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.
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.
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.
Jim DeJong, 4th/5th Grade Teacher
Professor DeJong was born in the USA, but raised by teacher parents in South India where he did his schooling in an International School. He learned the local language, Tamil, and German as a student and later turned language learning into his college major. He studied abroad in Vienna, Austria for a year and then returned to Tacoma, WA where he completed a BA in German with minors in Spanish and French. After this he spent two years in Pamplona, Spain completing the coursework for an MA in Spanish Literature, and beginning his career as an ESL teacher working with children, teenagers, and adults in a private language academy. He also met his future wife there. He completed his MA in Spanish Literature at the University of Delaware with extra coursework in language pedagogy and linguistics. He was a full-time Spanish Instructor at the University of Delaware for 14 years, and served additionally as a course coordinator for multilevel courses as well as a study abroad director on 3 occasions. In 2005 he moved to San Antonio, Texas where he was an adjunct Spanish faculty member at Trinity University for 10 years, and at the same time an adjunct ESL instructor at San Antonio College for 8 years. He and his wife bought and ran a business for three years in Texas before selling it in anticipation of making a move to California. Currently he resides in Redding, CA where he has begun work as the lead paraprofessional for ESL and World Languages at Shasta College, and as an adjunct professor of Linguistics/TESOL at Simpson University.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Cecilia Henson, Third Grade Teacher
Cecilia Henson was born and raised in Bolivia, South America where Spanish is one of the main languages. After getting married, she lived in Peru for eight years, and moved to the United States in 2000 with her beautiful family. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Spanish from Arizona State University and has taught this wonderful language for nine years in a local high school in Redding, California. She believes all children deserve and are able to know at least two languages fluently. Knowing a second language gives us many opportunities for better jobs, safety when traveling, and a new appreciation of our own language while opening our understanding of new cultures and their people. Cecilia loves to see her students succeed and grow in knowledge and confidence.
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!
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.
Brandon Farris, Custodian
Brandon was raised in the Bay Area and involved in music at a very early age. Brandon is happily married to Yadira, who works as a bilingual aide at the school. Brandon and his wife have 4 amazing children, who are also enrolled at Tree of Life Charter School. Brandon is passionate about producing music and traveling. He has been on missions trips to Romania, Hungary, Nicaragua and Mexico. Brandon and his wife were also missionaries in Yadira's hometown of La Paz, Mexico. He loves providing a clean environment for the children to learn and is committed to striving for excellence in his custodial work. A fun fact is that he played drums at the age of 7 in his church Choir.
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!
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!
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.
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.