54th Street Staff


Jamie_Little.jpgJamie Little
School Director

contact: j.little@thrivesd.org

Jamie grew up in the Washington, DC area where a passion for social justice was sparked early.  The contrast of privilege and poverty, even there in our nation’s capital, made a lasting impression and pushed Jamie to pursue a B.A. in Child Development and Early Childhood Education from Vanderbilt University.  Before beginning nine years of service in DC Public Schools, she taught 3rd grade at the international school of Valencia, Venezuela.  Here, she began a deep study of best practices in literacy instruction, launching improved methodologies school-wide.  Jamie returned to DC in order to advance her knowledge alongside staff developers from Columbia University Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. After six years working as a 2nd grade teacher and literacy leader, Jamie went on to manage the Targeted Literacy Initiative.  During this time, she led literacy coaches and school leaders towards significantly improved outcomes in student reading proficiency. The practices developed through this project became a model for reform across the district as a whole.

Jamie received an M.Ed. in School Leadership from the High Tech High Graduate School of Education. While working as a leadership resident at High Tech Explorer Elementary, she experienced the power of project based learning to transform children’s school experience. Through authentic projects rooted in the adult-world, both teachers and students bring their full creative, innovative, human selves into the schoolhouse.  As a leader, she is committed to supporting professional learning communities through connection, joy, and intentionality as we reimagine school and work to ensure that all doors open for all kids. Jamie has found her home here at Thrive where a laser-focus on academic skills, a passion for deeper learning, and a culture of rich relationships pave the way.  When not at Thrive, you can find her either soaking in quality time with great friends or chasing live music and outdoor excursions.


Dave_54.jpgDave Graham

contact: d.graham@thrivesd.org

Dave moved to San Diego in 2013 from his home in Boston, MA.  After practicing as an attorney for seven years, he decided to make the change to a career in education.  Before joining the Thrive team, Dave was an Education Specialist at High Tech High Media Arts, working with high school students with mild/moderate learning disabilities.  When he is not working, you can find Dave hanging out with his wife, dog, and two cats.  He (when he can find the time) enjoys training in martial arts, and finding quirky documentaries to watch.




Lorenza Rivero
Administrative Assistant & Office Manager

contact: l.rivero@thrivesd.org






Mei_Christensen.jpgMei Christensen
Intervention Coordinator 

contact: m.christensen@thrivesd.org

Mei has been working with children in and out of the classroom for the last decade. She has been a swim coach, tutor, and camp counselor, and has taught in grades PreK-8 in public, private, and charter schools. While a student-athlete at the University of Virginia, Mei was captain of the swim team and competed in the 2008 Olympic Trials. She graduated from the U.Va with a Bachelors in Psychology and a Masters in Elementary Education.



Alexandra MeyAlexandra_Mey.png
Education Specialist

contact: a.mey@thrivesd.org

At a young age, Alexandra knew that she wanted to be a teacher, just like both her parents. She spent quite a bit of time helping out in her parents' classrooms and bonding with the students. Eventually Alexandra went on to study elementary education at Lasell College in Boston, Massachusetts, and continued on to pursue her Master's in special education at the University of Rhode Island. Alexandra’s experience includes working in the public school setting primarily with individuals with mild to moderate disabilities and supporting students with autism. Her second year as a special educator was here in San Diego teaching at a local public charter school where she worked primarily with students with communication, social, and behavioral disorders. During her time at this setting, Alexandra was trained in several behavioral techniques including verbal de-escalation strategies and functional communication training. She is eager to start working closely with Thrive staff members to help support the whole child on an academic, social, and emotional level.




Marci_McMurray_Bio_picture.jpgMarci McMurray
Education Specialist

contact: m.mcmurray@thrivesd.org

Working in special education has been Marci’s passion for many years.  She earned a Bachelor’s Degree with a double major in Early Childhood Special Education and K-12 Modified Special Education from East Tennessee State University.  She then went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Administrative Leadership, also at ETSU. She has had the privilege of teaching not only students varying in grades Pre-K through high school, but has taken the desire for learning to the college level, teaching undergraduate and graduate students who are also following their passion to one day teach special education.  Assistive Technology is her area of expertise, helping students to access the curriculum through assistive technology in order to create a successful learning experience. She has presented at several state and international conferences on the area of assistive technology.

