Staff Photos & Teacher Bios

Come and meet our Briones Staff and Teachers!  Get to know your child’s teacher as well as your child’s future teachers.  You may think you knew all about them….!For Staff & Teacher Phone Extensions and Emails, please go to the Classrooms/Staff PageSTAFF:  SCHOOL OFFICE

Principal Lisa Hickey

Principal Lisa Hickey

It is an honor to introduce myself as the principal of Juana Briones School.  I am energized to be working in a wonderful school district that has amazing resources for all students to thrive academically and socially.

Prior to working in Palo Alto, I was an elementary school principal in the Cupertino Union School District for seven years at Meyerholz and Sedgwick Elementary.  I also served three years as a middle school assistant principal.  I taught sixth grade at Miller Middle School in Cupertino School District.  This is where I met my husband John, who still teaches 8th grade History at that school.  We live in San Mateo and have two elementary age sons, Jack and Sean.


School Secretary

Maria Eichler: School Secretary

Maria Eichler is our School Secretary.

I was born in Lima, Peru and came to the United States many years ago. Since I came to California I have always worked in  Palo Alto. I worked 5 years in the Pediatrics Department of the Palo Alto Clinic. When I first started to work at Juana Briones, my idea was to work just part time for few years, but when the secretary retired I was offered  her position and accepted it. Twenty years and five Principals later, I am still working and I love it! I really enjoy watching the children grow and flourish. I have learned to appreciate tremendously the parents involvement with the school. I have also found that working with the enormously talented staff at Juana Briones School has proven to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

Office Clerk

Sharon Fisher is our Office Assistant.

I began working in the district sixteen years ago as a classroom aide at El Carmelo where my sons attended school.

I moved to Juana Briones in 1994 where I continued as a classroom aide for a variety of teachers. I enjoyed the community and children so much that when a position in the office became available I gave it my best and have been here ever since. What I enjoy the most is the many faces that come in the office everyday and also getting to know the wonderful families at Briones. My husband Mark and I have two sons that are Gunn graduates. In my time away from work I enjoy sewing, quilting or gardening.

Julie Griffin

Julie Griffin – Teacher Librarian

Julie Griffin is our Teacher Librarian (Visit Julie’s website)

I am really excited to be teaching at Juana Briones!  This is my 5th year as a Teacher Librarian for PAUSD.  The best part of my job is that I get to connect with every student each week, throughout their six years at Juana Briones.
Prior to working in Palo Alto, I was a Library Media Specialist at Columbia Middle School in Sunnyvale.  In my spare time I like to read as much children’s literature as I possibly can, so that I can keep up with my students!  I also like to spend time with my husband and two kids (7th grade and 10th grade), and our dog Bella.  Be sure to check out our school library website for reading lists, more about me, fun resources and more….

SCHOOL TEACHERS:gradelabels_kg


Jill Dinneen: Kindergarten

Jill Dinneen is our Room 2, Kindergarten Teacher.

I have been working with children since the early 1980’s. This wonderful journey has provided me with many amazing opportunities and life lessons along the way.  I graduated from San Jose State with a BA in Child Development and a minor in Special Ed. In 1987 PAUSD hired me to teach 1st grade at Juana Briones School. I have also had the opportunity to teach grades K, K/1, & 1/2 as well. I have been a mentor teacher, written science curriculum for PAUSD and co-founded the Barron Park 4’s program.  I have also been a Girl Scout Leader for 12 years (the girls will be graduating High School this year)! I love teaching kindergarten because it is truly a life-long adventure. It is exciting, ever changing and never boring.

I believe that children remind us:

  • we need to be open minded about all the possibilities the world has to offer.
  • we take life too seriously and need to laugh more.
  • we really don’t have all the answers.
  • when we think we’ve “seen it all” we really haven’t.
  • “life” teachers can come in little tiny packages.
  • we need to slow down and take time to enjoy the little things (like bugs and chocolate milk).
  • bandages and ice packs can cure 99% of all our problems.
  • you can never ask too many questions.
  • we should sing loudly, not be afraid to dance with our friends and that being silly is ok.

I am a also a proud mother of three Juana Briones graduates (ages 12, 15 & 18) and believe that who they are today comes from the strong foundation of learning, acceptance and responsibility that received while attending our school.

Lanette Topper: Kindergarten

Lanette Topper is our Room 1, Kindergarten Teacher.
Kindergarten Room 1 teacher and mom of one son.  I love being at Juana Briones!  In my sixteen years of teaching experience I have taught from 2nd grade through high school and spent 9 years teaching middle school math, science, and physical education.  Through all my years I have always wanted to teach kindergarten, so to fulfill that plan I went back to school to get a Masters with an emphasis in early childhood education and as my son grew I packed all the toys and books he out grew into the garage to save for my classroom.  As a child of six I remember playing the teacher in my backyard with all my neighborhood friends.  My calling has always been to teach.  I am very excited to be part of the Juana Briones community!

