Bridget Wenner

Dear Ladera Parents and Students,

I hope you all had a wonderful summer! I am so excited to get started with the 2016-2017 school year! This will be my 18th year of teaching at Ladera. My first five years I taught Special Day Class Kindergarten and this will be my 13th year teaching General Education Kindergarten. I really enjoy teaching and am looking forward to all Early Birds this year.

I graduated from California State University of Fullerton earning a Bachelor's Degree in Communication Disorders with a minor in Child Development. Then I went on to receive my Special Education and General Education Teaching Credentials, with a Masters Degree in Education. I love going to school!

I have lived in Tustin for thirty+ years. I am married and we have one son and two daughters. As a family, we like to go to the river and water ski in the summer, and we go to the desert and ride motorcycles in the winter. In my spare time I enjoy reading, shopping, gardening, sewing and cooking. I also spend a lot of time with my siblings and their children.

See you soon, Kindergarten Leopards!

(714) 730-7505

Debbie Smith

Hello! I'm Mrs. Smith, and I'm excited to be your Kindergarten teacher! This will be my 22nd year of teaching and my 8th year at Ladera. Before coming to Ladera, I taught for 4 years at Heideman Elementary School and 10 years at Estock Elementary. I have taught first, second, and third grade, and combinations of those grades. I am thrilled to be a leopard! This year is exciting for us because my son, Aaron, will be a 3rd grade leopard! When we are not at school, we enjoy relaxing, listening to music, working in our garden, and playing outside! I hope you all had a fun and relaxing summer! This year is going to be awesome!

Debbie Smith

First Grade

Theresa Goldenberg

Greetings Parents and Students! I can't believe this is already my 17th year teaching. I have previously taught 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade. Each grade level has its challenges and its rewards, and I can honestly say that I don't have a favorite grade! I love them all!

I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Studies at Westmont College, my teaching credential through Cal State Fullerton, and my Masters Degree in Education Counseling through Madison University. I love coming to work each day because I am greeted by the smiles of your children and their eager desire to learn. Teaching continues to be a very rewarding profession, one of which I feel very fortunate to be a part.

My husband, also a teacher in Tustin, and I have been married for thirteen years, and we have three children whom we adore. Our daughter, Haley, is eleven, and is attending 6th grade at Pioneer. Our son, Caleb, is 8 1/2, and is in 2nd grade at Ladera. We also have an adorable baby girl, Katie, who will be turning five in October. Our children are the highlight of our lives, and they keep us VERY busy! As a family we love going to Disneyland, the beach, pool, or Irvine Spectrum. Our family time is very precious to us, and we feel very fortunate to share a career that gives us vacation days at the same time so that we can create many special family memories together.

Teaching is a passion, and I look forward to developing lifelong learners in my class this year.

I'm looking forward to a great year! Go Leopards!

Theresa Goldenberg

Erin Neuer

Hello Ladera Parents and Students!

I’m thrilled that this will be my 13th year teaching at Ladera and I look forward to a fun and productive year! While at Ladera, I’ve taught kindergarten, first and second grade. Before coming to TUSD, I taught kindergarten and first grade in the Saddleback Valley Unified School District. I received my teaching credential from the University of California, Irvine and my undergraduate degree from the University of California, Davis.

Outside school, I enjoy horseback riding, hiking, camping and spending time with my family. Paddle boarding also became a new favorite this summer. My daughter Lauren is a freshman in college this year and my son Reese is a 7th grader.

Ladera is such a wonderful place to teach and I am so excited for the upcoming year. I look forward to seeing familiar faces and meeting those new to the Ladera family.

Go Leopards!

Ms. Neuer

Second Grade

Sara Blair

Hello Leopards! I am thrilled to be returning to Ladera Elementary for another great year! This is my 9th year at Ladera, and my 12th year teaching. I have taught first, second, and third grades. I love spending my days in the classroom with my Ladera kids. They bring me joy and inspiration every day! I could not think of a more rewarding career. There is nothing like helping a child grow and learn.

