August 9, 2023

New Faces at Oakwood School in ’23-’24

A heartfelt welcome to the new members of our faculty and staff during the 2023-2024 school year.

K-12 Positions


Miriam Singer (Assistant Head of School) is a native Los Angelina and self-proclaimed “Valley Girl” for life. She studied English and Education at UC Berkeley and Harvard University, and earned an MBA in Organizational Behavior and School Business from California Lutheran University. Miriam was a middle school teacher for close to a decade, and is now finishing up a decade as a school leader. She is passionate about strengths-based and student-driven learning and believes that relationships are the core of a school. She has a strong and visible commitment to DEIBJ work and social justice. She is looking forward to serving Oakwood and to supporting this vibrant and creative community. Miriam lives with her scientist husband and rambunctious toddler twins in the Pasadena area, and enjoys long walks with her rescue dog Sprocket, baking sweets for friends and colleagues, and reading voraciously.

Jamie Walch (Temp Communications Content Manager) will be filling in as Communications Content Manager while Lexi is on maternity leave. She began working with Oakwood in 2019 on website and marketing content and is looking forward to this opportunity to serve the Oakwood community. Jamie is a seasoned professional with over a decade of experience in copywriting, editing, communications, and marketing. She has had a diverse portfolio of clients, ranging from Disney and Marvel to non-profit organizations and globally-conscious branding houses. Jamie’s passion for writing, coupled with her experience in varied industries gives her a unique perspective. She loves the beach and enjoys spending time with her husband and three young children at their home in West Los Angeles.

Secondary Campus


William “Bill” Thill (Chair, Math Department) is a passionate Math educator committed to culturally responsive teaching and developing student centered and engaging math curriculum. He taught for 18 years at Harvard-Westlake School before serving as Math Department Chair for the past three years at the Episcopal School of Los Angeles. Bill earned his BA from Trinity University in San Antonio Texas and then an MA in Secondary Mathematics Education from Cal State Northridge. We are excited that Bill will be joining our Secondary Math Department as Chair.

Ruby Ramirez (Faculty, Spanish) will be joining our World Language Department teaching Spanish this year. With a double major in Chicano Studies and Spanish Language and Literature and an MA in Interdisciplinary Studies from Cal State Dominguez Hills, Ruby is dedicated to designing curriculum and planning engaging lessons that inspire her students to love the Spanish language and develop skills as speakers, readers, and writers. Ruby earned a Phd in Spanish at UC Riverside and has been teaching all levels of the language at universities for over a decade. We are thrilled to be welcoming Ruby to Oakwood.

Kari Latta (Faculty, Math) joined our community last year as a mid-year substitute in the Math Department. Kari has a wealth of experience teaching math at all levels- from early elementary grades through Advanced Calculus. Kari’s teaching career spans across Southern California independent schools, and she has taught at a wide range of schools, including an all-girls school, co-ed k-12 schools, and religious affiliated schools. In addition to teaching math, Kari has taught science (biology, chemistry, earth science, and physics) and co-authored a UC approval application for an AP Psychology course. Kari earned her BA in Psychology from UCLA and her M. ED from Pepperdine. Kari brings a passion for teaching math and engaging with students in and out of the classroom. We are excited to have Kari return to our community in a full-time capacity.

Armig Matousian (Faculty, Humanities) brings 15 years of experience teaching middle school English and History, as our newest 7th grade Humanities teacher. She has a BA and MA in History from Cal State Northridge and has dedicated herself to developing curriculum that inspires students to engage critically and actively in their learning. In addition to her depth of knowledge of history, Armig has a love of art and film which she often incorporates into the classroom. Armig strives for her students to not only understand history but to apply what they learn to making their lives and the world a better place. We are grateful for the expertise and care she will bring to her students and the community.

Haleh Kouchmeshki (Middle School Counselor, Human Development Coordinator) will be joining our community as a member of our Student Support Department. With a wealth of experience working with young people in counseling, tutoring, yoga instruction and educational therapy settings, over two decades, Haleh is stepping into the role of Middle School Counselor and Human Development Teacher. Haleh has a BA in Psychology from UCLA, an MA in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University, and is currently a PsyD Candidate at Azusa Pacific University. Haleh is motivated by a dedication to supporting healthy psychological and emotional wellbeing in children and young adults. We are fortunate to have her joining our community this year.

Erik Thompson (Faculty, Adjunct Social Studies) will be joining our High School Social Studies Department as adjunct faculty teaching Ninth Grade Global Studies. With a BA from Montana State University and an MA in Curriculum and Instruction, Eric cares deeply about creating student centered and experiential learning environments for his students. As a former Humanities teacher, Eric has a passion for developing interdisciplinary projects that help students to make connections and deepen their understanding of the world. In addition to his love of history and literature, Eric also has a background and appreciation of Theater and Film. We are grateful to have Eric joining the Oakwood community this year.

Claire Quilala (Faculty, Adjunct Ceramics) is an artist and educator working primarily in ceramics and sculpture. Claire has been working in arts education for seven years. She often incorporates social-emotional learning, experimentation, and highlighting underrepresented artists into her lessons. She has studied ceramics for six years, and loves the technical aspects and conceptual potential of working with clay. She is a recent graduate of UCLA, with a degree in Art.

