We recognize that the single strongest driver of student achievement is teacher quality. Alma del Mar recruits talented teachers from across the country and bring them to New Bedford. We employ a rigorous multi-step application process to ensure that we find the best teachers with the strongest commitment to urban education.
Will Gardner, Founder & Executive Director
Will Gardner graduated from Wesleyan University and began his teaching career as a Teach for America corps member in Greenville, Mississippi. In Mississippi, Will served as an elementary school music teacher and later as a 3rd grade teacher in a program for students behind in reading. Following five years in Mississippi, Will returned to his home state of Massachusetts to run an out of school time site for Citizen Schools in New Bedford. While running a Citizen Schools site for middle school students, Will saw firsthand how too many students in New Bedford enter middle school unprepared to succeed at the high levels that a college track demands. At the same time, he witnessed that students can be reignited academically when challenged to do rigorous, meaningful and service-oriented work. The desire to see more students doing incredible work and to put more kids in New Bedford on the path to college led Will to complete Harvard’s School Leadership program and dedicate two years to creating Alma del Mar.
Elizabeth Leiwant, Director of Curriculum and Instruction
Elizabeth Leiwant is originally from New York City where she became interested in education at a young age. Her passion for education led her to study Educational Policy at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. During college Elizabeth studied abroad in Chile. After graduating from college, Elizabeth returned to Chile where she taught English and photography. Before coming to Alma, Elizabeth served a Citizen Schools Teaching Fellow for two years. As a Fellow she simultaneously earned her M.Ed in Curriculum and instruction from Lesley University and worked closely with sixth graders in New York City providing academic support and teaching project based learning classes. Liz joined the founding team of Alma del Mar in 2011 as a Second Grade Associate Teacher.
Emily Darrow, Dean of Scholar Support
Ms. Darrow grew up in New Canaan, CT and attended New Canaan High School. She attended Colby College in Waterville, ME where she majored in International Studies. After graduation, Ms. Darrow joined Teach For America as a 2010 corps member in the Greater New Orleans area. She taught at an alternative school for two years, working specifically with students who were 2-5 years overage as 4th and 5th graders. She came to KIPP in 2012 as the school’s reading interventionist, and served as the Assistant Principal of Scholar Support for the past two years, ensuring that all students at Mc15 had access to a high-quality education, regardless of learning or behavioral differences. In July of 2016, Ms. Darrow earned her M.S.Ed in School Leadership at the University of Pennsylvania.
Alice Sheehan, Director of Finance
Mrs. Sheehan grew up in Springfield, MO. She went to school at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, IN where she studied Chemistry and Arabic in undergrad and went on to get her MBA. She also met her husband, Brad, while at Notre Dame. After graduation she started the Operations Management Leadership Program at GE Aviation. During the program she moved every 6 months and got to live in exotic places like Batesville, MS, Pasadena, CA, Lynn, MA and Rutland, VT. After finishing OMLP, Ms. Sheehan took a full-time role as the Safety Leader in a jet engine manufacturing shop in Lynn, MA. Mrs. Sheehan joins us as an Education Pioneers Graduate Fellow and is excited to apply her operations knowledge in the education sector.
Taylor DeLoach, Dean of Culture
Taylor grew up in Maryland and received her B.A. in Psychology at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. She spent the last two years of her undergraduate career developing and teaching in a preschool program targeting low-income per-kindergarteners in the Middletown, CT community. She began her experience in charter schools as a tutor at Match Community Day Charter Public School in Jamaica Plain, MA. Taylor is currently working on a Master’s in Effective Teaching from the Charles Sposato Graduate School of Education.
Matt Marko, Director of Operations
Mr. Marko grew up in Brewer, Maine, a fantastic community 40 minutes inland of Acadia National park and the Atlantic Ocean — it is across the river from Bangor, Maine, and roughly two hours north of Portland. He graduated from Brewer High school in 2006, and continued to live in Maine while getting Bachelors in Criminal Justice from the University of Maine. In 2011-12 Mr. Marko interned on the Maine Marriage Equality campaign and helped pass marriage equality in Maine at the ballot box in November 2012. He spent the next five years traveling the country working on Progressive Issue oriented campaigns, with a primary focus on LGTBQ equality. Some highlights were being on the team to pass marriage equality in Rhode Island, and being on the team to stop a harmful anti-LGBTQ constitutional amendment in Indiana. Mr. Marko’s last major campaign role was being the Deputy National Operations Director of Bernie 2016. He worked in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Illinois, Wisconsin and Vermont during his time with Bernie 2016.
