Meet Our Teachers
Afton Lopez (formerly Rodriguez)
Pre-K Teaching Associate; Lover of flash-mobs, the outdoors, and sloths
My passion for childhood education comes from years of volunteering in an elementary school after school extra-curricular program. I found such a purpose in being able to facilitate the learning experience in a way that students were able to interact with each other and think critically in every situation. I am so excited to be a part of Bertschi where that same kind of high-level, critical thinking is encouraged by enthusiastic instructors both inside and outside of the classroom. In my free time, I love to craft, rock climb, and be outside soaking up as much of that Seattle sun as possible!
B.A., English Literature, Seattle University
Kindergarten Teaching Associate; Question-Answerer and Helper-Outer
My heart really is in working with Kindergarten kids. They are so curious and open to the world. I love answering their questions and am always interested in what they want to learn about next. I enjoy being there to help them with whatever they need assistance with–from lunch to school work. After school, I enjoy being with girls and working out together during Extended Day.
Early Education Certificate, Seattle Central Community College
2nd Grade Teacher; Paddle Boarder, Hiker, and Children's Book Author
I love witnessing the growth that Bertschi kids make over the school year, both personally and academically. It's such a joy to see our students growing, changing, and learning every day. When I’m not in the classroom, you can usually find me cooking, getting outdoors to go paddle boarding or hiking, or eating out with friends.
B.A., Psychology, University of Colorado
M.S., Elementary Education, Bank Street College of Education
Aurora de la Cruz
3rd Grade Teaching Associate; Singer, Sailor, and Solver of Puzzles
I think I've been spending my entire life discovering and reaffirming the wisdom from an African proverb: "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." Being able to work together with the incredible students and staff at Bertschi is a gift that keeps on giving. In my free time, I sing in the chorale for the Seattle Symphony and spend summers with my family sailing around the San Juan Islands. I also enjoy solving crosswords, sudoku, word jumbles, jigsaw puzzles, and discovering how things fit together.
Bachelor of Arts: Music Education, University of Oregon
Masters in Music: Music Education, University of Oregon
2nd Grade Teacher; Triathlete, Mover and Shaker
Everyday is unique and special in the classroom. I embrace the opportunity to introduce something special to my students or take the time for them to share their gifts. I love to experience my students' creativity, imagination, and excitement to take on the day and make it memorable. Outside of school, I am very active. I am a triathlete, I travel, and I run with my dog. I love to settle into a fantastic book or just absorb the sunshine and walk barefoot in the grass!
B.A., Graphic Design and Photography, University of Michigan
M.A., Elementary Education, University of Phoenix, UT
Kindergarten Teacher; Hiker, Backpacker, Kayaker and Explorer of the Outdoors
Spending several hours a day with 18 creative, inquisitive and kind people is a privilege. Supporting them as they grow and learn is why I love teaching. Each day, we get to wonder, solve problems and laugh together. Together we get to build a community of acceptance, peace, and compassion. I love it! When I am not teaching at Bertschi, I enjoy spending time with my family, getting outside, reading and exploring new places.
B.A., Sociology, Washington State University
M.Ed., International Education, Framingham State University
4th Grade Teacher; Boat Enthusiast and Dog Lover
There are so many reasons I love to teach. Inspiring children to grow as unique individuals is incredibly rewarding. I truly enjoy the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with my students and learn alongside them each day. The Bertschi community fosters a creative and passionate teaching environment that I feel fortunate to be part of! Away from school, I enjoy being on the water, spending time with my several young nieces, and going on outdoor adventures with my family.
B.A., Biology, Colby College
M.Ed., Curriculum and Instruction, University of Washington
Extended Day Teacher; Sewist, Machinist, Skier, Baker
I come to the Extended Day program from science museums, day camps, and STEM-adjacent academia. I am thrilled to be a part of an institution that shares my passion for providing a learning environment that prioritizes inclusivity in all fields. Outside of work I love making props and costumes; I’ll try anything from fiber crafts to fiberglass. My mentors have empowered me to view challenges with optimism and make use of the resources around me to overcome them. My goal is to share this mindset with my students during our time together in the Bertschi community.
