Welcome to New Faculty and Staff!


Every year a new crop of faculty and staff join our community.  We are thrilled to welcome this bunch to Athenian!

Pictured above (from left to right): Lauren Railey, Jenny Staller, Mary Shaver, Kyle Ennis, Lalitha Kameswaran, Micole Schwantes, Alex Rosenboom, Don Paige, Leslie Lucas, Sanjev deSilva, Robyn Matzen, Andrea Cartwright, Elizabeth Newey, Stephanie Robles, and Jane Son.


Andrea Cartwright, US Faculty – Humanities

Andrea grew up in Danville, and left the bay area to attend UC San Diego.  She discovered her passion for education while working as a substitute teacher.  Her teaching credential is from Chapman has an MA in Education from Brandman University. Most recently, she taught English at Presentation High School in San Jose.  There, she embraced technology in the classroom by piloting their 1:1 program and earned a certificate in digital education from Fresno Pacific University.  Beyond the classroom, you can find Andrea on a running trail or in the kitchen, cooking up some tasty vegan treats.


Sanjev deSilva, US Faculty – Humanities

Sanjev brings over 15 years of expe­ri­ence in education, youth devel­op­ment, and com­mu­nity ser­vice to The Athenian School.  His life’s mis­sion is to empower young peo­ple to be lead­ers and to cre­ate pro­gres­sive change in their com­mu­ni­ties.  Sanjev has a BA from San Francisco State University in International Relations and a minor in Ethnic Studies.  Sanjev’s broad array of experience includes serving as a counselor, resource specialist and camp director for Project Avary’s summer camp for children of incarcerated parents; as an after school instructor/coordinator and mental health resource specialist at Oakland public schools; and in Sri Lanka as a program director for Books for Asia. Sanjev comes to us most recently from The Mosaic Project where he was the Director of Youth Leadership.

Sanjev is also an accom­plished Hip-hop/Reggae artist. His music is another tool for cre­at­ing pro­gres­sive change and is a reflection of his work in the education field.


Kyle Ennis, Live-in Residential Faculty

Kyle is an Athenian Middle School alumni.  Kyle majored in Western Philosophy at University of Durham in England.  He then worked at Prism Designs and is familiar with CAD design.  Kyle is passionate about 3D printing and is prototyping Möbius Chess, which will be printed soon.

Kyle’s hobbies include playing pool, chess, lacrosse, and multiplayer strategy video games; writing comedy novels; and playing drums.  He is interested in returning to college to pursue a Master’s in Philosophy. Kyle says his thesis idea is “’On the Applications of a Voxel Based Internet Browser,’ which will combine programming, psychology, and architecture to demonstrate how a three-dimensional web-browser can be used as a social, economic, cultural, scientific, and especially educational medium.”


Lalitha Kameswaran, US Faculty – Math

Lalitha began her professional career as an engineer, researcher, and software developer in India and in the U.S.  She has a BA in Engineering from Bharathiar University and an MA in Computer Science from Chochin University, both in India.  After many years in the engineering world, Lalitha discovered a love for teaching and earned her MA in Teaching from University of San Francisco in 2013.  Lalitha has taught math at private, public, and International Baccalaureate programs.  Lalitha believes strongly in applying mathematical concepts to real-world problems and is excited to join the Athenian learning community.

Lalitha’s hobbies and interests include cooking healthy meals for her family, gardening, traveling and watching sports.


Leslie Lucas, Chief Operating Officer

Leslie is an accomplished finance and operations executive with over 25 years of experience, primarily in the high technology industry. For the past 12 years, she has worked in small to mid-size venture-backed software companies responsible for a wide range of functions.  In these roles, Leslie has quickly adapted to each new environment and developed lasting relationships with the Board, the CEO and management team, and many other employees throughout the company. She especially enjoys juggling a variety of responsibilities that are both tactical and strategic in nature.

Leslie graduated from Stanford University with a BA in Economics. She earned her CPA (no longer active) while working for Peat Marwick, now KPMG, in San Francisco for 5 years, then joined Oracle Corporation when US revenues were ~$500 million.

