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Ken Alley Photo Read More

Visual & Performing Arts Teacher

Ken Alley Photo

Ken Alley

ken.alley@pcscharter.org

Visual & Performing Arts Teacher

by Nirshan Perera, English Teacher

Every decade or so, Ken Alley re-reads James Joyce’s Ulysses. “I’m such a different person every ten years,” the video production/graphic and visual arts teacher remarks. “Each time is a revelation!”

Alley’s enduring love of Irish literature, which was ignited in an English classroom at Foothill College in Los Altos, is one theme in his own rich and wide-ranging voyage to room 159 at PCS. (Alley, who was born and grew up in Mountain View, also considers Joyce’s Dubliners to be one of his “favorite books of all time.”) Alley completed his AA degree in literature and creative writing, but when he transferred to UC Santa Cruz, he shifted majors and studied environmental science and conservation.

“I was always also interested in wildlife and the idea of place,” he explains, “and functionally, I never wanted to read as work—I have to read this book versus I want to read this book—though I’m still passionate about it and it certainly informs everything that I’ve done.”

Alley worked in the field of ornithology for five years after graduating from UCSC, assessing and documenting habitat destruction and human impact on species like peregrine falcons, California condors, burrowing owls, and goshawks. He left ornithology for a mixture of reasons.

“I got tired of having my recommendations overruled because of economics instead of science,” he says. “Also, though it was enjoyable, I wanted to be more involved working with people.”

Teaching seemed like a natural fit. Alley designed and started teaching a new class in research methods for the environmental studies program at UCSC (a class which is still being taught today). He taught English classes for a stint in Reno before moving back to Santa Cruz to manage the photography holdings of the Art Department at UCSC.

Alley eventually moved to Boston to complete his MFA at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts/Tufts, where he taught digital media classes and, afterwards, worked as an art director for a printing company. He eventually migrated back to Santa Cruz, where he started lecturing at both UCSC and Cabrillo, teaching all levels of photography as well as contemporary art theory and practice.

Alley, who joined the PCS faculty in 2015, says that what he loves most about teaching here is the complexity and the challenge and the joy of teaching students how to collaborate. Collaboration, he insists, is central to the creative process.

“I love having classes that are 9th through 12th grades and working to create a community with each class,” he says. “To work together as a unit and to work on shared projects—I wouldn’t be half the artist that I am if not for all the people I worked with over the years. We only grow through contact, through the sharing of ideas. That’s how we learn to discern.” 

The photographers that Alley loves the most—artists like Robert Frank, Mary Ellen Mark, and Walker Evans—all highlight the importance of social connections and context. “Their work has to do with how humans relate to one another and place—place is both a physical thing and it is also based in one’s memories and experiences,” Alley explains.

These social dynamics are a central part of Alley’s own art and its recurrent concerns. “All my work has to do with the social construction of place,” he notes. “For me, part of that social construction is how we relate to one another and all of that stuff comes into my teaching.

“I’m really concerned with the individual and how they function in society. How they get along. What are the mechanisms. How we get confused by each other. The whole idea of cultural filters. What truths were presented to us and how that sometimes gets in the way.”

Heather Calame Photo Read More
Heather Calame Photo

Heather Calame

heather.calame@pcscharter.org

Music

By Dan Hogan, Facilities Manager

Heather was born and raised in Southern California and was saluted as valedictorian from San Clemente High School. At California State University Fullerton she graduated magna cum laude and received a BS in Music Education.  

After 8 years of teaching "The Lions" music at El Monte High School, Heather was excited about her transfer to teach The Pumas at PCS and has described her position as her dream job. Heather has just completed her third year teaching at PCS and loves working with every grade and especially enjoys mentoring the younger students.

Heather loves to go trail hiking through the redwoods, and when she’s had enough peace and quiet she’s playing Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) with her husband and even with her students at school! More downtime activities she enjoys are reading, coloring and cross-stitch. She would love to see the Aurora Borealis and has spent a good amount of time traveling to 48 of the United States with only North Dakota and Alaska left to go!

Heather’s book recommendations: Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfus, and Skippyjon Jones by Judith Schachner

Ildi Carlisle-Cummins Photo Read More

Development Director

Ildi Carlisle-Cummins Photo

Ildi Carlisle-Cummins

ildi.carlisle-cummins@pcscharter.org

Development Director

Ildi Carlisle-Cummins is a storyteller with 20 years of experience raising money for organizations that she believes in through fundraising campaigns, grant-writing, events and major donor cultivation. She has led strategic development efforts and worked with a wide variety of people doing good work in the world to share stories of their impact with donors and the public. She has also successfully engaged every type of media outlet with press releases, conferences and story pitches and has represented organizations in roles ranging from Board Chair to fundraiser speaker to Executive Director. 

Ildi has a M.S. in Community Development from UC Davis and community-building is at the heart of Ildi’s life. She’s excited to put these skills to work at PCS for many reasons, one of which is that she has personal experience with the power of high-quality education in Santa Cruz. She was in an early graduating class at Kirby– a place that she credits with changing the course of her life by challenging her thinking, expanding her horizons with robust art classes, and creating a school culture where she could proudly express her love of learning. Ildi enjoys storytelling of all kinds, from fundraising to podcast production to print-making. 

She also enjoys raising up a vibrant kiddo named Gus with her partner, Carla, in their home in the Santa Cruz Mountains, where there is often a pie on the counter and a bathtub in the garden that’s about to be filled.

