Our Staff

Sara Mintz

Dean

Sara serves as the founder and director of the Growing Garden schools which includes the Growing Garden Academy and the Growing Garden Preschool, the premier preschool in the South Bay.

Sara is a native Southern Californian. Her dedication to education took her across the globe to Melbourne, Australia and then to New York, studying and teaching preschool and elementary school levels. After moving back to Southern California with her husband, Sara continued following her passion by furthering her study in her chosen field at UCLA, keeping abreast of the most current Early Childhood approaches.

Sara is applying her leadership and unparalleled success at the Growing Garden Preschool in leading the development of the Growing Garden Academy.

Alta Gordon

Director

Alta was born in New York and raised in Toronto. After continuing her education in a teaching seminary in Israel, Alta returned to North America to put her skills to work in the classroom while studying child development at UCLA.
With more than a dozen years experience as a teacher at both elementary school and preschool teaching, Alta joins the Growing Garden Academy as the director of development and Judaic studies teacher.
As a dedicated wife and mother of five, Alta believes that every child is an entire world with their own unique needs and gifts.

Dr. Debra Bogle

Principal

Dr. Debra E.S. Bogle has guided children for over 25 years as a classroom teacher in elementary, middle and high school. She is a Reading Recovery Teacher, and has served as a curriculum coach, master teacher, curricula writer, English Language Learner Teacher and Director, and content coaching mentor in three countries and five states. Having earned her doctorate in Urban Education and Leadership at the University of Southern California, she currently teaches in the Masters of Teaching Program and the Reading Authorization Program at USC, where she wrote the foundational course curriculum. Dr. Bogle serves on several advisory boards and is active in P.E.O. She is committed to building access in education for all women. She is a mother of two and grandmother and resides in the South Bay. She is often in her adopted home writing children's literature, cooking, baking, listening to music, perusing art, exploring and enjoying the countryside with her family and friends in France.
Dr. Bogle just published Building Bridges: Curricula Notes The Arts, Equity, Democracy and Inclusion Community Curriculum for Transitional Kindergarten by Archway for Simon Schuster this July.
She has three more publications coming this fall all Children's Literature focused on Inclusion and Global Children.
Dr. Bogle helps schools around the country re-conceptualize educational systems in order to continuously create child-centered, research-based curricula that is inclusive, innovative, holistic, progressive global and democratic. She supports the importance of multiple perspectives shaping our dialogue in our communities and envisions learning as a series of joyful discoveries that encourage children to reach into their creative capacities and develop a life-long love of learning.
Dr. Bogle is an educational visionary and consultant who reaches out to communities, teachers and administrators to support all children and teachers on their educational path.

Madeleine Simonds

TK Grade Teacher

Madeleine Simonds – a native Minnesotan, loves getting to know the hiking trails, amazing food scene, and beaches in Los Angeles.

After going to school at the University of Missouri for Early Childhood Education, Madeline lived in Chicago for five years where she taught preschool and kindergarten. After moving to Los Angeles, Madeline taught preschool and kindergarten at the Lycée Francais de Los Angeles before joining the Academy of the Arts.

Madeline believes wholeheartedly in a holistic teaching philosophy where social-emotional learning is just as important as academics. She love teaching because there is never a dull moment, and there’s nothing in the world as rewarding as watching a child learn a new skill.

Tracy Larson

Kindergarten Teacher

Tracy has taught at the Growing Garden Preschool since 2006. Starting 2009 Tracy has been our lead Kindergarten teacher at the Growing Garden and loves every minute. She continues to grow our Kindergarten curriculum to meet the needs of each child. Tracy inspires her students to explore and discover using their multiple intelligences. After graduating from UCLA she spent a year abroad teaching English in Japan.
This allowed her to appreciate how children have many similarities yet each has his/her unique learning style. Along with following sports with an emphasis on the Dodgers and fantasy football, she loves to read, travel and dine!

Ms. Sonyi

1st Grade Teacher

Sonyi Santos is a New York Native. Sonyi, her two daughters, and pet poodle Tango moved to California in 2017.

Sonyi has a dual Master’s Degree in General Education and Special Education from Manhattan College. She taught elementary school grades in New York for 5 years before moving abroad to the Dominican Republic, where she experienced teaching elementary grades at a dual-language international private school.

After relocating back to the states, Sonyi began providing one on one instruction to students with Autism before joining the Academy of the Arts after she missed being in the classroom.

Sonyi truly believes that education is more than academics but it’s the whole child. Every student has their own learning style and should be able to have the opportunity to have hands-on experience based on their interest. What she loves most about teaching is the feeling she gets when her students are happy and engaged.

Neva Javadi

2nd Grade Teacher

Ms. Tiffany

3rd /4th Grade Teacher

Tiffany Sidney is a South Bay native and recent graduate of Loyola Marymount University where she received her Master of Arts in Educational Studies with a concentration in Special Education, Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies, and California Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential. Tiffany has previously taught at the 1st-grade and 5th-grade levels.

In her free time, Tiffany enjoys traveling, going on hikes, soaking up the sun on the beach, and sinking her teeth into a captivating book.

Tiffany is a champion of the education of the whole person; being men and women with and for others. As a teacher, it is her goal to foster an environment in which all students feel welcomed, cherished, and celebrated in her classroom regardless of their talents, race, prior education, or socioeconomic status. Tiffany also utilizes the REAL framework (Respect, Educate, Advocate, Lead) as a pledge to her students to ensure they are getting the most of their education.

Rebecca Luskin

Head of Academic Research

Rebecca Luskin recently joined the Growing Garden Preschool & Academy as the Parent Council Coordinator and Head of Academic Research for the Academy. Rebecca is an education research and evaluation professional with 15+ years experience in learning and development organizations. She is a professionally trained social research methodologist, with expertise in teacher professional development and training, assessment practice, measurement and instrument design, data-based decision making in K-12 organizations, and project management. Rebecca received her BA in History from UC Berkeley, Masters in Library and Information Science and MA in Education and Social Research Methodology from UCLA.

Morah Rechyl

3rd /4th Grade Teacher

Rechyl Sirota, originally from Litchfield, Connecticut completed her schooling in New York before continuing her studies in Safed, Israel and receiving her dual masters in Early childhood education and special education from Grand Canyon University.

After starting her teaching career in Brooklyn, NY, Rechyl with her
husband Rabbi Shlomo and daughter Mushka moved to Redondo Beach California in 2020 to become spiritual leaders at the JCC and the Academy.

Rechyl is a firm believer in student based learning, and holistic teaching. She views her role in the classroom is to guide and help her students uncover and tap into their potential. She believes in teaching students how to learn, not what to learn.