Meet the ROA Team
Claudia grew up in Switzerland and moved to the United States in her early 20’s. She earned her B.A. in English and German at California Lutheran University (CLU), where she graduated summa cum laude. She then went on to receive her single-subject teaching credential in English and her Master’s Degree in teaching from CLU as well. After teaching middle and high school students at local public schools, CLU approached her to teach as a part-time adjunct faculty member in the German and English departments.
When her own kids started to approach college age, she decided to look for full-time work and found a position at a local charter school in Ventura as the Curriculum and Assessment Coordinator. During the time there, she learned as much as possible about independent study charter schools, measurement, and curriculum. She had the privilege to work under the director and was able to participate in such important tasks as the WASC self-study, board presentations, creating math intervention strategies, the graduation committee and more. After that, two other charter schools approached Claudia to build their homeschool programs, which she did for three years. Both programs were successful and had a long waitlist of students.
In 2013 Claudia joined ROA. During her time at ROA, the school successfully renewed its charter, received a 6-year WASC re-accreditation and a $600,000 career pathways grant. The school’s student population has doubled in the last two years as well. Claudia loves working with ROA’s dedicated and amazing staff and enjoys the daily interaction with the school’s amazing students and families.
During her free time, Claudia loves to work with animals. She used to breed and raise alpacas and worked with the Sheriff’s K9 Search and Rescue team, where she trained her dog, Toby, to be a search and rescue dog. She loves the outdoors, enjoys her sunrise hikes out in the local hills and spends time with her friends and family. Claudia has 3 children, all of whom are now off to college and grad schools at various universities throughout the country.
Nick was born in southern California and has lived in the Pasadena area for most of his life. He started his path in education as a counselor at the day camp he attended as a child. After graduating from UC Santa Barbara as an undergrad he attended Cal State Channel Islands for his teaching credential. He first taught in the traditional classroom in Rowland Heights as 2/3 grade and 6th grade social studies teacher before coming to River Oaks. He is starting his fourth year at ROA. When he is not teaching at ROA you can find him on his bicycle either at race or riding across the country.
Kathy is a native Californian. She has lived in Thousand Oaks most of her life. She joined a lively family of four older siblings and then delighted in the addition of a little sister, rounding out the family with six children, 3 boys and 3 girls. She attended local Conejo Valley schools and graduated from Newbury Park High School. She attended Moorpark College and then transferred to Westmont College in Santa Barbara where she majored in Liberal Studies. She did her student teaching in 6th grade at Franklin Elementary School in Santa Barbara and loved every minute of it. She moved back to Ventura County and began teaching in the Conejo Valley, working alongside many teachers who had previously taught her. While subbing, she got her first position at Redwood Intermediate School as an English teacher. After this assignment she was assigned to Colina Intermediate School where she taught social studies, English, and math. After these assignments she went to University Elementary where she taught 6th grade. Between her first two assignments, she returned to California Lutheran University and completed her Master’s Degree in Elementary Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in English. Upon the arrival of their first child, Kathy was grateful to able to “leave” her career in order to stay at home with their children. However, when the Jackson’s first son approached kindergarten, the decision was made to home educate this child, at least until he read fluently. Thus began an unplanned adventure into the world of home education. 20 years later, she has graduated all four sons and gained a daughter in law and a beautiful grandson. Her eldest son is a Mandarin Chinese Linguist with our US NAVY and her second son is a Mechanical Engineer. The youngest are twins who have just begun college at Moorpark and she is excited to see where their gifts and talents will take them. She is returning to her professional role as teacher, hoping the years of parenting have resulted in greater wisdom, compassion and understanding for all students and their parents. She is very active in her community of faith and is involved in several mentoring relationships with other women, young and old!. She enjoys daily hikes into the nearby hills, swimming or boogie boarding at the beach, cooking and baking for her hungry and still growing sons, enjoying her friendships, investing in her own extended family and spending time with her grandson. She is very grateful for the privilege of being a parent and teacher and appreciates the relationships she is developing with her new families at ROA.
