Comings and Goings for the Upcoming 2015-2016 School Year

Now that school is out and the Class of 2015 has graduated, things have quieted down a bit on campus. Before I take off for some rest and relaxation on the east coast, I wanted to take the time to wish you all a restful, stimulating summer break. I also wanted to acknowledge the members of our faculty and staff who will not be returning next year, as well as introduce the new members of the community who will be joining us for the 2015-2016 school year.

Best Wishes to John Hicks on His Retirement

John Hicks

In April we let you know that John Hicks, a beloved member of our community since 1978, had announced plans to retire at the close of the 2015-2016 school year. John has touched many throughout his 37 years among us and he will be sincerely missed.

While here, John opened his heart to us every day with his laughter and his unbounded curiosity about teaching and learning. John’s passion for science was reflected in each lesson he taught and this love transferred directly to his students in each and every interaction he had with them.

In addition to his time on land and in the classroom, we all know he spends the other part of his life below the surface. We all know that he has done scuba outings forever, that he is, in fact, scuba at MA. He literally takes students, faculty, and parents by the hand and teaches them to move, to breathe, and to see in a different environment. To me, this is what a master teacher does. And John does so with an artist’s eye. Submerged, floating in water, through more than one lens, he uses his camera to capture wonder, color, nuance, another way of being, and he brings it to the surface for us to see, a gift, an offering of sorts, an invitation to join him where he loves to be.

John, thank you for your artist’s eye, for inviting us on your journey, for sharing your spirit and laughter with us, for devoting your heart and soul to MA.

We wish John, his wife Karen, and their kids, Alicia ’01 and Tom ’04, all the best as this is sure to be an exciting new chapter for the whole Hicks family.

If you’re interested in sharing a favorite memory, photo or video of John, I encourage you to visit the tumblr we’ve created in his honor, which can be viewed at:


I’d also like to acknowledge several other members of our faculty and staff who will be moving onto new opportunities. Thank you for your service to MA and we wish you the best as you embark upon your next endeavors.

Steve Bayes, Science Teacher

Amy Clausen, Librarian

Sue Crowther, Admissions Associate

Mike Fargo, History Teacher

Julie Feldman, Music Teacher

Connie Goldsmith, Associate Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Coordinator

Nicole Jensen, Science Teacher

John Svitak, Science Teacher

Lisa Tsubouchi, Crossroads Program Coordinator

Jiazhen Zhang, Math Teacher


As we look ahead to the 2015-2016 school year, I am so pleased to announce the addition of several new faculty and staff members to the MA community. You’ll get a chance to meet everyone once school resumes in the fall but I wanted to give you a preview below.

Tania Bettis will join the science department as a biology teacher and as one of the two coordinators of the Marin Academy Research Collaborative. Tania received her B.S. in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavioral Sciences (with a minor in Latin) from UC Davis in 2000 and her PhD in Psychology from UC Berkeley in 2011. Tania joins us from UC Berkeley, where she spent three years as the lab coordinator and developer for the introductory biology course. In that role, she designed new labs and worked with students to help them develop their own research projects. This summer, Tania is leading a workshop for other biology laboratory educators on a primate phylogeny lab, which she developed. Tania loves teaching, and she is excited to join the Marin Academy community. She and her husband live in Pinole with two daughters and a small flock of chickens. In her free time, Tania likes to hike and camp with her family, or train for triathlons.

Nghiem Bui is the new Assistant Director of Admissions. In his role, he will do outreach to prospective schools, support current students and families, help manage the database of incoming applications, and oversee the Admissions Fellows and Daily Visit programs. Nghiem graduated from Boston College with a B.A. in Theology with a focus in social justice and ethics. After graduating, he went on to teach in Chicago Public Schools as part of the Inner-City Teaching Corps where he was a teacher’s assistant, lead teacher and mentor teacher for grades Kindergarten through fourth. Nghiem also has a M.Ed from Northwestern University, where his thesis project explored how technology can bridge the gap between low-income families and student achievement. After getting frostbite during one of the coldest winters in Chicago history, Nghiem moved back to his native San Rafael where he worked as the Alumni and Admissions Coordinator for the educational justice, non-profit organization Next Generation Scholars. As a former student of the program, and being tri-lingual in Spanish, Vietnamese and English, he continues to have close ties to the program’s mission, students and families. Outside of work, Nghiem can be found exploring the Bay Area with his family and friends, watching and playing all types of warm-weather sports, learning about and trying new types of food, and on the dance floor where he’s been known to do a pretty good Bruno Mars impression.