B.A. Science, Technology & Society Studies, Pomona College
Sports Coordinator and Extended Day Teacher; Coach, Athlete, Fan
Growing up in Seattle I spent much of my time at local community centers playing sports. As I got older I wanted to give back to the community that helped raise me. I have coached many local youth teams including basketball, girls soccer and cross country, and have run numerous sports programs. I love to play sports, especially basketball. I am an avid fan of all Seattle sports teams. I am grateful that Bertschi allows me to combine two of my passions: working with kids and sports.
A.A., Gender Studies, Shoreline Community College
B.A., Human Services, Western Washington University
Coordinator for Advanced Learning; Philosopher, Resident Cat Artist, and Motorcycle Tinkerer
Like all exhilarating things, learning is both fun and scary. Each day we're discovering these awesome new powers we never knew we had. But serious learning, the kind of critical thinking that really matters, also involves confronting our ideas about ourselves, what we're capable of, and the world at large. It's a wild ride. My hope is that kids leave each day with their hair a little frazzled, their eyes a little wider, and their hearts a little bigger.
B.A., Honors Philosophy and Comparative Religion, University of Washington
Dance and Movement Specialist; Snowboarder
It’s very easy for me to identify with our wonderful, kinetic kids here at Bertschi. I love to challenge them with opportunities to explore, create, and express themselves physically. Ever since I let go of rehearsing and performing dance professionally, I’ve taken up snowboarding as my personal full body expression. I’ve found that I function better in all aspects of my life when I have opportunities to challenge myself and move full out.
A.A., Music, Shasta College
B.F.A., Fine Arts, University of Utah
Director of Learning Services; Mom, Author, and Chauffeur
I love figuring out how different minds work and identifying or creating the best ways to teach them. I also love watching young minds develop over time. When I was a classroom teacher, my favorite students were those who had difficulties in one area--often they excelled at creative thinking or thinking visually; they were funny, and wrote excellent poetry, but were perhaps terrible spellers. So, I completed a Masters Degree in Learning Disabilities so I could specialize in working with these kids all day. Outside of school, I enjoy playing with my dog, Buddy, reading, and being a chauffeur for my two kids. In August of 2015, I proudly published Word Wires, a classroom curriculum adapted from Wired for Reading with two co-authors. The second Word-Wires book will be published in August 2016.
B.S., Elementary Eduction, Valparaiso University
M.A., Identification and Treatment of Learning Disabilities, Teachers College Columbia University
Learning Specialist; Runner, Reader and Traveling Tall Lady
Teaching is my calling! I love to work with kids and figure out how they tick. I approach each child as a unique puzzle. I'm also attracted to the pace of the school day; recess, snack, bursts of energy... This is my world and I'm so happy to be at Bertschi. What else can I tell you about me? I am really tall and I have four children who are also really tall: two sons and two daughters who all play basketball. I've lived and worked in New York, Maryland, Georgia, California and now here in Washington State. I also really enjoy running, reading and traveling to discover new places and meet new people.
B.A., American History, Harvard College
M.A., Curriculum and Teaching, K-8, Teachers College Columbia University
1st Grade Teacher; Mom and Runner
Teaching is my passion. It is rewarding on a daily basis. I enjoy watching children’s faces light up when they learn something new. I love seeing my students’ confidence grow as the year progresses, and I truly appreciate the amazing interactions I have with my 1st graders and their parents. When I am not teaching, I enjoy spending time with my husband and two children (both Bertschi Kids themselves). We all love traveling and finding new vacation spots. Our favorite place to visit is the island of Kauai, where I grew up. When I need time to myself, my favorite thing to do is go for an early morning run.
B.S., Human Development and Family Sciences, Oregon State University
M.A., Elementary Education, City University
Technology Integration Specialist; Adventure Traveler
As a boy of 10, I would help my dad in custom construction, building houses during the summer. I would program all day long in my head and couldn’t wait to get home and back to my computer in the evening to code. I’d stay up far too late, creating the early equivalent of an online game and get into trouble because I couldn't wake up the next day! I realized technology wasn't going away, but evolving, growing, changing. I could see that it would become part of everything and help make things like movie making, photo editing and music recording, easier and common place.
