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Meet our team

There are five classrooms at Monarch Community School distinguished by group name rather than by grade:

 

Earth (youngest students in K)

Tierra & Sea (students in the middle grades 1–3)

Ocean & Sky (oldest students 3–5)

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Michelle McKinney
Principal

Michelle McKinney has had the privilege of serving in many roles at Monarch Community School from parent, to secretary, instructional aide, student teacher, lead teacher, and principal. She values the power of community—collective and focused energy with kindness at its core—to manifest the end of poverty and violence through democratic educational principles and practices. She takes a positive stance towards personal and professional growth; is committed to the belief that ‘we are all doing the best we can in the moment;’ and views mistakes as authentic opportunities to learn and grow.

Other staff

SUPPORT TEACHER:

Jennifer Mauerman: jennifermauerman@sccs.net

CLASSROOM AIDES:

Reyena Kimpton: rkimpton@sccs.net

Maya Reber: mayareber@sccs.net

Penske Ripley-Phipps: gabriellaphipps@sccs.net

Senka Pavisic-Bogren: senkapavisic-bogren@sccs.net

Elizabeth Ilic: elizabethilic@sccs.net

COMMUNITY COORDINATOR:

Sarah Ferreira: sarahferreira@sccs.net

Earth

Earth Class: Meet teacher Susie

When did you start teaching, and why did you choose to work at Monarch?

I started teaching when I was just out of college in 1989. I was the art director for the Boys and Girls club downtown, then I lived and worked for a year at a remote boarding school in Scotland. This was my first taste of a school that had a foundation in a social emotional curriculum where kids were empowered to come up with and then test solutions to all manner of problems. After that I worked at an alternative private school for three years while getting my credential and MA at UCSC. I was working there (and at a couple of long term sub jobs in 2nd grade classes in South County) and was considering becoming the preschool director when I heard from a parent about an opening at Monarch. I checked it out, said yes to the job offer and this has been my (work) home for 18 years. I am so grateful to be able to teach in an alternative setting which values and takes time for both academics and the social emotional growth of its students.

What is your favorite subject to teach?

I love teaching all the subjects but I started off especially comfortable with the arts (music, dance and visual arts), as that is a love of mine. However, what I really love and what keeps me going is seeing the kids discover and learn in all subjects and with peers. Those moments (in any subject) make me excited.

What is your favorite conflict resolution approach?

I love the question, “I’m wondering what you are going to do about that?” I learned it from my daughter’s school teacher. When asked with total calm curiosity and no agenda, it really allows for the kid to be empowered to think of a response (or to choose no response) to any situation.

What is your funniest memory of something that happened in class?

During my first month of teaching at Monarch, I was new and trying to hold to my plan. All of a sudden the roof started leaking in one corner quite dramatically. Having lived most of my life in an Eichler house (style known as “California Modern” which typically features glass walls, post-and-beam construction, and open floor plans) I thought nothing of it as I was used to a leaky roof. This was despite the fact I was on the bottom of a three story building. I tried to keep teaching the calendar but a roof pouring water with classroom volunteers scrambling to put up tarps and wastebaskets to catch water pouring from the roof was way more exciting! I shifted my plan and let the kids watch the fun. In retrospect I think it is really funny I wasn’t concerned about a leak and tried so hard to stick to my plan when it clearly wasn’t working. (We ended up in another classroom for 4 months until they sorted out the problem and dried out my room.)

What do you want the kids to remember you for?

I hope they remember how much fun it was in Earth class and how much they felt loved and heard.

 

What is your best travel memory?

I have so many beloved traveling memories, but one of my favorite might be when my whole family (including almost all my cousins and their families) camped in a big field in England (where many of them live) to celebrate my mom, her sisters and two aunts who had all passed away within the last 15 years. It was the first time we had all been together since I was 12.

What is your secret super power?

If I told you my super secret power it wouldn’t be a secret! Maybe it varies for the day or who is witness to it! What do you think?!

Tierra

Tierra Class: Meet teacher Pedro

When did you start teaching, and why did you choose to work at Monarch?

I started teaching at Monarch during the 2020-2021 school year. My first year as a teacher started off on Zoom and in an empty classroom. Monarch was an easy choice. Prior to becoming a teacher, I was an aide at Monarch for 2 years in Shannon’s, Zack’s and a short amount of time in Laura’s class. I really felt like I was returning home when I came to Monarch as a teacher. I love the community, the staff is so awesome, and Monarch is a place where I really feel comfortable and can be myself.

What is your favorite subject to teach?

