Athenian’s New Faculty and Staff

The Athenian School welcomes the newest members of our faculty and staff!  (The above photo shows new employees on an environmental tour of the school with Bob Oxenburgh, Director of Finance.)

New Upper School Faculty

Leslie Cushner, Humanities Dept – 9th grade teacher
M.A. in Indian Religions from the University of Chicago Divinity School, Chicago, IL
B.A. in Classics and Religion from Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH
Leslie has taught a diverse range of Humanities courses including medieval history, ancient literature, world religions and philosophies, as well as ethics classes. Leslie is reading-proficient in multiple ancient languages such as Latin, Attic and Koine Greek, Sanskrit, and Biblical Hebrew. An avid volunteer, Leslie has taught ESL in India, and currently volunteers as an ESL tutor/teacher and publications editor for the Tibetan Association of Northern California.

Alicia Dantzker, Science Dept – Biology teacher
B.A. and M.A. from Stanford
Alicia has taught at three Bay Area independent schools: Marin Academy, Urban, and Head Royce.  She also worked for Aim High and the Exploratorium.

Andrew Glassco, Foreign Language Dept – Spanish teacher
M.A. with a specialization in Spanish education from the University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
B.A. in English from the University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
Andrew spent four years abroad in Spain, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil, studying Spanish and teaching English. He led a group of students to the rainforests of Panama where they focused on projects pertaining to environmentalism and economic sustainability. Andrew has taught Spanish classes from elementary school level to college level and enjoys integrating technology into foreign language curriculum.

Gabe Hourcade, Foreign Language Dept – French
PhD in French literature from the University of California, Davis, CA
M.A. in French literature from the University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
B.A. in English literature from the University of Savoie, Chambery, France
Gabriel Hourcade joins Athenian after recently serving as an Assistant Professor of French at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA. Gabe has also taught English and French extensively throughout Europe (Austria, France, and Switzerland); when he lived in Switzerland, he taught snowboarding during the holiday season!

Mark Mendelson, Fine Arts Dept – Theater Arts Technical Director
B.F.A. in Theatre – Scenic Design from the California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA
Joining the Athenian drama department in a new position as Technical Director, Mark is an experienced award-winning set design professional. He has worked on many stage productions throughout the Bay Area as well as productions in the Hollywood / Los Angeles area, and in St. Louis, MO. Mark’s portfolio can be viewed at his website.

Adam Thorman, Fine Arts Dept – Photography
M.F.A. in Photography from Arizona State University
B.F.A. in Photography from Tisch School of the Arts, New York University
An accomplished professional photographer whose works have been in numerous solo and group exhibitions, collections, and publications, Adam Thorman is an experienced instructor of photography and related disciplines ranging from digital retouching, image editing software and equipment to post-production and web design. Adam’s portfolio can be viewed at his website.

New Staff

Katrina Deliramich, Upper School Assistant Librarian
M.L.I.S. degree in Library Information Science from San Jose State University, San Jose, CA
B.A. degree in History, California State University, East Bay, Hayward, CA
Katrina recently served as Library Media Technician for the Ukiah Unified School District. She is a dedicated volunteer, sharing her time and knowledge with children, home-bound elderly, and library patrons. Katrina will oversee the Athenian library in the late afternoons and during evening study hours with the boarders.

Vanessa Hourcade, Assistant to the Office of the Head of Upper School / Academic Dean
Castleton State College, Castleton, VT – completed coursework in Anthropology and Sociology
Vanessa has been working at Athenian since March of this year, nevertheless, we’d like to formally welcome her and share a little bit about her. Vanessa has worked in a variety of capacities at international boarding schools, including Agilon College, a Round Square school in Switzerland. She is dedicated to supporting students, faculty, administrators and staff as well as thrives on juggling multiple roles and tasks. Fluent in French and Italian languages, Vanessa embraces opportunities to interface with international students and very much enjoys multicultural environments. Vanessa sports a diverse range of interests, skills, and hobbies, including AASI Level II Snowboard Coach certification, carpentry, landscaping, sewing, drawing and painting.

