Ms. Clayton has been the principal at Hilldale since 2007 and has guided its growth as it more than tripled in enrollment and evolved into a school focused to support the gifted learner in all capacities. Coming from a background in theatre and education, Ms. Clayton delights in working with children in creative ways, fostering their imaginations, and building their self-confidence. She is gratified by the remarkable achievements of her students as they grow into the best versions of themselves, learning to practice self-regulation, kindness, service, and integrity. Social-emotional learning and supporting the various needs of the gifted learner are her passions. She holds an MAT in Teaching and a BFA in Theatre. She has taught children as young as 2 years old in her work in Early Childhood and as wise as 85 years old in her work guiding and directing senior citizens writing one-person plays.
Ariel Alvarado was born in Querétaro, México where he studied at the Centenaria y Benemérita Escuela Normal del Estado de Querétaro. He moved to the United States in 2003. Ever since he remembers, he’s wanted to be a teacher. He credits his own teachers for his passion to teach. He is thrilled to be a part of the Hilldale faculty.
Ms. Donna Bacolod
Middle School Science Teacher
Dr. Donna Bacolod holds a Doctorate in Educational Management, two Masters Degrees – the first an MAT in Biology Education and the second an MA in School Leadership and Instruction. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in General Science as well as a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education. Dr. Bacolod’s teaching credential rounds out her impressive resume. She has taught science for 14 years at the elementary, middle school, high school, and tertiary levels. Classes she has taught include Biology, Ecology, Chemistry, Physics, Electronics, Cytology, Research, and more. Dr. Bacolod ran several Science Clubs and participated in contests for science teachers. She has just moved from the Philippines and is excited to be in the Bay Area.
Ms. D’Arcy Bertrand
Fourth Grade Teacher
Ms. Bertrand is excited to be returning to the Hilldale School community as the Fourth Grade teacher. She taught Grades 1-3 at Urban Montessori Charter School. She is a 5th generation Bay Area native and has been involved with working with children for over 15 years. She loves teaching and also loves to learn something new as well as revisit many existing interests. Some of those interests include gardening, puzzling tabletop games, kayaking, hiking, camping, music, and making art. She also loves her pet cat, Dragon, and her leopard gecko, Storm, the Fourth Grade class pet!
Mr. Erik Boice
Mr. Boice, Operations Manager, was hired in August 2014. Mr. Boice assists in the development of curriculum, oversees the financial aid program, coordinates the school marketing, helps to oversee and develop the facilities, and interacts with staff and administrators concerning staffing and student issues including hiring. He also acts as the lead in communication with parents as needed and is a liaison to the Pinnacle Schools management. He has a B.A. in Theater Performance and Video Production from Pitzer College and an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from Sacramento State College. Before moving to California he worked for many years as a restaurant manager in Utah and Oklahoma.
Mrs. Nicole Burleson
First Grade Teacher
Mrs. Burleson joined the Hilldale Family as a TK Teacher in the Spring of 2019 and over the years and has taught Kindergarten, First Grade, and Fourth Grade as well. She is currently a Third Grade Teacher. She has had a passion for teaching since she was a little girl. She studied History at SF State and UC Santa Cruz to pursue the path of obtaining a single subject credential. Her plan was adjusted due to having children and her desire to stay home as much as possible. She became a working/stay home mom, working part-time at a swim school and at home as an assistant to an online store. Now that her children are older, she is excited to pursue her dream again. Over the years, she has found a new love for early education. She is thrilled to help shape our children’s minds and hearts to become learners, thinkers, and kind human beings.
During her free time, she enjoys being outdoors with her children, hiking, and spending time at the beach. She loves to move, and you won’t see her sitting for very long unless she has found a book she cannot put down.
Ms. Raquel Castro
Mrs. Raquel Castro has been part of the Hilldale School community for over a decade in a variety of capacities. She started out as an after school staffer and continued through the years as a substitute teacher. Mrs. Castro holds a B.A. in Music Education from Mills College and has taught elementary school music at several schools in the Bay Area. She started her teaching career as a volunteer with a program called Music for Minors (MFM) and six months later was hired as one of their permanent teachers. She has worked with MFM teaching up and down the peninsula making music accessible to students who might not otherwise receive a music education. Mrs. Castro is thrilled to bring her passion for music to Hilldale, and the school is delighted to have her as the Music Teacher for K-8th Graders. She brings joy, knowledge, and creativity to her musical teachings. Mrs. Castro is full of ideas for how to celebrate the musicianship of the students while forwarding their education and providing opportunities for performance. Her hope is to leave every student she teaches with a song in their heart.