I am a graduate from the University of Redlands with a Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre Arts. I received my teaching credential from Chapman University, and my Masters in Teaching from National University. I love the arts and still find time to sing and perform, here and there. I believe that children learn at a deeper level when they can be creative and use their imaginations. I try to incorporate music, singing, and dance into the classroom whenever possible.

I live with my wonderful husband, Alex; my sweet ten year old, Connor; and my darling doggie, Maude. You will usually find us at the ballpark watching Connor hitting home runs, or cheering for our favorite team! Go Angels!

Sara Blair

Erin Neuer

Hello Ladera Parents and Students!

I’m thrilled that this will be my 13th year teaching at Ladera and I look forward to a fun and productive year! While at Ladera, I’ve taught kindergarten, first and second grade. Before coming to TUSD, I taught kindergarten and first grade in the Saddleback Valley Unified School District. I received my teaching credential from the University of California, Irvine and my undergraduate degree from the University of California, Davis.

Outside school, I enjoy horseback riding, hiking, camping and spending time with my family. Paddle boarding also became a new favorite this summer. My daughter Lauren is a freshman in college this year and my son Reese is a 7th grader.

Ladera is such a wonderful place to teach and I am so excited for the upcoming year. I look forward to seeing familiar faces and meeting those new to the Ladera family.

Go Leopards!

Ms. Neuer

Brianne Iversen

Third Grade

Lisa O'Connell

Welcome! This is my 22nd year of (feels strange to type that - I started when I was 11, of course)! I am proud to have helped open the doors of Ladera in September 2001. I have taught grades 1-5, and have enjoyed them all. I am so excited to be teaching 3rd grade again this year, and look forward to many awesome learning experiences!

I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Child Development from CSU Fullerton and my Master of Science degree in Education from CSU Fullerton. I enjoyed life in the California wine country while earning my Multiple Subjects teaching credential at CSU Sonoma.

I'm married to a major Orioles fan, John. My soccer-loving daughter Gwen is now 14, and attending Beckman High School. I have two stepsons, JJ and Liam (11 and 8 years old), and also have a baby boy. We have the best time together :)

Some of my favorite things to do, watch Gwen play soccer, garden, swim, read, run half marathons, listen to music, and teach (of course!). I also love to go to the movies, theater, hang out and play games with my amazing family, and watch baseball (GO ANGELS!). I like the colors pink & blue, scuba diving, Mexican food, Trader Joes, and everything coconut!! I'm really looking forward to an AMAZING year!

Lisa (Schwartz) O'Connell

Kaylee Hertz

Hello Ladera Scholars and Families,

I am absolutely thrilled to be teaching again here at the most amazing school and job sharing third grade with Lisa O'Connell. We are going to have an exciting year! My name is Mrs. Hertz (formerly Miss Whitfield) as I taught here in 2001/2002, & 2005-2007. Most recently, I taught sixth grade core at Pioneer Middle School for seven years.

I am originally from Southern California. I have lived here for pretty much all of my life (went to El Modena High School) with the exception of living in San Jose and North Carolina. I married in 2010 to a wonderful man who is also a teacher. He is a resource specialist teacher at Columbus Tustin Middle School. I became a mother in 2012 to our handsome boy Trenton, who is now almost five!!! He is an absolute delight and surely keeps me on my toes. I also have the most adorable baby girl who was born last January. I love seeing her smile and marvel at everything around her.

I went to college at the University of Southern California. Therefore I am a huge Trojan fan and I even played varsity soccer there. I also have my masters degree from San Jose State University and a Reading Specialist Credential. This will be my eighteenth year of teaching and it is my absolute passion. I love waking up and having the chance to teach and inspire my students. I love seeing the sparkle in their eyes when they have figured something out on their own. On another note, I enjoy spending time with my family, reading, shopping, traveling, playing every sport imaginable, and watching football on TV. I am even in a pretty competitive fantasy football league.

Looking forward to an amazing year and a strong partnership with you. Go Leopards!!!