Becca Kurie, Development Manager
Becca Kurie went to Bemidji State University in northern Minnesota. She studied journalism and interpersonal communications. After graduation, she moved to a small town in eastern Wyoming to work for a weekly newspaper. She then moved back to Minnesota to work for a daily newspaper, where she reported on area schools, nonprofits, businesses and crime. She moved to New Bedford with her husband and dog in 2013.
Charmaine Flint, Administrative Assistant
Charmaine graduated from Jane Adams Vocational High School from Nursing Assisting in New York City. She continued my education at Monroe College, also in New York City. She moved to New Bedford nine years ago and attended the Salter School for Medical Billing Program and proceeded to work at the High Point Treatment Center for four years with substance abuse patients. There, she worked as a physicians assistant. Charmaine is continuing her education currently. She is a mother of three girls and enjoys spending time doing family activities. She also loves to travel, cook, dance, make people smile and laugh, and share her good sense of humor.
John Veenstra, Plant Manager
John is a life-long resident of New Bedford and was educated in the New Bedford Public Schools. He comes to Alma del Mar with over 30 years of diversified experience in all phases of commercial and residential construction, carpentry, landscaping, and facility maintenance. He recently completed a course in green building and technology, which stresses sustainability and innovative ways to protect and utilize natural resources. He is excited to be part of the Alma del Mar family and contribute to the growth and success of our children, who are the future leaders of our community and country. John is also the proud father of a member of the Alma del Mar Class of 2028.
Jillian Gomes, Office Manager
Jillian is a lifelong New Bedford resident who attended New Bedford Public Schools as well as GNB Voc-Tech where she studied graphic design. After high school she earned her associates degree in liberal arts from the Community College of RI, and then transferred to RIC. She’s joining the Alma team with over 15 years experience as an office manager — her most recent position being a charter school in Fall River. Jillian is also a founding Alma parent with two scholars who attend.
Mellisa Carvalho, Cafeteria Worker
Mellisa went to Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School where she studied Early Childhood Education and teaching.In her free time, she likes to draw, go for walks, go to parks, spend time with her nephews and nieces, and go off-roading. Melissa likes working at Alma because she enjoys the people she works with and loves working with the scholars. She also likes how close all the staff is and how much it feels like a family.
Michelle Russell, Bookkeeper
Michelle has been a part of the Alma community since day 1, when she and her daughter (a member of the Class of 2028) helped clean up the old Ottiwell School in preparation for the first day of school. She served as a substitute teacher for many years and also took on a variety of projects for teachers and administration. Michelle is a New Bedford High School graduate and holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Johnson & Wales University. She enjoys reading, crocheting, art, and running a Star Wars group for Alma scholars.
Alexa Nieves, Operations Associate
Ms. Nieves was born in New Bedford. She is 20 years old and graduated from Global Learning Charter Public School with high honors in 2013. She is currently attending Bristol Community College in pursuit of her Nursing Degree. She is the daughter of Thy Kingdom Come Church founders in New Bedford. For the past eight years, she has worked with Kids Ministry, Dance Ministry, and Youth Ministry. Alexa also worked for the National Park Service as the youngest Park Ranger on staff for the past six years. Alexa has experiences with visitors, children camps, and giving tours. She also had the opportunity working at three different national parks in the region. She has been volunteering and giving a helping hand, to Alma del Mar whenever she could since the school opened.
Tara Mitchell, Nurse
Tara Mitchell was born and raised in New Bedford. She attended elementary school in New Bedford, followed by middle and high school in Dartmouth. Tara graduated from Bristol Community College nursing program and became Tara Mitchell, RN. She graduated from Chamberlain College of Nursing with a 3.82 GPA and became Tara Mitchell, BSN, RN. Tara is a mother of four brilliant, wacky, beautiful children ages 12, 10, 5, and 2, whom she loves dearly, and two smooshy puppies with whom she willingly shares snacks (the ultimate sign of affection). Tara is enthusiastic about poetry, D&D, coffee, Ted Talks, loud music, coffee, and also coffee.
