Mulberry’s 21st Century Teachers don’t just give information, they orchestrate learning. They teach students to create knowledge from basic information and gain wisdom from that knowledge.
They challenge all students through differentiated instruction and incorporate individual instruction to maximize comprehension by students with a range of learning styles.
Sally Starz, Toddler and 2 Day Preschool Teacher
Sally Starz was born and raised in southeastern Minnesota, sharing a small farm with her parents, brother and innumerable barn cats. She attended the University of Minnesota (St. Paul campus) where her major went from Fashion Merchandising to Textiles and Clothing to Home Economics Education. She got her BS degree in 1973 and after settling in Rochester Minnesota, Sally and husband Ken expanded their family to include sons Matthew and Alan and various pets.
After enrolling in a small parent participation preschool in 1983, Sally found herself right at home in the classroom and became Director/Teacher for the school in 1988 and was responsible the educational focus for five concurrent classrooms of children ages 18 months to 5 years.
Whenever possible, Sally relaxes with a good book, her sewing machine and her latest quilt project. Sally and her husband enjoy biking or walking around Santa Clara Valley as well as spending time around their garden, garage or house.
Leslie Barr, 3 day Preschool Teacher
Leslie has been a preschool teacher at Mulberry since September 1987, and has taught parenting classes for Mulberry and other organizations for almost as long. She contributes to her profession as a California mentor teacher. She received a Masters in Human Development from Pacific Oaks College.
Leslie’s classroom is supportive, relaxed and child-centered, giving children opportunities to take an appropriate amount of risk, without fear of failure or judgment. Children are encouraged to make choices in a multi-sensory environment, and experiment with process and materials. Children develop emotionally, and increase their confidence and respect for others through social interactions.
Leslie loves reading, knitting, traveling and playing with her grandchildren.
Jennifer Lien Gonzalez, Junior Kindergarten & Spanish
Jennifer has been involved both professionally and personally with Mulberry for the past seven years. Her son, Santiago, is now in fifth grade and Jennifer has worked in the classroom both as a parent and as staff. Jennifer earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Education and Spanish from the University of Wisconsin. For many years, she resided in Madrid, Spain where she taught both children and adults. Returning to the U.S., Jennifer became involved in Vocational Rehabilitation, assisting injured men and women so they would be able to return to the workforce and seek gainful employment. She has also worked as a Crisis Counselor. Education being her first love, Jennifer has always taught and after teaching Spanish to last years kindergarten class, she knew she had found a home at Mulberry.
Jennifer’s hobbies include riding horses, hiking and singing with a worship group. Every year, her family travels to Spain to visit grandparents, aunts and uncles.
Denise Giotta, Kindergarten Teacher
Denise has been teaching at Mulberry School since September of 1996. Denise received her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from San Jose State University in 2010 and her Bachelors degree in Social Science with a concentration in Child Development also from San Jose State University in 1987. While currently teaching Kindergarten, she has also taught preschool, fifth grade and parent trainings at Mulberry School.
Denise lives in San Jose with her husband and three children who are all Mulberry alumni. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, reading, and going to the beach. She loves to teach and believes she learns as much from her students as they learn from her.
“Teaching is a gift in so many ways and teaching at Mulberry is extra special. Mulberry is a place that honors the child and the learning process.”
Rita Derose, 1st Grade Teacher
Rita earned her Masters degree in psychology (clinical and counseling) from California School for Professional Psychology and her Bachelors degree (major in psychology minor in sociology) from San Jose State University. She completed her credential coursework through National University. Her first teaching position was for the California School for Professional Psychology in statistics, and her second teaching position was for Mulberry as a substitute teacher before becoming the 1st grade teacher. Rita is a gifted teacher who understands the energy and enthusiasm first graders bring to the classroom. She believes strongly in helping every child hold on to their natural curiosity and love of learning.
