WE NOURISH OUR STAFF
A key part of Mandala’s mission statement is to “nourish the staff.” This is drawn from one of our founding principles, written over 40 years ago when we established the school: to create an environment where teachers, staff, and childcare providers can learn and thrive through support of their personal, as well as professional, growth.
When we started Mandala, we wanted to create a workplace that supported women’s need to both have a career and a family and be successful at both! We think we’ve done that.
We refer to ourselves as the “Mandala Family.” We care about and support each other. Many members of our staff have been here 15 years or more. Some have been here even longer.
Our Preschool Directors support and guide the teachers in the classroom. The teachers at Mandala are very special people who are particularly gifted at working with young children. They model kindness and peacefulness in the classroom, and we feel very grateful to have them. They work collaboratively as teams in the Preschool and Early Preschool.
Preschool Director of Classrooms
Classroom and Curriculum Management
Aparna is our Preschool Director. She teaches in the both Preschool classes, oversees classroom management, and collaborates with the Executive Team. Aparna is a highly experienced and gifted teacher who grew to be Lead Teacher in the Preschool, which then evolved into her current Preschool Director role. Aparna first came to us as a parent volunteer in 2001 and soon became a teacher. We knew she was a perfect “Mandala fit” because of her thoughtful, gentle teaching style. Although she had to move out of the area for a short time, she returned to rejoin the Mandala family in the fall of 2009. Aparna has a quiet confidence and a warm, accepting style. Her special gift is teaching Montessori. She is committed to helping each child learn, no matter the challenge. As a Mentor Teacher, Aparna also supervises mentees from local community colleges doing their practicum at our school. She has a Bachelor’s of Science Degree from Mount Carmel College in Bangalore, India, completed her ECE classes at SJCC, and obtained her Montessori Certificate. Aparna speaks Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil, and Kannada, as well as English. Aparna has two beautiful girls, one in high school and one in college at UCLA.
Early Preschool & Preschool Teacher
Montessori Certification in Progress
Amber teaches in the Early Preschool and Dragonfly classrooms. She is an incredibly gifted teacher and is such an asset to our Mandala team. Amber came to us as a Mentee in the fall of 2016 and then worked as a substitute throughout the year. She showed the exuberance and joy in teaching that we value in our classrooms. We found a place for her at Mandala as soon as there was an opening and hired her as a permanent teacher in our Early Preschool class in the summer of 2017. Amber received an A.S. Degree in Early Childhood from West Valley College and is currently completing her Montessori Certification. Amber has continued to grow into a strong and dynamic teacher. She brings a particular talent in music, movement, and drama to her work at Mandala. She has worked for several years as a choreographer with the Starting Arts Program in San Jose, and she continues to work there in the afternoons. Amber loves sharing her musical gifts with the children, and we are grateful for the energy she adds to the classroom. The children love her enthusiasm and she loves them. Amber also hopes to travel the world someday.
Neetu teaches in our Dragonfly classroom. She first came to Mandala as a parent, but in 2003 she started as an assistant teacher in the Early Preschool. She later left on maternity leave, returned to us as a substitute teacher in 2007, and then became a permanent teacher in the Early Preschool in September 2009. Neetu did college work in computer application for business and web design, but after working at Mandala she decided that her real love was teaching young children. She returned to school to complete her AA degree in Early Childhood Education from SJCC and received her Montessori Certificate in 2012. Neetu says that she has always loved Mandala. We appreciate that she truly lives “the spirit of Mandala.” Neetu brings cultural enrichment to our staff, speaking Hindi, Punjabi, and “a little Telugu.” She adds a calm and caring presence to our classroom and the children love working with her. Neetu has a daughter in college and a son in high school school.
Janine teaches in both our Dragonfly classroom. She joined our staff in the fall of 2015, but has been part of the Mandala family for years. Janine was first introduced to us in 2001 when she brought her children to school at Mandala, so it feels like she has been with us forever. Janine graduated from San Jose State University with a BA in Child Development and a minor in Deaf Education, as well as Montessori Certification which she completed after coming to Mandala. Janine worked for over 15 years in management and then stayed home to raise her children. She was a substitute Teacher’s Aide for seven years at a local private school. Janine loves being an integral part of Mandala again, and the teaching team loves having her even more! We appreciate her engaging and playful spirit and her natural gift with young children. Janine says she feels Mandala is “such a special place, not only for the children but for the parents as well. It truly is a loving and enriching environment.” Janine’s children are nearly grown now; her daughter graduated from UC Davis, and her son from Gonzaga University. In her free time, Janine loves to garden and has done coursework in horticulture and landscape design. She loves to plant with the preschoolers and offers Mandala her valued gardening expertise.
Sharada teaches in both Preschool classrooms. She is another highly gifted and talented teacher who has been with us for years. Sharada first came to us as a student teacher from Mission College, and we knew she was a match for Mandala. After observing her remarkable presence and keen attunement to young children, we encouraged her to join our staff as a teacher in the fall of 2011. Sharada brings a vibrant creativity and a gentle strength to our classrooms. She models our values of nurturing children’s spirits, following their lead, building bridges with families, and celebrating diversity. Sharada is the leader of our Small Group curriculum in the Preschool classroom, and she keeps it flourishing for all of us. Sharada was born and raised in a large family in Bangalore, India, and she grew up with the life-long dream of working with children. She earned an AS Degree in Early Childhood Education at Mission College. She also has a Bachelor of Arts in Degree in Economics, English, and Sociology from Bangalore University, India. Sharada has a college-aged son, Mihir, who is a great joy in her life. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, cooking, baking, and most of all, spending time with her son. Sharada also speaks Hindi, Kannada, Telugu and English.