Kaylee Hertz

Megan Sommers

Dear Ladera Families,

I am very excited to be teaching 3rd grade this year. I have loved teaching at Ladera the last 17 years, and know this is going to be another great school year! I have had the pleasure of meeting many of you already, and am excited to meet those of you whom I haven’t. As your child’s teacher, I would like to extend my warmest welcome to our class!

Now, for a little about me… I live in Rancho Santa Margarita. I recently got married last summer to Patrick, and now have a 16 year old stepson - Blake. My parents live in Laguna Niguel, and are volunteers in my class. My brother and sister-in-law live in Maryland and have an eleven year old boy, Jack, and a nine year old girl, Lily. I have two spoiled rotten cats, Bailey and Oreo, and an equally spoiled Golden Retriever dog, Mac. (As I am sure you have guessed by now, I am an animal lover!) I have volunteered at various animal shelters since college, have been a regular at the Mission Viejo Animal Shelter for the past fourteen years, and just started volunteering for the golden retriever organization where I adopted my dog. I also love the outdoors, sports, and traveling…it’s the Navy brat in me!

I received my bachelor’s degree in Human Development from UC Riverside, my teaching credential from Chapman University, CLAD certificate from UCSD, and my masters in reading with a language arts specialist credential from Cal State Fullerton. I taught first grade for two years in the Chula Vista district. Since Ladera opened, I have taught first through fourth grade, and have had three combination classes (K/1, 2/3 & 3/4).

The importance of your interest in your child’s education cannot be over-emphasized. Parents are an essential part of our program, and communication between home and school is vital. My door is always open, and I love to have parent volunteers. There are an endless number of ways you can help, both in the class, at the school, and at home. Each individual has special talents and skills, and as a volunteer you have a unique opportunity to share them with the class.

Pay close attention to the things that your child brings home daily so that you do not miss important letters and notices that are sent home. Talk with your child daily to find out about their day. Sit down each evening to read with your child and look over homework assignments. I encourage you to visit the classroom and keep in contact by e-mail, notes, and/or phone. I am available before and after school to provide any additional help your child may need, and to answer any questions or discuss any concerns you might have.

I have high expectations for my students and for myself. I have faith that with encouragement and hard work your child will be successful. I am looking forward to a wonderful school year.

Megan Sommers

Fourth Grade

Traci DiLellio

Hello! This is the start of my 21st year of teaching in Tustin. I am proud to have been one of the original teachers who helped to open Ladera in 2001. I have taught 3rd, 4th, 4/5 and 5th grade and I enjoyed all of them.

I earned my undergraduate degree from UC San Diego and then completed the Teacher Credential Program at UC Irvine. I also have a Master’s Degree in Reading and Literacy. I am married to a wonderful man named Jim and we are the proud parents of an almost 13 year old girl, and an energetic 9 year old. As you can imagine, they both keep us very busy with soccer and karate practices.

During my free time I like to read books on my Kindle, exercise, and play with my kids.

This year I am looking forward to integrating technology into the curriculum as we continue our implementation of the Common Core. I can't wait to use some fun apps with the kids. It's going to be a great year!

I am so thankful to be able to teach at Ladera. Ladera is a wonderful school! I feel very fortunate to have a job where I love what I do and I am looking forward to a fun and successful year.

Traci DiLellio

Christine St.Clair

Hello Leopards! This is my nineteenth year of teaching. My first two years were in fifth grade at Loma Vista (also in Tustin). Then I had the opportunity to open Ladera as a 3rd grade teacher, and have been here ever since.

I attended Cal Poly Pomona and received my bachelor's degree in business management and human resources. I worked for Nordstrom and during my last year there, I was in HR while working towards my teaching credential. I just recently received my Master's in Education through Concordia.

My husband Scott and I live in the Tustin Ranch area, and have a 6-1/2 year old son Tristan, and an energetic 12 year old girl named Taylor who will be a 7th grader this year. I enjoy Yoga, reading and BBQing with family & friends. I'm looking forward to another exciting year!


