In the founding years of San Francisco Schoolhouse, Rebecca Dake simplified the definition of an excellent education down to two basic ingredients: a passionate, experienced teacher, and a safe and healthy room. As the Schoolhouse has grown over the years, we have assembled a team of multi-talented individuals who work in cooperation with each other and with the children and their families, sharing their passions and their vast experience with life, learning, and progressive education. Learn more about each member of our team below.
Carol A. Swainson, Head of School, has been an administrator in independent schools for 18 years and has taught nearly every discipline from grades 3 through adult. Her various administrative roles have included Diversity Coordinator (Sidwell Friends School), Head of Middle School (Head-Royce School & University of Chicago Laboratory Schools), Associate Head of School (St. James’ Episcopal School) and Head of K-8 (Bentley School). Carol earned a B.A. in French and Spanish languages and an M.Ed. in social foundations from the University of Virginia. Throughout her career, Carol has been an advocate for experiential, international, and arts education; has overseen significant school growth and construction efforts; has championed sustainability, diversity, equity, and social justice; and has been a trailblazer in curriculum development, leading the way for the integration of technology and twenty-first century teaching and learning initiatives. A globalist at heart, Carol is fluent in French and Spanish and has also studied Italian and Arabic. She is also an amateur oboist and composer, having produced original works for theatrical and performance art shows and art installations. She resides in Oakland with her husband and artist Stevens Jay Carter. Together, they advocate for the arts as a way to cultivate social change and to promote peace, harmony, and well-being.
Jina Kim, Associate Head of School & Director of Operations and Outreach, earned her B.A. in psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and an M.A. at the University of Chicago in Social Service Administration. She went on to earn a J.D. at Northwestern University. Jina has worked with elementary-aged children in multiple capacities, including developing and teaching a Bridge Kindergarten, creating and leading an educational program for Vietnamese immigrant children, teaching science classes at the Lawrence of Hall of Science, supervising children in an after school program, and interning as a social worker at a children’s hospital. She also spent several years at Morrison Foerster LLP as an attorney, leading teams of 20 or more individuals on complex litigation cases. Jina has three children attending Schoolhouse this year, twin girls in 1st grade, and a son in sixth grade. She has also been a Board member since 2016.
Teachers and Staff
Second + Third Grade Teaching Team
Susan Spurlock and Betsy Fowler
Susan Spurlock moved to the Bay Area from Point Arena, CA to join the Schoolhouse in 2014. Susan received her bachelor’s degree from New College in San Francisco, and her California multi-subject CLAD credential from Dominican College in San Rafael. Susan spent 12 years teaching 4th and 5th grade at the Arena Elementary School in Point Arena. While there, Susan led the living history experiences at Angel Island and Fort Ross State Parks. Susan is an accomplished musician who regularly shares her love of music with her students. Previous to her time as a lead teacher, Susan was a music teacher at several Point Arena schools where she taught weekly music classes and instrumental band and choral programs using the Orff Schulwerk approach. For the past 25 years, Susan has taught drama and music to children at Lark in the Morning Summer Music Camp in Mendocino.
Betsy Fowler moved to San Francisco from Baltimore, Maryland to join the Schoolhouse in 2015. Betsy has a Masters of Arts in Teaching in elementary education from Johns Hopkins University, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where she majored in English composition and minored in film. Betsy began her teaching career in 2005 when she moved to South Korea to work for the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education. During her five years abroad, Betsy taught and developed English Foreign Language immersion programs where she realized the educational impact of integrating authentic, real-world experiences with project-based education. She moved back to the United States in 2011 to further develop her skills in teaching a progressive curriculum. After graduating from Johns Hopkins, Betsy spent three years teaching a multi-age second/third grade class at Roots and Branches, a Reggio Emilia inspired arts-integrated public charter school on Baltimore’s West Side. She has worked with the Maryland Artist Teacher Institute and Baltimore’s Progressive Education Summit, and continues to develop ways to purposefully integrate drama, dance, music, design, and visual and media arts into the curriculum.
Kindergarten + First Grade Teaching Team
Brian Holbert joins San Francisco Schoolhouse as part of the K+1 teaching team. Over the past 7 years Brian has been teaching Kindergarten, 2nd grade, and 3rd grade at independent elementary schools throughout the Bay Area, including Prospect Sierra in El Cerrito and at his former elementary school in Berkeley, School of the Madeleine.
Originally from Berkeley, he brings over 10 years of experience working with children in various capacities as an educator, a caregiver, and a recreation specialist. Brian earned a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism and Media Arts from San Francisco State. He was inspired to move into education after working on a documentary on recess, returning to school to acquire a teaching credential from Holy Names University. Brian enjoys playing basketball, biking, drawing, fishing, cooking, and spending time with friends.
Please welcome Abbi Schreck to the Schoolhouse. Coming from a family of educators, she received her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education with a focus in Social Studies from Michigan State University. After teaching both primary and upper elementary grades, she also earned her teaching credential and Master’s in elementary education from Michigan State University. Abbi looks forward to returning to the upper primary grades after teaching International Baccalaureate Pre-K for the last three years in the Aldine Independent School District in Houston, Texas. Below is a taste of Abbi’s educational philosophy in her own words.
"As a teacher, I believe that teaching is not just about the educational benefits we give to students, but the social and emotional benefits as well. We as teachers should be instilling a life-long love of learning in our students. At this age it is so important for students to love, play, and have fun in the classroom, to set up their attitudes towards school for the rest of their life. I love being outdoors, which will be much more comfortable here in SF than it was in Texas! I am also a lover of the performing arts and have a major sweet tooth- I look forward to taking in the best performances and sweet treats that San Francisco has to offer over the coming years!"
