Becca Hackett-Levy- Head Teacher Sparrows and School Director
Becca Hackett-Levy is the Director and Head Teacher of Northeast LA Forest School. Becca was born in Portland, ME and grew up doing theater, playing in the mud, and making messes with paint. She holds a BA from Emerson College in Boston, and a Masters in the Science of Education in Early Childhood Education from Hunter College in New York City. Prior to moving to Los Angeles with her husband and baby boy, Becca taught preschool at Plymouth Church School in Brooklyn Heights and North Williamsburg YM-YWHA in Williamsburg Brooklyn. During her time in New York, Becca had the joy of working with The Other Side Intercultural Theater which seeks to connect girls from around the world through drama exchange. As part of her ongoing professional development, Becca attended the Reaching Nature Connection Conference at The Academy of Forest Kindergarten Teachers in Santa Barbara and yearly attends the In Bloom: Promising Practices in Nature-Based Early Childhood Education conference. Becca continues to work with Antioch University to advance her professional development in Forest Kindergarten methodology.
When not teaching, Becca loves to craft. She also loves to bake, find new hikes with her son and husband, and go swimming in anything deep enough to make a splash!
Michael Fontanesi- Teacher
Michael Fontanesi is originally from Orange, California, but moved to LA to attend Occidental College. There, he found a passion for teaching after working with preschool students at the Occidental Child Development Center. Upon graduating with a degree in Cognitive Science: Emphasis in Psychology, Michael began working as an instructional assistant for special needs students. Michael is currently pursuing a Master's in Special Needs Early Childhood Education and is excited to deepen his experience in education with Northeast LA Forest School. When not teaching Michael enjoys watching Anaheim Ducks hockey and eating pizza from Casa Bianca in Eagle Rock (especially with sun dried tomatoes, basil, and fried eggplant!).
Kylie Jenkins- Music Teacher & Class Teacher
“The Earth has music for those who listen.” -William Shakespeare
Kylie Jenkins has worked with children all her life but discovered a deep love for teaching while earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Music from Humboldt State University. During her undergraduate career, she studied piano and vocal performance, piano pedagogy, and music education. Upon graduating, Kylie returned to her hometown in the Coachella Valley and began teaching piano and voice privately. Her studio had over 15 students ranging from age 4 to age 17. She has since moved to Los Angeles, and is so excited to implement her knowledge of music and pedagogy in her work with Northeast LA Forest School. She believes that music is essential to life and learning; Music can help children build gross and fine motor skills, learn sounds and word meanings, and strengthen memory and listening skills. It also helps children develop self-confidence and self-expression, and can be a lifelong friend.
When she isn't teaching, Kylie loves to play the piano, the guitar, and sing. She writes and performs original music around Los Angeles. She also loves to cook, read, and travel whenever she gets the chance!
Kendall Markham Shechter- Art Teacher & Sparrows
Kendall Markham Shechter has a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from the University of California Santa Barbara and has spent the past couple years studying Child Development and Studio Arts through Los Angeles City College. Growing up in Texas and Northern California, Kendall was homeschooled until the age of 14. Being homeschooled allowed ample time for exploration of nature, painting, and creating. This formed the foundation of her passion for nature and the visual arts. Her time at UCSB studying Psychology fed her passion for Child Development and Early Childhood Education. Being a research Assistant to UCSB Professor, and School Psychologist Dr. Jimmerson as part of his Power of Play program, Kendall realized how much joy being with children brings her, and how important the foundation of childhood is for successful, happy adults.
Following graduation from UCSB, Kendall moved to Santa Cruz and began working with Campus Kids Connection Inc. as a Teacher at one of their after-school programs in Soquel. She also worked at Little Acorns Montessori as an Associate Infant Teacher. After moving to Los Angeles in the summer of 2017, Kendall took a break from being an educator to invest time in her other passion, the visual arts, and studied a variety of mediums including painting, sculpting, and ceramics.
