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.


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.


Hayley Dupuy

Sixth Grade Connections Teacher, English and Social Studies,

Kim Lohse

Seventh Grade Connections Teacher, English,

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.

Diane Luu

Sixth Grade Connections Teacher, English & Social Studies,

I began my first year as a Connections teacher in 2014. A native of the Bay Area, I attended San Francisco State University to earn my B.A. in Liberal Studies with a History minor. As an undergrad, I interned at the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge as an Environmental Educator to promote wildlife conservation and habitat restoration. I earned my Master's in Education and teaching credential from UC Santa Cruz in 2014. My passion for project-based learning, social justice, English and Social Studies can be exuded through the Connections program at JLS. I am very honored and excited to be here!

Mikaela Bettencourt

Sixth Grade Connections Teacher, Math & Science,

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.

Kari Nygaard

Eighth Grade Connections Teacher, English,

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.

Tom Jacoubowsky

Seventh Grade Connections Teacher, Social Studies,

Arianne Piedrahita

Sixth Grade Connections Teacher, Math & Science,

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,

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.