Classroom Teachers

Melissa Litz, TK-K Classroom Teacher

This is Melissa Litz’s third year teaching at LFCSA with Darcy Mellinger in the TK/K multiage classroom. She has many years of teaching experience, starting in 1998. Melissa completed her teaching credential at Concordia University in 1998 and became a National Writing Project Fellow in 2000 at University of California Irvine. She taught first grade in Tustin Unified School District and kindergarten and first grade at Ivanhoe Elementary School in Silver Lake. Most recently she was a third grade teacher at Camino Nuevo Charter Academy. Melissa and her family are long time residents of Highland Park, and she is thrilled to be teaching in her North East Los Angeles (NELA) community. Melissa also has the unique pleasure of being a LFCSA parent.  Her youngest daughter, Amelia, started second grade this year. Her older daughter, Sophia, just started high school at Grand Arts downtown.

Darcy Mellinger, TK-K Classroom Teacher

Darcy Mellinger received a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts as well as a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from Pepperdine University in Malibu. Thereafter, she received a Professional Clear Credential from California State University of Long Beach. Darcy spent her first seven years of teaching with 3rd grade students in Malibu (2 years) and Hermosa Beach (5 years). For seven years, she moved to Chicago where she lived in the city and commuted to the suburb of Naperville to teach. While in Naperville, Darcy taught fifth grade (2 years), second grade (3 years) and third grade (2 years). In 2006, she obtained a certificate from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standard®. A year later, she graduated with a Master of Arts in Teaching from Aurora University in Illinois. She returned to Southern California in 2008 and taught Kindergarten in Hermosa Beach. From 2009 to present, Ms. Mellinger has called LFCSA home sweet classroom. After three years in 3rd grade, she joined the kindergarten team for one year and this will be her fourth year in a multiage transitional kindergarten and kindergarten (TK/K) class here at LFCSA. Darcy enjoys teaching so much that she is excited to be embarking on her 23rd year.

Sandy Garcia, K-1 Classroom Teacher


Mrs. Garcia’s Class Website

Currently, Sandy Garcia is serving as the Educational Representative with the Glassell Park Neighborhood Council.  She has a passion for teaching and being involved in her community of Glassell Park where she teaches and lives.  She has been teaching for 21 years, mostly in LAUSD.  She is excited to be joining us here at LFCSA.

She received her B.S. degree in Business Administration from Cal State Los Angeles and her Masters in Collaborative Leadership as well as her Preliminary Administrative Credential from Fielding Graduate University. She is bilingual in Spanish and English. She also enjoys long distant running, and has completed 2 LA Marathons. 

Denise Harwell, K-1 Classroom Teacher

Denise Harwell is the K/1 teacher at LFCSA. She has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Liberal Studies with emphasis in Ethnic and Cultural Studies, a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, as well as a Master of Arts Degree in Education with an emphasis in Curriculum and Instruction. Her passion for learning and teaching began as a young child and continues to develop as a life long learner. Mrs. Harwell comes from a family of educators who share a passion for challenging and inspiring young minds. Aside from teaching, Mrs. Harwell enjoys a good cup of coffee in the morning, hiking, beach days, and traveling with her husband.

Myra Hernandez, K-1 Classroom Teacher

Myra Hernandez was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. After high school, she moved to Santa Barbara to attend school. After two years, she moved back to Los Angeles and attended California State University Northridge where she got her teaching credential and her B.A in Liberal Studies. After graduating from CSUN, Myra took the opportunity to teach at LFCSA where she has taught 4th and 1st grade. She is currently teaching K/1 for the second year and is exciting for this coming year. In her spare time, Myra enjoys spending time with her family and friends, especially her nieces and nephews. She also enjoys going to the movies, traveling, reading a good book, going to theme parks, and baking different types of desserts.

Debbie Kazama, K-1 Classroom Teacher

Debbie completed her undergraduate work at UCLA with a B.A. in Sociology. She continued her education and earned her Masters in Education at Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology. She completed her student teaching at charter school in Hollywood and went on to be a multiage teacher at that same school before joining LFCSA. When she is not teaching, she is spending time with her husband, 5 year old son (an LFCSA student!), and 1 year old daughter. She has a passion for the Los Angeles Lakers, fancy nails, and good food!

Zelina Muñoz, K-1 Classroom Teacher

Zelina Munoz-Friedman received a Liberal Arts degree with an emphasis in Spanish from California State University of Northridge.  After graduating she spent her time as a Teacher Assistant while getting her teaching credential at CSUN.  She received a certificate for Social Emotional Learning through the Arts from UCLArts and Healing in 2016.  She has spent a few summers doing volunteer work with children in Mexico.  She enjoys spending time at the beach, with her family and hiking. 