Lourdes Gonzalez, Behavior Interventionist
Lourdes was born in Puerto Rico and moved to New Bedford at the age of 12. She graduated from New Bedford High School with honors in 1991 and continued her education. She holds a Degree in Theology from International Seminary in Florida and today is a Licensed Minister and the Co-Founder of Thy Kingdom Come Church in New Bedford. Lourdes has obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. For the past 21 years, she has worked with the Kids Church Ministry, Youth Ministry and Women Ministry. She has also received the Hispanic Recognition Award for her community service in the New Bedford. Her focus has always been the children and the youth of the New Bedford community because she believes that they are the Next Generation and they are our Future.
Kyle Norris, Social Emotional Specialist
Kyle Norris was born in Frankfurt, Germany, but was raised in Hinesville, Georgia. He graduated from the University of Georgia in 2012 with a degree in Anthropology with minors in Archaeological Sciences and Native American Studies. Mr. Norris is an avid Red Sox and Patriots fan. He loves being outdoors, especially to play golf.
Gabriela Robledo, ESL Specialist
Ms. Robledo was born and raised in Southern California and lived in Central California during middle and high school. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 2016 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Education. During college, Ms. Robledo worked as an Academic Counselor helping high school students apply to college/scholarships and leading workshops around their pursuit of a higher education. After graduating, she moved back to Southern California and worked as a Site Supervisor in an after school program in an elementary school. Ms. Robledo’s hobbies include exploring different places/traveling and finding great places to eat!
Jessica Jean-Pierre, K-2 Academic Fellow
Ian Baker, First Grade Academic Fellow
Justin Almeida, 4-6 Academic Fellow
Mr. Almeida was born and raised in New Bedford. He has his bachelor’s degree in Management Information Systems and Human Resources Management from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Prior to taking on his first year at Alma, he was a full time Operations Analyst for five years and has been a part time academic tutor for four years. Tutoring helped him realize that he wanted to take on a full time position in education. While he still tutors part time, he’s excited to be a part of Alma where he can grow into a well-rounded educator. In his spare time, Mr. Almeida enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling/cruising, and going to concerts. For the past four years, he has helped coach his nephew’s baseball team. His favorite sports teams are the New England Patriots and the Boston Red Sox.
Rosemarie Szulc, Math Specialist
Andrew Barrett, Math Specialist
Hanna MacDougall, Math Specialist (Grades 3-5)
Hanna MacDougall grew up in Warren, RI. She graduated from Springfield College, where she earned a degree in Psychology. She enjoys playing soccer, hiking, and going out to listen to live music.
Rebecca Cotugno, K-4 Literacy Specialist
Rebecca Cotugno grew up in Needham, MA and received her BA from Bates College in Lewiston, ME. After graduating, she joined Teach for America and taught 4th grade English/Language Arts and 2nd grade in Jackson, MS. Through dedication and hard work, she pushed her class to grow an average of over 2 years in reading, and achieve mastery on all state math standards. Her hobbies include running and baking.
Ashley Cabral, Middle School Literacy Specialist
Ms. Cabral grew up in Kingston, MA with her mom, dad, two sisters, and extended family nearby. She would make frequent trips to New Bedford with her grandfather, sisters and cousin to visit Sunshine and get as many delicious Portuguese baked goods as they could! Now, she lives in Plymouth, MA with her husband, two dogs, and cat!
After high school, Ms. Cabral went to Westfield State College to double major in Elementary Education and Liberal Studies, with a minor in Reading. After graduation, she worked over the course of the next three years for the Plymouth branch of the Old Colony Y as a camp counselor and director and for their before/after school programming and taught in the Plymouth Public School system. She started her Master’s degree at Simmons College in 2011 for Language & Literacy and to work toward her Reading Specialist license. Once she received her Master’s degree and Reading Specialist license, she began teaching at Prospect Hill Academy’s Upper Elementary campus as a Reading Specialist. She was there for three years before making the transition to Alma.
