Faculty and Staff
Orinda Academy's experienced faculty and staff are dedicated to helping OA students thrive inside and outside of the classroom. With a 7:1 student-teacher ratio, OA teachers are able to form deep connections with all of their students. The average class has fewer than 12 students, allowing teachers to take a personal approach to each student’s learning.
Head of School,
Sue joined Orinda Academy as Head of School in June of 2018. Sue received her BA from Brown University, master’s degrees from the University of Pennsylvania (M.S.Ed.) and Smith College School for Social Work (MSW), and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute.
Teachers at OA stand by you. They don't just throw you out there, they actually give you the help you need."
Olivia Tompkins, Class of 2017
Director of Admissions
Vieneese holds a BA in sociology from UC Davis.
Faculty Instructional Coach & Learning Specialist
Danielle supports teaching and learning and teaches a 9th-grade study skills class. She crafts learning plans and provides support to students and teachers on neurodiversity. Danielle works one-on-one with students to support their reading, writing, math, and executive functioning skills.
Director of Academics
Laura is in her seventh year at OA and works with students, families, and faculty to support teaching and learning. Laura is responsible for oversight of the academic program at OA and provides direct student support in coordination with the college counselor and learning specialist. Laura developed and teaches the Senior Seminar course.
Dean of Students
Wendy holds a BA in English and an MA in Teaching from Brown University. She has experience working with students as Dean, college counselor, and classroom teacher and is a nationally ranked pinball player.
Coyote Coast Counselor
Andrew has a BA in Political Science from UC Berkeley and an MA in Counseling Psychology from Prescott College. Andrew draws upon his 10+ years of experience working with young people to help young people manage stress, develop healthy lifestyles, and create an environment in which the client feels empowered to achieve his or her goals.
Student Success Coordinator & Yearbook
Jasmine has worked in education as a paraprofessional and is an Americorps alumna. As part of Americorps, Jasmine supported youth with disabilities and provided growth-conducive enrichment activities. She is currently studying Geo-Sciences and loves to spend time with her pet reptiles.
Cyndy Gifford Palermo
Cyndy holds a BA in English from San Diego State University. She has a teacher credential from St. Mary’s and a College and Career Counseling Certification from UC Riverside. Cyndy taught English at OA from 2009–2015 and is happy to be back as the college counselor.
Susan earned her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Cal State Hayward and has extensive experience in the nonprofit business world. Susan has expertise in accounting, budgeting, human resources, and tax preparation.
Coyote Coast Counselor
Chloe is a Virginia native who has fallen in love with the Bay Area for its natural beauty and cultural richness. Chloe is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who received her degree from Smith College. She works in a relational way, incorporating mindfulness, social justice, and the arts into her therapeutic work.
Director of Maintenance
Juvenal has been Director of Maintenance since 2016. He brings a wide array of skills to his position and is the orchestrator behind many of our most innovative facilities solutions. OA is a family affair for Juvenal - his wife helps keep our school clean and pristine.
Sarah has a BA in mathematics from UC Berkeley, a minor in education, and a special education teaching credential. She has been teaching and tutoring since 2011 in both traditional classroom and 1:1 settings. Sarah is passionate about finding creative solutions to help students with learning differences.
Eric has a degree in physics from UC Berkeley, and has taught and tutored high school students in math and science, specializing in geometry, algebra, calculus, chemistry and physics. He has a deep interest in math and science and enjoys sharing his love for both subjects with his students.
Social Studies, Physical Education
Chris holds a master’s degree in education, a clear credential in social science, and a BS in business administration. He incorporates a variety of teaching strategies in his lesson plans to meet the wide range of his students’ needs.
Vicky has a BA in education with an emphasis on science and math from Long Island University/Southampton College. She brings over fifteen years of teaching experience and has organized educational adventure trips to the Galapagos, Costa Rica, and Baja. Vicky has also coached girls softball and basketball.
Peter’s career in independent schools includes serving as Director of Studies for King’s College in Florida and House Manager for the Meritas Family of Schools in Florida and Manhattan. After college, Peter spent his time teaching literature as well as performing music with his band, Inside Switch.
Dena joined OA after teaching Spanish coursework at Head-Royce School for six years. Previously, she taught Spanish at UC Berkeley for ten years, where she completed a master’s degree and doctoral coursework in Spanish. Her language curriculum engages students through multimodalities that gamify learning, significantly lowering stress around learning a language.
American Sign Language
Erin is from Santa Cruz, California, and graduated from CSU Northridge with a bachelor’s degree in child development, but didn’t find her professional passion until she started teaching and tutoring American Sign Language. Erin has been teaching all levels of American Sign Language for over 12 years.
Jeff holds a bachelor’s degree in history and liberal studies, and a master’s degree in history from SF State University. Jeff’s classes are marked by a broadly humanistic approach to the ideas, events, peoples, and extraordinary individuals that have shaped the world in which we live.
Katherine holds a master’s degree in English from Texas A&M University, a bachelor’s degree in French and English from Stephen F. Austin State University, and a lifetime secondary teaching credential from Texas. She strives to encourage originality and clarity of communication.
Molly has a master’s degree in ethnomusicology from UC Berkeley. She received a bachelor’s degree in music composition and Asian studies from Amherst college. Prior to joining OA, Molly taught undergraduate level music theory courses at UC Berkeley.
Physics, Chemistry, Statistics
Megan has BS degrees in chemistry and math from University of Oregon, and an MS in physical chemistry from UC Berkeley. She likes connecting math concepts with real-world experiences and loves being able to use OA’s small class size to respond to the needs of each student.
Steven is an illustrator specializing in storyboarding, graphic design, and comic book creation. He has published his own works as well as worked in advertising and film, providing him with the experience of practicing art from commercial and personal perspectives. He has also taught traditional art in studios and classrooms.