Omar Rodriguez Diaz, Art Teacher
I have been an arts educator for 7 years and an artist for as long as I remember. I went to a magnet high school for visual arts in Puerto Rico, where I was raised, and completed my master's degree at California Institute of the Arts with a focus on traditional animation. I also have over 10 years of professional dance experience and training. My passion for dance led me to UCLA Lab School where I offered all my talents, teaching visual arts and dance to elementary school students until recently. I believe the arts promote holistic growth at every age.
I love taking dance classes, singing lessons, life drawing, yoga, going to dance and arts shows, and snacking all the time. I look forward to exploring this great walking city and finding a good Puerto Rican food place.
Hannah Caminos, Spanish Teacher
I am so excited to be part of The New School. I am from Venezuela but have lived in San Francisco for 16 years. As an educator for the last 15 years I have developed a strong interest for bilingual education, environmental awareness, children’s rights and cultural diversity. I am passionate about providing children with an education that prepares them for today's world. I believe that by learning a language and its culture, our perspective of the world gets wider and I see language as a communication bridge that connects diverse ethnic groups from all over the world. I think it is essential to raise conscious children to protect the Earth and create vibrant, respectful and dynamic communities in today's global, multicultural and diverse society. I believe the true beauty of humanity lies in our ethnic and cultural diversity and that learning about this diversity prepares children to lead more peaceful lives in their adulthood.
In my free time, I love traveling around the world, meeting new people, camping, hiking, live music, dancing, eating good food and going to the beach.
Michelle Prather, Learning Specialist
I have been working in the field of Special Education for over 14 years helping students of all abilities learn and succeed in their educational environment, focusing on what a child can do, rather than what they cannot. I have taught across the country in an Autism special day class, provided Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) early intervention services to children on the Autism Spectrum. Most recently I received my Masters in Special Education and supported students with special needs in the general education classroom in the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD).
When I am not in the classrooms, I am at home playing with my two sons and my husband. I love to explore new places in the Bay Area as well as traveling as much as possible.
Addison James Wicks aka AJ, Unconditional Education Coach
Learning, exploring, questioning, and designing. All of these things have been passions of mine since my youth. In fact, I find much joy in learning and exploring the process by which others learn and grow, especially students! My interest in education was caught early on in my youth, as my own teachers encouraged me to participate in Future Teachers of America and work as a camp counselor in High School for a YMCA camp in Michigan. By the time I graduated High School, I knew exactly where I would go, and that place was Kent State University. I studied education and received my Bachelors Degree in Social Students Education with a minor in Psychology. My time spent student teaching in Mexico City furthered my desire to know more about the way the brain works, so I went on to study at Boston University where I received my Masters Degree in Special Education. Two fun and exciting years were spent teaching in a special day treatment school called Knight's Children's Center in Boston. In 2010, I said goodbye to Boston and drove across the country to teach High School Special Education for Seneca Center's James Baldwin Academy. I spent three years there teaching High School History, Algebra II, and English. I spent one year as Lead Teacher working with the highest needs students and eventually moved into a leadership position as Assistant Principal. I now work as a UE coach for Seneca Center, working in partnership with schools to take them from good to great!
When I am not working with students, I enjoy traveling, camping, watching football, participating in fun runs, and spending time with my wife, my dog, friends, and family.
Hannah K. Lieberknecht, Speech and Language Therapist
Prior to becoming a speech-language pathologist, I worked at a couple start-ups, did a brief stint at journalism school, and enjoyed a few years as "Game Room Teacher Hannah," running developmental psychology experiments at Stanford's Bing Nursery School. I love traveling, enjoying the fruits of my husband's pizza-making obsession, running with my pup, wandering around the city, and watching my baby discover the world with her wide eyes.
Denisse Mancia Braun, Operations Manager and Exploremos Coordinator
Before joining New School, I worked with children as a nanny, camp counselor, after school teacher, theatre teacher, mentor and Court Appointed Special Advocate. I have also lead non-profits as a Managing Director, Program Director, Director of Development and Executive Director. Most recently, I was working with the youth at Buena Vista Horace Mann in the after school program. Working in the Mission has been a privilege close to my heart—my parents met in the Mission and my grandmother lived around the corner from Mitchell’s Ice Cream for my entire childhood.
I consider myself a creative type dabbling in theatre, paper crafts, knitting, sewing, and photography. That said, I’ve been working on the same picture book for the last six years! And now as a proud and busy mommy to Mila, a busy and empathetic two year-old, it might take another six years to complete. I could not be more excited about joining the New School SF community and serving our families, staff and partners in creating a learning community where every member thrives.
Elizabeth Maki, Program Development Manager
An advocate for early childhood education and social justice in schools, I believe deeply in nurturing equity mindsets in young children. ver the past eight years, I have worked in a variety of educational environments around the Bay Area, including public and private education, preschools and elementary schools, and piloting the Transitional Kindergarten program in Richmond, Calif., and an inclusion preschool model in SFUSD. received my MA in Early Childhood Education from San Francisco State University and recently presented at the National Association for the Education of Young Children Conference on Inquiry at Every Age with a focus on inquiry in diverse classrooms.
When I'm not working, I love making: silkscreening, knitting, songwriting, cooking and sewing.