Teachers & Leadership

  Our Teachers

Magdalena Garcia – Head of Education & Acorns (5 to 7) Lead Teacher

Lena is a UC Santa Cruz alum with a bachelors in Psychology as well as a UCLA graduate with a masters degree in education. She has been an elementary school teacher for over 15 years working as a classroom teacher, a teacher coach and mentor teacher. She has served as an educational consultant for the Natural History Museum helping to create project-based, art infused resources to support museum exhibits. Lena strives to create connection with children through listening and playing and is always looking for an opportunity for collaboration and learning with adults and children alike. Lena joined TKG when her daughter enrolled in the first year of the school.  She served as the founding teacher’s mentor and curriculum consultant and in 2013 became the School Builder and 7 to 9 Classroom teacher to answer the call of designing a school where a student’s potential comes first. In her role as Head of School, she is responsible for overseeing the teaching staff and developing a proprietary school curriculum.

MGJMichelle Goldbach-Johnson, Founding Teacher & Acorns Lead Teacher

Michelle knew she wanted to be in education when her high school English Lit teacher assigned a “Carpe Diem” project. She spent the following days running in sprinklers, writing poems about mud, and waking up in time for sunrise. From this exercise, she discovered that THIS is where the real learning takes place and thus what kind of teacher she wanted to be. Years later she earned her BA in Liberal Studies and Multiple Subject Teacher Credential at CSU Long Beach. Michelle has worked as a teacher in several districts in the region and was especially affected by her experience at the Art Zone. The Artzone 4 Kids, in Hemosa Beach, provided an opportunity to practice her skills in empathetic language in a rich and supportive environment. Michelle has been teaching for 5 years and continues to be enthusiastic about implementing hands-on-minds-on learning at the Knowing Garden! Aside from teaching, she is a kid at heart and enjoys spending time with her husband, dog, reading, gardening, camping, crafting, practicing yoga, traveling, and occasionally bungee jumping.


Yvette B. Fenton, Nature Growers (7-9) Lead Teacher

Yvette finds that the curiosity of children fuels her love of learning. She sees her role in the classroom as a collaborator, learner, and researcher. She received her BA in Child & Adolescent Development from California State University Fullerton. She then attended Loyola Marymount University, where she received her MA in Literacy & Language and multiple subject teaching credential. She has taught in various capacities in Huntington Beach, Santa Monica, Lawndale and Hawthorne. Yvette also enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter. They often spend their time together outdoors, camping, swimming in lakes, building sandcastles and snowboarding.


aliceshippeeAlice Shippee, Redwoods (9-11) Lead Teacher

Alice earned a BA in English from UCLA & her MA in Education at Stanford University. She holds a Single Subject Clear Credential in English, as well as credentials in Cross-Cultural Language & Development and photography. At Beverly Hills High School from 1995-2005, Alice taught World, British & European, & American Literature; dance; and photography, while also earning several teaching awards. She was also the English Department chair & professional development coordinator.

Alice is very excited to be teaching at the elementary level now, particularly because of all the possibilities that TKG offers to teachers in designing truly meaningful and relevant interdisciplinary curricula to students. The whole-child approach to learning means that teachers are able to harness all the disciplines into a cohesive study of the world and of life with a 360-degree view through multiple lenses, incorporating a students’ unique backgrounds, personalities, skills, & passions. Her approach is that the classroom is a theatre wherein the subjects we study can come alive, & that learning is an aesthetic experience that engages all the senses. Alice’s background in high school education informs the TKG community about where our students will be headed after middle school.

Jill Vengerik, Acorns Teacher

With 8 years experience in the MD public school system and 3 years as a private tutor serving the Beach Cities communities, Jill is happy to continue her professional growth with TKG! As a certified teacher with a masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction, she has experience working with kids ranging from ages 3 to 13. The things she finds most rewarding, no matter the age, are the connections she builds with each family and child, and the chance to nurture a lifelong love for learning. Jill lives in Redondo Beach with her husband, daughter, and their awesome cat and dog.

Kerry Keng, Math/STEM Specialist

Kerry is a math and STEM specialist at The Knowing Garden. She obtained her Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from MIT and double-majored in Biomedical Engineering and Applied Mathematics as an undergraduate. With over ten years of experiences in academia and industry, Kerry thrives on bringing interdisciplinary perspectives into the classroom – and making maths fun.

In addition to teaching in TKG, Kerry is a full-time STEM consultant, tutoring and helping students get into the STEM fields. She is also a piano coach, sharing the joy of music by teaching it the engineering way!

2016-2017 Community Board

Monica EvangelistMonica Evangelist

Monica is the TKG Board of Directors President.  She is also a Finance Consultant, currently working with Artist Publishing Group, an independent music publishing company .  Her experience in operations and financial planning & analysis spans over 20 years including as roles as an executive with AmerisourceBergen Specialty Group and consultant for Deloitte Consulting.  Hailing from Boston by way of Dallas, Monica earned her MBA from Southern Methodist University Cox School of Business and received a BBA in Operations Management at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  Her two daughters have attended TKG since Year 2. In her role as President, Monica is charged with overseeing school governance.



MikeDMike Dokmanovich

Mike Dokmanovich is Executive Vice President and head of Middle Market Banking for Comerica Bank, Southern California.