A native born Californian, Leslie was number four out of six children. There were three boys first then, three girls followed. Being the oldest of the girls made her a little bossy. Leslie lived in north Orange County all of her childhood in an obscure place called La Habra. It wasn’t until 1989 did she get the privilege of relocating to beautiful Ventura County. Her oldest son Gregory was a mere four year old; today he is twenty-seven. Her daughter Madison is twenty-five and youngest child Luke, is eighteen. Her house is a busy place; Madison is at home applying for graduate programs. She wants to be a teacher. Luke is attending Moorpark College and her husband works from home. Mr. Maple is a very talented museum designer. To add to the fun, there are three dogs: Lady a Sheltie, James a Scottish Terrier and Simon a mutt, but mostly Pomeranian. During the summer she loves to garden, travel and visit her family that still all live in Whittier and La Habra. Leslie has been a teacher for almost thirty years and finally she is back at school for her Master of Arts in Education: Curriculum & Instruction at CSUCI. She loves teaching and especially loves reading awesome books. One of her favorite pastimes is getting kids excited about writing. So watch ROA students!
Maria was born in Venezuela. As a child, she lived in Canada and France, before returning to her home country. By middle school, Maria had realized that she had a penchant for Mathematics and started to tutor her family and friends. This is how she learned that she enjoyed teaching others and after graduation pursued a career in Mathematics. In 1999, her family moved to Orlando, Florida where she completed a BS in Applied Mathematics, and a MA in Mathematics Education.
When not teaching, she likes to spend her time experimenting with new cooking recipes, attempting to surf with her husband Enrique, and meditating with her two black cats Tweeky and Pixie. Maria has committed herself to sharing her enthusiasm for Mathematics and looks forward bringing this passion to River Oaks Academy families.
Michal was born on a kibbutz in Israel, she has two brothers and one sister. She enjoyed growing up on a communal farm where she came to love animals. Among her pets as a child were: ducks, guinea pigs, goats, donkeys, water buffalo, and capuchin monkeys. At the age of 18 she served in the IDF for two years. Later she traveled and lived and for several years in Asia in India, Thailand, Nepal, and Laos. That’s where she developed the travel bug that brought her to the United States. She came to travel but stayed to peruse her other passion for learning. She earned her B.A. in Child Development and art from CSUN, and continued her education in CSUN earning a CA Multiple Subject Credential and a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction. She married her husband who is also a teacher and they had this first child, Sean, in 2012. In her free time she likes to spend time with her family, do any kind of art, and she enjoys cooking, reading, and scuba diving. Her greatest passions are teaching young children, art, and travel.
Amylynn Robinson was born in the Mid-West and moved to Southern California as a young girl. She earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English Literature from California State University Northridge, and later, a Master of Arts Degree in Education from California State University Los Angeles. She taught in the public school system for thirteen years concurrently teaching part time at California State University Los Angeles until she had her own children. Education has always been a passion for her, and led her earn a certificate in gifted education from University of Southern California late in her teaching career before beginning her journey as a home schooling mom of two. In her spare time she enjoys reading and scrap booking.
Leina grew up on the Mendocino Coast of northern California. She earned her bachelors in geography and enjoyed learning about various people and places. Next she pursued her masters in teaching in a constructivist program at Washington State University. Over the last dozen years she has taught all subjects in 4th-8th grades, taught English as a second language to first graders, and tutored foster students K-12th grade in their homes. She earned her national board certification in English and is a teaching consultant for the national writing project.
Until discovering BRIDGES and Ventura charter schools the closest she had come to educating in the spirit she was trained was through the national writing project. In the summer of 2010 she was fortunate to Co-Direct their summer institute which celebrates teachers teaching teachers and teachers who teach writing being writers themselves. She is an avid reader and writer who loves to share her enthusiasm for learning with her students. She also enjoys spending as much time as possible regenerating in nature.
Teri grew up in Manhattan Beach and then attended San Diego State, where she earned her degree in Liberal Studies and her multiple subject credential.
She then moved to San Francisco, where she began her teaching career. She taught 1st and 2nd grade. She then relocated to the Conejo Valley, where she taught Kindergarten and 1st grade. Teri currently teaches Parenting the Preschool Child at Conejo Valley Adult School. Teri is enthusiastic about finding that educational spark in a child's eye. She experienced homeschooling her oldest child in first grade, and saw how that spark can shine bright when a child finds their passion. Both of her boys (6 and 9 years old) now attend BRIDGES Charter School and have a great love of learning.
Tezo was born and raised in Oxnard, was Drum Major for the Oxnard High School Band in 1998, and earned a B.A. in Chicano Studies at Cal State Northridge in 2003. He served as President, for 14 years, of the Ventura County Branch of Foresters, a not-for-profit organization specializing in family services and education, and was happy to bring the Foresters Reading program to his alma mater, Curren Elementary School, as well as E.P. Foster and McKinna Elementary School. Tezo also worked as a computer technician for the Oxnard School District, music teacher, graphic designer, special fx makeup artist, and for the past 7 years, he was a substitute teacher for the El Rio School District. In his free time, Tezo enjoys performing with a 1860s comedy caroling troupe, The Merry Gentlemen, writing, and watching his Lakers.
