Mid-City Elementary (Juanita Street) » Staff Pages

Staff Pages

Bekah has been involved in early childhood education since High School. In her home state of Minnesota she worked as an Early Childhood Special Education paraprofessional during the summers. She attended the University of Minnesota where she worked as an Assistant Teacher in toddler and preschool classrooms at the University’s Child Development Center. It was there she earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in ECE before moving to San Diego. She joined Thrive in 2015 where she found her home teaching in Core 1. Thrive’s progressive approach to education aligns with Bekah’s drive to support children’s social emotional development and immerse them in community-based projects. She lives in Pacific Beach with her husband and baby on the way. Together they love to spend time on the beach, cheer on their sports teams,and explore the natural wonders of Southern CA.

                                                        Gabriel Gonzales

                                                        Exploratory Design Teacher

                                                        Contact:  g.gonzales@thrivesd.org


            Gabriel is excited to join the Thrive family as an Exploratory Arts and Design teacher.   Gabe was born and raised in San Francisco, California, and has been a Dual Immersion classroom teacher over the past eight years in San Francisco, Portland, Oregon and San Diego.  He has a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in World Languages and Cultures from Cal State Monterey Bay (CSUMB) and received his Multiple-Subject BCLAD teaching credential from San Francisco State University in 2010. 

            Gabe has a strong passion for connecting the arts, socially conscious literacy and project based-learning in order to promote critical and reflective thinking.  Gabe loves when students share ideas, collaborate, and make profound connections while pushing themselves in new directions.  The arts is the perfect vehicle to do this…

            Of Puerto Rican descent, Gabriel loves to travel and has lived in Italy and Ecuador.  When not painting or playing music at home, Gabe loves to hike, read, watch movies and baseball, play basketball, and spend time with his wife Kristan, and his three boys Andre (16), Roman (12), and Eli (8). 


Erica is excited to join the Thrive team as an academic coach this school year. She is a navy spouse, which prompted her recent move to San Diego from Denver, Colorado. She is a graduate of Augusta State University and received her Bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education. Prior to joining the Thrive team, Erica was a second grade teacher for Denver Public Schools in Denver, Colorado and a first grade teacher in Augusta, Georgia. Erica enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband Daniel, daughter Brooke, and dog Rose. She looks forward to this new adventure at Thrive!

Michelle Langer Nacach
Intervention Coordinator

contact: m.langer@thrivesd.org

Michelle wanted to be a teacher since she was in 3rd grade, when her teacher made her feel loved and smart.  She spent summers in high school as a camp counselor and enjoyed organizing creative activities for her campers.  Michelle graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) as a Global Studies major and Spanish minor.  After studying abroad at the University of Granada in Spain for 1 year, Michelle fell in love with the Spanish language and was inspired to teach English in South America.  Michelle taught English in Chile and Argentina to students from kindergarten to 12th grade.  That experience confirmed her belief that she wanted to be a teacher.  

At the University of Southern California (UCS), Michelle earned a Masters in Teaching and a multiple-subject credential.  Michelle was a founding teacher at Aspire Slauson Academy in Los Angeles, where she taught second and third grade.  Her favorite part was connecting with families to help her students grow.  She then became a member of the Thrive family in 2016, teaching 1st and 2nd grade as a Core 2 teacher.  She loves the Thrive community and the passion students bring to school.  

Michelle especially loves teaching reading and took extra classes to earn a Reading Certificate from USC to better help students with reading skills.  This passion led her to transition into the role of Intervention Coordinator.  She is excited for the opportunity to work with all students at Juanita and help all students feel loved and smart. 

Jen Johnson is thrilled to continue teaching at Thrive Juanita team this year! A Core 1 teacher, this is Jen's third year teaching at Thrive and her 12th year teaching! As part of a military family, Jen had the unique opportunity to grow up all over the country and overseas. She graduated from Millersville University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor's in Elementary Education, and after college, moved to Baltimore to begin her career as an educator. There, Jen earned her Masters of Education in Leadership in Education with a specialization in Teaching English as a Second Language from Notre Dame of Maryland University. In addition to classroom teaching, Jen has worked as a teacher professional development facilitator and literacy curriculum writer, so Jen brings a strong passion for early literacy to the Thrive team. An avid yogi, Jen is a registered yoga teacher and kids yoga teacher and loves incorporating movement and mindfulness in her classroom. When she's not in her classroom, Jen loves spending time with her husband and friends, exploring new restaurants, and practicing and teaching yoga to both kids and adults!

