54th Street Staff


Shelli Kurth
School Director

contact: s.kurth@thrivesd.org

Shelli’s enthusiasm for innovative and excellent education began before the birth of her children. Upon receiving her Bachelor of Arts and Teaching Credential from San Diego State University Shelli taught in both private and public schools. She taught multiple grades and special education and later co-created a preschool-age kinesthetic learning program. She has used her energy to start innovative and exceptional programs for over 6,000 students in San Diego Schools. Her passion for reinventing education led Shelli to found UPforEd, a grassroots, non-profit organization that works with parents, teachers and community members to help support public schools and  improve student outcomes.  The next, natural step for Shelli was to work for an innovative, collaborative school that inspires students–Thrive Public Schools was a perfect match!

Jamie_Little.jpgJamie Little

Associate 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.


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.

Danielle_Bustamante_(Inclusion_Specialist).pngDanielle Bustamante

Inclusion Specialist

contact: d.bustamante@thrivesd.org

Danielle studied education at San Diego State University and went on to pursue her Masters in special education with an emphasis on autism.  After working in the public school setting primarily with individuals with mild to moderate disabilities, she served students with autism and other communication, language, social and behavioral disorders within a nonpublic school.  During her time at this setting, Danielle was trained in and implemented DTT, incidental and naturalistic teaching, verbal behavior, functional communication training, and PECS.  Danielle was also responsible for assisting with functional assessments and developing behavior intervention plans.  After becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst in 2014, she worked with Footprints Behavioral Interventions providing ABA services to individuals within home and community settings.  Danielle is committed to providing effective and evidence based interventions to individuals in order to see growth and development.  Additionally, Danielle is excited to work closely with staff members to facilitate advancement.  She strives for individual successes and values collaboration with staff and families alike to make these successes achievable. 

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.

Grace.jpegGrace Kenesey Kilpatrick
Core 1 Teacher (Transitional Kindergarten and Kindergarten) 

contact: g.kenesey@thrivesd.org

website: Core 1

Grace Kenesey Kilpatrick is passionate about helping her students become the best version of themselves and reach their full potential. Grace grew up in the Midwest and received her Bachelor of Arts in Art along with a K-8 Art Education certification from Saint Mary's College in Notre Dame, Indiana. While teaching Kindergarten and K-8 Art for four years in inner-city Chicago, Grace also received her Master of Science in Education, with a primary focus on social-emotional learning, from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Grace believes social-emotional learning is vital for student growth in mind, body and spirit; she is inspired by the commitment found in the Sister Madeleva quote: "We promise you discovery: the discovery of yourselves, discovery of the universe and your place in it." Grace is happy to be in San Diego and to begin teaching at Thrive because of positivity, passion and energy that is felt throughout the Thrive campus. 

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. 



Jaclyn_Vasko.jpgJaclyn Vasko
Core 2 Teacher (Grades 1-2)

contact: j.vasko@thrivesd.org

website: Core 2

Jaclyn is a passionate educator who has been working as a teacher in public schools since 2010. Prior to her work in the classroom, Jaclyn graduated from San Diego State in 2008 with a Bachelors in Liberal Studies, knowing well and true that teaching and inspiring children was her craft. Following her studies at SDSU, Jaclyn received her Masters in Education and Elementary Teaching Credential from University of California, San Diego. In 2011, Jaclyn merged her two life interests and accepted the challenge to move to Germany to be immersed in the German culture and teach kids. The year abroad allowed Jaclyn to understand the first hand struggles of being a language learner and how teaching and learning looks & feels outside our community.

Jaclyn was hired as a founding Kindergarten teacher at High Tech Elementary in North County. Her and her team of 7 constructed a project based school with a value of community, personalization, and high expectations that would bring progressive learning to the families of North County. With all the knowledge, excitement and accomplishment that comes from opening a new school and building the community it encompasses, Jaclyn wanted to find this challenge again with another innovative school and a leader as passionate as she. The adventure she took to get to Thrive was long and sprinkled with many fruitful experiences along the way, however, Thrive is home for Jaclyn, where she will continue to grow as an educator, plant her roots and help kids thrive.

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.


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.