Wayne Conley Photo Read More
Wayne Conley Photo

Wayne Conley

wayne.conley@pcscharter.org

Science

Wayne Conley by Lena Garcia, ELL Instructional Assistant

When Wayne Conley was in eighth grade, he lived for the days when he and his friends would catch a ride to Santa Cruz, where they would skate at the now defunct Derby Park, a skate park behind our school’s old Swift Street campus. “That was my introduction to Santa Cruz,” he says, “coming down to Derby Park at 12 or 13—it used to be a whole scene.”

Growing up in Moss Beach—a small town near Half Moon Bay—Wayne used his skateboard as a ticket to explore the Bay Area, from San Francisco’s winding avenues to Berkeley Square, a venue where he saw punk rock bands like Rancid and Green Day before they were popular. 

At Cunha Intermediate School, Wayne remembers struggling with math in part because he couldn’t calculate quickly. “I had a math teacher who hated me and would yell at me for skating after class.” As a physical science teacher whose discipline is closely tied to math, Wayne has learned to value accuracy over speed. “Some of the best mathematicians in the world do not do math quickly,” he says, “Speed isn’t everything.”

To his first year teaching eighth-grade science at PCS, Wayne brings special enthusiasm for the engineering aspect of physical science, and his students can expect to start building and testing their own creations right away. He believes in the power of project-based learning, whose success he’s witnessed in eight years teaching in middle schools from Cupertino to Watsonville.

This year, Wayne looks forward to the Tech Challenge, an engineering competition and showcase at San Jose’s Tech Museum of Innovation, which asks students to solve a real-world problem by designing original solutions. The weekend encourages students to be persistent, which he calls “an important skill in life and in higher-level math classes.”

When he’s not teaching, Wayne can be found tending to the organic tomatoes he grows at his Boulder Creek home and spending time with his wife and five-year-old daughter. In addition to having skated, he’s surfed the cold waters along the Central Coast and has ridden his mountain bike through the pristine trails of British Columbia.

Wayne earned his B.A. in Geography at UC Santa Barbara and his M.A. in Education at the University of Phoenix.

Hillary Daniels Photo Read More

Educational Technology Specialist

Hillary Daniels Photo

Hillary Daniels

hillary.daniels@pcscharter.org

Educational Technology Specialist

Hillary Daniels by Andrea Roth, English Teacher

She who succeeds in gaining mastery over the bicycle will gain mastery in life.

                                                                                                --Susan B. Anthony

Hillary Daniels has always been one on the move. Many consider her the resident Bike Guru. Not only does she bike to school rain or shine, but she also leads a student bike club and competes in numerous mountain biking events. Whether, mountain biking, kite surfing or travelling the world, Hillary is the truly master in a variety of pursuits.

Initially teaching in International Schools (she has travelled in over 50 countries around the globe), Hillary was drawn to PCS due to its like-minded people drawn towards a global mission in education. When asked if she would ever do anything other than teach, she replied, “I think I was born to be a teacher.” For those who have to benefit to work with her, this is quite apparent!

Hillary’s extraordinary talents benefit PCS in a myriad of ways. She offers her expertise not only as the 7th Grade Study Skills teacher, but also as the 9th grade Health teacher, W.E.B. (Where Everyone Belongs) Advisor, and Technology Support Specialist for faculty.

As Study Skills teacher for 7th grade, Hillary “works her magic” giving students foundational skills needed for their six years at PCS. In addition to note taking, technology, time management and organizational tools, Study Skills is the place to learn cyber safety, stress management and overall student citizenship. In Health, Hillary gives 9th grade students much needed instruction in nutrition, physical/mental/emotional/sexual heath, and substance abuse awareness.  For W.E.B., Hillary trains and facilitates mentorship skills for our High School students so they may empower and support or in coming 7th graders. And, if that’s not all, Hillary is “the wind beneath our wings” when it comes to technology, giving the faculty much needed help with our online grading and communication systems.

One can see why Hillary’s favorite book is The Giving Tree. She, like the tree, has much to provide and gives it willingly. Her heart and energy serves students and faculty alike, in classroom and out. Our community is the stronger because of it.

Christine DeCaporale  Photo Read More
Christine DeCaporale  Photo

Christine DeCaporale

christine.decaporale@pcscharter.org

English

Christine DeCaporale by Cindy Gorski, Visual & Performing Arts Teacher

Born and raised in Rhode Island, Christine has been teaching English for more than 20 years. A mother of three (including PCS students Anna ’19, and Connor, ’21), she graduated from the University of Rhode Island – including a year of study in Avignon, France – with a Bachelor’s degree in Comparative Literature.

Always an adventurer, Christine has taught in the Providence (RI) public schools, in the San Juan Batista and Saratoga systems in California, and also at The Harker School in San Jose. Since joining PCS in 2007, Christine has taught grades 9-12. She was appointed as English Department Chair in 2012 and has pursued graduate study at Stanford University.

Currently she teaches World Literature (Grade 10) and Honors American Literature Grades (11 & 12), and is the faculty representative to the Board of Directors. 

Jennifer Eskenazi Photo Read More
Jennifer Eskenazi Photo

Jennifer Eskenazi

jennifer.eskenazi@pcscharter.org

Math

By Paula Kenyon, Development Director

Jenny has always loved working with kids, first as a babysitter and camp counselor, and now as a math teacher. She grew up in Aptos and attended York High School in Monterey where she enjoyed being challenged academically and playing tennis. She attended Claremont McKenna College and UC, Berkeley, earning degrees in Management Engineering & Mathematics and Industrial Engineering & Operations Research.    

