Erin Spiewak began as a volunteer and mentor at the Monarch School in 2003 and was awarded Monarch’s Volunteer of the Year award in 2004. Ms. Spiewak returned in January of 2012 to lead the nonprofit’s strategic development and community partnerships.
Previously, Ms. Spiewak served as the Executive Director of the Gary and Mary West Foundation. In this role, she served as the chair of the San Diego Workforce Funders Collaborative, a public/private coalition of philanthropic foundations, employers and public entities. Ms. Spiewak was also a founding board member and Treasurer of Downtown Charter High, a new public high school that will be located on the sixth and seventh floors of the New San Diego Central Library. She currently serves on the United Way Education Advisory Committee and as chair of the Education Leadership Team of Women Give, San Diego. Ms. Spiewak is a fellow of the Aspen Institute’s Sector Skills Academy. The mission of the Aspen Institute is to foster values-based leadership and to provide a neutral and balanced venue for discussing and acting on critical issues.
Prior to joining the Gary and Mary West Foundation in 2008, Ms. Spiewak was with the WebMD Health Foundation and the Rose Foundation. Ms. Spiewak received a B.A. in sociology from San Diego State University and her master’s degree in business administration from Webster University.
Joel Garcia, Principal
As a health educator for a brain and spinal cord injury prevention program for at-risk youth, Joel Garcia was often asked questions about mentoring and how he got into the medical field. These inquiries about furthering education and career planning led him to return to school to pursue a career in teaching. Garcia began his career in education as a Teaching Assistant in 2002. He taught at Juvenile Hall and Toussaint Academy of Arts and Sciences prior to becoming Vice Principal. Garcia is currently enrolled in the Joint Doctoral Program with University of California, San Diego, and Cal State University, San Marcos. He plans to earn his Doctorate in Educational Leadership in May of 2013. Garcia and his wife Cathy have three young children, Ella, Ryan, and Olivia.
Vicki Zands, Vice Principal
Richard Haas, Senior Director of Operations
Jennifer Mattoon, Controller
Luis Areyan, Math Specialist
Luis Areyan began working at Monarch School as a Math Specialist in December of 2008. Before coming to Monarch, he worked for two years at The Charter Schools of San Diego Horton Plaza as a math tutor. He graduated from California State University Stanislaus in June 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies. He completed his teaching BLAD Credential Program in 2010 at San Diego State University. Luis loves his job and looks forward to working with the dynamic junior high and high school students every day. On his spare time Luis enjoys playing soccer, watching football (49ers), and going to the beach. He especially enjoys visiting his family back home in Central Valley.
Tara Barrows, 2nd & 3rd Grade Teacher
Tara Barrows grew up just south of Boston and graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst where she studied Communications. She worked in fundraising for two years before going back to school to receive her Masters degree in Elementary Education. While teaching fourth grade in Massachusetts, she had the opportunity to travel to northern Uganda and spend time with children who had been forced to flee their homes because of a rebel war. The trip led to a job offer in San Diego for Tara’s husband, and for her it lead to a deep desire to educate and advocate for children in need. She moved to San Diego in 2008 and began working at the Monarch School as the Volunteer and Event Coordinator before joining the teaching staff. Her favorite things include the beach, dancing, laughing and Yogurtland.
Jeffra Becknell, High School Language Arts & Social Science Teacher
Jeffra Becknell practiced law in Washington D.C. for three years before discovering her passion for teaching. Jeffra graduated with a B.A. in history from Colby College, and a JD from Columbia University school of Law before earning her Master’s in education from the University of California Los Angeles. Jeffra joined the Juvenile Court and community schools in 1997 helping open San Pasqual Academy, a residential school for foster youth. Jeffra worked at San Pasqual academy from 2000-2011 before making the decision to come to Monarch. Jeffra believes that education is the one thing that can truly transform a person’s life and is the most effective way to achieve equality and social justice in the U.S. Jeffra has a wife and 2 daughters and is an avid ice hockey player.
Stacy Bermingham, Reading Specialist
Stacy Bermingham was born in Paradise Valley, AZ and grew up locally in San Diego. She attended Torrey Pines High School and spent one year in Melbourne, Australia as a foreign exchange student. She graduated from the University of California Davis and planned on following in her family profession of law but decided to try teaching and immediately fell in love. Stacy went to California State University San Marcos for her teaching credential, San Diego State University (SDSU) for her MA and Reading Specialist Credential, and plans to return to SDSU in August to begin her Administrative Credential. Stacy lives in San Diego with her husband and son Jamie. Stacy has said that helping children discover the power of literacy and the joy it brings to one’s life is her biggest joy. She enjoys running, hot yoga, cycling, native plant landscaping and gardening, non-stop reading, traveling to Paris and visiting museums, and spending time at her family cabin in Northern Maine.
