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Welcome to the School District!

Photo by Mitch Lehman / TRIBUNE The San Marino Unified School District held a new employee orientation and luncheon for the 16 recently hired educators who reported for work Tuesday morning, with some SMUSD veterans also present. Those in attendance included SMUSD human resources officer Judy Correnti (front row, from left), Candice Choi, Natalie Badalof, Amanda Zia, Nicole Kwok, Kellee Sung, Judy Lewes, Nicole Mendoza, Vanessa Zamalloa and Acting Superintendent Linda de la Torre. Back: Assistant Superintendent Stephen Choi, John Franklin, Stephen Lane, Daniel Hernandez, Stephanie Egger, Megan Rauch, Heather Smith, Vanessa Acosta, Graham Lewis and Assistant Superintendent Lena Richter. For more information on the new hires, see page 14.

New Educators Welcomed for 2021-22 School Year
The San Marino Unified School District welcomed 16 newly hired educators for the 2021-22 school year
at an orientation and luncheon that was held Thursday, Aug. 5, at the district office.

Amanda Zia
3rd Grade, Valentine Elementary School
Zia is a San Marino alumna through and through: She attended Valentine Elementary School, Huntington Middle School and San Marino High School. Zia graduated from UC Irvine with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a minor in education. She also received her master’s degree in teaching elementary education from UCI, and pursued her multiple subject clear credentials while attending Claremont Graduate University. She taught locally for the past nine years before joining the SMUSD. Zia is a new mom who loves to spend her free time with her 9-month-old son when outside the classroom. She looks forward to teaching 3rd grade at Valentine, her childhood school, this year.

Daniel Hernandez
Drama/English, San Marino High School

Hernandez has been a Screen Actors Guild member for 16 years and sits on the board of directors for the California Educational Theatre Association. He has been an adjudicator for CETA for 10 years and has reviewed 200 productions. His passion has led him to work as a teaching artist at high schools and universities, workshop instructor for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, theater director and personal trainer. Previously a long-term substitute here, he returns to San Marino after spending the last three years teaching 11th- and 12th-grade English and writing classes and has a theater degree from UC Davis. Hernandez spends his spare time studying film history, watching English Premier League football, attending theater and opera, and being with his supportive family. 

Candice Choi
1st Grade, Valentine Elementary School

Candice Choi has four years of experience teaching kindergarten and three years of experience as a teacher on special assignment for the English learner program in the Pasadena Unified School District. She has been involved in numerous English Language Proficiency Assignments for California workshops with the Sacramento County Department of Education and worked collaboratively with many educators throughout the state on the development and refinement of ELPAC. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in child and adolescent development and multiple subject teaching credential from Cal State Fullerton. She is working on her M.A. in educational administration at Cal State Los Angeles. Choi enjoys cooking and traveling, and loves spending time with her husband and daughter.

Heather Smith
Counselor, San Marino High School

Smith has more than 10 years of experience in supporting students as a school counselor. Before joining the SMUSD, she was a counseling coordinator in the Dallas Independent School District and a head counselor for dual enrollment for the San Francisco Unified School District. Her primary responsibility as a school counselor is to promote the academic, career and social emotional development of all students. She prioritizes working closely with parents/guardians, teachers, administrators and staff members to ensure that students are receiving the best possible support during their time at SMHS. When she is not on campus, she enjoys spending time with her two children, being outdoors and having a strong cup of coffee! 

Graham Lewis
Social Studies, Huntington Middle School

Graham Lewis is coming to the SMUSD from Upland Unified School District, where he previously taught 7th-grade world history, 11th-grade U.S. history and 12th-grade economics. He has also worked as a head baseball coach at Claremont High School at the junior varsity and freshman levels. With a degree in business management, teaching credential in social science, and graduate coursework in curriculum and instruction from Cal Poly Pomona, Lewis will take his experience and put his heart and passion toward serving his 7th- and 8th-grade history students, their families and the entire community in San Marino. He is eager to meet and learn under his esteemed colleagues at Huntington Middle School, looking to make a solid impact in the culture on campus. Lewis lives in Claremont and is a fan of baseball, camping and fishing. Additionally, he is a fanatic of his wife, Toby, as they became newlyweds this summer.

Judy Lewes
2nd grade, Carver Elementary School

Lewes is excited to join the teaching staff at Carver. She grew up in Southern California and has always loved working with children. Being an elementary school teacher has always been her dream job. She has worked in education for more than 13 years and holds a multiple subject credential and math credential. She received her bachelor’s degree in social science from UC Irvine and her teaching credential and master’s degree from Azusa Pacific University. When she is not at school teaching students, she can be found gardening in her yard or spending time with her family at home, the beach or in the mountains.

John Franklin
Physical Education, San Marino High School

John Franklin is entering his fourth year of teaching physical education. Prior to joining the SMUSD, he taught in the Whittier Union High School District and the Inglewood Unified School District. Franklin grew up in Chino and went on to play collegiate baseball at Cal Poly Pomona, where he obtained his B.S. in kinesiology. He is an avid sports fan, mainly following baseball, basketball and football. He is a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Chargers. In fact, during football season Franklin is on the stat crew for the Chargers. He was also recently named head baseball coach at SMHS.