Mrs. Tina Choi
Extended Care Teacher
After receiving her Computer Science degree, Tina Choi had worked for Chevron Corporation as an office assistant for seven years. She then got married and had two children. Mrs. Choi discovered her passion of working in Children’s Ministry at Sharon Chinese Baptist Church and has worked for their afterschool program for 18 years as a director/teacher. Working with children has always been her pride and joy. She believes that teaching children right in their elementary foundations, morality, and responsibility are essential and crucial in their early development. All children can succeed in school with proper help and guidance.
Miss Miranda Daniels
Drama Teacher & Tutor
Ms. Daniels is excited to be a part of the Hilldale family. Having relocated to the Bay Area all the way from Nebraska where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from Wayne State College, Ms. Daniels served as the Fifth Grade Teacher at Hilldale for two years. Ms. Daniels, beloved by all of her students, loves teaching and working with children and has fun and creative ways to inspire them. She is all about hands-learning and celebrating everything that makes each child unique and wonderful. When she isn’t in the classroom she enjoys painting, crafting, and going to plays and musicals!
Mr. Michael Dela Cruz
Extended Care Manager & Physical Education Teacher
Mike Dela Cruz, or Mr. DLC, is the Technology and Physical Education teacher at Hilldale School. He also supports the school buy aiding our lower school teachers. Originally from Manila, Philippines, he graduated from San Francisco State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Radio and Television Production. He started working at Hilldale School in 2008 and before arriving at Hilldale, he worked in the retail industry and interned with KRON-TV Channel 4 for the “Bay Area Backroads” television show. His first education job was working as an aide with the San Francisco Unified School District. He joined the Hilldale School family as an after-school staffer in 2008. In 2010 he became the Kindergarten and Upper School Aide. An avid sports fan, Mr. DLC closely follows the San Francisco Giants, 49ers, the Golden State Warriors, and the US Men’s National soccer team. He loves movies and he loves producing short videos. An avid traveler and movie buff, he strongly believes that the playground is an extension of the classroom, and the experiences and cultures we experience in our lives are excellent teaching tools to use.
Mr. Casey Dyson
Middle School Humanities Teacher
Born in Hawaii, Casey Dyson first whetted his appetite for teaching while obtaining a B.A. in Sociology with a Spanish minor at the University of San Diego. During his four years at USD, Mr. Dyson traveled to Ghana, Africa to teach Third Grade English, Math, and Science for a summer before working the following year as a volunteer teacher in a Juvenile Hall. Upon graduating Cum Laude, Mr. Dyson spent a year teaching English in South Korea. After another summer of teaching, this time in Chengdu, China, he began studies that culminated in obtaining an M.A. in Cultural Studies from Claremont Graduate University. Mr. Dyson previously taught Third and Fourth Grade at Hilldale. Between stints at Hilldale, he taught Middle School Humanities in Los Angeles, the same level he currently teaches at Hilldale. He supplements teaching with activities that include writing, surfing, golfing, playing basketball and duplicate bridge.
Mr. Michael Espina
Middle School Math Teacher
Michael Espina is a devoted mathematics teacher with over six years of experience teaching elementary to college-level students. From Algebra lessons to Calculus tests to Statistics quizzes, he helps his students achieve academic success while emphasizing the importance of Mathematics in everyday life. Indeed, he can share many examples, having worked all over the world, including Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, after gaining a bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Communications Engineering and Masters’ degrees in Business Administration and completing two years of coursework in Quantitative Marketing. His wealth of experience and deep understanding of a wide range of Mathematics subjects go hand in hand with his love of teaching. He is looking forward to joining the Hilldale School faculty as a middle school math teacher and intends to be involved in school and community activities from day one. When Mike isn’t in the classroom, he might be found in the kitchen. As well as cooking, he enjoys reading, exploring new places, and learning about culture and architecture.
