Meet Our Staff » VCMS Staff Bios

VCMS Staff Bios

ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF
 
Matthew Rubin, Principal
Matthew Rubin has been working in public education for 18 years, primarily at the middle school level. Prior to becoming a principal, Dr. 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. Dr. Rubin holds a bachelor's degree from UC Davis in biology, masters degrees in science education and in education administration, and a doctorate in educational leadership and policy studies.
 
Dr. 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, Dr. Rubin enjoys reading, cheering on the Dodgers, and spending time with his family. 
 
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 28 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 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. 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.”
 
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 successes in high school. On weekends, Melanie especially enjoys spending time with friends and family, whether exploring an unfamiliar part of the city or taking a hike to a beautiful waterfall.

 
TEACHING STAFF

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.”
 
Paige Fessler, 6th Grade ELA/ 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 Rodriguez studied political science and international affairs as an undergraduate at 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 helped them develop 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.
 
Staci Yamanishi, 6th and 7th Grade Language Arts Teacher  
Staci Yamanishi, a.k.a. Ms. Yam, has taught at both the elementary and middle school level, most recently in Chico, California. She is a loyal Bruin, having received both her undergraduate degree and Masters in Education at UCLA. The Gardena native credits the amazing teachers she had growing up “who always made school a happy place” for her interest in a career in education. When she is not in the classroom, you might find her doing something crafty, baking, running, reading a good book, and sometimes, traveling the world with her husband or friends.
 
Crystal Kuwano, 6th Grade PE Teacher

Crystal Kuwano grew up in the San Fernando Valley, attending nearby Birmingham High School. She studied kinesiology and exercise science at California State University Northridge. Following graduation, she worked as a naturalist and assistant camp director at an outdoor education center in San Pedro. Crystal plays basketball, softball and volleyball. She’s also a big Lakers and Dodgers fan. But she recognizes that not everyone is a sports enthusiast. “I enjoy exposing students to alternative ways to be active and have fun,” she said. When she is not at Valley Charter, Crystal likes to hike, travel (to national parks especially) and spend time with her family.

Kevin Waterman, 7th 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.
 
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!
 
Jason Elliott, 7th and 8th Grade Science
Jason is an experienced science teacher, having taught both 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.

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, 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.
 
Shane Zazula, 8th Grade Social Studies
Shane is a graduate of UC San Diego, where he majored in International Relations, with an emphasis in African studies. An avid traveler, he has visited Central America, West Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, including a study abroad program in Ghana. Prior to joining the VCMS team, Shane taught middle school and high school social studies for the Hacienda La Puente and Temecula Valley School Districts.

Alex Moser, 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 swam with sharks. Reading, off-roading, cooking, and traveling are some of her favorite leisure activities.

Madeline Castellon, Resource Teacher

Los Angeles native Madeline Castellon attended Granada Hills Charter High School. She went on to receive 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 through 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.

Stephen Lopez, 7th and 8th 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.