Faustina De Pina, Kindergarten Lead Teacher
A mother of three, Faustina began her career in the human services field as a Housing Specialist for the Brockton Area Helpline. In that position, she assisted families in obtaining housing and accessing community resources. Within a couple of years, she assumed the position of Intake Assessment Supervisor, through which role she found temporary shelter for homeless families. Faustina was recognized for her work through the Excellence in Human Services Award presented by Community Services of Greater Brockton. In 2004, Faustina decided to return to school to pursue a career in teaching. She enrolled at Bridgewater State College as a double major in English and Elementary Education and graduated Cum Laude. Faustina earned her Massachusetts State Licensure and substitute taught at the Rochester Memorial Elementary School and Wareham Middle School. From 2008 to 2011, Faustina worked for PACE Head Start assisting low-income families. In 2011, she joined the founding team of Alma del Mar as a Kindergarten Associate Teacher. She is also an active member of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children’s Champions Advocacy Network. Faustina is fluent in Cape Verdean Creole, Spanish, and Portuguese.
Xiomara Palmieri, Kindergarten Lead Teacher
Xiomara received her Bachelor’s in Elementary Education from Rhode Island College. Xiomara has completed student teaching and practicums at schools across Rhode Island. While in school, Xiomara also volunteered at the Providence Children’s Museum and supported local second grade students learning English. For the past year, Xiomara has worked as a Facilitator at the Fogarty Center, an organization serving adults with developmental disabilities. Xiomara is fluent in Spanish.
Grace Stanford, Kindergarten Lead Teacher
Ms. Stanford grew up in upstate New York with her parents, younger brother, and younger sister. She loved school and went to college at the University of Vermont. She double-majored in Religion and Asian Studies. Ms. Stanford studied abroad in Japan her junior year, and after graduating, returned to Japan to teach elementary and middle school English through the JET Programme for two years. Upon returning to the U.S, she worked in an independent book store and read as many books as possible. She then moved to Boston and worked at Match Community Day Charter School while enrolled in the Charles Sposato Graduate School of Education. This is her second year in the master’s program.
Chris Rego, Kindergarten Associate Teacher
Mr. Rego grew up in Mansfield, Massachusetts with his parents and younger sister. He played percussion in the school band from fifth grade up until he graduated from Mansfield High School in 2002. Mr. Rego attended Bridgewater State University where he studied sculpture, jewelry design, ceramics, art history, and had a minor in Asian Studies. After graduating from BSU in 2008, Mr. Rego earned his Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth where he taught entry-level studio courses as a student. He continued to teach as an adjunct professor after graduation while working with an arts and wellness program affiliated with the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health and then coordinating the Education and Outreach programs for the New Bedford Art Museum.
Brittny DeSousa, Kindergarten Associate Teacher
Ms. DeSousa was born and raised in New Bedford. She is the youngest of four siblings and loves having a big family. Ms. DeSousa attended high school at Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical School and focused her studies there on child development. She graduated from GNB Voc-Tech in 2013. Then, while working at Little People’s College, she took courses at Fisher College. She plans to go back to school to pursue a degree in teaching. In her free time, Ms. DeSousa enjoys going off-roading in her Jeep — something she has loved doing since she was younger and would go with her dad. She has three dogs, one cat and a ferret.
Kyla Spindler, First Grade Lead Teacher & Math Department Chair
Kyla Spindler received her B.A. in psychology from Pomona College in Claremont, CA. She received her M.S. in Education from the University of Massachusetts Boston through the Boston Teacher Residency. Before coming to Alma del Mar, Ms. Spindler worked as a 3rd Grade SEI Teacher for Dever-McCormack School in Dorchester. She also studied abroad in Ecuador and worked as a tutor and swim instructor in Bequia.
Nathalie Concepcion, First Grade Lead Teacher
Nathalie is originally from Eastern North Carolina and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in Psychology. While in college, she discovered her passion for working with youth through various extracurricular activities and volunteering. During her final year at UNC, Nathalie studied abroad in Southern Africa and had the opportunity to intern at an after-school program. Working as a teacher’s assistant, she helped coordinate literacy activities and provided one-on-one tutoring to students. Following graduation, Nathalie served as an Urban Fellow at Phoenix Charter Academy in Chelsea, Massachusetts.
