New teachers and staff in Sonoma Valley classrooms

The Sonoma Valley Unified School District welcomed 18 new teachers and administrators at the start of this school year, most of whom have joined Sonoma Valley High School. Hiring was down somewhat from the 30-plus teachers, counselors and nurses hired at the start of the 2016-2017 school year.

“I was excited to welcome the SVUSD staff to the 2017-18 school year during last Friday's district wide Welcome Back! meeting held at the high school Pavilion,” said school district Superintendent Charles Young. “Their enthusiasm for the new school year and their commitment to the students of Sonoma Valley was quickly evident. I was equally appreciative of the warm welcome I have received from staff, parents, and the community at large over the past few weeks.”

Meet the new staffers who will be working with your students this year.

Elementary level

Molly Beglin is a new second grade teacher at Prestwood. She was a student teacher at El Verano for first and third grade last year. She received her bachelor's degree from Sacramento State and her teaching credentail from Sonoma State.

Vanessa Chavez-Quinonez has joined Flowery as a new first grade teacher. Chavez-Quinonez was a student teacher last year at both El Verano and Flowery. She also worked for the district's Summer Reading & Writing Academy at Sassarini this summer. She received her B.A. and her teaching credentials from Sonoma State. Chavez-Quinonez grew up in Sonoma.

Jacquelyn Fortner is a new speech and language pathologist (SLP) at Dunbar this year. A resident of Santa Rosa, Fortner has both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from San Jose State. She has worked as a camp counselor at a special needs camp; this is her first full-time SLP position.

Lynn McArthur has joined the school district to teach music to grades first through third at El Verano, Sassarini, Flowery and Prestwood. McArthur lives in Sonoma and most recently taught music at the Presentation School and at Sonoma Charter. McArthur has a bachelor's degree from the University of Manitoba and a master's degree at the University of British Columbia.

Middle schools

Hayley Huff has joined Adele as a new seventh and eighth grade Spanish language arts teacher. Huff lives in Healdsburg and this is her first year teaching. She received her bachelor's degree from Colorado University, Boulder and she is currently part of the Sonoma County Office of Education's internship program en route to receiving her teaching credential.

Susan Flint has joined Adele Harrison as a new vice principal. Flint lives in Sonoma and most recently was the fifth grade principal at Rock Creek Elementary School in Auburn. Flint worked as a school counselor at Altimira and at El Verano earlier in her career. She received her bachelor's degree from U.C. Santa Barbara and her master's degree and pupil services and administrative credentials from Sonoma State.

Sonoma Valley High

Jamie Bywater has joined Sonoma Valley High School to teach ninth grade algebra. Bywater hails from Santa Rosa, where she most recently was a student teacher at Rancho Cotate High School. She attended Sonoma State and where she also received her teaching credentials.

Sarah DeSmet is a familiar name to many, as her father is long-time former school board member Gary DeSmet. She has returned to SVHS, her alma mater (class of 2007), to teach math. She is a U.C. Berkeley graduate and she received a master's in education from UCLA. Last year, DeSmet taught at a magnet high school in Los Angeles.

Ruben Escamilla is also a new math teacher at SVHS. Escamilla lives in Sebastapol and most recently taught at El Molina High School in Forestville. He received his B.A. and his teaching credentials from Sonoma State. He has been teaching for 18 years and also holds an administrative credential.

Aaron Gildengorin joined the high school as its new vice principal earlier this summer. Gildengorin lives in Novato and was most recently the assistant principal at Life Learning Academy Charter School on Treasure Island. He received his B.A. from University of Redlands and his teaching credentials, administrative credentials and master's degree from San Francisco State. Among Gildengorin's responsibilities will be overseeing athletics, both of the academies and senior projects.

Elizabeth Gonzalez has joined Sonoma Valley High as a new ninth grade English teacher. Gonzalez lives in Novato and most recently taught English at Life Learning Academy on Treasure Island. Gonzalez graduated from Yale University and received a master's degree and her teaching credential from U.C. Berkeley.

Kelly O'Leary is a new biology and earth sciences teacher at SVHS. O'Leary lives in Sonoma and most recently taught at Rancho Cotate High School, as well as at SVHS' summer school. She received her bachelor's degree and her teaching credential from Humboldt State.

Anna Kelsch is a new ninth grade English teacher at SVHS. She lives in Petaluma and most recently was a student teacher there at Kenilworth Junior High. Over the summer, she taught summer school English at SVHS. Kelsch received her B.A. and her teaching credentials from Sonoma State.

Jonathan Rehberg has joined Sonoma Valley High as a new ninth grade algebra teacher. A resident of Petaluma, this is Rehberg's first year teaching. He received his bachelor's degree from Cal State Fullerton, and his teaching credential from Sonoma State.

Doug Watenpool is a new vice principal at SVHS. A resident of San Rafael, Watenpool most recently was a math teacher at San Lorenzo Valley High School. Watenpool received his bachelor's degree from Indiana University and his master's degree in educational leadership from Concordia University.

District-wide posts

Lauren Oakley is a new school psychologist for the district, who will spend time at Dunbar, Flowery, Altimira and SVHS. Oakley lives in Santa Rosa and most recently was an intern at McKinleyville Union School District. Oakley received her bachelor's degree from Fresno State and her master's degree and school psychology credential from Fresno Pacific University.

Lucy Bollinger is a new English-learner coordinator across all grades. A resident of Santa Rosa, Bollinger most recently taught elementary school at Achieve Academy charter school in Oakland, where she also served as an assistant principal and then principal. Bollinger has a bachelor's degree and teaching credentials from Chico State as well as a administrative services credential from the Reach Institute.

Bill Pasichow has joined the district this fall as a school psychologist. A resident of San Rafael, Pasichow most recently worked as a psychologist at the Cover School in Corte Madera. Pasichow has a bachelor's degree from University of Michigan; a teaching credential from U.C. Berkeley; and a master's in educational psychology from U.C. Davis.

Karen Strong is a new assistant superintendent for instructional services for the district, a new position. Strong oversees the district's elementary and secondary curriculum and instruction programs, and pleads the ongoing development and improvement of TK-12 curriculum and instruction. Most recently, Strong served as the director of teaching and learning, K-12, in the Napa Valley Unified School District. She received her bachelor's and master's degrees from Brigham Young University. She is currently working toward her Doctor of Education in Education Leadership.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.
Send a letter to the editor

Our Network

The Press Democrat
Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Sonoma County Gazette