Christine St.Clair

Fifth Grade

Megan Donavan

Hi 5th graders! I am so excited for this school year! 5th grade is such a special year since it will be your last at Ladera! This is my 12th year at Ladera, and 13th year teaching. I grew up in California and love living here! There's so much to do, my family is never bored! We love traveling throughout California, and we also love going to Colorado to visit our family.

My family loves to travel, cook, eat good food, and go to Angels games. I can't wait to get to know you and learn what you like to do! I couldn't be more excited to be teaching 5th grade, and I am happy to have you along on the adventure. It's going to be a great year!

Megan Donavan

Jay Warren

Dear Parents and Students,

It's great to be back at such a wonderful school. This is my 20th year teaching (18th in Tustin Unified), and I am planning on it being the best yet. I am proud to say that I attended Loma Vista, Helen Estock, Columbus Tustin, and Tustin High as a young person and truly enjoyed the time I spent at each school. I continued my undergrad education at U.C.I. and C.S.U.F. I received my teaching credential at Concordia University in Irvine.

I have a wonderful family and love to spend my free time with them. My beautiful wife and I just celebrated our 13th anniversary. I also have two fantastic children; their names are Dane, who is 11 years old and attends 6th grade at Pioneer, and Reese, who is 9 and is in 4th grade at Ladera. This summer we spent most of our time in the pool, reading books, going out to dinner, and listening to Michael Jackson (my kids' favorite). My hobbies include playing tennis, surfing, reading, and playing with my kids.

Again, I am very happy to be teaching at Ladera and can't wait to meet more great leopards. Let's have a fantastic year.

Jay Warren

Specialized Academic Instruction

Preschool Teachers

SDC Preschool Overview

The SDC Preschool program at Ladera provides early intervention services for over 100 students from throughout Tustin Unified School District. The students have special needs that may result from a medical condition or diagnosis that causes delays in their motor abilities, cognitive development or speech communication skills. These young children have to face many difficulties that none of us will ever know, but through our time, patience, and dedication, we hope to improve their educational opportunities as future members of the Tustin community.

Elizabeth Bishop

It is with great enthusiasm that I embark upon my sixth year of teaching preschool at Ladera. As a student teacher under Ms. Sheri Gray seven years ago, I had the opportunity to become acquainted with Ladera's amazing preschool program. I am honored to work with the outstanding team of professionals at Ladera Elementary.

I received my B.S. in biology from the University of Southern California, as well as my multiple subject teaching credential. I received my mild/moderate special education teaching credential with autism and early childhood certifications from California State University, Fullerton. After student teaching at Ladera with Ms. Gray, I discovered my passion for early intervention. I love every aspect of my job, especially with the joy of spending each weekday with my phenomenal preschool students.

My husband and I have been married for 36 years and have three children. Katherine graduated from Harvard and lives with her husband in Tokyo, Japan. Paul graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, and thankfully resides only a couple of miles from his parents. Sarah is a graduate of UCLA, majoring in French Linguistics, Greek and Latin.

We are off to a great start this school year. I so look forward to all our learning adventures in the coming months.

Elizabeth Castillo

Cynthia Gracian

Hi Leopards,

My name is Cindy Gracian, I teach SDC Preschool and I am excited to begin my first-year teaching here at Ladera, but even more excited to be able to provide a happy, safe, and encouraging environment where student achievement is encouraged and celebrated.

I received a B.S. in Child and Adolescent Development with an emphasis in Family and Community Services; Early Childhood Special Education Credential with Autism and English Language Development Authorizations; And because I truly consider myself a lifelong learner, I am currently working towards a Masters in Special Education with an emphasis in Early Childhood. I have completed both my undergrad and graduate studies at California State University, Fullerton…GO TITANS!

During my free time, I am ALWAYS with my family. I have been married to my wonderful husband for 13 years and we have three loving and precious kids. My son David is in 6th grade, Camila is in 4th grade and Sofia is 3 years old. On those rare occasions that we have some free time, we love to stay home, watch movies, and eat pizza, lots and lots of pizza!