Mrs. Arlene Fong
Mrs. Fong has a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies and a Minor in Business Administration from San Francisco State University, which is where she also earned a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential and a Certificate in E-Learning Design and Development. She also has a Certificate in Child Development from City College of San Francisco. Prior to joining Hilldale, she was an afterschool teacher for Sharon Chinese Baptist Church for fourteen years, and prior to that, she was a second grade teacher at Cornerstone Academy in San Francisco for eight years. Having worked with children for over thirty years, Mrs. Fong hopes to engender a life-long love for learning in all of her students.
Ms. Meredith Galvin
Ms. Galvin joined the staff at Hilldale in 2021, but has been a member of the Hilldale parent community since 2011. Ms. Galvin taught high school dance and drama for 18 years and most recently served as Dean of Student Life and Assistant Head of School at Compass High School in San Mateo. Ms. Galvin has extensive experience supporting and working with students, parents, and teachers in the gifted, twice-exceptional, and neurodiversity community and frequently continues her education through conferences and workshops via Learning and the Brain, SENG (Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted), Bright & Quirky, and more.
Ms. Maggie Gori
Fifth Grade Teacher
“Hi I’m Ms. Gori! I come from a long line of educators and inevitably found my path leading to the same place! I grew up in Houston as a first generation American to a large Mediterranean family. After receiving my undergraduate degree in Austin, TX, I went on to get my masters in Geneva, Switzerland, and have since spent the majority of my career working in the nonprofit and education sectors. Writing, and any form of expressing oneself – through words, the arts, or movement, is something that is strongly promoted in my classes. I have a Yoga and Meditation teaching certification and incorporate mindfulness practices into the daily curriculum. When we practice yoga or do a small meditation, I find that it hits the reset button for many of my students. My classroom culture reflects a sense of community, is filled with vibrant discussions, and lots of fun! When not teaching, I enjoy spending time with friends and family, being outside, and going to concerts.”
Mrs. Olga Kleytman
Ms. Dorothy Lee
First Grade Teacher
Mr. Garson Lee
Garson Lee is the Office Manager of Hilldale School. He graduated with a Liberal Studies degree from San Francisco State University. Before coming to Hilldale in September 2012, he worked in the San Francisco Unified School District for eight years; five years as a Resource Specialist Paraprofessional and three years as a Technology Paraprofessional. He also worked concurrently for fifteen years as an after school program leader and backup site coordinator for one of the largest elementary level after school programs in San Francisco with the Sunset Neighborhood Beacon Center. He has taught quite a number of uniquely entertaining programs to elementary and middle school students. During his tenure at Hilldale School, he has moved from being the Extended Care Director and Administration Assistant to being the Office Manager. Mr. Lee believes in emphasizes the development of the whole child on intellectual, emotional, and interpersonal levels, placing greater value on their maturation as an individual.
Miss Donna Manuel
Ms. Donna Manuel has served as an after school teacher, a Teacher Assistant, and a Second Grade Teacher at Hilldale. She has been at Hilldale since the Fall of 2016. Ms. Manuel holds a Teaching Credential and a B.A in Child and Adolescent Development with a concentration in School Age Child and Family with a minor in Education from San Francisco State University. She previously worked at a summer camp, volunteered at preschools, and at Reading Partners. She loves working with children, especially creating fun activities for them! During her free time, she enjoys reading, baking sweet treats, gardening, doing arts and crafts, and playing with her two dogs and two hamsters.
Mr. Bernardo Marquez
Industrial Designer with a Master Degree in Telecommunications with over 10 years experience in IT Support , as well as in Graphic Design, Web Design and Human – Computer Interaction.
Since 2008, He’s been supporting a wide variety of companies throughout the San Francisco Bay Area as On-call IT Support Contractor.
Mr. Marquez came to Hilldale School in December 2013 and since then has been supporting the IT needs of the school.
Mr. Eric O’Connell
Visual Paradigm supports The Hilldale School with the use of web based UML software, BPMN software, flowchart software and agile story mapping tools, under the Academic Partnership
Ms. Sarah Pereira
Second Grade Teacher
Mrs. Sandy Powers
Ms. Gayle Quan
Third Grade Teacher
Miss Eliana Salmeron-Carr
Extended Care Teacher
Ms. Gigi Sanchez
Gigi Sanchez graduated with honors from San Francisco State University and pursued a credential program to teach. Prior to Hilldale, Ms. Sanchez taught in High School, Pre-K, 4th grade, and 5th grade. She loves working with all age ranges; however she absolutely enjoys teaching lower grades and knows the importance of cultivating curiosity and a love for learning.