Theme is my favorite subject to teach. I do love our Communication and Math workshops, though. Theme really is just so fun. I think Theme really sticks out for me because I learn so much with the Tierra class. Last year, with the Tierra class I learned so much about Geology and Astronomy, and the kids also taught me so much. This year we are off and running with Force and Motion and I continue to learn. This time we are in class learning together and it is so special.

What is your favorite conflict resolution approach?

I love a good class meeting for a conflict resolution approach. During class meetings we do problem solvings as a whole and it’s so great to hear everyone’s ideas and perspectives to help support each other. Our meetings are a peaceful place where everyone respects their peers’ voices and we all listen from the heart.

What is your funniest memory of something that happened in class?

There are really too many to think of, but one that sticks out was on Zoom. A Tierra class friend came to Zoom with a mask, but it was not an ordinary mask, they made the mask out of ham. Yes, the student had a big piece of ham on their face with holes cut out for the eyes and the nose. I could not stop laughing and I can still picture the ham mask to this day.

What do you want the kids to remember you for?

I would like the kids to remember me as a mirror. I would like them to see what I see in them. I see problem solvers, leaders, learning how to be around each other, young people who are able to value the people and voices around them, make successful choices, have flexibility, trust each other, and how to be part of a community.

What is your best travel memory?

The travel memory that sticks out the most was being at the Maya city of Chichen Itza. The beautiful city in the ruins of Mexico near the Yucatan peninsula really touched me. For many people it is an amazing tourist location, but for me, the cultural and ancestral relevance to my Raza was of importance to me. Next important trip for me is to see the Pyramid of the Sun, which is located in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, modern day Mexico City.

What is your secret super power?

I have the ability to be calm in almost any situation. Not sure how I got this super power, but it’s just there and I rely on it for many times of the day.

Sea

Sea Class: Meet teacher Zoey

When did you start teaching, and why did you choose to work at Monarch?

I have been working in schools in one way or another since 2013, but my first year as a classroom teacher was 2020. I'm a pandemic teacher and it's only gotten better since then! I chose Monarch because of the small-school, community aspect and the flexibility to support students in the workshop model.

What is your favorite subject to teach?

I really love teaching science, as well as learning science myself! There are so many "how?" and "why?" questions that are so much fun to explore, and so many field trips to take and scientists to meet to help answer these questions. We ask "Dr. Google" a lot of questions in my classroom.

What is your favorite conflict resolution approach?

I have found a lot of success with listening circles. So many times, especially with students, we don't understand why someone else is acting the way they are or how our actions can hurt other people. A listening circle gives the opportunity for all parties to hear and be heard.

What is your funniest memory of something that happened in class?

Last year, some of my former students were studying amphibians. They very excitedly reported to me during lunch that they found salamanders under the half pipe in the park next door to our school! I helped get a container to hold the salamanders to show classmates, but the salamanders were thankfully returned to their home by the end of the day. This led to one of my favorite phrases: "the salamanders live under the half pipe in the park!"

What do you want the kids to remember you for?

I would love to be remembered for my sense of humor, connections to students and families, and fun hands-on activities!

What is your best travel memory?

My best travel memory comes from when I was living in France. A friend and I really wanted to go to a concert in Luxembourg, so we made the weirdest travel arrangements to take a bus to a train to a tram to get there! It was one of the most stressful trips to navigate but it is such a great story now.

What is your secret super power?

I can always pick out the ripest avocados at the supermarket I'm also a secret singer, but mostly use it for "Happy Birthday" now!

Ocean

Ocean Class: Meet teacher Laura

When did you start teaching, and why did you choose to work at Monarch?

I’ve always known that I wanted to be a teacher. I started playing “school” when I was a little girl. My mom would always say that she would look out the window and I had all the kids in the neighborhood sitting and playing along. What led me to Monarch was a couple of different things. First, I had taken a few years off from teaching to have my two boys, Jack and Deklin. I was searching for a kindergarten for Jack, so I had attended the Monarch open house night. When I had learned that they were hiring a K/1 teacher, my ears perked up! I had had experience teaching at traditional and alternative elementary schools, and I knew that my teaching philosophy aligned with Monarch’s whole child, positive discipline, thematic learning and parent participation philosophy. The stars aligned; I was hired, and Jack started at Monarch as a kindergartener in the Earth class. My favorite part about being at Monarch is being both a teacher and a parent within the community.

 

What is your favorite subject to teach?

I don’t necessarily have a favorite subject, however, I love how we teach thematically. It’s really fun to connect all of our learning to a common theme. I really enjoy how we relate reading, writing, math, field trips, art, hands-on learning, guest speakers, etc to the theme. I also have a special place in my heart for putting on school plays that have to do with the theme. One of my favorite school plays was called, “Hansel and Gretel Eat Right.” It connected to a health and wellness theme that I once taught.