Madeline has lived in San Diego for almost ten years, graduating from the University of San Diego with a B.A. in Sociology and a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential. Teaching was a passion from a young age but it wasn’t until she attended USD that she became immersed in the multicultural and inclusive perspective. It is also where she discovered her passion for teaching the youngest learners. Madeline is deeply committed to strengthening students’ social emotional skills and understanding each student’s individual needs, which is why she knew Thrive was the perfect fit for her after completing her student teaching here. Madeline enjoys cooking, baking, yoga, and going to the beach in her free time. She is so excited to be part of the Core 1 team this year, and hopes to foster exploration, community, and authenticity in her classroom.

Josephine was born and raised in San Diego and traveled up to Saint Mary’s College of California to get her B.A. in Communications. After moving back home and working at her former elementary school as a teacher’s aide in a Kindergarten classroom and in the After- School Car Program, Josephine headed back to graduate school. It was here at the University of San Diego that she obtained her Master’s in Education as well as a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential. Through this teaching program, Josephine was lucky enough to complete her student teaching in a Core 3 classroom here at Thrive. Josephine considers her time spent with this Core 3 class to be one of the most influential learning experiences of her entire education and cannot wait to make a home at Thrive with her very own Core 3 class. She is looking forward to creating a classroom culture where individual student needs are met and where humor and hard work can go hand in hand.


When Josephine is not in the classroom, she likes to spend her time watching old movies, writing, boogie boarding and discovering new and quirky places to visit in San Diego.

Liza Dutcher moved to San Diego at an early age and immediately fell in love with this beautiful city. Her desire to stay here inspired her to attend San Diego State University where she graduated with a BA in Liberal Studies and received her Multiple Subject Teaching Credential. Liza is a huge sports fan. Her passion for athletics originally led her to coaching youth sports’ teams and ultimately revealed an enthusiasm and joy for teaching. The close knit team of teachers and unique philosophy solidified Liza’s desire to work at Thrive. This will be Liza’s third year on the team. She looks forward to encouraging and inspiring the students in her classroom as they work together to learn and grow.

Susana grew up in a predominantly hispanic working class neighborhood in Los Angeles where she attended Title 1 private, charter, and public schools. As one of five children she knew that education was a powerful tool that she could use to enrich her life and the lives of others. She attended the University of California, Riverside where she received her Bachelor of Science, in Anthropology. As a first-generation high school and college graduate she felt that she could do more with her life and decided to focus on making positive changes for herself and her community. After graduating she worked for AmeriCorps City Year in Watts, Ca. with at risk middle school students where the desire to become a teacher was further instilled. Soon after she decided to take a big leap and teach English abroad in Spain for 9 months. Since then every experience she’s  had working with youth through education has driven her passion to become an educator. She then enrolled at the University of San Diego, for her multiple subject credential and Master of Education. There she found Thrive as a student teacher and whole heartedly connected with the students, community, and staff.

When she is not working she either has her nose in a book( preferably mystery) or is cooking up some food for her friends and family. Susana understands the hardships and struggles first-generation students and their families have to endure and she loves to personally connect with them and make them feel part of a family!

Jennifer Gentile was born and raised in Long Island, New York and has wanted to be a teacher ever since she could remember. She attended the George Washington University in Washington DC where she received her B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Fine Arts expanding her knowledge of ways to help others in her community through art therapy and special education techniques. During her time in college Jen studied abroad in Florence, Italy, where she fell in love with travel. After graduating, Jen made her way back to Florence to spend the year working as a tour guide for study abroad students. After exploring 22 countries, and teaching English in Italy, Jen knew it was time to take her experiences and cultural development back into the classroom.   


Alongside her passion for travel, Jen enjoys photography and the beach! The Teach for America Organization has brought her to the west coast to continue her love for teaching. Jen is excited to be a member of the San Diego community and is on her way to earning her Masters in Special Education from National University. She cannot wait to be back in the classroom working creatively with students and educators to implement the values of the Thrive family into not only our school but into our entire community.


My name is Ms. Dana and I have been a teacher for five years! I graduated from The University of Arizona with an elementary education degree and have taught all different grades from pre-k to sixth. I felt most home when I joined the Thrive family last year teaching Core 2 and I am so excited to continue as a Core 2 teacher! I enjoy being outside hiking or by the beach, hanging out with friends and family, and traveling as much as possible. I look forward to making more memories this year with everyone at Thrive!

Throughout his life, James has always had a passion for learning, teaching and helping others. He spent his youth exploring the forests of eastern Pennsylvania, gaining a lifelong appreciation for science and the natural world. He has spent time as a rock climbing instructor, a lifeguard, and a swimming and boating instructor at a local summer camp.  To this day, James sees every moment as an opportunity to learn something new.

