MUSE FACULTY & STAFF

MUSE Virtual Teachers, Advisors, Faculty & Staff are the reason MUSE Virtual thrives. They are the roots to which our K-12 students grow and thrive from. Get to know them!

ELEMENTARY TEACHERS

Jenny Briesch

Kindergarten

Jenny is a California native and first began working with children in 2006. With a background in Psychology and a love for helping children flourish, she began providing in home respite and behavior therapy for children on the autism spectrum.

Jenny discovered her love for teaching in an elementary setting while providing behavior therapy inside the classroom. She quickly became a part of the school’s community and co-taught in the 1st & 2nd grade classroom. She was thrilled to join MUSE school in 2015 and cultivate her passion for teaching. When she began teaching at MUSE she was immediately drawn to the Process Communication Model. Her passion for Psychology aligned with PCM and she fell in love. As a base harmonizer phase thinker, she enjoys accessing all of her personality traits to help connect and motivate her students. Jenny became a PCM trainer in the summer of 2018 and enjoys developing her craft whenever she has a chance. Outside of teaching, she enjoys spending time with her spouse & family, traveling, weight training, swimming in the ocean, and going on adventures with her dogs Sam and Kona.


Emma Jean Sparks

1st Grade

A Southern California native, Emma Jean was beyond thrilled to join the MUSE family this year! With a passion for working with youth and helping others, Emma Jean graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree focused on the intersectionality of Education and Diversity. Emma Jean has now worked in the field of education for over six years and feels lucky to have worked with many wonderful students and families as a teacher, program director, and a mentor. As a teacher, and a Base Harmonizer, Emma Jean’s priority is creating a space safe for students to feel comfortable, collaborative, and curious. Her life’s mission is to create an accessible, equitable, and transformative educational experience for students everywhere. In her free time, Emma Jean enjoys traveling to new places, and spending quality time with her loved ones, especially her dog, Milo!


Elaina Katz

2nd Grade

Elaina has been working in the field of education for over seven years, and this is her first year with MUSE Virtual. She is very happy to be teaching second grade this year! Before joining the MUSE community, Elaina worked as a first grade teacher for five years and, prior to that, as a computer teacher for students in kindergarten through sixth grade. She has her Bachelor’s degree in Childhood Education from Pace University in New York, and recently earned her Master’s degree in educational technology from California State University, Fullerton. She is passionate about finding meaningful ways to integrate technology into the classroom. Elaina has her teaching credentials from both California and New York State. She is dedicated to helping her students become lifelong learners and loves bringing her creativity into the classroom. In her free time, Elaina enjoys going to the beach, cooking and baking, and spending time with her family.


Jennifer Kaplan

3rd Grade

Born and raised right here in Southern California, Jen has spent the last ten years teaching at the elementary level.

She is passionate about helping young children become kind, caring individuals who can make the world a better place. She is excited about the opportunity to teach the whole child and utilize the psychology behind the Process Communication Model. When not at school with her students, Jen is at home loving her family, baking, and trying to save the elephants from becoming extinct.


Yvette Andrizzi

4th Grade

Yvette was born and raised in Southern California. She has spent the last ten years working with children in many capacities, including tutor, mentor, behavioral therapist, and teacher.

Yvette received a master’s and doctorate in clinical psychology prior to earning her teaching credential. She loves cooking, playing with her son Jack, and visiting family in New Zealand. Yvette is so excited to be a part of the MUSE community and to help children discover their passions and love of learning!


Karen Ford

5th Grade

Karen’s motto is “Life’s a Journey.” Her journey has taken her to live in ten states and the country of Japan. Karen most recently came from Honolulu, Hawaii where she taught at Punahou School on the island of Oahu.