Enthusiasm and energy are at the core of Marci’s everyday work with students. She believes that when collaboration occurs among co-workers students reap the benefits of various creative perspectives. She is convinced that the teacher student relationship is at the core of student learning.  If a student doesn’t know that you care, then true learning, in her opinion, cannot fully occur.  Because she is a self-proclaimed “geek”, she often brings that love for learning into the classroom through creative means. She believes a love for learning is contagious! Her goal is to not only have her students engaged, but to give them a desire to seek further answers. Her most recent educational experience took her to an international school in Hong Kong for two years as the Special Education Needs Coordinator for two Kindergarten campuses. She worked with students of varying ability levels, with an emphasis on students with autism. She is looking forward to a new adventure and challenging herself, as well as students, in ways that are new to both of them. In her free time, Marci loves spending time with her family, being outdoors, exploring new places, and anything to do with Sci-Fi.

Rebekah_Olive.jpgRebekah Olive
Core 1 Teacher (Transitional Kindergarten and Kindergarten) 

contact: r.olive@thrivesd.org

website: Core 1

Rebekah grew up in Minneapolis. She started working in classrooms at age 16 as a special education paraprofessional. She's aspired to be an educator ever since. She earned a B.S. and an M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education from the University of Minnesota. She moved to San Diego in September 2014 with her husband, who is pursuing a PhD at the University of California. She obtained her Multiple Subject Elementary Teaching Credential and began her search for "the dream job." She found it at Thrive! Rebekah cares deeply about teaching and supporting children's development of knowledge, skills, and creativity. She is passionate about reaching each of her students and helping them access their unique superpowers.

Lisa.jpgLiza Dutcher
Core 2 Teacher (Grades 1-2)

contact: l.dutcher@thrivesd.org

Liza Dutcher graduated from San Diego State University with a B.A. in Liberal Studies and a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential. When she is not teaching, she participates in a variety of indoor and outdoor activities including, beach going, hiking, playing paddleball, exploring new restaurants, and photography.  She also loves the many exciting sporting events that San Diego has to offer. Her love for athletics originally led her into coaching youth sports teams (like her father), and ultimately revealed her enthusiasm for teaching.  She looks forward to working with her students as they get to explore their interests throughout the year.



michelle.pngMichelle Langer
Core 2 Teacher (Grades 1-2)

contact: m.langer@thrivesd.org

website: Core 2

Michelle graduated from UCSB as a Global Studies major and Spanish minor.  After studying abroad at the University of Granada, Spain for 1 year, Michelle fell in love with the Spanish language and was inspired to teach English in South America after she graduated.  That experience confirmed her belief that she wanted to be a teacher.  She then earned a Masters in Teaching and credential from USC.  Michelle was a founding teacher at Aspire Slauson Academy in Los Angeles, where she taught second and third grade.  She loves teaching reading and took extra classes to earn a Reading Certificate from USC to better help students with reading skills.  Michelle just moved from Los Angeles this summer and is so excited to explore beautiful San Diego and become a member of the Thrive family.  Her wish for her students this year is that they show how powerful they are by setting their own goals and by working hard with their families and teachers to accomplish them. 


Jamie_Pekras-Braun.jpgJamie Pekras-Braun
Core 2 Teacher (Grades 1-2)

contact: J.pekras@thrivesd.org

website: Core 2 

Jamie Pekras. Jamie grew up in San Diego and attended San Diego State University. She received her BA in European Studies and had the opportunity to study abroad at the University of Granada in Spain. It was then that she developed a passion for travel and learning about other cultures. As a child, she always said she would be a teacher someday, and this love of education continued when she returned to San Diego State and received a multiple subject teaching credential. For the past four years she has lived in San Francisco and has taught first, second, and third grade at East Palo Alto Charter School in the Bay Area. She absolutely loves teaching writing and helping students find their passions. She was a member of a district-wide writing team to develop rubrics and assessment and a part of her school’s Social Emotional Learning team to create curriculum around character development. She is thrilled to be a part of such a devoted team at Thrive this year!