Leslie is married to Craig Lucas, a roofing estimator, with whom she has a 4th-grade son, Jack. Leslie, whose father was a career naval officer, moved frequently growing up and spent many years on both coasts of the country. As an adult, Leslie has traveled extensively for both work and pleasure. She enjoys boating, scuba diving and cooking.


Robyn Matzen, Assistant to the Office of the Head of Upper School

Robyn began teaching 7th and 8th-grade language arts and social studies in 2008. In addition to teaching, Robyn was a middle school advisor and oversaw 8th-grade fundraising efforts and the high school application process at Beacon Day School.  Robyn was the Dean of Students and middle school social studies teacher at Archway School from 2013-2015. Robyn holds a Master’s degree in educational leadership from Cal State East Bay and a Bachelor’s degree in communications with a minor in psychology from Saint Mary’s College of California where she has also completed her multi-subject teaching credential coursework.

In her spare time, Robyn enjoys chasing after her 1-year-old and spending quality time with her friends and family. When she needs some peace and quiet, she enjoys reading novels and painting watercolors.


Elizabeth Newey, Advancement Associate

Elizabeth Newey is an Athenian Alumna, class of 2011.  In her time at Athenian, she enjoyed being part of the Dance Team, studying abroad through Round Square, and teaching sophomore health with other senior leaders.  She attended Pitzer College and obtained her B.A. in Political Studies with Honors, studied abroad in Turkey, and worked as an au pair in rural Western Australia.  Along with her studies, she spent four years working in the Advancement office at Pitzer College.  She is excited to bring some more alumni spirit to the Advancement Office, and contribute to the success of Athenian in a new way.

Elizabeth is an animal enthusiast with a special fondness for dogs.  She loves to hike in the Bay Area and enjoys cooking and reading. 


Don Paige, Director of Residential Program and Dorm Head

Don is joining Athenian as Director of Residence Life after 16 years of teaching history and humanities in independent schools.  The last six of those years were spent at the College Preparatory School, where he also coordinated the freshmen advising program and coached girls’ basketball. Prior to College Prep, Don worked for a decade at The Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida, where he taught history, coached basketball, and directed the summer camp programs. Don has a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education from the University of Georgia and another Master’s Degree in United States History from the University of North Florida.  The James Madison Fellowship named Don as a junior fellow in 1999, allowing him to study the early Constitutional Period at Georgetown.

Don will be joined on campus by his wife of 13 years, Mandy Paige, and two children.    His family enjoys cooking all types of food, from smoking meat to baking muffins, and there will be a steady stream of delicious smells wafting from his apartment.  Finally, the Paiges are avid baseball fans.


Lauren Railey, Middle School Head

Lauren is a committed educator with over 16 years of teaching experience in the Bay Area. She has taught at Town School, Mark Day School, and, for the past 12 years, Head Royce School. Her experience in the classroom ranges from first to ninth grade and includes middle school science and English. Her passion, however, is middle school history, where she enjoys bringing history to life through simulations, role-plays, and debates. Lauren has served as both eighth-grade dean and history department chair (grades 6-12) at Head Royce School. Her teaching and leadership responsibilities have afforded her the opportunity to engage deeply with middle school students, their parents, and with talented colleagues to pursue her vision of student-centered education in a rigorous K-12 environment.

Lauren majored in political science and Italian at Middlebury College and earned her Master of Arts in Teaching degree at Brown University, where she studied with professors aligned with Ted Sizer and the Coalition of Essential Schools. Sizer’s emphasis on experiential and project-based learning, as well as social justice and equity, heavily influenced her beliefs about teaching and learning. Lauren sees herself as a life-long learner and frequently takes advantage of local and national professional development opportunities.

Lauren is married to fellow educator Ben Ladue, with whom she has two daughters, Luciana and Alessandra. Originally from Colorado, she enjoys skiing, running, swimming, and exploring the Bay Area with her family.


Stephanie Robles, US Faculty – Science

Stephanie attended U.C. Davis where she received a B.S. in Animal Biology and an M.S. in Avian Science. Stephanie’s research work focused on animal welfare, particularly meat and egg chicken welfare.  While doing earning her degree, Stephanie co-taught undergraduate classes and decided to go back to school to earn an MA in Secondary Science Education from the University of Connecticut. Stephanie is joining us from a public school in Milford, CT.

