Meet Our Teachers

Alexis Grant

Art Teacher

Alexis is originally from outside of Philadelphia, PA and holds a B.S. in Art Education and a B.A. in Drawing and Painting from the Pennsylvania State University. She also holds minors in Spanish and Art History. Alexis received her M. F. A. in Drawing and Painting from the California College of the Arts in 2006. She started teaching in 2003 and has been teaching at Star since 2009. Alexis has exhibited her paintings in the Bay Area as well as Michigan and Pennsylvania.  Aside from her painting practice, Alexis enjoys traveling, cooking and reading. 

Allison Coolidge

Middle School Assistant Teacher

Bio coming soon!

Alysha Risch

High School Teacher

Alysha joins Star’s High School team as a Transitions and Living Skills instructor. While her work will be primarily with the 11th/12th grade students focusing mostly on Living and Transition related skills i.e. cooking, community training, Consumer Math, pre-vocational skills, etc., she will also be supporting a 9/10th grade English class giving her the opportunity to get to know some of the younger high school students. Alysha has been a Transitions/Living Skills instructor at the Sonoma County Office of Education for the past two years and an Assistant Teacher in the program for the two years prior. She describes her passion as helping students identify challenges in the community and learning how to adapt and overcome challenges setting them on a path for success and independence. 

Britton Walker

Elementary Head Teacher

Britton worked for three years as Special Education teacher for students in grades K-5 in a Marin County public school and prior to that at an NPS in Marin serving students with complex learning differences and behavioral needs. She is both a credentialed special education and general education teacher and is very familiar with meeting the needs of a diverse community of learners within a single classroom. She is well versed in all aspects of the IEP process and in differentiating instruction. Britton describes one of her teaching priorities as: providing a safe and engaging space for students to learn so that they will open up to new challenges which will foster a sense of capability, tenacity and empowerment.

Christian Naventi

Middle School Head Teacher

Christian has been a teacher at Star Academy since 2009. He is currently teaching in one of the high school classrooms. Christian has a Multiple Subject Credential and an Education Specialist Credential, both from Dominican University. He has a great interest in science, especially the outdoors and has led after-school activities at Star Academy such as the Science Club and the Mountain Goats Hiking Club. Other interests include peach pie, lemurs and the Golden State Warriors.

David Winters

Middle School Assistant Teacher

Bio Coming Soon!

Donnell Dowell

High School & Post High School Assistant

Bio Coming Soon!

Erin Grucz

Middle School Head Teacher

Erin earned her Masters of Education and her Education Specialist credential in 2012. After graduation she worked in a variety of public school settings until 2016.  From 2016-18 Erin worked for Matrix, the parent advocacy organization, as a parent advisor guiding families of children with special needs access to the systems that serve them. As part of her work she conducted workshops on various topics including assessment, collaboration and the IEP process.  As much as she enjoyed that work Erin missed being with the students and in 2018 she returned to a middle school classroom in Marin. 

Jeffrey Sullivan

High School Head Teacher

Jeff Sullivan is a son, father, friend, husband, teacher, student of life, and a host of many other nouns, roles, and responsibilities. He grew up in Arcadia, California, a suburb in Los Angeles County, and attended Loyola Marymount University where he double majored in English Literature and Philosophy. His love of education compelled him to earn a single subject teaching credential in Language Arts (Azusa Pacific University), a Masters in Education (APU), and an Education Specialist credential (Dominican University). He is in his second year at STAR Academy and first as a head high school teacher; Jeff is honored to work in such a supportive and positive school community!

Jennifer Richards

Post High School Coordinator

Jennifer has been working at Star Academy since 2016. She holds degrees from Santa Barbara City College and Sonoma State University. After college, she spent two years volunteering in Sonoma County for Americorps, leading a literacy program and after school program for elementary school students. She spent several years working at a school for children on the autism spectrum and has worked with a broad range of learners throughout her career, from the preschool to community college levels. She enjoys backpacking, photography, spending time with family, practicing and teaching yoga.

