Valley Charter Elementary » Staff Directory

Staff Directory

Dr. Elizabeth Adams, Principal
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Dr. Elizabeth Adams has been an educator for 17 years.  She began her career teaching in Lawndale, CA for nine years.  She then joined the VCES family in 2013 as a founding 5th-grade teacher.  She immediately appreciated the community and collaboration among the teachers.  After teaching 5th grade for five years, she became VCES' reading specialist, which allowed her to work with students across all grade levels.  In her out of classroom role, she has also been the coordinator of professional development for teachers and she took on numerous school-wide responsibilities, such as writing our most recent charter renewal.  Elizabeth earned her doctorate in educational leadership from California Lutheran University.  As a part of her dissertation titled Redefining Family Engagement for Immigrant Latino Families, she interviewed families to better understand the multitude of ways that they contribute to their children's education.  In addition to her doctorate, she has a master's in child and adolescent literacy, a reading specialist credential, and an undergraduate degree in liberal studies from Loyola Marymount University.  When not at work, she is often doing puzzles or attending car-related events with her husband and two young sons. 
Andrea Guereca, Office Manager
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Andrea is a native of the San Fernando Valley and joined the VCES office staff in 2017.  She loves working with Valley Charter staff and families.  Andrea is pursuing an undergraduate degree while working full-time. 



Alejandra Torres, Office Support
Ms. Torres was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley. Before coming to Valley Charter Elementary she worked at a preschool for 5 years, helping low income families find easy and accessible care for their children. She enjoys helping the parents in any way possible and she will continue to enjoy helping parents and their children in every way to ensure that their children are receiving the best possible care and education, making a safe and comfortable environment for all children and parents.
Melissa Nuccitelli, Food Service Manager and Office Support
Mrs. Nuccitelli has lived and gone to school all over the San Fernando Valley. She has three daughters, two of whom go to school at VCS, one at the middle school and one at the elementary school.  She loves what she does because she gets to have interesting conversations with VCES students every day as she manages both breakfast and lunch service. Mrs. Nuccitelli is a passionate Girl Scout leader.  In addition to selling lots of Girl Scout cookies every year, she loves doing arts and crafts in her spare time and is also an amazing carpenter.


Serena Long
Serena LongSerena Long was born and raised in the small town of Paso Robles, California. Growing up in a family full of teachers, she has always known that this would be the path for her. She attended CSUN and received her BA in Liberal Studies with a concentration in science, as well as a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential. While at CSUN, she was also on the cheer team and a Vice President in her sorority. Ms. Long fell in love with learning when her grandmother (who was also a long-time kindergarten teacher) taught her how to tie her shoes by singing the “Bunny Ears” song.  Ms. Long is an optimistic and eager educator who is excited to watch her students grow. She believes that all students deserve to feel like they are respected, valued, and loved. She is so excited to be a positive role model and make a difference in her students’ lives. In her free time, Ms. Long enjoys drinking excessive amounts of coffee, spending time with her friends and family, watching Dodger games, going to the beach, and traveling as much as possible.
Diana Nava
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Ms. Nava was born in Mexico and raised in Los Angeles, CA. At a young age, she knew she wanted to work with children and become an elementary school teacher. She enjoys working with children and seeing their reaction when they accomplish something new. It is very rewarding knowing that she is making a difference in students’ lives and helping them become responsible, independent young adults. Ms. Nava is the youngest of three and a first generation college graduate. In 2018, she earned a BA in Liberal Studies at CSUN. She is currently enrolled in Grand Canyon University of Arizona and will be completing a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education. Ms. Nava has been working with preschool aged students since 2017. She is very excited to begin her teaching career and looks forward to see what the future holds.