I am very proud to be a part of the Ladera family because I get to witness the hard work and dedication that all teachers, support staff, families and most importantly students put in every day to succeed in life and in their education.

"It shouldn't matter how slowly a child learns as long as we are encouraging them not to stop."

-Robert John Meehan

Sheri Gray

I am very excited to be returning to Ladera for the 12th year to teach the Structured Preschool Class of adorable 3 and 4 year olds.

I earned my B.A. degree in Communicative Disorders from California State University of Fullerton and went on to earn my M.S. degree in Early Childhood Education from the same University. I have attended training sessions through the Orange County Department of Education on many different programs such as the Assessment Focus Academy, the TEACCH program, and the SCERTS program. I have been trained in the Picture Exchange Communication Program and I have implemented the teachings from this training in the classroom. I have also completed my Level II training in Pivotal Response Therapy.

I have been married for 30 years. I have two stepsons, a stepdaughter-in-law, three step-grandchildren, and one biological son. I enjoy spending time with my children and grandchildren when our schedules allow.

In my spare time I enjoy reading, walking, exploring museums and attractions around the area, and spending time with family and friends.

My collaborative classroom is very structured and the techniques of applied behavior analysis (ABA) are used throughout the day. My support staff members have gone through the district ABA training to familiarize them with the district ABA procedures. Additional service providers such as the speech therapist, the occupational therapist, the adaptive physical education therapist and the physical therapist are also integral parts of my collaborative classroom. This collaboration allows our team here at Ladera to provide the students with the most comprehensive learning experience we can offer to assist in preparing them for their future in the school setting.

I feel very fortunate to come to work every day with the amazing children in my classroom; they are truly a joy to be with every day. I look forward to meeting my new students and working with them to reach their potential and to foster in them a love for school.

Danielle Rodriguez

It is with great pleasure to move forward in the 2017-2018 school year with both new and returning members of our leopard family. As a fifth year Pre-K SDC Teacher, I am proud to be a part of the Ladera Elementary School Community because we stand for “creating a positive learning environment with high expectations for all.” I have been in the Field of Special Education for 12 years and I absolutely love it. In pursuit of my dream for working in a field I love, I received a B.S. in Sociology and currently hold two level II teaching credentials. I have an Early Childhood Special Education Credential and Moderate to Severe Special Education Credential with Autism Authorization. Since teaching is my passion, I am working on a Master’s in Education with an Emphasis in Special Education.

When I am not teaching, I love to spend time with my beloved husband, family, and animals. I am also a world traveler; I have been to Costa Rica, Singapore and India. However, this summer my husband and I stayed within the US and went to the Big Island of Hawaii. We had a blast and snorkeled every day. This summer was awesome, but I am happy to be back doing what I love best.

It is truly an honor to work with a school community that believes in such a strong mission statement. I am eager and excited to implement and move forward with innovative strategies that will prepare our tiniest leopards for success.

Kim Webster

Dear Parents and Students,

Welcome to Ladera, and if you are one of my students, welcome to my class! I hope that this will be a place where your love for school and learning will get a strong foundation to carry you through your many years of education. This will be my 13th year teaching preschool and my 2nd year here at Ladera Elementary. I grew up in Orange County and received my Bachelors, Credential and soon to be Masters all from Cal State Fullerton. I truly love my job and my students and look forward to coming to work every day.

When I am not at work I am with my family and love to spend all my free time with them. I am married to my high school best friend and we have 2 children. My daughter is in 8th grade and when her nose isn’t in a book you will find her at the studio practicing with her cheer team that competes all across the US. My son is in 3rd grade and spends all his time on a field or a court competing in the many different sports that he plays. Between the two of them and all their activities we stay very busy. On the rare occasion we have free time my family enjoys traveling, hiking, camping, and I love photography!

I am looking forward to this school year and getting to know all of you better!

Traci Wuest

Brittany Barnes

Kristen Miles

Rachel Cardinal