Stephanie and her husband are excited to be relocating back to California and is eager to teach Biology and the new Anatomy and Physiology classes.


Alexandra Mattraw Rosenboom, US Faculty – Humanities

Fourth-generation from Morgan Hill, California, Alexandra has been teaching for nearly two decades.  She studied literature at UCLA, University of Chicago, and University of San Francisco and holds a BA in English, an MA in Humanities, and an MFA in Poetry.  She cut her teaching teeth at Marva Collins Preparatory in Chicago’s South Side and then developed her deep love of high school teaching during her thirteen-year tenure at The Harker School in San Jose.  While teaching high school, Alexandra has relished her work with sophomores and seniors in courses such as AP English and British Literature as well as courses she designed, such as 19th Century American Women Writers, 20th Century American Poetry, and 20th Century American Drama.

A musician as well as a published poet and critic, Alex is also a mother of two children and lives with her husband in Oakland where she and her family enjoy hiking, camping, curating art events, and acquiring vintage wares to complement their 1890s Victorian home.


Micole Schwantes, MS Faculty – Math

Micole is a third generation Californian and has lived in both the Bay Area and Southland.  She attended UC Irvine as an undergrad and later earned her Math Credential at Cal State Northridge.

Micole has taught in LA County and Orange County before moving to Australia with her husband where she earned her Master’s in Education at Southern Cross University.  After a few years at home with her three kids, Micole returned to the classroom at Charlotte Wood Middle School.

Micole is an avid jogger and has worked her way up to completing a half marathon.  The Schwantes family snowboard and ski in the winter.  She likes to cook, explore art museums, walk her Golden Retriever, and garden.


Mary Shaver, Staff Accountant 

Mary worked her way from up from a receptionist to an accountant by taking night school classes and seminars and taking on additional responsibilities.  She now has over 19 years of accounting experience.

Mary likes to travel when possible, and go bowling, camping, hiking, and walking.  Mary and her husband attended the San Ramon Police Department’s Citizen’s Academy and now volunteer for SRPD.


Jane Son, Live-in Residential Faculty

Jane is an aspiring teacher from Torrance, California. After graduating from University of California, San Diego in 2011 with a BA in International Studies, Jane obtained a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate at UCSD-Extension and taught English in South Korea for three years.

Jane likes to watch TV shows and movies, read mystery novels, do arts and crafts—especially scrapbooking—and travel around the world. Jane is excited to live and work at Athenian.


Jennifer Staller, MS Librarian

Jenny received her B.A. from U.C. Davis, majoring in English and minoring in global religious studies. She then spent a summer earning her publishing credential from NYU and went on to work in the textbook publishing industry before turning her sights to becoming a librarian. She completed her Master’s degree in library science at San Jose State, focusing on youth services. Since then she has worked in Marin County as a public librarian, working primarily in teen services planning programs and encouraging reading among youth grades 6-12. She also worked as the Assistant Librarian at Miller Creek Middle School in Marin County, where she got to explore new ways to get middle schoolers excited about books and the library.

In her spare time, Jenny volunteers at the California Academy of Sciences as a docent and she loves exploring San Francisco, where she lives. Of course, reading is one of her primary passions, and she loves nothing more than gushing about her favorite books to anyone who will listen.


Larry Smith, Director of Facilities

Larry comes to us with many years of facilities management experience.  He was most recently the Senior Facilities Manager for Cushman & Wakefield where he was responsible for the World Headquarters of their largest global client, Symantec Corporation.   Larry has experience managing multi-building campus environments and leading large facilities teams and operating budgets.

Larry lives in Danville with his wife, two children, and their Labrador retriever.  In his spare time, he likes spending time at his children’s sporting activities and watching the Oakland A’s.

Trekking Through the Desert…and Liking It?

Published in The Pillar, Athenian’s student newspaper, May 2015

by Sarah Newsham ’15

“Current juniors, going through the monotonous process of buying the proper supplies and preparing themselves both physically and mentally, are starting to build up more doubts and reservations about the need for AWE in a modern schooling environment.”

Backpack Editorial Picture“…Concerned with the challenges that await them in the desert, [some juniors] insist that it is not right for a school to enforce such a physically and emotionally exhausting journey on its students.”