Sherri is a native Southern Californian, born and raised in Santa Barbara County. She has two siblings, an older sister and a younger brother. She graduated from Pepperdine University with a degree in Mathematics and has always enjoyed math. She has taught math in public, private, and homeschool situations. She taught high school math at Agoura High School for 9 years, then chose to stay home to raise her three amazing daughters and homeschool each of them. She graduated two daughters, one of whom is attending the Master’s College and the other is on a 6-month mission trip with Youth With a Mission and will be attending Wheaton College. Sherri’s youngest daughter is still homeschooling and involved in mock trial, volleyball, speech and debate, and a variety of other activities. Sherri is a firm believer in homeschooling and is excited to mentor homeschool families through this process.
Nadia was born in Ventura, California. She is very grateful to have grown up in Ventura County alongside her four brothers and three sisters. Her love of children and passion for learning a variety of subjects led her to pursue a path in education. She completed her undergrad in Liberal Studies at the University of Hawaii (UH), and earned a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from California Lutheran University (CLU). Nadia also holds a Single Subject Credential for General Science. In 2004, she began teaching in Ventura County working in grades TK/K, 5th, 6th, and as an Instructional Coach in 7th and 8th. Nadia is passionate about family, her faith, reading, traveling, and recreational activities such as biking, swimming, camping, and enjoying nature. Nadia currently resides in Camarillo with her amazing husband and best friend, Manny. She has enjoyed sharing life with him and especially in the wonderful adventure of raising their three young children. She is excited to be at ROA, where a passion for learning is mutually shared by teachers, students and their families!
Beverly grew up in Worthington, Ohio then came to California to attend Biola University where she graduated with a Bachelor's Degree focusing on a Performance Major on Flute. She met her husband, Tom, in the music department at Biola and they have 3 fabulous children, 1 grandson, with 2 more grandchildren on the way. Beverly taught instrumental music in private schools for over 17 years focusing on elementary and middle school bands, jazz band, and handbells as well as private music lessons. Her love of playing the flute and piccolo continues as she performs with the Camarillo Community Band and 1st chair with the Ventura County Band. Beverly has come to River Oaks with 10 years of office work in public schools and loves working with the staff, students and parents here at RIver Oaks Academy where the atmosphere is so positive and fun!
Marni San Jose
Marni was born in Kansas and raised in Illinois. She moved to California and earned her undergraduate degree in Human Development at Whittier College. She then married a native Californian and has never left! Marni was a primary classroom teacher in the Culver City Unified School District for nine years. She then worked for LAUSD as a Literacy Coach and a Content Expert in literacy. Marni also has earned her Masters Degree at Pepperdine University.
Marni is passionate about the socio-emotional development of children and encouraging a child's innate love of learning. To this end, she has volunteered and worked in schools using Non-Violent Communication and/or Conflict Resolution and project based learning for the past 9 years. Marni has 3 wonderful children and homeschooled her oldest child in first and fourth grades. After being home with her children for many years, she went back to work as a homeschool supervising teacher and is loving her job, her families and getting the chance to be part of their journey.
Marni is excited to be part of the River Oaks team. She loves reading, yoga and joking around, so come and share your best joke!
Gina Van Ness
Project Specialist, Career Pathway Program
Gina Van Ness grew up in a small farming community in Northern California with her younger sister and parents. As a child, she enjoyed climbing trees, riding her green bike (with a cool banana rainbow seat) in the orchards, and sharing weekend visits with her grandparents on their working cattle farm. She learned many valuable lessons from her time on the farm, including the importance of working hard and taking action to achieve your dreams. She credits her childhood with developing her taste for fresh farm-to-table produce, including an appreciation for real in-season tomatoes. Gina enjoys cooking, including large Italian-style pasta feeds for family and friends.
Gina’s passion for education and the mission of charter schools began in college. She earned her B.A. degree and pursued her masters coursework in Educational Administration at the University of the Pacific. Following graduation, she obtained her multiple subject teaching and administrative credentials, and worked as a teacher and administrator in school districts in Northern California, including in those districts’ charter schools. Recently, she also earned a Masters degree in Counseling Psychology.