After college she worked in the Bay Area as a management consultant in the biotech industry. She then moved to Southern California to work in the corporate strategy department at Amgen. She soon realized that her favorite part of the job was teaching and mentoring, which inspired her to become a high school math teacher. Her philosophy is that everybody can be successful at mathematics and she loves helping students to reach their full potential. Jenny obtained a teaching credential from CSU, Dominguez Hills while starting her teaching career at a large public school in Los Angeles. She then moved to a college preparatory school in Pasadena before coming back home to Santa Cruz.    

Jenny was attracted to PCS because of its diverse student body and rigorous academic standards, along with a tradition of preparing students for the real world. She appreciates working at PCS part time so she can spend more time cooking with her 6-year-old daughter and playing tennis with her 8-year-old son.  She also enjoys hiking and is very fond of The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park.    

Jenny would recommend that everyone read Becoming by Michelle Obama because it shows how great accomplishments can be achieved from modest beginnings. She also loves Michelle’s honesty and feels that so much of her story can resonate with all of us, even if we come from very different backgrounds.  

Oh, and one more thing about Jenny…. she is a Giants and a Dodgers fan!

Candy Fernandez Photo Read More

Administrative Assistant

Candy Fernandez Photo

Candy Fernandez

candy.fernandez@pcscharter.org

Administrative Assistant

By Jessica Espinoza, Administrative Assistant

PCS is pleased to welcome aboard our new Reception & Attendance Specialist, Candy Fernandez. Born in Watsonville, Candy spent the majority of her life living in Santa Cruz County. Despite her local roots, she is quite the seasoned traveler, having visited many southern states throughout the U.S. In fact, Candy spent a year residing in the peach state of Georgia!

Candy has worked in various office settings, ranging from medical, law, and non-profit organizations. She has experience tutoring elementary students and is also raising her 12-year-old son. Drawn to working with youth and being in a positive work environment, Candy fits right into the PCS front office!

In her free time, Candy enjoys attending festivals, reading, and learning new hobbies. Recently, she's taken up sewing and playing the guitar. She is also a self-proclaimed foodie! Her most memorable travel experience has been a trip to New Orleans with her son. Looking to the future, she hopes to visit the Florida Keys and travel to major cities throughout Europe.

Lauren Friend Photo Read More

Faculty Dean / History Teacher

Lauren Friend Photo

Lauren Friend

lauren.friend@pcscharter.org

Faculty Dean / History Teacher

Lauren Friend by Sonya Kiernan, Administrative Assistant

Lauren has been a social activist and a fierce advocate for social justice since she was a middle school student. Born and raised in Simi Valley, CA, she organized a student march when she was 13 to protest the outcome of the Rodney King trial in 1992. She was introduced to a small group of social activists at that time that ultimately influenced her decision to pursue a BA in Peace Studies at UC Berkeley. While she had entertained the idea of becoming an international diplomat or peace keeper, it turns out she is a terrible traveler and prefers to be grounded in one place!

Lauren received her teaching credential from San Jose State University and has been a History teacher at PCS since 2005. Lauren was a founding member of Evergreen Valley High School in San Jose and also taught at Hillsdale High School before coming to PCS.

Lauren was attracted to PCS because of its small size and the school mission of giving all students full access to a college preparatory education. She strives to foster compassion and understanding in her students’ and impart the knowledge that they can grow and change.

Lauren’s history elective course, Ethics and Evil, is a popular course among juniors and seniors. Lauren developed the course based on her background and education in social justice and ethics. As a teacher, she tries to understand each child’s uniqueness and learning style and believes that a strong social and global education of our children can help us solve our global issues of today.

Lauren is the mother of two boys, ages 8 and 3. In her free time, she enjoys cuddling with her boys and is a voracious reader. Lauren received her Master’s in Education Leadership and Administration from Concordia University in 2016.

Mary Gardner Photo Read More

World Languages

Mary Gardner Photo

Mary Gardner

mary.gardner@pcscharter.org

World Languages

By Jamal Hunt, English Teacher

Ἀγαθὴ ἡ γυνή, Greek for the woman is good.

If New York City is the original thunderous patriarch of great old American cities, Mary is Athena, springing whole from that Atlantic Zeus’ protruding brow, the Bronx. Or perhaps she is Iphigenia, but an Iphigenia who realizes her fate, takes the next train out of town, and hastens daily further from the sacrificial altar of late capitalism. She rages against the machine with classical grace, in wit and word, presence and deed.

In her reading, Mary prefers straight-talking authors like David Graeber and exquisitely ambiguous ones like Virgil. Most of all, she’d recommend Franny and Zooey. Find out why yourself—it’s good.

Before PCS, Mary’s CV reveals a dabbled constellation orbiting a very admirable central character. She took a BA at Bowdoin College in 2010 and a Masters in Latin Literature at the University of Georgia in 2016. She studied a semester in Rome at the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies, and volunteered at a suicide prevention nonprofit in Athens, Georgia. She ran the waterfront at a summer camp. She taught and was a dorm parent for a hall of 36 boys at a boarding school. Yes, they kindly called her “Mom.” She traveled to Milwaukee to take a six-week intensive course in Latin with Father Reginald Foster, Chief Latinist for the Vatican for nearly four decades. She led conservation trips in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.

You might catch Ms. Gardner running, attending a concert, or listening to a podcast. In the classroom, she fights alongside each student to provide them the spoils of the joyful and endless war against unenlightenment. Ultimately, she can only give them the tools to achieve their own victory: nil sine magno vita labore dedit mortalibus – life gives nothing to mortal ones without great effort.