At Pennsylvania State University, James led classrooms of students as a Teacher's Assistant for an Ecological Sustainability class. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology, James moved to San Diego, California, where he earned his Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from the CalState TEACH program.  Since then, James has had teaching experiences with students from kindergarten through fifth grade.  Recently, James has had the opportunity to work as an Academic Coach with students at Thrive.

Today, James is thrilled to be part of the Thrive family as a Core 3 classroom teacher! He is dedicated to creating a safe, welcoming learning environment.  His classroom community cherishes creativity, active participation, thoughtful conversation, cooperation and collaboration. Academic instruction is coupled with social-emotional learning, with a focus not only on the final product, but the process involved in getting there.

James happily lives in San Diego with his fiancé, Lori, and his cat, Maui. He enjoys playing and writing music, surfing and reading

Katey Jensma is an Academic Coach at Thrive on Juanita. Katey is a San Diego Native who has worked with school age children in many rolls for over 10 years. Some of these rolls include Nanny, Child & Family Photographer, Art Teacher, and Music Teacher. Katey is an avid reader, artist, and musician who loves the outdoors and spending time with her friends and family.
Këri Bolding knows teachers have a unique power to transform lives, because her third grade teacher changed the course of her life with one sentence, “I think you are a genius.” She is a dedicated professional who understands that helping students believe in their ability to achieve is the key to overcoming obstacles and opening doors to success. She began her teaching career at the young age of 19, as a graduate of Stanford University determined to make a difference through education. While teaching, she also started a nonprofit community center for arts and technology in 1997 to help her students and others access safe and productive activities afterschool. Years later, Këri took a break from teaching to pursue a career in communications on clean energy issues in local, national and international markets. Her work with climate scientists and energy experts took her to over 22 different countries to build partnerships and dialogue that advance efforts to reduce emissions, save energy, and protect the environment.  After more than a decade away, she realized that nothing makes her happier than teaching children, and returns to the education field with new skills and excitement. She recently earned a Masters Degree in Education with a specialization of “U.S. Education in the Global Context.” She joins the Thrive team to utilize her knowledge of diverse education efforts around the world and drive for designing creative and effective lessons aligned with standards for excellence. Këri is an artist, lifelong learner, and animal lover, and wants to spend the rest of her life engaging and advancing students of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds.

I was raised in Fallbrook, California, and graduated from Fallbrook High in 2011. I then went to Vanguard University where I  received my bachelor's degree in communications and marketing. I did not have the opportunity to study abroad while I was there, but I did play volleyball for my school for all four years and loved it! 

This is my second year of teaching Exploratory class, and I could not be happier being back on Juanita's campus. For the past three years I have had the privilege of teaching a variety of subjects. Regardless of the age of my students, subject matter I was touching on, or space I was working in, I made a conscious effort to incorporate my number one area of interest within most of my lesson plans… the promotion of wellness.    

 A fun fact about me is that I am addicted to planning and executing travel plans. I have high hopes to go Croatia next summer and travel through Europe. One reason that I love Thrive is the staff and community. We are all cohesive in our commitment to innovation and looking at the bigger picture. I have never met a harder working group of individuals.  



Hello, my name is Ashanti Booker, I am a 21 years old born and raised in San Diego, Ca. Ever since I was in elementary school I knew I was born to be a leader and influencer. I always had a passion working with children and others. Growing up, I always the tallest in my class and knew I had to use it to my best ability. Once I went to High School I joined the volleyball team. I played volleyball all four years in high school. My freshman year I was Most Valuable, sophomore year I went to the varsity and was given Most Improved, my senior year I was varsity captain and received Most Inspirational. At the age of 15 I started going out with my church to feed the homeless and provide clothes to them. A year later I become a children’s church helper working with ages 3 to 10. I was responsible for teaching sunday school lessons, preparing snacks, and arts and crafts. I am still currently a children’s church helper to this day. That would make it about 5 years working with children. I also help with Vacation Bible School and Hallelujah Fest activities. I love working with children and being able to make an impact in their lives. On my free time I love hanging out with my friends, watching movies and attending family events.

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“As we let our own light shine we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.” Marianne Williamson. I quote this for I work to encourage lights to shine bright. Aria Gabrielle Rothan-Barnett is a support aide at Thrive Charter School. She received her B.S in Kinesiology(pre-occupational therapy) with a with a focus in human development; how the brain develops over time and in relation to movement from Humboldt State University. Working over the past 10 years to implement these skills through creative learning. She is in the process of complete her special education teaching credential. When Aria is not learning with students and working on continuing her education,she is surfing, cooking and doing yoga.