Mary Kay Dolejsi will be joining MA’s science department where she will be teaching Chemistry and Advanced Chemistry. She will also be a sophomore academic counselor. Mary Kay received her B.S. in Biochemistry from Washington State University, and a PhD in Chemistry (with an emphasis in biochemistry) from the University of Oregon. Mary Kay also has a Masters in Teaching from Seattle University. Mary Kay joins us from Bainbridge High School in Bainbridge Island, Washington, where she taught Chemistry and AP Chemistry. She also taught at the University of Puget Sound, and worked at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (FHCRC) in the Biotech Shared Resource Lab, which provided automated chemistry synthesis of DNA and small protein segments, and genetic analysis for FHCRC researchers. Mary Kay is moving to Marin with her husband, Chris, who will be working at BioMarin. Mary Kay and Chris have two grown sons, Bill and Brad, and they like to hike, garden, cook, and read. She is looking forward to exploring the Bay Area and getting to know her new community.

Lane Fischman is also joining the science department this fall. Lane will be teaching Conceptual Physics, acting as the faculty advisor to the Jew Crew, and serving as a sophomore academic counselor. Lane received a B.S. in Physics (with an emphasis on Physics Teacher education) from Illinois State University and a M.S. in Science Education from Montana State University – Bozeman. His research focused on using Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory as a basis for differentiation in a ninth grade physics classroom. Lane has taught physics at Antioch Community High School in Antioch, IL, and, most recently, at The Archer School for Girls in Los Angeles. Lane was born and raised in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, and he loves the outdoors: camping, skiing, hiking, and scuba diving. Prior to recent knee injuries, Lane took up running and ran three different half marathons in 2014. He is looking forward to moving to the Bay Area with his wife Allie, and their two dogs Maggie and Nigel. Lane is a proud lover of gaming and all things nerdy.

We are thrilled that Karen Jacobsen is returning to Marin Academy to serve as Registrar and Academic Program Coordinator, a position she held from 2007 thru 2011. For the last four years, she was Assistant to the Head of School at Mark Day School. Karen studied film at the University of Iowa and Spanish at Universidad de los Andes in Venezuela. She worked in the film industry in Los Angeles before moving to the Bay Area. Karen lives in San Rafael with her son and daughter and her spoiled dog, Ringo. She enjoys independent cinema, running the dog on the beach, boogie boarding, and perusing food blogs.

Francesca Johnson will be MA’s inaugural Human Resources Manager, and we will welcome her to campus in mid-July. Francesca was born and raised in Marin county, and attended Marin Catholic. She now lives in Corte Madera with her husband, Jeff; her three children, Alex, Kyle, and Amanda; and her two dogs and two cats. Francesca graduated from Cal State Sacramento with a degree in Business, and has worked for American Express and General Electric in Account Management, Reporting, and Training. Seven years ago, she moved into Human Resources, working at a local advertising company in Sausalito.Outside of work, Francesca is an avid trail runner and she has participated in many races, including Escape from Alcatraz. Her goal is to run a marathon one day! Francesca speaks Spanish fluently, loves cooking, and enjoys spending time with her family.  She is thrilled to be joining the MA community.