First Grade

Kris Nakano
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One of six founding teachers, Kris Nakano knew from day one that VCES was where she wanted to be. Above all, Kris appreciates the philosophy of VCES and the creativity afforded to the staff to make a curriculum that is interesting and engaging.  It is not surprising that Kris chose a career as an educator. Her mother was a first-grade teacher and a huge inspiration to her. Growing up in West Los Angeles, Kris loved to help out in her mother’s classroom and throughout high school often volunteered in preschool classrooms. She graduated UCLA with a BA in Asian American Studies, then enjoyed a career as a florist before earning a California State Teaching Credential at California State University Northridge. She started her career student teaching second grade at Westwood Charter School and continued with the school for 10 additional years teaching both first grade and a first-second multiage class. Kris loves watching her students grow, hearing about their lives, and listening to their discussions. What she finds most amazing is “that moment when a child understands something for the first time,” and she feels fortunate to be part of that learning process.
Alice Li
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Alice Li’s interest in teaching began when she first moved to America as a toddler. She had always looked to her elementary school teachers as some of the biggest role models and supporters in her life. Now, Alice strives to be that same figure for her students. Alice completed her B.A. in Elementary Education and earned her teaching credential at Purdue University. She then went on to earn her Master’s degree in Dual Language Development at CSULB. Before joining VCES, Alice worked for four years as a First Grade Teaching Associate at Westerly School of Long Beach. Alice strongly believes in developing individualized goals for each student, and helping them continue to grow. She seeks to form genuine connections with all of her students, learn about their unique interests, and ignite in them an intrinsic motivation to always continue learning. The close community and meaningful, project-based learning opportunities that VCES provides strongly resonate with what Alice looks for in an ideal learning environment. She is absolutely thrilled to become a part of the VCES community. Outside of school, Alice can often be seen at a local boba shop enjoying her cup of tea, spending quality time with her family and friends, or traveling to new destinations.

Second Grade

Anne Aronchick, Lead Teacher
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The students in Anne Aronchick’s class are fortunate to have a teacher with 18 years of professional experience in the classroom. Upon receiving her credential from LAUSD’s rigorous training program, Anne honed her educational skills for 10 years at Topanga Elementary Charter School, teaching kindergarten and fourth grades, and at the UCLA Lab School teaching 8-10 year-olds (third and fourth grades). What may excite her pupils more is that she has a knack for making Queen of Sheba chocolate cake as a former pastry chef at Capri restaurant in Venice. Or the fact that in the 1990s she was a research assistant scouting for cacti and other desert plants for the seminal Biosphere Project 2 (a glass-enclosed ecosystem where people lived together as an experiment for future space colonization). Or even that she knows how to draw Drosophila species (fruit flies) or that she was an agricultural expert that helped farmers grow cantaloupe organically (ask her for the best recipe for a non-toxic bug spray). Born and raised in Tucson, Arizona, Anne earned a degree in creative writing and completed her coursework for a master’s degree in art history, both at the University of Arizona. She spent her childhood in the field with her father, a professor of evolutionary biology, learning about inter-connections and deciphering the world around her. Now she wishes to teach her own students with the same project-based approach as valued by her father and by VCES. Anne became a teacher to inspire lifelong learners and leads by example for her students.
Emily Gahito
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Emily Gahito, born and raised in Simi Valley, CA knew from a young age that she wanted to become a teacher. Growing up around her mother who has been an educator Emily’s entire life helped plant that seed and greatly influenced her path to education. Emily received a Bachelor of Science degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Emily chose to attend Cal Poly for their well-rounded pre-teaching liberal studies program and the university's educational philosophy, “Learn by Doing”, which aligns with the values and constructivist approach we hold at VCES. In addition to the “Learn by Doing” philosophy, Cal Poly’s Liberal Studies program is in the College of Math and Science and provided Emily with a strong foundation in STEM education through rigorous math and science instruction. During Emily’s time at Cal Poly, she had numerous opportunities to work in elementary classrooms through her coursework where she could put what she learned into practical use. After graduating from Cal Poly, Emily continued her educational career at the University of California, Santa Barbara where she earned her Master’s degree in Education as well as her multiple subjects teaching credentials. During her year at UCSB, Emily worked in both a first and third-grade classroom. Throughout her college experience, Emily had the opportunity to work in a variety of grade levels, schools, and districts. She learned through these experiences that she has a passion for the primary grades and couldn’t be happier with her second-grade placement at VCES. Emily is excited to be a part of the VCES community and feels like it is a dream come true to find a school that aligns so nicely with her own personal educational philosophy.

