toai-daoĐào Như Toại, PE Teacher

  • University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, BA in Sociology- Education Emphasis, BS in Cell & Structural Biology, Minor in Chemistry
  • Cal State Hayward, Teacher Certification
  • National University of Việt Nam, Hà Nội, Semester Abroad

Toại Đào started teaching in Oakland in 1999 and helped establish Life Academy in 2001.  He is Nationally Board Certified in Chemistry, Biology, Physics, and PE.  He likes to turn to city streets, edible gardens, parks, books, sport fields/courts, abroad, or the outdoors for adventure.

carlos-cabanaCarlos Cabana, Math Teacher

  • UC Berkeley, BA in Economics
    Carlos has loved teaching students since 1990, first in San Lorenzo and San Francisco before joining LIFE to be part of the middle school team.  Besides collecting giant objects, he loves to travel, read, cook, and dream up new math problems to challenge students with.

matt-hayesMatthew Hayes, Life Skills Teacher, Athletic Director

  • Trinity University, BA in History & Social Studies Education
  • San Francisco State University, MA in Social Justice and Equity in Education

Matt has been working at Life Academy since 2012, first as an EDP coach and most recently as a Life Skills teacher. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his partner, Sarah, watching his favorite Detroit sports teams, and playing guitar.

samantha-solomonSamantha Solomon, Humanities Teacher

  • Northeastern University, BA in Rhetoric
  • University of San Francisco, MA in Education

Sam Solomon has been teaching in Oakland since 2010. She believes strongly in her students and wants them to leave her class prepared to follow their dreams and change the world. She loves reading young adult novels and comic books and listening to podcasts. She has two mischievous cats and one electric guitar.

juangWilliam Juang, Science Teacher

  • UC Berkeley, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, BA
  • UC Berkeley, CalTeach

As both a scientist and teacher, Mr. Juang (Mr. J) also practices what he teaches. Always looking for new knowledge, Mr. J’s most valued habit of LIFE is love of learning (and never stop learning!), and he hopes to share that with every student he encounters. Prior to starting as a teacher at Life Academy, Mr. J was studying for his credential under Mr. Rowan Driscoll in the CalTeach program and working in academic labs that deal with laboratory science curriculum development. One of Mr. J’s hopes is to build connections for students between what happens in the classroom and what happens in the real-world industrial and academic settings. As of now, he is teaching science and serves as a research assistant in a lab that does work around pharmacokinetics, metabolism, and other types of biopharmaceutical drug analysis.

christi-carpenter-grossmanChristi Grossman, Reading Intervention Specialist


  • University of Michigan, BA in English and Teaching Credential
  • University of Michigan, MPH in Health Behavior and Health Education
  • UC Irvine Extension, Reading Certificate

Ms. Grossman has been a teacher for 15 years.  She started teaching in a small community in Ethiopia, then worked as a high school English teacher in Detroit, before moving to Oakland and working at McClymonds and United for Success Academy.  She is happy to work at Life Academy as it continues to grow and develop.  Ms. Grossman’s passion is books and she loves to turn reluctant readers into skilled, eager ones.

shelley-goudler-2Shelley Goulder, Humanities Teacher

  • Bowdoin College, BA in Spanish and Latin American Studies
  • Stanford University, MA in Education

Shelley Goulder has been teaching English, History and Humanities at Life Academy of Health and Bioscience since 2012. Prior to moving to Oakland, she worked in Boston schools for three years. She is excited to continue to grow as an educator and support students in pursuing their passions. When not in the classroom, she is traveling, rock climbing, getting outside, or reading a good book.

eva-oliverEva Oliver, Humanities Teacher

  • UC Berkeley, MA in Education
  • Sonoma State, BA in English

Eva Marie Oliver has been teaching English Language Arts and Humanities at Life Academy of Health and Bioscience since 2011. Having earned her BA in English at Sonoma State University and her credential and MA in Education through UC Berkeley’s MUSE program, Eva has been proud to contribute to the social-justice-oriented and transformative learning space that is Life Academy. Working with Mills Teacher Scholars and the Bay Area Writing Project has enriched her professional experience as an educator in the Bay Area. If not in the classroom, Eva can be found reading, practicing yoga, hiking, swimming, or rock climbing.

isabel-pelayoIsabel Pelayo Gonzalez, Resource Specialist

  • Sonoma State University, BA in Spanish, Minor in Criminal Justice

Isabel has been working at Life Academy since 2014. Before working at Life she worked as an Intervention Specialist for OUSD since 2011. As an Oakland native and Life Academy alumni, Isabel is dedicated to support students through their educational journeys. When she is not teaching you can find her spending time with her friends and family.    