Elizabeth (Libby) Richter, K-1 Classroom Teacher

Libby Richter has been a multiage classroom teacher since 1999.  She is originally from St. Louis, Missouri.  Libby received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas where she studied video and film production.  She worked briefly for Paramount Pictures.  While working at Paramount, Libby joined the mentor program which had her volunteering at an elementary school.  That is where she found her passion.  So, she went back to school and received her teaching credential from California State University, Los Angeles.  Libby is a mother (of two LFCSA students!), a wife, a teacher, a cancer-survivor and a friend.  She enjoys traveling, especially to National Parks! She loves meeting new people, making new friends and learning.

Joy Bosley, 2nd Grade Classroom Teacher

Mrs. Bosley’s Class Website

Joy Bosley (formerly Chun) received her B.A. from Loyola University New Orleans in Communications and later went on to study education at Our Lady of Holy Cross College in New Orleans where she received her teaching credential in Elementary Education.  Joy is deep into her career in education and has gained a wide variety of experience over the past thirteen years, teaching grades 2, 3, 4, and 5.  In addition to these grade levels, Joy was also a Performing Arts specialist, working with Kindergarten to 6th grade.  She also taught high school visual arts, speech, and theatre and was the director of a high school theatre program for many years.  In addition to teaching, Joy is an accomplished performer, vocalist, and director, performing in or directing theatrical productions around the New Orleans area for over 10 years.  In her free time, Joy loves visiting libraries, parks, and Disneyland with her husband and daughter, Blake.  She loves LFCSA and is happy to be a part of a community that embraces and appreciates the Arts!

Hailey Courter, 2nd Grade Classroom Teacher

Ms. Courter’s Class Website

Hailey Courter received her B.S. In Child and Family Studies at Portland State University in her home town Portland Oregon. She then continued at PSU to earn her Masters in Elementary Education. Hailey moved to California with her husband in 2013 with their cat Rosco. For the past three years Hailey has been directing a pre-Kindergarten program, where she created an engaging social emotional and academic curriculum. In her free time Hailey enjoys playing strategy games and hiking. She also likes to explore her creativity through painting and sewing. Hailey is thrilled to be part  of the LFCSA community!

Vanessa Goldberg, 2nd Grade Classroom Teacher

Mrs. Goldberg’s Class Website

Vanessa Goldberg is thrilled to be a part of the LFCSA team! Vanessa grew up at Edwards Air Force Base in California’s Mojave Desert and, later, in San Diego. She graduated from the University of Miami where, in addition to studying Psychology, she tutored underprivileged elementary school students in English language skills and spent a summer teaching English to high school students in China. After college, Vanessa worked for a nonprofit organization in Beverly Hills but eventually decided to return to her educational roots and pursue her teacher’s certification. After student teaching at Larchmont Charter – West Hollywood she became a Founding Teacher at Citizens of the World Charter – Silver Lake. Outside of school, Vanessa enjoys reading her Kindle (Harry Potter is her favorite), photography, camping and going to Disneyland.

Savannah Ackerman, 3rd Grade Classroom Teacher

Ms. Ackerman’s Class Website

Savannah graduated from California State University Fullerton with a BFA in Musical Theater and spent the next several years traveling the world as a performer in Disney Live stage productions. After earning her teaching credential through California State University Northridge, she created and implemented the curriculum for a musical theater course at CSUN’s Summer Academic Program for Elementary School Students. She searched far and wide for a school that truly values arts integration, so joining the LFCSA family is a dream come true. Her aim this year is to cultivate a safe classroom community where each student is respected, valued, and inspired. When she isn’t teaching or performing, she loves to explore the outdoors and travel to unusual places!

Jasmine Hwang, 3rd Grade Classroom Teacher

Ms. Hwang’s Class Website

Jasmine graduated from University of California, Irvine (UCI) with a B.A. in Psychology and Social Behavior. During this time at UCI, she found a love for working with children during her field work at the UCI Children’s Center. After a few years of working at a preschool and various after school programs, Jasmine returned to UCI to pursue a Masters in Teaching. During her graduate program, she was exposed to constructivism and Cognitively Guided Instruction, which are now the foundations of her teaching philosophy. She firmly believes that her role as a teacher is to facilitate learning for her students through varied and engaging learning tasks. Before LFCSA, she taught second and third grade at a project based learning school where she found a way to put her teaching philosophy into action. Outside of work, Jasmine enjoys traveling, all things Disney, visiting museums, and documenting her adventures with photography. Because of her love for art, she is excited to return to LFCSA to integrate art into her curriculum.