When I see that million dollar smile or hear the laughter of sheer joy when students discover something original, create something unique or develop something they have been laboring on for weeks using technology, there really isn't anything better in the world! When I’m not teaching, I enjoy adventure traveling around the world, doing exciting things like helicopter snowboarding, surfing with friends in Hawaii, or long-board skating.
B.A., International Studies, University of Washington
M.A., Educational Technology, Antioch University
Science Specialist; Hiker, Aspiring Forager, Traveler, Food-lover
I am so excited to explore, question, observe and create with the young scientists at Bertschi. I think we all start life with curiosity about the world and a willingness to test our ideas about it. My goal at Bertschi is to nurture each child's curiosity, while helping to grow the tools and practices that allow each of us to answer our questions, solve our problems and bring creative thinking to every aspect of our lives. When I am not teaching, I love traveling, finding delicious things to eat, and camping under the stars.
M.A., Education, Antioch University, Seattle, Washington
B.S., Ecology, The Evergreen State College, Olympia Washington
Instructional Coach; Mom of two, Beachcomber, Hiker, Aspiring Photographer
I am thrilled to be part of the team here at Bertschi. I have always thought teachers have the most important job in the world, as they encourage all children to become their best selves. I love getting to see the many classrooms and teaching styles of different teachers, and supporting them all as they help students succeed. When I'm not at school, I am driving my two children to practices, baking muffins, or finding new outdoor adventures with my family.
1st Grade Teacher (Long-Term Substitute); The Clash Fan, Nutella Connoisseur, Mountaineering Guide
I believe that we learn through connections and that as educators we should make education relevant, focused on compassion and problem solving. After spending time teaching in New Zealand, Mexico and India and I want to bring what I learned about cultural competence to the classroom. I am stoked to learn from Bertschi kids and staff. When I am not working I love to be outside, try new recipes and spend time in my community.
B.A. in Elementary Education; Literacy, Language and Cultural Studies and TESOL from Western Washington University
Bertschi Center Teaching Associate and Extended Day Coordinator; Artist, Outdoor Enthusiast
It is truly exciting to be part of the vibrant Bertschi community. I find it rewarding to be able to utilize a multiplicity of skills each day to facilitate safe learning environments throughout the school. Whether I am attending to a facilities need, or working inside the classroom; I truly value the evident positivity and abundant creativity that flourishes at Bertschi on a daily basis. Outside of work I enjoy hiking, rowing, bike riding, vegetable gardening, and making music.
A.A., Shoreline Community College
B.A., History, Western Washington University
La Verne Chen
Music Specialist; Cellist, Seward Park Regular, and Mom to a 4-year old
Music-making is a joyful, experimental, creative, (and sometimes loud!) process, and I feel so fortunate to be able to spend my days guiding young musicians in their paths to self-expression. I love the moments in my classroom when I witness a group of fifth grade drummers find their jam, or a kindergartener dancing with abandon, or the a-ha moment when a fourth grader realizes that she can read the music notes on the page in front of her and play them on her recorder. I have many years of experience teaching elementary music in both public and independent schools and I am excited to be joining the Bertschi community! When I'm not in the classroom, you might find me paddle-boarding on Lake Washington, running the trails at Seward Park, or taking millions of pictures of my husband and four year old son.
B.A. Music and Psychology, University of California, Berkeley
M.Ed. Music Education, Teachers College, Columbia University
Kindergarten Teacher; Avid Reader, Hiker, and Artist
Five and six year olds still understand there is magic in the world, and that is why I believe it is the perfect age! I've spent the majority of my career working with kindergarten students. While I personally love a great novel, I am always on the looking for great chapter books that captivate the interests and imaginations of my students. My dream is to one day be a published author of a great chapter book for young children.
B.A., Elementary Education, University of Montana
M.A., Teaching Science, Miami University
Learning Specialist; Lover of water sports, Orangetheory, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, step stools and spaghetti
I love to help students find joy in learning. It is my passion to help children discover their strengths and overcome their challenges. To accomplish this goal, I mix the science of learning with the art of teaching. My strength is developing positive relationships with elementary aged youth, supporting them to reach their academic potential, while enjoying a happy and joyful childhood. We tackle the tough stuff and have a ton of fun!
