Jessica Spenchian, M.A.
Founder, Director & Teacher Mentor
Jessica is a certified preschool teacher and former college-level writing instructor. She is also the mother of two wonderful early elementary school age children.
With a pre-teaching background in early literacy program evaluation (K-5), grant writing, resource development, interactive media production and project management, Jessica brings a dynamic interdisciplinary perspective to her work with students of all ages. Back in 2015, frequent feedback regarding her caring personality and intuitive ability to connect with young children–combined with a focus on raising her own two children–motivated Jessica to turn her creative energy toward founding her own preschool program.
Inspired by her previous experience working as a Head Preschool Teacher at Stretch the Imagination in San Francisco, Jessica’s mission is to combine the developmental advantages of a small, high quality preschool environment with the provision of full time childcare. Her commitment to the use of responsive language and to designing age appropriate, play-based avenues for extended inquiry make her particularly fond of the project-oriented Reggio approach to early childhood education: an approach which views young children as active and capable shapers of the world around them.
Jessica’s interest in child-centered teaching and emergent curriculum design–instructional methods which position the children’s own evolving questions as starting points for all forms of sensory exploration–is complemented by her deep understanding of the Italian cultural context out of which the Reggio model arose. Having lived and worked in Bologna, Italy for over three years prior to becoming a teacher, Jessica is a fluent (but imperfect) speaker of Italian and she remains optimistic about the possibility of adding an Italian language and cultural component to The Children’s Workshop Oakland program at some point in the future.
Jessica holds a BA in World Literature and Cultural Studies from the University of California at Santa Cruz, a Child Development Permit from City College of San Francisco and a Masters degree in English Composition with a Post-Secondary Reading Certificate from San Francisco State University.
Lead 4/5s Co-Teacher & Atelierista
Teacher Chelsea is a passionate artist and educator who believes that art making is integral to the learning process. Having spent the past several years teaching art in elementary schools, moving from classroom to classroom to lead students through various projects, Chelsea has enjoyed putting down roots as CWO’s resident atelierista.
Teaching in public elementary schools and in preschool summer camps over the years has shown Teacher Chelsea the limitless creativity and capabilities of young children. She views art as the perfect tool for investigation, having arms in all other subject areas including math, science, design and technology, humanities and history. Art provides a tangible form to the learning process and for the imagination. For children, art is both visual aid and articulation for their investigations. Chelsea loves seeing her students make discoveries and problem solve through the process of art making: what happens when they mix colors or the look on their faces as they lift a scratch-board to reveal the imprint of their artwork. Art expresses individuality and stimulates the brain through its visual and sensorial qualities and Chelsea is excited to support and inspire her students at CWO and her fellow co-teachers.
Teacher Chelsea has a huge heart for children. With three vivacious children of her own, she believes in the inherent capability and autonomy of young learners. The Reggio-Emilia philosophy coincides with her beliefs about and experiences in education. She believes in the power of the joy of learning and understands that every child is a naturally curious learner who should be supported to follow his/her own path of interest. After observing the ways in which the children and teachers consistently collaborate together at CWO, with such mutual degrees of vested interest, respect and reciprocity, Teacher Chelsea is grateful to have found a place amongst this incredible team of educators and within such a unique cooperative learning community.
Chelsea holds a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and has pursued Post-Baccalaureate studies at the Siena Art Institute in Siena, Italy. With her children she enjoys undertaking elaborate art projects, trips to the library and adventures outdoors. In her solo-time, Chelsea teaches monthly art classes for adults, co-runs an art gallery, explores art exhibitions and puts time into her personal art practice. In sum, art is life for Chelsea!
Jill Tomasetti, M.A.
Lead 3/4s Co-Teacher
Teacher Jill has been so excited to have found a place where her interests and experiences as a teacher have been welcomed so warmly. Originally from the East Coast, Jill spent the past ten years living, writing and teaching preschool in San Francisco.
In her work, both as a writer and as a teacher, she uses language to investigate place, materials and patterns: how flour, salt, yeast and water have their own sense of time; the skein that becomes a sweater; recycled graph paper that lends itself to a collaborative children’s book, which then reveals the objects that loom large in the sparse vocabulary of a three year old. She studies Ecopoetics and Emily Dickinson, sews abstract, sensory-oriented soft books from found collections of fabric and thread, explores what wilderness she can and makes pasta by hand. She is currently working on publishing her first children’s book and is a part time contributor and co-founder of a women’s collective literary press, Drop Leaf Press. She is a true maker who loves storytelling and bookbinding and she often makes books with her students!
