Our staff do the hard work of shaping our students every day and are the foundation of our school. 

Learn more about how you can be part of this amazing team.

OUR FOUNDING STAFF

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Jasmine Banks is the Principal of Excelencia Charter Academy.

After completing her undergraduate degree in Los Angeles, Jasmine relocated to Phoenix, AZ as a 2010 Teach For America Corps member. She was a kindergarten-fourth grade special education teacher at Solano Elementary where she also served in multiple roles ranging from mentor teacher, after-school program coordinator, and coach of the boys' soccer, basketball, and volleyball team. 

During her four years at Solano, Jasmine's students achieved on par with their typical peers on state assessments and achieved an average of 1.5 years of reading growth. She was then selected to serve as an instructional and leadership coach to corps members in both the Greater Las Vegas Valley and Los Angeles area, where she coached and developed on average 30 teachers per year for a total of 4 years from both charter and district schools.

Jasmine plans to maximize student learning by supporting and uplifting the talent of our team to meet and reach the full potential of each and every student at Excelencia.

Jasmine holds a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Southern California and an M.Ed. in Special Education from Arizona State University.

 
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Mireya Garcia is the Founding Operations Manager at Excelencia Charter Academy. 

Mireya was born and raised in East LA by a single mother who immigrated from Mexico.  Overcoming poverty and life obstacles, Mireya worked throughout her late adolescence while going to college in order to support her family. She is the first in her family to go to graduate from college.  

Mireya has 16 years of experience working with non-profits in the community serving children to adults, including five years of management experience overseeing child development programs which consisted of forty-five individual child care sites.  She has established programs for after at-risk youth, tutoring, child care, and other family services.  For the past three years, Mireya has taught at East Los Angeles College as a part-time professor for the Administration of Justice Department. She serves as an immediate representative to community members eager to establish a career in the fields of Administration of Justice and Child Development.

She plans to ensure that Excelencia Charter Academy is managed with operational excellence by creating, refining, and implementing policies and systems, while upholding the values of the school. Under her supervision, the Operations team will work to create a culture of safety, service, and support. 

Mireya holds a B.S. in Criminal Justice from the California State University of Los Angeles and an M.A. from Pacific Oaks College.

 
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Mirella Dumas is Excelencia Charter Academy’s Office Manager.

While at San Diego State University, she participated as the Community Youth Organizer for an organization on campus where she promoted higher education for at-risk youth. After her undergraduate eduction, she went on to serve two years with City Year Los Angeles, an education based non- profit that focuses on bridging the education gap. She was a tutor, a mentor, and role model for her students.

In her spare time, she likes to read, dance, try new foods, and perform arts and crafts. Mirella is looking forward to working and giving back to her Boyle Heights community.

Mirella holds a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Child and Family Development from San Diego State University.

 
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Kashaokiwaki Wahpepah is a founding teacher for Excelencia Charter Academy. 

While completing a Summer Teaching Fellowship with Uncommon Schools, she developed her passion for teaching. She moved to Newark, NJ where she taught first grade for two years with Uncommon Schools, North Star Academy. Kasha received her M.A.T. from Relay Graduate School of Education. Kasha grew up in Northern California and moved out to Los Angeles in 2017 to be closer to family.

She is a member of the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma. Her experience in school being Native American shapes how she teaches. Kasha works to ensure that all student voices are heard and celebrated. 

Kasha received her B.A. in Studio Art from Dartmouth College.

 
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Sandra Morales was born and raised in Pacoima, CA. She is a first-generation college graduate and is a descendant of Mexican and Guatemalan immigrants.

During her undergraduate career at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Sandra worked in a cancer research laboratory as a research assistant. Her work in the laboratory led her to becoming published as a co-author in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

After completing her undergraduate degree, Sandra relocated to Houston, TX as a 2014 Teach For America (TFA) Corps member. She was a first-grade bilingual teacher at Pine Shadows Elementary. Her experiences with staff members, her students, and their families helped realize her passion for working with kids and empowering them to pursue their dreams. 

Sandra plans to continue working with students to inspire and activate their curiosity in learning by providing them with equal resources and opportunities with the hope that they will feel prepared and empowered to achieve their future goals.

Sandra holds a B.S. in Microbiology with a minor in Anthropology from UCLA and plans to continue her studies in the years to come.

 
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Danielle Smalls is a Special Educator at Excelencia Charter Academy.

