Upper Core Teachers

The Upper Core is comprised of the Fourth through Sixth Grades.

Upper Core students (also known as Ponderers) participate in a workshop approach to teaching and are provided the opportunity to dissect or master a subject, re-invent and play with the elements that make it up, as well as struggle to produce something they can understand and connect with.

Goals and intentions for students are collaborative between students, parents, and teachers. Students keep learning portfolios and use meta-cognitive practice and reflective learning to deepen their understanding.

Upper Core Lead Teachers

Janet Chae: 4/5 Lead Teacher

I nurture a child's natural wonder and personal dignity. I embrace each child's uniqueness and individuality. I care about each individual child and encourage each child to practice responsibility, excellence, understanding, and respect. I model these values through my own actions, thoughts, and words.


Ryan Graber: 6th Grade Lead Teacher

I am excited and honored to join the Walden School as the 6th grade co-teacher. When I learned of the teaching vacancy and researched the school's website, I knew immediately this was the school for me.

I was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley; I attended Heschel Day School and graduated from Grant High. Five years later, I graduated with a B.A in psychology from San Diego State University in 2000. After a brief stint in the sports industry, I discovered my true calling in education and I have not looked back since.

I have been teaching for 15 years, a journey that has taken me to South Korea, China, and the Middle East. Like Walden, my teaching philosophy embraces the ideals of progressive pedagogy and the cultivation of the social/emotional development of children. I am deeply committed to social justice and the critical understanding of identity, diversity, and inclusion.

Just as we provide opportunities for students to develop critical thinking skills, it is also imperative that we teach children to pay attention to what is happening in the moment with curiosity and interest — the practice of mindfulness. Awareness, compassion, and being grounded in the body are essential concepts for children to explore and understand. As my personal practice has grown, so has the incorporation of mindfulness within my teaching. Observing the impact mindfulness has on students has been one of the more powerful experiences of my teaching career.

Away from the classroom, I can be found watching a Dodger or Laker game, eating sushi, or exercising. I have a passion for reading, writing, and my adorable three-year-old dog Abby.

Danica Hamilton: 6th Grade Lead Teacher

The life of a 12 year old is complicated, exhilarating, and incredibly special. With one foot in childhood and one foot in adolescence, I teach to their range of needs by including play, humor, and a sense of awe and wonder in their learning as well as continually setting higher expectations for their level excellence, responsibility, initiative, and accountability. I empower students to have a growth mindset and recognize their strengths and needs, personalizing the curriculum to meet them where they are so they can maximize their learning.

I am their guide and their coach, but they are leaders of their own learning in a student-centered classroom. I honor the wisdom of my students’ and create an environment where they learn through their own experiences, collaboration and Socratic discussion, and opportunities to demonstrate their ever increasing level of independence.

By modeling respect, empathy, and mindfulness as well as deliberate direct instruction they learn positive conflict resolution skills and to work through challenging ethical dilemmas. I teach critical and creative thinking skills with a strong emphasis on understanding and valuing multiple perspectives.

I teach leadership and integrity in the classroom and give them opportunities to apply these skills with younger classes they mentor, with their peers in the Upper Core, in their lives outside Walden, and even out in the world through academic learning projects. I not only teach skills of being a lifelong learner where they pursue their passions and answers to their inquiries, but also to be a life-long steward of the world.

Sydni Myrick-Causey: 4/5 Lead Teacher

As a teacher, I facilitate learning and guide students through their educational journey. Providing them with strategies and giving them access to discovering information themselves, leads them to be independent, critical thinkers, and become their own problem solvers.

Students learn best when they experience hands-on what they are learning and are active participants in their learning. They need to go out and experience things to acquire a better sense of knowledge about it; and it is through exposure that their understanding will deepen.

Each year that I teach I am continually learning, reflecting, and improving on past experiences. Not only am I learning from my own experiences but also from trainings, colleagues, schooling, the community, and especially from my own students.

Teaching is a lifelong learning process, and therefore I plan on remaining current in my field and bringing research-based practices forward and putting them in use in my classroom for the benefit of my students.