Karen Daley, High school Math and Science Teacher
Karen Daley began her work with JCCS in 2008 teaching in the North region. She is the newest member to join the Monarch team teaching math and science at the high school level. Karen studied at Indiana State University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science; she went on to earn her credential from California State University, San Marcos. Karen decided to pursue a career in teaching because she believes that education is the key that unlocks the door to ones future. One of Karen’s favorite quotes is from Henry David Thoreau, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” For Karen, helping students find that direction has been the most rewarding part of teaching. Karen is humbled by the generosity of so many who contribute to the students and families of Monarch. She is excited to be a part of an organization whose resolve is ensuring the success of every student. Karen lives in North County with her husband. She has one daughter who attends University of California, Santa Barbara. Some of her interests include photography and scrapbooking.
Kristin Dragomire, Resource Specialist
Kristin Dragomire is in her thirteenth year of teaching for Juvenile Court and Community Schools. Her teaching career started at Sarah Anthony School in Juvenile Hall, eventually moving to the elementary school program at the Polinsky Children’s Center. She has held her current position as Resource Specialist at Monarch since July of 2005. Kristin loves her position at Monarch, which allows her to work with students in all grade levels. She feels her job’s greatest reward is watching her students make amazing academic progress while a part of the Monarch program. During her time at Monarch, Kristin has been ASB Advisor and has led the CAHSEE prep program for high school students. Kristin is a San Diego native and graduate of California State University, San Marcos and Point Loma Nazarene University. She is a proud cancer survivor and enjoys running and spending time with her husband and two dogs.
Dana Harwood, 7th & 8th Grade Teacher
Dana Harwood has been teaching middle school at Monarch since 2005 and has been a contracted teacher with the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) since 1997. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Health Science from San Diego State University and her teaching credential and Masters of Arts degree in Teaching from National University. Ms. Harwood is bilingual in Spanish, having served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Honduras from 1988-1990. Ms. Harwood is immensely fulfilled with her work at Monarch. She believes that Monarch School provides students with a positive atmosphere and unique opportunities to learn, grow, and find their strengths. Ms. Harwood is a San Diego native and loves the outdoors. She enjoys biking, running and spending time at the beach. She loves to travel (everywhere, and as often as possible)! Ms. Harwood lives in the Mission Hills neighborhood of San Diego with her partner Alicia and their two dogs.
Stephen Keiley, 4th & 5th Grade Teacher
Stephen Keiley, the 2011 San Diego County Teacher of the Year, didn’t always know he was destined to become an educator. Stephen worked for the airline industry for 20 years, taking him to four continents and over 50 countries. Although he thoroughly enjoyed his travels Stephen was determined to return to school to pursue teaching. He graduated from National University with honors and now serves as Monarch’s 4-5th grade teacher. Stephen was born and raised in New York City and is one of six children, three of whom are in the teaching profession. Stephen had the opportunity to adopt a boy at the age of 6. He and his amazing son, now 15, live in San Diego.
Jesus Nunez, Cluster Substitute
Jesus “Chuy” Nunez began working at Monarch in October of 2004 after earning a BA in History and Political Science from the University of California Los Angeles. After a brief stint teaching history at Rancho Community Christian School in Temecula, Chuy returned to Monarch in July of 2007 as a cluster substitute. Chuy originally intended to enroll in law school, however, working at Monarch with such resilient students transformed his life goals, and teaching became a passion. Currently, Chuy is enrolled in the USC MAT program finishing his Teaching Credential and earning his Master’s in Urban Education with a social science concentration. Chuy is community and family-oriented and serves as an ordained minister and youth pastor at his local church. He loves running, traveling with his wife, and once ate 21 tacos in a taco eating contest only to finish in second place.
Andrew Schlegal, Cluster Substitute
Andrew began substitute teaching for the Juvenile Court and Community Schools in 2005 while completing a Masters of Arts in Theological Studies at Bethel Seminary. The students’ resiliency and the inspiring staff and administration at Monarch encouraged Andrew to pursue a degree in educational counseling. In 2010 he was hired by the Monarch Project as a cluster substitute. While fulfilling a long-term assignment with the 9th grade class, Andrew became so excited about teaching that he changed graduate programs to pursue a multiple subject teaching credential. He enjoys writing and performing music, teaching piano lessons, and taking walks with his lovely wife, Jayna.
