All elemen­tary students receive weekly instruc­tion from special­ists in art, phys­i­cal educa­tion, and vocal and instru­men­tal music. Students also enjoy weekly visits to the elemen­tary school library, frequent trips to the farm, and regular well­ness classes. Twice-weekly instruc­tion in Spanish begins in 1st grade. 


In art, students explore a wide variety of media and are intro­duced to a number of artists and genres.

Michelle Dakan 19 20

Michelle Dakan

Michelle teaches art for preschool through 4th grade. Michelle has a B.A. in art from San Fran­cisco State Univer­sity and an M.A. in art educa­tion from Cali­for­nia State Univer­sity, Los Angeles. A working artist and print­maker, Michelle always knew she wanted to teach art. To support her students, she says, I try to meet chil­dren where they are and listen to their ideas and what they are inter­ested in explor­ing and express­ing.” Michelle has two daugh­ters; her daugh­ter Nadine is enrolled in the 9th grade at Waverly. (Email)

Faculty Bio Alyssa Sherwood

Alyssa Sher­wood

Alyssa teaches art in the upper elemen­tary, middle, and high schools. Alyssa has a B.F.A. in paint­ing and sculp­ture from Syra­cuse Univer­sity School of Visual and Perform­ing Arts and an M.F.A. in anima­tion from the Univer­sity of South­ern Cali­for­nia School of Cine­matic Arts. Alyssa’s animated films have screened and won awards at festi­vals in the U.S. and inter­na­tion­ally. Prior to coming to Waverly, Alyssa taught video art, drawing and paint­ing, and photog­ra­phy for almost eight years at Harvard-Westlake’s Middle and Upper Schools. (Email)


The Waverly organic farm, located within walking distance from the school, is a one-acre multi-purpose green space for students, teach­ers, and fami­lies. The farm provides weekly oppor­tu­ni­ties for learn­ing, play, and collab­o­ra­tion for every class at the elemen­tary school. Students partic­i­pate in age-appro­pri­ate farm work includ­ing plant­ing, weeding, compost­ing, build­ing, and taking care of the chickens.

Barbara Ayers 19 20

Barbara Ayers

Barbara has managed the farm for more than a decade, first as a volun­teer. Barbara loves to collab­o­rate with her colleagues to create farm curricu­lum that is mean­ing­ful to each class and relates to the social studies theme when possi­ble. In the short-term, Barbara wants our chil­dren to spend a little time connect­ing with the natural world and the seasons.” In the long-term, her goal is that they remem­ber the idea that you can grow your own food, and that it tastes better, looks better, smells better, and it’s fun, too!” Barbara’s two chil­dren, Joe and Katie, are Waverly grad­u­ates from the class of 2020. (Email)


Students in kinder­garten through 4th grade have a dedi­cated library visit each week. Visits include story­time for the kinder­garten­ers and chapter book read alouds for 1st/​2nd grades. Students learn the Dewey Decimal System and about the orga­ni­za­tion of books in a library. The library is open for Library Lunch for 5th and 6th grade students, who may check out books, read, or study quietly. Outside of class visits, the library is open to middle school students who need refer­ence mate­ri­als and books for class assignments.

Tina Stone 19 20

Tina Stone

Tina is the elemen­tary school librar­ian and teaches library skills for preschool through 6th grade. She joined Waverly in 2014 after working for nearly 15 years as a children’s librar­ian at Altadena Public Library and a branch librar­ian at Pasadena Public Library. Tina majored in English and jour­nal­ism at the Univer­sity of Cali­for­nia, Los Angeles, and co-produced a nation­ally syndi­cated public affairs program for Paci­fica Radio prior to her library work. The most grat­i­fy­ing part of Tina’s job is seeing the looks on the kids’ faces when they find a book they’ve been looking forward to reading. She says,​“The smiles of surprise…and the eager­ness to open that book the moment it’s in their hands make all my efforts worth it.” Tina lives in Altadena with her husband, Bob, and daugh­ter, Johanna, who grad­u­ated from Waverly in 2017. (Email)


Students are intro­duced to keyboard, guitar, ukulele, and percus­sion instru­ments. The empha­sis is on chil­dren finding joy in creat­ing music as they learn to play songs and sing. 

Bio Specialist Josie Olson

Josie Olson

Josie teaches instru­men­tal and vocal music at the elemen­tary school. After study­ing languages at El Camino College, Josie sang profes­sion­ally for 10 years. She has been a vocal music teacher at Waverly with her husband, Michael, since 1996. Josie chose to become an educa­tor because, as she explains, I love teach­ing and always have. I was a lead singer in a band for years and had played guitar since my school days. I decided to combine both of my passions. I devel­oped a music program that teaches chil­dren that they can learn to make music easily and imme­di­ately.” Josie is the proud mother of three chil­dren who all attended Waverly. Michelle and Dan, class of 2016, are college students and Allie is a music teacher. (Email)

Phys­i­cal Education

Chil­dren love to move their bodies, and the curricu­lum at Waverly allows for move­ment of various sorts through­out the day. Elemen­tary school chil­dren enjoy time with our phys­i­cal educa­tion special­ist twice a week. 


Elemen­tary students receive twice-weekly lessons in Spanish begin­ning in 1st grade. Students learn and become famil­iar with the language through music, dance, games, art projects, story­books, and cultural activ­i­ties. The curricu­lum is designed to inte­grate language skills into our every­day class­room, excite students about Spanish, and intro­duce skills that will provide the support and repe­ti­tion chil­dren need to learn a language.

ES Bio Photo Maria

Maria Brown

Maria is an asso­ciate teacher in the kindergarten/​1st grade class­room and teaches Spanish in the elemen­tary school. Maria has worked with chil­dren for more than 25 years and has been with Waverly since its days as a preschool. Of her work, Maria says, It gives me joy to watch the chil­dren grow year after year and see how they become passion­ate artists, confi­dent speak­ers, talented musi­cians, and kind young adults who love us all for being part of their journey.” Maria’s two daugh­ters attend Waverly: Aaliyah in 7th grade and Natalie in 9th grade. (Email)

Bret Helvig 19 20

Bret Helvig

Bret teaches Spanish at the high school and is the 5th/​6th Spanish special­ist in the elemen­tary school. Bret earned a B.A. in French and Spanish and an M.A. in both languages from the Univer­sity of Hawai’i at Manoa. He enjoys sharing his passion for the Spanish language, its people, and its culture with his students and encour­ages them to use as much Spanish in the class­room as possi­ble to develop into confi­dent speak­ers. In his free time, he loves to travel, explore new places, and ride roller coast­ers. (Email)

Love and Justice

The elemen­tary school Love and Justice program is deliv­ered through our well­ness class. The curricu­lum covers a range of social, emotional, and health-related topics taught in devel­op­men­tally appro­pri­ate ways. Students learn about iden­tity, human devel­op­ment, build­ing commu­nity, and under­stand­ing systems through a social justice lens.