Parents

Parent involvement is highly encouraged. Parents helped found the Connections program and run an active parent board. The parent board meets monthly to provide on-going support and feedback on program direction.

Connections parents support their children’s education through volunteering, accompanying students on field trips, social action, project support, and sharing their time or specific expertise in the classroom. Teachers are open and accessible to parents and see themselves as partners working collaboratively in support of students, the school, and each other. The child, teacher, and parents are all involved as active educators.

By having students stay together in Middle School, Connections aims to create a “village”, a small community of teachers, students, and parents, within the larger JLS community.  To build community, Connections hosts monthly morning coffees for parents and teachers, and many community events/social gatherings for students, parents, and teachers.

Board

Collaboration and cooperation are an important part of the Connections Program philosophy. This extends to parent support for students and teachers, which at the program level is organized by the JLS Connections Board, a 501(c)(3) organization. The board works to raise funds to support program initiatives, organizes program-wide social events, and aids communication both within and about the Connections program.

Teachers

Mikaela Bettencourt

Sixth Grade Connections Teacher, Math & Science, mbettencourt@pausd.org

I couldn’t be more pleased to have joined JLS as a math and science teacher in the connections program. I was born and raised in a small suburb of LA, Whittier, where most of my 52 first cousins still reside. I come from a large, loud, and loving family so that’s the environment I am most comfortable in. I first left Whittier to attend UCSB and study Global and International Studies and History. I left knowing that I wanted to work helping others so  the Teach for America program appealed to me and luckily, I did to them. They sent me to Ravenswood where I worked for four years teaching 5th grade at Willow Oaks School. I found that my true passion is teaching math and science, so when an opportunity in Palo Alto appeared, I jumped for it. I am looking forward to another great year together.

Hayley Dupuy

Sixth Grade Connections Teacher, English and Social Studies, hdupuy@pausd.org

I am a California native, originally from the San Fernando Valley, but now going on 30 years in the Bay Area. After getting my B.A. in French Language and Culture at UCSC, I moved to France for a few years where I studied Linguistics and taught middle school English. I had no training or experience but discovered a love of teaching that led me to move back to California to get my Multiple Subject Teaching Credential at San Jose State University.

Before transferring to JLS to teach 6th grade math and science in the Connections program, I taught 5th and 6th grades in a different district.  After eight years at JLS,  I decided to pursue an English Single Subject Credential and an M.S. in Educational Leadership at Cal State East Bay.  I then taught 7th and 8th grade English at Fletcher Middle School.  In addition to teaching, some leadership roles I’ve taken on in PAUSD are English Instructional Leader and High School Summer School Assistant Principal. Thinking about best teaching practices and education reform is part of what keeps me passionate about my job.

I fell in love with the Connections program when I first joined started here in 2007 and am so happy to be a part of the Connections and JLS community.

Tom Jacoubowsky

Seventh Grade Connections Teacher, Social Studies, tjacoubowsky@pausd.org

I’m excited about teaching this year at JLS and being involved with the outstanding educators of the Connections program. This is my 24th year in education and my 18th year in the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD). I have been fortunate to work all three levels (elementary, middle and high school) in PAUSD and have seen the entire range of the education experience of our district.

I grew up in Redwood City and graduated from Woodside High School. I also attended Cañada College and graduated from University of California, Davis in 1989. I received my teaching credential and my Masters in Public Administration in Education from Note Dame de Namur University. I have been married to my wife Deborah for 20 years and I have a step-daughter, Courtney, who is a teacher at Gunn High School and a son, Bryce, who graduated last year from Gunn and is now a freshman at the University of Oregon in Eugene. 

In my free time I enjoy hiking, cycling and reading. I also enjoy watching Bay Area sports teams and following the University of Oregon.

Francisco Lacayo

Eighth Grade Connections Teacher, Social Studies, flacayo@pausd.org

I am a Bay Area native, born and raised in the East Bay. I earned a B.A. in Urban Studies from San Francisco State University, and later earned my social studies credential and a Masters in Education from UCLA.