Ms. Sanchez was born in Caracas Venezuela, but also grew up in New York. Her family had to move often, which resulted in changing schools quite a bit, sometimes in the middle of the school year.
“It exposed me to a lot of teachers, and I learned how some provided a safe place for a child like me to thrive and learn, but some did not.”
She became inspired to go into education herself to create the welcoming, safe, and diverse cultural-rich environment she knows all students need. She wants her students to feel excited to come to school as they anticipate the lessons and activities for the day.
Mr. Jeff Sittner
Operations Manager – Utah
Jeff Sittner is the Operations Manager for the Salt Lake City business office, which has him involved with creating registration forms, budgeting, account management, and much more. Jeff’s background includes experience in sourcing, logistics, warehouse production, and office management. Jeff is currently pursuing an accounting degree and as a single dad, he is excited to watch his daughter also progress through college. Jeff’s hobbies include playing golf and a variety of games, following along with technological and archaeological discoveries, and writing fiction.
Mr. John Sittner, Owner, has a B.S. in Biology and Psychology from Baylor University and did graduate studies at the University of Utah. He also has a real estate broker’s license in Utah and California. A life-long entrepreneur, Mr. Sittner founded Ethos Investments in 1980 and Ancestry Inc., also known at Ancestry.com, in 1983. He and Mrs. Sittner founded Pinnacle Schools in 2003. Mr. Sittner also provided the vision and leadership for Salt Lake City’s preparation for the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympics. Mr. Sittner is the Business Manager for the schools, which includes oversight of the long-term planning, financial, facility, payroll, and marketing needs of the schools. All major financial decisions rely on his approval. He is also involved in policy making for employees, students, and parents, as well as promotional activities and limited tech support.
Director of Curriculum
Mrs. Kathi Sittner, Owner, acts as our curriculum coordinator and personnel manager, and she works behind the scenes with the principals and directors of Pinnacle Schools as a general superintendent of schools. She received her B.A. in German, a Minor in French, and her Master of Arts in Teaching from Beloit College in Wisconsin and taught German in grades 7-12. She also received a national certification as a piano teacher from the American College of Musicians and is a member of the National Guild of Piano Teachers, the Music Teachers National Association, and the Utah Music Teachers Association. Mrs. Sittner has lived in Germany and has traveled extensively throughout the world. She worked for many years as a professional genealogist and a published writer for genealogical magazines; she also taught piano lessons for fifteen years. She was involved in the Utah public and private school systems for many years and has done much research in gifted education, successful school techniques, and the best curricula in the various subjects. Mrs. Sittner believes in the wisdom of early childhood education, including instruction in languages, music, and general education. She also believes passionately in creating a superior education for her students, including making gifted teaching methodologies available to all capable and motivated students. Under her guidance, along with the excellent leadership of principal Sasha Clayton, Hilldale was transformed into the high-performing school it is today, and Hilldale’s students and teachers are truly “rising to the challenge!”
Ms. Julabien Suitos
Ms. Julabien Suitos received a Bachelor of Science from San Francisco State University. She studied Health Education with an emphasis on community-based public health. She volunteers for an after-school program and teaches second and third graders Filipino and Filipino American studies. She has a background in ABA therapy and experience as a behavior technician. Her favorite part of working with kids is seeing the growth of each student as they step into themselves and learn how to navigate the world confidently just as they are. Just as she loves to see the kids grow, Ms. Suitos has a green thumb and is a plant mom. They are a reminder to her that each day with love and attention, we are all growing and thriving. She loves to connect further with nature by going to the beach and going on hikes with family and friends. Her favorite place to enjoy walks through nature is Strawberry Hill in Golden Gate Park. She enjoys reading while snuggling up with her fur babies when it is time to unwind. Ms. Suitos takes any opportunity to find joy in what she is doing and is excited to become a nurturing and encouraging presence at Hilldale.
Mrs. Kimberly Valladares
Sixth Grade Teacher
Mr. Keith Willson