Jesse Haskins

High School Assistant Teacher

Jesse started at Star Academy in 1991 following a lengthy career in banking. Because he wanted to make a difference in his community, he chose to work with children with learning differences. His extensive managerial experience in the corporate world lends itself to his patient and effective teaching style where he uses humor and encouragement to bridge learning difficulties. He has training in many learning methods and extensive knowledge in the area of adaptive physical education. In his free time, he enjoys traveling, cooking, viewing live music performances, and spending time with his son who is an electrician and paramedic.

John McLaughlin

High School Head Teacher

John spent 24 years in the financial services industry, trading stocks, options and futures, before switching careers to become a teacher. He holds a Bachelor's Degree from Boston College with a double major in History and Human Development and then earned his Special Education Credential. He has taught middle school in a program that serves students with a wide range of learning differences. John is an avid gardener, great cook and frequent volunteer at the Ceres Community Project of Marin, teaching kids to prepare organic, nutritious and tasty meals for people going through chemotherapy.

Julia Ries

Elementary/Middle School Teacher

Julia holds a Masters in Special Education from Dominican University and a B.A. in Elementary Education from Linfield College. Before joining Star Academy, Julia worked as a Resource Specialist (K-5) at Pleasant Valley Elementary School in Novato and as a Special Education Teacher at Anova Center for Education in San Rafael. She also taught as an intern for Special Education at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in San Francisco. Over her career, Julia has worked with a wide range of learners, including students on the Autism Spectrum.

Justin Hawkins

Physical Education

Justin holds a B.A. in Multicultural Studies from Sonoma State University. Justin joins Star Academy with over ten years of experience working with students as a teacher, counselor and coach. He worked as a Classroom Aid and P.E. Teacher at Anova Center for Education in San Rafael, a One to One Educator at Neil Cummins Elementary School in Larkspur as well as Camp Counselor/Coordinator at the Corte Madera Recreational Center. Justin has also coached baseball at Marin Academy High School for the past nine seasons.

Kevin O'Brien

High School Head Teacher

Kevin has been a Star Head teacher since 2011 and loving every moment of it. In 2010, he was selected by the Teach with Africa program to travel to Cape Town South Africa for a teaching fellowship. While in South Africa he taught English and Executive Functioning skills to students from the Langa Township. Kevin holds a bachelor degree in History from the University of Hawaii at Mano. He received his Educational Specialist credential and Masters in Education from Dominican University of California. Kevin enjoys cooking, playing music and collecting records during his free time. 

Kim Ravina

Elementary & Middle School Assistant Teacher

Kim was born and raised in San Francisco and Marin County. She earmed her BA in Drama with an emphasis in teaching from San Diego State University. She earned her Multi-Subject California Clear teaching credential from Dominican University and her CLAD certification from Alliant University. Her teaching experience spans 20 years in private and public elementary schools in Marin County. Prior to her teaching career, Kim was a professional dancer.  Her most memorable dancing experience was performing on a cruise ship that toured North America. Kim spends her free time with her husband and three teenagers. When time allows, she loves Zumba!

Lucy Thrupp

Middle School 1:1 Aide

Lucy is trained as a Registered Behavioral Technician and has considerable behavioral background supporting students in a variety of settings.  She earned her Bachelor’s degree from Evergreen State College in 2015 and has been working as an Assistant Teacher and Behavioral Technician since then. Last year,  Lucy became a familiar face at Star in her work assisting members of our Occupational Therapy team.

Marc Bainbridge

High School Teacher

Marc Bainbridge holds a Bachelor’s Degree from University of California at Berkeley where he majored in English. He received his Master’s Degree in Educational Administration from San Francisco State University. Marc holds a Multiple Subjects K-12 credential, an Education Specialist credential and credentials in Secondary English, Educational Administration and English Language Learner certification (CLAD). Marc has been a middle and high school teacher, a principal and an administrator in several communities in the Bay Area. He is the proud and doting father of two daughters in their twenties, and is an avid boater, fisherman, diver and skier.

