Meet Out Staff



Deborah Wallace, Principal

Born and raised in Napa, CA, Deb learned Spanish at an early age. After receiving her Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from Santa Clara University, Deb began her teaching career in Santiago, Chile. She and her husband later returned to Napa and began their life-long careers as Bilingual teachers. Deb was one of the first bilingual teachers hired in Napa Valley Unified and later became a Program Coordinator, Assistant Principal and Principal at Napa Valley Language Academy, an award winning dual immersion charter school. She received a fellowship to study Bilingual Leadership Development at Sacramento State Univ, and obtained her MA in Ed Admin in 1997. She believes that by giving children two languages, we can build a bridge that brings families together to create life-long bonds, and has the power to transform a community.

dwallace@treeoflife.school


Dee Cabanillas, Office Manager

Dee was born in San Diego and attended school in both Mexico and the US throughout her early years. She attended South Western College and Shasta College and graduated from Bethel School of Ministry. She worked for almost 6 years with Shasta Head Start in the Language Services Department as a Bilingual Case Worker, Parent Trainer, and CPR first aid instructor.

dcabanillas@treeoflife.school


Dawn DeJong, 4th/5th English Teacher

Dawn has been in education for over 30 years. She has a BA in Bilingual Ed. from Eastern University and an M.Ed. in Curriculum Development and Instruction from Wesley Collage. She taught Spanish in a successful charter school in Dover, DE for several years, 2nd grade in a large school district in San Antonio, TX for 5 years, ESL at the University of Texas San Antonio and is currently teaching a TESOL Curriculum Design course at Simpson University. She is married to James DeJong, a brilliant polyglot, and has two beautiful grown daughters.

ddejong@treeoflife.school


Noelle Williams, TK Teacher and Music

Noelle Williams has had a lifetime of multi-cultural and music experience. She was raised in Delaware and Texas by musical Spanish Professor and linguist parents and she knew early on that her passions lay in music and culture. She has had extensive training in the singing and acting performing arts.  She also has been working with children since a young age. Some of her performing experiences include the productions of Oliver!, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Cascade Theatre's Production of Tarzan (as Jane), Latin Dance Troupe, Fuzion Dance Troupe, featured soloist for Simpson University's performances of  Handel's Messiah and the Bach Magnificat. She received her degree in Music Education K-12 with a Voice Specialty from Southwestern Assemblies of God University. Her music education experience include RevTab Gospel Choir director, Red Bluff R.O.C.K Choir Director, Ensemble Music Director for Harris Studios Summer Theatre Academies, Ensemble Music Director for Cascade Theatre's production of Mary Poppins and her position as a private voice and music education teacher at Harris Studios. Mrs. Williams has also worked in different education positions such as a councilor for the Lackland Airforce Base Youth Center and as a literacy coach and resource teacher for Redding School district. She absolutely loves sharing her passions of music and culture!

nwilliams@treeoflife.school

Theresa Rivera, Kindergarten Teacher

Theresa is a native to Shasta County but has experience working in nearby counties as well as in the bay area and Texas. She was raised in a bilingual / bicultural family. She started working for Migrant Education and as a bilingual aide since 2003. Theresa worked for 10 years as a bilingual Parent Consultant for Rowell Family Empowerment and helped Spanish speaking families understand the special education process. She has spent most all of her working career in bilingual education and special education. She currently serves on the board for the Northern Hispanic Latino Coalition (NHLC) and believes in the importance of community collaboration. Theresa has her bachelors degree in Interdisciplinary Studies and graduated from Chico State University with a Masters Degree in Education in 2016. Theresa has a passion for helping students and families of diverse backgrounds. She is proud to work for a school who believes that each child is unique and special; where love is our first language.

trivera@treeoflife.school


Steve Wallace, First Grade Teacher

Steve Wallace was born and raised in the Land of Lincoln, Springfield, Illinois. He moved to California in 1978 where he attended San Jose Christian College (now William Jessup University) , graduating with a BA in Christian Education in 1983. Steve first fell in love with the Spanish language and Latin culture on a missions trip to Colombia while in college. Later he and his wife Deb spent 2 years as missionaries in Santiago, Chile where Steve perfected his Spanish working on many construction projects. After returning to the states, Steve received his Bilingual Teaching Credential from St. Mary's College in 1989, and, after building their first home, Steve began his career as a Dual Immersion teacher, first in Vacaville, then later in Napa. Steve retired from teaching in 2013, but decided to support Tree of Life International as it's founding 1st grade teacher. Steve and Deb have 4 amazing bilingual children ages 24-30.