Randy Garrett Photo Read More
Randy Garrett Photo

Randy Garrett

randy.garrett@pcscharter.org

Math

Randy Garrett by Lauren Friend, History Teacher

Randy Garrett’s worldview was fundamentally shaped by his grandfather Haig Toroian. While Randy was raised in Orange County, California, he travelled extensively around the world with his grandfather, who was a life-long member of Optimists International. This philosophy of optimism permeates Randy’s overall attitude and approach towards life, and his grandfather’s worldliness inspired him to travel and work abroad.

Randy has visited every continent of the world, excepting Antarctica. He has hitchhiked in Morocco, woken up next to a snake in Java, visited manatees, had an impromptu jam session in Indonesia, gotten lost in Russia, and travelled through the Panama Canal. One of his most inspiring moments in his travels was on Easter Island where he was awestruck both at the amazing creativity of humans throughout history and reminded of how small and fragile our planet is in the vastness of the universe.

This openness to new experiences also permeates Randy’s career trajectory. Randy was a sports camp counselor in Switzerland, a Round Table Pizza manager, a collections agent for Santa Cruz Biotechnology, a banker in Switzerland, a math tutor in Long Island, a sales representative at a carwash, a manager of 15-year-olds selling newspaper subscriptions, and a substitute teacher at Mater Dei High School. It was working at Mater Dei High School that Randy realized that work could be incredibly fun, and that led him to become a professional educator. 

While Randy’s path towards math teaching was winding, his educational background is well-suited to the needs of the PCS Mathematics Department. Randy graduated from University of California, Santa Cruz with a degree in Pure Mathematics (and with the equivalent of a minor in German Literature and Language). He attended California State University, Long Beach and achieved a Master’s in Mathematics. He has been teaching at PCS since 2004 and came to the school because he believed in the mission and vision of the school and had heard great things about the school from people he admired. 

Randy’s favorite pastime is playing with his children. He also enjoys spearfishing, camping, surfing, gardening, biking, and mushroom hunting.

Peggy Gross Photo Read More

Director of Finance and Operations

Peggy Gross Photo

Peggy Gross

peggy.gross@pcscharter.org

Director of Finance and Operations

Peggy Gross by Jefferds Huyck, World Language Teacher

It’s not every school that can claim to have a volcanologist for its accounting specialist, but thanks to Peggy Gross, PCS can. Peggy’s interest in volcanoes was sparked by the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980. She studied pyroclastic phenomena more formally as an undergraduate at the Colorado School of Mines (where she received a degree in Geological Engineering) and then with increasing specialization at the University of Hawaii.

The transition to business management might not seem an obvious one, but then Peggy was always a math person with a good head for numbers. She had served as a treasurer in connection with volunteer work she did and over the years had held several office positions. When Peggy first came to PCS in 2014, her special province was accounts payable and receivable, but the scope of her responsibilities has since expanded. At present, she pays the bills, makes purchases and deposits, creates and revises the school’s budget, submits financial reports for grants, and supervises the organization of all of our sports and clubs. (I asked her if she would also be willing to grade my quizzes, but she said no.) According to her business-office colleague Traci Turner, Peggy always goes above and beyond in everything she does.

It’s no surprise, given her background, that Peggy enjoys collecting rocks. And not only collecting them: put a carved stone artifact in front of the average museum goer, and chances are that he will try to appreciate it from an artistic perspective; Peggy, for her part, confesses that she often finds the stone’s geological aspects more compelling. No life, though, is entirely lapidary. Peggy loves to travel and, with her husband and son, has visited Vietnam, Japan, Australia and many other countries in western and eastern Europe. She enjoys reading novels (Dumas’ Count of Monte Cristo is a particular favorite) and tries to spend as much time as she can with her family.

Dan Hogan Photo Read More

Facilities Manager

Dan Hogan Photo

Dan Hogan

dan.hogan@pcscharter.org

Facilities Manager

Dan Hogan by Alice Hughes, Performing Arts Teacher

Dan Hogan is our awesome facilities manager. We are so thankful for his great care of our new school facilities. He is a strong advocate for students learning to be great stewards of our buildings. He works tirelessly to have systems in place to encourage and enable them to become caretakers of our facility.

Dan is a Denver, Colorado native who moved to Santa Cruz in his late twenties to be nearer to family, who had also moved to California. Interestingly, he was a commercial plumber for many years. No wonder he is so great at dealing with our bathrooms!! He has also had other interesting career jaunts into the winery business and was even a sexton, at one point. (SAT word, look it up!)

He enjoys volunteering to help build mountain bike trails and scouring the country for excellent Mexican food.  Scott Carey, in IT, sold him his sweet WRX Subaru and has enjoyed working on modifications ever since. Dan enjoys travelling. He loved his trip to Austria and Germany a few years ago, which afforded him the opportunity to snowboard at the Olympic facility in Innsbruck.

 Dan highly recommends the book, How to Survive Working with People.

AnneMarie Hutchison Photo Read More

World Languages

AnneMarie Hutchison Photo

AnneMarie Hutchison

anne marie.hutchison@pcscharter.org

World Languages

Anne Marie Hutchison By Silvia Morales, Outreach Coordinator

Anne Marie’s love of adventure, languages and culture took root early in her life. She was born and raised in Burbank, California where her mother worked in public relations at Universal Studios during the 1950’s and where her father worked as a physician. Her parents made sure Anne Marie and her sister Elizabeth learned to speak Spanish early in their lives and they traveled often to Baja California. The family would fourwheel drive through boulder-ridden roads when they camped in wide-open desert; the final destination was La Posada de San Ignacio, a hotel her father had a hand in constructing and which stands today.