Sara Verducci, 3rd Grade Classroom Teacher

Mrs. Verducci’s Class Website

Sara graduated with a BA in Liberal Studies from Sonoma State University. and attended Concordia University, Irvine earning a Masters in Education. Sara has lived in both Australia and Thailand working with local charity groups to impact the lives of others. Sara enjoys traveling and learning about new cultures, even trying to speak their language. Aside from school and travel, Sara loves spending time with her husband Adam and her two adorable pets Lucy (a puggle) and Leia (a tuxedo cat). Sara has taught at both public and private schools. She loves championing students to reach for their goals, no matter how big. She hopes to instill the love of learning and exploring in her students and peers.

Lawren Williams, 3rd Grade Classroom Teacher

Ms. William’s Class Website

Lawren graduated with a BA in History of Art & Architecture and Arts Management from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. In her coursework she studied the effects of budget cuts on the arts in schools. After college she focused on art eduction outreach to children through working in museums and galleries in Sydney, Washington DC, and Atlanta. Through this experience she desired to dig deeper in her practice and integrate the arts directly in schools and pursued a MA in Education from Pepperdine University. Outside of teaching, Lawren loves photography, reading, going to the beach and playing with her two cats, Beezus and Mouse. She is thrilled to be working with staff, parents and students that value the importance of creativity and the arts in education.

Anna Soffer, 4th Grade Classroom Teacher

Anna Soffer received her B.A. and teaching credential from Loyola Marymount University. Anna has worked as an educator for the California Science Center and is currently a curriculum specialist at Friends of the Los Angeles River. Before Anna became a teacher she worked as a radio host and music director at KXLU 88.9fm in Los Angeles. She still loves music and spends her free time playing her guitar and going to concerts. When she’s not at school Anna is probably petting her giant cat, Rooster, or practicing spells. Anna is still waiting for her letter from Hogwarts.

Fidel Velasco, 4th Grade Classroom Teacher

Fidel Velasco got his teaching credential and Sociology degree from the University of Arizona during the mid-nineties. He has been teaching first through fifth grade since. This is his 6th year at LFCSA and is constantly inspired by the students, staff, and community here at LFCSA.

Amy Chen, 4th/5th Grade Classroom Teacher

Ms. Chen’s Class Website

Amy Chen is the 4th/5th grade multi-age teacher. She graduated from UC Irvine with a Bachelor’s degree in International Studies. She received her teaching credential from Cal State Northridge and her Master’s in Teaching from USC. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, live music, and traveling. She is looking forward to getting to know her students and seeing them grow in this dynamic school during the 2016-2017 school year. Ms. Chen is also a total foodie!

Sarah Ureno, 5th Grade Classroom Teacher

Ms. Ureno’s Class Website

Sara Ureno received her B.A. in Liberal Studies from the University of La Verne in La Verne, California. After graduation, she continued her education at the University to earn her Multiple Subject Credential and Masters of Education. During her time at ULV, Sara worked as a middle and high school tutor for the program, AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program where she tutored students in all subjects areas including Algebra, Geometry, Pre-Calculus, U.S. and World History and English. Her true passion is working with elementary aged students. She has taught first, third and fifth grade. Sara thoroughly enjoys all aspects of music. She played the flute for twelve years and finds joy in going to music concerts and festivals. In Sara’s free time, she enjoys walking her two dogs, traveling and spending time with family.

Alec Hess, 5th Grade Classroom Teacher

Mr. Hess’ Class Website

Alec Hess grew up in Ventura County and lives in Simi Valley, CA. He is married, and has a 7th grader this year and a 7-month-old daughter. His wife is a Special Education teacher in Fillmore. Alec has a Masters of Arts in Education. His Bachelor’s degree was in Liberal Studies-Teaching and Learning option with an emphasis on Mathematics. He has been teaching off and on in different positions for the past 7 years. This includes Science Specialist (Kindergarten-5th grade), technology related teaching (K-8th grade), AVID, reading specialist, and ELD, as well as substituting Kindergarten through 8th grade. This will be his second year at LFCSA. Not only does he love making a difference in kids lives through teaching, he loves music. He used to be a karaoke host and still sings often. He believes that respect, honesty, trust, and open communication (to name a few) with parents and students are important in his classroom and in his life.