Valley Charter Middle School » Staff Directory

Staff Directory

Carolyn Yaffe, Executive Director
Carolyn has been an educator for 22 years and throughout her career has focused on promoting equity of opportunity and outcomes for all students. Carolyn began her career as a high school English teacher in the Bronx, NY in the late 1990s.  In 2006, Carolyn founded the Academy for Young Writers (AFYW), a small, project-based 6-12 school located in Brooklyn, New York. Under her leadership as principal, over 90% of AFYW students graduated and were accepted to college.  After serving as a principal, Carolyn became the Executive Director of School Quality for the New York City Department of Education, where she oversaw school quality and principal practice evaluations across 1,700 schools.  Most recently Carolyn served as the Chief Executive Officer of School Empowerment Network, an education non-profit focused on new school design, leadership development, and school quality evaluations.  Before joining Valley Charter Schools as the executive director, Carolyn served on the board for two years.  Carolyn holds an undergraduate degree from Boston University, an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland, and a degree in educational administration from Baruch College. Carolyn enjoys exploring Los Angeles with her husband, son, and daughter. 
Brenda Sadeghi, Interim Principal
Brenda Sadeghi is a true Los Angeles native. However, she grew up in Tulare, California. She received her bachelor’s degree from California State University, Northridge (CSUN), where she double majored in political science and Chicano Studies and went on to get her teaching credential from Fresno Pacific University. She also holds a master's in educational leadership from CSUN. Prior to joining VCMS, Brenda taught at Extera Public School in Boyle Heights. She especially treasures what she calls the “oh moments” in the classroom. “I love teaching when the vast majority of the class has little experience with the concept because when they start to understand the concept, they often say, ‘Oh, I get it!’ Then I feel our experience has come full circle,” she explains. In her spare time, the Lake Balboa resident enjoys trying new things such as parasailing and kayaking. She also seeks out local destinations where she can experience different cultures and traditions.
Jessica Orozco, Founding Office Manager
Jessica joined Valley Charter Middle School as the Founding Office Manager. She brings years of administrative experience from private and public schools. Before joining Valley Charter Middle School, Jessica worked as a School Administrative Assistant for a non-public high school serving students with special education needs. She enjoys working with children and is passionate about watching them succeed.
Cecilia Chimal, Office Assistant
Cecilia Chimal grew up in the San Fernando Valley and attended Mission College in Santa Clara. She worked as an administrative assistant and pre-school teaching assistant before joining VCMS. According to Chimal, “It’s never a dull day at VCMS! I get to work with nice, fun, smart people every day.” The mother of four—two boys and two girls—is a devoted girl scout troop leader and, in her words, “full-time soccer mom.”
Melanie Orozco, Office Assistant
San Fernando Valley native Melanie Orozco first started volunteering at Valley Charter Middle School when she herself was in middle school. (Her mom, Jessica Orozco, is the founding office manager.) Today, in addition to her duties at VCMS, Melanie is working towards her nursing degree at California State University, Northridge. Melanie loves watching VCMS students grow and prosper during their time at the school. Equally gratifying is when former VCMS students return to the school for a visit and share their high school successes. On weekends, Melanie enjoys spending time with friends and family, whether exploring an unfamiliar part of the city or taking a hike to a beautiful waterfall. 
Paige Fessler, 6th Grade ELA/ Science Teacher
Before joining the faculty at VCMS, Paige Fessler was a naturalist at The Outdoor School at Rancho Alegre in Santa Barbara, California. The Simi Valley resident received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from North Central College in her native Illinois. “I became a teacher because I love learning and wanted to help inspire and encourage other people to learn,” she says. Paige loves hiking, reading, and spending time with her friends and family in her free time. She also is an enthusiastic cook. Desserts are her specialty.
Jennifer Melgar, 6th Grade ELA/ History Teacher
Jennifer Melgar studied political science and international affairs as an undergraduate at the University of California, Riverside. The Los Angeles native went on to receive her teaching credential from California State University, Northridge. Before joining the team at VCMS, Jennifer was an AVID tutor at a Riverside County area high school. In this role, she supported students in all subjects and developed critical skills for college success. She loves watching her VCMS students dig into the material and “be fully engaged in academic discussions.” Equally gratifying for her is watching students grow over the course of the school year and beyond. When she is not at VCMS, you might find Jennifer baking and decorating a delicious dessert, reading, traveling, or spending quality time with her family.
