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Our Staff

Janna Smith

Geoff Baker

Geoff seeks to serve so that others may learn and serve even better. He is an experienced teacher of secondary through graduate students, education nonprofit program director and consultant, school redesign and instructional coach dedicated to service rooted in inquiry action research, perspective-seeking, and professional accountability. His education and practice have been significantly influenced by interdisciplinary literacies; culturally responsive/sustaining pedagogies; organizational psychology and leadership; and learner-centered curriculum development. His ongoing interest is identifying practical questions and seeking to understand how identities influence teaching and learning.

Geoff is ABD from Teachers College, Columbia University with a focus on interdisciplinary literacies and teacher preparation. He holds a MA in Literature and Environment from the University of Nevada, Reno, and BS from Eastern Michigan University. He and his family live in a first-year university dorm with 106 students from whom they learn a lot.

Iva Sijan 

Iva is a former English as a Second Language teacher and has lived in Asia and Russia for several years. She taught English to children in Taipei, Taiwan, as well as to teenagers and adults in Moscow, Russia. She also actively volunteers as a Film Selection Juror for the United Nations Association Film Festival, a nonprofit documentary film festival dealing with human rights issues. Prior to joining California Education Partners, Iva also worked as a Manager in the office solutions industry, an Administrative Assistant in nonprofit, participated in several film projects, and taught ESL privately to children and adults of all ages.

Iva holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Cinema, specializing in film production and screenwriting from San Francisco State University, as well as an Advanced Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

Janna Smith


With a passion for supporting systematic change, Janna has dedicated her entire professional career to supporting non-profit organizations within a diverse range of demographics. After studying sociology at UC Santa Cruz, Janna spent the next 10 years expanding upon her leadership and communication skills within the mental health and foster care systems. During this time, she attended several trainings and mentorships to deepen her skills and approach in the work; a few of these include, Motivational Interviewing, Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Training, Nonviolent Communication, and Lean Management. Inspired by the importance of connection, Janna then went on to help start 1440 Multiversity, a learning and wellness destination center in the Santa Cruz mountains hosting personal and professional growth workshops with luminary faculty from around the world. Having lead a large team through the initial startup phases of an organization, and having built all the internal systems to support over 800 faculty programs per year, Janna developed a deep devotion for lean and efficient operating systems in support of meaningful and transformative work. Janna aspires to contribute to the field of education through her systematic approach to organizational health, and the integration of her work in human potential.

JoDee Marcellin


JoDee Marcellin, Ed.D. grew up in the Bay Area and moved to attend California State University, Fresno in 1986, where she completed her undergraduate and graduate studies. JoDee’s 18 year educational career in Sanger Unified School District afforded her experiences in all levels of K-12 from high school science teacher to site and district leadership. It was her own struggles as a student that has acted as a driving force to improve instruction and educational systems that better meet students’ needs, especially those unsupported by the current structures.

During JoDee’s K-12 tenure, she built a multifaceted background that provided her a unique opportunity to join the California Education Partner team. The innovation, drive, and passion to facilitate success for ALL students held by Ed Partners matches her own and allows her to expand and deepen the amazing work she was blessed to be involved in Sanger to a larger scale throughout California.





Jose Silva


Prior to joining California Education Partners, he was the Data Manager at Sanger Unified School District. In this role Jose worked closely with district leadership and teachers to inform and impact positive student outcomes. He leveraged his previous private sector experience as a systems manager and continuous improvement engineer to develop new data perspectives and analysis. He was also responsible for completing all data analysis and associated findings to meet all grant reporting requirements.

Jose grew up in Farmersville, a small rural community located in California’s Central Valley. His current work provides him an opportunity to make a positive impact in communities where students share in a similar experience. He is committed to ensuring all students have an opportunity to be successful and achieve their dreams.

Kaitlyn Pearson


Kaitlyn joined Ed Partners after moving from the Midwest, where she worked for Drury University’s Admission program. There, she coordinated the University’s campus visit program and recruitment events before transitioning into her role as an Admissions and Financial Counselor where she recruited and advised prospective students through their college admission and financial aid process. Kaitlyn implemented recruitment events across the United States as well as college prep discussions and panels in Southeast Missouri for high school students and families. Having grown up in a rural, public education system, Kaitlyn finds it incredibly rewarding to work in support of educators and to assist in providing opportunities for students. In her free time you can find her somewhere outdoors exploring, or alternatively, indoors watching movies!

Keyur Shah


Keyur has spent his career working in low-income schools designing systems that enable students to be prepared for college and beyond. He began his career as a high school science teacher and math instructional coach in Miami, was an AP of curriculum and instruction in Chicago, and most recently was a high school principal in San Jose. Holding degrees in education and engineering, Keyur couples pedagogical knowledge of student learning with a strong data-driven approach to drive school and district decision-making. As a second-generation college graduate, Keyur strongly believes in the power of education to transform not only individual lives, but entire communities.

Keyur has a B.S. in Engineering Management Systems from Columbia University, and a M.A. in Policy, Organization, and Leadership Studies from Stanford University. He loves to spend time with his wife cooking, rock climbing, and visiting National Parks across the country.

Laura Schwalm


“It has been a privilege to spend my entire career in public education. My teaching career began as a student teacher in the Garden Grove Unified School District and ended 41 years later in the same district, the last 14 of which were as superintendent. Along the way I had the opportunity both to teach and serve as a site administrator in elementary and secondary schools as well as to work in a variety of positions at the district level. Each of these experiences allowed me to work alongside and learn from remarkable teachers, administrators and support personnel. The opportunities I had to work with masterful teachers taught me the importance of building caring relationships with students, establishing high expectations and providing all the support necessary for students to meet those expectations. Skillful leaders taught me the importance of applying these same principles to leading schools, and later to leading a system of schools.

