Meet Our Staff » VCMS Staff Bios

VCMS Staff Bios

ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF
 
Matthew Rubin, Principal
Matthew Rubin has been working in public education for 16 years, primarily at the middle school level. Prior to becoming a principal, Mr. Rubin was a science teacher at VCMS and at schools in Lemon Grove, Castaic, Granada Hills, and Santa Monica, always bringing a student-centered, inquiry-based curriculum into the classroom. Mr. Rubin holds a bachelor's degree from UC Davis in Biology, and two master's degrees, one in science education and the other in education administration. He is currently enrolled in the educational leadership doctoral program at CSUN.
 
Mr. Rubin is passionate about making school a place where students feel welcomed, valued, and a part of the community. He strongly believes that when teachers, staff, parents, and students work together, we can create a school that is truly exemplary. In his spare time, Mr. Rubin enjoys reading, cheering on the Dodgers, and spending time with his family. His two children attend Valley Charter Elementary School in the 3rd and 5th grades.
 

Brenda Sadeghi, Assistant 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 masters 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.

 
Robert Burke, Executive Director
Mr. Burke has served as an educator for the past 26 years and has an extensive background working in large, urban school districts. He has experience teaching at all grade levels and has served as a special education teacher, a Resource Specialist, and a counselor for adults with learning disabilities. Abroad, he has taught in Liverpool, England and been a guest instructor in partnership with the Bureau of Education in Taegu, Korea.
 
Mr. Burke was the principal of the Open Magnet Charter School, an innovative and highly successful public school founded by parents in 1977. Through Mr. Burke’s efforts the school received the prestigious California Distinguished School and Magnet School of Merit awards. In addition, he has successfully facilitated the renewal of the school’s charter both in 2003 and 2008. His proudest achievement is the facilitation of professional development activities that resulted in closing the achievement gap among targeted groups of students.
 
Prior to being the Principal of The Open Charter Magnet School, Mr. Burke worked in the San Francisco Unified School District as a coordinator, administrator for middle and high school operations, and a school principal. Mr. Burke holds Master's degrees in Counseling from California State University, Long Beach and Educational Leadership from St. Mary's College.
 
Jessica Aguirre, 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. Prior to 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 in watching them succeed.
 
Cecilia Chimal, Office Assistant
Cecilia Chimal, who grew up in the San Fernando Valley, 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.” 
 
TEACHING STAFF
 

Jen Ventress, 6th Grade Math Teacher

In her 18 years as a teacher, Jen Ventress has taught at several elementary and middle schools, both public and private. Most recently she taught third grade at Albert Einstein Academy in Santa Clarita. 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.”

Paige Fessler, 6th Grade Science Teacher

Prior to 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. In her free time, Paige loves hiking, reading, and spending time with her friends and family. She also is an enthusiastic cook. Desserts are her specialty.

Jennifer Rodriguez, 6th Grade ELA/ History Teacher

Jennifer joins VCMS as a teacher after serving as the TA in Mrs. Ventress' class for two years. Her passion for students and teaching make her a wonderful addition to the team.

Jessica Lopez, 6th Grade ELA/ History Teacher

We welcome Jessica to the VCMS staff after a number of successful years of teaching, most recently at iLead Encino.

Cristin Lettich, 7th Grade History and Language Arts Teacher  

Cristin Lettich joined Valley Charter Middle School as a founding teacher. She completed her Masters in Teaching at Johns Hopkins University and previously worked in political campaigns and non-profit organizations. She brings an interdisciplinary, hands-on approach to Language Arts and Social Studies instruction.

Kevin Waterman, 7th and 8th Grade Social Studies Teacher

Vermont native Kevin Waterman served five years in the Marine Corps infantry, including seven months in Iraq, prior to pursuing his bachelor’s degree in history at California State University, Northridge (CSUN). He went on to receive 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.

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 went on to receive 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.

Zabrina Zahariades, 7th and 8th Grade Language Arts 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”. Prior to 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 Masters 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.

Joanna Jimenez, 7th Grade Math Teacher

Joanna Jimenez has been a teacher for over 20 years, working with a wide variety of students and grade levels. She holds a masters degree in math education.

Hagop Kordian, 7th and 8th Grade Math Teacher

Science teacher Hagop Kordian holds a science teaching credential and a degree in physics. He joined VCMS because he values the opportunity to teach science in a creative, inquiry-based manner. 

Alex Moser, Resource Teacher/ 7th Grade English 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.” Moser 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 swam with sharks. Reading, off-roading, cooking, and traveling are some of her favorite leisure activities.

Madeline Castellon, Resource Teacher

After working at VCMS as a TA in 6th-8th grade English and 6th grade social studies classes, Madeline joins the teaching team at VCMS. Her ability to connect with students and push them to do their best are amongst her best attributes.

Matthew Hivner, 7th and 8th Grade PE

Matthew Hivner, who was born in Singapore but spent most of his youth in India, received a BS in kinesiology from California State Long Beach. Before joining the staff at VCMS, Hivner taught physical education at a private K-12 school in Pasadena. Hivner loves watching his students grow and mature. In his spare time, the newlywed likes to hang out with friends, go to the movies, and eat food from around the world. Not surprisingly, given the time he spent in India, Hivner is especially fond of Indian food. Hivner has traveled extensively, most recently to Guatemala. 

Stephen Lopez, 6th Grade PE/ Athletic Director

Stephen Lopez is a native Angeleno, born in Culver City. He studied kinesiology at Cal Poly Pomona. Prior to 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.