Jen Ventress, 6th Grade ELA/ Math Teacher
In her 20+ years as a teacher, Jen Ventress has taught at several elementary and middle schools, both public and private. The New York native says she feels she was “born to be a teacher.” She genuinely loves the work. Particularly gratifying for her is watching her students “work through struggles and reach success at whatever level it may be.” In her spare time, the Valencia resident enjoys spending time with her husband and teenage twin son and daughter, cooking, baking, and cheering on the Los Angeles Dodgers. In addition, she says, “I am passionate about giving back to others and promoting kindness in any way I can.”
Melissa Wright, 6th grade ELA/ELD teacher 
Melissa began her career in education working with English Learners in the private sector. Her main students were international students and senior citizens learning English. Following her time at the ESL school, Melissa decided to pursue her Master of Arts in Teaching at USC. As a former English major from UCR, she took her knowledge of English with her into her program as she began to study educational theory and research. Melissa spent time working at both the High school and Middle school levels and has even worked with students at the Pre-K level. In her spare time, Ms. Wright has cultivated a love for gardening and foraging for edible plants in her surrounding community and local forests. She maintains a curiosity for life which she aims to impart upon her students.
James Bresden, 7th Grade English Teacher
James Bresden is a graduate of California State University, Northridge, earning a B.A. in Political Science and a Secondary Education Credential in English. Before becoming a teacher, he worked in a U.S. Congressman and a U.S. Senator's campaign offices and then spent years in the financial services industry. James began teaching in 2008 and has taught both middle school and high school. James grew up in Thousand Oaks and has resided in the Valley for the past 20+ years.
Damian Coleman, 8th Grade Mathematics Teacher 
Damian is a veteran Math teacher with over 20 years of teaching experience. After earning his Applied Mathematics degree from the University of California, San Diego, in La Jolla, Damian received his single subject teaching credential from National University. During his time teaching middle school, Damian also served as an instructional math coach, a department chair, a gifted coordinator, and an 8th-grade class sponsor. His experiences differentiating instruction and teaching math in a problem-based learning format make him an invaluable asset to our staff.
Jason Elliott, 7th and 8th Grade Science
Jason is an experienced science teacher, having taught middle school and high school level science, most recently with the Burbank school district. During the summer of 2018, Jason had the opportunity to participate in a training for science teachers sponsored jointly by CSUN and JPL and looks forward to bringing a hands-on approach to our science program.
Kaylee Gibbs, 7th Grade Math Teacher
Kaylee joined the VCMS community in 2017, first as a teaching assistant. She holds degrees in mathematics and education from UC Irvine. A native of the San Fernando Valley, Kaylee first met Mr. Coleman, with whom she now works as a student in his middle school math class!
Archer Nishioka, 8th Grade Science and Math Intervention 
Archer was born and raised in the LA area and has been teaching for nearly 20 years.  While he has taught mostly math recently, he has credentials in math, biology, economics, and special education.  He earned his bachelor's degree in biology and economics from UCLA and went on to become a doctor of chiropractic prior to becoming a teacher.  He enjoys teaching and helping students learn.  In his free time, he enjoys playing tennis, camping, and dirt biking.
Kevin Waterman, 7th Grade Social Studies Teacher
Vermont native Kevin Waterman, served five years in the Marine Corps infantry, including seven months in Iraq, before pursuing his bachelor’s degree in history at California State University, Northridge (CSUN). He received his teaching credential at CSUN and student taught at Mulholland Middle School and Cleveland High School. On being a teacher, Waterman said, “I love working with kids and engaging with ideas. I have always been passionate about history and social studies. It feels very rewarding to see students really thinking critically and grappling with questions concerning the way the world works.” In addition to spending time with his wife and cats, in his spare time, the North Hills resident loves to read, exercise (and in particular, hike), and play strategy computer games such as Civilization V and Stronghold: Crusader.