Mariellen Klein

Mariellen Klein is our Room 5, First Grade Teacher.Seeing bright and eager faces every morning is why I teach First Grade. Every day and every year is a new adventure with six and seven year olds that believe all things are possible. I have taught First Grade here at Juana Briones for the past ten years. Before that there was seven years in second grade, five years in third grade and a year in fourth.  Too many years ago to remember I graduated from Santa Clara University and earned my teaching credential at San Jose State. I teach so I can learn about the world and all of those infinite possibilities that 20 brand new minds bring to me each and every day.


Carly Janiga 2nd Grade

Carly Janiga teaches 2nd Grade in Room 7

This is my first year teaching at Juana Briones and I have felt incredibly welcomed by staff, parents, and students alike. It’s plain to see the great sense of community that the school prides itself on. I’ve recently graduated from Stanford University’s Teacher Education Program where I gained invaluable experience learning the latest research in education and how to implement it in the classroom. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching in first grade at Barron Park in Palo Alto, 5th grade in Sunnyvale, and 4th grade in Santa Clara. Even though I’m newer to the profession, I feel like I’ve been called to teach ever since I was three years old with a stack of books high over my head “reading” to my newborn brother.  Since then, my practices have (thankfully) gotten more refined and I am continually growing and learning alongside my students. My goals as an educator are to meet the individual and group needs of my students in ways that support and challenge them in order to foster the greatest intellectual, social, and emotional growth. I also strive to create a safe and team-oriented community where all people feel acceptance and belonging.

Second grade is a great year where students transition from learning to read to reading to learn. Student’s newfound ability to read and write translates into enthusiastic lessons and experiences across all subject matter. Thanks for the warm welcome!


Pamela Dappen: 2nd Grade

Pamela Dappen is our 2nd Grade, Room 8, teacher

One might imagine—after working with kids for about 25 years—that a certain “sameness” would prevail with one group of youngsters compared to another. But it is entirely the opposite. The longer I work with kids… the more their depth, uniqueness and complexity is revealed to me.  My growing perspective has been stretched and widened through the years to reflect private and public school environments, pre-school, elementary grades and middle-school settings, teaching in English and Spanish, working in administration and at the district office level, and teaching in an International school.

When I came to Briones I knew that I had “landed” in the right spot.. Not many people are fortunate enough to spend many hours each day in the stimulating company of 20 young, inquisitive minds. Each day brings joy and rewarding challenges, and at least a handful of laughs!  Stop by anytime and meet Room 8’s growing group of Super Stars!


Yasmin Shirole is our Room 16, Third Grade Teacher.

I live in Palo Alto along with my husband and two lovely children.   Prior to Juana Briones Elementary School,  I have taught at  Ohlone Elementary , Palo Verde Elementary and Walter Hays Elementary schools teaching grades 2 through 5 for over ten years. I have a Masters in  Economics and have completed my teaching credential from San Jose State University. I love teaching young children and I look forward to spending time with them everyday. I enjoy being part of the Juana Briones community! 


Teri Johnson is our Room 23, Third Grade Teacher.

When I was little, I loved books. I’m older now, but I still love to read and my house is full of books. One of the fun things about being a teacher is that I get to share books with children. I also get to help them become readers who love books, too. I’m a native Californian, born in Los Angeles. When I was in first grade, my family moved to Saratoga and then to Palo Alto. I’ve lived in different parts of the country (Alabama, New York, Nevada) but always ended up back in Palo Alto. My children went to Juana Briones, and I have been a parent volunteer, aide, and teacher here. I like teaching all parts of the curriculum, so it would be hard for me to choose a favorite subject. While I love reading and writing, I think science is wonderful, too. Math is exciting, art is fun, and, oh, I really love social studies and history. I guess I just enjoy all kinds of learning. The best part of being a teacher is I get to share my excitement about learning with wonderful children I think it’s the best job in the world. Away from school, I spend my time reading all sorts of books, studying history (I’m a Civil War buff and Lincoln fan), doing needlework, watching birds, hiking, camping, and collecting bears and books. I love to travel. I would happily travel anywhere, as long as I could bring some books along.


Fourth Grade

Cara Stoneburner is our Room 12, Fourth Grade Teacher (with Susie Deutsch).

I have been in the education business since 1982. I got interested in teaching while working as a college intern for a newly developed science, nutrition and gardening program called Life Lab. I continued on to work as a naturalist, K- 6 science teacher, and classroom teacher. In 1992 I left the classroom to write multimedia science curriculum for the SETI Institute and NASA. I also returned to UCSC to get a masters in education.

I started classroom teaching again in 2004 at Briones. I especially love teaching science and worked hard to reestablish the garden behind the primary wing. Getting children outside; helping them to understand how to learn; encouraging them to examine, manipulate, and evaluate – are some of the things I especially love about teaching.

Both my husband and I are products of Palo Alto schools and our girls are as well.  Our daughters attended Briones and are now at Terman and Gunn.