Mary Lavallee, First Grade Lead Teacher
Mrs. Lavallee grew up in Acushnet. She attended Westfield State University in Western Massachusetts, where she earned degrees in English and Communication. In 2012, she moved to Austin, TX to earn her Masters of Fine Arts degree in fiction writing from the University of Texas. While in Austin, Mrs. Lavallee worked as a teaching assistant for introductory literature courses and also volunteered to teach creative writing in the community. After graduation, Mrs. Lavallee taught reading and language arts to a wonderful group of Austin scholars. She has returned to Massachusetts to continue teaching closer to home.
Haley Webster, First Grade Lead Teacher
Ms. Webster grew up by the beach in York, Maine. She attended Providence College and studied Elementary/Special Education and History. Ms. Webster recently received her Masters in Language and Literacy from Simmons College. She then moved to the Berkshires after graduation and taught first grade at a community school in Pittsfield, MA for three years. Recently, Ms.Webster relocated back to Providence and is excited to be a member of the Alma del Mar community.
Hillary Crowther, First Grade Associate Teacher
Hillary Crowther’s family is originally from southeast Massachusetts, but she grew up in Hinesville, Georgia. Hillary studied Fashion Merchandising and Business at Georgia Southern University. After working in retail for a few years, she decided to explore other opportunities. Hillary moved back to the New Bedford area and discovered Alma del Mar. She loves the Red Sox, going to the movies, reading and painting.
Marissa Meyer, Academic Dean and Second Grade Lead Teacher
Ms. Meyer grew up in Randolph, Vermont, gaining a deep appreciation for the value of community and service in the close-knit small town. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Colby College before moving to Marvell, Arkansas as a Teach For America corps member teaching Biology and Chemistry. Ms. Meyer then moved to Boston and continued teaching Biology and Chemistry at The Academy of the Pacific Rim Charter Public School. After earning her M.Ed. in School Leadership from Harvard University, Ms. Meyer returned to Vermont, serving as Principal of Calais Elementary School. Most recently, Ms. Meyer took a year to travel and spend a little more time with family.
Stephanie MacLaine, Second Grade Co-Teacher
Jessica Ryan, Second Grade Lead Teacher
Alexa Teevens, Academic Dean and Third Grade Lead Teacher
Alexa Teevens grew up in Pembroke, MA on the South Shore. She attended college at Claremont McKenna in Claremont, CA. She majored in International and Intercultural Studies, and also studied abroad in China. Later, she also went to American University in Washington, D.C., for a Masters degree in Education. After college she taught second grade in Washington, D.C., and then in Dorchester, MA.
Jessica Summers, Third Grade Lead Teacher
Jessica earned her Bachelor’s in Elementary Education from Franklin Pierce University in 2009. She received her Master’s in Special Education from Southern Connecticut State University in 2011. She started teaching at Alma del Mar in 2012. She currently lives in New Bedford with her husband. She is also a licensed ZUMBA instructor and enjoys dancing.
Jackie Foody, Third Grade Co-Teacher
Jackie Foody graduated from Smith College this past year with majors in Education and Child Studies and History. While at Smith, she played on the soccer team where she was able to take on the role of captain in her senior year. Before Smith, Ms. Foody spent a lot of time moving to new places. She was born in Hong Kong, then moved to Ohio, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, along with spending her sophomore year of high school studying abroad in France.
Mags Carvalho, Fourth Grade Lead Teacher/Math Department Chair
Margaret Carvalho is a Fall River native and a graduate of Lasell College. During her time in Teach for America, she taught fourth grade to some of New Bedford’s most promising young scholars. Most recently, she worked with a wonderful classroom of second graders in Boston Public Schools. Ms. Carvalho earned her Master’s degree in education at Boston University with a focus on curriculum and teaching. She loves getting to work with students in the region where she grew up and is passionate about education in Massachusetts. Margaret spends her after-school time reading and playing outside, fueled by massive quantities of coffee.
Ned Carson, Fifth Grade Lead Teacher
Ned grew up in Cambridge, MA. After receiving his degree in Spanish literature from Reed College in Portland, OR, he returned to Boston to work as a tutor at Match Charter Public Middle School in Jamaica Plain, MA. Ned is currently working towards his Master’s in Effective Teaching from the Charles Sposato Graduate School of Education through Match Teacher Residency in Boston.