Elementary Campus


Colin Levitt (Math Specialist) is the new Elementary Campus math specialist with a BS and MS in Education, focusing on math, and 19 years of teaching experience worldwide. Most recently, Colin expanded his expertise with a sabbatical in Bali, Indonesia, where he created a professional development math course to support elementary school teachers by increasing their math background and curricular understanding. He also taught at the Saint Johnsbury Academy in Jeju, South Korea, and was the math specialist at the American Community School in Athens, Greece. His independent school experience includes being a middle school math teacher and the Diversity and Equity Coordinator at Packard Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn, New York, and the Trinity School in New York City. Colin’s sons, Kirin and Zai, will also have a home on the Elementary Campus as 6th and 4th-grade students, respectively.

Nicolas “Olas” Burgess (Grades 5 & 6 Math) is joining our faculty as the fifth and sixth-grade math teacher. Olas comes to us from the Dunn School in Los Olivos, California, where he taught math, science, music, and P.E. While at Indiana University, where he received his BS in Environmental Management, Olas was an NCAA Division I athlete as a member of Indiana’s swim team. His passion for the ocean led to his work in Fire Rescue for the San Diego Lifeguard Division and his being awarded The Medal of Honor for demonstrating bravery in the line of duty. Olas has been a naturalist and outdoor science teacher at Camp Ocean Pines in Cambria and a marine specialist, aquarist, and dive master at the Catalina Island Marine Institute in Avalon, where our fifth graders enjoy their annual overnight field trip.

Katie Nolan (Learning Specialist) joins the Elementary Campus in the newly-created Support Services Coordinator/ Learning Specialist role, where she will work closely with the admin, counselor, families, and students. Katie holds a BA in Psychology and two MA degrees in Special Education and Education Therapy. She is also a Board Certified Educational Therapist. Before coming to Oakwood, Katie worked as an educational therapist and clinical director at the Perspectives Group and Kapp Educational Therapy Group. She brings expertise in areas including working with students who require different approaches to learning, curating plans based on assessment reports, monitoring student progress, and communicating and coordinating learning plans with families, schools, and allied professionals.

Ellyn “Elly” Yonan (Admission Coordinator) brings a wealth of educational experiences to the Elementary Campus Admission department as Admission Coordinator. Elly earned a BS in Elementary Education and an MS in Humanities and Social Sciences and has had extensive classroom teaching experience at The Browning School, Forum Education, and Avenues: The World School in New York. Her most recent role before relocating to Los Angeles was as an Admission Consultant, guiding families through the independent school admission process. Elly’s strong background and knowledge about the student learning experience will be an asset to the Admission Department.

Elementary Campus Assistants



Alicia Swadley began her association with the Elementary Campus as an assistant in our After-School Program. She recently completed her degree in Early Childhood Education and Development. Alicia’s work experience includes eldercare, childcare, and camp counseling. She will bring this background to the fourth-grade team as Melanie Jacobson’s assistant.

Amalia Walker Amalia Walker will assist Kai Sionas in the sixth-grade Humanities classes. She holds a BA in Late Antique & Medieval Studies with a Spanish minor. She spent a semester in Spain, studying medieval history, ancient and medieval art and archaeology, and Arabic. Before coming to Oakwood, she was a Garden Ranger for Enrich LA, working with TK through fifth-grade students.

Ashanti Bruce will be a member of the third-grade team as Presli Guy’s assistant. She earned a BFA in Painting with a minor in Graphic Arts and has experience working with students as an art teacher and English language teacher for over 1,000 Vietnamese students in public schools. While in college, Ashanti served an internship for Peace Through Music in Gjakove, Kosovo, where she helped rebrand and promote the organization and worked with war-affected youth ages 4-18.

Margold Clark joined the Elementary Campus community last year as a much-loved long-term substitute assistant in fourth grade. This year, she will work with Lily Perry as a kindergarten associate. Margold played in the WNBA for the Sacramento Monarchs and professional teams in Austria and Brazil. Her previous experience includes being a motivational speaker for Athletes Against Drugs, a fitness and nutritional coach, and a PE teacher at Lakeview Charter Academy in Los Angeles. Margold earned her BA in Fine Arts/Media Arts and an MA in Language, Reading, andCulture.

Natasha Duran will join Claire Tulis as the fifth-grade Humanities assistant. Natasha holds a BA in Psychology and English with an emphasis in Literary Theory & Criticism and an MA in Marriage and Family Therapy. For the last year, she served as a long-term substitute at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Dual Language School in Downey, where she worked with the middle school math teacher to provide additional instructional support.

Shani Nacpil will join the fifth-grade team as Troy Lawson’s science assistant. Shani holds a degree in Sociology and a Mental Health Leadership Online Training Certification from the RISE Center at UCLA. She also worked for the UCLA Center for Community College Partnerships to strengthen the connection between the university and community colleges and increase academic preparation for community college transfers, focusing on low-income, first-generation, or historically underrepresented students.

Valeria Guzman will join Kat Svetlik and Shane Finch as the Story Center assistant. She has a BA in Child and Adolescent Development and is currently completing her Master’s degree in Library and Information Science. Valeria has been a lead preschool teacher for the last six years and is fluent in Spanish.