Working with children has always been a passion of Audra’s. She was fortunate to have been an at-home mom to her two sons, Jordan, and Kyle. When Audra’s youngest child started school full time, she began working part-time at the local library and taking child development courses to eventually become a preschool teacher. Audra enjoys sharing her love of books and reading with her students and they seem to love it as well! She feels so lucky to be part of such a warm and welcoming school and grateful for the opportunity to be a positive influence in children’s’ lives. “In what other occupation are you greeted with hugs and smiles each day?” Audra does her best to provide a nurturing, loving environment where children can learn and experience new challenges that will help build their confidence while they play.
Dariane was born and raised here in San Diego, California. Under certain circumstances, Dariane’s grandparents took her in at the age of six and became her legal guardians. She is beyond grateful that her grandparents were able to provide a stable, loving and enriched environment to grow up in. They provided her with a rich upbringing that allowed her to realize her passions of theatre, dance, and the performing arts. These became pivotal in her childhood at San Diego Junior Theatre as a student taking classes, attending camps, and performing in main stage productions for the San Diego community. She became a teacher’s aide for this program and later a dance teacher and fell in love with teaching children.
Dariane studied at San Diego Mesa College for four years. She earned four teaching certificates, an AA degree in Child Development and a certificate of performance in Dance. She has been an active babysitter for many years and takes pride in teaching life skills to her cousin who has Autism. Dariane has also volunteered her time at the Autism Tree Project Foundation assisting in various events and lending a hand in their adaptive dance classes.
Dariane is currently studying to earn a BA in Child Development with an emphasis in Theater Arts at San Diego Sate University. One day, Dariane would like to pursue teaching kindergarten or 1st grade and incorporate the arts into her work.
She has been working at St. Mark’s Nursery Preschool as a substitute for three years in every classroom. Through her time working with children, she is in constant awe of how much both she and the students grow. Dariane feels fortunate to be given the opportunity to work full time in room 4.
Carolina Valadez was born and raised in sunny San Diego, California. She is the youngest sibling out of three and is the only girl. Straight out of high school, she went to Southwestern College and obtained her Associates Degree in Child Development. Carolina decided to further her education and is currently working on her bachelor’s degree from Point Loma Nazarene University. She is beginning her journey as an assistant teacher here at St. Marks as of July 19, 2021. Carolina is excited to start her days off with smiles and warm welcomes. She looks forward to learning and creating relationships with the children, parents and staff.
Bella W. joined the St. Mark’s Nursery School team July 2021 and has worked in Early Childhood Education for over 3 years. Bella grew up in the Sacramento/Bay area and has recently moved to San Diego. She is attending San Diego City College to finish her AA degree. Bella will then transfer to SDSU to complete her BA in Education. Bella loves working with children and animals and finds joy seeing all the children’s smiling faces. Bella has a dog named Violet, a cat, and two horses. In her spare time, she enjoys her family, time at the beach, and visiting National Parks!
Jamie Schmidt has been a consistent substitute teacher at St. Marks since October 2019. She loves California. Jamie spent ten years away in Massachusetts and thought it was gorgeous but cold. She likes her water non-frozen, likes to swim, walk on the sand, and visit aquariums. Jamie has been working with children for about 15 years. Jamie studied child development at Palomar College earning an Associates of Arts in Social Sciences. She has a passion for the arts that comes out both at home and in working with children. Jamie is a big fan of inclusion and seeks to adapt classrooms to meet the needs of all children wherever possible. She is glad to be part of this awesome team and we are equally happy having her here!
Rosi Tistoj started her time at St. Mark’s in the spring of 2019. She started as a substitute teacher and was then brought on as an assistant teacher. Rosi has been working with children since the age of 15. She is a student at Southwestern College studying Child Development.
Rosi has a fur baby named Rey who is her best friend! Rosi loves working with children and feels like she learns as much from them as they do from her!
Rachel Leavell was born and raised in San Diego. She discovered her love for children through Child Development ROP. Rachel is a proud graduate of Madison High School and has completed over 24 units in Early Childhood Education. She thinks it is special her oldest son graduated from Madison High School as well. He is now a college graduate and holds an English degree from Stanford. Rachel’s other two children are making their way through elementary school. Rachel has been a nanny, homeschool educator, and most recently an infant/toddler teacher. She loves the simple things in life like the beach, nature, trees, long walks, dogs and most of all children! You might find her at the local library with her children and stacks of books waiting to check out. Rachel’s love for children’s books helps her communicate with children of all ages. She loves seeing that “I got it” look on their faces. It could be the new word they learn or the memory they share with a smile. Rachel started at St. Mark’s Preschool the fall of 2017 and is honored to be here. Everyday she says her thanks for the wonderful community she is involved with here at St. Mark’s.
Natasja was raised in Indiana and moved to San Diego for college. She has her B.A. in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences with a minor in Psychology and has taken several Child Development courses. She previously worked at St. Mark’s from 2016-2017 in Room 1 as an assistant teacher for Miss Cheryl. Over the past 3 years, she has been a lab manager at a neuroscience lab studying language with the deaf community at SDSU. She has several years of volunteering experience with children of all ages at art schools, orphanages, and migrant shelters. Working with children has tremendously influenced her aspirations and future career goals. In the future, she seeks to get her M.A. and become Speech-Art Therapist that assists young children with disabilities and speech impediments that suffer from communication barriers. She feels that through art and play, young children are able to learn and develop the appropriate skills to effectively communicate with others. Natasja enjoys being outdoors and staying active by hiking, camping, bike riding, and swimming at the beach. During her free time, she enjoys reading, gardening, arts and crafts, and cooking at home. Natasja loves working with the toddlers and is very excited to be back working with her St. Mark’s family!
It was with great pleasure that Rocky Brown finds herself among your children here at St. Mark’s, for many years, It is an honor to be part of the fine reputation that this school holds among many communities. After teaching in the early childhood field for nearly thirty years, she has been blessed with the opportunity to be a part of the St. Mark’s family.
Rocky grew up among her Italian family in Chicago. She enjoyed a wonderful, colorful, and cultural childhood there with many well-kept memories. Rocky moved to San Diego to attend college and graduated from San Diego State University with a B.A. in Psychology. She has been happily married since 1984 and blessed with a daughter and son.
Being a preschool teacher was a perfect way for her to be near her own children while doing what she loves most. Some of her passions (besides being here) are having dinners with her family, enjoying tranquility from her garden, and advocating for breast cancer awareness.
Irma Leyva was born in Cuba and immigrated to San Diego in 1995. She is the mother of two daughters, Jennie Perez and Carolyn Perez. Irma started to work for St. Mark’s School as a Teacher Assistant in Room 8 August 2012. She has been caring for children since 2008 working as a Residential Care Worker at Polinsky Children Center. The opportunity to work with children and families is the best and most rewarding job to her. There is nothing more gratifying than witnessing a young child learn something new and knowing she was a driving force behind that growth. Her goal is to continue growing as a professional to give the children at St. Mark’s the best possible learning experiences to help them develop and get ready not only for kindergarten but for life.