Joanne Lee, Associate Director of Advancement, Annual Fund
M.A. in Organization and Leadership Studies from the University of San Francisco School of Education
B.A., New College of Florida
Joanne joined the Athenian Advancement team in April with a broad background in development, fundraising, philanthropy and giving campaigns. She is an avid supporter of volunteerism and enrichment programs that include music, the arts, languages, multiculturalism and professional development.

Margaret Perrone, School Nurse
We were unable to reach Margaret for her credentials and biography by the time of this publication.

Linda Rafferty, Director of Advancement
M.A. in Education from Harvard Graduate School of Education, Cambridge, MA
B.A. in Politics from Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
Linda has 20+ years of experience in independent school work, primarily in development, but also in admissions and middle school teaching. Most recently, Linda served as Director of Development at McLean School of Maryland. Although most of her career has been in New York City and Washington DC schools, Linda is a 4th-generation Bay Area native who grew up in Moraga. She and her husband, Scott, and their two daughters, Annie (age 10) and Melina (age 7) are excited about experiencing this new chapter of their lives.

Dora Rodriguez, Transportation driver
Dora also joined Athenian earlier this year (April 2012). She has served our students well in getting them to and from school and events safely and happily. We warmly welcome her to the Athenian community.

2012-2013 Student Profile

Welcome to the 2012-2013 school year!

Here’s a look at this year’s student body:

This year’s 44 international students come from the places on the map:

Additionally, we have students who are citizens of: Canada, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Panama, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Taiwan, Uganda, United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands, Vietnam.

Locally, our students are from: Alameda, Alamo, Antioch, Benicia, Berkeley, Brentwood, Castro Valley, Clayton, Concord, Danville, Diablo, El Cerrito, El Sobrante, Hayward, Hercules, Lafayette, Livermore, Martinez, Modesto, Moraga, Novato, Oakland, Orinda, Piedmont, Pittsburg, Pleasant Hill, Pleasanton, San Francisco, San Ramon, Santa Clara, Vallejo, and Walnut Creek.

Professor A.L.I. Revealed: Humanities Teacher Kal Balaven

Professor A.L.I. Revealed: Kal BalavenkatesanAfter five years at The Athenian School, humanities teacher Kalyan Ali Balaven has finally revealed his alter ego: Professor A.L.I.  As the Union City Patch proclaimed, Kal is like a modern day Clark Kent–a teacher by day and a hip-hop M.C. and spoken word artist by night.  Kal explains that Professor A.L.I is “an educator who uses hip-hop as a language to communicate my message Authentically, with Love, and Intellect.”  Kal previously kept his alter-ego private, as he wanted his teaching to be student-centered and feared knowledge of his personal artistic expression would derail his classes.  However, in the last year, the word has slowly gotten out about Kal’s alter ego (thank you, Google).  He decided to make the most of it and collaborate with a student who was also making a name for himself as a rapper.  Kal is now proud to share this other side of his life with the Athenian community.  Kal describes the evolution of the collaboration in his own words:

Native Sun by Professor A.L.I.

I remember when I first met Carter [Wilson ’12] five years ago; it was hard to miss him since he stood out as much as I did amidst our new peers.  I see him in my mind vividly, standing awkwardly in the sunlight upon a beach as part of an in-coming student orientation; and I’m sure he visualizes me in similar fashion.  He, a freshman, and I, the new teacher on campus, at a unfamiliar school were clearly feeling nervous about the community we were being enveloped in and showed it through our uncomfortable body language.  We clearly felt, then, like outsiders, like shadows cast in the light of the sun.