It is Kendall’s passion to work with others to achieve a high quality of life and aid children in their learning experiences and efforts. Through her studies she sees play as the foundation for a joy of learning, and social and emotional intelligence as a strong start for successful, happy adults. When Kendall is not at the Forest School you might find her hiking with her husband, Adam and dog, Karma, doing yoga or weightlifting, or making a mess in her studio or kitchen.
Melissa Pinkham- Head Teacher for Chickadees
Melissa Pinkham is the Lead teacher of the Chickadees program at Northeast LA Forest School.
She holds a B. A. in Child Development from San Jose University and a M.A. in Human Development from Pacific Oaks College. Melissa grew up spending her days playing outside with neighborhood friends in her Northern California home. As a grown up, she has taught preschool, worked as both director and curriculum coordinator and taught parent education classes. In 2000, Melissa moved with her family to Los Angeles to begin teaching as a mentor toddler teacher at Pacific Oaks Children school in Pasadena. She later worked with a variety of ages at the Children's School, including starting a multi-age pilot program. Melissa spent the last 6 years as a curriculum director and developed a toddler program with an emphasis on the outdoor classroom. Her most recent project is writing about emergent curriculum with toddlers and learning about forest school pedagogy with her mentors at NeLA Forest School
In her spare time, Melissa enjoys exploring Southern California with her son, husband and two dogs. She also cherishes her time traveling the country with her educator colleagues while presenting and attending workshops on child development.
Julissa Tobias- Teacher
Julissa was born in Orange County and raised in LA County. She became a first generation college student in her family. She graduated from Whittier College '18 with a Bachelor of Arts in Child Development and Spanish; her first language. She was a collegiate student-athlete, double major with a passion for service and volunteerism. She was a 5x NCAA DIII National Qualifier; 3x in Cross Country and 2x in Track & Field. She was an AmeriCorps Member for two years with Jumpstart: Children First, an organization focusing on literacy development in low-income communities by partnering with HeadStart preschools. She volunteered with a national organization called Food Recovery Network; a chapter on her college campus that helped transport donated excess food to a local soup kitchen and serve the low-income and homeless population. She had the opportunity to take a study abroad course for Social Work in Copenhagen, Denmark upon completing her second year at Whittier College. She was a tutor for high school students, a Spanish tutor for peers and an academic coach for peers on academic probation/warning. Upon graduation, she became an AmeriCorps Member with a non-profit organization called City Year. She dedicated herself to a year of service with City Year Los Angeles 2018-2019 being a tutor, mentor and role model for LAUSD high school students in the community of South Los Angeles. With City Year LA, she was a Service Ambassador guiding corporate volunteers with beautification projects by painting murals on campuses across LAUSD. Although she was tutoring them in algebra and English, the students taught her more than she could imagine about resilience. She ran the 2019 Los Angeles Marathon for charity.
For leisure, Julissa loves to run, hike, go to the movies, go to the beach and spend time with people around her including her dogs named Lassie and Cookie.
Looking forward, she plans on running the 2020 Boston Marathon. She is pursuing a Masters in Education or Midwifery.
Emily Grunfeld- Teacher
Emily Grunfeld received her Early Childhood Education Certification with distinction from UCLA Extension, with a concentration in Reggio Emilia Philosophy. Prior to her focus on early childhood education, Emily earned a B.F.A. in Photography and Imaging from Art Center College of Design. During her time as a photographer, Emily was drawn to projects relating to social justice and advocacy for children’s rights, from housing justice to the incarceration of migrant children. Her social justice work and close relationship with her nephew, paired with her passion for research and neuroscience, led her to her path in early childhood education. Emily strongly feels that early childhood is the foundation for all future learning, as well as integral to building a kinder, more compassionate society.
As a teacher, Emily is thrilled to bring her visual arts background to Northeast LA Forest School, and integrate Reggio Emilia strategies with Nature Pedagogy. When Emily isn’t teaching, she loves to visit museums, propagate succulents, drink boba, create robots with her nephew, foster cats, and read magical realism. In the future, Emily plans to pursue a Masters’ degree in Child Psychology, and to develop trauma-informed educational environments for under-resourced communities.