M.A., English with an Emphasis on Education, University of Washington
Master in Teaching, Elementary Education, City University
Art Specialist; Printmaker and Designer
Teaching elementary art is inspiring and dynamic...always changing shape! Our art room is an environment where students experience the power of expressing themselves visually. They think creatively toward solutions, strengthen their ability to respond, refine, reflect and build a strong base of visual art skills, enabling them to excel in any direction they choose. I feel that when students approach art in this positive, non-restrictive way, it plays an essential part toward the development of individuals and whole communities. Outside of school I love to draw, practice printmaking, explore the natural world, watch films and invent recipes.
B.F.A., Printmaking and Art Education, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design
Learning Specialist; Outdoor Enthusiast, Knitter and Book-lover
I am so lucky to be doing my dream job at Bertschi! As a learning specialist, my goal is to meet my students where they are and follow their learning, while consistently increasing the challenge to a degree that allows them to be successful in each lesson. I am mindful of the emotionality of my students, and strive to guide each student during every lesson to feel a sense of accomplishment and success. My free time is spent connecting with family and friends, and being a mom to my two teenaged boys. I sneak off to read or knit whenever I can.
BBA - Finance, University of Georgia
M.Ed. - Mercer University
Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators – Associate Level Certification
Slingerland Institute - 2nd Level Certification
Mia Santos Herrmann
Librarian; Travel Enthusiast, Avid NYT Reader, Scrabble Fan
Reading has always been a great escape and a way for me to learn new things and explore new places. Finding a great book is like finding a new friend. The opportunity to help students discover their own escapes, interests, and journeys is both satisfying and joyful. I love sharing stories with students, hearing their wonderings and ideas, fostering their passions, and connecting them with books and the world. When I’m not at Bertschi, you can find me on adventures with my husband and two children (both Bertschi kids), perusing cookbooks, reading the NYT, and organizing anything and everything.
B.A., Political Science and Economics, Wellesley College
M.S., Elementary Education, Mercy College, NYC Teaching Fellow
5th Grade Teacher; Nature Loving Art Dabbler
I can’t imagine not teaching. I love collaborating with my 5th graders to build relationships and grapple with big ideas. They ask such fabulous questions! I actively pursue learning and risk-taking and model these behaviors for my students. Nudging them to test the waters outside their comfort zones and watching their inner courage unfold is so inspiring. When I am not on campus, I relax by reading, gardening, making art of any sort and size, scoring a thrift store find, or walking in the forest - preferably all in the company of my twin daughters.
B.A., Speech and Interpersonal Communication, University of Washington
M.Ed., George Washington University
PreK/Kindergarten Extended Day Teacher; Cook, Musician, Story Game Designer, and Life Long Learner
I am happiest as an educator when I am able to show students the ways that varied learning topics intersect and co-inform each other. How taking time for art can build on rather than take away from learning math, for example, or how songs and stories can enrich our understanding of our environment. Being part of the Bertschi community means embracing these intersecting approaches and supporting students’ learning through creative extended day programming.
B.A., Environmental Analysis, Pomona College
Graduate Certificate in Education for Environment and Community, IslandWood
M.Ed., Curriculum and Instruction, University of Washington
3rd Grade Teacher; Irishwoman and European Traveler
I love empowering young minds to grow and flourish. It may be idealistic, but perhaps I can influence some change in the world through these young minds. When not working with Bertschi kids, I really enjoy swimming, going to the movies, spending time with my family, and traveling—I am from Ireland and I try my best to visit a different European city each year.
B.Ed., Education, Mary Immaculate College, Ireland
M.A., Educational Leadership, Argosy University
5th Grade Teacher; Movie Aficionado and Pursuer of Many Interests
5th grade is a key year for students to solidify a strong sense of self, purpose, and their place in the world before middle school. I am honored to be a steward of their pivotal final year at Bertschi. It is a joy to share in the humor and energy 5th graders bring to the classroom. I have a background in theater and history and I enjoy sharing these passions with my students. My hobbies include playing board games, reading, baking, sewing, trivia, and traveling. In my free time I can usually be found at the movie theater seeing everything from black-and-white classics to frivolous action movies!
