Marco Taylor,
Marco Taylor was named Principal of John Muir Elementary School in April 2019. Before joining John Muir, Mr. Taylor was a Vice Principal and Principal at San Francisco Unified School District, and an elementary teacher in Northwest Indiana and Brooklyn, NY, teaching 4th/5th graders. Mr. Taylor has been in education since 2011. He received his Master of Arts in Educational Administration and Supervision from Ball State University and his Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and Special Education from Indiana University Northwest. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, sports, working out, and spending time with his family and friends!  

certificated classroom Teachers

Kindergarten -- Andy Thomas, Room 
Mr. Thomas has been teaching at John Muir since 2004. Prior to that, he taught in Oakland for two years, before signing up as a substitute for a variety of school districts. He got his undergraduate degree at Humboldt State University, where he majored in art, and received his teaching credential from Hayward State University. Mr. Thomas grew up in Los Angeles and Panama, and he enjoys salsa dancing, glass blowing, ceramics and a unique art form called the “mola” that comes from Panama’s Cuna Indians.

Kindergarten -- Gwen Rogers, Room 2,
Ms. Rogers is excited to join the staff at John Muir Elementary this year! She has been teaching elementary school since 2008 in Los Angeles and Novato. Ms. Rogers received her Bachelors in Psychology, multiple subjects teaching credential, and Masters in Education all at UCLA. Go Bruins! While not teaching, Ms. Rogers enjoys hiking, music, reading, and traveling.

Kindergarten -- Debbie Rogers, Room 4,
Born and raised in the Bay Area, Ms. Debbie learned early to value an education that takes place within a diverse community. She strives to teach in a way that supports students to think about how they think, while emphasizing the importance of laughing, singing, and sharing of themselves. Ms. Debbie has been working at John Muir School since 2006. She was the Inclusion Support Teacher for two years before becoming a 1st grade teacher. She often moves from teaching kindergarten to 1st Grade. This year, she is teaching kindergarten. She has a degree in exercise science from U.C. Davis, a multiple subject teaching credential and an education specialist credential from CSU East Bay. When not working, Debbie reads everything she can find, hikes, mentors teenagers, backpacks, and visits friends and family in Colorado, New York, and Georgia.

Grade 1 -- Carrie Johnston, Room
Ms. J. joined John Muir’s staff in 2012, having taught for many years in Oakland and one in the UK.   A literature major in college, she got her Master's and Credential at U.C. Berkeley in the Developmental Teacher Education Program, with whom she works as a cooperating teacher for a series of student teachers.   Ms. J.  loves teaching first grade for many reasons, most of all because it is a year of such astonishing growth in reading. Ms. J. loves the outdoors, and has hiked the John Muir Trail in the high Sierra twice. She and her husband are training their kids to be campers too; they’ve hiked eleven miles in one day and recently had a glorious four-night trip to Desolation Wilderness.  In addition to camping and hiking, Ms. J. is an avid reader of many genres, notably literature and nonfiction about education policy and cognitive science.  After a recent home renovation, Ms. J.’s family now enjoy a music room which houses an oboe, a saxophone, a taiko drum, a guitalele, a guitar, a violin, a trumpet, and two banjos (the piano’s in the dining room).  At school, Ms. J. incorporates elements of all of her passions, from science inquiry to singing to memorable chapter books.  She feels very fortunate to be part of the John Muir School community.

Grade 1 -- Yorda Weldeghiorgis, Room 2,
Ms. Weldeghiorgis first joined the John Muir staff in 2015 as a 4th grade elementary teacher. She then spent two years abroad teaching English in Turkey and traveling the world. Upon her return to the States she saw that John Muir needed a 1st grade job and she jumped at the opportunity to return. She is happily teaching 1st grade with an amazing group of students. In her free time she enjoys spending time with friends and family, reading, hiking, and of course traveling and meeting new people. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science as well as Criminal Justice from CSU, Fullerton. She then attended University of California, Berkeley for her Masters in Education and Elementary Teaching Credential.

Grade 2 -- Caroline Brooks, Room
Ms. Brooks has been teaching at John Muir since 2014. She began as a student teacher in Ms. J's first grade class. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, with a focus on Developmental Psychology, from UC Santa Cruz, and a Master's in Education and her elementary teaching credential from UC Berkeley. She enjoys movies, music, and reading, and hopes to inspire a passion for reading among her students

Grade 2 -- Lisa Macdonald, Room
Known to many as “Ms. Mac,” Ms. Macdonald has been teaching at John Muir School since 2008. She received her elementary and art credentials from San Francisco State University. One of her personal passions is art, which she is eager to share with her students. She also brings an extensive background in art education which she incorporates this into all areas of the curriculum. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, cooking, and live music.

Grade 2 -- Melia Hong, Room
Ms. Hong has been teaching at John Muir since 2004. She was born in Berkeley and is the offspring of Berkeley public schools. She attended Oxford Elementary, Longfellow/King middle schools and Berkeley High. Her mother was a long-time principal at Emerson Elementary, and once she became a teacher, Ms. Hong knew she wanted to teach in the Berkeley schools. She received a double major at UCLA in mass communications and child development and received her teaching credential and masters at St. Mary’s College. She loves working with 2nd graders, an age group that has just entered the world of books and reading, and in which imagination still reigns paramount. Ms. Hong enjoys traveling and reconnecting with friends and family, especially on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. She has two young sons, Julian & Jackson.

