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, Psychology
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
Assistant Head of School, Dean of Faculty
Mollie teaches a mindfulness class to freshmen each year, in addition to being Assistant Head of School, Dean of Faculty. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, with an emphasis in adolescent psych, and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership.
Director of Academics & Communications
Laura has a bachelor’s degree in Romance Languages, a Missouri teaching credential in French and Spanish, and a master’s degree in English. She has taught students from middle school through adult in ESL, English, French, Spanish, and history.
Director of Admissions, Digital Photography
Janet earned a BS in Microbiology and spent the early portion of her career working in bench science and medical research projects at the Texas Medical Center. She returned to school and received a MS in International Education with an emphasis on Peace Studies.
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.
Danielle is on campus half-time and teaches a 9th-grade study skills class. She crafts and implements learning plans and provides support to students and teachers around issues of neurodiversity. Danielle works one-on-one with students who have struggled with reading, writing, math, and executive functioning skills.
Cyndy Gifford Palermo
Cyndy holds a BA in English from San Diego State University where he daughter is currently a junior. Go Aztecs! She has a teacher credential from St. Mary’s and a College and Career Counseling Certification from UC Riverside. Cyndy was an English teacher at OA from 2009 – 2015 and is very 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.
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 also works to keep our school clean and pristine each night.
Sarah has a BA in Mathematics from UC Berkeley and a minor in Education. She holds a Special Education Teaching Credential, obtained through the San Francisco Unified School District’s Pathways to Teaching program. Sarah 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. She loves using Lego robotics and Minecraft in the classroom.
Eric was born in Berkeley, California and has a degree in physics from the University of California, Berkeley. Eric has taught and tutored high school students in math and science, specializing in geometry, algebra, calculus, chemistry and physics. Eric has a deep interest in math and science and enjoys sharing his love for both subjects with his students. In his free time, Eric enjoys logic puzzles and books about the future.
Social Studies, Physical Education
Chris Booth holds a master’s degree in Education, a clear credential in Social Science, and a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration. Chris incorporates a variety of teaching strategies in his lesson plans to accommodate a variety of learning styles to meet his students’ needs.
Student Success Coordinator
Jasmine has worked in education as a paraprofessional for going on three years. She is an Americorps alumni who has given her life to the service of youth. As part of Americorps, Jasmine worked hard to support youth with disabilities and provide enrichment activities that are growth conducive. She is currently studying Geo-Sciences and loves to spend time with her pet reptiles.
Vicky has a BA in Education with an emphasis on science and math from Long Island University/Southampton College. Vicky has been teaching math and science in Montana and Santa Monica and has over fifteen years of teaching experience. She has organized educational adventure trips to the Galapagos, Costa Rica, and Baja. Vicky 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, he spent his time teaching literature as well as performing music with his band, Inside Switch.
Dena joined the faculty at OA in the fall of 2019 after teaching Spanish coursework at Head-Royce School for six years. Previously, she taught in the Spanish Department at UC Berkeley for 10 years where she completed a master’s degree and doctoral coursework in Spanish. Her language curriculum training focuses on engaging students through multimodalities that gamify learning, significantly lowering stress around learning a language.
American Sign Language
Erin is from Santa Cruz, CA and graduated from CSU Northridge with a bachelor’s degree in Child Development, but didn’t find her professional passion until she started teaching/tutoring American Sign Language. Erin has been teaching all levels of American Sign Language over 12 years.
Jeff holds a bachelor’s degree in History and Liberal Studies and a master’s degree in History from San Francisco 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 the State of Texas. She strives to encourage originality and clarity of communication.
Molly Smart 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. She taught undergraduate level music theory courses at Cal.
Megan has a BS in Chemistry and a BS in Math from the 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 tailor to individual student’s needs.
Steven is an illustrator specializing in storyboarding, graphic design, and comic book creation. His experience includes working in Los Angeles as an artist for ad agencies and film directors, in addition to publishing his own works which gave him a solid understanding of practicing art from a commercial and personal perspective. Steven also has additional experience teaching traditional art in studios and classrooms. He is excited to join Orinda Academy to share his passions with students so they may develop into the next generation of ambitious visionaries.