Her experiences have led her to be a life long learner and instructor. She earned her Bachelors of Science Degree in Education from the University of Nebraska, her Masters of Science in Education with a Specialization in Educational Technology from National University. Most recently obtaining her CLAD certification from the University of California, San Diego. She is a member of Pi Lamda Theta Honor Society for Educators. She further developed her skill set as a teacher then administrator as a School Improvement Specialist keeping the Blue Valley School District in Kansas, in the top 5% of the Western Consortium of schools. Karen is a true progressive teacher incorporating Inquiry Learning, Project Based Learning, Brain Based Research, Open Mind Set and Design Thinking. Karen encourages her students through Giving, supporting Sustainable Actions, promoting their Passions and exploring their Gifts. Karen adores spending time and traveling with her husband, daughter and extended family members. She enjoys motorcycling riding, scuba diving, traveling, jogging and discovering new Journeys and Adventures.


Donna Jeter

6th Grade

Donna Jeter has been a teacher for over 13 years and two years teaching virtually. She recently relocated from North Carolina to Colorado and is excited about new adventures that await her! Prior to joining the MUSE team, she taught 3rd-6th grade at a charter Montessori School and then 4th-5th grade at a rural public elementary school on the coast in North Carolina. She considers herself to be a lifelong learner, an avid traveler and reader. Donna loves animals, the outdoors, and most of all, her 5 children and 3 amazing grandbabies! As an educator, she’s passionate about supporting children’s natural curiosity about the world around them, encouraging creativity and outside the box thinking. To Donna, the best part of teaching is developing relationships with students and watching them grow!

MIDDLE SCHOOL TEACHERS

Tressa Wyner

Middle School Teacher and All School Master Teacher

A dedicated middle school teacher for over 15 years, Tressa joined the MUSE community in the summer of 2015. She obtained her K-8 teaching license, as well as her BA in psychology, from Hamline University in Minnesota. Upon graduation, she completed her student teaching in Brazil, where she also backpacked around the country. Passionate about all the MUSE 5 Pillars, Tressa feels blessed to work in a school that encourages innovative life-long learners while teaching them to advocate for themselves. She invites her students to take risks, to play, and to think critically. Tressa became a certified PCM trainer in 2018 and loves to help students (and parents!) learn to communicate clearly and resolve conflict as they discover what makes them tick. In her free time, Tressa enjoys visiting family in MN, cooking, being outside, and spending time with her husband, three sons, and two dogs.


Edra Pantazes

Middle School Teacher

Originally from the northeast, Edra is familiar with the Los Angeles area, having come often to visit family while growing up. She has lived a nomadic life staying in places such as New York, Turkey, Miami, and now L.A.

She taught special education for 5 years before obtaining a masters in political science. Edra took a 7 year teaching hiatus to work in politics followed by nonprofit. She returned to teaching 5 years ago.

HIGH SCHOOL TEACHERS

JoAnn AuBuchon

Humanities Teacher

JoAnn began teaching at MUSE in 2016. She was born and raised in St. Louis. She moved to Tennessee and graduated from the University of Tennessee.

JoAnn lived in Anchorage and Kodiak, Alaska for a few years before returning to Tennessee to raise her two children on a farm where they raised sheep, llamas, swans, and miniature horses. JoAnn taught high school English and Journalism, and specialized in remedial reading programs for 15 years, before moving to Southern California. JoAnn embraces the MUSE Virtual philosophy of passion-based learning. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, writing, theater, reading, traveling, and embracing new experiences.


Russell Mallen

Science Teacher

Russ was born and raised in the western suburbs of Chicago and spent a good portion of his adult life in that area.

After majoring in electrical engineering and minoring in economics at MIT, Russ was a materials scientist specializing in microchips and circuit boards. During the stock market bubble, he put his math and economics education to work trading currencies, stocks, and options at the PHLX, CBOE, and AMEX. Russ changed career paths and went into private tutoring because he saw an opportunity to transform math and science education. He has been teaching math and science at all levels for over 10 years. He taught Algebra I at Muse this past year and was instantly attracted to the unique approach of the school. Russ is looking forward to integrating the Muse foundations of seed to table and sustainability in the science program. Russ finally left Chicago in 2012 to fulfill a dream of living in LA with his wife Annie. Together, he and his wife enjoy dog walks, hiking, and bike riding all over Southern California.


