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Faculty and Staff Directory

The La Jolla Country Day School faculty, administration and staff are strong, diverse and talented individuals who have been drawn together for a common purpose. Ours is a vibrant community with an exciting charge—to create a stronger, better place where our children and those of future generations can grow to become excellent individuals, citizens and adventurers of the world.

Below is a list of the administration, staff and faculty. To locate a member, click on the drop-down menus below to search by division, department or last name. Faculty and staff bios are also available below.

Faculty/Staff Directory

  • Jessica Abbondanzio
    Lower School Art Educator, Director of After-School and Summer Programs
    (858) 453-3440 x285
    Bio
     
    “I inspire greatness by creating opportunities for students to share talents, be exposed to new mediums and expand their knowledge of history and culture. I hope to develop an environment where our young artists can learn to express themselves visually and to appreciate visual expressions around them.”

    Jessica Abbondanzio believes that elementary education should be filled with joy, color and creativity. Children should be a part of an art class from an early age and understand that one’s skill level in drawing does not define their ability to create something unique and artistic. Mrs. Abbondanzio graduated from Austin College in Sherman, Texas, with her bachelor’s degree in art and psychology and master’s degree in education. During her college years, she enjoyed studying culture and arts in West Africa, Chile and France.

    Before joining LJCDS in August 2016, Mrs. Abbondanzio was a K-4 art teacher in Dallas, Texas, for four years and a second-grade classroom teacher for eight years.

    Mrs. Abbondanzio enjoys cooking and believes creating culinary feasts is another form of art. She and her husband, Matt Abbondanzio, assistant head of school for design and innovation, were married in May 2016 and are happy to be now living in San Diego.

  • Samantha Ames
    Extended Day Group Leader
    (858) 453-3440
  • Dani Bonfield
    Kindergarten Educator
    (858) 453-3440 x217
    Bio
     
    “I strive to inspire greatness for a better world by instilling a genuine interest in and love of learning. I would like to inspire people to view learning as a ‘want to’ job rather than a ‘have to’ job. It could be anything from exploring something new to mastering something that takes much effort and practice. My hope is to inspire my students to view learning as a journey that never ends, no matter how old you are.”

    Dani Bonfield, M.A. Ed., believes that academic, social and emotional growth are important to every child’s development. As a Kindergarten teacher, Ms. Bonfield’s role is to offer assorted educational opportunities to a diverse body of learners. The best parts of her day are sharing in the elation of new accomplishments and the many hugs she receives from her students.

    Ms. Bonfield’s career began in Cincinnati, where she first taught gymnastics to children. This early involvement with children inspired her to obtain a bachelor’s degree in education from Miami University, Ohio. Then after a short time teaching at the American School in Guadalajara, Mexico, Ms. Bonfield began teaching in San Diego and has resided here since 2001. She later completed her master’s in education and reading specialist certification.

    Ms. Bonfield enjoys spending time with her two young daughters and husband. Her family members have become aquarium enthusiasts. The hobby has led her to appreciate the beauty and complexity of marine life.
  • Maribel Bueno
    Lower School World Language Educator
    (858) 453-3440 x215
  • Wendy Clemente
    Music Educator
    (858) 453-3440 x211
    Bio
     
    “I inspire greatness by helping children find their voice. A child who sings with confidence and joy will always know how to share his or her ideas and empower others to use their voices as well. I believe that the singers in my classroom are on their way to becoming citizens who will live their lives out loud.”  

    Since 2003, Wendy Clemente has taught general and vocal music in the Lower School. Beginning with the Tiny Torreys, she enjoys watching her students explore musical expression and find their voice. She believes that all humans are musical and that early music experiences can build skills that will set up a lifetime of music making.  