Rachel Kernodle will be joining the math department this fall. She will be teaching Geometry, Algebra II, and Precalculus, and she will also be a sophomore academic counselor. Rachel received her B.S. from Vanderbilt University in Secondary Education and Mathematics, and her M.Ed. from Vanderbilt University in Curriculum and Instructional Leadership. Rachel began her teaching career at Flint Hill School in Oakton, Virginia, where in addition to teaching math, she coached the JV softball team. She eventually returned home to Tennessee to teach at her alma mater, Brentwood High School, where she taught Advanced Algebra, Trigonometry, and Algebra I, and served as faculty sponsor to the feminist club. Outside of school, Rachel enjoys connecting with other math teachers online, reading on the couch with her cat, Gatsby, taking long walks in search of four-leaf clovers, and road tripping in the summer with friends. Rachel is excited about living on the west coast.

Starting July 1, Evie Koh will transition from Registrar to Senior Associate Director of Admissions. Although Evie is known throughout our community for the great work she does with the academic team, she has also exhibited entrepreneurial work in admissions and outreach with Juilliard, has an excellent track-record with data and strategy, and has demonstrated her value as an insightful and creative collaborator, making her a perfect fit for this new role. In addition to Evie’s invaluable knowledge of all things MA, she has an amazing ability to connect with students and families. The admissions office is eager to have Evie joining their team!

Marin Academy is excited to welcome Stori Oates into the Science Department. Stori will be teaching Chemistry and AP Environmental Science (APES), helping to coordinate the Marin Academy Research Collaborative, and serving as a freshman advisor. Stori received her B.S. in Biology (with a minor in Environmental Studies) and a M.S. in Marine Science from Moss Landing Marine Laboratories and San Jose State University. She taught General Biology and Human Biology at Hartnell College in Salinas, and she has also served as a long-term substitute teacher here at MA, teaching courses including Anatomy & Physiology, AP Environmental Science, Biology, and Chemistry. Stori maintains ties with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center, responding to oil spill events, and she currently collaborates with researchers from the One Health Institute at the U.C. Davis School of Veterinary Medicine to investigate health and disease of marine species throughout California. Stori lives in Fairfax with her husband, history teacher Bill Meyer, where they have a tripod dog, three cats, five tortoises, and a gecko. She has great stories to tell about the sea otters she has come across in her research.

Joining the history department this year is Kacey Schneider, who is moving to the Bay Area from Massachusetts. Kacey graduated Magna Cum Laude from Skidmore College with a B.A. in American Studies and a double minor in Dance and Exercise Science. Kacey worked as a surf instructor and hostel manager in Playa Grande, Costa Rica for a year before she accepted a teaching position at the HomeSchool Beach Academy, where she taught world history and Costa Rican history at all levels from kindergarten through 11th grade. After three years in Costa Rica, Kacey moved to Groton, Massachusetts to teach at Lawrence Academy. There, she taught history, modern dance, and coached the boys and girls varsity cross country teams as well as the junior varsity girls ice hockey team. Kacey comes from a hockey-loving family and loves the Bruins and other Boston sports teams. At MA, Kacey will teach Modern World History I and II, working with the Model United Nations group, advising freshman, and serving as the girls varsity cross country coach. Kacey is excited to be living in a place without snow and cannot wait to enjoy all of the sun and warmth that the west coast has to offer her. In addition to dancing and surfing, Kacey also enjoys yoga, running, and scuba diving.

New Academic Dean KaTrina Wentzel begins her work at MA on July 1. KaTrina received her B.A. in English from the women’s college, College of St. Catherine, and an M.Ed in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Minnesota. Before coming to MA, she was the Director of Studies at Mounds Park Academy (MPA) in Saint Paul, MN. During her tenure at MPA, she also served as Diversity Coordinator and taught in the English department including English 9, senior electives, and yearbook. Before her 14-year tenure at MPA, KaTrina was a teacher and curriculum coordinator for St. Paul Public Schools and worked for Free Spirit Publishing in acquisitions and editorial. At Marin Academy, KaTrina will be teaching Sci-Fi and the Politics of Imagination and Film and Literature, two junior/senior English electives. Being a Midwest native new to California, she is looking forward to reading outside during all seasons, no longer needing an ice scraper, and discovering the hiking trails that abound in Marin.


About Travis

Head of School, Marin Academy.
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