Jeffrey Martin

Humanities Teacher and Human Rights Coordinator

Jeffrey started teaching at MUSE in 2015. He is an experienced educator, having taught in private, parochial, and public charter settings since 1996.

Prior to joining MUSE, Jeffrey was a founding teacher and Dean of Academics at a charter school in Los Angeles. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and English, and he completed a Masters in the Art of Teaching from the University of Southern California with a focus on teaching History. Jeffrey’s passions include project-based learning, writing, curriculum design, meditation and mindfulness, and fostering community cohesion. In his free time, Jeffrey enjoys road trips, camping, live music and theater, reading, writing, gardening and landscaping, and spending time with friends and family.


Haven Reininger

Math Teacher

This is Haven’s first year as MUSE’s dedicated Math Specialist. Haven graduated from Yale College with a B.A. in Economics and a special concentration in Medieval History.

After graduation, Haven transitioned from a career in marketing and analysis into high school math curriculum development. He has since co-authored and taught high school math courses to students in a variety of learning environments. Haven’s expertise includes using mathematics and quantitative social sciences as a means to furthering one’s understanding of her surroundings and passions. Haven’s outside passions include exploring the Santa Monica Mountains, interactive/collaborative story-telling, and game design.


Kirsten Wasson

College Counselor and Internship Coordinator

Kirsten Wasson been a part of the the MUSE Global team for 6 years in the dual position of College Counselor and Internship Coordinator. For two decades Kirsten was an English professor at Ithaca College and Hobart and William Smith Colleges in upstate New York. She has degrees from Wesleyan University, State University of New York, Binghamton, and the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She is excited about helping students to find valuable experiences in local communities, to help them navigate their way to college acceptance, and to explore other post-secondary options. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, swimming, writing, performing at storytelling venues, and spending time with her (grown) son.


Leidy Sierra Pedre

Spanish Teacher

Leidy was born and raised in Havana, Cuba, where she graduated from the prestigious Havana University with a bachelor’s degree in Law. Leidy lived in Beijing, China between 2005-2009, where she studied Chinese language in Beijing Language and Culture University.

Leidy has also participated in important international meetings sponsored by the United Nations Organization, related to the protection of the environment, among which we can mention the meetings of the Montreal Protocol for the protection of the ozone layer. Her goal as a Spanish teacher is not only to teach the language, but also to stimulate her students’ interest in the culture, history and geography of Spanish-speaking countries. In her free time, she likes to go to the beach, read, paint, travel, visit museums and visit her family in Cuba.


Severine Faure

French Teacher

Born and raised in Paris, France, Severine has been the French Teacher at MUSE since 2018. She has a master’s degree in marketing that she earned at the Université Paris Dauphine, France. After working a few years in marketing in the food industry in France, she moved to Los Angeles with her French husband and fell in love with California.

Passionate about education, nature, travel, and language, teaching French at MUSE was a perfect fit. After raising her three bilingual and bicultural kids, Severine learned that cultural understanding is as important as language acquisition to better understand the world, and she implements this in her own classroom. In her free time, Severine enjoys camping, going to the beach, hiking in the Santa Monica mountains, traveling around the world with her husband and 3 children, and visiting her family and friends in France.


Natalie Backman

Leadership Teacher

Natalie Backman (Leadership/Ethical Entrepreneurship/Meditation) is an international yoga and meditation teacher in the Himalayan Tradition as well as the founder of Imagine Fest and the Bohemian Ball — two events which raise funds and awareness on behalf of children recovered from human trafficking, and co-founder of Sakti Rising — an ethical, sustainable yoga apparel label. Prior to teaching yoga, Natalie lived in New York and performed in various Musical Theater productions, including the 30th Anniversary of the musical, Annie, on Broadway.  Natalie joined the MUSE community in 2016, offering yoga as an after school enrichment.  Since then she has contributed elective opportunities to study Leadership, Meditation and Ethical Entrepreneurship for Middle/High.

SPECIALIST

Rick Perillo

Seed to Table Manager & Sustainability Coordinator

After graduating from California State University, Northridge in 2006, Rick traveled to New Zealand to work on organic farms where he discovered his passion for growing food using methods that give back to the Earth.

