Meet Our Team
Esther has served as a journalism/English teacher at Palo Alto High School in Palo Alto, CA for the past 27 years. She built the journalism program from a small group of 20 students in 1985 to more than 500 students today. The program has four additional journalism teachers, and eight award-winning journalism electives, including The Campanile newspaper, Verde magazine, PalyVoice online news (earning two Webby Awards in 2005), InFocus broadcast news, and Viking, a sports magazine. Wojcicki was selected by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing as California Teacher of the Year in 2002.
Over the past two decades, Palo Alto High’s publications have won numerous Gold and Silver Crown awards from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association, the PaceMaker Award and Hall of Fame Award from the National Scholastic Press, and Best in Nation distinction from Time Magazine in 2003. Wojcicki is Chair of the Board of Directors of Creative Commons, has received an Honorary Doctorate from Rhode Island School of Design, and serves as President of the Friends of the Lurdes Mutola Foundation to support girls’ education in Mozambique.
Additionally, Wojcicki is a member of the Advisory Board for University of the People, and consults on journalistic learning innovations to Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching as well as the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
A philanthropist, educator, and practitioner of yoga for nearly 40 years, Tara founded Yoga Ed, the nationally recognized yoga-in-schools program. Tara was a founding member of the board of directors of the Accelerated School, an internationally acclaimed K-12 charter public school in South Los Angeles. The Accelerated School housed the pilot program of Yoga Ed’s nationally recognized yoga curriculum for schools, creating a model to export to other public schools. The response to this program from children, teachers, and parents has been exceptional; all have seen marked and measurable improvement in mental focus, academic achievement, and social temperament. Yoga Ed is now the nationally recognized leader of yoga in school curricular programs.
In addition, she served as co-founder and President of the Hollywood-based 501c3, EDUCATION FIRST! Tara continues to support progressive and effective programs that are transforming classroom learning in communities of need.
Tara has authored several curricula and books, including Contact Yoga. In 2012, Peter and Tara Guber became part owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers; in 2011 they became part owners of the Golden State Warriors. Tara and her husband Peter Guber, CEO of Mandalay Entertainment Group, reside in Los Angeles, California.
Ed is a seasoned media professional with 30 years of distinguished work in journalism and entrepreneurship. His notable entree into journalism began as a high school intern at the Washington Post-owned CBS television affiliate in Washington, DC during the height of the Watergate scandal. After graduating from Emerson College at age 22, he was recruited as a founding producer by CNN. His own subsequent companies have provided services for most of the major networks and studios, including CBS, ABC, A&E, Paramount, Disney, and Discovery. Ed contributed to the success of many top-rated series that helped to define the lifestyle/travel television genre, including Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous, A&E Top 10, and Entertainment Tonight.
He is the author of Newsworthy: Cultivating Critical Thinkers, Readers, and Writers in Language Arts Classrooms (2015), published by Teachers College Press – Columbia University. Ed holds a Ph.D. in Communication from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication (2012). As a tenure-track assistant professor at UO, Madison teaches multimedia journalism, media innovation, and digital publishing.
Madison is the founder of the Media Arts Institute, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization committed to inspiring and educating digital learners and future generations of media professionals. He is an Apple Distinguished Educator and an Adobe Education Leader.
For over thirty-five years, Robert Gould has worked with Story, Image, and Media at the intersection of the creative, education, and business sectors as an artist, designer, manager, producer, facilitator, and creative strategist for a variety of entertainment companies and non-profit organizations.
With Founder and President Tara Guber, Robert served as Vice President of EDUCATION FIRST!, a non-profit organization that used the resources of the entertainment industry to address the crisis in American education. The organization placed education-themed programming on four major networks for three years and initiated Adopt–a–School and mentorship programs for all networks, studios, and agencies in Los Angeles. In 2004, Tara and Robert were instrumental in the founding of the Accelerated School, a state of the art K-12 learning academy and the first charter public school in South Central Los Angeles. In 2001 it was recognized as TIME Magazine’s “Elementary School of the Year.” Robert was also instrumental in the creation and implementation of Yoga Ed, the internationally recognized and highly successful inter-curricular yoga-in-schools program founded by Tara Guber, now owned and operated by Brynne Caleda.