Anne Marie went on to study at the University of California, Irvine where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and Linguistics. Later she attended the Monterey Institute of International Studies where she earned a Masters of Arts in Spanish-English translation.

Anne Marie has lived her life traveling far and wide. She has lived in France and Costa Rica and has visited Italy, Portugal, England, Scotland and Colombia. Her academic travels involving students have taken her to Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama, Spain and Honduras.

Anne Marie has spent her life teaching languages. She has taught both Spanish and Latin at York School in Monterey and Spanish and English at Blue Valley School. She has taught English as a Second Language at Hartnell College and Monterey Peninsula College. Anne Marie teaches Spanish III as well as AP Spanish at PCS.

Currently, Anne Marie lives in Santa Cruz, where she spends time with her family, and her beloved cats named Tristan and Violet.

Emily Klein Photo Read More
Emily Klein Photo

Emily Klein

emily.klein@pcscharter.org

English

Dr. Emily Klein by Tim Ruckle, History Teacher

Dr. Klein was happy child, born and raised in White Plains, New York. She worked as a waitress in college, where the tips help fund her education. Working as a therapeutic (and “regular”) horseback riding instructor as well as spending twenty years working at Camp Jabberwocky, a sleep-away camp on Martha’s Vineyard for people with disabilities, Dr. Klein has always been a teacher and a helper.

First earning a BA in English and Women’s Studies from the University of Madison-Wisconsin, Dr. Klein then took her MA and PhD from the University of California at Santa Cruz. Her dissertation, entitled White Writing from the Veld: Female Voices of Southern Africa, 1877-1953, concentrated on Victorian literature in South Africa. Her favorite Victorian writer is George Elliot or maybe Dickens… or maybe somebody else. She has traveled widely, from Thailand, Hong Kong, China, and Southeast Asia to all over Europe. Ironically, South Africa is still on her “to do” list.

Dr. Klein has only two dogs, rescues “Blue” and “Russell” (Westbrook). She likes basketball and the World Champion Golden State Warriors. She loves to read Scandinavian crime novels, and is a fan of Jo Nesbø. Dr. Klein initially came to Pacific Collegiate School in 2000, and loved it. She has two boys, in the third and fifth grades, and took a break from teaching for eight years. This is her second year back at PCS, teaching two courses, and she still loves it.

Before becoming a mother, Dr. Klein deftly performed semiotic analysis of pop culture. She still possesses sharp critical analysis, but now she also cries at every single commercial during the Olympics, despite her overall critique of its nationalism and consumerism. Parenthood has changed her understanding of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos and she lives, and teaches, with her heart on her sleeve. Her students and colleagues simply know her heart is big, wherever she wears it, and are very happy to have her back at PCS.

Bill Koens Photo Read More
Bill Koens Photo

Bill Koens

bill.koens@pcscharter.org

Math

Bill Koens, by Heather Calame, Music Teacher

The first time I interacted with Bill Koens was when he brought his Advisory students into my classroom for a presentation of Senior Capstone Projects. “If there’s one good thing about teaching, it’s using petty authority, so SIT DOWN AND BE QUIET,” he boomed at the class. The class all chuckled and quieted down to enjoy the presentation of a student’s composed piano fugue.

Koens still enjoys throwing his “petty authority” around, but he never has to yell at his class to do it. “He just starts talking and everyone gets quiet to hear him,” says student Andrew Vu. He currently enjoys teaching geometry, AP Statistics, and AP Calculus to the students at PCS.

Koens is a well-loved teacher among the students. “He’s like us,” says Vu, “imagine a teenager, but as an adult.” He maintains a personable relationship with students and loves playing board games with them. After school on Friday, he can be found in his classroom surrounded by students playing table-top games that vary from simple deck-builders to games with very complex balances of strategy and chance. “He is the kind of teacher who plays Star Wars music during class” recalls Vu.

The student store in the main hallway is also the genius of Koens and his seminar for budding entrepreneurs. In guiding the business-oriented students who really do all the work, Koens helps maintain a local thriving economy of snacks and spirit wear at the Puma shop.

The glamorously quiet life of Mr. Koens is not well known. Preferring to stick with his normal routines and familiar friends and family doesn’t make for exciting adventure stories to write in a “what you did last summer” essay. However, despite his humble exterior, Koens is a rather accomplished pianist, a church volunteer, a beloved husband and father, and he loves to read. PCS thrives because of excellent teachers like Bill Koens.

Trung Lai Photo Read More
Trung Lai Photo

Trung Lai

trung.lai@pcscharter.org

Math

Trung Lai by Jamal Hunt, English Teacher

Only moments ago you couldn’t wait to escape the pounding of your chartered skiff’s outboard motor. Now it fades quickly to the south and you wish your body still vibrated to its comforting whum. “No time to waste on nostalgia,” you think, and you push on up the beach and into the lush undergrowth at the fringes of the “Trungle,” so named by locals. 

The place looks ordinary, but you’ve heard that strange and brutal things happen here, and of a mysterious ruler who exceeds all imagination. Furtive interviews with the locals help you piece together a sparse biography, and then an audience with the Man Himself fills in a great deal more. The youngest of four children, Mr. Lai was born in Vietnam and moved to the Bay Area in early childhood. After high school he took a degree in computer science from Stanford University before working in a videogame studio in Ventura. Finally, in 2013 Mr. Lai moved to Santa Cruz to teach at PCS.

As much as a living, breathing human being can, Mr. Lai effortlessly incarnates math itself. His mind operates much like the functions it considers. Inexorable, clean, it scrubs the metaphysical landscape and discards unproven features. His stolid adherence to logic makes some wonder if, upon removal of Mr. Lai’s skullcap, we would find hard circuitry in place of the usual glistening grey. This idea withers under the light of time spent—though they do his bidding, this guy’s much more than ones and zeroes. 

