Specialty Core Teachers
Our program is dedicated to broadening each child’s learning experience through authentic exposure by offering a variety of specialty classes at each grade level. These classes include Art, Dance, Library, Music, P.E., Science & Technology, Spanish, and Storytelling.
Rooted in a commitment to Renaissance learning, specialty classes provide an opportunity for depth in content and for relationships with our experienced specialist faculty. We believe a student’s insight into their own personhood is enhanced through this education — as are language acquisition, cognitive development, critical thinking ability, and social skills.
A Specialty Teacher serves as a role model in their field of expertise, embodying what it means for students to live their passion. Capitalizing on the unique opportunity to engage with students throughout their entire developmental trajectory at Walden, specialty classrooms offer a safe exploration of the various disciplines, resulting in an integrated and sequenced program specifically designed to meet the needs of students from Pre-K to 6th grade.
Over time, specialty classes often become a home or “hub” for Walden students. This continuity of content and relationship nurtures creativity and risk-taking, and allows students to gain a sense of their place in the world and what they offer to it.
Click here to watch the Back-to-School Night video from the Specialty Core.
- Art: Ben Boquist
- Dance (Lower/Middle Cores): Daphne Trager
- Library: Carolyn Hancock
- Music: Alejandro Lazo
- Physical Education: Whitney Matsuno
- Science and Outdoor Education: Xana Hermosillo
I am thrilled to be stepping into the role of Art and Communications Associate at Walden! This year, I will be joining Portia in the art studio and will lead art classes several days a week. When I learned that the Art Associate position was open, I jumped at the opportunity for several reasons. Growing up, Art was always my favorite class. I love working with my hands and being creative. Moreover, since I first stepped into Walden's art studio, it has been my favorite room on campus. I love the vibe, and I love Portia's (and the school's) philosophy of giving students creative freedom to explore at their own pace.
In many ways, this feels like something I've been preparing for for years. My undergraduate degree is in art. I've also worked on a number of film and TV projects as a production designer. In the off hours, I'm often painting, whittling, or doing something creative. Art has been my passion for as long as I can remember. More importantly, though, I'm passionate about empowering students to own their creativity. I want them to have fun, to share, and to be proud of their work. In the last several years at Walden summer camp, I've had the opportunity to do this by leading collaborative art projects with kids. This year, leading art projects with kids will be my day job!
I will also be continuing my work as Communications Associate, managing the school's social media presence and contributing to the Walden Blog. In this capacity, I get to foster online community with Walden families. I also get to tell people outside our community about the great things that happen here. The combination of these roles feels like a perfect fit for me, and it is with tremendous gratitude that I look forward to this school year.
In addition, I have received extensive training from national and local chapters of the American Orff Schulwerk Association, the National Dance Educators Organization, the Music Center of Los Angeles County, the Creative Dance Center in Seattle, and numerous folk, modern, and creative movement teachers. I see dance at Walden as an opportunity for students to integrate their minds and bodies. They learn how to control their muscles, develop confidence and creativity, learn sequences and patterns, recognize the beat, and respond to the impulse of music. In addition, students learn courteous behavior, how to regulate and keep each other safe, and how to be part of a dancing community.
I have worked in the Walden library for 20 years, reading to children and helping them find great books and pertinent information. It all began when a position opened to automate the school’s library catalog, so with a computer science degree from UC Santa Barbara, experience as a software engineer, and a fresh master’s degree in education from Cal State Los Angeles, I stepped right in. I have since spent the last 2 decades making it my work to invite our students to discover the joy of stories and to help them build the research skills they need to follow their curiosity to reach for the stars and discover new worlds.
It is my great pleasure to share high quality material on a wide range of topics with students on a daily basis. I structure the classes to include time for students to pursue their own literary and research interests and to interact with one another, allowing them to build ability and confidence as they share recommendations and navigate the collection together. Their excitement and passion fill my heart and spur me on to find the best resources for them that I can. I have seen the collection grow from 900 volumes in tiny quarters in the staff lounge to the present dedicated library space with over 9,000 items. The hardest part of my job is limiting my selections to those resources that fit into the constraints of time, space and budget. But it is wonderful work indeed. I strive to develop a nimble library that balances developmentally appropriate practices, the Walden mission, and 21st century resources.
One of my inspirations is to interact and connect with the students and colleagues at Walden. I have a passion for knowledge, and I believe that music enriches our lives and has a strong impact in our community. I love to spend time with my wife and daughter, travel, and attend concerts and cultural events.
As a teacher, I strive to enrich the learning of all my students through passion, humor, and the ability to relate topics to their everyday lives. Being an active listener helps me be engaging and flexible to multiple cognitive learning styles. Instead of saying something is weird or gross, I encourage students to say “hmm…that’s interesting” to change their perception of an object or topic.
As an outdoor enthusiast, I model what it means to be a steward of the earth while exploring its beauty. I help instill confidence, responsibility, and teamwork through experiences in the outdoors. The seemingly simple acts of setting up a tent or following a packing list help students grow and foster their commitment to community.
Finally, not only am I a teacher, but I am also a learner. I will constantly be learning from my students and requesting their feedback on my teaching and the trajectory of the curriculum.