Robert is President of Imaginosis Media Design, which provides concept art, art direction, story narrative, themed attraction, and experience design and consultation services to themed entertainment, event, and media companies, and is co-owner of Faerieworlds LLC, an events production company. Robert makes his home in Eugene, Oregon.
Alina was born in Mexico and moved to Washington, DC as a young girl where she became passionate about helping underserved communities in the United States. Alina graduated from the University of Maryland-College Park in 2010, where she managed an advocacy program that improved outcomes for the local disadvantaged Latino community.
Alina joined YES in the fall of 2011 as Director of Development and became YES Scholars’ Executive Director in 2014. Her love of education and children instantly drew her to YES. Alina oversees national programming and operations, ensuring YES’ mission is consistently executed. She is committed to building local and national partnerships with like-minded nonprofits to create an advocacy network. In collaboration, this network of organizations will be able to leverage shared resources and maximize students’ success across America.
Paul B. Kandell earned a master’s in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia and reported for Newsweek before becoming a high school journalism instructor in 1996. In addition to advising two award-winning journalism publications at Palo Alto High School — Verde magazine and The Paly Voice — he serves on the board of the Journalism Education Association of Northern California and has served on the Student Press Law Center’s Advisory Council Steering Committee. The Paly Voice is a five-time winner of the National Scholastic Press Association’s Online Pacemaker Award and one of only two scholastic journalism winners of the Webby Award from the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences. In 2009 he was named a Dow Jones News Fund National Journalism Teacher of the Year and the California Journalism Teacher of the Year.
A frequent presenter at local, state, and national scholastic journalism conventions, Paul has served as co-director of Internet Youth Journalism Advising, an adviser-training program formerly headquartered at San Francisco State University’s Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism, and director of the East Palo Alto Journalism Institute, an educational/internship program designed to help youth leapfrog into scholastic journalism programs and pre-professional media opportunities. The lead writer for the University of California’s model Advanced Journalism curriculum, Paul also is one of the leading writers for 21st CenturyLit.org, an online curriculum for promoting digital, information and citizenship literacy in American high school English classes.
In one form or another, Jordan Tichenor has been working on the core values that JLI represents since he was in high school. Although he’s held a potpourri of jobs and assignments in the last decade, Jordan has always been drawn to journalism education. His own experiences at his high school and community college newspapers left a significant impression on him, which led him to seek opportunities in journalism education when he transferred to the University of Oregon in 2010. Since then, he has worked on numerous journalism education programs along the west coast, primarily in Oregon and California.
Jordan received a bachelor’s degree from the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon in 2014, where he worked for several publications, garnering awards for news writing and graphic design, as well as a Hearst award for work on a long-term exploration of public safety issues in southern Oregon. As a reporter, Jordan has reported on a wide range of topics, including faculty contract negotiations at Mt. Hood Community College, animal care in Lane County, and the rapid expansion of the University of Oregon student population and campus.
Riley Stevenson is a Media Studies graduate student at the University of Oregon, where she also completed her undergraduate degree in journalism in 2014. As an undergraduate she founded the podcast This Oregon Life, and wrote for various student publications, receiving several awards, including a Pacemaker for a story on migrant laborers in Oregon. Riley’s professional journalism career has included positions at Portland Monthly, the Gresham Outlook, and Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Think Out Loud.
Being a Spanish-speaker has driven much of Riley’s writing and professional career. She has reported on immigration issues from Mexico, Spain, and Costa Rica, and has worked for nonprofits in Latin America—primarily as a training director for Amigos de las Americas, an international youth development organization. She has also worked as a teacher in a migrant shelter, a tutor, and a translator.
As a graduate student, Riley is interested in how media education serves as a pedagogical tool for self-actualization. She is also interested in how journalistic writing can stimulate second-language acquisition.
Maya graduated from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC)with a bachelors in advertising in 2013. Since graduating she’s served as a project manager/production coordinator at OR Media, an alumni-run video production unit housed within the SOJC that serves the academic community and public agencies while providing project-based training and professional development to students. Since its founding in 2012 OR Media has worked with a growing list of clients and partners that includes numerous university programs and organizations such as Adobe, the City of Eugene Department of Recreation, the Eugene Register-Guard, KLCC, the Oregon Tourism Commission, and Oregon Public Broadcasting, and the Media Arts Institute.
