9 New Teachers at SMUSD

When the San Marino Unified School District opens its doors for the first day of school on Monday, it will have nine new teachers in place, five of whom will be working in the field of special education. San Marino High School will also welcome new faces in the classroom for the teaching of chemistry, English and Spanish.
“It’s a great group,” Superintendent Dr. Alex Cherniss said early this week. “We had over 1,000 applicants — there was a lot of interest in San Marino. It’s a really talented group of teachers from a variety of experiences, and they’re going to bring a lot of talent into the district.”
The heavy concentration of special education staff merely reflects the filling of vacant positions, rather than an increase of personnel in that area, Cherniss said. “Teaching special education is a real challenging job,” he added. “Typically, districts see more turnover in those areas.”
The newcomers attended an orientation session, followed by lunch with site principals and SMUSD officials. In alphabetical order, they are:
Abigail Cabrera: The SMUSD’s new director of special education holds a master’s degree in educational leadership from Pepperdine. She formerly worked as a school site administrator and a teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Cabrera possesses 20 years of experience working with special-needs students.
Erika Carrillo: It’s a short hop to San Marino from Covina, where Carrillo has worked the past two years in the Charter Oak Unified School District, teaching early childhood classes focusing on autism and helping with the assessment of preschool-age students. Carrillo, who will be a special education teacher at Huntington Middle School, has 10 years’ experience in the field.
Charles Leonardis: He will teach adapted physical education at all four school sites, coming to San Marino from a similar role at Almansor Academy in South Pasadena. Leonardis earned a master’s degree and physical education credential at Azusa Pacific University, has 10 years’ experience teaching P.E. and is also the offensive line coach at Arroyo High School in El Monte.
Liliana Monroy: Spanish students at San Marino High School will be learning from someone who spent the last 12 years teaching the language at a private girls’ middle school. She says she is passionate about incorporating culture into her lessons. Monroy holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Loyola Marymount and did graduate work at Cal State Los Angeles and Mount St. Mary’s.
Alexandra Paris: In joining the English Department at San Marino High School, Paris comes from a school in which she worked with other teachers to create an interdisciplinary curriculum linking science topics with English coursework. Paris, who likes to incorporate technology into her teaching, holds a master’s degree in education from UC San Diego.
Cara Reyes: This is a homecoming for Reyes, who attended the local public schools as Cara Wucetich, and will now be a special education teacher at Carver Elementary School. Reyes holds a master’s degree in special education and is pursuing an administrative credential at USC. Her teaching career included three memorable years in Hawaii immersed in its culture.
Anne Ritter: Valentine Elementary School’s new special education teacher has a rich international background. She hails from Jamaica and has taught at an elementary school in Seville, Spain. Ritter, who immigrated to the United States after high school, holds a master’s degree in special education from Hunter College in New York City.
Iris Shih: A graduate of San Marino High School, Shih returns to the campus to teach chemistry. She says she looks forward to working alongside her former teachers and role models, Cynthia Chubbuck and Wyeth Collo. Shih has a wealth of degrees: bachelor’s in psychobiology (UCLA), master’s in education (Stanford) and master’s in materials engineering (Cal State Northridge).
Rosanna Villalobos: A product of the San Gabriel Unified School District, Villalobos will be a special education teacher at San Marino High School. She has been working in that field for 10 years, including with Charter Oak Unified and the Los Angeles County Office of Education. She helped establish a new Special Education Local Plan Area Autism Program at Badillo Elementary in the Charter Oak district.

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