Admin/Faculty Additions and Changes for 2019-2020 School Year (Updated August 16, 2019)
Posted 08/19/2019 09:37AM


Liza Bearman—Director of the Social Good and Community Leadership Institute
Liza has spent more than 25 years co-creating learning environments that address the unique lives and interests of students through real-world, community-rooted, project-based, and personalized teaching and learning. She earned her in BA English and Political Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and MA, EdM, and EdD degrees all from Teachers College, Columbia University.  


Melanie Benefiel—Director of Auxiliary Programs and Assistant Director of Elementary School
Melanie Benefiel will be shifting from lead classroom teacher to director of auxiliary programs and assistant director of elementary. Melanie’s primary responsibilities will be visioning, leading, and supervising all things auxiliary, K-8. Melanie brings a deep understanding of child development and innovative curriculum strategy to her new role. 



Maddie Bradshaw—Instructional Technology Coach, Elementary School
Maddie will join Wildwood as instructional technology coach at elementary. Maddie’s background includes broad work as a researcher and education fellow at a range of organizations including Sesame Workshop, Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, and Stanford, where she worked in the Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis and at Stanford Graduate School of Education. Completing her Ed.M in Technology, Innovation, and Education at Harvard this spring, Maddie earned her BA at Stanford in Science, Technology, and Society, with a minor in Spanish.

Kristina Brennan—Administrative Assistant to Business Office
Having worked in HR and as an administrative assistant, most recently as office manager and executive assistant at Villasenor & Associates here in Los Angeles, Kristina earned her BA in English at UMass Boston where she also completed a certificate in human resources management.


Leslie Clark—Admission Associate and Outreach Coordinator
Leslie will be joining our enrollment management team as admission associate. She completed her MA in higher education and student affairs at the University of San Francisco and earned her BS from Northwestern University in Radio/TV/Film with a minor in Latina/o Studies. Prior to graduate school, Leslie worked as the college program coordinator at the Sadie Nash Leadership Project in New York.



Jennifer Collins—Registrar
Jennifer has already joined us in her new role as registrar. She previously held registrar positions at two universities. She earned her BS in sports administration at the University of Louisville, where she also earned her MA in higher education. From there she went on to earn her Doctor of Education in higher education at Alliant International University.


Alissa Dixon—Assistant Director of Admission
Alissa is shifting roles to serve as assistant director of admission and enrollment management. Alissa joined Wildwood in 2016 as the admission associate after 13 years in the admissions office at FIDM.


Karen Dye—Interim Director of Equity and Inclusion
Karen comes to Wildwood after serving as the director of intercultural life at St. Paul Academy for 14 years. Prior to her time at St. Paul Academy, Karen was director of college counseling and diversity coordinator at Roeper School, a PK-12 school for gifted students, from 1998-2005. Before Roeper, Karen spent nine years as associate director of admission and coordinator of multicultural admission at Macalester College. Karen’s considerable experience—three decades working in independent schools and on the college level—will serve her well as she settles in at Wildwood this summer. Having earned a BA in English with a writing emphasis at Rockford College, Karen went on to earn her MA in Educational Administration from Central Michigan University. 

Hunter Hackett—Director of Marketing and Communications
Having earned his BA in journalism and international studies at the University of Richmond, Hunter has worked in television at CNN, and as a strategic communications consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton in Washington DC and most recently at LCWA in Chicago. Hunter’s experience is broad in scope, and includes writing, PR, advertising, social media, and public affairs for both for-profit and government clients.


David Jones—Assistant Director of College Counseling
David Jones will join us as assistant director of college counseling. David, who earned his BA in anthropology/sociology at Knox College, went on to serve there as admission counselor and assistant men’s basketball coach. He has spent the last three years at USC, serving as assistant director of admission.

  Matt Lucas—Director of the Institute for Incubation and Entrepreneurship
Matt co-founded a start-up to help youth with chronic illnesses learn to manage their health using social apps and games and has also served as a researcher and designer for both for-profits and universities. Matt is a doctoral candidate at New York University in educational communication and technology. He also holds a MEd in elementary education from Chaminade University of Honolulu and a BA in the history of art and architecture from Brown University.
  Ronnie Malabanan—K-12 Help Desk Technician
Ronnie recently joined Wildwood as the technology help desk technician. Having studied Multimedia Design and Development at DeVry University, Ronnie has held a range of technology positions since. He’s worked as part of the Geek Squad team at Best Buy and served first as an Asset Management Technician HP at DreamWorks in Glendale, moving later to serve as Assistant Editor (Animatic) at DreamWorks in Burbank.


Christina McCrary—Assistant to the Directors of Middle and Upper School
Christina is currently serving as assistant to the directors of middle and upper school. She holds a business degree from Long Beach City College. Christina has extensive administrative experience supporting executives.


Kofi Obeng—Director of Student Life
Kofi will join Wildwood this summer as the director of student life. Having taught and done diversity work at the Fenn School, a boys’ school, Kofi then headed to Catlin Gabel in Portland, Oregon, where he’s served as coordinator of multicultural programming and youth partnerships since 2016. Kofi earned his BA in Psychology from Guilford College, where he was a multicultural leadership scholar.


Jolie Whitesell—50th Anniversary Coordinator
Jolie will serve as our 50th anniversary coordinator, pulling together volunteers from all constituencies to organize and lead programming during the 2020-2021 academic year, when we’ll mark the 50th anniversary of the school and the 20th anniversary of the expansion to K-12. Jolie, parent of Ben '11 and Juliette '19, will begin her work this summer, launching the planning for the following academic year.