Justin Edwards, Fifth Grade Lead Teacher
Justin grew up in the city of Brockton, MA and received his BA from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. While at UMass Dartmouth, he joined college organizations that were community service driven. Justin has always volunteered his time working with youth, whether that was at the local Boys and Girls Club or being an assistant coach for a middle school in his hometown. Right after college, he jumped on a great opportunity to continue to work with youth but this time in an afterschool program in Cambridge, MA. He soon realized that he wanted to be able to teach youth but this time in a classroom so he joined Teach for America. Justin is currently continuing his education at Boston University to receive his Master’s in Education.
Tina Lorenzen, Sixth Grade Lead Teacher/Expedition Department Chair
Tina Lorenzen grew up in Leominster, MA as a first generation American and the oldest of 4 children. Her parents were French Canadian immigrants, from New Brunswick, Canada. She stayed close to home for college, attending Fitchburg State (which was designated a college at the time but has since become a university). Ms. Lorenzen has taught 4th and 5th grade and served as a math specialist for grades K-5 in Littleton, MA for two years. She is now returning to Massachusetts after 7 years in Texas. While teaching there, she had the humbling honor of being recognized as the Keller Independent School District’s Elementary Teacher of the Year, out of 28 campuses district wide. This year holds many exciting changes, including her son’s freshman year at Wheaton College in Norton.
Andrew Hamilton, Sixth Grade Lead Teacher
Brittney Sousa, Seventh Grade Lead Teacher
A native of New Hampshire, Brittney received two bachelor’s degrees in December of 2011 from Keene State College in New Hampshire in Sociology and Holocaust and Genocide studies. Brittney spent 3 summers working with Crossroads for Kids in Duxbury, MA with at-risk youth at Camp Wing. During college, she studied abroad in Ghana, where she taught 2nd graders about the water cycle and participated in a Domestic Violence Awareness campaign. Brittney tutored college students with learning disabilities throughout her college career. She was an active member in the Holocaust and Genocide Awareness club on the Keene State campus. She was awarded the Bruce Levine scholarship for excellence in Holocaust and Genocide studies and the Susan J. Herman award for excellence and leadership in ending atrocity. In the months after college graduation, she worked as an assistant residential teacher for autistic teenagers. Most recently, she taught 5th grade in Window Rock, AZ, the capital of Navajo Nation. She moved to New Bedford in June 2013 and will be pursuing her masters in Teaching and Curriculum from Boston University in the fall.
Amelia Tatarian, Seventh Grade Lead Teacher
Ms. Tatarian grew up in Lakeville, Massachusetts with her parents and younger sister. She attended Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, where she graduated with a degree in Biology in 2013. After graduating from Wesleyan, Ms. Tatarian interned in a lab studying bees in New Haven, CT for two summers, while also working as a Math tutor in a learning center. Eventually, Ms. Tatarian began teaching Math in New Haven, focusing largely on providing online learning assistance and small-group interventions to scholars. In her free time, she enjoys singing in a choir, cooking, biking, and spending time outdoors. Ms. Tatarian is excited to move back to Massachusetts to be closer to her family and to join the New Bedford community.
Katie Camara, Eighth Grade Lead Teacher
Ms. Camara grew up outside of Washington, D.C. in Vienna, Va. but left after high school to attend college at the University of Wisconsin- Madison. After graduation, she spent a few years working in the great steel city of Pittsburgh, Pa, and then back again in Virginia before moving to New York City for graduate school at the Bank Street College of Education. Ms. Camara stayed in New York and taught in a few different middle schools before moving North to Massachusetts last year.
Kaitlin Goldrick, Grades 6-8 Academic Dean
Ms. Goldrick grew up in Dartmouth, MA and graduated from Dartmouth High School and then from the University of Notre Dame. Since graduating from college, she went to graduate school in Washington D.C., taught in New Bedford for two years, and has been teaching in Boston for the past three years.