B.A., Liberal Arts, Sarah Lawrence College
M.A., Early Modern History, King's College, London
4th Grade Teaching Associate and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator
I’m excited and honored to help coordinate DEI work for Bertschi school, while supporting healthy identity development in students and empowering them as agents of change within their communities. This topic and related initiatives have always been important to me personally. Growing up as a bi-racial student, I understand the importance of having a school culture that values diverse perspectives and engages in courageous conversations around justice, community, and race. I can't emphasize enough how excited I am to build new relationships with the students and families through this work, while helping to strengthen our community as we continue on our journey towards greater equity and inclusion at Bertschi and beyond. In my spare time you’ll find me climbing, roller skating, or attempting to learn something new on one instrument or another.
B.A., Anthropology, Humboldt State University
Certificate in Education for Environment and Community, IslandWood
M.Ed. Curriculum and Instruction; Science Education, The University of Washington 2017
4th Grade Teacher; Traveler and Fan of Fourth Graders
I love teaching this pivotal year in child development—Fourth graders are at a turning point physically, emotionally, and academically. Ten and eleven year old children aren’t afraid to ponder lofty ideas or challenge established paradigms, their own and others. When I'm not at Bertschi, I am taking classes, traveling, reading, and cooking with family and friends.
B.A., History, Seattle Pacific University
B.Ed., Elementary Education, Seattle Pacific University
Kindergarten Teaching Associate; Hufflepuff, Theatre Lover
I recently moved to Seattle and am overjoyed to be a part of the Bertschi community. Working with children is one of my passions. It warms my heart to be able to support and guide kids as they grow and develop. When I am not at school, you can find me working in technical theatre in and around Seattle.
A.S. General Studies, North Idaho College
B.F.A Theatre Technology, University of Idaho
2nd Grade Teaching Associate; Writer and World Traveler
I have always been interested in the ways that people think. I have found that teaching and facilitating learning is a great way to observe and learn about how people view the world. I particularly like the strong sense of curiosity that children have and being part of a school environment that encourages children to interact with that curiosity is exciting for me! Outside of school, I enjoy writing, exploring, learning about people and cultures, taking care of plants, playing musical instruments, and spending time with friends and family.
B.S., Biology, State University of New York at Fredonia
Pre-K Teacher; Mom, Cellist, Outdoor Enthusiast
I love teaching because children keep me real, make me smile, and always bring laughter. I chose teaching because I love building relationships, getting to know people, and listening to their stories. I appreciate how young children see the world and enjoy helping them wonder and think deeper. I have two wonderful children that keep me busy when I am not at work. We love to spend lots of time at Priest Lake in Idaho, canoeing and sailing. I love the outdoors, and I also play the cello!
B.A., Sociology, University of Washington
M.A., Elementary Education, Antioch University
Shannon Yergan (formerly Sanders)
1st Grade Teacher; Kick-baller and Card Collector
I am so thrilled to be part of such a vibrant learning community that is full of kid-power and creativity. I honestly think 1st graders are the best people on the planet. Each day is new and interesting to them. I love following them on their educational journey, and helping them learn to love school at an early age. When I’m not at Bertschi, I enjoy being outdoors exploring my new Seattle home, playing kickball, learning to knit, and finding special greeting cards to share with friends.
B.S., Elementary Education, University of Connecticut
M.A., Elementary Education, University of Connecticut
Pre-K Teacher; Nature Lover and World Traveler
I chose to work in schools because I love being part of a dynamic and energetic environment. I find inspiration in the colleagues, families and children I work with and appreciate the sense of joy and belonging that comes from creating a community together. Young children are so passionate about their ideas and I enjoy collaborating with them and creating projects together. Each day is different and I never know what new discoveries and adventures are awaiting us! I love being in nature, especially scuba diving, hiking, swimming and kayaking and am always willing to try a new sport or exercise. I am perpetually planning my next vacation and am passionate about traveling to new places I’ve never been before.
B.A., Speech and Language Pathology Honors, Ohio University
1st grade Teaching Associate; Oil painting artist, Dog lover, Runner and Fan of all things silly
I am so proud to be a part of Bertschi School. Throughout college, I was given the opportunity to study education in three different countries. I learned a variety of educational philosophies and methods. The common factor I have found is the importance of adjusting to each child in order to meet their needs. Children are not only natural learners but natural teachers. I can't wait to learn from each and every child at Bertschi School. This is a special community and I am thrilled to be a part of it.
