Moraga Staff

Alexis
Afternoon Teacher

Alexis has lived in the Bay Area for about five years, after moving here from Utah. She is currently pursuing degrees in Early Childhood Education and Legal Studies. Her passion for teaching started at Temple Sinai Preschool in Oakland, where she was able to gain experience planning curriculum and working directly with the community. Alexis is extremely excited to have an opportunity to learn more about Moraga while gaining valuable experiences with students and faculty. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, attending concerts, and traveling.

Alyssa
Teacher

Alyssa is a Bay Area native who graduated from San Francisco State University with a degree in Psychology. After college she practiced behavioral therapy with children for 5 years working at GLMS Kensington. She then helped open the GLMS Lafayette campus in 2017 and has been a teacher with GLMS since then. Alyssa has completed her Assistant Montessori Teacher coursework from Montessori Teacher Education Center which is affiliated with the American Montessori Society (AMS) and accredited by the Montessori Council for Teacher Education (MACTE). Alyssa has two young children and lives in Moraga. Her favorite areas of teaching children are social and emotional skills while watching the children grow and learn. In her free time she enjoys traveling to different countries and learning about new cultures. Alyssa loves to cook and spend time with her family.

Ceci
Jellyfish Teacher

Ceci was born in Mexico and her first language is Spanish. She has been part of the Growing Light family for over 15 years and has worked at several of our GLMS campuses. Ceci has 4 children and loves to cook, create art and spend time with her family. In addition to Ceci’s early childhood education courses, she has completed her Assistant Montessori Teacher coursework from Montessori Teacher Education Center which is affiliated with the American Montessori Society (AMS) and accredited by the Montessori Council for Teacher Education (MACTE).

Claudia
Orca Teacher
Claudia was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She has been working with children for 20 years. Claudia holds a BA in Foreign Languages and Literature from the University of Delaware. After graduation, she obtained her teaching credential in English as a Second Language and worked in two public schools in Delaware. After moving to New Jersey, Claudia taught Spanish in a fully immersive Spanish preschool. She moved to California in 2010 and decided to start her own Spanish program for kids that she named “Arroz Con Leche”. She taught Spanish for 8 years in afterschool programs and a preschool in Moraga. During this time, she fell in love all over again with the preschoolers. In 2018 she started working at Mulberry Tree Preschool in Moraga and went back to school to take classes in Early Childhood Education. In September 2023, she started her Montessori teacher training. She lives in Moraga and is a proud mom: her daughter Sofia is a junior in Campolindo and her son Santiago is a senior at UC Davis. In her free time, she loves spending time with her children, going to the beach and doing yoga.
Debra
Campus Director

Debra started her career working as a teacher over 20 years ago when she first helped open the GLMS Oakland campus. Debra then rejoined the Growing Light Team after a 15 year teaching career at Head Royce School in Oakland. Debra has her Masters degree in Early Childhood Education and Montessori Teaching Credential from St. Mary’s College and a BA in English from the University of Michigan. As an administrator Debra loves working with families, leading tours, encouraging staff to follow their passions and make sure each and every child is thriving. Debra is passionate about hiking, biking and all things outdoors. Her son, Gabe (Campolindo High School student) attended GLMS as a preschool student of some of the current Moraga Teachers!

Gigi
Substitute Teacher

Gigi worked with Growing Light when our campus opened and decided last year to get her Master’s degree and teaching credential so that she can teach elementary school french! She subs with us on Friday’s. Ghizal “Gigi” was born in the very beautiful city of Kabul, Afghanistan. At a very early age, she immigrated with her family to yet another marvelous city, Paris, France where she grew up and graduated from high school. Gigi then went to college and started an internship in the Afghan Consulate in the magnificent city of New York, US. She got married in California and raised two amazing children who are now 21 and 16. In 2016 she picked up life where she had left it 17 years prior, and went back to school in 2016 earning a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies with an emphasis in Multiple Subject Teaching from CSU East Bay in 2021 and applied for the Master’s Program in Early Childhood Development at the same University.

Gigi considers herself a citizen of the world. She is fluent in three languages and  her experience with so many different cultures has shaped her into a very open-minded and receptive person. Gigi loves to cook, bake, read Rumi poetry, walk and collect vintage jewelry.

Laura
Substitute Teacher

Laura semi retired from her full time teaching position as a Montessori teacher at GLMS Kensington campus. We are so lucky to have her working with us in another capacity. Laura was born and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee. She has been a California resident for 40 years. Laura has a BA in Human Development and an AMS teaching credential. She has been a preschool teacher for 22 years and a children’s dance and movement teacher since 1989.

Laura enjoys teaching all subjects, but especially loves sharing nature with children. She believes art education is essential in early education and encourages children to BE thinkers and creators.

Laura enjoys ballet and ice skating among other hobbies. She also loves spending time with her husband, Carlos Arellano.

Mari
Teacher

Maribel was born and raised in San Francisco. She has been working for the past five years at The Concordia School in Concord, Ca. It was here that she found a love for Montessori based education and curriculum. During her free time, Maribel enjoys spending time with her three children, finding new trails to walk, road trips and reading.

Michelle
Orca Head Teacher

Michelle was born and raised in the Bay Area and currently resides in the East Bay with her family. She has a deep love and understanding of the Montessori methodology and philosophy, and has been a teacher of early childhood for 22 years. Her two daughters attend Montessori school, now in 7th and 4th grades though they began their Montessori education as infants. Michelle has experience teaching in Montessori classrooms since 2003 and ranged from infant/toddler classes up to kindergarten enrichment programs specializing in the kindergarten and 3rd year. She has extensive experiences in leading the primary programs and curriculum development with her teaching teams with high emphasis on Practical LIfe and social-emotional development. She earned her Associate Early Childhood Montessori credential from MTEC in 2010 and continues her love of learning through workshops, conferences and training that benefit her classrooms and coworkers. Michelle loves music, being outdoors and spending time with her friends and family.