Curtis Jensen, Eighth Grade Lead Teacher
Mr. Jensen grew up outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. Curtis holds a BA in English from the University of Utah, and an MFA in Poetry from the Creative Writing Program at Brooklyn College CUNY. He has taught in classrooms ranging from 2nd grade through secondary and post-secondary levels, instructing Language Arts, Geography, Creative Writing, and English as a Foreign Language. Prior to joining the faculty of Alma del Mar, Mr. Jensen has worked as a volunteer teacher in Xi’an, China; a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zaliztsi, Ukraine; an Adjunct Lecturer at Brooklyn College and Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, New York as well as at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah; a Geography and Creative Writing Teacher at South Davis Jr. High in Bountiful, Utah; English Teacher at Koliganek School in Koliganek, Alaska; and English Teacher at Sand Point School in Sand Point Alaska. In his spare time, Mr. Jensen enjoys traveling by bicycle with his wife Sarah, goofing off outside with their puppy Marvin, reading, writing, cooking and eating.
Melissa McLaren, Lead Middle School Science Teacher (7-8)
Melissa McLaren grew up in Longmeadow, Massachusetts. She worked as a nanny part time throughout high school and college. She attended the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth where she earned a BA in Psychology. After graduation, Melissa found herself traveling, ending up in Southern California for several years. After working several odd jobs, she became a nanny where she reignited her passion for working with children. She decided to go back to school to pursue a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education and moved back to the East Coast. Melissa has just completed her degree and is thrilled to be back in Southern Massachusetts.
Christopher Baldo, Middle School Science Teacher (5-6)
Bethany Brown, Academic Dean and Physical Education Teacher
Bethany received her B.S. in Physical Education from Plymouth State University in Plymouth, NH. Before coming to Alma del Mar, Ms. Brown was a physical education teacher and varsity lacrosse coach at the Wheeler School in Providence, RI. She also was a member of AmeriCorps NCCC and volunteered with Habitat for Humanity rebuilding homes after Hurricane Katrina.
Mark Lavallee, Programming Lead Teacher/Operations Associate
Joshua DaPonte, Music Teacher
Joshua graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Music Education from Rhode Island College. Growing up with music, he had the opportunity to perform at various venues including Carnegie Hall and the International Trumpet Guild Conference. He was a presenter at the 3rd annual international conference for the Gordon Institute for Music Learning (GIML), where he collaborated with teachers from around the world discussing music education and GIML’s goal: audiation for a lifetime. Joshua is an active member of GIML and former president of the New England chapter.
Kate Frazer-Rego, Visual Art Teacher
A native of the South Coast region, Kate earned her Bachelor of Fine Art in Sculpture from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and her Master’s of Fine Arts from Boston University. Kate’s work has appeared in exhibitions across the country, and she has been awarded the Constatin Alajalov Scholarship and the CFA Visual Arts Scholarship. Kate has taught art to students ranging in age from elementary to graduate. Kate served as an Art Educator on the New Bedford Art Museum ArtMobile. During the 2011-2012 school year, she developed and led the afterschool art program at Alma del Mar.
Elizabeth Dooher, Visual Arts Co-Teacher/Operations Associate
Ms. Dooher is an art educator and sculptor. Elizabeth grew up North of Boston in Melrose, MA. Elizabeth graduated from the College of Wooster in Wooster, OH where she studied Studio Art and Psychology. She received her Masters of Fine Arts in Sculpture in 2002 from The University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth (UMass). After many years of teaching art at the college level, Elizabeth returned to UMass to pursue a Masters of Art Education. Most recently Elizabeth taught art Hayden McFadden Elementary School in New Bedford.
Keri Benson, Instrumental Music Teacher
Ms. Benson grew up in Acushnet where she began playing the violin at age nine. In addition to in-school and private lessons, she was a member of the Acushnet Classic Ensemble during summers and the Southeastern Massachusetts Youth Orchestra (now the New Bedford Symphony Youth Orchestra) during the school year, each through the twelfth grade. Ms. Benson is honored to have conducted and taught at both groups and proudly sends students to participate in these local institutions. After graduating from New Bedford High School, she earned her Bachelors of Music Education degree with a concentration in violin performance from the University Of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.
As a New Bedford Symphony Orchestra member for over twenty years, member of the Sonaré Trio and as a freelance violinist, Ms. Benson continues to perform professionally throughout the south coast. In addition to performing, she retains a private studio for lessons and has taught strings in several local public and private schools such as the Fairhaven, Lakeville, and New Bedford Public School Systems as well as the St. Joseph School and Tabor Academy.