Martin Miranda

Elementary Assistant Teacher

Martin comes to Star with four years of experience as an Assistant Teacher in a non-public school setting. In his capacity as an Assistant Teacher he was responsible for implementing specialized support services for special education students with learning, emotional and behavioral challenges. He enjoys leading physical activities with the students and utilizing positive behavior incentive strategies. He comes highly recommended for his work in supporting both the teacher and students in creating a positive, orderly and supportive learning environment.

Paul Baskin

High School Teacher

Paul has California teaching credentials in Life Science and Learning Handicapped, and is certified as a Resource Specialist. He holds a B.A. in Marine Botany from Clark University, a M.Ed. in Special Education from U. Mass., Boston, and a J.D. from USF.  He has over 30 years teaching experience as a Resource Specialist and Special Day teacher in both primary and secondary education. His interests include music, birding, and gluten-free baking. He plays the bansuri flute and has been learning tabla and Hindustani vocal music. Paul lives in San Rafael with his wife Laurie, who is a yoga teacher and Reiki master, and their two cats.

Sarah Bessing

High School Aide

Sarah holds a B.S. in Biology with a Cellular & Molecular concentration from Humboldt State University and an M.A. in Education with a concentration in Counseling and Student Personnel from San Jose State University. She also worked as a wildlife rescue veterinary technician, a biological researcher, a career counselor for students with learning differences, and has been volunteering in various organizations since she was 15. A student aide and transitions specialist, she enjoys working with parents and assisting students in learning to self-advocate and utilize their strengths. Sarah also enjoys doing scientific research, photography, and art.

Stephanie Kelsey

Middle School Assistant Teacher

Stephanie has completed five years at Lindamood-Bell® Learning Processes® supporting struggling students with Dyslexia, Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, cognitive impairment and other learning differences. She has taught reading, writing and math in both individual and group settings. Stephanie has utilized her degrees in Psychology and Communications by supporting her students in building independence with challenging emotional/social interactions. She comes from the world of banking and finance, but switched to Education in seek of a more fulfilling experience. She considers this choice one of the best she has ever made.

Steve Baker

High School Teacher / Garage Band

Steve joined Star Academy in the spring of 2015. He has been working in the field of education for over 25 years, first as a teacher and then as an administrator. Steve lives in Oakland, with his wife Kate and daughters Olivia and Eliza; his oldest daughter, Alice lives in San Francisco. Outside of Star Academy, Steve likes to mountain bike, hike and ski and spend time with his family, including his many pets.

Tiffany Sancimino

Middle School Head Teacher

Tiffany was born in Kansas and moved to the Bay Area at the age of 7. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Early Childhood Development. Immediately upon completing her undergraduate degree, she began and completed a Multiple Subject teaching credential program then stumbled into Special Education in 2010 as a Mental Health Counselor. It was then she decided Special Education was where she wanted to be. She holds an Education Specialist teaching credential and has extensive experience in behavior modification, tiered intervention and supports, academic intervention, and the IEP process. After teaching for nearly 9 years, she has gone back to school and is currently earning her Master's in Psychology and PPS credential. When not working, she loves spending time with her 1-year-old daughter and husband. Tiffany also enjoys spending time outside, reading, and being creative whenever she can!

Kris Stephens

Math Specialist

After teaching Language Arts in the middle school for the past several years, Kris has moved on to the math department and is taking additional Making Math Real training throughout the 2019-20 school year. He also continues to be a multi-sensory language arts specialist, which he has done at Star since 2005. Prior to joining Star, Kris worked at Lindamood-Bell® Learning Processes. He also taught ESL for 14 years, including six years in Japan. Kris coaches the Star volleyball team along with John McLaughlin.

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