Beatriz De La Rosa, our K+1 Teaching Assistant, joined the Schoolhouse in 2013. Beatriz has been involved in many aspects of the growth of the Schoolhouse, from the early days of the Adventure Day program to leading and managing a safe and fun outdoor free-play program. Beatriz moved to San Francisco from Mexico as a toddler. The youngest of 12 siblings, she now has three children of her own. For eight years, Beatriz volunteered at Commodore Sloat Elementary School organizing Cinco de Mayo assemblies, which included choreographing and directing up to 50 children per show. She has studied Child Development at SF City College and has experience as a teaching assistant at Live Oak School and Children’s Day School.
Fourth Grade Teaching Team
Susie Friedlander-Holm has been teaching upper elementary and middle school for the last 10 years. She serves as our 4th grade lead teacher. She earned her Bachelor's degree in English Literature and Elementary Education from Hofstra University, and then taught in schools in New York, Germany, Utah and finally San Francisco which she hopes to call home forever. Susie loves integrating hands on, interdisciplinary learning, while promoting student voice and leadership within her classroom. She has particularly enjoyed teaching math and science as she delights in watching students implement their learning to solve real life problems. She also believes in strong community bonds and using one’s talents and interests to serve others. She is an environmentalist who enjoys sharing her love of national parks, and the natural world with students. Susie loves singing, sharing laughter, and books with her students and co-teachers.
Carolina Vericat, joins the school this year as a Flex Teacher, working with the 4th grade and as a 5th-8th grade Spanish instructor. She is a trilingual California native with Catalan and Lebanese roots Carolina will integrate educational lessons in yoga, meditation, eco-art and socio-environmental justice. With an A.A. in Psychology from Foothill College, and a B.A. in Environmental Studies with an emphasis in Humanities and the Environment from SF State University, she has also studied and practiced through a social justice lens a multitude of creative arts, including dance, poetry and photojournalism. In addition to her educator experiences in outdoor ed nature-connection programs, as well as 5+ years in childcare ages 0-12, Carolina has also applied her professional skills to wildlife conservation research and veterinary medicine, motivated by a profound calling to environmental activism, child education, and animal welfare. Her multicultural,
Fifth-Eighth Grade Teaching Team
Mandy Castro joins San Francisco Schoolhouse as the Math and Science teacher on the 5-8 teaching team. Originally from San Diego, California, she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Biological Sciences from Smith College, and her Master’s Degree in Middle Grades Science from Liberty University. Mandy began her career in marine education as a Georgia Sea Grant Marine Education Fellow for the University of Georgia. The fellowship inspired her to move into formal education, where she began teaching 6th grade Earth Science. Mandy is enthusiastic about interdisciplinary, project-based and inquiry-based learning. She encourages students to explore materials, ask questions, and share ideas with their peers creating a community of life-long learners. Mandy will move to San Francisco in June and looks forward to calling the city home. Mandy played collegiate basketball for the Smith College Pioneers, is a PADI-certified scuba diver, and maintains an active lifestyle.
Patrick Ardinger teaches humanities and performing arts to grades 5-8. Originally from Kansas City, he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Stanford and a Masters Degree in the Teaching of English from Teachers College, Columbia University. Patrick began his career at a small school in New York, where he founded an a cappella group and led the theatre and chorus programs. He moved back to the Bay Area in 2013, where he taught English and Yearbook. In 2016, he moved to the Seattle area, where he taught 8th grade English. Patrick is excited to grow Schoolhouse’s vibrant and engaging middle school program where his passion for interdisciplinary teaching is valued.
Extended Program Team
Mariel-Mae Paat and Kathy Pfeiffer
Mariel-Mae Paat, our Art Teacher & Extended Care Program Director, joined the Schoolhouse in 2015. Mariel graduated with a bachelor’s degree from San Francisco State in 2014 where she was a studio art and art history major. Mariel has spent the past four summers teaching art at Camp Galileo, and supervising and supporting Team Leaders. Prior to joining the Schoolhouse, Mariel was a “Super Chef” in an elementary after school program where, through project-based learning activities, she educated children about healthy eating habits, and basic cooking and gardening skills.
Kathy Pfeiffer came to San Francisco Schoolhouse in 2016, teaching The Art and Science of Hula Hooping as an enrichment class. From "Hoop Teacher," Kathy transitioned to Substitute Teacher, often leading small group science lessons. This year, she joins Schoolhouse as a STEAM & Extended Care Program Teacher. Kathy studied Science A-levels in England. She then earned a General Master of the Arts with Distinction from the University of St Andrews, Scotland. Back in the Bay Area, she worked as a researcher for a museum exhibit design firm and then in academic administration. She was the sole Administrator for a small school of homeopathy as well as the Course Coordinator for UCSF's largest Medical School course. Kathy was also the Assistant Director for a tutoring organization called One Smart Kid.
Physical Literacy Teacher & Extended Care Program Teacher
A native of Dallas, Texas, Neal moved to the Bay Area in 2018. Prior to Schoolhouse he coached basketball at the Oschman JCC and taught physical education at two K-8 schools in the Mountain View District. Neal earned a B.A. in Communication from Oklahoma University. His four nephews inspired him to become a teacher. He is passionate about athletics, the environment, art, cooking, animals, music, and much more. Neal looks forward to meeting the students and making a positive impact on the Schoolhouse community.