B.A., Educational Theories and Studies, Principia College
3rd Grade Teacher; Dad and Water Sportsman
I enjoy Bertschi because I get excited about the many possibilities before me each day. I choose to teach because I relish the responsibility of shaping a child’s life. And I love knowing that the year we have together will be with them forever. Outside of school, I enjoy exploring life with my daughter and wife, cooking, and sports with precipitation combined with boards.
B.A., Geography, University of Washington
Masters In Teaching, Elementary Education, University of Washington
5th Grade Teaching Associate; Outdoor Adventurer and Crossword Enthusiast
I believe that making connections between academic content and real-world impact is an essential tool for students to own. As an experiential educator, I am excited to work with the fantastic faculty and staff at Bertschi to facilitate the development of leaders and learners in the 5th Grade classroom. Outside of work, I enjoy riding my bike around town, hiking one of the area's amazing trails, and searching for the best slice of pizza in Seattle.
B.S. Environmental Science, Loyola University Chicago
Tina La Plant
Drama Specialist; Storyteller and Artist
You can't have community without the unity. The thing I love most about teaching drama at Bertschi is the element of unity I experience. I appreciate how stories, both our own and those that come to us from culture or history or others’ imaginations, create commonality, increase empathy and provide a foundation of unity. Everyone has a story inside of them. Some may never find the way to share their private stories with the people around them, and through drama our students have the opportunity to learn to tell stories, to love stories, and incorporate stories into their daily lives. When not at school I enjoy various avenues of creative exploration, such as painting and beadwork. I also like spending time with my dogs and working in my garden.
B.A., Theatre, Western Washington University
M.A., Integrated Arts and Education (In Progress), University of Montana
Learning Specialist; Reader, Baked Good Enthusiast, and Relief Pitcher
I grew up in Santa Cruz, California, where I avoided the beach every summer by reading Harry Potter and playing sports. At Whitman College, I played varsity baseball for two years before realizing my favorite part of road trips was reading on the bus, prompting my permanent transition from the bullpen to the library. I like to think that even after hanging up my cleats for books, I have maintained my role as a relief pitcher by coming into new situations with patience and flexibility. I have found myself sharing my passion for reading with children in Walla Walla, Oakland, Chicago, Brooklyn, and even India. I believe we fall in love with reading through reading about what we love, but we become great readers through reading outside of our comfort zones.
B.A. English, Whitman College M.A. Elementary Education, Relay Graduate School of Education
Physical Education Specialist; Cook, Dog-Lover, and Outdoor Adventurer
I enjoy being with children. I like helping them to discover what they are capable of and seeing their confidence grow. Working with Bertschi students and colleagues reminds me, every day, that being a good person is paramount. Outside of work, I enjoy being in the mountains and on the water. I love to spend my time with my family, dog, and friends--playing, creating, and enjoying good food.
B.A., Art History and Italian Studies, Wesleyan University
M.A., Human Development, Pacific Oaks College
4th Grade Long-Term Substitute Teacher; Athlete, Hiker, Peanut Butter Lover
I believe our best learning happens when we are having fun. I make it my job as a teacher to engage and challenge students and help them develop a life-long love of learning. I love knowing that each day I get to act as a role model for my students, setting an example as someone who isn’t afraid to try new things and solve problems. When I’m not teaching, I’m playing soccer or ultimate frisbee or rooting for my favorite Pittsburgh sports teams.
B.S., Elementary and Special Education, Boston University
Spanish Specialist; Cultural Explorer, Painter and Chef
I feel fortunate to work at a school that expresses and explores compassion for the world around us. I love my job because I’ll be able to grant students the opportunity to discover the joy of communicating in another language, explore other cultures, and expand their openness to differences. Outside of work I am very active – I enjoy walking, sewing, painting, cooking, reading and singing. I live to both play and learn.
B.A., Education, Universidad San Antonio abad Cusco
M.A., Children's Literature, Pontifica Universidad Católica