Faculty Bios


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Jose Navarro, Principal

Jose Luis Navarro is the principal of the Social Justice Humanitas Academy, a school he helped design. Mr. Navarro believes in the power of a teacher: “We need to empower ourselves by acknowledging the fact that we are the most significant educational resource our students encounter. WE hold the solutions to what ails education and when we do not see ourselves as such….we merely add to the problem.” SJHA is one of the highest performing high schools in LAUSD. Whether he is working with a 9th grade student or speaking with the US Secretary of Education, he is working to find solutions and close the achievement gap.

Mr. Navarro is a National Board Certified Teacher, California Teacher of the Year, Latino Educator of the Year, University of California Distinguished Teacher, former member of the California P-16 Council, Innovative School Leadership Institute Fellow at California State University Dominguez Hills and a Deans Scholar at UCLA where he has completed his Masters Degree in Education Leadership. Mr. Navarro’sresume also includes diverse experiences such as a firefighter, Board Member for Los Angeles Education Partnership and Peace Corps Volunteer.

Mr. Navarro envisions a high school worthy of his own children where all stake holders achieve self-actualization. People must be what they can be, it is not about a career path as much as it is about being the best version of yourself… That is the function of the Social Justice Humanitas Academy.


Brenda Arias

IMG_0008What is a cloud? How does a bomb work? Why is water so important? Discovering the answers to questions like these and inspiring curiosity in others is who Ms. Arias is. Brenda Berenice Arias was born and raised in East Los Angeles by a single, immigrant, non-English speaking parent who worked long hours to provide her with something to eat. Because of their money struggles, she was determined to work hard in order to obtain a great career. Surprisingly, teaching was not part of the plan. Far from it! However, as she became more involved in tutoring and teaching in various jobs and non-profit organizations, she realized the impact a teacher has in the life of a student. She discovered how teachers are one of the most valuable resources, but also one of the most devalued in society. As Jacques Barzun once said, “Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition.” Through exposure and experience she found that teaching is one of the most valuable callings with unlimited potential and exponential influence. It is the idea of, “you can count the seeds in an apple, but you cannot count the number of apples in a seed.” When one is part of someone’s learning and discovery, he or she becomes a small part of that student’s progress and influence. It is the understanding that behind every great individual in society there has been that influential educator that has helped shape the character for his or her success. So, through the years Ms. Arias has found fulfillment in investing her life in a career with unlimited dividends. She not only completed a B.S. in Chemistry, she obtained a dual credential in chemistry and physics as well as an M.A. in Education. Ms. Arias has found that there is nothing more satisfying than being part of an “Aha!!” moment for a struggling student and providing a glimpse of hope for their future. It is a life transforming and truly awe-inspiring vocation that she is more than grateful to be a part of.

Jeff Austin

Mr. Jeff Austin is the coordinator and AP Econ and Government teacher. He was on the original design team (with other teachers, parents, students, and community members) helped start SJHA. He is a National Board Certified Teacher, was 2012-13 LAUSD and Los Angeles County Teacher of the Year. For the last year he has also served as a Teacher Ambassador for the Center for Teaching Quality’s Teacher Powered Schools Initiative. He has presented at several conferences including the NEA National Leadership Summit and the National Board Teaching and Learning Conference. Mr. Austin began teaching in 2000 at his alma mater, Redlands High School, then moved to LA and taught at Sylmar High School before moving to SJHA. In 1999, Mr. Austin graduated with degrees in Latin American History and Political Science from UC San Diego. He is currently pursuing a Masters in Educational Leadership and an administrative credential from CSU Dominguez Hills. When he’s not teaching you’ll find Mr. Austin at home playing with his daughters (1 and 4 years old) or watching soccer (USA National Team, LA Galaxy, Liverpool FC).  Favorite movies: Big Lebowski, Field of Dreams, Damned United, Friday Favorite music: changes all the time, but right now I’m listening to a lot of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Creedence, and whatever Pandora throws at me. Favorite foods: tacos, food trucks, sushi. Best vacation: Ireland. Favorite Starbucks drink: Iced Americano.

Jennie Carey

Jennie Carey is originally from the Chicago area, but she used to be a teacher and do youth development work in the Washington DC region. She received her BA in English at the College of William and Mary, and she earned her Ed.M. in School Leadership from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. While Jennie LOVES being part of the Humanitas family because it is a loving community of such high expectations around collaboration, social justice, being a good person and doing what needs to be done as upstanders, she also loves going home to her finace! Jennie loves traveling–especially to see her family and friends in Spain, France, and Indonesia– and also running a 10k in somewhere new every year. She also loves cooking, baking, volunteering as a board member with Youth Speak Collective, and taking classes, training, and performing as part for the Afro-Cuban dance team Pa’LA Orilla.