Grade 3 -- Torina Blackmond, Room 11,
"I am a first generation graduate with a liberal studies degree, minoring in communications, from Stanislaus State University. One of my greatest accomplishments is motherhood; I'm a proud mother of three wonderful adult children. While I have been in the classroom for over 15 years, only 10 of those years have been as a teacher. I have been honored to be a part of the John Muir community for the past four years. It's so hard to choose one of my favorite subjects because I have three subjects that I love to teach: Reading, Writing, and Math. Most of my favorite projects incorporate art with math or science. What I love about John Muir is the supportive parent community and the teacher appreciation lunches!"

Grade 3 -- Paula Thomas, Room
Ms. Thomas has been teaching since 2004—she has taught fourth and fifth grades in Los Angeles for 6 years, middle school students in San Francisco for 2 years and middle school students at King Middle School for 4 years. Ms. Thomas has earned her Bachelor of Arts in American Studies from USC, her Multiple Subject teaching credential and Master’s Degree from California State University Los Angeles and her Single Subject Teaching Credential in English from San Francisco State University. In addition to teaching, Ms. Thomas is a Curriculum Reviewer for the English Language Success Forum, a non-profit organization dedicated to meeting the needs of English Language Learners. Her younger daughter, Aminah, is in 6th grade at Willard Middle School. Ms. Thomas enjoys reading, being in nature, and attending cultural events.

Grade 4 -- Athina LarsonRoom
Ms. Larson has been teaching at John Muir since August 2013. She spent her first 2 years here teaching in 3rd grade, and has recently moved up to 4th grade. Ironically, this is is the grade Ms. Larson started teaching in 1994 in Oakland. Before that she had substituted for 2 years in that district. After spending that one year teaching 4th grade in 1994-95, Ms. Larson moved down to teaching in the primary grades. She spent 12 years teaching 1st & 2nd grade at several schools in Oakland. Ms. Larson took a 5 year leave of absence from full time teaching in 2007 and had her 2 sons. She subbed part time in BUSD for 2 years before her full time position here at John Muir. Her younger son Nathaniel is a happy third grader at our school. Ms. Larson is a busy mother, loves to play tennis, travel, garden, and cook. Ms. Larson has an undergraduate degree in Education & Psychology from Wheelock College in Boston, and a Master's Degree from California State Hayward in Education.

Grade 4 -- Aileen ChangRoom 12,

Ms. Chang is very excited to join the John Muir family this year! She grew up in Davis, but has always been drawn to the city of Berkeley. Prior to John Muir, Ms. Chang taught 4th grade in Vacaville for three years--she absolutely loves teaching 4th grade. She received her Bachelors in Anthropology at UC Santa Barbara, where she focused much of her studies and research on local indigenous tribes--perfect for teaching California history! Ms.Chang received her Masters in Education and multiple subjects teaching credential from Stanford University. In her free time, Ms. Chang enjoys going on hikes with her dog Nikko, and exploring the Bay Area in search of all the yummy places to eat (recommendations are welcome).

Grade 5 -- Jessica Mejia-Smith, Room 10,
Ms. Mejia-Smith joined John Muir in 2017 after teaching 4th grade Two Way Spanish Immersion at Cragmont Elementary.  She received her undergraduate degree from Boston College and a Master's in Education and her elementary teaching credential from UC Berkeley.  She enjoys music, reading books for herself and especially to her three boys. In her spare time she and her family love to explore all that the Bay Area has to offer.

Grade 5 -- Lisa Rosenthal, Room 9,

Ms. Rosenthal began teaching at John Muir in 2019 after teaching 5th grade in Oakland for a year, then 4th or 5th grade in Alameda for 8 years. She has called Berkeley her hometown since she got her first apartment as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley. She and her husband raised two daughters who are now young adults, both of whom went to Berkeley Arts Magnet, King Middle School, and Berkeley High School. She enjoys reading historical fiction, visiting with her family and friends, hiking in Point Reyes, and trying not to kill plants when pretending she can garden in her little backyard.

other certificated staff

Holly Lee, School Psychologist
Valerie Gutwirth, Dance
Elisa Litsky, Science Release Teacher
Simone Miller, Literacy Coach
Olivia Sanders, Literacy Coach
Kris Lee, Occupational Therapist
Renee Harris, English Language Development (ELD)
Sam Nickelsen, Response to Instruction and Intervention (RTI)
Sydel Shirley-Dancoff, Speech Therapist
Anthony Cantanzaro, Behaviorist
Lorne Rivera, Moderate/Severe Special Education Teacher
Terry Hove, Mild/Moderate Special Education Teacher
Donna Suzuki, Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Norma Lopez, Counselor
Michael Fowler, PE Teacher
Jonnie Butler, BEARS Teacher
Nasreen Gul, BEARS Teacher



Paul Hanna
Shannon Houston
Georgia Martin
Candice Crismond
Henry Viets



Carol Niehus, Secretary,
John Emery, Lead Custodian (day)
Terrell Scott, Custodian (evening)
Phalvimean Dolorfino, Food Service Manager
Jocelyn Sandiego, Satellite Operator
Stephen Healey, Library Technician
David Fuchs, Computer Tech
Keturah Kornbluth, Gardening Instructor
Jocelyn Foreman, Family Engagement Site Coordinator


Special Ed Instructional Assistants

Maya McClendon
Jameila Lewis
Karreimah Sanders
Jillissa Bostic
Ade Owodunni


Deaf Interpreters

Julie Batsel
Neesa Lazarus
Kaye Kohler



Miriam Driouch