“We’ve figured out a lot about Trung, but the only thing we really know is that he never fails to surprise us,” says leading Laiologist Chris Nestlerode. “We’re beginning to suspect he might be some kind of Humanist.” Indeed, it was a lack of human meaning that drove Lai away from industry and into teaching, and for him all activity somehow connects to understanding and supporting humanity. He never hesitates to interrogate unexplained ideas or actions, and most discussions with him end in the realm of philosophy. In the right setting, a quiet moment might draw from him one of his favorite memorized poems or songs, or a pithy personal insight that somehow makes you wonder at all existence. And what would Lai die for? Without a pause: “Others.” 

But who knows Mr. Lai better than his students? To many, he is simply “a genius” or “an icon.” One calls him “a passionate carnivore and badminton aficionado who never ceases to amaze with his thoughtfulness, candor, and quirky sense of humor.” Another says she “never met a person so secretly sweet and warm.” And another reveals the key to Mr. Lai’s heart: “If you bring him vanilla Pirouettes, he will be your friend forever.” Trung’s soul need not trade for contentment, for he has found its wellspring.

If, as Matisse believed, “the beauty that arises in art comes from the struggle an artist wages with his limited medium,” Mr. Lai’s teaching is art, and it is beautiful. His students’ minds, clay in his hands, crack as they dry into shapes varyingly contorted and normal, yet the final kiln fire burns their glazes’ chrome oxide a rich green—dignified, show-worthy.

Christina Marentette Photo Read More
Christina Marentette Photo

Christina Marentette

chris.marentette@pcscharter.org

Science

Christina Marentette, by Lisa Michael, Science Teacher, Science Dept. Chair

Chris comes to us from Groves High School in Birmingham, Michigan (which is in Beverly Hills, Michigan). At Groves she taught at various times Algebra, Geometry, Conceptual Physics, Honors Physics, AP Physics 1 and AP Physics C (both Mechanics and Electricity and Magnetism) for the past 15 years. Chris has had lots of other jobs over the course of her life, in addition to teaching Physics. She’s been a framer of paintings, a file clerk, a Godiva chocolates employee, a cashier and she worked at a maternity clothing store for 5 years.  Chris has also been the faculty advisor for the Amnesty International Club and Animal Rights at Groves High School.

Chris grew up in the suburbs of Detroit and went to a small public high school then got a BS in Physics and Education from Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan. She also earned a Masters Degree in Science Education. She was attracted to PCS because of the outstanding academics and the high expectations for students in a public high school setting. She was particularly impressed by the AP Biology requirement for graduation.

In her free time Chris likes to take nature hikes, listen to live music, and play with her cats Axel and Panther. She enjoys books by Brian Greene and Ira Flatow and she’s passionate about animal rescue.

PCS students can expect a dedicated, engaging teacher who loves to help students through the ups and downs of physics and mathematics so that they are enlightened! 

Maiya Marshall Photo Read More

College Counselor

Maiya Marshall Photo

Maiya Marshall

maiya.marshall@pcscharter.org

College Counselor

Maiya Marshall is Pacific Collegiate School's College Counselor and the Academic Advisor for 11th and 12th grade students. She grew up over the hill in Milpitas where she still resides. After earning her bachelor's at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts in 3 years, Maiya studied Mandarin in Beijing, China at Beijing Language and Culture University. She only knew how to say "hello" and "thank you" in Mandarin before leaving SFO and the United States for the first time to study abroad in an intensive language program. While in China for 6 months she learned how to read, write, and speak. Maiya had the opportunity to attend multiple events as a spectator (definitely not as an athlete) during the 2008 Olympics. She does not recommend hiking on the Great Wall of China in the middle of the summer. 

Before starting her career in counseling, Maiya scheduled the sales floor and Genius Bar at an Apple Store where she sometimes attended hiring events. She was drawn to the counseling field after noticing the great need for advising high school students during the not-so-intuitive college admissions process. Maiya has attended 200+ college tours in the United States and Canada and has guided and advised high school students from various socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds. As an application reader for UC Irvine, Maiya was immersed in their college admissions process. 

Prior to coming to PCS, Maiya was a School Counselor at EF Academy, an international boarding high school in Westchester County, New York, where she worked closely with students from Brazil, North Africa, Vietnam, and Indonesia. A perk of her role was that she traveled to Vietnam to meet in person with the parents of her students. Maiya holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Brandeis University, a certificate in College Admissions and Career Planning from UC Berkeley, and a Master of Arts/Master of Education in School Counseling from Columbia University. 

Before the world changed in 2020 Maiya lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan enjoying the excitement of life in New York City. When she is not working, Maiya enjoys hanging out with her friends, attempting to improve her Mandarin, cuddling with kitties, and traveling (often on college tours which is technically working).  谢谢 (thank you) and 再见 (goodbye).

Demetra Messolaras Photo Read More
Demetra Messolaras Photo

Demetra Messolaras

demetra.messolaras@pcscharter.org

Art

Demetra Messalores by Ning Ning Chen, World Language Teacher

Demetra Messalores was born in Athens, Greece and was raised in a small town in upstate New York. She received her bachelor degree in Fine Arts from the School of Art and Design at Alfred University in Alfred NY and her Masters in Fine Arts from San Jose State University. She has been teaching Fines Arts in a variety of disciplines including Drawing, Painting, Ceramics, and Photography for the past ten years, at various high schools in the Bay Area.