Third Grade

Mary Allen, Lead Teacher
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Impressed with all that VCES established in its first year, Mary Allen joined VCES in the fall of 2011.  Born and raised in the Los Angeles area, Mary Allen knew from an early age that she wanted to be a teacher and went on to earn her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education and Master’s degree in Child and Adolescent Literacy from Loyola Marymount University, and a California Reading Certificate. Mary has been teaching since 2004, starting her career at St. Jerome Elementary School, and then spending several years at Carlthorp Elementary School before joining VCES. Her experiences teaching Kindergarten through sixth grade in a small group, whole group, and one-on-one settings have instilled in her a firm belief that children learn best in an environment that allows them to construct their own knowledge. She was drawn to VCES so that she could teach in a place that was founded on that constructivist philosophy. What she loves most about teaching is watching “light bulb” moments in her children. Her goal is to ensure that every one of her students leaves her classroom with a love for learning and reading.
Lauren Schauer
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Born in Dallas, Texas, Lauren Schauer grew up in Northridge, California. She attended CSUN and received a BA in Liberal Arts, Concentration: Mathematics, a Multiple Subject Credential, and a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction. Prior to joining VCES, where she initially served as a Teaching Assistant in Jessica Bennett’s Kindergarten class, Lauren worked as a substitute teacher and a nanny. She is a teacher because “It’s who I am... a magical profession. I get to be a scientist, a nurse, a coach, an actor, and a friend. I get to make an impact in a child’s life and grow from every new and exciting experience. It’s amazingly challenging and so rewarding.” Lauren enjoys editing video, music, volleyball, arts and crafts, and cake decorating.

Fourth Grade

Keana Barrios
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Born and raised in Los Angeles, Keana Barrios always knew she wanted to work with kids. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology with a minor in Child and Adolescent Development from CSUN, while working at a Kumon Math and Reading Center and at VCES as a Teaching Assistant in Janelle Manus’ fourth and fifth-grade classes. After 4 ½ years as a TA, she went back to school to receive her Master’s Degree in Teaching and Multiple Subject Credential at Chapman University. In her time at Chapman, she was able to work in various educational settings to put theory and strategy to practice with students of all elementary grade levels. Her goal for her classroom is to get to know each student individually and guide them toward lifelong learning in the best way that works for them. In her free time, Keana loves going to Disneyland and concerts. She also enjoys singing, reading, and hand lettering. She is thrilled to be teaching fourth grade at VCES!
Jessica Beal
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Jessica Beal grew up in Norwalk, Connecticut, and moved to California in 2009. She attended the University of Redlands where she received her BA in Liberal Studies and Creative Writing, as well as her Multiple Subject Teaching Credential. She student-taught at Mission Elementary School in Redlands, CA in a first-grade classroom. Jessica went on to substitute teach in the Conejo Valley Unified School District and the Las Virgenes Unified School District. She then became a Teaching Associate at Citizens of the World Charter School, Silver Lake. At CWC she worked with two third grade classes, supported the after-school program, as well as ran a social emotional learning club each day. After a year as a TA, Jessica was ready to move onto the next chapter and have her own classroom where she could teach a bright group of lifelong learners. In her free time, Jessica enjoys writing, playing with her dog Maggie May, spending time with loved ones, and watching Harry Potter. She is excited to be a part the VCES family!

