricket and non-contact rugby. He authored a children’s book, “Detective Sniffer Investigates,” a best seller on Amazon. Visual Cultures (Magna cum Laude), University of Derby in England; MA Media and Cultural Studies, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia; Post-Graduate Certificate in Education and MEd Education, Open University, England. Joined CCJDS in 2006.

Inbal Elbaz, Hebrew and Judaics

Ms. Elbaz, originally from Israel, began teaching Hebrew and Judaic Studies at CCJDS in 2002.  After a break of a few years in which she had 3 children and moved back to Israel, CCJDS welcomed Ms. Elbaz back as a Hebrew and Judaics teacher in both Lower and Upper School.  She also enjoys teaching electives like cooking and mosaics as well as serving as a grade-level advisor. Previously, Ms. Elbaz worked as an English teacher and advisor at Amirim High School in Kfar Vradim.  BA in Education from HaKibbutzim College major English. Joined CCJDS in 2002.

Franchesca Ignacio, 5th Grade Humanities

Ms. Ignacio has been our 5th-8th Grade Teaching Intern since 2017 and led our 5th/6th grade overnight trip in the spring of 2018. In the fall of 2019 she stepped into a new role as 5th Grade English and History teacher. She loves teaching at CCJDS because the community members (parents, teachers, and students) help each other grow into better people. Two of Ms. Ignacio’s favorite projects are the newspaper and the literary magazine, because they can help students develop their creative writing skills and add some adventure to their Middle School experience.  Prior to CCJDS, she worked as a tutor and teaching assistant and has also been a Camp Galileo lead counselor for multiple summers. Ms. Ignacio has a BA in Psychology from St. Mary’s College of California and an MA in Education, Best Practices from National University.  Joined CCJDS in 2017.

Roni Keissary, Israeli Intern

We are so excited to welcome Roni Keissary, our CCJDS Israeli Intern for the 2019-20 school year! Roni came from Israel in August, 2019, to begin her “shnat sherut,” or year of service between high school and her Israeli Army conscription. Our CCJDS students can look forward to having Roni help them out in Hebrew and Jewish studies classes. She will be also be an important part of our Aftercare staff, bringing her vitality and skills to our after school programming. Roni will help our CCJDS community to deepen our connection to Israel. To learn more about Roni, please watch her video. Joined CCJDS in 2019.

Sani Kia, Lower School Teaching Intern

Prior to joining CCJDS, Ms. Kia worked for seven years in an aftercare program, facilitating enrichment activities and providing academic support to elementary and middle school students.  Ms. Kia first came to CCJDS in 2017 as a substitute teacher and aftercare assistant.  Now, as a full-time Teaching Intern, she supports Lower School teachers and students in the classroom and assists in Aftercare. Ms. Kia has a BS in Biology from San Francisco State University.  Joined CCJDS in 2017.

Orli LoewenbergOrli Loewenberg, Hebrew and Judaics

Ms. Loewenberg teaches Fifth and Sixth Grade Judaics and Level I Hebrew for 5th-8th grades. She is excited to be teaching at CCJDS because students get to embody the Jewish values they learn about by putting them into practice in their SHIR HaLev service learning.  Ms. Loewenberg taught previously 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 degree in Cultural Anthropology from McGill University.  Joined CCJDS in 2018.

Cesar Martinez, Spanish

A native of Toluca, Mexico, Mr. Martinez studied Accounting at the Instituto Politécnico Nacional in Mexico City.  Mr. Martinez also has experience teaching illiterate adults how to read and write.  At Viva el Español Mr. Martinez has taught a wide range of ages and proficiencies, from 1st grade beginning students, to bilingual elementary school students, to Los Chavos (teens), with whom he has a particularly great connection.  He loves to teach and says “I feel like I’m a child again when I work with children.” Joined CCJDS in 2010.

Aliza May, Hebrew and Judaics

Ms. May teaches Hebrew and Judaics in 2nd and 7th 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. Ms. May was educated primarily in Israel and received specialized training for teachers of Hebrew at the Tal Am Language Institute, Jerusalem campus. Joined CCJDS in 2016.

Lindsey Moss, 4th Grade General Studies

Ms. Moss taught most recently in fourth grade at the Katherine Delmar Burke school in San Francisco. Previously, she taught at international schools in Southeast Asia. She has her BA in History from the New School, New York City. Joined CCJDS in 2019.