Marisol Alvarado, Parent and Family Liaison
Marisol Alvarado has been the Parent and Family Liaison at Monarch since 2007. Marisol enjoys working with parents and connecting them with a positive school experience. She believes in a strength based perspective and works with families to build on skills they already posses to ensure their children find success in school. Marisol provides workshops, experiences and resources to encourage parents to be advocates for their children and has helped to develop the first Parent Advisory Council in Juvenile Court and Community Schools. She graduated from UC Santa Barbara and then attended San Diego State University to earn a Masters Degree in Counseling. After living in New York City for many years, she was delighted to return to her native San Diego and work in the dynamic and inspiring setting that is the Monarch School.
Rachelle Archer, Expressive Arts Therapist
Rachelle Archer has been working passionately with at-risk youth & their families since 1995. She has a BA in Social Work and an MA in Expressive Arts Therapy, Education & Consulting. Her involvement with the Monarch School began in 1998–when the school was housed in a one-room storefront at 13th & Market-and she became the first employee of the non-profit in 2000. In her early years at Monarch she established the after school program and a variety of community partnerships that continue to enrich students’ lives during the school day and after, including longstanding signature projects such as The Steel Monarchs, the school’s steel drum band. Since 2003 she has been the school’s expressive arts therapist, combining the power of the arts with therapy to serve the neediest of Monarch’s students. Rachelle lives and paints in North Park with her boy Kai and her pup Kona.
Lety Castellanos, Librarian
Lety Castellanos has enjoyed sharing her passion for reading with students of all ages for the past seven years. She began working at Monarch School in 2009 after having served as a Library Media Specialist for five years at National School District in her hometown of National City. Lety enjoys meeting the challenge of finding just the right book for any student who is considered a “non-reader.” Her saying is, “EVERYONE is a reader, you just haven’t found the right book or subject YET!” She finds creative ways of drawing kids into the library and the world of books by creating exciting events such as Poetry Cafe, where kids can express themselves through the spoken word, and Wonka Week, a candy filled event that even grown-ups want to be a part of! Finding new challenges at work and her personal life is a thrill for her. She is a life-long swimmer, enjoys competing in triathlons and has additional interests in marketing and advertising.
Angela Curran, Volunteer Manager
Angela Curran has been working in the non-profit sector since 1997. She has worked with at-risk youth and their families in varying capacities here in San Diego for the last 12 years. She has her BA in Sociology and Human Development and Family Life from the University of Kansas. Angela Came to Monarch in July and is enjoying meeting all the wonderful people that make up the Monarch family. She loves spending time with her husband, son Macallister, and their two dogs.
Stacy Marshall, Development and Grants Manager
Stacy Marshall grew up in the Seattle area and earned her BA in Humanities at Cal Poly Pomona. She worked in corporate communications and graphic design, then earned a Masters in Psychology at Chapman University. She joined New Alternatives as a Case Manager working with severely emotionally disturbed teens. Wishing to work in communications and help children in need, she joined Monarch School Project in 2006 as the Development Associate. In 2011 she became the Development Manager and focuses on grant writing and fundraising. She’s grateful for the opportunity to work with an organization that gives the city’s poorest children a chance for a better life through education. She enjoys travel, reading, movies, food, hosting dinner parties, and relaxing at home with her husband, son and two cats.
Ebber Nava, Guidance Counselor
Ebber Nava has worked in education in varying capacities over the last 7 years. Ebber received his BA in psychology and a minor in sociology at Cal State San Marcos. While working as a counselor, Ebber focused his efforts on dropout prevention, motivation and maintenance, and student services. Ebber was extremely excited when offered the opportunity to work at Monarch with its wide range of ages, diversity and adversities that come with the population Monarch serves. In his time here Ebber has focused his efforts on creating a safe learning environment where students, staff, and parents feel welcomed and supported. Ebber feels very fortunate to be part of a community supported organization like Monarch school. He says that being able to see the smiling faces of the students after they achieve academic success is one of the most rewarding aspects of his job. He currently lives in San Diego with his wife and children.
Jessica Nunez, Guidance Counselor
After graduating from the University of California San Diego in 2005 with a BA in psychology, Jessica Nunez worked for a drop-out prevention program at Sweetwater High School in National City California. Working one-on-one with high risk adolescents in a historically under-achieving, low-income community was what ignited her passion to become a School Counselor. In 2007 Jessica enrolled at National University and earned her MA and PPS credential in October of 2009. Jessica says she always knew she was destined to follow in the footsteps of her family members who work in education. Her journey to the perfect career path led her through various positions within education including working as an office assistant, a computer lab manager, a teacher, and an after school tutor. After working as Monarch’s School Counselor for the past year, she says she is 100% confident that she wouldn’t want to spend her work day any other way than providing support and guidance to the students she serves. Jessica is an active member of her church and enjoys traveling with her husband.