When she first moved to California, in addition to teaching, she volunteered at Creativity Explored in San Francisco and helped adults with developmental disabilities make Art. She was attracted to PCS's small class sizes and warm friendly community. The fact that it's blocks away from the beach was also very appealing for her. 

In her free time, she enjoys being in nature, watching in awe as her newborn son grows, making art, practicing yoga, face timing family, singing, and writing songs with her husband. She often travels to Greece to visit family and relax on the islands. The Untethered Soul is one of her favorite books.

When she was in high school, she had an amazing Art teacher that inspired her to commit her life to Art and Art education. Things did not come effortlessly for her, but she worked hard and had a great deal of determination to become a teacher and create art. She can honestly say "I'm now living my dream". It's her intention to inspire her students to follow their passion no matter how scary or impossible it may seem.

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Directed Studies

David Ramos-Beban Photo

David Ramos-Beban

david.ramos-beban@pcscharter.org

Directed Studies

By Linda Dennis, Special Education Teacher

David’s ancestral roots can be traced back to a small Croatian Island off the Dalmatian coast.  

He became a high school teacher in 1991, teaching literature, journalism, video production, broadcasting, and coaching basketball.

After a lifetime working at large, comprehensive schools on the other side of the hill, David has returned to a more focused, personal, small island-type lifestyle by working with students individually and in small groups as a paraprofessional.

He is also the father of a teen daughter.

Andrea Roth Photo Read More
Andrea Roth Photo

Andrea Roth

andrea.roth@pcscharter.org

English

Andrea Roth By Emily Klein, English Teacher

Andrea was born in Salt Lake City, Utah and raised in Ogden, in Northern Utah. Before becoming a teacher she worked in a camouflage factory, as a theatrical electrician, as an actress in summer stock, and as a diner waitress. Thank goodness for her students, Andrea decided to become a teacher and got a BA in English and an MA in Education.

Andrea has spent the last twenty plus years teaching, all subjects, every grade, K-12, as well as adults. Before coming to California she taught in inter-city Chicago and Seattle. Andrea also spent nine years teaching middle school in Watsonville before coming to PCS. Andrea has long believed that if teachers and schools raise the bar high, students will rise to meet the challenge. Andrea was attracted to PCS because of its academic freedom and its emphasis on open enrollment with academic rigor.

In her life apart from PCS, Andrea founded Pie for the People with her family. Pie for the People is a local pie potluck that fundraises for local grassroots organizations. She also likes to read, bike, and hike, and enjoys opera.

Before she settled into teaching, Andrea tried to be an expat starving artist in Prague, but this didn’t work so well. She also found herself in Budapest, and then Istanbul for a time.

Andrea recommends the following books: Poems of Wislawa Szymborska; There Eyes Were Watching God-Neale-Hurston; Middlemarch-Elliot ; Mrs. Dalloway-Woolf; Wonder Woman-New 52 series; Brooklyn- Toibin. Andrea says that she herself is an open book, and this is a book we are delighted to have at PCS.

Tim Ruckle Photo Read More

History

Tim Ruckle Photo

Tim Ruckle

tim.ruckle@pcscharter.org

History

Dr. Tim Ruckle by Eric Hickok, Former PCS Science Teacher

Originally hailing from what is now a faux-Bavarian town in Washington State, Dr. Ruckle spent his formative years in Davis, CA as the child of academic parents. Arriving in the area to attend college, he ultimately found himself working for twelve years as Systems Engineer at the Santa Cruz Operation, a UNIX system software company. During this time, he fronted a rock and roll band, the first ever to transmit a live music concert via the internet. While technically still the lead singer for this band, they do not perform much anymore and Dr. Ruckle mostly enjoys playing acoustic guitar and singing sad ballads.

Dr. Ruckle returned to college after his high tech career, earning an AA degree at Cabrillo College and taking BA, MA, and PhD degrees in history at UC Berkeley. While in Berkeley, Dr. Ruckle was the head cook and kitchen manager of a student co-op, where he resided for almost a decade. His research travels have encompassed nearly every state in the union. He would like to travel to some of the places he teaches about: Africa, India, China, Southeast Asia, etc. 

After years of pouring over faded primary sources, trenchant historical monographs, and ponderous academic writing in graduate school, when time permits, Dr. Ruckle enjoys lighter fare, such as the speculative fiction of Charles Stross. In his own words, he is “passionate about the compassionate treatment of others.” This is evident not only in his interactions with his students and his approach to teaching, but also in his volunteer work in locked mental wards and treatment centers. Dr. Ruckle is also passionate about the Golden State Warriors, good public education, and the collected works of Leonard Cohen.

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World Languages

Sara Sauceda Photo

Sara Sauceda

sara.sauceda@pcscharter.org

World Languages

Sara Sauceda by Janelle Christensen, Attendance/Receptionist..

PCS is lucky to have Chilean-born Sara Sauceda once again teaching Spanish at PCS. Sara was the very first Spanish Teacher at PCS, teaching for 5 years as part of the Exchange Teacher Program. When the opportunity to return to PCS arose, she was delighted to return to the school and its culture of learning.

Sara has a teaching degree from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. After two years teaching high school English in Santigo high schools, she had an opportunity to come to Aptos as an intern through an Amity Institute Program. This program promotes inter-cultural understanding in the USA through exchanges for students and teachers. During that time she was able to help a Spanish teacher at Aptos High School, and from there she became the first Spanish teacher at PCS.