Marcella DeBoer

Mrs. DeBoer is a native Californian, born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, and a product of the LAUSD. She earned both a Bachelor’s Degree in Honors in English and a Master’s Degree in English Literature from California State University, Northridge. She has been an English teacher for 17 years. She started her teaching career in 1998 as an English Teaching Associate at CSUN and became an Adjunct English Professor in 2000. During that year, she continued her career as an English professor working at several schools including College of the Canyons, ITT Technical Institute, and Moorpark College where she taught for 7 years until 2007. In 2007, she began her career as a high school English teacher at Sylmar High School where she taught until 2011. In 2011, she taught at Reseda High School. In 2012, she joined the Social Justice Humanitas family. In 2013, Mrs. DeBoer’s life was made even sweeter when she was proposed to in her classroom in front of 50 students and numerous staff, which eventually turned her from Ms. Casilli to Mrs. DeBoer on January 2, 2014.

Priscilla Farinas

Originally from southern San Diego, Ms. Farinas moved to Los Angeles in 2007 to attend UCLA where she graduated with her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and earned a Minor in Education Studies. It was through her undergraduate experiences that she truly discovered her passion for the field of Education. Ms. Farinas later returned to UCLA where she earned her teaching credential in English and Master’s in Education during Spring 2015. Besides creating amazing lessons for her students, Ms. Farinas enjoys travelling. Her most favorite adventures include three weeks backpacking throughout Europe this past summer and trekking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu for four days. On her free time, she also loves practicing yoga, going to the beach, and the occasional nights in watching her favorite shows like Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory. Ms. Farinas loves teaching at Humanitas. She’s fortunate to be working at a place where students and staff are one close family.

Kathleen Flores (F2)

IMG_8504Born and raised in San Diego, Mrs. Francisco-Flores (aka Mrs. F2) moved to Los Angeles in 2001 to attend UCLA where she graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychobiology. Over the next five years, Mrs. F2 was involved in youth services programs for Youth Policy Institute. She started off as an after school program site coordinator at middle and high school programs and promoted to attendance grant manager where she oversaw federal and state evaluation reports and after school program compliance for YPI’s youth services after school programs. Although she developed her leadership and management skills, Mrs. F2 missed working with students. In 2010 she finally decided to pursue her dream and fulfill her calling of becoming a math teacher and attended CSULA’s Los Angeles Urban Teaching program. The next year, she received her preliminary teaching credential and Master of Arts degree in Education with an emphasis on Mathematics Education. She spent her first two years teaching at Los Angeles Leadership Academy charter and has now come to call Social Justice Humanitas Academy her home. Mrs. F2 enjoys reading, watching movies, traveling, cooking, exercising, and spending time with family and friends.

Sasha Guzman

Sasha Guzman ScreenSasha Guzman is the oldest child of five from a blended family, and the first in her family to graduate from a university. She was raised in a small agricultural community in Santa Barbara County, and she still feels that her small town upbringing is a huge part of her identity even after 14 years in this amazing city. As a Latina, she is very proud of her education and her hard work to earn a Bachelors degree in Communications from UC San Diego, a Secondary Teaching Credential and Masters in Education from UCLA, and an Administrative Credential from CSU Dominguez Hills. She spent the first ten years of her career teaching high school Social Studies in South Central Los Angeles, and only joined the Humanitas family in August of 2014, but there is nowhere she would rather be. Her passions are working in urban schools and with underrepresented communities. She continuex to be amazed by the incredible students she is privileged to work with, and she strives to provide her kids with a rigorous and high level of learning so that they may be successful in a 21st century global community.

Aseem Kelly

Mr. Kelly grew up in Riverside, CA and went to UCLA directly after high school. After studying Bioengineering for two years, he realized his love for people and drastically changed his studies to a major in Anthropology and a minor in Mathematics. He later also received his Master’s Degree in Education from UCLA as well, once he decided to become a teacher. Mr. Kelly decided to teach math because he believes that too many students have had negative math experiences on account of well-meaning math teachers who were just taught improperly themselves. His desire is for all of his students to rid themselves of “math phobia” and see themselves as the incredible “braniacs” they are. Remember, nerd = sexy at Humanitas. In his spare time, you can find Mr. Kelly writing songs, playing tennis, or just hanging out with his SJHA family.

Tim Knipe

Life is an adventure, one that demands to be embraced. If we don’t hold on to it tightly with all of our being, it can squirm and wiggle away from us like a spoiled child. We must choose to engage, explore and experience. We are only given one shot at it. Mr. Knipe teaches 11th grade English, AP English Language, and Journalism at the Social Justice Humanitas Academy. He believes that his position at Humanitas is the culmination of a career and the tallest peak in his life’s adventure. There have been many careers before this one. Mr. Knipe brings a diverse range of experience to his teaching from 12 years as a professional writer for the undersea explorer, Jacques Cousteau, a credentialed representative at the United Nations for The Cousteau Society, a business development director for a scenery fabrication company that built sets and props for feature films, museums, and theme parks including Universal Studios and Disneyland; a stagehand and set carpenter for the first seasons of Saturday Night Live and other NBC and Broadway productions, and the environmental consultant for a fledgling Discovery Channel. Mr. Knipe graduated from New York University with a degree in Anthropology.

