Karen Merchant has been the director of our TK partner, Rainbow Learning Circle, since founding the program five years ago. An artist and teacher with 20 years of experience in early childhood and elementary school settings, Karen strives to make learning visible through expressive materials and the documentation of play and storytelling. She has created programming and artwork for several local festivals, including the Festival of Childhood in Echo Park and Lummis Day Festival and Parade, has coordinated and taught the Trash for Teaching arts program at LAUSD, and currently teaches for LACMA’s Bing Education Outreach. Her certifications include Parent Educator for the Echo Center, Teaching Artist Apprentice (TAAP) at the Music Center, and Reggio Emilia programming at Branches Atelier in Culver City. She holds a counseling certification, a Program Director—Child Development credential from the California Board of Education, an M.A. in Human Development with a specialty in Art Education from Pacific Oaks College, and a BFA in Filmmaking from San Francisco State University.
Jamie Ramos teaches the K/1 class. She has several years of teaching experience, including the TK program at FWS. She graduated from California State University–Los Angeles with a B.A. in Urban Learning and a minor in Special Education: mild to moderate disabilities. Jamie's teaching is influenced by the educational theories of Piaget and Vygotsky. Piaget believed that children actively construct their knowledge through organization and adaptation. In every instance, interactions children have with people or objects will lead to ways of them understanding the world. Jamie also appreciates the works of Vygotsky. According to Vygotsky, children learn through the "zone of proximal development". While in the zone, a more knowledgeable person assists the child in learning and processing information; whether it be a teacher, parent, friend, or peer. Both theorists have helped shaped Jamie's philosophy of education because these theorists focus on how children think and learn in their environment.
Tim Noonan has a B.A. in Early Childhood Education and English from Boston College. Prior to FWS, he taught second grade for four years at J. Erik Jonsson Community School in Dallas, Texas, a school focused on employing research-based, brain-compatible teaching and learning practices while building relationships with children and families. An Eagle Scout, Tim has brought his love of camping and the outdoors into various Outdoor Education projects, including educational hikes and team-building campouts. An avid subscriber of “The Lifeskills,” Tim tries to infuse character development and service learning into the children’s daily practice. His students run their own class business, using the funds to purchase classroom supplies and gym equipment, as well as to make charitable donations. Teacher Tim believes in using a multimedia approach to learning and his students can often be found writing and filming short videos to showcase their writing and demonstrate understanding.
Jenny Creel is originally from Chattanooga, Tennessee. She has a B.A. degree in Exercise Science from the University of Mississippi, an MA in Education from the Cardiff University in Wales, and a Post Graduate Certification in Elementary Education from Drexel University in Philadelphia. Jenny has taught all over the world: at the Utahloy International School in Guangzhou, China; the International School at Lucie Berger in Strasbourg, France; the Chartwell International School in Belgrade, Serbia; and in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Jenny believes that every classroom presents a unique community of learners who vary not only in abilities, but also in learning styles. She sees her role as a teacher as someone who gives children the tools with which to cultivate their own knowledge. To accomplish this goal, she teaches to the needs of each child so that all learners can feel capable and successful. Jenny presents curriculum that involves the interests of the children and makes learning relevant and authentic to life. She incorporates transdisciplinary units, projects, group work, individual work, and hands-on learning in order to make children engaged learners. Finally, she ties learning into the world community to help children become global citizens.
DIRECTOR OF THEATER PROGRAM/ DEAN OF STUDENTS
Leilani Brooks was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. With a B.A. in Theater from UCLA (with a focus on Arts Bridge Education), she went on to work for Disney/Buena Vista Productions for over 10 years. In that time, she performed in numerous stage shows, and managed productions and press events. It was her love of working with families and children that brought her to teaching. Leilani teaches from a discovery and art perspective, tapping into what students already enjoy and using it to help facilitate standard subjects. She has taught as a substitute teacher within the Los Angeles Unified School District, working exclusively with children with learning disabilities. Leilani has also served as an enrichment coordinator for a start-up language school, developing an arts curriculum and setting up web pages for parents to find additional project-based learning materials to assist their children in varying levels of learning. Her latest and most personal project has been to inspire a new generation of children who are oversaturated with negative imagery in the media. In 2014, she started her own business: ABC ME flashcards for kids, depicting one's cultural history and examples of leadership to promote a healthy sense of self-worth. For Leilani, every day is an opportunity to practice perseverance and to be great!
Kindred Gottlieb graduated from the LA County High School for the Arts in 1991 and earned her B.A. in Neuropsychology and the Creative Process from Hampshire College where, for her final thesis, she designed the groundplans for a giant walk-through brain. Among her odd jobs, Kindred has been Assistant to the Head of Biology at The New York Hall of Science, Lighting Director for Seattle Repertory Theater, and Company Stage Manager for the comedy troupe Culture Clash. In 2000, she returned to art, studying sculpture full time at Chautauqua School of Art, The New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting, and Sculpture, and Universität der Künste, Berlin. While in Berlin she became Technical Director for Dock 11, a Dance theater and school. She took many classes in Butoh and movement improvisation and became interested in the intersection between movement and visual art. Also in Berlin, she created puppets and props for the children's theater company Berliner Tastentheater. Returning to Los Angeles in 2005, she taught technical theater at UCLA's Theater Department as their Master Electrician and designed lights for local dance companies including Helios, BodyTraffic, and String Theory. Kindred is currently the Art Director and Assistant Puppeteer for the puppet film company Classics in Miniature and shows her sculptures at the Hive Gallery in Downtown. For the last 4 years she has taught sculpture and movement improvisation at Wisdom Arts Laboratory and oversees the Sunday Day School program at Orange Grove Friend's Meeting. In 2013 she received a Certificate from UCLA in Social-Emotional Arts Education.