    A California native, Ms. Clemente always knew that she wanted to be a music teacher. She grew up singing regularly in church and began piano lessons at age 9. In high school, she began performing in musical theater while also interning for a small-label fashion designer. She spent a year studying music and theater in England, toured Western Europe as a soloist, and finally graduated with a Bachelor of Music Education. Ms. Clemente began her first teaching job in Bozeman, Mont., and then relocated to San Diego, teaching music and English at Escondido Adventist Academy for 11 years before coming to LJCDS. She continues to perform as a soprano and conducts various choral organizations, including the La Jolla Renaissance Singers, the UCSD  Geisel Library Toy Piano Duo, Bach Collegium–San Diego, St. Paul’s Cathedral, La Jolla Playhouse, St. Therese of Carmel Valley and the La Sierra University Vocal Octet Alumni.  

    Ms. Clemente spends her spare time sewing costumes and apparel for herself and family members, cooking gourmet vegetarian food, reading, and traveling with her husband, two children (who both attend LJCDS), two cats and a very spoiled beagle.  
  • Krista Clowers
    Lower School Science Educator
    (858) 453-3440
    Bio
     
    “I inspire greatness by fostering a sense of curiosity and wonder in all my students so that they can become lifelong learners who purposefully and methodically seek to solve problems in the world around them.”

    Krista Clowers nurtures her students’ natural curiosity about the world through the study of a variety of science topics. She strives to provide meaningful learning experiences which go beyond knowledge and application. Challenging students to use critical thinking skills is one of her favorite approaches to implementing science curriculum. Ms. Clowers encourages all students to not only carefully observe and analyze but carefully listen to and consider the ideas and contributions of fellow classmates.

    Ms. Clowers started teaching in 1996 and has taught all grades from pre-kindergarten through Grade 7 in both public and private schools in California, Texas, Hawaii and Washington State. She earned a Bachelor of Liberal Studies and her teaching credential at Cal State San Marcos and has earned a Master in Elementary Education with a specialization in Curriculum and Assessment from Aspen University. In her spare time, Ms. Clowers enjoys gardening, yoga and participates in several triathlons each year.
     
  • Jessica Corso
    Extended Day Coordinator
    (858) 453-3440 x305
    Bio
     
    “I inspire greatness for a better world by sharing with children my vulnerable, passionate and determined self. I believe it is important to step back and observe our children. When we allow children the time and space to explore and experiment on their own, we gain insight into how they think, and only then can we support their true potential.”     

    Jessica Corso believes that every part of the child’s day is important and unique. A child can learn valuable lessons while sitting at the lunch table with peers and teachers. A teachable moment can happen anytime and anywhere, and Ms. Corso is honored to have the opportunity to scaffold empathy, determination and dignity for the children at LJCDS.

    Ms. Corso earned her bachelor’s degree in music and voice and specialization in teaching music to children from New Hampshire at Keene State College and her master’s in child and family development from San Diego State University. While at SDSU, she also received a credential as a social and emotional early childhood intervention specialist. While writing her thesis, she became interested in the Reggio Emilia approach to education.

    She began her career at Gorce Child Study Center, where she studied child-centered learning and the project-based approach. Before joining LJCDS, Ms. Corso was previously at Mission Bay Montessori Academy of La Jolla and Aspirations Child Learning Center in Carlsbad–a Reggio-inspired school.   
            
    Ms. Corso has been singing and writing music her entire life—her greatest passion aside from education. She is currently the lead singer of Feathers and Lead, a band she started three years ago. Ms. Corso writes music for the band, and she enjoys the teamwork and friendship that has grown throughout the years.
     
  • Meiling Hager
    Lower School Administrative Assistant & Attendance
    (858) 453-3440 x161
    Bio
     
    “I use every opportunity to encourage curiosity of language learning to inspire greatness for a better world. As Lower School administrative assistant, I have endless opportunities to meet students, parents and visitors on my job. Whenever I have a chance to speak different languages, I do so enthusiastically. I encourage students to speak whatever languages they have learned, and I try to learn from them as well. I feel knowing different languages is such a great tool in getting to know different cultures and people around the world.”
     
     
    Meiling Hager has lived in five different countries and visited many more. She learned Spanish when she lived in Guatemala and the Dominican Republic. It thrills her when she uses her poor (mostly forgotten) Spanish on the phone when the opportunity arises and to watch the students’ surprised expressions. She was also able to compare novels in both Chinese and English versions, such as Soul Mountain and Sandalwood Death. To her, the joy of doing that is beyond what words can express.
     