Dokmanovich is responsible for leading all middle market growth strategies, providing business solutions and developing financial initiatives and relationships for companies that have revenue ranging from $20 million to

$500 million. He oversees Comerica’s eight middle market offices located in Los Angeles, Orange, San Fernando and San Diego Counties. Southern California middle market offices service a number of industries and business sectors, including industrial products, business services, consumer products, retail, technology, apparel and textile, among others.

Dokmanovich has been a Comerica officer in California since 1991 and is a former senior vice president and regional manager for the middle market division in Los Angeles, Calif.

The Ohio native holds a bachelor’s degree in finance and an MBA from Ohio State University. Dokmanovich currently serves on the Board of Directors for AbilityFirst, a Pasadena-based nonprofit organization serving children and adults with developmental disabilities, including autism, cerebral palsy and Down syndrome. He and his family reside in Redondo Beach, Calif.

Jason Williams

Mr. Williams is a Vice President and Wealth Management Consultant at Cohen & Seers, servicing all channels of distribution. In this role, he is responsible for providing marketing and sales support to clients in Southern California and Hawaii.  Mr. Williams joined Cohen & Steers in 2010 and has nearly 20 years of experience in the investment industry.  Prior to joining Cohen & Steers in 2010, Mr. Williams was with Wisdom Tree Asset Management, serving as a Regional Director covering Western states.  Previously, he was a Regional Marketing Director with Putnam Investments.

He is NASD Series 63 and 7 licensed.  He received the Certified Investment Management Analyst designation (CIMA), awarded by the Investment Management Consultants Association, taught in conduction with The University of California, Berkeley.

Shannon Minor

Shannon, our secretary, is a mother of two TKG students. She brings ample non-profit experience to our board having worked with the Rainbow Services Group in Los Angeles. This May, she will be graduating from El Camino with an A.S. degree in Business Management and an A.A. degree in General Studies, with an emphasis in Social and Behavioral Sciences. She will be attending CSU Dominguez Hills in the fall,  pursuing a B.S. degree in Business Management, with a concentration in Entrepreneurship.

260968_670359911_1210928752_nTrish Valdez 

Founder and Principal at Elbie Studio, Trish has led award-winning, million dollar marketing and publicity campaigns around the globe. She combines her experience and entrepreneurial energies to develop creative solutions for Independent Producers of Art, Cinema, Culture as well as creative entrepreneurs. A UCLA graduate with over 20 years of communications experience, her scope ranges the big screen to hometown. In her role as Business Manager, Trish oversees administration, marketing and operations.

2016-2017 Advisory Board

Shane Evangelist, Management & Finance

Shane Evangelist has been Chief Executive Officer at US AutoParts since October 2007. From August 2004 to September 2007, Mr. Evangelist served as Senior Vice President and General Manager of BLOCKBUSTER Online, a division of Blockbuster Inc., which he joined in 2001, where he was responsible for leading the creation, development and launch of Blockbuster’s online movie rental service. Prior to that, from January 2001 to July 2004, Mr. Evangelist served as Vice President of Strategic Planning for Blockbuster Inc., with responsibility for strategy development, mergers and acquisitions, marketing and capital deployment. Prior to Blockbuster, Mr. Evangelist began his career at IBM where he served from 1997 to 2001 as a business executive responsible for media and entertainment accounts. Mr. Evangelist holds a B.A. degree in Business Administration from the University of New Mexico and an M.B.A. from Southern Methodist University.

LauraPLaura Premi, Counsel

Laura Premi has over a decade of litigation experience serving a wide range of clients involved in entertainment, employment and contract disputes. She represents small and large businesses as well as individuals and has extensive experience in multi-party complex litigation. She has worked on matters for banks, government entities, property owners, movie studios and business owners. Laura works hard to achieve the best results for her clients, whether that means resolving a dispute prior to commencing litigation or taking a case to trial or arbitration. Prior to joining Cypress, Laura practiced law for 11 years at Glaser, Weil, Fink, Jacobs, Howard & Shapiro, LLP.

Laura received her law degree from the University of Southern California Law Center in 2000. While at USC, Laura was a member of the Southern California Interdisciplinary Law Journal and the president of the Student Bar Association. She was awarded a summer grant from USC’s Public Interest Law Foundation, which she used to litigate on behalf of tenants to ensure their landlord was providing habitable living conditions. Laura earned her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Rick Valdez, Financial/CPA

Richard Valdez, CPA, Sr. Vice President, has over 25 years experience providing financial services to individuals in and throughout the entertainment industry, having participated in the business and financial management of some its most successful members.

As such his experience handling both beginning and established clientele gives him a unique opportunity to help the soon to be successful individual deal with greater financial resources, as well as understand the responsibilities accompanying that wealth.

Mr. Valdez’s area of expertise includes tax planning for high income and net worth individuals. He participates regularly in tax and financial planning courses, has been involved in the planning of major acquisitions and sales of real estate and business assets, having successfully assisted his clients in acquiring millions of dollars of financing for these endeavors. Specific entertainment industry experience includes assistance in the negotiation of the financial structuring of employment related contracts, in addition to supervising the audits of motion picture profit participation accountings.

He has been a member of the California Society of CPA’s since 1990, in addition to obtaining a California Real Estate Sales’ Persons License in 1998.

Learn more about…




Comments are closed.