Rita’s volunteer passions have been in crisis counseling with Lifeline International (phone counseling for children in crisis), the YWCA, and the Council on Aging. She is also passionate about family and has a very close extended family with roots in New York, where she returns whenever possible. Rita loves both the coast and the city and would rather go out for a day trip anytime over cleaning house. She loves reading, theatre (especially musicals), walking along the beach, and exploring cities. Rita shares a home with her husband, Chuck, daughter, Nicki, her son, Adrian, and her mother, Barbara.
Jane Murphy, 2nd Grade Teacher
Jane Murphy is a master teacher who understands the absolute importance of teaching our children life skills for their current educational success and beyond. She has the ability to support the social and emotional aspects of her students while providing a solid academic curriculum. Jane truly has a gift for respecting each individual child and encourages them to understand themselves and embrace knowledge and the wonderful experiences that come along with learning. Jane graduated from Iowa State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education with a minor in Psychology. Additionally, she has earned a Masters Degree in Educational Leadership and Administration through San Jose State University. Jane has been teaching at Mulberry School for more than ten years. She has kept current through many instructional workshops and has a specialized Reading Endorsement. She has completed all Lindamood Bell Learning Processes workshops and is certified in Positive Discipline.
Prior to teaching at Mulberry School, Jane spent 15 years in the performing arts. She danced with the Robert Thomas Dancecenter in Ames, IA. and with the prestigious Maryland Youth Ballet Company. She now specializes in incorporating the visual arts and music appreciation within her curriculum. Jane is the mother of three busy children and a wonderful husband, Patrick. When not busy teaching, she enjoys watching her son’s baseball games and playing street hockey with her daughter. She also enjoys photography, traveling and considers herself quite the butterfly ‘scientist’. Jane inspires, encourages and shares with her students the importance and value of finding optimism and joy in whatever life brings their way.
Judy Quigley, 3rd Grade Teacher
Judy is a graduate of California State University at Chico and received her credentials from San Jose State in May 1987. She worked as a substitute teacher for the Santa Cruz County Office of Education. Judy began substituting at Mulberry in the 2nd/3rd grade classroom in 1988 and was subsequently hired later that year as the 2nd/3rd grade teacher.
As part of her statement of her educational philosophy, Judy believes “The classroom should be a safe and friendly environment where students can learn, share, have fun, excel and make mistakes without criticism. Additionally, the classroom is a wonderful place to laugh and build self-esteem. Students using all of their senses to increase their understanding of a concept and sharing their work creates a positive learning environment.
Alexandra Sylvester, 4th Grade Teacher
Alex received her B.A. degree and multiple subjects teaching credentials from San Jose State University. She began teaching at Mulberry in 2011 in 4th grade and P.E. She feels proud to teach at a school that embraces the ideals of Positive Discipline and hands-on teaching. She enjoys having the ability to teach important character traits and community values that are so important to Mulberry School.
Alex grew up in the Los Gatos-Santa Cruz mountains and loves to be active and outdoors. Hiking, biking, swimming, and playing soccer are some of her favorite activities. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends, traveling and exploring the world in her free time.
Kara Riordan, 5th Grade Teacher
Kara received her B.A. degree from San Jose State University and received credentials in Multiple Subjects and Instructional Leadership from National University. In addition, she completed a Masters Degree in Educational Leadership and Administration, and holds an Administrative Credential through San Jose State University.
Kara has been teaching at Mulberry for over 20 years in both 4th and 5th grades, and enjoys helping students prepare for the transition from elementary school to middle school. She feels fortunate to be able to teach the way children learn at Mulberry School, which includes student- based inquiry approach. She believes in being able to use a variety of practices so that all learning styles are represented and respected in her classroom. In addition to strong academics, a focus on social emotional development, where students gain understanding of his/her individual strengths and challenges, is an integral part of the fifth grade experience.
Science and math are particular areas of interest for Kara, and she has been teaching in conjunction with NASA’s Jason Project for over 16 years. She values the relationship-based teaching and the parent participation that is integral to Mulberry’s classroom community.
Kara also serves as a math coach for the upper grades, and is inspired in her role as mentor for teachers new to Mulberry.