Over the years I found that the solutions to even the most complex problems most often were found in the minds of those closest to the work. Given the opportunity to work together, I watched teachers, administrators, support staff, parents and students find and execute creative and practical solutions for challenging situations. Enabling them to do this was simply a matter of giving them the time, space and structure necessary for the work.”






Lena Jensen 

Recently graduated from the University of Oregon, Lena has decided to start her career path at Ed Partners. During her time in college she was heavily involved in Kesem, a student-led nonprofit providing year-round support to children through and beyond a parent’s cancer diagnosis and treatment. After starting as Development Coordinator in 2017, she transitioned into her role as Director where she further expanded Kesem’s impact across the state of Oregon and applied a model based on diversity, equity and inclusion to make programs and services more easily accessible for all families. Lena has truly found a passion for nonprofit work and looks forward to using her experience within Ed Partners to continue helping others. When she’s not working you can find her hiking, playing volleyball or searching for a new vegan restaurant.

Luis Argueta

Luis is a former Dual Language Spanish Immersion elementary teacher and K-8 principal in the San Francisco Bay Area, his work now focuses on supporting district administrators in creating and designing district-level improvement work to increase the academic outcomes of Latinx, African American and socio-economically disadvantaged students. Luis strongly believes in the power of education as an agent for personal and social change. He has worked throughout his sixteen-year career to help provide access to this power to students and families for the betterment of their communities. 

Luis holds a Masters degree in Education from the University of California, Berkeley, where he received his Administrative Services Credential and a Masters degree in Teaching from New College of California, where he received his Multiple Subject Teaching Credential. He received a B.A. in History from the University of California, Riverside.

Manny Barrera

Manny has followed his passion in the K-12 education space for over a decade in various capacities - from special education inclusion teacher to STEM teacher, multiple school leadership roles and network/district leadership. During this time he worked on codifying and scaling learning & leadership development programs across multiple education systems, built a computer science pipeline focused on serving underserved students, and created a social-emotional learning program with external partnerships across the country. He also co-founded a STEAM-based summer program and created/developed an expeditionary dual language school. 

Prior to his focus on education Manny worked as a pharmaceutical scientist and toxicologist. 

He holds a B.S. in Biology/Chemistry from St. Mary’s University-San Antonio and an M.Ed. in School Leadership Development from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Melinda Leung

Michelle Nayfack


Michelle Nayfack is the Associate Director of Research Practice Partnerships.  As part of this role she serves as the Director of the Stanford-Sequoia K-12 Research Collaborative, which was launched in 2017.  This Collaborative is a partnership between Stanford University and nine school districts in San Mateo County.  Researchers from Stanford’s Graduate School of Education and practitioners across all nine districts are working to conduct research in partnership that will both inform policies and practices within the districts and contribute to generalizable research in education more broadly.  Prior to serving in this role, Michelle held a variety of education policy research positions at Stanford’s Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) and the American Institutes for Research (AIR).  Michelle started her career in education as a high school English teacher in Los Angeles.  She holds a B.A. in English Literature from Columbia University, a California teaching credential from California State University, Northridge and a PhD in Urban Education from University of Southern California.

Phil Halperin


As a founder of both California Education Partners and the Silver Giving Foundation, Phil Halperin has dedicated his career to the kids of California. His work has led him to champion efforts to empower and improve school districts, strengthen pre-school statewide, promote local investment in public schools, support teachers, and build robust and innovative partnerships that close opportunity gaps and help students stay on the path to success in college, career, and life. Phil earned his A.B. in Political Science from Stanford University and his MBA from Harvard Graduate School of Business Phil has also co-chaired six successful campaigns which have raised collectively over $4.0 billion for the public schools and children of San Francisco.

Steven Kellner


Over his 25 years in public education Steve has served as a classroom teacher, site and district administrator and superintendent. Throughout his career he has worked to close achievement gaps and open doors for first generation college students in both California and Illinois. Under Steve’s leadership the West Sonoma Union High School District was recognized as one of the top 100 districts in California. As superintendent, Steve used an innovative community partnership to launch a design-thinking based middle school for students in underserved rural communities.

At the university level he was proud to teach aspiring principals in Northeastern Illinois University Masters in Educational Leadership program.

From a curricular perspective Steve led the development of the first high school in the nation with a STEM for ALL focus. He has presented nationally on topics ranging from new teacher mentoring and best practices in teacher evaluation to creating a sustainable interdisciplinary STEM model at the high school level and effectively implementing instructional technology.

During his 12 years as a classroom teacher he taught English, Social Science and Broadcast Journalism in addition to serving as a fellow at the University of Chicago’s Graham School writing interdisciplinary curriculum focused on Asia.

Steve has a Bachelor’s degree from Miami University in Oxford Ohio, teaching certification from Indiana University, a Master’s degree in Educational leadership from Aurora University and a Doctorate in Educational Administration and Supervision from Loyola University Chicago where he researched the impact of superintendent leadership on student achievement.





Violet Leo 


For the past 14 years Violet worked as an administrator and librarian for the largest preschool under the Woodland Group of Pre-Schools in Hong Kong. She is delighted to be back in the Bay area to be closer to her family. She is a graduate of Oakland High School and is happy to be back in the city where she started her academic journey. She studied Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley and Computer Science at California State University, Hayward. She worked as a systems analyst for IBM in both Hong Kong and San Francisco as well as for Wells Fargo Bank in San Francisco. She served as internal product support for database management at IBM Hong Kong.

Violet believes that a caring and safe environment for children induces learning. She is happy that at Ed Partners, she could contribute to better California's public school education. In her spare time she likes to curl up with a good book or watch Korean drama at home.