    Ms. Hager started her career at Taipei American School, working as a teacher assistant in second grade while attending college in the evenings. After she graduated, she moved into the position of high school scheduler and stayed in the position for eight years before leaving the country and getting married in Guatemala. In 1992, she moved back to the United States from South Africa, and she was so happy to find a job at La Jolla Country Day School as the Lower School administrative assistant, where she still thoroughly enjoys her work.   
     
     
    Ms. Hager loves traveling, reading, cooking, tennis and Chinese folk arts. 
  • Lauren Hansen
    Lower School Associate Educator
    (858) 453-3440
    Bio
     
    “I strive to inspire greatness in my students by giving them the resources to become excited and passionate about learning. I believe that my ultimate goal as a classroom teacher is to build lifelong learners. My educational belief is that all students need to be given a space where they can think, question and create.”

    Lauren Hansen believes that a strong educational foundation can make all the difference in instilling a child’s passion and love for learning. This is what drew her to teaching in the Lower School. Having attended independent schools herself, she understands the value of an independent school education and is very excited to grow as an associate teacher in the Lower School.

    Lauren Hansen’s love for teaching began when she was in high school at Marin Academy in the San Francisco Bay Area when she taught a journaling class to a group of local middle school students. She attended Baylor University where she served as a student teacher in a variety of elementary grades through Baylor’s School of Education. She was immediately drawn to the early grades and began her teaching career as a lead preschool teacher at Carlsbad Country Day School.

    When Ms. Hansen is not in the classroom, you can find her spending time with family and friends outdoors. She enjoys taking her dog to the beach and taking advantage of the beauty of San Diego. She is also very passionate about service and has been to Mexico, Kenya and Jamaica on community service trips.

  • Gabi Hernandez
    Extended Day Group Leader
  • Payton Hobbs
    Associate Director of Admission
    (858) 453-3440 x120
    Bio
     
    “I inspire greatness for a better world by helping families who are just beginning their journey at LJCDS feel welcomed and valued in our community. By sharing our mission, vision and promise with prospective and current families, I hope to help create a diverse and inclusive learning environment, filled with citizens that are focused on making a positive difference in our local and global communities.”
     
    Payton Hobbs began her work in the field of education learning with the youngest students as a classroom teacher. She taught kindergarten, first and second grade at both public and private schools. As Mrs. Hobbs’ career progressed, she wanted to expand her impact with learners of all ages and transitioned into leadership positions that included director of curriculum and instruction, assistant head of Lower School, and most recently head of Lower School at Ravenscroft School in Raleigh, North Carolina, for the past seven years.

    In addition to her role as an educator, Mrs. Hobbs is also an athlete. She played lacrosse and basketball at the collegiate level for Duke University and was a member of the 1999 women’s basketball team that made it to the NCAA National Championship game. She also played basketball professionally for the Saarlouis Royals in Germany. The basketball shoes have been hung up for now, and today Mrs. Hobbs spends her free time playing tennis, swimming, running, and working with young athletes as a coach and mentor. She and her husband, Alfie, who serves as the assistant head of Upper School at Pacific Ridge School, have two children, Simone ’28 and Tre ’30, who are also part of the LJCDS community.

    Connect with Mrs. Hobbs on LinkedIn or on Twitter @paytonhobbs.
     
  • Kimberly Huntoon
    Kindergarten Educator
    (858) 453-3440 x209
    Bio
     
    “I inspire greatness for a better world by encouraging children to become their best self. This often means digging deeper to reach beyond what they think they can achieve. Taking time to enjoy one’s successes and conversely reflecting and learning from one’s mistakes is another lesson I value teaching. I also strive to teach children to show respect and kindness to others.”
     
    Kim Huntoon works to provide a safe, caring and inspirational environment for young children so that instruction can flourish. The importance of being a positive influence at the beginning of a child’s education is a continuing source of motivation for her. She enjoys that no two days are ever the same when working with young children. Ms. Huntoon has experience not only in kindergarten but also in Tiny Torreys, junior kindergarten and second grade.
     