Kara’s hobbies include hiking, reading, cycling, and yoga. She cherishes time with family and friends, and enjoys spending time with her husband and 3 children and her favorite refueling spot, the beach.
Maureen Driggs, Music Specialist
Maureen is a native of San Jose. Her first musical theater experience was with the San Jose Children’s Musical Theater when she was 9. She was inspired by John Healy’s desire to allow any child, regardless of innate talent, to work on their skills in an atmosphere of respect and friendship. She carried these ideals into her work as musical director with the Mulberry Afterschool Theater and the Theatrical Arts Academy. TAA worked in various elementary schools in the South Bay Area, producing 3-5 shows a year. She also works as a piano and vocal instructor specializing in beginning students. She directs choirs at Washington Open Elementary School as well as the Post Secondary program in Santa Clara County. She continues to do musical direction for Mulberry Elementary as well as Washington Open Elementary School.
Maureen attended UC Davis and has a BA in Zoology. She also studied costume design and while in college, she worked in show wardrobe at Marriotts’s Great America. She designed and constructed costumes for SJCMT as well as Union High School, later becoming the wardrobe mistress for Gene Patrick Productions traveling across the US setting up Bugs Bunny shows at the Six Flags Amusement Parks. She is currently the wardrobe chief for the San Jose Opera.
Mary Katayama, Curriculum Specialist
Mary Katayama received her master’s in education and teaching credential from UCLA. She taught in public elementary schools for 14 years. For many years, she served as a workshop presenter for the California Reading and Literature Project. Mary currently teaches a reading and language arts course at the College of Education at San Jose State University. Mary is excited to work at Mulberry as the curriculum specialist. She loves supporting teachers as they reflect on their teaching practices and make modifications to meet the needs of their students. Mary enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience to help the staff design and implement developmentally appropriate, effective, research-based teaching approaches. She is delighted to be a part of such a positive community that is committed to teaching children the way they learn so that they will become lifelong learners.
Mary has two amazing children and a wonderful husband. She loves to spend quality time with her family. In the summer, she enjoys camping, traveling, hiking, reading, and playing at the beach.
Lisa Derrington, Cooking and Gardening Teacher
Michele Trottier, Librarian
Sara Tavernise, Drama Teacher
Sara Tavernise holds a B.A. in English, with a concentration in Gender Studies, from Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina. In 1993, she received a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship for study outside the United States. Her research took her to Sweden, Iceland, Shetland, Scotland and the Faroe Islands, and there is nothing like a cold, windswept, peaty hill to make her feel relaxed and at ease.
A native of Saratoga, Sara began performing with San Jose Children’s Musical Theater when she was a fourth grader. That first show launched her love of musical theater and she continued to perform through college. Sara’s eldest sister also has a career in the dramatic arts, as an automation carpenter with major national touring companies. The influence of a sister steeped in stagecraft is visible in the Mulberry theater program, where performance and
technical theater receive equal billing.
Sara and her two children (Mulberry ’11 and ’13), perform regularly with Playful People Productions, a small company in the San Jose Rosegarden district. Sara also serves as the Costume Director of PPP. In her spare time, she enjoys read aloud with her husband and children, hiking steep hills, dressing her friends, geeky movies and books, singing, and cosplay.
Halina Gallagher, Art Teacher
Halina joined the Mulberry community in 1996 with her son Sam as a new parent. Before settling in San Jose, California, life took her to many places: Poland, Russia and the East Coast where she was fortunate to be exposed to different cultures.
Her passion to empower children through the art-making process is rooted in her background, where art and creating useful, beautiful objects with one’s own hands is a valued endeavor, an expression of cultural pride and one’s own humanity. She strives to make art part of her daily life.
Halina graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a BA in Architecture and a BS in Building Science with minors in Math and Art. As much as she loves architecture, teaching and making art captivates her even more.
When Halina isn’t teaching or creating art, she can be found at local museums, on urban or nature hikes or working on design projects. Yet, her most favorite activity is spending time with her family (Mulberry ’05, ’07, ’10) and friends.