Zivile Otero, Director of Math Education and Math Teacher

Ms Otero teaches 5th-8th Grade Math and serves as Director of Math Education. She was born and raised in Lithuania, where she started working as math teacher in 1986. She also has work experience in the Ministry of Education and Science, and the National Examination Centre of Lithuania. In 2013 Ms. Otero moved to the United States and started to work at the Russian School of Mathematics. Her goal is to make every student feel successful, and she prefers to show different ways to a solution to accomplish this. BA in Math, MA in Education (diplomas evaluated in USA). Joined CCJDS in 2014.

Renée Penegor, Drama and Cross-Curricular Arts Integration

Ms. Penegor graduated with an MFA from A.C.T. and has over 15 years of experience acting, teaching drama in private and classroom environments, producing and directing K-5 performances and cultivating meaningful experiences for students that go beyond theatre. Most recently, she taught at Strandwood Elementary School in Pleasant Hill, where she helped to develop a curriculum integrating the arts with core academic subjects. Ms. Penegor also has a BA in English Literature, Theatre, and Women’s Studies (Dean’s List) from the University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse.  Joined CCJDS in 2016.

Hadas Rave, Director of Jewish Life and Hebrew/Judaics Teacher

Ms. Rave grew up in a Hebrew-speaking home in the American Midwest with her Israeli parents. In 1997, she made Aliyah, moving to Israel, where she taught for nine years at the alternative Meitar School. In addition to being our Director of Jewish Life, Ms. Rave leads our SHIR HaLev service learning program and Israel education program. She also teaches Hebrew and Judaic Studies.  In 2017, Ms. Rave was awarded the Helen Diller Family Award for Excellence in Jewish Education. Studied Communications at Drury University; BA Elementary Education, Warren Wilson College, North Carolina. MA in Jewish Education through Hebrew Union College.  Joined CCJDS in 2008.

Michele Spitulnik, PhD, Dean of Faculty and Director of Science Education

Dr. Spitulnik taught high school chemistry and physics in Michigan before pursuing a doctorate in science education from the University of Michigan. In 2002, she joined the faculty at the Graduate School of Education at UC Berkeley, designing middle school science curriculum and implementing professional development courses for science teachers. She helped to design the scope and sequence of the K-8th grade CCJDS science curriculum, which is unparalleled in our local schools.  As our Dean of Faculty, Dr. Spitulnik mentors all of our General Studies, Hebrew and Judaic Studies teachers, helping them develop and implement innovative and dynamic curricula.  She also loves to work directly with students and currently teaches 7th and 8th grade science.  BA, Chemistry, Vassar College; MS, Materials Engineering and PhD, Science Education, University of Michigan. Joined CCJDS in 2008.

Catie Warburton, 2nd Grade General Studies

After a professional career in the field of scientific instrumentation, Ms. Warburton 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 degree in Biological Sciences and German Language and Literature from UC Santa Barbara and her Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from Notre Dame De Namur University.  Joined CCJDS in 2018.

Lauren Weisbaum, Kindergarten General Studies

Ms. Weisbaum brings abundant warmth, creativity and wisdom – as well as over 12 years of experience – to her vital work as our Kindergarten General Studies teacher. Prior to moving to California, she taught at Kipling Elementary School in Deerfield, Illinois. She has her BA in English and American Literature from the University of Illinois and her MA in Education from the University of Texas, El Paso. Joined CCJDS in 2019.

Kenny Widmann, Middle School History

Mr. Widmann is a professional writer who returned to teaching after starting a family. Earlier in his career, Mr. Widmann taught Middle School History in both Tennessee and South Carolina. He has a BA in History from Connecticut College and an MA in American Civilization from Brown University. Joined CCJDS in 2017.

Sharone Wiezel, Hebrew

Ms. Wiezel, born and raised in San Francisco to an Israeli family, grew up speaking Hebrew at home and attended the Hebrew Academy. She moved to Israel after high school graduation and joined the Israeli Defense Forces, serving in the paratroopers. After teaching English as a Second Language for nine years in Israel, Ms. Wiezel enjoys bringing Hebrew and Israel to life for our students here in the Bay Area. She has a BA in Education, specializing in ESL, from Seminar Kibbutzim in Tel Aviv. Joined CCJDS in 2009.

Marci WinerMarci Winer, Science Teacher and PE Coordinator

Ms. Winer develops and leads our Physical Education curriculum, teaches science to the 5th and 6th Grades and serves a grade-level advisor. Prior to CCJDS, she worked for nine years in the Lafayette School District, teaching General Studies subjects and leading the Physical Education Program at Springhill Elementary. She also served as a CCJDS substitute teacher, capably stepping in for several long-term assignments. Ms. Winer has her BA degree in Political Science and Business from the University of Arizona.  Joined CCJDS in 2018.