    Ms. Huntoon moved to San Diego after graduating from Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tenn. She worked in the computer industry and college admissions before joining the faculty at La Jolla Country Day School. She and her husband live in Carlsbad, where she enjoys gardening and tennis.
  • Tina Kinkead
    Physical Education Educator
    (858) 453-3440
  • Ashley Marlow
    Lower and Middle School Counselor
    (858) 453-3440 x317
    Bio
     
    “I inspire greatness for a better world by supporting students in their social and emotional development. My office provides a safe space for children to find a compassionate ear, with the hope that they will leave feeling encouraged and heard. I love teaching Life Skills to Middle School students; I help them to self-reflect, problem-solve, and develop empathy so they can make healthy choices and positively impact the world around them.”
     
    Ashley Marlow was born in California but grew up in New Jersey. Attending an all-girls school from Grades 9 through 12 gave her the opportunity to appreciate the value of an independent school and an environment that can develop the leaders of the future.
     
    Ms. Marlow returned to the West Coast for college and received her Bachelor of Arts in communications from Pepperdine University. She studied abroad in Florence in her sophomore year and consequently loves all things Italian. Initially, Ms. Marlow planned to work in the entertainment industry as a casting director but later realized that career would not give her a sense of purpose. Instead, she wanted to help guide people toward their passions and goals.
     
    Inspired by the conversations she had while supervising student workers in the admissions office, Ms. Marlow pursued her graduate degree in school counseling at the College of William and Mary. After graduation, Ms. Marlow was a middle school counselor at a public school for two years before returning to California in 2011.
     
    Ms. Marlow is thrilled to work with students and their families at La Jolla Country Day School. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, watching movies, reading, and taking her dog, Parker, for walks by the beach.  
  • Deane Mellor
    Physical Education Educator; Men's Lacrosse Head Coach, Football Assistant Coach
    (858) 453-3440
  • Lauren West
    Lower School Associate Educator
    (858) 453-3440 x224
    Bio
     
    “I inspire greatness for a better world by teaching my students self-advocacy skills and problem solving. Students are almost always able to come up with a solution—they just need the opportunity and confidence to do so. I also greatly enjoy helping students expand their creativity through their artwork.”

    Lauren West is a Chicago native who moved to San Diego to attend the University of San Diego, where she received her Bachelor of Arts. Then after obtaining her teaching credential, she taught kindergarten, fifth grade and sixth grade. She also taught art for 12 years to Grades 1 through 8 before coming to La Jolla Country Day School to be a kindergarten associate.

    Ms. West has taught summer school at LJCDS since 1996, and she also teaches an after-school art workshop for kindergartners.

    Ms. West believes in teaching children at a young age to problem solve. Her role is to offer encouragement, opportunity and confidence to help students communicate effectively no matter what their conflict may be. When students in her class express an issue, you may often hear Ms. West asking her young students, “What can we do to solve this?” In the process of problem solving—particularly in conflict with one another—students learn respect and gain empathy.

    In her free time, Ms. West enjoys traveling with her family, hiking, reading, swimming and painting.
  • Terri Zimmerman
    Kindergarten Educator
    (858) 453-3440 x224
    Bio
     
    “I inspire greatness for a better world by teaching my children three key characteristics: confidence, risk taking and grit. Confidence for a kindergarten student is instilling that ‘Yes, I can’ attitude in all endeavors. There are innumerable opportunities on a daily basis for risk taking, a key component for successful innovators. Grit, the ability to stay with a task until completion regardless of challenges or frustration, will serve them in their future.”

    Terri Zimmerman brings energy and enthusiasm to her classroom. She creates a vibrant and exciting learning environment. This environment sparks students’ curiosity and inquisitive nature. Ms. Zimmerman has taught junior and senior high school students and junior kindergarten, but kindergarten is her passion.  

    Ms. Zimmerman graduated from the University of South Florida in Tampa. She served as director of a tutorial center in San Diego before joining the staff of La Jolla Country Day School. Her hobbies are horseback riding and hiking.




La Jolla Country Day School

9490 Genesee Avenue
La Jolla, CA 92037
858-453-3440

© 2018 La Jolla Country Day School

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