Julie Koch

_MG_5837Mrs. Koch was born in Phoenix, Arizona. She attended Northern Arizona University and earned a Graphic Design Associates Degree from Glendale Community College.  She worked as an Accountant for seventeen years.  Mrs. Koch decided to go back to school and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Art and Teaching Credential from CSUN.  She has a passion for the visual arts and working with teenagers. She has attained her ultimate job as a high school Art teacher. Mrs. Koch embraces nature, traveling, and belly laughs with family and friends.

Triporna Majumder


Mrs. Majumder is a biology teacher for all our wonderful freshmen! Reading, dancing, spending time with family, and students are her hobbies! She dreams about sky diving some day. Her education was in India, where she did her Bachelors degree in Science (Honors), a Masters in Zoology, and Masters in ‘Public Relations’ from Delhi University, and then got her credential in teaching. Her mother inspired her to become a teacher as she was a teacher herself, and she dreamt about her being in a classroom full of eager enthusiastic students, and her making a difference in their lives. She loves teaching, and interacting with her students, and looks forward to them becoming someone great some day and changing other people’s lives.

ChristiAnn Marrón

ChristiAnn Marrón is a Special Educator and a brand new addition to the Social Justice Humanitas Academy family. Ms. Marrón was born and raised in Riverside, CA where she resided for eighteen years before heading north to attend the University of California, Santa Cruz. At UCSC she earned her BA in Psychology and minored in Education. She enjoys going to the beach, playing basketball, rollerblading, swimming and traveling. It is her absolute honor and pleasure to be an educator at a school that is actively striving to achieve social justice through every student everyday.

Robert Martinez


Cofley Moore

MooreCofley Moore is a proud son of parents from the twin island of Trinidad and Tobago. He was raised in the city of Oakland, CA. At the age of 18 years old he moved to Southern California to enjoy the next 6 years with an awesome life-fulling Christian Ministry, The Present Truth.  In 2008 he married his beautiful and loving wife, Amanda. He has three beautiful angels (Abigail-5, Ezekiel-3, & Ileanah-newborn). In 2011 he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics at CSULA and in 2013 a Master’s Degree in Education. He enjoys running, playing activities with the students, cooking, and baking. He has been a vegan for 13 years and counting. His goal is to open his own vegan restaurant. He is enthusiastic about teaching math because he knows it is the master key to unlock doors that lead to infinite opportunities.

Ingrid Rivas

Ingrid Rivas has been part of the Humanitas family for two years. She teaches Spanish to both native and non-native speakers. She was born in El Salvador and came to the United States when she was twelve years old. She graduated from California State University Northridge in 2003, making her the first one in her family to both attend and graduate from college.  Her closest friends describe her as kind, self-driven, and trustworthy. She loves movies, hiking, cooking, eating sweets, reading Latin American Literature, and following Latin American politics.  She is a feminist, a wife, a daughter, an older sister, and a citizen of earth.

Brenda Rodriguez

Ms. Rodriguez was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley and is a product of LAUSD schools. After graduating San Fernando High School, she attended UCLA as a history major. During her time at UCLA, she took a class called, Mexican Americans and Schools, and realized that her schooling experience was not unique, but exemplary of the subpar education low income students of color receive all over the country. It was this class that encouraged her to pursue education as a teacher in order to go back to her community and teach the history that is often ignored in schools. She returned to UCLA to attend the Teacher Education Program where she obtained her credential and is in the process of obtaining her Masters in Education. She is extremely grateful to teach in the community she grew up in and hopes to make a positive impact on her students. In Ms. Rodriguez’s spare time, you can find her perusing the local target for hours, writing/ reading fanfiction, or hanging out with her cat and family.

Samantha Siegeler
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Samantha Siegeler is a native Angeleno, born and raised in Lake View Terrace. She was a first generation college student who earned her BA in English Literature from Cal State University Northridge and her MA in Education from Cal State Los Angeles. She loves teaching at SJHA. She is inspired daily by the dedication of our teachers, the enthusiasm of our students, and the love and support she feels being part of the SJHA family. She is passionate about bridging the opportunity gap and supporting our students with tools to move outside of their comfort zones and do more than they believe they can every day.

Kaitlin Smith





Robert Tostado

unnamed-3-e1412692631183Robert Tostado grew up in Pacoima and San Fernando and graduated from Sylmar High School. He went to San Diego State University and began teaching at Wilson High School in Los Angeles before joining the Humanitas Academy while it was still at Sylmar High School.  A year later he was one of the original Humanitas teachers that opened the Social Justice Humanitas Academy at CCLA and it’s been on ever since. Mr. Tostado also has a group of students that he takes on field trips to TED Talk-like events. They operate on donations. Feel free to contribute through their website at the following address: http://www.laep.org/events/academys-events-club/