Jill aims to facilitate moments wherein children can draw their own connections from the materials around them while learning to both interpret their findings and build new worlds. From a collaborative, team-teaching and mixed-age preschool background, Jill also seeks to create a compassionate, kind and thoughtful social environment, wherein children gain the language they need to participate in and nurture their own caring, creative community. She is passionate about words and language and believes that being able to express oneself is a life-changing and essential tool.
Jill received her BA in Literature from Bennington College and more recently earned an MA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. She has taken units in Early Childhood Education from UMass Boston and Bennington’s Center for Creative Teaching and is currently pursuing further education in the field.
Lead 2s Co-Teacher
Lisa first embarked on her career with the goal of becoming an elementary school teacher. However, while in college, she took an assistant position in early childhood and developed an incredible love and respect for the preschool age. Inspired by the children’s naturally inquisitive ways, loving and gentle attitudes and by the respect they shared for their communal environment and for each other, Lisa returned to school to complete her degree in Childhood Development at Merritt College. After working in several different types of programs over the past seven years, Lisa has found that she truly believes in an emergent style of learning wherein she can give children back their right to explore this world and all it has to offer in their own individual ways.
Lisa has been exploring our lovely city of Oakland since she was a child, coming to visit her many relatives and grandparents who lived in the area. Her parents were both born and raised in Oakland and she has fond memories of trips to Fairy Land, feeding the ducks at the lake and going to the park in Montclair. Many of these wonderful memories are the reason she and her lovely wife chose to move back to Oakland. Lisa loves being outdoors, playing soccer and baseball, walking the lake and hiking in Joaquin Miller and throughout Berkeley. Cooking and baking are also passions of hers, as food in her family was a way to express and share love and come together. Overall, Teacher Lisa loves to be adventurous and silly and to dance, sing and tell stories. It is her hope that by sharing her passions with her students, they will in turn discover where their own unique passions lie and will revel in pursuing them!
Teacher Sean is a spirited and creative educator who believes learning is most effective when mixed with art, music or nature. He has spent the last several years as an early childhood educator, including as a Science and Gardening teacher at New Traditions Elementary in San Francisco. There, he designed and taught interactive curricula for all K-5 classes, adapting each lesson to fit the appropriate age and skill levels.
Gardening is core passion of Sean’s and he believes a hands-on approach to outdoor education is a highly effective medium for introducing small children to natural science. As a visual artist and musician, he enjoys channeling his creativity to bring learning to life. In his previous role at New Traditions, this included creating illustrated stories about insects’ lives and composing original songs to convey scientific concepts in an accessible way. For example, a sing-a-long about different cloud types can interest children in becoming engaged “weather watchers.” Sean has seen young children engage readily with musical lessons and has often heard students singing the songs they learned together after class!
Every summer, Teacher Sean works as a Lead Instructor with Trackers Earth Outdoor School in Berkeley teaching wilderness survival. At Trackers, kids learn practical skills such as wild edible plant identification, fire building and knife carving. Sean deeply enjoys teaching these skills, as he is often providing the campers’ with their first introduction. Sean has also witnessed firsthand how children’s imaginations can truly come to life in an outdoor setting.
Sean is an Iowa native. He graduated from the University of Iowa with a B.A. in Fine Arts, Intermedia. In the Bay Area, he has fallen even deeper in love with the outdoors and has become involved with local artists, even hosting a local art “pop-up” in Downtown Berkeley. Sean believes in the power of storytelling, silliness and connection. He is inspired by CWO’s community mindset and holistic approach to early education and is always eager to collaborate with our dedicated group of instructors to foster a joyful learning environment.
Claire’s heartfelt affinity for all children reflects her core values of connection and interdependence. Her work recognizes important universal qualities like vulnerability, wonderment and delight, which can be uniquely recognized, influenced and expressed in early childhood.
As an experienced early childhood educator, Claire is devoted to facilitating environments, interactions and relationships that serve the needs and potential of each child everyday. Since 2005, Claire has been contributing to learning communities that promote children’s self-recognition, mutual accountability, emotional literacy, skillfulness, inclusivity, anti-bias and creative inquiry. Her reflective and attuned teaching practices are informed by background and training in Child Development at Merritt College and subsequent years teaching within Montessori, Reggio Emilia/Emergent Curriculum and RIE; Resources for Infant/Toddler Edu-Caring programs. In 2018, Claire was a founding teacher of Hearts Leap Beginnings, an exemplary RIE infant toddler development center envisioned by the International Child Resource Institute in Berkeley.
