SMUSD Welcomes New Teachers, Staff

The San Marino Unified School District doesn’t exactly have to beat the bushes when it has an opening among its teaching ranks. The district’s reputation for academic excellence precedes it, apparently.
“I think we have competitive class sizes — low compared to neighboring districts — which is attractive,” said SMUSD’s superintendent, Dr. Alex Cherniss. “I think we have a great reputation: Our kids are high achieving. Teachers want to work with kids who are engaged, and our kids are exactly that.”
The district had two openings in the English Department at San Marino High School this summer, and more than 80 people applied. It had two assistant principal slots, and more than 70 applicants lined up.
“It’s very common to have people who want to be here, and that’s good,” Cherniss said, “because then we can take the best of the best.”
Eighteen newcomers to the district, including two assistant principals, will dive into their assignments when school starts on Monday, Aug. 17. An introduction to them:
Eric Bergmann: A new assistant principal at San Marino High School ventures south from Oregon with a great depth of experience, having served as a principal at Da Vinci Arts Middle School in Portland. He earned a doctorate at the University of Oregon. Bergmann has also taught history and coached baseball. He will oversee activities and discipline at SMHS.
Danielle Blatchley: Taking on English language development at Carver Elementary School is a teacher with a broad base of language skills. Blatchley has a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Wagner College and a master’s in teaching English to speakers of other languages from Adelphi University, and she spent five years teaching English as a second language in New York City.
Michelle Cota: Cec Keeton left some big shoes to fill when she retired from the SMHS English Department, but Cota steps into them with extensive experience, not only in teaching English but in theater and choir instruction. She comes to the SMUSD from a job teaching at a performing arts studio in Aliso Viejo. She majored in theater and earned her teaching credential at UC Irvine.
Mark de la Vega: The San Marino High School Band shouldn’t have any difficulty keeping a precise beat this fall. De la Vega, who takes over as director of instrumental music for the retired Ben Ubovich, has sterling credentials in the drum line with the Pacific Crest Drum and Bugle Corps and Pulse Percussion. He comes to SMHS from Knight High School in Palmdale.
Aimee Davignon: This new teacher says she has a passion for making science class engaging, and will have opportunities to do that with 8th-graders at Huntington Middle School. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biopsychology at UC Santa Barbara and a master’s degree in education, along with a single-subject teaching credential in science, at Stanford.
Susan Doan: One of two new math teachers at SMHS, Doan has had diverse experiences in her life and career. She has lived and worked in Australia and France, and was employed by the Raytheon Co. before entering teaching. She has a master’s in education, and arrives in San Marino from a high school teaching job in Massachusetts.
Casey DuVall: An undergraduate degree in world literature from George Mason University should serve DuVall well as an English teacher at the high school. He also received a master’s degree in education from the same school. DuVall describes himself as a passionate reader who also coached girls’ soccer at a high school in Virginia.
Kristine Bagramyan-Franco: A former intervention counselor and college and career adviser at Burbank High School, Bagramyan-Franco will be SMHS’s college, career and internship counselor. She holds a master’s degree in school counseling and leadership from Cal State Los Angeles.
Natalie Guerrero: Possessing a master’s degree in school psychology from the University of La Verne, Guerrero will be school psychologist at SMHS. Previously, she interned with the school psychologist program with two school districts in Ontario, and is a former case manager and mental health worker with Pacific Clinics Sierra Family Center.
Keiko Hiranaka: The mathematics of flight could work its way into an algebra problem at SMHS, because Hiranaka, who went to high school in Seattle, flew a plane before she learned how to drive a car. She earned a joint degree in mathematics and computer science at Harvey Mudd College.
Nicole Kent: Carver’s newest 3rd-grade teacher is also an instructor in the University of La Verne’s English Department, and has nearly two decades of classroom teaching experience. She holds a master’s degree in education from Azusa Pacific University.
Daniel Lee: There will be a new teaching position in computer science at San Marino High this year, and Lee comes to it with eight years of experience teaching the subject at the high school level. He’ll be introducing SMHS students to coding (Python), introduction to programming (JavaScript) and a Google CS First (Scratch) club.
Michael Lin: Huntington Middle School’s new assistant principal is a former engineer with a master’s degree in business who has been a principal and curriculum coordinator in the Temple City Unified School District. He was profiled in the Aug. 6 edition of The Outlook.
Mariya Ogden: The newest 8th-grade teacher at HMS is a devotee of Tolstoy — and why not? She spent the first 10 years of her life in St. Petersburg, Russia. Ogden studied history and English at Brigham Young University and spent the last three years teaching social studies and language arts in the Bay Area.
Amanda Ryan: Fifth-grade students at Carver will surely benefit from a native Southern Californian who has 10 years of experience teaching grades 5 through 8. Ryan is currently pursuing a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of San Diego.
Aileen Schaefer: This is a familiar face in the district. Schaefer has been a teacher’s assistant at San Marino High and Huntington Middle School for 16 years, and will be a special education teacher for grades 6 through 8 at HMS. She returned to school to earn an education specialist credential from Cal Poly Pomona.
Niko Seino: Taking over as speech pathologist at Carver and SMHS is Seino, who provided cognitive speech therapy for stroke and brain-injury patients while in graduate school at the University of Utah. More recently, she has provided in-home speech therapy for preschoolers and has worked with clients in an intensive stuttering clinic.
Karin Wang: A new position in the district will have Wang working with Valentine Elementary School and Huntington Middle School students in math and science. She has taught at both the elementary and middle school levels and has been pursuing a master’s degree in education at Cal Poly Pomona.

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