About the Faculty


With nearly 20 years of teaching experience that spans kindergarten to college level courses, Rob has contributed to the field of education in many capacities, as teacher (public and private), tutor, author, researcher, consultant, and guest lecturer. His curricular and pedagogical perspectives are student-centered, constructivist, and simultaneously challenging and supportive. As an educator, Rob’s primary focus is on the advancement of higher-order thinking skills through the development of interdisciplinary curriculum content.

Rob earned his B.A. in liberal arts/creative arts from San Jose State University in 2000 and his M.A. degree in art history with an emphasis in curriculum design and pedagogy in 2010. Two years later, he published a two-book series titled Inference Jones. His award winning books aim to improve critical reading and higher-order thinking by developing a student's’ ability to draw inferences from both written texts and previous life experience.

Rob also enjoys writing music. His music has been featured on MTV, licensed to independent films, and garnered interest from major music supervisors in the movie industry. Most recently his music was used for the films Stepping High, produced by Harmony Gold, and Live and Love It Up which was produced by the nonprofit Ride a Wave Foundation, based in Santa Cruz.

Next to Rob’s deep passion for music is his love for martial arts. Rob has studied Taekwondo, Eskrima, and Krav Maga and spent many years learning the philosophies and practices of Shaolin Kung Fu, Qigong, and Tai Chi. This practice has also heightened his interest in mindfulness. Rob's background in the arts (both physical and mental) is apparent in the classroom.

When his five-year-old and nine-year-old sons are either asleep or completely content building their latest Lego structure, Rob savors his time sipping tea and reading books with his wife.

Lissa Downey, Science

Lissa is passionate about all things related to the field of education, from the most current brain research on how students learn to the study of the physical and natural world through scientific exploration. She is particularly interested in the importance of the student/teacher relationship and how each student needs to feel safe in his or her environment for learning to take place. Lissa is in her 14th year of teaching middle and high school with an emphasis in science. She has taught Earth, Life and Physical Science and believes that each student has an innate curiosity that can be tapped into through creative, fun and stimulating lessons. Her science courses include hands on lab experimentation that encourage collaboration. Students will also learn the necessary skills for writing lab reports and the fundamentals of the scientific method. Lissa was raised in San Diego where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree and has a four and a half year old son named, Enzo. She runs long distances for fun.

Bonnie Levesque, Math

Originally from upstate New York (the apples and lilacs NY, not the Broadway and Times Square), Bonnie moved to the west coast after high school. Her studies varied from dance and drama to pre-veterinary medicine and marine biology, until she stumbled upon education. Bonnie started studying American Sign Language basically to address her mother’s hearing loss. “I loved ASL...along with the whole deaf community, and a variety of sign languages, and suddenly I was swept up in the whole program for Education of the Deaf at San Francisco State University”. She went on to earn a BA in Education in 1985 , followed by an MA in 1987, along with California Credentials: Multiple Subjects, K­-12 and finally a Specialist Credential in Communication Handicapped.

Bonnie’s career began at a private school in Redwood City. After fifteen years there, she taught in the Palo Alto Unified School District, until eventually moving over the hill. Working in Santa Cruz, Bonnie’s classes were continually growing more diverse. From special needs to English language learners, to regular ed., and private tutoring, Bonnie has taught grades from preschool to high school. She finds working with junior high school students enlightening as their learning styles and personalities are in full bloom. 

Her ability to reach across ages, levels, and abilities has given her an appreciation of individualized attention. During the last two years, Bonnie has worked independently as a tutor; numerous former students, as well as new ones referred to her, are overcoming obstacles with her help. As a math geek and language fanatic, she has demonstrated expertise in helping students find success in a variety of areas. She claims the math is in her blood!

Throughout her career, Bonnie has honed her own skills in communication; she listens, and engages her students in a two way conversation. She states she has come to value the special qualities in each student, and seeks to find the specific strategy (trick, way in...) that works for him/her - that inspires. “The language of mathematics is everywhere; we don’t need a topic or guideline to bring math into our day, it is already here. But meaning, and what is meaningful, is as varied and unique as each person."