Kirsten_Luango_pic.jpgKirsten Luongo
Core 3 Teacher (Grades 3-4)

contact: k.luongo@thrivesd.org

website: Core 3

Kirsten Luongo grew up in Connecticut and has recently moved to San Diego California. She earned her teaching credentials from Connecticut and is currently in the process of obtaining her Multiple Subjects Teaching Certification from California. Kirsten graduated from Southern CT State University with a Bachelors in Elementary Education, and a Bachelors in Liberal Studies with minors in Communication, Psychology, and Journalism. She began her teaching career as a co-teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, then taught third grade for two years at Quinnipiac Real World Math S.T.E.M Magnet School in New Haven, CT. Kirsten has written and implemented four S.T.E.M unit curriculums to enhance student learning. She believes in making learning ,engaging and modifying instruction to meet the needs of each student. Kirsten is very excited to be a part of the Thrive Team, and is looking forward to her new journey as an educator at Thrive Public Schools.


Courtney_Horne.jpgCourtney Horne
Core 3 (Grades 3-4)

contact: c.horne@thrivesd.org

website: Core 3 

Courtney Horne grew passionate towards pursing a career in elementary education when she began her first job at age 15 as a summer camp counselor. She later left her hometown of Petaluma, California to pursue a Bachelors of Art in Psychology at San Diego State University. Throughout her undergrad years, she spent her free time utilizing her 18 years of dance training in contemporary, jazz, hip-hop, tap, and ballet by teaching dance classes at elementary schools in San Diego through a program called Heartlight Aerobics. After graduating from San Diego State, she immediately enrolled into Cal State Fullerton, where she received her Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential. Her student teaching experience took place at Explorer Elementary School where she spent time teaching 2nd and 4th grade. Courtney’s most recent accomplishment was this August 2014 when she received a certification as a Lead Launch Teacher for a S.T.E.M program called Project Lead the Way. She is excited to bring her love of tinkering and building to Core 3.


ACohn.pngAlexandra Cohn
Core 3 (Grades 3-4)

contact: a.cohn@thrivesd.org

Alexandra grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah. She was fortunate to attend a science and engineering charter high school. The passionate teachers inspired in her a true love for learning. During her final year of college, in the middle of a grueling thesis and research study, Alexandra decided to take a break from her Psychology degree to volunteer at an elementary school. From the very first day of volunteering, Alexandra knew that she belonged in the classroom as a teacher. A few short months after earning her Bachelors in Psychology, she began a Masters of Arts in Teaching program and began teaching fifth grade. She spent two years in fifth grade and one year in second grade before moving to San Diego. Alexandra spent the last year as an instructional assistant at Albert Einstein Charter Academy in first grade. When she isn’t teaching, Alexandra spends her time reading, cooking, and loving on her dog, Finn. She is incredibly excited to share the love of learning with the students at Thrive.


12.2_Genevieve_Goodyer_(Core_4).jpgGenevive Goodyer
Core 4 (Grades 5-6)

contact: g.goodyer@thrivesd.org

website: Core 4

Genevieve moved all the way from Australia to join the Thrive team. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts at Sydney University and a Graduate Diploma in Secondary Education at the University of Canberra. Through her work at the Education Department and in the classroom, Genevieve has a well rounded view of education. She also owned and ran a tea business that had five stores in two states.  Genevieve is passionate about creating meaningful projects that engage students’ curiosity and connect them to their peers, community, and world in new ways.



Carl Diaz
Core 5 (Grade 7)

contact: c.diaz@thrivesd.org




Arlene_Parra.jpegArlene Parra
Core 5 (Grade 7)

contact: a.parra@thrivesd.org

Arlene attended UCSC where she received her bachelor's in Philosophy with a minor in Latin American and Latino Studies. She is a proud Chicana and first generation college student who was raised in Chula Vista and continues to live there to this day. In college she played for UCSC’s women’s rugby team and competed in the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl Competition. She started her career in education in the Fall of 2015 when she was hired as an academic coach at High Tech High Media Arts and then taught Spanish and Humanities the following year.

When she’s not at school, Arlene enjoys going to the dog park or beach with her fiancé and their 3 dogs, and going on adventures with her family. Arlene is incredibly passionate about education, and is excited to join the Thrive team this year as a 7th grade humanities teacher!


Kristina Hereford-Watkins
Exploratory Teacher

contact: k.watkins@thrivesd.org



CSainz.pngChristian Sainz
Maintenance Services

contact: csainz@thriveps.org 

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