Prior to joining OR Media, Maya was a Communications Associate at the University of Oregon School of Law. In addition to her work at OR Media, she advises Booklandia.tv, a UO student-run website created by and for bibliophiles, now in its second year.
During her 22 years in the classroom, Michelle co-founded the Ensemble Theatre Company of Marin, a sequential arts education model where students ran a repertory theatre at three high school sites. She served as Project Designer/Director of the Drake Integrated Studies Curricula at Sir Francis Drake High School, named a “New American High School” by the US Department of Education. She was also a founder of Drake’s highly acclaimed Communications Academy. During her time at Drake, she was named the Marin County Teacher of the Year and the Marin Arts Council Outstanding Contributor to Arts Education.
On the national level, Michelle served as lead curriculum consultant on Jobs For The Future’s Benchmark Communities Initiative and designed professional development practices for the Collaborative Learning Communities, and was a Teaching Fellow for the AutoDesk Foundation for nearly a decade. Michelle currently provides sustained professional services to districts throughout the US, focusing on school design, instructional design and delivery, project-based learning, standards-based assessment, and whole-school reform processes. She holds a BA from Washington State University in Speech Communications and an M.A. in Theatre Arts/Directing from San Francisco State University.
Sánchez-Tello is a teacher, writer, reporter, and community advocate from Los Angeles’ San Gabriel Valley. He currently teaches at California State University — Northridge and California State University — Los Angeles in the departments of Chicana and Chicano Studies. Sánchez-Tello earned his master’s degree in Chicano Studies from CSUN in 2012, where his thesis examined the social use of Mexican Son Jarocho among contemporary Chicana and Chicano communities. Recent writing covers soccer, public space, and the intersection of race and politics, as well as historical fiction.
His reporting has won awards for public service, investigative reporting, and feature writing as well as its use of the Freedom of Information Act. As a community advocate, Sánchez-Tello has organized and led community workshops with Young Storytellers, the Boyle Heights Arts Conservatory, and the Wilderness Society. In 2011, Sánchez-Tello helped create the San Gabriel Mountains Forever Leadership Academy, an organizer training program for the Los Angeles area and those working to protect the region’s remaining wilderness and public space.
Anthony Whitten is the Scholastic Journalism Outreach Coordinator for the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon and Executive Director of Northwest Scholastic Press. Whitten began his scholastic journalism career as a high school yearbook editor. He then served as Business Manager of Corks & Curls at the University of Virginia for three years.
He taught for twelve years and advised the national award-winning yearbook, The Guardian, and The Watchdog newspaper at Westfield H.S. in Chantilly, Virginia for seven years. He also advised the The Stone Observer, a middle school newspaper. In 2013, the Journalism Education Association awarded him its “Rising Star” award. Whitten facilitates Outreach Academy for the Journalism Education Association
Lori Shontz teaches reporting, sports journalism, feature writing, and writing for multimedia at the University of Oregon, where she is also the faculty adviser for student chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Association for Women in Sports Media. Among the classes she has developed is one that covers all major track and field events at Hayward Field; her students’ work has appeared in publications including The Miami Herald, the Knoxville News Sentinel, and Runner’s World Online.
She previously spent more than two decades in the newsroom, specializing in sports, women’s issues, and higher education for The Miami Herald, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and The Penn Stater alumni magazine. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Penn State in 1991 with a B.A. in English writing and received an M.Ed. in adult education from Penn State in 2013.
Nic is one of two Managing Producers at OR Media, a video production team housed within the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. He graduated Cum Laude from the University of Oregon with a BS in Journalism in 2016. At OR Media he specializes in providing visual documentation for educational projects. He excels at transforming classroom learning into videos that both inspire and inform.
He has worked with clients and partners such as Oregon Public Broadcasting, Travel Oregon, and several local musicians to tell compelling audio-visual stories.
Erik received his BS in Journalism from the University of Oregon in 2012. Since graduating he has worked as a Managing Producer for OR Media, the UO journalism school’s in-house video production team. He is an action sports enthusiast and an avid outdoorsman. As an undergraduate, he and a team of students were awarded a first place Hearst in its multimedia category for profiling a group of smokejumpers in Redmond, Oregon for Flux Magazine.
