OUR TEAM

Leadership Team

Karen Hunter Quartz

Director, UCLA Center for Community Schooling
Faculty, UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies

Karen Hunter Quartz led the design team to create the RFK UCLA Community School. Her research, teaching, and service support new school development, teacher autonomy and retention, and educational reform. Karen oversees a portfolio of research-practice partnerships at the UCLA Community Schools designed to advance democracy, inquiry, and change.

Jody Z. Priselac

Associate Dean of Community Programs, UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies

Jody Z. Priselac oversees community programs and school partnerships within the School of Education and Information Studies. She has over 30 years of experience as a mathematics educator, serving in many roles, including high school teacher, professional development leader, teacher educator, and researcher.  Jody was a founding partner in creating the UCLA Community Schools and currently co-chairs the School Governing Council.

Marisa Saunders

Associate Director for Research, UCLA Center for Community Schooling

Marisa Saunders’ research aims to support and connect the work of the UCLA Community Schools to the broader community schools movement. In particular, her research explores the influence of teacher leadership on school improvement efforts, and student outcomes. Marisa facilitates the work of the UCLA Consortium of Community Schools and serves on the research committees of the UCLA Community Schools.

Christine Shen

Director, UCLA Community Schools Initiative, UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies

Christine Shen has 20+ years leading large-scale school transformations in Los Angeles. Dr. Shen was part of the founding member of the first start-up public charter middle school in Los Angeles, served as a senior advisor for LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s to secure and manage 15 urban schools, and collaborated with LAPD and other city departments to ensure safe school passages for over 100 schools in Los Angeles Unified School District.

Rebekah M. Kang

School Leadership Fellow

As one of the founding teachers of the RFK UCLA Community School, Rebekah M. Kang helped start and develop signature learning programs such as the Seminar Program and Integration Program for students with disabilities. She is also a National Board Certified Teacher, a UCLA Writing Project Fellow, and Teacher-Powered Schools Ambassador.

Graduate Student Researchers

Janet Cerda

Human Development & Psychology
Janet Cerda is a PhD candidate in the Human Development and Psychology Division of UCLA’s School of Education and Information Studies. Her research investigates the psychosocial and multilingual language development of immigrant children and youth over time. She collaborates with teachers and school leaders at the RFK UCLA Community School to support the expansion of their dual language program to the secondary grades. She is a recipient of the National Academy of Education/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship.

Heather Clark

Urban Schooling
Heather Clark is a PhD student in the Urban Schooling division. Her research at the Mann UCLA Community School centers on co-designing community-based science focused on climate change learning. Prior to attending UCLA, she taught high school chemistry and received her B.A. from Wellesley College and M.S. from Yale University. Heather’s work hopes to explore how teacher learning in research-practice partnerships can support youth in reimagining a climate future for Los Angeles that is more just and sustainable.

Clémence Darriet

Social Sciences & Comparative Education
Clémence Darriet is a PhD student in Social Sciences and Comparative Education interested in secondary bilingual education and works at RFK UCLA Community School with the secondary school dual-language program. She earned her BA and MA in Spanish from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and previously worked as a language teacher in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Ariana Guillermo Dimagiba

Higher Education &  Organizational Change
Ariana Dimagiba is a doctoral student in the Higher Education and Organizational Change Division at UCLA’s School of Education & Information Studies. Ariana’s research interests largely revolve around college access for underrepresented populations in colleges.  She holds a B.A. in Political Science from UCLA and an M.A. in Higher Education and Organizational Change from UCLA GSE&IS. Prior to returning to UCLA, Ariana was a college advisor for first generation college students and their families in Chula Vista, California.

 

Natalie Fensterstock

Social Welfare
Natalie Fensterstock is a Ph.D. student in Social Welfare in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. She holds a M.A. in Social Sciences and Comparative Education from the UCLA School of Education & Information Studies and a B.A. in English with minors in Secondary Education and Sociology from Wake Forest. Her research focuses on reducing the barriers to learning for our most vulnerable youth populations and on interventions for promoting holistic youth well-being. She is currently working on projects related to ongoing school readiness, teacher leadership and whole child education within the community schooling context, secondary trauma within schools, and developing policy solutions for addressing harm experienced by school staff and faculty during the COVID era. Prior to her time at UCLA, Natalie spent five years teaching middle and high school English and coaching new teachers in the Bay Area in California.