Nasrin
Substitute Teacher

Nasrin, lovingly known as “Nana”, has been an educator and child care professional for over 40 years. She brings decades of experience to our children with a degree in Early Childhood Education and as a former Registered Nurse. Nasrin founded two daycare businesses in Southern & Northern California. She has had the privilege of being a teacher at Growing Light Montessori School since 2017. She speaks Farsi and English, the mother of two grown children, and grandmother to two grandchildren. She lives with her husband of 56 years in Walnut Creek.

Omar
Substitute Teacher

Omar worked with Growing Light when we first opened our campus and we are so proud of all his accomplishments as he works towards his Doctorate degree in Education. Omar subs with us a few times a month as he loves the kids and we love having him here!
Omar joined Growing Montessori at the end of 2021 just in time to open up the Moraga Campus in 2022. Omar is bilingual in Spanish and English, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Child and Adolescent Development. With a professional background in childcare, coaching and program development, Omar’s passion lies in making education engaging and fun for all children. Omar earned his Master’s degree in counseling. When Omar is not in class teaching children he enjoys playing soccer, hanging out with his dog, Kia, and working out.

Rashmi
Teacher

Rashmi was born in Northern India and came to the US when she was a teenager. She comes from a family of educators and is fluent in four languages. She holds a bachelors degree in Graphic/Web designing as well as Credentials in Elementary Teaching from CSU East Bay. She has been working with school age children for the past 10 years. Her interest in Early Childhood Education sparked when she volunteered at a Montessori preschool. She absolutely fell in love with the way she was able to learn to create a learning environment that promotes autonomy and contributes to enhance children’s experiences in learning, exploring, creating, expressing, and developing essential social and emotional skills. In her free time, she loves hiking, writing poetry, reading, and taking road trips with her family.

Rebecca
Dolphin Teacher

Rebecca came all the way from Nashville when we opened the Moraga Campus! She was lucky enough to spend the majority of her childhood education in Montessori—from age two to middle school—and it nurtured her curiosity and encouraged her to find her own unique interests. Rebecca was a creative writing major at Interlochen Arts Academy. Rebecca spent a year volunteering at the Association for des Quartiers IDMAJ in Morocco where she taught English as a second language to children in the slums of Casablanca. Rebecca then returned to work at Abintra Montessori school in Nashville as an assistant guide in the primary classroom and a helper to children with special needs. Rebecca worked at One Tree Tutorial Enrichment, a unique program that blended a homeschool experience with in-person Montessori education. In addition to lessons in the sensorial and practical life areas, Rebecca presented art instruction to both primary and elementary students. Rebecca believes strongly that everyone is an artist, and loves to combine her interests in cultural studies with her passion for art.

Susan
Substitute Teacher

Susan semi-retired to care for her family and we are thrilled that she is able to sub with us many afternoons a week! Susan has been a Montessorian for the past 25 years, receiving her Bachelors in Early Childhood Education and Montessori studies from California State University Hayward. To increase her knowledge on human behaviors, she attended John F. Kennedy University where she received her Masters and Doctorate in Psychology. Susan’s interest in Montessori education began when she enrolled her son in a Montessori school many years ago. The more she studied Maria Montessori’s philosophy, the more she was convinced that this was the job for her. Susan has always believed that children need to be given the opportunity to learn by trial and error, using their senses and imagination in order to gain confidence. Montessori philosophy focuses on “follow the child.” This method allows children to choose their jobs, learn through trial and error, and respect their peers’ jobs through the learning of boundaries. Susan’s focus in the classroom, in addition to academics, is helping each child gain confidence and independence.

Xio
Dolphin Head Teacher

Xiomara, or Xio to the children, has been with Growing Light Montessori School for many years and comes to us from the Kensington Campus. Xio grew up in the Bay Area in a Mexican American household. Xio is very passionate about Maria Montessori’s philosophy and work as she grew up attending Montessori schools. Xio completed her Montessori teacher certification at MTEC (Montessori Teacher Education Center) in all subject areas and loves being a Head Teacher. Xio enjoys teaching Spanish, Art, and Science to her students as well as sharing her love for meditation and yoga. Fun facts about Xio include that she used to train in the martial art of Kung Fu as well as teach it, and she enjoys rescuing and fostering animals of all shapes and sizes when they are in need. In her free time Xio loves singing, writing poetry and trying out new recipes and spending time with close friends and family.

Zhanna
Aftercare Teacher

Zhanna opened the GLMS Moraga campus with us and was taught by members of our teaching team at GLMS Oakland as a Montessori student! Zhanna was born in Uralsk, Kazakhstan and came to the U.S. at the age of 4 where she began attending a local Oakland Montessori School. She is passionate about the Montessori educational approach as she feels it helped her as a child  learn and adapt to the English language and American culture.

Zhanna is a graduate from Ohio Wesleyan University holding a degree in Early Childhood Education. She began working with children as a teenager and has loved it ever since. Zhanna has taken many of the classes offered through the Montessori Teacher Educational Center and looks forward to continuing her coursework. Zhanna is passionate about watching children grow as they explore the many resources a classroom has to offer. Outside of the classroom, Zhanna loves to hike, play sports, cuddle with her dogs and hang out with friends!