August 18, 2022

New Faces at Oakwood School

A heartfelt welcome to the new members of our faculty and staff during the 2022–2023 school year.

Elementary Campus

Antwan Brookins, Claire Pattison, Claire Walker, Elise Olson, and Jonathan Claridge

Antwan Brookins (Physical Education) is the newest member of our PE department. He was part of the Avon Junior Athletic Association and earned a Youth Sports Certification from the National Alliance for Youth Sports. Antwan was a popular member of the Oakwood Summer Programs staff this summer.

Claire Pattison (Classroom Assistant) will join Presli Guy in 3rd grade. She worked as a teaching assistant, was involved in the Youth Leadership programming at UCSC, and was a program intern at UCSC Hillel. Claire was also a member of the USCS women’s lacrosse team (ranked 14th nationally).

Claire Walker (Classroom Assistant) will be a welcome addition as Lily Diamond’s 5th grade humanities assistant. She received her degree in English from Vassar College and won the Deanne Beach Stoneham Prize for Poetry. She was also a workshop leader at Camp Loyaltown, where she led groups in writing workshops.

Elise Olson (Classroom Assistant) will partner with Nicole Palazzo in 2nd grade. She has her Illinois Professional Educator License and has spent time student teaching in high school and at Drummond Montessori School in Chicago.

Jonathan Claridge (Classroom Assistant) joins Troy Lawson as the 5th and 6th grade science assistant. He was previously a 6th grade science teacher and Robotics coach at KIPP SoCal Public Schools, where he taught Amplify Science—the program used in our 5th and 6th grade science program. Jonathan was also a summer camp teacher at Bay Area Discovery Museum.

Kevin Ayala, Lindsay Jennings, Marc Robinson, Olivia Jones, and Paige Clingaman

Kevin Ayala (Story Center Associate) will be our new associate working with Kat Svetlik in the Story Center. He is completing his Master of Library and Information Studies degree and has a Bachelor of Arts in Deaf Education, along with experience as a classroom and technology lab assistant.

Lindsay Jennings (Classroom Assistant) will be joining Therese Do in 1st grade. She has extensive experience in public relations and is keen to join the education world. Lindsay has worked with children as a camp counselor and tennis coach.

Marc Robinson (Classroom Assistant) joins Melanie Jacobson’s 4th grade team. Prior to coming to Oakwood, Marc was a Youth Counselor for PACT, an organization dedicated to transracial adoptive families. He created a curriculum and managed a team of individuals who facilitated activities around adoption and race for youth of various ages.

Olivia Jones (4th Grade Teacher) will be partnering with Melanie Jacobson as Oakwood’s new 4th grade teacher. She comes to the elementary campus from the Crane Country Day School in Santa Barbara, where she taught 3rd grade, 6th grade, and 8th grade English. She was involved with The National SEED Project (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity.) Olivia is also trilingual, speaking English, Spanish, and Italian.

Paige Clingaman (Classroom Associate) began her association with the elementary campus as a frequently requested substitute teacher. Prior to joining Oakwood, Paige also worked as an assistant varsity volleyball coach and a technical theater assistant. She will be working with Lily Perry in Kindergarten.

Secondary Campus

Alejandra Alfaro, Carolina Rodriguez, Danny Pando, and Lauren Gall

Alejandra Alfaro (Research Librarian) will be joining Oakwood as the new secondary campus Research Librarian. Prior to joining Oakwood, Alejandra Alfaro served as the Upper School Assistant Librarian at the Polytechnic School in Pasadena, CA. Before joining Poly in November 2018, she was the Library and Tech Assistant at the Academy of Our Lady of Peace (an all-girl high school) in San Diego, CA. In addition to her experience in high school libraries,  Alejandra also has several years of experience in a public library setting, having worked at both the San Diego Public Library and South Pasadena Public Library.  She graduated from UC San Diego in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in Human Development and obtained her master’s degree in Library and Information Science from San Jose State University in 2019. Alejandra is passionate about teaching students library and research skills and looks forward to joining the Oakwood Community.

Carolina Rodriguez (School Nurse) is a credentialed school nurse who participates in the provision of health services designed to protect, maintain and enhance the health of students. The secondary campus school nurse’s goal is to support the learning experience of students by providing health care services and consulting with faculty and staff regarding students’ specific health issues which may impact their learning. Carolina also manages medication administration, on-campus symptom management, immunization requirements, and participates in the development of health and safety programs. Carolina has her Bachelor of Science in Health Education and her Masters in Nursing and Social Work.

Danny Pando (Middle School Dean of Students) joins Oakwood as a Los Angeles native, Danny has a BA in Child Development from Cal State Northridge and a MA in Independent School Leadership from Columbia University Teachers College. He brings a wealth of teaching experience in independent schools, including Gulliver Preparatory School, Wesley School, and Crossroads where he taught 8th grade English. For the past two years, he has served as Middle School Dean of Students at Head-Royce School in Oakland. With a passion for supporting social-emotional learning and guiding students through the challenges and joys of middle school, he is excited to be joining the secondary school community and working closely with our 7th and 8th graders.