Fifth Grade

Amelia Lopez
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Inspired by her mother who was a teacher in Guatemala before immigrating to the United States, Amelia Lopez always knew she wanted to be a lifelong learner and educator.  Amelia was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley and studied English literature at California State University, Northridge.  While pursuing her bachelors degree, she worked for LAUSD's after school program where she led the science club and became a program supervisor.  She also taught science to first and second graders in a summer science and arts camp where she encouraged her students to be innovators who embrace challenges in a collaborative setting.  After earning her Bachelor's Degree, she joined the VCES community as a TA in Ms. Nakano's first grade class and then in Ms. Howerton's second and fifth grade classrooms.  At VCES, Amelia found a home and community where she knew she belonged.  She earned her multiple subject credential from CSUN and is excited to be part of the 5th grade team once again.  Amelia is especially attuned to meeting the needs of the diverse student body at VCES and she values supporting her students through their social, emotional, and academic growth.  During her free time, Amelia loves being outdoors, running, hiking, and exploring with her pup, Marley.
Jackie Fye
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Jackie Fye was born and raised in Canton, Ohio and grew up in a household that cherished reading and learning. This love of learning eventually led her to teaching and the desire to spread the same passion to others. She received her undergraduate degree from Ohio State University in 2013 and moved to Los Angeles a year later. Prior to becoming a teacher, she worked in human resources and even owned an escape room with her brother, but deep down, she continued to feel a pull towards teaching. In 2019, Jackie began pursuing a Multiple Subject Credential as well as a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction through California State University Los Angeles. That same year, Jackie joined the Valley Charter team and from the beginning, she knew that she had found a truly unique community that aligned with her own teaching philosophy. She has served as a 4th grade teaching assistant as well as  Kindergarten teacher, and she is excited for her new adventure with the 5th grade team! She loves the natural curiosity that her students have and building a supportive classroom environment that helps each of them continue to discover and ask more questions. In her free time, Jackie enjoys reading, gardening, going to musicals and plays, and spending time with her family and friends.
Gina Hairapetian, Physical Education
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Coach Gina Hairapetian has been teaching and running physical education programs since she began her career at Woodland Hills Elementary in 1996. In 2004, Coach Gina started teaching P.E. at Serrania Elementary. That same year, she started running the P.E. program at Welby Way Elementary, where she continues to this day. The San Fernando Valley native comes to Valley Charter Elementary with a deep knowledge of physical education programs and getting children involved at all levels. She loves to put together creative, fun, and challenging activities for her students and enjoys helping them grow, thrive, and gain confidence. Coach Gina has also been the head softball coach at Chaminade High School in West Hills, California since 2004. Under her leadership, the softball team has won two CIF Championships. In her spare time, Coach Gina enjoys the beach, reading a good book, and spending time with friends and family.
Joe Tagnipes, Music Teacher
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Joseph Tagnipes got his degree in Audio Engineering in 2018 from SAE Institute in Hollywood, CA. Music has been an important part of his life since 2000 and has enjoyed working with children since 2005. Notable roles have been Swim Instructor, PE Coach, STEM Enrichment Instructor, and YMCA Unit Camp Director. He has performed at the Hollywood Bowl, Rose Bowl, 2002 Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City, several tv and commercial spots, and an occasional instrumentalist for the local philippine dance troupe. Joe is also the Music Teacher at Burbank Arts Summer Camp for One World Rhythm since 2012 and continues to represent One World Rhythm throughout the year, teaching music at library workshops and birthday parties. When he's not teaching music, he works as an Audio Engineer. Notable projects include working with AJ Rafael, Ruby Ibarra, Los Angeles Filipino-American Cultural Arts, and Universal Studios' Halloween Horror Nights. 
Freya Reisman, Special Education Coordinator
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Freya Reisman is a native of Los Angeles and grew up in the Sunland-Tujunga area of the San Fernando Valley. She graduated from UCLA with a BA in Psychology and continued her studies at CSUN for her general and special education Teaching Credentials. She taught special education students in LAUSD in a self-contained classroom for 5 years and as a Resource Specialist Teacher for 23 years. After 28 years in the classroom, she returned to CSUN for her Masters’s degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and her Administrative Credential. She then was given the opportunity to coordinate a college accessibility grant (A GEAR UP Partnership Grant between LAUSD and the U.S. Department of Education) at John Marshall High School and Virgil Middle School. For the next five years, she worked with students and families to support the path to post-secondary education and helped make going to college a reality for many who had not thought it was possible. In 2013 she returned to special education as an Assistant Principal, Elementary Instructional Specialist working with parents, teachers, and service providers to ensure that IEPs are developed and implemented so that students are supported to achieve their highest potential. Following retirement from LAUSD in 2019 and taking a year off, Freya has now joined the VCES team to continue working to provide support for students and families who require special education services.
Mary Hauck, RSP Teacher
[email protected]Mary Hauck
Mary Hauck has been an educator for 36 years. After getting her BA in Multiple Subject Teaching at Cal Poly, Pomona, she started working for LAUSD in an elementary school in East Los Angeles. While teaching, she became interested in why some children struggled with learning while others did not. She continued her studies at Cal Poly pursuing a Master’s degree in Education. Her thesis was on right and left brain learning. She also obtained a Resource Specialist Certificate and a Clear Specialist Instruction Credential in Special Education: Learning Handicapped. She spent six months working in a Special Day Class in Eagle Rock and then transferred to working as a Resource Specialist Teacher. Along with working with children with learning disabilities, she also has been a gifted coordinator and has taught gifted classes after school. It has been a passion of hers to always be seeking ways to teach children who struggle in learning. With a belief that all children can learn given the right environment, tools, and approach, Mary is excited about being a part of the VCES staff. When not teaching she enjoys her two dogs, reading, gardening, and swimming.

McCayleigh Bayer, School Psychologist

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McCayleigh received her undergraduate degree in psychology from California State University, Northridge (CSUN). She previously worked in equine therapy with developmentally disabled adults as well as, inpatient adolescent treatment. McCayleigh graduated from CSUN with her graduate degree in school psychology in 2020. She has previously worked in SVUSD, LAUSD, and Birmingham CCHS as a graduate student and after graduating. She has worked with trans-disciplinary preschool teams in early childhood intervention, elementary students, and high school students. When she is not working, you can find McCayleigh reading, walking her dog, taking day trips with her boyfriend around California, watching dodger games, or napping with her cats.