If you visit room 12 at the end of the day on Friday afternoon, you may have a chance to eat some fresh baked bread.

Kimberly Hanley is our Room 11, Fourth Grade Teacher

I am very excited to teach 4th grade at Juana Briones for the second year. Prior to coming here, I taught for 15 years in Redwood City. I have experience in all grade levels K-5. I grew up in Rhode Island and go back to visit family and friends every summer for about a month. I came to the Bay Area many years ago to attend Stanford and later studied at UCLA. Upon receiving my credential and masters, I entered the Peace Corps as an education volunteer in Honduras. It was there that I met my husband, Pablo. We have two children, Abigail and Ryan. In my spare time, I enjoy reading, swimming, biking and playing at the beach with my family.

Tom Culburtson is our Room 10, Fourth Grade Teacher

Tom has been teaching fourth grade at Briones for three years. Prior to this, he most recently taught 5th Grade as a long-term substitute at Fairmeadow Elementary School in Palo Alto.


Bruce Antal is our Room 14, Fifth Grade Teacher.
Bruce Antal has been teaching at Juana Briones for the last 13 years.  He started out teaching Learning Disabled students for seven years and since then has been teaching 4th, 5th, and 6th grade.  He brings to the classroom a lot of energy, creativity, and high expectations.  Skills and academics are always a high priority with lots of inventive projects thrown in.  Bruce’s classrooms are well known for their art exhibitions, video creations, and theatrical productions.  Bruce’s students find sixth grade “easy” after an adventurous year with him.

5th Grade

Beth has been teaching since 1970, with some years of part-time work while her children were young.  She has a husband, George, and two grown daughters, Anna (33) and Rachel (29).  Beth has always been interested in the progressive education movement and still bases her teaching on this approach:  hands-on learning, math manipulatives, writing workshop, literature discussion groups, and the inquiry method in both math and science.  She loves to do in depth social studies projects which give children the opportunity to go back in time and experience life at different periods of history.  Other favorites  for her are teaching children to love poetry, using writer’s workshop to help students experience the life of a writer, hooking children on books by sharing all her favorites, and teaching mathematical thinking. At home, Beth is an avid dancer and has been all her life.  Currently she and her husband are active in the English Country Dance community in the Bay Area.  She also loves to read, to hike, to knit and to write.  Beth is very fond of writing in cafes around Palo Alto, with her dog Teyva waiting patiently outside.  She and her family have always been hikers and campers and have spent some time every summer for the last twenty-four years in the High Sierra above Tuolumne Meadows.

Debbie Sutherland is also our Room 17, Fifth Grade Teacher (with Beth Mills).
5th Grade
Debbie Sutherland: 5th Grade

5th Grade

Laurie Levy is our Room 13, Fifth Grade Teacher (with Susie Deutsch).

I absolutely love my job and look forward to coming to work every day. I have been teaching at Briones for the last five years and love the school and staff so much that I can’t imagine ever leaving. I have been teaching for the last nine years, mostly teaching fifth grade, but finding time to teach third grade and sixth grade as well. I am a Bay Area native and am surrounded by my family and friends who also help out in my classroom. I graduated from the University of Denver and got my Masters a few years ago from Notre Dame de Namur University. I have a son who is 2 years old and my husband and I are expecting a second son soon. My passion is connecting with children and inspiring them to try new things. I love helping kids who struggle realize that they are just as capable as everyone else. Finally, I love music! For the past few years I have had the opportunity to put on Musicals with my classes. How proud I am to see them on the stage. I hope it is an experience they never forget!

4th & 5th Grade

Susie Deutsch is our Room 13, Fifth Grade Teacher (with Laurie Levy)

Science Teacher

Karen Kessler is our Science Laboratory Instructor.I was born and raised on 50 acres in Ohio, and grew up playing in the wild spaces and immersed in the stunning beauty of our natural world. I went to college in Ohio and majored in Biology, held clinical laboratory positions in Clinical Chemistry and Human Genetics, then moved to California and worked in Medical Diagnostics before having triplets, who are now in college, mostly studying science! I am very fortunate to be able to share my science knowledge, and my awe of our natural world, with your children. I have been in charge of the Science Laboratory at Juana Briones for 20 years, and look forward to many more. Favorite bird: Great Blue Heron / Favorite plant: California Natives of all kinds / Favorite food: Vegetables / Favorite destinations: Asilomar in Monterey, and Costa Rica /Favorite museum: California Academy of Sciences / Favorite book: Dunwoody Pond by John Janovy, Jr. Briones Science Lab Website.


Wendy Parry is our SPECTRA Art Teacher.


O.H. (Orthopedically Handicapped) CENTER TEACHERS

O.H. Teachers

O.H. Teachers

Suzanne Doi is our Room 18, Kindergarten-5th Grade O.H. Teacher.


Our School Custodians are Jack Younkin, Melvin Ward and Marin Rodriguez.


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