“[A junior] maintains that ‘trekking through a desert and facing the rigors of the elements does not meet the needs of what high schools are supposed to do’.”

These are all quotes from an article in The Pillar published in 2003 called “Athenian Wilderness reExamination: Questions arise as AWE celebrates its silver 25th Anniversary.” When I stumbled upon it in the library, I was struck by the subject and tone of the article. While some of the gripes sounded familiar (“When asked why his time on the course was so distasteful, [a] senior gave a bewildered look and responded, ‘Tell me how walking through a desert with a seventy pound pack and having to wipe your a– with rocks for three weeks is pleasant!?’”), others surprised me.

All of the students interviewed in the article, both those who had gone on AWE and those who hadn’t, as well as the author of the article, seemed to accept AWE as an activity that was loved by some and simply endured by many. In my opinion, the attitude of your average Athenian student today towards AWE has changed drastically since 2003.

The article got me thinking. When I talk to people who know of Athenian but don’t know a lot about the school, they always ask me about “that crazy survival/backpacking/wilderness thing you guys do” (and I’m sure others can relate to this experience). Sometimes their tone is one of awe (especially the adults, I have found), but oftentimes my non-Athenian peers react in horror when I describe the course to them. And I can hardly blame them–it is daunting and incredibly physically and emotionally challenging.

When I came to Athenian in sixth grade, the thought of going on AWE horrified me. However, as the dreaded event got closer, and I saw the seniors who came back gushing about their experiences, and the juniors looking forward to their turn, and the general excitement around the whole thing, I slowly warmed to the idea. By the time grouping came around, I could hardly wait.

In some ways, I attribute my positive experience to the expectations that were set by those who had gone on AWE before me. If I had expected to hate the trip, it definitely would have dampened my experience, and the fact that I was looking forward to it can only have improved it.

Of course, not everyone looks forward to AWE, and not everyone likes it, either. But I am so grateful that the community spirit towards AWE sets future AWE-ers up for a positive experience, and that we give everyone an honest shot at loving it.

Coming this Fall: New Science Classes

Published in The Pillar, Athenian’s student newspaper, May 2015

by Irena Volkov ’16

Starting in the Fall of 2015, Athenian will be offering two new science courses for juniors and seniors: Geology and Anatomy and Physiology.

Geology will be a UC-approved course, encompassing the units of solar system and earth formations, plate tectonics, matter and minerals, volcanoes, geological time, crustal deformation, earthquakes, and earth structure and planetary geology.

Molly Gowen, current Chemistry teacher, initiated the creation of this course and will be teaching the course because of her love for geology and her specialty in volcanology.

“I mentioned that I could teach Geology when I was hired, since that’s what I have my higher degree in; I actually have a masters in geophysics,” Gowen said. “We were talking about adding more classes at the end of last year and I said that I would love to teach it because I have been working on geology in the background.”

Gowen envisions this course having several field trip units, such as the matter and minerals unit as well as the earthquake unit.

“We’re going to go to Berkeley and actually measure the structural deformation in the Cal football stadium,” Gowen said.

Students will be doing projects such as measuring how much a building is being split apart over years due to fault lines.

“A big majority of the class will be outdoors; it’s a class that lends itself to being outdoors,” Gowen said.

Other field trips that will be taking place during this course include a trip to the Sibley Volcanic Preserve in Oakland that will involve a geological hike, and a trip to the side of Mt. Diablo to look at fossil deposits.

“I would also like to take trips to a few research centers,” Gowen said. “I would like the kids to take tours and talk to scientists in the field.”

Although the plans for some field trips are still uncertain, Gowen intends for this course to be very experiential. She has even adopted a new grading system, making the course more feedback-based.

“I’m hoping we can assess without stress,” Gowen said. “Yes, there will be midterms and finals, but the quizzes and tests are more formative to see what you know and be able to update and re-master that knowledge.”

Gowen’s tests and quizzes will not be graded and will be more largely apart of the student’s participation grade so that students can learn how to prepare for the midterm exams.

Because this course is being offered for the first year, it will not have an honors option yet and will only be offered to juniors and seniors who have taken Chemistry in previous years.

Anatomy and Physiology will also be offered as a new science course next year. However, the Science Department is still working on creating an official curriculum and hiring a new teacher for the course.