Claire loves sharing her favorite things in life with children. She makes language (including Spanish fluency and some ASL), music and creative movement routine to daily life at school, with plenty of opportunities to sing, play instruments, dance and practice yoga and mindfulness. Claire practices karate (with sides of aikido & judo) and promotes the benefits of risky play in safe spaces.
Claire’s passion for child-family bonds and parenthood also brought her to birthwork and she has continued to remain a Cornerstone Certified Birth and Post Partum Doula since 2012. And in 2015, she became the lucky mother of her daughter, Sylvi, who is currently a student in CWO’s 4/5s class.
Teacher Amanda is thrilled to be apart of the Children’s Workshop Oakland team! Originally from San Diego, she recently moved to Oakland for new opportunities and adventures where her passion for children and background in psychology will be influential.
Amanda spent the last four years studying psychology with an emphasis in child development and family studies. She took a special interest in how family and social context influence socio-emotional adjustment and cognitive development. Because Developmental Psychology focuses on early childhood, it consistently influences her preschool teaching work. Adhering to the three main objectives in developmental psychology, Amanda works to emphasize: describing, explaining and optimizing development through typical patterns of change. Most importantly, Amanda works to spotlight individuality because early childhood is the period when most change occurs.
Amanda hopes to create an environment where children feel comfortable to explore materials in their own way, using scaffolding to help all learning styles. She also seeks to help children understand and express their emotions for themselves and to others.
While studying, Amanda worked at the YMCA for summer camps and in an after school program. She holds her BA in psychology with a minor in child development and hopes to pursue a PhD in the future. In her free time Amanda enjoys cuddling up with a good book and coffee, hanging out with friends and staying active. Growing up in Southern California, the beach has always been her happy place and she loves a good swim in the ocean. Amanda also consistently gets the travel bug. Her latest journey was living in a van while road tripping to Canada but other adventures have included travel to Guatemala and Panama and studying abroad in Scotland.
Amanda views becoming an early childhood educator as an opportunity to take the next step in her career. She is grateful to chart this new course with the welcoming support of the CWO community where she will continue to learn everyday while surrounded by a unique and compassionate group of colleagues.
Afternoon Program Supervisor & 3/4/5s Co-Teacher
Teacher Jeannette has been working in the field of early childhood education since 2004 as both a teacher and as an administrator. She is a vibrant and enthusiastic educator who brings a genuine love of working with and learning alongside young children to CWO! Throughout her teaching career, she has steadily continued her professional growth and approaches her role through the unique triad of parent, teacher and administrator, which provides her with great insight into the many perspectives and needs of our school community.
Jeannette’s goal is to support each child’s social, emotional, cognitive and spiritual development through the creation of authentic relationships and the planning of meaningful learning experiences designed to nurture and sustain curiosity and resourcefulness. Jeannette is committed to designing and implementing a well-rounded, emergent and hands-on curriculum that includes plenty of science, art, music, movement, math and literature. She is also passionate about fostering empathy, compassion and mindfulness.
For Teacher Jeannette, young children—like all human beings—are unique and fascinating creatures, each with their own style and approach to learning play and connection with others. She is perpetually inspired by the diverse personalities and special gifts that each of the children bring to help create our distinctive classroom community.
Jeannette’s dedication to our school’s vision and core pedagogical philosophy have provided much appreciated insight and support during a critical time in our school’s growth. Outside of the classroom, Jeannette enjoys spending time with her eight year old daughter, her thirteen year old son and her dog, Giggles.
Elizabeth “Liz” Hinsley, M.A., Ed
Co-Teaching Alumna & Ongoing Program Advisor
Liz is a Master of Education in Early Childhood Education and has over 12 years of experience working with and teaching young children. When Liz isn’t teaching, mentoring or directing, she works as a child development consultant with educational research groups such as WestEd where she develops content for the California Department of Education to support Early Childhood Educators across the state.
Specializing in mindfulness and the power of mindful awareness to enhance social, emotional and academic learning, Liz combines the use of resonant experiences from the children’s everyday lives with positive affirmations to create a supportive and nurturing classroom culture. Liz’s dedication to the field of Child Development, her extensive training and ongoing advocacy for high quality early childhood education programs for all children and her unwavering commitment to guiding young children towards successful outcomes in school and in life make Liz an outstanding teacher and role model.
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