Four years later, as the June sun beamed down upon our heads, Carter would walk across the stage; and in the Athenian School tradition he picked an instructor to give a one-minute graduation speech on his behalf.   Carter chose me and I chose to deliver the speech as a rap, sans beat; it seemed appropriate since Carter’s alter ego was the young, up and coming rapper Captaincy and I was Professor A.L.I.


As Carter was nearing his impending graduation, the elephant in the room was a potential collaboration between the teacher and student, between a Professor and a young Captain.  Carter had joked with me about the possibility in years past, but I shook it off with banter for I rarely admitted to anyone on campus that I was Professor A.L.I. and knew such a collab would’ve blown my identity out in into the sunlight.  For so long, I’d kept my artistry hidden in the shadows of my professional world and seeing the two worlds collide was, at the time, unsettling.

Yet, at the same time, Carter represented everything I strove to be an educator for.  He was a brilliant young man with deep inner-reflections who also thought out of the box.  He was the laid back freshman who’d emerged from the shadows of obscurity to embrace the lamp of learning.  And to top it off, unlike many young people, he possessed both knowledge and reverence for the true pioneers and “teachers” of hip-hop like Brand Nubian, Public Enemy & KRS-One.

So motivated by that realization, I showed Carter a song in which I sought to promote hip-hop as it once was, the art of expression of social/political issues that were relevant to the community at large.  The song had a natural intersection in the realm of equity and inclusion, a theme that was central to both Captaincy and Professor A.L.I.; it also spoke to our time at Athenian together, to community building and education.  We had embraced the light of our true selves on this campus, let down our guards, and allowed what we do as artists respectively to become a part of the landscape like the sun in the sky. It was the most appropriate intersection for a collab, and Captaincy laid the second verse on the song, and lo and behold, “Native Sun” was born.

The song was born of a reverence for Richard Wright’s seminal work, Native Son, and the language of hip-hop with the elevation of self in the speak of the Nation of Gods & Earths community; the same NGE community that gave hip-hop its slang and cadence.  Imbued with both “science & math”, the track is a metaphor of the passing of a torch; of a Professor taking his own light to elevate another, a student to become a “Sun”, to give off his own light, to embrace the highest expression of self, one that is celestial in nature.

The song’s journey is one that begins in the classroom, through the lecture of a Professor, sparking the imagination of students, and of one student in particular, Carter (Captaincy) who presents his own reality.  This should be the nature of any art, to spark more creativity, and to create more artists.  So like a sun that shines upon all and gives life meaning, by the light of the moon, its warmth and radiation, so too do the lyrics of the song give life meaning by shedding light upon the importance of equity and point out societal inequities that we live and breathe in on a daily basis.

“Native Sun” is a song off of the Emerald Manifesto album and the beginning of a new movement for me as an artist.  Up until now, as Carter, my peers, and many students will attest to, I’ve kept my artistic life and life as an educator separate.  However. I now see the empowering role that hip-hop artistry and lyricism can play in education and also vice versa.   Merged together, hip-hop & education shed light on issues that are not touched upon by popular media or given attention because they do not further the status quo.  It is the unexplored realm of voice, the subaltern, and as an educator I see the importance of the voice of the M.C.  After all, as I’ve said in the past, “a Professor has knowledge, but an M.C. has the audience.”

To that end, on Emerald Manifesto, I created songs that spoke to issues that didn’t see the light of day.  I spit verses about the social inequities of the caste system still in practice in South Asia, the movement of permaculture, the genocide in Bahrain, the importance of localized spending and the similarities rather than the difference between people living in the Middle East.  All of these issues are rarely addressed, yet are issues relevant to our world and more importantly the world inherited by our children.  The sun diminishes darkness, vanishes obscurity, and makes all things erudite.  I was seeking to do the same as an artist; in the end I was seeking to become a sun.