Gina and her family moved to Southern California four years ago, when her husband Greg accepted a position that brought them to the area. Happily, she in now within driving distance of her sister and their family. Gina and Greg have two children: Dante, a college junior; and Sophia who is entering the fourth grade.
During her spare time, Gina enjoys travel, cooking and entertaining, and a wide variety of outdoor recreation.
College and Career Counselor
A fifty year resident of the Conejo Valley, Richard grew up in the Sherman Oaks/Studios City area before heading off to the University of Notre Dame, where he earned his Bachelor's degree in 1971. Richard began his career in education at Sequoia Intermediate School in Newbury Park in 1973 before moving on to teach English at Newbury Park High School in 1978. In the mid-1980's, Richard spent two years as a Visiting Lecturer in the Department of English and the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Santa Barbara, while pursuing a Master's Degree in Counseling and Guidance at California Lutheran University. He rejoined the Newbury Park High School faculty as a counselor in the fall of 1987, serving in that capacity until his retirement in June of 2013. Richard joined the River Oaks staff in February of 2015 as the high school counselor. He is thrilled to be able to continue working with the students, parents, and staff at this very special school.
Richard is a Fellow of the South Coast Writing Project at UCSB, and he serves on the Board of Directors at the Miller Family YMCA in Newbury Park. He loves travel, reading, writing, and sports of all kinds!
Jennifer is from southern California but has spent years living in northern California and Montana. She received her B.S. in Psychology and her B.A. in Elementary Education from Montana State University and her M.A. From California State University Northridge in Deaf Education. She currently holds a regular Multi Subject Teaching Credential as well as a Special Education Teaching Credential. Jennifer has three amazing kids, two of which she home schooled. She has been married for over 20 years and loves going to the beach with her family and scrapbooking with her girlfriends.
Cheri Fuentes Armstrong
Cheri spent her early career working in adult education in Santa Barbara after graduating from the University of California, Santa Barbara. When she began working for an educational social services non-profit organization in Oxnard, her career plans changed. She launched homework clubs at two Oxnard elementary schools in socio-economically challenged areas. She fell in love with teaching children and decided to make a big career change. She went back to school and earned her Multiple Subject Teaching Credential at California State University, Channel Islands in 2011. Since 2013, she has worked as a homeschool teacher. She strives to support every parent and student in individualized education that best suits the needs, strengths and learning style of each student. In workshops, Cheri focuses on learning respectful and compassionate communication with peers and all members of our community. She guides students in their educational endeavors for the whole child through creative learning opportunities. Cheri is the very proud mother of two amazing daughters, loves to cook and bake with locally produced ingredients and to walk with her wife and three little dogs on the beach.
Monica is a Southern Californian native. Monica came to us with 10 years of experience in retail management and administration. She is currently attending Oxnard College with hopes of becoming a teacher. Monica Lives by the beach with her childhood best friend and loves relaxing in the sun with a good book. She is an avid jewelry collector and spends her free time searching for vintage and Native American jewelry. She loves music and grew up playing competitive classical piano. She spent several years in her late teens and early twenties giving piano lessons to younger children.
Leanne wanted to be a teacher since she was six years old; but, had an interest in computers, as well. After graduating from El Camino Real High School, she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Information Systems from California Lutheran University (CLU). After working and raising three children, she returned to CLU to earn her teaching credential, and Master of Arts degree in Education/Teacher Leadership. While working as a Title 1 teacher, Leanne headed a research project wherein the correlation between home language and school performance was measured, and planned to continue her research on a wider scale. When state budget cuts changed her plans, Leanne took the time to homeschool two of her children, write and illustrate her first children’s book, and then publish her first novel.
In 2014, Leanne married her 6th grade sweetheart, Robert Staback. Their combined families consist of five children: Christopher, Marc, Donna, Shawn, Steven, and Leanne’s mother, Lauri. Christopher is married to a wonderful woman named Nicole, and living in Odessa, Texas; and Marc lives with his girlfriend Alex, and her family, while working in Simi Valley. The rest of the family resides in beautiful Camarillo. They love to travel and have been to many places in N.A., Europe, the U.K., Africa and the Middle East. Leanne loves spending time with her family, learning new things, reading, writing, painting, harvesting (and eating) the fruit from her new home’s fruit trees, comedy skits, and listening to her husband sing. She is overjoyed to be a part of ROA’s amazing staff and the unique opportunities presented to help students reach their goals through education
This post is also available in: Spanish