Lauren Gall (Long-term Math Substitute) will be joining the Math Department, working with grades 7 and 9. She received her Bachelor of Science in Education from the University of the Sunshine Coast and then went on to teach Math and Technology at Harristown State High School, in Toowoomba, Queensland for 6 years. As program lead there, she supported the expanded inclusion of girls and indigenous students in STEM courses. Lauren recently moved to the United States with her husband and is looking forward to working with Oakwood students to inspire a love of learning within an inclusive, fun, and hands-on environment.

Marci Jaffer, Rebecca Damodaran, Ryan Rockmore, and Sacha Maccabee

Marci Jaffer (English Teacher) will be joining Oakwood’s English Department and joins us from a long-time post at Clarkstown South High School in West Nyack, NY, where she taught a range of English and Creative Writing courses for 15 years. Prior to this, Marci taught at the Facing History High School in Manhattan and at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Along the way, Marci earned both a Master’s and an MFA in English Teaching and Creative Writing, respectively. A new job for her spouse means that Marci’s family is permanently relocating to Los Angeles. Marci is a published writer, with pieces in publications ranging from the SF Chronicle to Soho Magazine (NY) and Wising Up Press.

Rebecca Damodaran (High School Science Teacher) will be joining Oakwood’s Science department. A deep lover of science, Rebecca demonstrated remarkable innovation and commitment in delivering new kinds of instruction and offering different opportunities for engagement both before and during the pandemic as a long-time teacher at Providence High School. She earned degrees in Biology and Spanish from Duke, and went on to earn a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction in Massachusetts. Rebecca is excited to share her passion for learning and all things science with Oakwood students.

Ryan Rockmore (Assistant High School Dean of Students) joins Oakwood after years of service as an independent school Spanish teacher; student life professional; and antiracist, justice, and equity practitioner at Poly Prep Country Day School and the Calhoun School in New York City. Ryan has led numerous high school trips abroad, published on queerness in flamenco dance, and co-organized disability dance projects at UCLA. With a B.Sc. in Education from NYU and an M.A. in dance anthropology from Roehampton University, he is fascinated by the ways that we shape and are transformed by the cultures and experiences of our school environment. Ryan is also a professional flamenco dancer-researcher and looks forward to witnessing what sparks joy in his students’ lives this year.

Sacha Maccabee (English Teacher) comes to Oakwood with recent classroom experience at the Episcopal School of LA (ESLA) and, previously, at Friends Seminary in New York. Sacha completed his Master’s from Teachers College, Columbia University. Between college and graduate school, Sacha helped to create and deliver innovative curricula as a teaching artist that helped students explore overlapping realms of identity, place, and belonging through social justice and equity-based framework and approach. Sacha remains committed to organizing with anti-carceral justice groups. He looks forward to sharing his multiple talents, passions, interests, and experiences with Oakwood students.

Sara Shewfelt, Savio Fernandes, and Teri Goldman

Sara Shewfelt (Coordinator of Human Development, Grades 7-12)(she/her/ella) is a mental health educator from Los Angeles, CA. Her background in education and working with students with disabilities led her to pursue an MSW from the University of Southern California. Sara’s decision to join the Social Change & Innovation track came from her interest in macro-level social work and social change. After receiving her degree, Sara became the Outreach Manager at  Teen Line. In her time at Teen Line, she was responsible for delivering culturally responsive mental health training to youth in schools and programs across Los Angeles County and preparing teen volunteers for crisis response on the Teen Line hotline. Sara created accessible educational materials on mental health for youth and adults, expanded outreach efforts from citywide to nationwide following the pandemic and transition to virtual programming, and led initiatives to diversify Teen Line’s training and volunteer base.

Savio Fernandes (Middle School Science Teacher) recently worked at Valley Torah High School for 11 years where he taught varied regular and honors level courses including Biology, Chemistry, Integrated Physical Science, and Genetics. Savio earned his degree from Texas Woman’s University, where he earned his Bachelor of Science in Biology with an emphasis in Zoology and a minor in Chemistry. Savio has a passion for Biology, Ecology and Environmental Science and is excited to be able to work closely with 7th and 8th grade students at Oakwood. He is also eager to collaborate on curriculum development within our middle school science program to inspire a passion for science, and an understanding of our natural world, in his students.

Teri Goldman (Learning Specialist) joins Oakwood’s Support Services. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over eighteen years of experience working with students and families both in private practice and at schools, including most recently at Brentwood School, where she developed the learning support program for the middle division. Teri earned her M.S.W. at the University of California, Los Angeles with a specialization in Child and Family Health. She worked for several years as a pediatric social worker prior to rediscovering her passion for supporting students and collaborating with colleagues in educational settings. Her passions include creative writing, animals, and spending time with her family.


Lori Urban

Lori Urban will start as Oakwood’s Advancement team as the Major Gifts Officer, bringing sixteen years of experience connecting parents/guardians, alumni and others to rewarding philanthropic opportunities. With a focus on building authentic relationships that bring donors closer to innovative educational missions, Lori has led successful relations and fundraising programs at Viewpoint School, Green Dot Public Schools and Occidental College. She received her BA from Clark University in Worcester, MA. She and her husband Chris and daughter Emily are in the process of moving from the West Adams neighborhood of Los Angeles to Studio City to be closer to Oakwood.


New Faces at Oakwood 2022-2023