Zabrina Zahariades, 8th Grade English Teacher 
For Zabrina Zahariades, the most rewarding aspect of being a teacher is “witnessing the students’ confidence grow with their academic skills and watching them think through a problem and come up with their own solution.” In fact, ultimately, Zabrina considers herself “a guide to assist [her students’] journey.” Before joining VCMS, Zabrina taught English at North Valley Military Institute in Granada Hills. The New York native received her undergraduate degree from the University of Buffalo. She also holds a Master's in English from California State University, Northridge. She received her dual teaching credential (English and art) from California State University, Channel Islands. When she is not at VCMS, you might find Zabrina trying a new restaurant with friends, reading a novel, or baking. She is also an accomplished painter.
Shane Zazula, 8th Grade Social Studies 
Shane is a graduate of UC San Diego, where he majored in International Relations, with an emphasis on African studies. An avid traveler, he has visited Central America, West Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, including a study abroad program in Ghana. Before joining the VCMS team, Shane taught middle school and high school social studies for the Hacienda La Puente and Temecula Valley School Districts.
Madeline Castellon, 6th Grade Resource Teacher 
Los Angeles native Madeline Castellon attended Granada Hills Charter High School. She received her BA in art history at UCLA and her teaching credential from California State University Northridge. During her undergraduate studies, Madeline worked in guest services at both the Hammer Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. She still enjoys museums as a visitor. But she has always been drawn to education. “Some of my most fulfilling moments are when students make huge progress, whether that's emotionally, socially, or academically,” she said.  When she is not busy helping students “navigate these middle school waters,” Madeline loves spending time with her boyfriend, her family, and her mini Schnauzer mix rescue (Walt). She is also a self-described “huge Disney fan,” including both the theme park and movies. 

Noelle Eagle, 7th Grade Resource Teacher  
Noelle Eagle has been part of the VCMS team since 2016. Her background is in Food Science & Technology, but she left the food industry to work in education because she wanted to inspire students to believe in themselves and pursue their dreams.  She started out as a teaching assistant in the 7th and 8th-grade science classes and taught an elective called "Exploring Food." In her second semester at VCMS, she took on a new role as a behaviorist and remained in that position for the next few years.  Her experience as a behaviorist is now serving her well in her current role as a resource teacher.  Her favorite part of teaching is seeing students use their creativity and put their innovative ideas into action. During her free time, Noelle enjoys reading classic novels, gardening, baking, and watching Jeopardy! with her husband. 


Alex Moser, 8th Grade Resource Teacher 
Alex Moser began her career in education as a teaching assistant in Damian Coleman’s classroom. That is where the Sherman Oaks resident caught the teaching bug. “Working with Mr. Coleman really helped to show me and remind me what good teaching is,” she said. “I felt like this was what I was supposed to be doing.” Alex received her bachelor’s degree in public relations, with a minor in psychology, from Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. She is also a certified SCUBA instructor who has swum with sharks. Reading, off-roading, cooking, and traveling are some of her favorite leisure activities.
Stephen Lopez, PE/Athletic Director 
Stephen Lopez is a native Angeleno, born in Culver City. He studied kinesiology at Cal Poly Pomona. Before coming to VCMS, Lopez worked as an assistant athletic trainer. “What I love about being an athletic director is seeing the joy a student gets from playing a sport that without school athletics, they might not have had the opportunity to play,” he said. When he is not at VCMS, you might find Lopez playing soccer with friends or cheering on his beloved Dodgers.
Cindy Yates, Reading Specialist
Cindy Yates has been an educator for over 20 years. Before becoming a reading specialist, she has been an elementary school teacher, an intervention teacher, a homeschool educational specialist, and a college instructor. Her favorite job is a reading specialist because she loves to find the best ways to help students learn and discover literature's joy.  In addition to teaching credentials, Dr. Yates holds an undergraduate degree in sociology, a master’s degree in education/reading and language arts, a reading specialist credential, and a doctorate in education. She lives in Simi Valley with her husband, three kids, a dog, and a cat. In her free time, Dr. Yates loves to read, hike, go to the movies and spend time with her family and friends.