 

Becky French

Human Development & Psychology
Becky French is a Ph.D. candidate in the Joint Doctoral Program with California State University, Los Angeles, and the Human Development and Psychology division of UCLA’s School of Education and Information Studies. Her research focuses on how teachers are prepared to work with students who have diverse learning needs. Prior to coming to UCLA, she was a Special Education teacher and coordinator. Her work at Mann UCLA Community School focuses on supporting teachers to work with students with disabilities.

Symone Gyles

Urban Schooling
Symone Gyles is a PhD candidate in the Urban Schooling division in the UCLA School of Education and Information Studies. Prior to coming to UCLA, Symone earned her B.S. in Marine and Environmental Science at Hampton University, and went on to teach 7th grade science in Hampton, VA. Currently, her dissertation research at Mann UCLA Community School is focused on the co-design of community-based science curriculum and pedagogies to determine best practice to engage Black and Latinx students’ community and cultural funds of knowledge, and connect school science and community to support formal science learning through connections connecting school science and community science.

Sidronio Jacobo

Higher Education & Organizational Change
Sidronio Jacobo is a doctoral student in the Higher Education and Organizational Change program at UCLA’s School of Education and Information Studies. His research at RFK UCLA Community School focuses on understanding alumni’s pathways and other college-outcomes. Sidronio holds a B.A. in Social Welfare and Latin American Studies from UC Berkeley and an M.A. in Higher Education and Organization Change from UCLA GSE&IS.

Christine Liboon

Social Research Methodology
Christine Liboon is a doctoral student in Social Research Methodology at UCLA’s School of Education and Information Studies. Her research interests are focused broadly on program evaluation in education related to newcomer, immigrant, refugee, and migrant populations. Christine is focused on studying the integration of the Immigration Family Legal Clinic at RFK. At UCLA, she is a Co-Chair for the Graduate Student Association in Education (GSAE). She has a B.A in Ethnic Studies from UCR and M.A. in Social Research Methodology from UCLA.

Olivia Obeso

Urban Schooling
Olivia Obeso is a Ph.D. student in Urban Schooling at UCLA’s School of Education and Information Studies. She earned her B.A. in Linguistics and Spanish and M.A. in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), and worked as a language teacher prior to attending UCLA. Her research focuses on the ways that educators and students navigate language policies in schools. Through this work, she aims to support school communities in creating more equitable spaces for linguistically marginalized students.

Tomoko M. Nakajima

Urban Schooling

Tomoko M. Nakajima is a critical education researcher in urban schooling. For her Ph.D. dissertation, Tomoko interviewed high school teachers throughout Los Angeles County to examine what enabled teacher retention and wellbeing at urban Title I schools, work that she continues with the Center for Community Schooling. Recently, Tomoko received an Education Trust-West fellowship to identify district practices that contribute to retaining teachers of color. She previously served as analyst with BRAID (Building, Recruiting, and Inclusion for Diversity) Research, on Center X’s Exploring Computer Science research-practice partnership, and on the CRESST evaluation team for STAR, the STEM teacher preparation program at CSU Dominguez Hills. Tomoko was formerly a classroom teacher in the SF Bay Area.

Megan Tagami

Political Science & Public Affairs

Megan Tagami is a third-year undergraduate student majoring in political science and public affairs and minoring in education studies. She is a research intern at the UCLA Community School and is currently studying how grade span configurations and K-12 schools can impact students’ learning and social development. Megan has previously assisted with research at the University of Hawaii Center on the Family and studied families’ access to early childhood education throughout the state.

Evelyn Wang

Social Research Methodology
Evelyn Wang is a doctoral candidate in the Social Research Methodology division of UCLA’s School of Education and Information Studies, with a focus on Evaluation. Prior to her doctoral studies, she was the Senior Research Associate at Children’s Institute, Inc., where she coordinated internal program evaluation and university-partnered research studies. Evelyn’s work at Mann UCLA Community School centers on assisting the school with designing, implementing, and evaluating integrated student supports that promote non-academic outcomes.

Mario Zarate

Philosophy
Mario Zarate is a senior undergraduate transfer student from Chaffey Community College in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. He is a philosophy major and an education minor and is currently serving as a philosophical research intern investigating the nature of community and democratic practices in the current community schools movement. He is also mentoring AP Research students at the UCLA Community School. Mario has given a TEDx talk on the reformation of the public school system and specializes in postmodern studies.

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