swallace@treeoflife.school


Laura Kufner, Second Grade Teacher

Laura Kufner grew up in the small town of Dunsmuir California. She is first generation born in the United States in her family. Her family is originally from Jalisco Mexico. Laura grew up in a bilingual home. Upon graduating high school, Laura attended a Spanish language program at the Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon in Monterrey Mexico. She then went on to receive a Bachelor Degree in Business Administration from California State University Chico. After 15 years in the technology industry, she decided to pursue a career in teaching and went on to work towards her teaching credential at Simpson University. Laura is married with two young children who are very active in sports. If she is not at the school you will find her at soccer or football games. lkufner@treeoflife.school


Cecilia Henson, Third and Fourth Grade Teacher

chenson@treeoflife.school


Francisco Basurto, P.E. Teacher and After-school

Coach B grew up in a bilingual home in Southern Illinois.  From an early age he loved soccer and played on every league available, indoor and outdoor was part of a traveling Club Team from age 12 to age 18.  He attended Kaskaskia College where he continued playing college soccer and received his AA Degree in Liberal Arts. He continued on and received hi BA in Exercise Science from Concordia University, and is a certified personal trainer. As a native Spanish speaker, he knows first hand the importance of not losing your first language and the life long value of being bilingual and bicultural. His passion for seeing students grow mentally and physically has lead him to this school. He has volunteered in youth programs ( sports ) and as well as a foster care facility. He and his wife Kylie are thrilled to be moving to Anderson to be one of our founding teachers at Tree of Life International Charter School!

fbasurto@treeoflife.school


Jesse Morales(Coach J), Tech Coordinator

Jesse Morales, also known as Coach J, is the school's tech coordinator. He has a business degree from Montana State University Northern where he recieved a scholarship to play on the school's football team. After graduating with his bachelors degree he decided to go back to school for software engineering. Jesse loves everything tech related and sharing his knowledge with the kids.

techadmin@treeoflife.school


Brandon Farris, Custodian


Rosio Zamora, Kindergarten Teacher

Rosio was raised in Corning where she discovered her passion for bilingual education. She experienced first hand the difficulty of staying in touch with her first language while attending a monolingual school. Rosio graduated from California State University, Chico with a BA in Liberal Studies and is currently working on MA in Bilingual Education. She comes from a family who values the diversity in culture and is ready to share that with her class. Rosio is married and has an amazing baby boy! rzamora@treeoflife.school


Mychal Garcia, First Grade Teacher

Mychal Garcia was born and raised in Silver City, New Mexico and moved to Redding, California when she was 12 years old. She attended California State University, Chico where she received a double BA in Spanish and Latin American Studies and a MA in Teaching International Languages with a minor in Linguistics. During her undergraduate education, she studied abroad in Costa Rica for an entire academic year and this is where her passion for learning about new languages and cultures really began. During the years 2016-2018, Mychal lived and worked abroad in Lima, Peru in a 1st grade classroom at an international, bilingual school. When Mychal is not at work, she enjoys spending time with her family and dogs, eating yummy food, and going on adventures with her friends. She is very excited to be a part of the TLC family and cannot wait to see what the future holds! mgarcia@treeoflife.school


Charlotte McKenney, Garden Coordinator

Charlotte grew up in a small mid-western farming community in Missouri. As the Garden Coordinator she has the very unique opportunity to combine her love for teaching and enjoying the great outdoors to develop, implement and maintain a beautiful rich school resource into our Tree of Life multicultural garden and learning environment. During school time and out-of-school time she works closely with the teachers and staff to integrate the garden into the academic curriculum and provide garden-based learning opportunities to link with real-world experiences. She would like to see our TLC multicultural garden become a benefit to the community, and welcomes families and friends to come and participate with our students during garden class on Miercoles Maravillosas each Wednesday afternoon.

cmckenney@treeoflife.school


Erika Messner, Dance Teacher

Erika Messner, was Born in Cusco Peru. She absolutely loves working with children (she has worked with them for many years) and teaching is her passion! Throughout her education and life experience in her country, Argentina, and later in the US; she has come to truly appreciate what she had always heard, even at a young age, that children are the future of each nation. She now sees children not only as each nation’s future, but as the future of our planet! When she looks at them, she imagines them accomplishing the greatest they could be, and she truly feels honored to be part of their education and takes it as a privilege. Her other passion is dancing and learning about other cultures. Transferring this love and passion for dance and culture to children brings immense joy to Mrs. Messner’s heart.

emessner@treeoflife.school