At Athenian, both Carter and I had become suns; we found a supportive community, one that encouraged artistic expression and explored ways in which educators and students could be learners outside of the traditional classroom setting.  In four years the icy wall I had created between my artistry and role as educator had slowly melted.  The Google searches that easily reveal the presence of my alter ego and calls to recite spoken word and a capella poetry had blown my carefully constructed cover as a mild-mannered educator along with my icy wall to bits.

When this happened, I saw an immense swell of support and love from a community that stood by its own.  Carter saw that too, and as he started to take the lyrics from his notepad to the mic, he too found his strongest support coming from the Athenian campus family.  Artistry thrives when it is cultivated with love, and we both found that from our respective peers.  So we too began to shine in our own right.

We also discovered, after five years at Athenian, that our initial reaction to being on the other side of the tunnel, in a city (Danville) that was really different from our respective homes of Union City & Oakland, was not what we expected.  In our time on campus, we discovered we were not outsiders but integral parts of the community as if we had always been there.  We felt like we were natives of that Mt. Diablo setting and it communicated in our body language that we had ascended to become part of what makes Athenian shine as a community, that we were “suns” in the NGE sense of the word. We were Native Suns.


I am currently working on my new project entitled Das Ka Rebel, taking the exploration of hip-hop and education to another level.  I will explore themes that make education truly innovative and experiential—while at the same time discovering all of what hip-hop could be.  Hip-hop after all was born in the West African griot, so I will seek to imbue the spirit of that oral historian as I weave the tales of our world as a testament to later generations, and, like the griot, impart lessons that will help them preserve our values while avoiding our mistakes.

I seek to shine like the Native Sun and give light to the “earths” and their seeds–so that they flower with knowledge and grow to regenerate this planet and allow it to flourish with love.  In the words of Tupac Shakur, “I’m not saying I’m going to change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world.”  I feel the same way, and I will seek to move through this world with Ollin Tonatiuh, with the movement of the sun, riding the chariot in the sky of life-like Apollo, facing its demons like Surya, for I am Ra in Kemet, I am the Native Sun.

Alumni Profile: Elizabeth Marlow ’86

Elizabeth Marlow ‘86 is a caring woman with a bright smile and an unusual professional warmth. You would never guess from meeting her that she spends a majority of her time with criminals and ex-cons.

By trade, Elizabeth is a family nurse practitioner. Elizabeth (second from the left in the picture above) has more than 15 years of experience in primary, urgent, and mental health care. Like many nurses, Elizabeth is interested in helping people. However, the work she does goes far beyond the scope of a typical nurse’s job.

Working with Criminals

In 2009, Elizabeth founded The Gamble Institute, a community-based research and resource center for parolees. Elizabeth explains that her affinity for this work grew from her work with patients while first practicing in Bakersfield, a city with four jails.

I really liked them a lot as a group of people, and they really seemed to like me. We had a good working relationship as patient and provider….And the main question was, how were these people who I really like, and who present pretty well, and are kind of cool and funny, a sort of stylish population of folks, how could they be this way with me and then in this other way in the prison system? How does that happen?

Elizabeth has an unmatched knack for pairing empathetic, participatory medical care with data-driven research. This explains the breadth of her professional responsibilities, which currently includes clinical work at the San Francisco County Jail, researching and publishing as Assistant Adjunct Professor at the UCSF School of Nursing, and overseeing programs at the Gamble Institute. Some may think Elizabeth must struggle to balance several demanding positions. In truth, everything Elizabeth does is driven by the same purpose: helping others live their own life of purpose. When asked if she would ever consider cutting back in some way, Elizabeth responded hesitantly, “I would maybe give up one day a week at the jail.”

The Gamble Institute's Open House, 2011

With a youthful fire, Elizabeth insists that “We can change the system!” Although, she admits, “It’s much harder than I thought it was going to be.” However, difficult challenges do not deter her. She continues with conviction:

One of my big motivations and drives is to at least change the conversation. How can we put all of us out of business and help people live healthy, sustainable lives outside of the correctional system? And there are a lot of ways you can attack that. Mine is through community-based participatory research, working with people, getting them intellectually stimulated, getting to see that they can actually see beyond the confines of their world.