 

What is your favorite conflict resolution approach?

I absolutely love classroom meetings. It is so powerful to start a meeting with compliments and appreciations. When students bring their problems to a class meeting, they feel heard and respected. They also call on their peers for solutions. It creates community and peaceful problem solving. Everyone gets a voice and a chance to lead and participate in the process.

What is your funniest memory of something that happened in class?

Oh boy, there have been so many! There are two memories that always make me laugh out loud. One, is when a student handed me an end-of-the year gift and said, “Happy retirement!’ That comment was supposed to go to the other teacher, who was retiring that year.

And the second was during distance learning ... during a language arts Zoom lesson; one of my student’s little brother walked into the room with underwear on his head- but no one noticed except for me! I could not stop laughing. I think I had to turn my screen off because I could not keep a straight face!

 

What do you want the kids to remember you for?

Being kind.

 

What is your best travel memory?

One of my favorite memories is when my husband and I lived in Montana, we went backpacking in Glacier National Park. We hiked to and camped at Cracker Lake.

What is your secret super power?

I think the ability to read people. I feel that I’m able to discover peoples’ strengths fairly quickly.

Zack

Sky Class: Meet teacher Zack

When did you start teaching, and why did you choose to work at Monarch?

I started teaching in 2017. It took me a little while to find my way to teaching. While I have always loved learning, I didn’t always see myself in the classroom. Instead, I wanted to work in a museum! I love history and learning about different cultures. I ended up going to college for Anthropology with a minor in Museum Studies. Eventually, I got a job with the Children’s Discovery Museum in San Jose. There I got to work with kids to show how awesome learning is and really get hands on with figuring things out. Seeing the kids light up when they figured something out was awesome and it got me to rethink teaching so I went back to school to get my Masters and a teaching credential. As I was doing my teacher preparation, my advisor (a former Monarch parent) and I got talking about what I liked about learning and as I talked about the hands-on discovery stuff and getting kids to puzzle things out, she said she knew a great place for me to finish up my student teaching. I ended up student teaching in Michelle McKinney’s class and I was hooked. I hadn’t been in a school so focused on the growth mindset, where kids were encouraged to talk it out, solve problems and make mistakes. Not to mention the entire social emotional awesomeness. Michelle ended up stepping away from the classroom to become a math coach and I was able to become a part of all that awesome learning and have been digging it ever since.

What is your favorite subject to teach?

I will always really love history, but math might beat that out by just a bit. I love puzzles and really think of math as finding ways to solve puzzles. For a long time, I wasn’t a math guy and it took me a while to come around. But now I see math as awesome fun. Watching students have that aha moment when it finally clicks and they see how it all connects is super fun. Monarch also has a great way of doing math that is super focused on the process. There are so many ways to get to an answer with math. The students can often surprise me with how they figure it out and that helps me to see the individual and unique ways they are thinking.

What is your favorite conflict resolution approach?

I’ve learned so many while at Monarch it’s hard to just choose one. I think relationship building is super key to a lot of them. Once you have that, you can really approach each situation differently. If I had to pick one that I use a lot, I often will ask what their idea to solve something is and if they don’t have one, I provide two or three choices. This gives them some options, respects them as being capable of choosing but also gives a framework to work on.

What is your funniest memory of something that happened in class?

Great question. There’s tons of little funny moments that happen. In my first year of teaching, I had two students that were having a disagreement. I was helping them problem solve. I don’t remember exactly what I said but it was along the lines of sometimes you just have to let it go. As soon as those three words left my mouth one of the students started belting out Frozen’s number one hit. It spread and soon a whole gaggle of them were doing their best Idina Menzel, including the two that were having the disagreement.I don’t remember what they had been arguing about but I definitely remember the class-wide giggle fit that followed.

 

What do you want the kids to remember you for?

I hope they remember that I helped them learn something fun and to know that learning doesn’t happen all at once. You can learn whatever you want to as long as you stick with it.

What is your best travel memory?

My favorite travel memory is from a road trip I took with my wife. We went all across northern California and stopped to check out all kinds of things. We started at Lake Tahoe and spent a week or so hitting different areas. Each was awesome but I really loved it when we went to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and went on a hike through Fern Canyon. You are down in this creek bed with these steep walls, dripping water and covered in deep green ferns and at the top are these enormous redwoods. The angle makes these huge trees feel even bigger. As a tall guy, not much makes me feel small but I was for sure

in awe of the whole scene. Definitely a favorite memory.

What is your secret super power?

I love super heroes, but my favorites are the ones that choose to do good and never give up. I like to think that maybe I have a bit of that persistence and try and keep with things until they work for most people.

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