STAFF ROSTER 2016-2017



Audrey Amos,

Audrey Amos was named Principal of John Muir Elementary School in June 2011.  Before joining John Muir, Ms. Amos was a Vice Principal at Willard Middle School,  a Teacher on Special Assignment in the BUSD Research, Evaluation and Assessment Department and a Computer Teacher at Longfellow teaching 6th - 8th graders.  Ms. Amos has been in BUSD since 2005 and in education since 2001. Ms. Amos received her Masters of Arts in Education from University of California, Berkeley and her Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science from National University.  In her spare time, she enjoys reading, gardening and spending time with her family, especially her grandchildren.


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 -- Barbara VogelRoom 2, 

A Bay Area native, Ms. Vogel has been working at John Muir School since 1989, teaching everything from Kindergarten to 2nd grade to science, math, art, computers and creek studies. She received a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies at Cal Poly State University at San Luis Obispo. Born into a family with a long line of teachers, Ms. Vogel always knew she wanted to teach. Her favorite part of her job is getting to spend time with kids every day. She has two children of her own: Audrey and Grant. When not at school, she volunteers as their soccer coach, baseball and softball scorekeeper, costumer and producer of plays, and driver to their many activities.

Grade 1 -- 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 has a degree in exercise science from U.C. Davis, a multiple subject teaching credential and an education specialist credential from CSU East Bay. She is in the process of completing a master's degree in special education. When not working, Debbie likes to hike, mentor teenagers, backpack, read, and visit 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 doesn’t fit).  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 -- Alexandra Phillips, Room

Ms. Phillips received her bachelor's degree in Theater Education from Emerson College in Boston. She is currently completing her master's in Education at Mills College in Oakland. The 2016-17 school year is Ms. Phillips's fourth year of teaching elementary school.
Ms. Phillips' educational specialty and one of her teaching passions is literacy—she particularly likes using theater, drama, and creative role-play to facilitate the process of reading. Outside of school, she enjoys running, spending time with her family, traveling, and cooking.

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 writing, 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 camping, singing, and making art.

Grade 3 -- 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 13,

Grade 3 -- Heather Olson, Room

Ms. Olson has been at John Muir School since 2005. She received both her undergraduate degree and her teaching credential from San Francisco State University. One of her favorite parts of teaching 3rd graders is organizing “literature circles” -- in-class book groups that allow students to prepare discussion questions, write up reviews, and develop readers’ theater. With six years background as a middle school teacher, she also enjoys preparing her students for success in grades 6-8 and beyond. In addition to teaching 3rd grade, she is John Muir’s Math Teacher Leader and is on the school’s leadership team. Outside of school, Ms. Olson enjoys being active by doing marathons, hiking and dancing as often as possible. She loves to cook, read, and travel, especially to countries that allow her to practice speaking Spanish.

Grade 4 -- Athina LarsonRoom

Athina 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 kindergartener 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 4/5 -- Junia Kim, Room 11,

Ms. Kim joined the John Muir community in 2016.  After earning her BA in Comparative Literature at UC Berkeley, she began her teaching career as a 7th/8th grade reading teacher at an international school in Taiwan.  Afterwards, she earned her Ed.M. in Language and Literacy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  There, she realized that her passion lay in practice, so she hightailed it back to the East Bay to earn CA teaching credentials and and teach middle schoolers in Oakland.  Unable to decide which subjects she liked better and a firm believer in the merits of a multi-age environment, she is super thrilled to work within a 4/5 combo classroom.  In addition to teaching, she enjoys the outdoors, singing, cooking, reading, and serving at her church!  One day she hopes to write a dystopian allegorical children's novel geared towards reluctant readers.  Teaching is the next best thing!

Grade 5 -- Alessia Cook, Room 9,

Ms. Cook joined John Muir in 2016 after spending two years teaching 4th grade in San Lorenzo Unified.  She received her undergraduate degree in East Asian Studies from Brown University and her teaching credential from Mills College, in Oakland.  She is a New Yorker native who loves to take long walks around cities and enjoys the Bay Area’s astounding natural beauty.  She loves working with upper elementary students because of their passion for learning about the world at large and interest in taking action to make changes for the better.

Grade 5 -- Mahalia Ryba, Room

Ms. Ryba has been teaching at John Muir School since 2005. She has been with the Berkeley Unified School District since 1978 and has taught 1st, 2nd and 6th grade, as well as 7th & 8th grade English.

other certificated staff

Holly Lee, School Psychologist
Valerie Gutwirth, Dance
Cherene Fillingim-Selk, 4/5 Science Teacher
Simone Miller, Literacy Coach
Olivia Sanders, Literacy Coach
Kris Lee, Occupational Therapist
Sam Nickelson, ELD/RTI
Sydel Shirley-Dancoff, Speech Therapist
Anthony Cantanzaro, Behavioral
Lauren Rivera, Moderate/Severe Special Education Teacher
Terry Hove, Mild/Moderate Special Education Teacher
Nicole Antommarchi, Resource Teacher
Donna Suzuki, Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Rachel Larson, Counselor



Mary Dougherty, Strings
Larry San Jose, Brass
Karen Wells, Strings
Candice Crismond, Woodwinds/Brass
Henry Viets, 3rd Grade



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
Rivka Mason, Gardening Instructor
Jocelyn Foreman, Family Engagement Site Coordinator



Jacqueline McWhorter (IA)


Special Ed Instructional Assistants

Maya McClendon
Jameila Owens
Reyna Aceves
Ade Owodunni


Deaf Interpreters

Julie Batsel
Neesa Lazarus
Cyprus Molfino


Noon Supervisors

Chris Sabiniano
Pierre Robinson


YMCA PE Program

Coach Danny Rollins