Welcome New Kehillah Staff!
As this new school year begins amid a whirlwind of important national news cycles and pandemic health challenges, one thing remains true: “There’s only one thing more precious than our time– and that’s who we spend it on.” (Leo Christopher) Our Kehillah matters; our community and the opportunity to learn together. We are delighted to welcome these new members to our staff; people who “spend themselves” on young people as a way of life, who put learning at the center of their life’s work.
Sophia Bloch is “passionate about sharing her joy for the sciences with students.” She was born in the former USSR, and moved to Israel in her teenage years. She then received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Chemistry from Bar-Ilan University in Israel. Later, she moved to the United States and worked as a Research Fellow at Catalytica in Mountain View, California. Now, she has over twenty years of teaching Chemistry, Biology, and AP Biology in public and private high schools across the Bay Area. She “loves to spark students’ curiosity about the world around them.” Outside of teaching, she enjoys hiking every weekend, watching movies, painting using acrylic, oil and mixed media, and spending time with her two grandchildren. She joins Kehillah in the Science Department teaching Chemistry.
James Householter, who joins the History Department, says he is “truly honored to be teaching at Kehillah.” After an early career in the fitness industry and coaching sports, he was inspired to pursue a life of instruction in the classroom. He is a passionate educator with over fifteen years experience teaching the Social Sciences, including AP US History at the secondary level. He plans to use “interdisciplinary-based lessons combining technology, language arts, math, science, and the fine arts with a strong emphasis on promoting diversity and multiculturalism.” He holds a B.A. in Psychology from CSU-Northridge and an M.A. in Sport Psychology from John F. Kennedy University. Currently, he is pursuing an M.A. in Educational Administration at Concordia University. In his spare time, James enjoys the outdoors and “living a healthy and active lifestyle.”
Susan McGuire joins the College Office with over 20 years of experience in education. In prior years she served at independent schools on the East and West Coast, including directorships at Maybeck High School in Berkeley and Heathwood Hall in South Carolina. She holds two Master’s degrees – the first in Counseling Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania School of Education, and the second in Theological Studies from Emory University, Candler School of Theology. As an immigrant from the island-nation of Jamaica, Susan was raised to embrace a deep respect for a wide variety of people from all walks of life, and to nurture a lifelong love of learning. As such, she “deeply enjoys working in independent schools and thrives on thoughtfully guiding young into their own decision-making about the next great stage of their lives.” In her spare time, Susan can be found painting in her home studio, experimenting with plant-based cooking, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Catherine Passantino Mitchell is pleased to join the Kehillah English Department. Previously, Catherine has taught English at Lincoln High School in San Jose. She has a wide range of teaching experience from private college preparatory high school to comprehensive high schools to small private university. Her interdisciplinary approach to literature, rhetorical analysis, writing, and history helps her to create project-based learning projects that motivate her students to think critically about the issues shaping our world. Dr. Mitchell earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in ancient/medieval history with a minor in English from California State University, San Jose; a Masters degree in ancient and medieval history from Santa Clara University; and a doctorate in medieval history from the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley. In 2014, she earned National Board Certification NBCT for Young Adult and Adolescent Literature. When not teaching, she continues her research on gender, language, and unequal power relationships in the early Middle Ages.
Richard Nybakken is a dedicated historian and teacher with several years of instructional experience in higher education. He received his A.B. from Dartmouth College and his M.A. and C.Phil. from U.C. Berkeley, where he specialized in European history (with a particular emphasis on modern Italy). Prior to joining Kehillah, he taught both US and World history at Napa Valley College, and also worked for several years as an independent scholar translating essays and monographs from French and Italian into English for a number of university presses. Outside the classroom, he enjoys spending time with his partner AnnaBelle and their two beloved pets (dog Schneider and cat Tula), following the San Francisco Giants, and watching Italian soccer.
Rabbi Elisheva Salamo, a San Francisco native, “finds creating and growing community to be rich and exciting.” She holds a doctorate in Philosophy and a Masters in Science from Yale University, and a Bachelor of Arts from Reed College, as well as an Ordination and Master of Hebrew Letters from the Reconstructionist and Rabbinical College. Personal connections mean a lot to her, and she hopes she has helped guide her students and congregations into deeper spiritual, intellectual, and joyful engagement with Judaism. A strong proponent of peace through understanding, she currently sits on the Silicon Valley Interreligious Council and participates in an ongoing interfaith Palestine/Israel discussion group. She is currently Director of Religious Education at Bet Sefer Chadash in San Francisco, and now joins the Jewish Studies Department where she hopes to share her love of animals, baking, textile art, and an abiding “love of learning.”
Ryan Wheat is joining our staff after several years of working in the nonprofit world in affordable housing, early childhood education, and domestic violence services. He studied Sociology and Computer Science at The Claremont Colleges graduating with his B.A. from Pitzer College. During his studies he played computer video games professionally competing in the North American finals in 2013. He says “the combination of a short and successful career in video games and as well as participation in athletics and academics allowed him to pursue his education despite systemic roadblocks.” As a Head Start alumni, community college transfer student, and first-generation Asian-American college graduate, “education and its importance is one of his core values in both his work and personal life.” He will be working in both the Development and Academic Administrative Offices doing project management and technology design and support.