Additionally, he is the owner of MediaBenderInc., a video production company based in Oregon. He specializes in aerial photography and story-driven content.
Sherrene has always wanted to work with students and has found her passion realized for the last 20+ years while working with some of the most fabulous 11 and 12 year olds at Oaklea Middle School in Junction City, Oregon. She loves the natural curiosity, humor, and creative energy that each student brings to the classroom. Her goal is to develop students into writers and communicators who leave her classroom feeling like fearless life-long learners who can approach problems with tenacity.
Sherrene has a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in English from the University of Oregon as well as a Master of Arts in Teaching from Oregon State University, but proudly admits to learning the most from her students.
A doctoral student at the University of Oregon studying the intersection of secondary journalism and the empowerment of minority student voices, Bethany Grace is also an alumni of the University of Colorado and the University of Missouri. Before finally settling on a career in journalism and teaching, she pursued a variety of interests: hotel manager, performer and media manager for Disney On Ice, morning show radio host, as well as a collegiate and Major League Baseball mascot.
At the conjunction of journalism and teaching, Bethany Grace served as an adjunct professor and newspaper editor at the University of Missouri. On the Oregon coast, she worked for the local newspaper and taught high school journalism from 2005 – 2015. Currently, as she concurrently teaches reporting at the UO, she also freelances for local publications as well as blogs about transgender issues for The Huffington Post. She is also the founding member and president of the UO chapter of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalist Association.
Ivan teaches English and journalism at Springfield High School, where he created the Miller Integrated Nature Experience (MINE), a class that combines college level reading/writing and journalism. The curriculum focuses on nature writing and leadership, tying in experiential, place-based field lessons in which students explore Oregon’s diverse geography. He helped develop a unique backpacking curriculum while working at Northwest Youth Corps that has since evolved at Springfield to include conservation projects with partners like the U.S. Forest Service, Audubon Society, as well as environmental education with the University of Oregon’s Environmental Leadership program.
Ivan has an M.A. in Education from Pacific University and an M.S. in journalism from the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon. He’s enjoyed a successful career in journalism, winning national awards for sports and environmental writing. In addition to focusing on critical thinking, leadership and self-directed learning, Ivan’s program syncs up with the Oregon Environmental Literacy Plan, designed to ensure Oregon students become lifelong stewards of the environment and community.
Michelle Balmeo has understood the power of student journalism since her high school journalism adviser shoulder-tapped her to be News Editor of the Blue and Gold student newspaper at Center High School in Antelope, California. Michelle went on to become an English teacher and journalism adviser at Monta Vista High School in Cupertino, California for 11 years. Her program grew from a single class of journalists producing a 16-page monthly tabloid to a full-fledged media program, with an introductory course and a staff of 70 producing a 40-page newsmagazine and a daily updated news website featuring cutting-edge multimedia content. At the same time, Michelle worked to bring the magic of journalism into a mainstream English class, developing an interdisciplinary, team-taught course called American Studies, which used project-based learning to allow students’ interest and inquiry drive their research.
Last year, Michelle made a big life change moving to Albany, Oregon, where she now teaches English at West Albany High School.
Lacey teaches social science and journalism at Public Service Community School where she is developing the PSCS Media program. She has been teaching in inner-city high schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District for the past 12 years. In that time she started the Bulldog Times newspaper program at Jordan High School in Watts, as well as the DRLC yearbook program in South Central. She has also been president of the Southern California Journalism Education Association (SCJEA) for the past five years.
Lacey has a BA in History from Eastern Illinois University and got her credential in Social Science education from Sacramento State University. While at Eastern she was an editor for the Daily Eastern News and Warbler yearbook publications and took photos for the Tribune Media Company.
Nancy Zubiri is a longtime high school newspaper adviser and former journalist. She has taught journalism at Venice High School in Los Angeles for 18 years. She wrote for several newspapers in Northern California, including The Oakland Tribune, for 10 years before she became a public high school teacher.
During her time at Venice High School, where she also teaches English, she has built a program that includes a monthly newspaper and an online news website. In 2012, the paper won the National Scholastic Press Association’s Newspaper Pacemaker award. She also advised a bilingual Spanish-English newspaper for three years.