Megan Rauch
SAI, Carver Elementary School

Rauch is thrilled to be joining the Carver team as the specialized academic instruction, or SAI, teacher. She has over five years’ experience working in schools with students with special needs. She studied psychology, with an emphasis on counseling and social change, at San Diego State University. After working as an in-
home behavioral therapist with high-risk clients, she pursued her education specialist credential at UCLA. Rauch has worked as a teacher specialist, education specialist and a special day class teacher in a variety of settings with students possessing a wide range of abilities. She has been trained in Wilson’s Reading System, creative mathematics and positive discipline for supporting teachers and parents. Rauch loves working in the garden, reading books on a variety of subjects and going on walks to explore nearby neighborhoods.

Natalie Badalof
4th Grade, Valentine Elementary School

Badalof joins the SMUSD 4th-grade teacher at Valentine after six years of service in her previous district in Santa Clarita. There, she served as a curriculum specialist in 6th grade and classroom teacher in 4th and 5th grade. In the 2019 school year, Badalof was chosen for the Teacher of the Year Award at Fair Oaks Ranch Elementary. At this school, she taught Coding Lunch Club, was a member of the school Leadership Committee, served as the union representative for her site, and was the vice chair of the school site council. Badalof resides in Old Pasadena and enjoys trying new restaurants, hiking, being outdoors, reading, listening to live music and baking. She is passionate about education, loves being a team player and is thrilled about this next step in her journey at SMUSD.

Kellee Sung
4th Grade, Valentine Elementary School

Sung is joining the 4th-grade team at Valentine. She has over five years of teaching experience in TK/K to grade 8. She has returned to the SMUSD, having started her career at Carver, also in the 4th grade. She has previously taught at Camino Grove Elementary School as an intervention specialist and has taught multiple grades at Oasis Trilingual Community School. Sung attended Westridge School and holds a bachelor’s degree from Scripps College. She earned her professional clear multiple subject teaching credential with cross-cultural, language and academic development certificate from Cal State Los Angeles. She resides in Arcadia with her husband and three children, and enjoys running, scrapbooking, baking and volunteering with Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and the Pasadena Humane Society.

Nicole Kwok
4th Grade, Valentine Elementary School

Kwok has four years of experience in the classroom. She served as an instructional assistant in special education for 2 1/2 years with the Arcadia Unified School District, where she has collaborated with staff and students across the district, in a wide variety of classrooms in nearly all grade levels from kindergarten through 8th grade. At the same time, she worked as a head teacher with upper elementary students in a community after-school program in Temple City for three years. She also taught 3rd grade for a year as a long-term substitute teacher with Temple City Unified School District. Kwok is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and enjoys spending time outdoors.

Nicole Mendoza
TK, Carver Elementary School

Mendoza was born and raised in Los Angeles and is the first in her family to earn a multiple subject credential. She attended Mount Saint Mary’s University in L.A., where she earned her B.A. in child development with a minor in psychology as well as her multiple subject credential. Before joining the SMUSD, she taught multiple grade levels. Mendoza enjoys spending time with her family and pets. She has visited multiple states on the East Coast and traveled throughout Mexico.

Stephen Lane
Mathematics, San Marino High School

Stephen Lane grew up in Aliso Viejo and has always had a passion for math. He attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where he earned his degree in mathematics with a concentration in pure mathematics. He also attended Cal Poly Pomona to earn his teaching credential for single subject: mathematics. Before joining the SMUSD, Lane ran a Mathnasium learning center as the director. This is what ultimately inspired him to become a teacher. In his free time, Lane enjoys solving Rubik’s cubes and other puzzles, listening to podcasts and audiobooks, and playing competitive Magic: The Gathering.

Stephanie Egger
4th Grade, Valentine Elementary School

Egger received her Bachelor of Science in liberal studies with a concentration in science and her multiple subject credential from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. She recently moved to Pasadena from Bullis Charter School in Los Altos. Previously she has taught 1st and 3rd grade and is excited to be joining the 4th-grade team at Valentine. She loves getting to know her students and being involved in her school community. Outside school, Egger enjoys traveling, swimming, hiking and practicing yoga.

Vanessa Acosta
Counselor, San Marino High School

Acosta, who extends greetings to San Marino families, is excited to be a school counselor at SMHS. Before joining the SMUSD she worked in higher education, having completed her master’s degree in educational counseling at the University of La Verne. A few fun facts about Acosta: She is a Laker and Dodger fan and loves pizza. She is also excited about the school year. 

Vanessa Zamalloa
3rd Grade, Valentine Elementary School

Zamalloa is a first-year teacher who has four years of experience working in early childhood education. Before joining the SMUSD, she was a pre-K teacher and worked with children ages 3-5. During that time, she taught classes based on the importance of cognitive development (focusing on fine and gross motor skills), basic writing, reading, phonics, math, science, music, art and physical development. She also recently graduated from Cal State Los Angeles, where she received her bachelor’s degree in child development and teaching credential. Zamalloa is a fan of Peruvian food, Laker basketball and pugs.

Photos by Mitch Lehman / TRIBUNE


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