Since then, he has earned two Permaculture Design Certificates, a Master Gardener Certificate, and a Certificate in Global Sustainability from UCLA. Rick came to MUSE in 2014. He believes the garden is an ideal place for students to connect with nature. He hopes his students are inspired by what they learn and that they become leaders in the sustainability movement.


Ivo Spirov

Art Specialist

Ivo Spirov is an exhibiting professional artist whose art has been featured in Japan, Europe and the US. Originally from Bulgaria, Ivo earned a dual Bachelor’s Degree in Visual Arts and Environmental Science from New Bulgarian University. Ivo loves to share his passion for art with his students and encourages their creative expression. Whenever possible he likes to bring students to behind the scenes set-ups of galleries and art fairs and introduce them to various artists. Ivo has been part of the MUSE community for the past 5 years.


Robin Swallow

Head Chef

Robin has been cooking plant based food for over 30 years. In 1995, she and her husband bought Manna Restaurant, one of Europe’s oldest vegetarian and now vegan restaurant.

When she returned to California in 2014, she was asked to become Follow Your Heart’s executive chef and develop plant based recipes to help them transition into becoming a vegan restaurant. She loves helping people get excited about vegan meals and show them how easy and tasty it is to enjoy plant based meals.

STAFF

Melissa Cardoza

Operations Manager

Melissa has been with MUSE since February 2015. She has a Bachelors of Arts in Sociology and a minor in Civic Engagement from UCLA.

Before MUSE, Melissa took some time off and traveled around South East Asia for 4 1/2 months. Melissa is extremely passionate about MUSE’s plant based and sustainability practices. Outside of MUSE, Melissa enjoys running, hiking, taking yoga classes, shopping for fruit and traveling.


Stephanie Cox

Virtual Learning Environment Manager

Stephanie double majored in political science and international studies at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. After completing her undergraduate studies, she immediately worked toward obtaining my Master of Arts in Teaching, and subsequently taught Kindergarten and 3rd grade for a total of six years. She spent some time working in adult education where I supported teachers in implementing curriculum and pedagogical skills.

Stephanie considers herself from Hawaii, Tokyo, and Texas, having spent significant parts of her life in each place. She enjoy traveling, cooking (and eating), crafting, and spending time with friends outdoors. Stephanie is so excited to join the MUSE team and look forward to being part of a passionate community of educators!


Coral Laolagi

Virtual Support Coordinator

Coral was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, CA. As the youngest of three, Coral followed in her brother and sister’s footsteps by continuing her passion for sports as a dual-sport athlete at Birmingham HS in Van Nuys, CA. In high school, Coral also developed a love for coaching youth basketball in her spare time and it was then that she realized how much she enjoys working with children. After high school, Coral continued her education at California State University, Northridge and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies.

Shortly after graduating, Coral worked as the Apprenticeship Coordinator at Local Union #761 to over 1,000 apprentices. Working for the Local Union made her feel a part of a team again and she was grateful to be given the freedom to establish more efficient ways of tracking and managing apprentice data while implementing her own organizational practices.

In August of 2017, Coral and her boyfriend fully transitioned to eating a plant-based diet after watching the documentary, “What the Health”. Her actions inspired her parents, who followed suit a few weeks later to start their plant-based lifestyle journey as well. In early 2018 Coral was offered a part-time office position at MUSE School, and in July 2018 Coral began working as the Global Task Coordinator for MUSE Global. It has been a blessing for Coral to work for and be a part of a community where the core values align with her own. Coral’s current role is as the Virtual Support Coordinator for MUSE Virtual School and she is committed to supporting all faculty, staff, students, and families with any tech-related issues and beyond. Coral also takes a special interest in the development of the MUSE DEI program by assisting with implementing new discussion topics and readings for the DEI continuing conversations subcommittee and for all staff members of MUSE Virtual School.

Outside of MUSE Coral loves spending time with her fur baby Great Danes, going to the dog beach, taking bike rides, reading, and spending time with her loved ones.

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