Nancy realized her calling as a journalism teacher when she mentored a student who was single-handedly putting out his high school’s paper and helped him get a journalism scholarship from the California Chicano News Media Association. She got her start in the field at Lowell High School’s award-winning paper in San Francisco and at The Daily Cal. She has also written a book that reflects her Basque culture: Travel Guide to Basque America.
Marcus graduated from the University of Oregon School of Architecture and Allied Arts in 2016 with a BS in Planning, Public Policy, and Management. Since graduating, Marcus completed an internship in Washington, D.C. with Oregon U.S. Senator Ron Wyden. After spending four months in Washington, he returned to Oregon, where he began volunteering at the local Ella Curran food bank in Independence, Oregon. In his spare time he enjoys composing music and producing music videos.
His positions have included Founder and Chief Financial Officer for TeliSmart.com, Inc.; Chief Financial Officer for Shwood; Chief Financial Officer for Web MD/Sapient Health Network; President for Trials Digest Publishing, Inc; and Chief Financial Officer for CTC. He began his career with PriceWaterhouseCoopers CPA firm. Griffith served on the regional Board of Umpqua Bank and was a Board member/treasurer of StarveUps, a not-for-profit peer mentoring organization for entrepreneurs. He holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of California, Davis.
Natalie Jiménez was born and raised in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley. In 2017 she graduated from California State University – Northridge (CSUN), where she obtained her bachelor’s degree in Journalism and a minor in Spanish-Journalism. Coming from a diverse community and being a Spanish-speaker has inspired much of Jimenez’s work and career aspirations.
As an undergraduate she reported for two CSUN publications: The Sundial, where she wrote about the Latinx community on campus; and the university’s Spanish-language publication, El Nuevo Sol, where she wrote articles and contributed to a student-led podcast series called Dreamers: Redefinir El Sueño Americano that focused on the undocumented immigrant community in Los Angeles and their pursuit to redefine the American Dream.
Since graduating, Jimenez has started working as a translator at a newspaper chain. She hopes to provide further coverage of minority communities and return to school to earn a master’s degree.
Max is a 2017 graduate of the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Education who is eager to help JLI pave the way for a new approach to education. With nearly 10 years of martial arts teaching under his belt, he is excited to transition from the gym to a classroom.
Jackie Renzetti is a 2017 journalism and political science graduate from the University of Minnesota. There she worked for the student radio station and the university’s Pacemaker award-winning newspaper. In addition, she has interned at several publications, including APM Reports, the Star Tribune, and The Current.
One of her favorite aspects of reporting is diving into new topics and understanding the world in new ways through each story. She’s thrilled to help students achieve similar learning experiences, whether that’s through digging into curriculum, understanding themselves and the world, or seeing first-hand the role journalism plays in society.
In 2017 Tawnya Cervantes graduated from the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication at California State University – Northridge (CSUN), where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and a minor in Creative Writing.
Being born and raised in East Los Angeles has influenced her desire to give a voice to underrepresented communities. During her undergraduate years, Tawnya was a student reporter for The Sundial, a student publication at CSUN where she covered stories on the LGBTQ community and environmental issues. She was also the Editor in Chief of Scene Magazine, another student-run publication at CSUN. Driven by her interest in creative writing, she was a member of the Northridge Playwrights Workshop, where she wrote plays about immigration and the LatinX community.
Tawnya hopes to use her journalism and creative writing experience to enrich the learning outcomes of students in English-Language Arts classrooms. She also has plans to return to school to earn her master’s degree in Education or Mass Communication.
Allie Simons, Social Media Coordinator
Alletta graduated from the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC) in 2016 with a BA in Public Relations. As an undergraduate, she was an account executive for Allen Hall Public Relations (AHPR), head of Alpha Kappa Psi’s PR committee, and a three-year member of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). She and a team of three students were awarded “Best Comprehensive Public Relations Plan” by University of Oregon professor Tiffany Gallicano, Ph.D. She specializes in brand and social media strategy, development, and coordination.
Alletta was also a student of JLI advisor Michelle Balmeo in her team-taught American Studies high school class in Northern California. Balmeo’s class bolstered her confidence in writing and persuaded her to pursue a career in journalism.