Teaching Team

Teaching Team

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.

Distinguished Master Teacher
Guide and Model for Teachers
Montessori Certified

Penny is our honored Master Teacher who holds the traditions of Mandala and models the teaching culture that defines our Mandala classrooms. She is a highly-skilled early childhood professional with over 35 years of experience. Penny was a Preschool Director for seven years, but she decided to return to the classroom where her love of teaching can be expressed. Penny teaches in the morning Preschool only. She has entered a new phase of life as a grandmother, and this schedule allows her the time to do both. Penny has taught at Mandala since 1980. She first came to Mandala as a parent, returned to school for her AA degree in Early Childhood from SJCC, and then pursued Montessori certification through CSU Hayward. She went on to receive her BA Magna Cum Laude from SJSU. Penny is also a certified CPR and Pediatric First Aide Instructor. She is a Mentor Facilitator with the California Mentor-Teacher Program. Penny is a gifted Montessori teacher who has an intuitive sense of how to invite children into learning. She shows a unique respect for nurturing the “whole child” and credits Marilyn with being her model and mentor. Penny is widely known and respected in the Early Childhood field. Penny’s two boys went to Mandala. She now has 5 grandchildren.

Preschool Director of Classrooms
Classroom and Curriculum Management
Montessori Certified
Email: aparna@mandalachildrenshouse.com

Aparna teaches in the Preschool and does Preschool classroom administration. Aparna is a highly experienced teacher who grew to be Lead Teacher in the Preschool, which then evolved into her Preschool Director role. Aparna first came to us as a parent volunteer in 2001 and then became a preschool teacher. We knew she was a perfect Mandala fit immediately. After moving out of the area, Aparna returned again in the fall of 2009 to rejoin the Mandala family. Aparna has a quiet confidence with children 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 Bachelors 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 middle school and one in college at UCLA.

Teacher_NeetuNEETU SETHI
Preschool Teacher
Montessori Certified
Email: neetu@mandalachildrenshouse.com

Neetu teaches in both our Preschool classrooms. 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 middle school school.

Early Preschool and Preschool Teacher
Email: janine@mandalachildrenshouse.com

Janine works in both our Preschool classrooms. She joined our staff in the fall of 2015. Although she is one of the newest member of our staff, Janine has been part of the Mandala family for years. It feels like she has been with us forever. Janine was first introduced to Mandala in 2001 as a parent. Both her children are alumni of Mandala. Her daughter attends UC Davis, and her son attends Gonzaga University. Janine graduated from San Jose State University with a BA in Child Development and a minor in Deaf Education. She 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.”

Preschool Teacher

Montessori Certified
Email: sharada@mandalachildrenshouse.com

Sharada teaches in the Preschool. She first came to us as a student teacher from Mission College, and we knew she was a match for Mandala. After observing Sharada’s remarkable presence and attunement to young children, we encouraged her to join our staff as a teacher in the fall of 2011. She has expert skills in working with early preschoolers as well as older preschoolers. 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 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 high school-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.

Early Preschool Teacher
Montessori Certified

Email: tabatha@mandalachildrenshouse.com

Tabatha teaches in the Early Preschool and is the Head Teacher in that program. She started at Mandala as a student teacher from SJ City College. We were all impressed with her kind, empathetic approach and her natural ability with children. We knew we wanted to make a place for her at Mandala. By the fall of 2010 she was able to join our staff permanently. Tabatha comes with a maturity beyond her years. She is highly skilled. Tabatha has developed a particular expertise in understanding both typical and atypical development in young children. She 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 in Early Childhood Education at SJSC, obtained her Montessori Certificate, and received her Bachelor’s Degree in Child Development in 2015. She also works as an Early Interventionist. A particular area of interest for her is mental health with young children and children with special needs.

Preschool Teacher (Marta has stepped away for a short maternity break.)
Montessori Certified
Email: marta@mandalachildrenshouse.com

Marta teaches in the Preschool. She began teaching at Mandala in the fall of 2016, and she is a welcome addition to our Mandala family. We are delighted to have her. She is a newly-educated Montessori teacher with a captivating enthusiasm and passion for working with children. Marta was born and raised in Barcelona, Spain and has had a colorful life exploring the world and living in many places in Europe and Asia. Marta graduated from the University of Barcelona with a BA in Linguistics and German and has a MA in Linguistics and Communication, in addition to post-graduate work in East Asian Studies and International Business. After recently moving to the United States from Barcelona with her husband, Marta decided to change careers and return to her original love of education. She has always loved working with children and teaching Spanish. Marta completed her Montessori Training and did her practicum year with us. We appreciate her broad experience with cultures, travel, people, and languages. Marta speaks Spanish, Catalan, German, French, and Mandarin. She is also the proud mother of a son and a new baby daughter.

Preschool Teacher

Email: teresa@mandalachildrenshouse.com

Teresa is the newest teacher to join our staff. She began working in both of our Preschool classrooms this year. Teresa brings many years of teaching experience with her to Mandala. We were sure that her deep respect for young children and her soft and gentle demeanor would be a perfect fit for us. Teresa has resonated with “the spirit of Mandala” and especially loves doing our Small Group curriculum where she has a chance to put that into action. We welcome her to our teaching team. She has an A.A. Degree in Early Childhood Education from SJCC. She is currently taking Montessori training. Teresa was born and raised in San Jose and lives locally. She is the mother of two daughters. Her eldest attends San Francisco State University and her youngest is in high school. Some of Teresa’s favorite hobbies and interests are learning to crochet, adult coloring books, reading, and attending vintage toy shows.

Early Preschool and Preschool Teacher

Email: serena@mandalachildrenshouse.com

Serena teaches in the Early Preschool. She came to Mandala in the spring of 2016 to add 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, and 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 Humbolt with a Bachelor’s Degree in Child Development in 2014, and she is currently working on her Master’s Degree in Early Childhood at SJSU, as well as taking additional Montessori training. She is a busy woman and mother. Serena also has a son who is a  preschooler, so she understands both the parent’s and the child’s perspective. We are so happy to have her with us. Her presence  makes the Early Preschool a very strong team.

Early Preschool Teacher

Email: amber@mandalachildrenshouse.com

Amber teaches in the Early Preschool. She has been a warmly welcomed recent addition 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 taking Montessori training. 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.

Teacher_DeniseDENISE RIVAS
Substitute Teacher

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.