Carrie Berman—Elementary Associate Teacher, Pelican Pod
Carrie joins Wildwood after having taught at Circle of Children in Santa Monica. She earned her undergraduate degree from Emerson College. She also earned a masters degree from Bank Street College of Education in New York, where she has experience teaching at a variety of schools.


Natalie Callard—Performing Arts Teacher, Elementary
Natalie has taught 2nd grade at Wildwood since 2014, and will now bring her vast experience and talent with dance, music, and drama to all our elementary students in her specialist position, joining Seth in performing arts. She ran our wildly successful elementary summer theater program for two years and our K-5 dance festival since 2016. 


Sofia Carolan—Elementary Lead Teacher, Sea Otter Pod
Sofia, who is currently teaching 2nd grade at the American School in Milan, will be joining us as the lead teacher in the Sea Otter Pod. As Katie Rios shared with parents, “She has experience teaching kindergarten-3rd grade, positioning her beautifully for her role as a lead Pod teacher.” Having earned a BA from Sacred Heart University, Sofia went on to earn an MA in early childhood education from Teachers College at Columbia.



David Christiansen—Middle School Science Teacher
David has taught middle school science and coached soccer in a variety of independent schools, both on the east and west coasts. Since 2013, David has taught honors biology, AP biology, anatomy, and physiology, neuropsychology, and 7th and 8th grade science at The Agnes Irwin School, a girls’ school on Philadelphia’s Main Line in Rosemont. He’s also served as 7th-11th grade advisor at Agnes Irwin. David has a BA in Biological Foundations of Behavior from Franklin and Marshall and earned his MA in Education and Psychology from Pepperdine. 

  Kate Christiansen—Elementary Associate Teacher, Sea Otter Pod
Kate, who’s most recently been working as part-time math consultant in the Philadelphia area, previously taught 4th and 5th grades and led service learning programming at The Philadelphia School. Prior to her time in Philadelphia, Kate taught 6th and 7th grades at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School and 3rd grade at Brentwood School, here in LA. Having earned her BA in Government with a Minor in Public Policy at Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania, Kate went on to gain her MA, with an emphasis in Psychology, at Pepperdine University.


George Duryea—Middle School Science Teacher, 7th Grade
George holds a BS in neuroscience from Trinity College and has taught both middle and upper school science over the course of his four years at Milton Academy outside Boston. Prior to his time at Milton, he was a middle school science teaching apprentice at The Park School in Brookline, MA.


Anna Aguilar Gardner—Middle School Math Teacher 
Anna earned both undergraduate and graduate degrees in biology at the University of Texas at San Antonio before going on to earn her M.Ed. in science education, with a special education minor, at Texas State University. An experienced teacher, Anna most recently served as dean of math and science, grades 5-8, at Resolute Academy here in Los Angeles.


Sabrina Goldberg—Middle School Math Teacher
Sabrina will be joining our middle school math colleagues after a year in Finland as a Fulbright Fellow studying the Finnish education system. A graduate of Northfield Mount Herman School, Sabrina earned her BA in Elementary Education as a Herbert Newman Scholar with Honors in Africana Studies at Brooklyn College. She went on to earn an MA in curriculum and teaching in gifted education and then a Doctor of Education in curriculum and teaching at Teachers College, Columbia University. Sabrina also taught math and social studies at Hunter College Elementary School.


Patter Hellstrom—Middle and Upper School Visual Arts Teacher
Patter will join our art department, having taught most recently at Mirman School, as a K-8 art specialist. Her experience is extensive, but immediately prior to Mirman, Patter served as 9-12 artist-in-residence and art department chair at Convent & Stuart Hall School in San Francisco from 2006-2017. A practicing artist, Patter earned her BFA in painting from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.


Tiana Kadkhoda—Elementary Associate Teacher, Seal Pod
Tiana holds a BS in international agricultural development, with a minor in Spanish from UC Davis. She studied abroad in Ecuador and at Universidad de Granada in Spain. Tiana has worked with children in a variety of settings, including another independent school.


Erin Latimer—Middle School Humanities Teacher
Erin will be shifting from her current work as assistant registrar, returning to the classroom. Erin has recently earned her MA in English at Middlebury’s Bread Loaf School of English. Immediately prior to joining us at Wildwood, Erin, who earned her BA in English at Mills College, served as college counselor, dorm head, humanities teacher, and director of the arts enterprise library at Idyllwild Arts Academy.  


Paula Marra—Elementary Lead Teacher, 3rd Grade
Paula earned her undergraduate degree from Colegio Nossa Senhora de Sion in San Paulo, Brazil. She also trained in the Montessori method in London and earned an advanced diploma from Queen’s University in Belfast, focusing on classroom management, management of student behavior, and behavior analysis, particularly with respect to dyslexia, autism, and ADHD. Paula, who comes to us after 11 years at the United Nations International School in New York, has been an educational consultant, speaker, and teacher with ties to Brazil, China, and England.


Khyrysta Renteria—Elementary School Associate Teacher, 3rd Grade
Khyrysta comes to Wildwood from her work as coordinator of the student volunteer program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. She previously taught at Leo Politi Elementary School. Khyrysta holds a BA from University of California, San Diego and an MA in Education from Mount Saint Mary’s University. 


Eric Strom—Upper School Math Teacher
Eric, who first earned a BA in psychology from the University of Southern Colorado, went on to earn a BS in pure mathematics at Excelsior College. After a decade teaching math at Polytechnic School in Pasadena, Eric served as math teacher and dean of academics at American University Prep. 

Simone Tetrault—Elementary Associate Teacher, 4th Grade
Simone describes herself as a teaching artist, having worked with youth of all ages in visual and performing arts. She earned her BFA in Drama from New York University. She also attended Carnegie Hall's Music Educators Workshop.