Grace Park Cubas: 4/5 Lead Teacher

In my teaching, I begin with the understanding that my students and families all come with their own strengths, struggles, and stories and that each child possesses a unique set of interests, talents, and skills to be valued. Because of this, I am intentional about building and strengthening the community of our classroom, as I believe in the power and peace that come with taking the time to understand one another.

The mutual respect that is developed helps to create an environment in which students can thrive. In a supportive and consistent yet stimulating environment, students feel safe to explore and express their ideas but also are challenged to consider multiple perspectives, to think critically, and to act with purpose. We value the collaborative nature of our class, as we share ideas, strategies, and feedback with each other.

Students also grow to be more independent and responsible for their learning, words, and actions, and we encourage the development of perseverance and grit with the idea that "failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts."

In my life both in and out of the classroom, I aim to be a model of integrity and compassion for my students as I support their learning and their dreams and work with them toward their success as excellent, ethical, and empowered young people. It is a tall order.

Upper Core Associate Teachers

Kristina Clinton: 4/5 Associate Teacher

During my 5 years at Walden, I have met incredible people. The vast majority of them are under 12. I consider myself fortunate to be able to spend my days with these students, teaching, guiding, and growing. And laughing...there's a lot of that, too.

My educational background is in Language Arts, I received my BA in Literature from Cal State LA. Eager to share my love of language with others, I enrolled in the Cal State LA Charter College of Education and earned a Single Subject Teaching Credential in English. I continue to take classes through Cal State, and I strive to continue my personal and professional journey. Through Professional Development at Walden, I have received training from Responsive Classroom and Growing Educators.

During my time at Walden, I have taught 2nd through 6th grade, which has been a great opportunity to grow as a teacher. I have primarily taught Writers Workshop, but I have also enjoyed teaching gardening to Middle Core students. Last year, I started and maintained a school wide composting program that utilizes waste from our hot lunch program, lunches from home, and scrap paper from classrooms. As the program continues, it is becoming more student led, and it is my joy to see our students become stewards of the Earth, living out our school's mission of sustainability.

Joel Drake: 6th Grade Associate Teacher

I hail from Lexington, Massachusetts, where I spent my elementary years at the Waldorf School, then attended the Cambridge School of Weston for high school. Growing tired of chilly New England winters, I escaped to the sunnier climes of Southern California to attend Occidental College. After graduating with a BA in Theatre, I went to work in reality television. However, I found myself longing for greater knowledge and worse weather so I left Hollywood behind and moved to England. There I earned my MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia, and worked for a local brewery. I returned to the US once my course was completed and spent a season on my friend's farm in Connecticut. Once the snow started falling, I made my way back to Los Angeles to have another go at the industry, this time in scripted television. But this did not satisfy and I decided to answer a calling I had had for many years and make a leap into education. Starting out at Sequoyah School in day care and substitute teaching, I am now happy to find myself as an Associate Teacher for the 6th grade here at Walden. I reside in Pasadena with my partner Alexandra, a fellow Occidental alum, and our dog Maggie. I also sing tenor with the Pasadena Master Chorale, enjoy working on cars, and am an avid outdoorsman.

Jordan Frazier: 4/5 Associate Teacher

I believe strongly in idea that learning takes many shapes and forms. We all have our own stories and paths that have led us together into the same community. So much of growth and learning happens when real connections between people are created and when we have a safe environment for questioning and wonder. I challenge myself and my students to approach every day with a mind ready to grow and ask why.

Ellie Oh: 4/5 Associate Teacher

I am excited to embark on my Walden adventure as an associate teacher. I was previously a Village teacher before starting as an associate teacher in a 4/5 classroom. I grew up here in the Pasadena area and I attended San Marino High School. I have loved to come back to my hometown after being away in Seattle, Washington after finishing my undergraduate degree in elementary education at Seattle Pacific University. 

Through my student teaching and other experiences with children, I truly believe the Walden community is unique and accepts a student as a whole. I look at a student and see more than their academic accomplishments and abilities, they each have a story to tell and their own view of the world. I hope that my classroom can be a place where these minds can grow and be open to the diverse population of Walden School.