Sara is the mother of three, Carmen, Benito and Catalina, and when they were a little younger she worked at a number of part-time and volunteer jobs. This included Spanish translations for Klaakids Foundation website, interpreting at the Live Oak Family Resource Center, and a substitute Spanish teacher at Santa Cruz Adult School. She learned of her of current position at PCS while working at Live Oak Elementary School.

Sara loves to spend time walking on the beach, baking and gardening. She also loves to travel and hopes to one day to take our PCS students on a trip to Central or South America.

Barbara Smith Photo Read More

Registrar

Barbara Smith Photo

Barbara Smith

barbara.smith@pcscharter.org

Registrar

By Heather Calame, Music Teacher

When it’s time to enter the lottery, enroll in classes, collect a transcript, request a course change, or just get a hug, there’s one office offering all that to PCS students: Ms. Smith’s office. “She works really hard to make sure everyone’s schedule works, which is not easy,” says Jasmine Gates (2021). “She’s also just really, really nice,” adds Rina Rossi (2020). What the students at PCS see in Ms. Smith (as she creates the entire master schedule and then juggles all the course requests) is just the tip of this beautiful iceberg.

Barbara Jean Smith is a self-described “Local Girl” living in Santa Cruz County for over four decades. In that time, her story took many turns before landing on “Puma Registrar.” She was originally a National Bank Examiner with the OCC, but when she was reprimanded for being “too nice” she knew the job wasn’t a good fit. In 2008 with the economy tanking, she knew she’d have to find a new job to help support her three kids and husband. She was enjoying a beach trip in Hawaii when she called to interview for the job at PCS. After just two phone interviews, they hired her on. (She does not recommend hiring over the phone, we just got really lucky with how qualified she is.)

Around PCS, she’s known as the registrar and lottery guru, but she’s also a retired soccer referee, a bowling whiz, and she loves yoga. Every year, her resolution is to learn a new thing and this year she is learning pickleball. As much as she’s had a positive impact on PCS, it’s fair to say that PCS has left its mark on her as well; she was even inspired by a PCS student to become a vegetarian.

“She’s really caring and always finds the positive in situations. She’s a very generous and helpful person,” says her daughter Kay (PCS alumnus 2016); and honestly, that’s the best description of all.

Brandon Summerrill Photo Read More
Brandon Summerrill Photo

Brandon Summerrill

brandon.summerrill@pcscharter.org

Math

Brandon Summerrill by Hillary Daniels, Study Skills and Technology Teacher, Health Teacher, and WEB Coordinator

Walk into Brandon Summerrill’s 7th grade Pre-Algebra classroom and there’s a sense of calm and peace. Music is playing softly in the background and students are happily working. The room is tidy and orderly, it’s a welcoming place. Mr. Summerrill didn’t set out to become a teacher. After graduating from Chico State he spent the first part of his working life as a civil engineer. Eventually, the monotony of sitting at a desk every day got to him and he decided to pursue a career in education. It was by a stroke of luck that PCS found him in the middle of the school year in 2006 and he has been teaching Pre-Algebra and Intro to Engineering here ever since.

When asked why he wanted to become a teacher, he explained that he wanted to enjoy life more. As a teacher every day is fun and exciting. He disliked being in front of people growing up, but that’s what he does every day now and he does it well! Students love Mr. Summerrill for his organized and straightforward yet laid-back teaching style. The videos he creates for his ‘flipped classroom’ are concise, informative, and entertaining and while Math is a serious subject he makes it fun. Plus, that very special technique he has of passing out papers is magic to a 7th grader.

Mr. Summerrill was born and raised in Santa Cruz and attended Soquel High School. He enjoys backpacking in the Sierras and plans to one day hike the John Muir Trail. After a recent trip to Italy he caught the international travel bug and he hopes to explore more of Europe and beyond in the upcoming years. Whatever his adventures, we can be sure he will be engaging his students with stories of them for years to come.

Kyle Walters Photo Read More
Kyle Walters Photo

Kyle Walters

kyle.walters@pcscharter.org

Science

By Lisa Michael, Science Teacher

Kyle Walters may be a new teacher to the PCS Science department, but he’s not new to teaching.  He has taught Biology at Scotts Valley High School and middle school science in Watsonville. Kyle is a native East Coaster – there’s a lot of Virginia in his background. He was born and raised in Hampton, Virginia, a town of about 150,000 people, and he has two older sisters. He went to Bethel High School in Hampton, then on to Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia where he attained a BS in Biology. He went to graduate school at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, where he got an MS in Marine Biology studying the chemical ecology of Caribbean sponges. He’s done lots of different jobs over the past 20 years or so, most of them field biology related, including working at universities, state agencies (such as the Fish and Game Department), national parks (such as Mount Rainier), national forests and environmental consulting. Some favorites have been tide pool research for UCSC and the amphibian work he did as a biologist at Mt. Rainier.

For the past two years Kyle has volunteered at Kuumbwa Jazz Center as a dishwasher (I didn’t know you could do that!) because he enjoys the social environment and the cultural experience. He also plays beach volleyball regularly.   He hikes and backpacks – local favorites include Nisene Marks, Pogonip and Wilder and he enjoys weeklong backpacking trips in the High Sierras. Kyle also enjoys whitewater kayaking – including his three-week trip down the Grand Canyon stretch of the Colorado River. He has traveled to China, India, Fiji, South and Central America and all over the US; China is a favorite and he’d love to go back. 

He enjoys reading books by Japanese author Haruki Murakami. And, not totally surprising for a biologist, Kyle is a seasoned beekeeper – he’s been doing it for 13 years and he has 7 hives. Kyle loves the small class sizes we have at PCS and he is looking forward to teaching the students here. Welcome aboard Kyle!