Ricardo Cruz, College and Career Awareness Middle School Adviser

  • University of California, Santa Cruz, BA in Latin American and Latino Studies, minor in Education

Raised in Oakland, Ricardo attended East Oakland School of the Arts (now known as Castlemont High) from 2009-2012. He then attended UC Santa Cruz where he developed a passion to guide, educate and empower the youth in his hometown of Oakland. Soon after graduation, he landed a position as an Academic Adviser at Life Academy. He plans on going back to school to get his Masters or PhD in either Counseling or Educational Leadership, which will provide him with a platform to make meaningful change in his community. As a hobby, Ricardo likes to write poetry and produce music.

Sarah Pipping, Middle School Science and Reading

  • University of Wisconsin, BS in Biology and Spanish
  • University of Loyola Marymount, Masters in Urban Education

Ms. P teaches science because she believes (in the words of the great Carl Sagan): “Our species needs, and deserves, a citizenry with minds wide awake and a basic understanding of how the world works”. She is humbled to be able to live and work in Oakland, where she has been since moving from her home state of Wisconsin in 2010. Previously she taught Biology to 9th graders at Skyline High School and is excited to join the Life Community teaching 8th Grade Science. When Ms. P isn’t teaching, getting reading to teach, thinking about teaching, or dreaming about teaching she is at book club with her nerdy friends, out watching the best stand-up comedy the East Bay has to offer, or hiking in the nearby hills. She wants to travel everywhere on Earth (probably not to space) and get better at cooking.

Janet Vasquez, Middle School Math and Reading

  • University of California, Santa Cruz, BA in Politics, Latin American and Latino Studies and Education

Ms. Vasquez comes to Life Academy after several years of teaching math at Aim High, a summer learning and enrichment program for Oakland youth.  Ms. Vasquez is a graduate of OUSD public schools; she attended Madison Park Academy and Castlemont High school.  Her priority is helping students develop a positive relationship with math. She also hopes to help her students understand the math as it pertains to their lives. In her free time, Ms. Vasquez enjoys spending time with family and playing indoor/outdoor soccer.

Hillary Walker, 7th-Grade World History, College Writing for Seniors

  • University of California, Davis, BA in History and African American Studies, minor in English
  • Florida International University, MA in Latin American and Caribbean Studies
  • University of California, Berkeley, MA in Education

Hillary Walker spent eleven years teaching middle and high school in Berkeley, before joining the Life Academy community.  Among her odd collection of endeavors during the same span of time: supporting teachers’ inquiry work with Mills Teacher Scholars, being a Teacher Consultant and coach with the Bay Area Writing Project, and representing teachers’ voices with the Berkeley Federation of Teachers.  When she is not at school, she enjoys being outdoors with her children, gardening, and trying to revive her dream of writing music reviews and children’s books.  She is passionate about creating opportunities for students to see themselves in history and explore their own histories through writing.

Lisa Kelly, 6th Grade English

  • Mills College, Oakland – BA in Early Childhood Development, MA in Education

Lisa Kelly is thrilled to be teaching in Oakland after six years of teaching Berkeley. Ms. Kelly has taught fourth, fifth and sixth grades, and loves the curiosity, joy, innovative spirit and emerging logical thought of 6th graders. She believes helping students access and achieve literacy at all levels is a social justice act. In her spare time, you can find Ms. Kelly running Lake Merritt or the trails of Redwood Regional.  She also adores elephants, the color purple, tennis, sports in general, traveling and cooking. Her favorite places she’s ever been are Colombia, Cuba or Thailand.

Aaron Darden, 6th Grade Science, Life Skills and Advisor 

  • University of Memphis, BA in Political Science

Aaron Darden has worked as a 6th grade science and computer coding teacher for the last 4 years, refining his curriculum through Stanford’s Learning Through Performance program.  He has worked to implement design-thinking as well as hands-on, project-based learning to make science more fun for kids!  When not at school, he loves trampolining with his son in his backyard in El Cerrito, making gadgets and doing family hikes in national parks. Aaron works hard to fundraise for his kids, engage them in inspiring experiences, and take them out into the real world to do good!