Danielle is originally from Seattle, Washington and came to Southern California to pursue her Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Analysis with an emphasis on urban landscapes. After completing her Bachelor’s she joined the education non-profit, City Year Los Angeles where she served a year as an AmeriCorps member, and a second year as an AmeriCorps Team Leader. In 2016, Danielle joined Teach for America as a Special Educator serving in South LA where she has spent the last two years supporting middle school students in a full inclusion school setting.

Danielle is passionate about helping students with learning disabilities find academic and socio-emotional success at school, and is excited to bring this passion to Excelencia.

Danielle holds a B.A. in Environmental Analysis from Pitzer College and a M.A. in Special Education from Loyola Marymount University.

 
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Diana Cardenas discovered her passion to make a difference through teaching after working with elementary children at Lewis Palmer Elementary in Monument, Colorado, while in high school, and then volunteering as a mentor while she was taking classes at Colorado State University, Fort Collins.

Diana is dedicated to making a difference in this world through the impact that she has with her students. She understands the importance of every student receiving a quality education. 

Ms. Cardenas graduated from Colorado State University, Fort Collins in 2015. She taught kindergarten at Primrose School in Colorado Springs from the Summer of 2015 through the Spring of 2016. In the Fall of 2016, she accepted a position teaching first grade in Southern California, returning to the area she calls home.

Diana is excited to be a part of Excelencia Charter Academy’s launch and looks forward to implementing a program that will take education to a new level!

 
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Amber Perez is a member of the highly qualified teaching staff at Excelencia Charter Academy.  Amber was raised in Whittier, California, a small suburb of Los Angeles County.  Amber knew at a young age that she wanted to become a teacher someday.  She has always been passionate about working with children in order to improve their educational outcomes.

Amber is very excited to work with the community and help guide the students in a strong college-oriented path that nurtures rigorous curriculum in Literacy and Mathematics.

Amber attended California State University, Fullerton where she earned a double Bachelor’s Degree in Child and Adolescent Studies along with an American Studies Degree.  While she was completing her courses at Fullerton, Amber was present in the classrooms as a preschool and toddler teacher.  Once Amber graduated from Fullerton, she worked as a Co-Teacher and Teacher’s Assistant at a Dual Language Immersion School in Alhambra.  Amber felt it was time to pursue her teaching career so she attended Azusa Pacific University to complete their highly competitive Preliminary Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential and a Master’s Degree in Education. 

 
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Margaret Kathryn LaFountain was born and raised in Southern Maine and moved to California to attend Santa Clara University.  During her undergraduate studies, she spent a semester at the University of Cape Town in Cape Town, South Africa where she focused on Political Science.  In addition, she participated in the Washington Semester Program at American University where she served as a Special Project Intern at the US Department of Commerce.

Her desire to teach was solidified following her experience as a Jean Donovan Fellow where she served as a Programs and Communication Intern at The Telling Room in Portland, Maine.  Through the fellowship, she organized and taught writing workshops for students age 6-18 and aided students in editing work in preparation for publication.

In 2018, she joined Teach for America as an Early Childhood Educator.  At Excelencia Charter Academy, Margaret Kathryn looks forward to working with students in the Boyle Heights community and providing a challenging classroom experience that leads to positive development and growth for all students. 

Margaret Kathryn holds a B.S. in Political Science and a minor in Arabic, Islamic, Middle Eastern Studies from Santa Clara University.

 
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Driven by a desire to ‘give back’ to her community in suburban Los Angeles, Laura Robledo initiated her career in nonprofit work as an undergraduate. For over nine years she worked as a community educator and organizer addressing issues of food insecurity in the Northeast San Fernando Valley.

In 2009, Laura worked for a youth-driven nonprofit organization coordinating the Project Youth Green community garden with its 60 families. In 2013 she built MEND’s (Meet Each Need with Dignity) Grow Together Project that provided 172 families with food gardens, building a community of gardeners, volunteers, and health advocates.   

Two years ago, Laura moved to the Bay area to work for a youth environmental leadership organization. Working at schools reminded her of the positive impact teachers can have on students. In 2018, Laura joined Teach For America. She finds education a necessary and a powerful tool in growing our future leaders.

Laura holds a B.A. in Political Science with a minor in Spanish from California State University Northridge and is working on her Master’s of Education from Loyola Marymount University.