I started my work in the field of education volunteering at a state pre-school in San Francisco's Sunnydale District during my junior year of college. This experience led me to spend a summer working for an academic enrichment program in Washington D.C. as a summer teacher where I taught math and social studies to seventh and eighth grade students in Columbia Heights. This unforgettable teaching experience led me to pursue a teaching credential. While finishing my last year at San Francisco State University, I worked as a teacher's aide in Special Education classrooms. The summer after earning my B.A., I worked at a day treatment program in the East Bay with sixth to eighth grade students who suffered from post-traumatic syndrome, bi-polarity, and schizophrenia. While applying to graduate school I worked as a substitute teacher in Culver City. I taught one year in Los Angeles before returning to the Bay Area and am now enjoying my new teaching position in the Connections Program at JLS.

Kim Lohse

Seventh Grade Connections Teacher, English, klohse@pausd.org

I graduated from Hunter College in New York City after studying English with an emphasis in Creative Writing and Music with an emphasis in singing Early Music. Before finishing my studies in New York, I went to nine different colleges, including NYU, U. of Hawaii, SF State, and more. From Project Pipeline, a credentialing program through Sacramento which seeks to serve underprivileged communities, while also credentialing teachers, I received my secondary teaching certification for teaching English. I received my MFA from Vermont College, where I studied Creative Writing, emphasizing in poetry and French translation.

I first started teaching Special Education to adults at Easter Seals in Hawaii. I then worked with developmentally disabled children in New York State and in California at Via Center, in Berkeley. When writing poetry became more important in my personal life, my teaching choices shifted also. I have taught freshman English at Touro College, in Harlem, high school English and character education at Hyde School in Connecticut, English and just about every other humanities course (grades 6-12) at The Purple Lotus Buddhist School in California, Language Arts at East Palo Alto Charter School in California and English at Jordan, here, in Palo Alto. Beyond this list, I have briefly taught music, dance, photography, outdoor education and cooking. I continue to teach Creative Writing workshops, primarily for adults.

Kari Nygaard

Eighth Grade Connections Teacher, English, knygaard@pausd.org

After growing up in Palo Alto and Cupertino, I ventured across the country to Vermont where I received a B.A. in International Studies from Middlebury College. I loved living and working in Boston for a few years after college, but eventually I returned to California where I received my teaching credential and M.A. In Educational Administration from Santa Clara University.

I have been teaching 7th and 8th grade English at JLS since the 2005-06 school year. I currently mentor new teachers in the district, and in past JLS roles I have served as the English Instructional Supervisor, the Student Activities Director, and the Leadership teacher. Outside of PAUSD, I have taught summer programs in civic leadership, design thinking, creative writing, Italian, music, and HIV/AIDS education in a range of locations: Palo Alto, Berkeley, San Francisco, Maine, and Malawi. My husband is an English teacher at Gunn High School and we have a toddler son, Emerson.

Arianne Piedrahita

Sixth Grade Connections Teacher, Math & Science, apiedrahita@pausd.org

I was born and raised in Davis, California.  I went to UCDavis for my undergraduate degree in managerial economics.  In 2003, I studied at San Francisco State and earned my multiple subject teaching credential.  I taught for 7 years in Redwood City, in both 3rd and 5th grade classrooms.  In 2013, I taught English Language Development in San Jose.  I joined the connections team at JLS in 2014.  I am so excited to be a part of such  a wonderful community of teachers, students and parents.

Katie Schramm

Sixth Grade Connections Teacher, English & Social Studies, kschramm@pausd.org

I have been a connections teacher since 2004. Born and raised in the Bay Area, I graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a B.A. in psychology, then earned my teaching credential from San Francisco State's middle level program. Currently I'm in the administrative master's program at Santa Clara University, but I don't plan to leave Connections any time soon!! I can't imagine not being a Connections teacher. I love going to work.