13_Latoya_Surratt_(Core_4).pngLatoya Surratt 
Core 4 (Grades 5-6)

contact: l.surratt@thrivesd.org

website: Core 4

Latoya Surratt, a native Seattleite, is an educator with a passion for helping children reach for their dreams through education. She received a degree in Political Science from the University of Washington, but soon realized that teaching was her calling. Upon receiving her certification in K-8 education, she began her teaching career with the Department of Defense Education Activity in Japan. There she was afforded the opportunity to design and implement a variety of thematic and project-based learning opportunities for her grade level as chairperson. A military move brought her family of 4 to San Diego. Her excitement for tech and innovation in the classroom led her to Thrive. Latoya is very excited about this team and believes education should empower children and help them make positive contributions to the world. 

Glenn_Jacobson.jpgGlenn Jacobson
Core 4-5 Math Teacher (Grades 5-8

contact: g.jacobson@thrivesd.org

website: Core 4 

Glenn moved to Southern California from Chicago this summer. Over his nine years of teaching math, science, and technology in Chicago he's learned a lot about reaching students and reflecting on his practice. He is originally from Wisconsin and a proud alumnus of UW-Madison (with a B.S. in Elementary Education). He is still a big fan of Wisconsin Badger athletics. Glenn is serious about continuing his own education and is currently working on completing a masters program in Technology in Education at National Louis University.

Glenn loves teaching math and thinks that it should be viewed in a conceptual and authentic way because math is everywhere around us. His longstanding goal as an educator is to contribute to the well-being of the community with dedication to meaningful classroom instruction that stretches beyond the walls of the classroom and school."I believe in maintaining high expectations for all students and want to help guide students to find their path and purpose in life. I feel fortunate to be in such an influential field and truly enjoy making a favorable impact on the lives of children."

Lisa.jpgLiza Dutcher
Exploratory Teacher

contact: l.@thrivesd.org

Liza Dutcher teaches Exploratory at Thrive.  She recently 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.


15_Brook_Markley_(Electives___Academic_Coach).jpgBrook Markley
Academic Coach

contact: b.markely@thrivesd.org

A Texas Native, Brook graduated with a B.A. in English from Texas A&M University, an M.S. in Curriculum Development and a teacher’s credential from SUNY Albany.  She taught middle school and high school English up and down the east coast and coordinated educational grant programs for the State of Connecticut. After her children were born, Brook decided to take a few years off to be a full-time mom and Navy wife.  Brook rediscovered her passion for teaching and learned a new passion for young learners while volunteering in her own sons’ classrooms.  When asked if she would ever go back to teaching as a profession, she always answered, “It’s going to take a very special school!”

While taking a tour of Thrive with her youngest son in the Fall of 2015, she knew she had found just that.  Not only did she find a school for her son but also a home to once again pursue her professional goals.  Brook became an Academic Coach at Thrive in January of 2016.  She also teaches one section of Exploratory to Core 2 students.  When not at Thrive all of Brook’s time is devoted to her family.  She enjoys yoga, cooking, reading, and traveling.  Brook serves on the Executive Board of the SDUSD Community Advisory Community for Special Education and is very involved in the disability community.

Katey Hicks
Academic Coach

contact: k.hicks@thrivesd.org

Yael.jpegYael Mizrachi
Academic Coach

contact: y.mizrachi@thrivesd.org

Yael was born and raised in San Diego and received her bachelor’s degree in Communications and Sociology at The University of San Diego. While she was an undergraduate student, she had the opportunity to study abroad at Florence University of the Arts in Florence, Italy. It was then that she found her passion for traveling and immersion. Although teaching had always been her passion, life had taken her a different route until now. She has decided to pursue her dream of becoming a teacher, and has applied for her Masters and Teaching Credential Program at her Alma Mater, The University of San Diego. She is excited to be a part of the Thrive Community to gain knowledge and experience from this incredible team of teachers. 


Megan.jpegMegan MacOubray
Exploratory Teacher

contact: m.macoubray@thrivesd.org

 Megan was born and raised in Portland, OR. She received her bachelors degree at the Univ. of WA in Seattle. She has been in San Diego since September of 2013 and is currently pursuing her Masters in Teaching at PLNU. She loves writing, reading, hiking, surfing, and spending time with friends. She is so happy to be at Thrive this year and teach the Movements Exploratory Class. She has been active her whole life and played soccer throughout highschool and college. She understands the importance of being fit, flexible, and active and is excited to relate to the Thrive students through outdoor activites, obstacle courses, games, dance, and fitness. She looks forward to building relationships with the students and their family and immersing herself in the welcoming Thrive Community.

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