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Our Teachers

Hagit Ayalon, Hebrew and Judaics Teacher and Lower School Hebrew Coordinator

Ms. Ayalon loves working with students of all ages at CCJDS.  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, BA in English Linguistics and a Masters in Education from Hebrew University. Joined CCJDS in 2011.

Daniel Baselj, 3rd Grade General Studies Teacher

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.

Gal Ben Shushan, Teaching Assistant/Office Support/Early Care

Ms. Ben-Shushan works in the Front Office, provides classroom support and one-to-one student support, and is our Early Care Director.  Born in Israel and raised in the U.S. since age 10 by Israeli parents, she is bilingual and loves working with young Hebrew learners.  She is also known for her tremendous organizational skills and attention to detail. The students call her “Ms. Gal” – which is fitting because our Hebrew teachers have a tradition of going by title and first name, and also because “Ms. Ben-Shushan” is our fabulous art teacher (and Gal’s mother) Racheli Ben-Shushan. Ms. Gal is the first full-time CCJDS employee who is also a graduate! CCJDS Class of 2009.

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.

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.

Laura Carpenter, Aftercare Director/Teaching Assistant

Ms. Carpenter is super excited to lead the CCJDS Aftercare Program that returns in 2021-22 after a year-long hiatus due to the pandemic. She brings a passion for building community, learning and having fun. Previously, Ms. Carpenter worked as a summer camp counselor through the Livermore Area Recreation and Park District for five years. As camp coordinator, she created engaging and educational daily activity schedules for campers ages 4-13 and as a hands-on counselor she loved getting to know her campers and helping them grow and develop friendships with other campers of all ages.  BA in both Intensive Psychology and Environmental Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz. Joined CCJDS in 2020.

Lawrence Delaney, Assistant Principal for Middle School 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.

 

FiliceMichael Filice, Middle School Science Teacher, Advisor and Teaching Assistant & Lower School Teaching Assistant

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 first worked at CCJDS as a substitute teacher and in the aftercare program, in conjunction with working as an active travel guide, leading domestic and international outdoor adventures. In 2020 he joined CCJDS as a full-time teaching intern. He is thrilled to teach 8th Grade Science and serve as an 8th grade advisor this year, while also assistant teaching in middle school math and lower school general studies. B.S. in Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz.  Joined CCJDS in 2018.

Ann FinneAnn Finne, 5th Grade General Studies Teacher

Ms. Finne graduated with a B.A. in Justice, Community and Leadership as well as a Master of Arts in Education from Saint Mary’s College of California in 2019. Her thesis focused on social-emotional learning through the act of gardening. She is inspired by garden-based learning and enjoys being in the 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. She loves teaching fifth grade as it has a focus on supporting literacy. She also hopes to extend the tremendous work the 4th graders do with gardening and sustainability into the 5th grade experience. Joined CCJDS in 2020.

Dovrat Forte, Hebrew and Judaics Teacher

Teaching has been Ms. Forte’s biggest passion since she started to work as a teacher in 2010. Born and raised in Israel, Ms. Forte earned a B.Ed. in Education and a teaching credential from the Kibbutzim College of Education and completed her M.A. in Education at Tel Aviv University, majoring in learning disabilities and ADHD. During that time, she also completed an Israeli credential in assessment and diagnosis of learning disabilities and ADHD. Throughout her years as a teacher, Ms. Forte has taught many students from preschool level to the 9th grade, primarily Hebrew, Jewish Heritage, Science and advanced learning strategies. In her last position before joining CCJDS, Ms. Forte worked as a 4th grade Judaic Studies teacher at Pressman Academy in Los Angeles. In 2020, she moved to Lafayette with her family and was thrilled to join CCJDS. She says, “I truly love teaching and believe that paying personal and genuine attention to each student can make a substantial impact in the journey of transforming the students into independent and successful individuals.” Joined CCJDS in 2020.

Adeelee Fox, Kindergarten/First Grade General Studies Teacher

Mrs. Fox brings warmth, enthusiasm, humor and an open mindset to the classroom in order to help facilitate meaningful relationships with students. She joined CCJDS with 10 years of Jewish Day School teaching experience at Ronald C. Wornick Jewish Day School in Foster City. Mrs. Fox is a graduate of UC Santa Cruz with a B.A. 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.

Sani Kia, Middle School Science Teacher and Lower School Teaching Assistant

A scientist by training, Ms. Kia entered the field of education over 10 years ago. Prior to joining CCJDS, she 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 as a substitute teacher and aftercare assistant.  Demonstrating a gift for connecting with and teaching her students, she became a full-time teaching intern in our Lower School. Now, she is thrilled to teach 6th Grade Science while continuing her work supporting teachers and students in the Kindergarten and First Grades. BS in Biology, San Francisco State University.  Joined CCJDS in 2017.

Courtney Lazzara, 1st Grade General Studies Teacher

Mrs. Lazzara 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. Mrs. Lazzara 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, Mrs. Lazzara was delighted to return to CCJDS, and we were delighted to welcome her back, as our 1st Grade General Studies teacher. Mrs. 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.  Joined CCJDS in 2014.

Orli LoewenbergOrli Loewenberg, Hebrew and Judaics Teacher

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.

 

Aliza May, Hebrew and Judaics Teacher

Over the years, Ms. May has taught Hebrew and Judaics to CCJDS students of all ages. She is thrilled to work with some of our youngest learners this year, teaching Kindergarten, First and Third 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.

Michal Mayara, Teaching Assistant

Ms. Mayara moved to the United States from Israel in 2013. There she worked as a pediatric physical therapist in a children’s hospital and in kindergartens for children with special needs. After being a stay-at-home parent for several years, the distance learning experience sparked an old dream of being an educator. She decided to join our school as a first step in a career change. Now, as a full-time Teaching Intern, she supports Lower School teachers and students in the classroom. Joined CCJDS in 2020.

Zivile Otero, Director of Math Education and Math Teacher

Ms Otero teaches 6th-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 Middle School English Teacher

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 before coming to CCJDS, 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 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 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.

Annie Simmons, 4th Grade General Studies Teacher

Ms. Simmons joins us after many years teaching at Camp Tawonga and for the San Francisco Mime Troupe. We are very excited to welcome her creativity, energy, professionalism, and care for children. Ms. Simmons has her B.A. in Liberal and Civic Studies from St. Mary’s College of California, where she graduated Summa Cum Laude.  Joined CCJDS in 2021.  Photo coming soon.

Stephanie Snyder, Middle School Science Teacher

Ms. Snyder brings her experience as an elementary teacher and her passion for science to our seventh graders. Stephanie is an honors graduate from Bentley University in Waltham, MA with a B.S. degree in Economics. Joined CCJDS in 2021.  Photo coming soon.

Catie Warburton, 2nd Grade General Studies Teacher

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, Lower School Director and Kindergarten General Studies Teacher

Ms. Weisbaum brings abundant warmth, creativity, and wisdom – as well over 15 years of experience – to her vital work as our Kindergarten General Studies teacher and Director of Lower School.  Prior to joining CCJDS, Ms. Weisbaum taught in Chicago, IL and in El Paso, TX. She also has served as a Literacy Coach at the Chicago Public Schools, and has taught at the University of Texas, El Paso. She has her B.A. in English and American Literature from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana and her M.Ed. as a Reading Specialist from the University of Texas, El Paso.  Joined CCJDS in 2019.

Kenny Widmann, Middle School Humanities Teacher

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 Teacher and Upper School Hebrew Coordinator

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 Grade 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.