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 A.B. 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.
Assistant Head of School
Mollie leads Mindfulness Mondays and teaches a comprehensive and progressive course in health, in addition to being Assistant Head of School for Student Affairs. 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 Admissions, Digital Photography
Janet earned a B.S. 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 M.S. in International Education with an emphasis on Peace Studies.
Dean of Students, Health
Sara is beginning her career in education after spending over ten years working for mental health nonprofit organizations. She holds B.A. and M.A. degrees in Sociology, and is currently completing an Ed.D in Organizational Leadership. Sara was raised on the Big Island of Hawaii, where she learned the value of building strong communities through compassion and aloha.
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.
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.
Office Manager, Yearbook, Development Associate
Macy received a B.A. in Human Development with a concentration in Adolescence. She feels called to work with teenagers and young adults because she recognizes how special this time is and how great of an impact we can make on the world of the future through nurturing the youth of the present.
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.
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.
Coyote Coast Counselor
Aaron has worked with teens and families as a field counselor. He also worked with a holistic detox center helping adolescents and adults wean off prescription medication and illegal drugs. Aaron holds a master’s degree in counseling psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies.
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 Egnlish teacher at OA from 2009 – 2015 and is very happy to be back as the college counselor.
Director of Maintenance
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.
Vicky first traveled with OA students to Costa Rica in 2003, working with leatherback sea turtles, and participated in that trip for three years. She took the 2006 group of students to the Galapagos Islands, where the main highlight for Vicky was walking in the footsteps of Charles Darwin.
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 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 B.S. in Chemistry and a B.S. in Math from the University of Oregon, and an M.S. 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.
Tess-Marie White studied fine art at the Laguna College of Art & Design and the Golden Gate Atelier in Oakland, CA, and continues her studies in animation art at Berkeley City College and the Animation Collaborative. As an instructor, she brings a combination of classical art techniques and creative exploration to the classroom.
"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
Join us and love school, love learning, and love being you.
Orinda Academy is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Federal Tax ID 94-2692929
Our bright and creative students thrive in our nurturing, small class environment. Through a combination of academic support, executive functioning skill development, and social/emotional balance, every student reaches their full potential.
Orinda Academy does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national or ethnic origin, gender identification, sexual identification, or family composition in the administration of its policies, procedures, or admissions process.