Working both one on one with clients in the jail and working systemically via research and the Gamble Institute, Elizabeth truly is changing the system. Countless inmates have benefited from her medical care, and now nearly 400 men have received training, counseling, mentoring, case management and/or recovery support at The Gamble Institute.

A Life of Service

While she feels that she has a natural bent for doing good (e.g., she was in the voluntary 200 Hour Service Award Club in high school), Elizabeth reveals that Athenian’s high academic standards and culture of positive change contributed to her career choices and success.

Elizabeth's yearbook page, 1986

The community service [requirement at Athenian] for me was a really big deal….I had such a good education there. It set the bar so high in terms of my own expectations for myself….I think that’s my whole belief that “I can change the world!” I really believe that still. I believe that I can be part of creating some kind of systematic change to make things better for people. And not just accepting that this is how it is, but really trying to think differently. [It was] not just the education I got at Athenian. The reading I was exposed to, the people I was exposed to, the teachers, the opportunities that I had there, really were what raised my expectations that I have for myself and the work that I’m trying to do.

Naturally, Elizabeth compares her early upbringing to that of the men and women she encounters in the jails. Unlike her clients, Elizabeth enjoyed the freedom to be herself in high school. “The school itself created a culture where all ideas are valued and all people are valued. And the students bought into it….That was a big part of my experience, just feeling like I could be myself [at Athenian].” Elizabeth wistfully wonders how many of the people she sees in her work would have avoided a life of crime if they had had the privilege of the intellectual stimulation, compassionate mentoring, and peer acceptance she experienced at Athenian. The well-rounded, fulfilling life she leads is the dream she has for the reentry population. Elizabeth also notes the exposure to “really good books” as an integral part of her schooling. In comparison, she encounters many men and women who are illiterate, and that many more who know how to read but have never discovered the joy of books. A large portion of Elizabeth’s vision for the future of The Gamble Institute is providing exposure to art and literature, so the reentry population can realize that “their brains actually work and are valued.”

The Gamble Institute

Currently, the Gamble Institute operates three programs: Super Tuesdays, Rollin’ Reintegration, and The Leadership Team.


Super Tuesdays combines technical and soft skills with the Parolee Power Works! Computer Literacy Course and Family Connections, a nonviolent communication training and mentoring program.

Rollin’ Reintegration is an intensive counseling and case management program for parolees.

The Leadership Team is a parolee-led leadership program that focuses on empowerment.

The Gamble Institute is still in its infancy. Elizabeth describes her vision of the Institute to be a more holistic venture. Ideally, the Institute would provide an education component, a knowledge creation aspect (participatory research), a substance abuse program, and a revenue-generating piece that would offer employment opportunities. In the immediate future, The Gamble Institute is looking for one more board member, a financial literacy class leader, and people to help with job preparation skills. If you or someone you know are interested in helping expand the reach of The Gamble Institute, please contact Elizabeth here.

Elizabeth’s experiences stand as a shining example of the outcomes the Athenian mission statement promises to its students: “The Athenian School prepares students for the rigorous expectations of college and for a life of purpose and personal fulfillment. Athenian goes far beyond excellent college preparation by inspiring students to become life-long learners and confident, successful adults. Students at Athenian develop a deep understanding of themselves, extraordinary skills for achievement, and the compassion to make a positive difference in the world.” Elizabeth admits to being prepared for college and has proved herself a life-long learner as well as a successful adult. Her ease with others reflects her own self-understanding, and her compassion has shaped her every action. Clearly, Elizabeth is living a life of both purpose and personal fulfillment and we are lucky to have her as a part of our Athenian community.

Connect with Elizabeth Marlow on LinkedIn here.
If you’d like to learn more about The Gamble Institute, click here.

Photos from