TABATHA OSBORNE WOODS
Early Preschool Head Teacher
Tabatha teaches in the Early Preschool and is the Lead Teacher in that classroom. She is another highly skilled teacher who has been with us for a long time. Tabatha started at Mandala as a student teacher from SJ City College. We were all impressed with her natural ability with children, and by the fall of 2010 she was able to join our staff permanently. Tabatha comes with a maturity beyond her years. She has developed a particular expertise in understanding both typical and atypical development in young children. Tabatha has mastered balancing playfulness with giving children the structure they need. She has a special way of engaging in floor play with the younger children and entering into creative play with the older ones. They love her energy and her exuberance. Tabatha continually takes on more responsibility and more learning. She completed her AS Degree in Early Childhood Education at SJSC, obtained her Montessori Certificate, and received her Bachelor’s Degree in Child Development in 2015. She has recently pursued more education in Montessori with Infants and Toddlers. Tabatha also works as an Early Interventionist, and a particular area of interest for her is mental health with young children and children with special needs. Tabatha has recently taken a big step and is entering into married life! We are so happy for her.
SERENA ARAGONES CRUZ
Early Preschool Teacher
Serena teaches in the Early Preschool. She came to Mandala in the spring of 2016, and she has added tremendous support to the Early Preschool. We consider Serena a “local,” since she grew up in the east foothills and her family has lived here for years. She comes with several years of experience working with infants and toddlers in another program. We value her upbeat confidence with very young children. Her personality adds to the gentle and nurturing atmosphere that we try to cultivate in our youngest classes. Serena graduated from CSU Humboldt with a Bachelor’s Degree in Child Development in 2014, and also recently received her Master’s Degree in Early Childhood from SJSU. Serena also has completed additional Montessori training. She is a busy woman and mother. Serena has two sons; a preschooler attending Mandala and an infant, so she understands both the parent’s and the child’s perspective. We are so happy to have her on our staff. Her presence makes the Early Preschool a very strong team.
Amy teaches in our Ladybug classroom and is incredibly gifted in her ability to connect with young children. Amy started working with children at 12 when she distributed flyers offering her babysitting services to the neighborhood. Amy found her love for teaching and caring for kids and has never looked back! She has experience working with kids from birth through 12 years old in many capacities including as a teacher, tutor, nanny, and mother. Most recently, Amy honed her early childhood knowledge by completing units in Early Childhood Education and completed the Montessori Fundamentals program. Amy received a BA in English/Language Arts with a minor in Education from SUNY Albany in New York in 2009. Mandala Children’s House felt like home from her first moments on campus, and we can all agree that Amy fits right in here as part of our Mandala family.
Tania grew up in San Jose and is Bilingual in Spanish and English. Like many of our other teachers, Tania started at Mandala as a Mentee. She later worked as a substitute teacher for us throughout the 2017-18 school year, and then as Preschool teacher in the Ladybug classroom during the 2018-19 school year. Tania has an AS Degree in Early Childhood Education from De Anza College and an AA Degree in Liberal Arts with a Social and Behavioral Science Emphasis. She is currently attending SJSU to pursue a BA in Child and Adolescent Development with a minor in Social Work/Counseling. Tania loves Mandala’s values of focusing on the whole child (body, mind, and spirit) and supporting the whole family. This focus is totally in sync with her educational plan. Her goal is to make a difference in children’s lives. Tania is a hard-working young woman who is putting herself through school by also working at Costco on weekends. She loves to travel and spend time with loved ones in her free time.
Joanna is another Mandala treasure. She also came to us as a college student Mentee, and worked as both an Assistant Teacher and a Teacher in our Early Preschool classroom during the 2018-19 school year. Joanna has already earned two AA degrees from De Anza College: an AA in Liberal Arts with Emphasis on Behavioral and Social Sciences and an AS-T in Child Development. She is currently attending SJSU to obtain a BA in Child Development and Social Work. She is very interested in minoring in Atypical Child Studies. Joanna speaks Spanish fluently and lived in Mexico for five years. She loves learning, spending time with family (especially the little ones), and reading. She believes in that “parents and their culture are the child’s first teachers,” and she has come to understand that “a quality education can only be achieved if parents and educators are involved together.” Joanna values helping children learn and grow by providing an environment that is nurturing, supports exploration, and is developmentally appropriate.
Denise was the Head Teacher in the Early Preschool for many years, but she retired in June of 2015. Fortunately, when she is not traveling, Denise is willing to substitute for us when we need her. She began as a teacher at Mandala in March 1999. She received her Early Childhood Education training from San Jose City College. Denise completed her Montessori training from North American Progressive Montessori Teacher Training Centre. Denise has a particular gift for working young children. Her calm, accepting manner is soothing to them, and her confidence is comforting to parents. Denise is highly skilled at assessing children’s development. We have gained much from her wisdom and expertise, which has come from her years of experience working with young children. Denise has 2 grown children and 3 grandchildren, and she loves going to Hawaii.
Mandala Mission: “Nurture the child. Support the family. Nourish the staff.”