About Us » Teacher Biographies

Teacher Biographies

Arts, Home Arts, and Design

Cathy Fowler
Cathy has been sewing for over 35 years. She’s taken her passion into the teaching world having taught various sewing and quilting class during the last 22 years. It gives her great pleasure to teach others this useful skill and to see their excitement and confidence increase as they progress.  When she’s not sewing, she can be found in the classroom helping special education students. She enjoys being with my husband and three children, creating ceramics, knitting, crocheting, scrapbooking, hiking, and biking.
Don Sheffler
Don Sheffler is the Photography teacher at Mt Carmel High School. He has been a professional photographer for almost 15 years, mostly in extreme sports, specifically Skateboarding for multiple magazines and online publications through 2017, but now focusing on High School Senior portraits, Headshots, Dance and Sports.   
Fang Lou
Art has always been a part of my life. I studied fashion design in Canada and worked in the Fashion industry designing active wear. I started Chinese painting at a young age and started professional drawing when I was a teenager. Watercolor painting is still my favorite genre. 
S. Graham Hajosy
Born in La Mesa, I studied Anthropology at the University of Oregon before returning to San Diego to study Art and Education.  Now I teach Ceramics and Design & Mixed Media at Mt. Carmel High School.  Working as an educator has been a joy and privilege that has blended my passions for the arts and teaching.  I am excited to work with Poway Adult School for another session! 
Helen Hawes                                                                                                                                   
Helen Hawes is a professional artist who feels art is like magic because the world disappears when painting begins. Helen revels in both teaching students and collaborating with clients to create beautiful artworks. Her work is included in collections across the country and around the globe.
Jen Powell
Jen Powell is a former Engineer turned full time artist. Her paintings use a variety of different acrylic and resin art techniques, and she has showcased her art in local San Diego events. She also makes custom and personalized gifts for the home. She loves teaching and thrives on inspiring others to create. 
Stephanie Henry                                                                                                                                
Stephanie Henry is an award-winning portrait artist who loves to share her joy in bringing images of people and animals to life. She is particularly happy when showing others how to unlock the artistic abilities they have always dreamed of and in watching their skills and abilities grow. Her style combines a mixture of technical skills and intuitive design which she uses to help students fully develop their own artistic style.
Ursula Koenig
Ursula Koenig, Interior Design Instructor, maintains a small client base for freelance interior design projects as they arise. The range includes residential, commercial, hospitality and now medical.  From lobbies and conference rooms, to entire medical offices, and wine estates, both interior and exterior design. Her instruction comes from her knowledge in all aspects of interiors, furniture, art, lighting, color consultation, installation, space planning and more. She presents a unique formula to get started designing interiors by showing students how to "trust their instinct" when it comes to this endeavor. She has designed over 700 interiors across the USA. 


Culinary Arts

Alicia Pivirotto-Pearlman
Alicia Pivirotto-Pearlman grew up eating from her parents’ garden and cooking in her family’s kitchen. She is deeply rooted in her Italian heritage and has spent many years studying and immersed in Italian culture. Alicia graduated from San Diego State University with a degree in Public Administration and an emphasis in City Planning. She is a self-proclaimed “food advocate” having adopted various food movements such as farm-to-table eating into her daily life. Following her passion that ‘Food is Medicine’, Alicia earned a certificate in Medicinal Plants from Cornell University. She has continued her studies through various programs and helps regularly in the Vegetable Shop at Chino Farm. You can always find her in the kitchen cooking for her and her family’s health and well-being.
Charles Heineke
Chef Charles, a very likeable, native San Diegan, began his passion with food over 35 years ago. Believing in the philosophy of “giving back” Charles has made educating others his way of sharing his passion for cooking. Charles has been teaching for over 12 years and has extensive experience in food service production and food service management. His enthusiastic method of teaching transforms his students into skilled cooks. Charles helps his students feel comfortable and eager to experiment in the kitchen.
Sarah Gladow
Sarah has been a Pastry Chef/Baker for Casa de las Campanas in Rancho Bernardo for over 30 years. She started baking right after graduating from Poway High School. She holds multiple certificates in cake decorating including working with buttercream, fondant and pulled sugar. Baking and cake decorating is an art and has always made her happy. She would love to teach you the art.

Health & Active Lifestyle 

Andrew Cretella
After 30 years as a communications consultant, Andrew Cretella turned his attention to studying the game of tennis. He certified as a Tennis teaching Professional with the United States Professional Tennis Association and has taught children and adults for over 10 years. He is a member of the San Diego District Tennis Association and is a tennis official of the San Diego County Tennis Umpires Association. He’s coached the tennis teams at San Diego High School and managed the San Diego Eastern League Tournament. He’s also written instructional articles about the game of tennis.
Ashley Messur
Ashley Messur is originally from upstate New York and moved to California 9 years ago to teach high school special education. She has been practicing yoga for many years and obtained her 200hr Yoga Alliance Certification at the House of Om in Ubud, Bali. She also completed a 30hr Yoga Nidra training in San Diego, California as she is passionate about being a student herself and believes that everyone deserves an opportunity to slow down and experience the profound effects of stillness. With a deep love for yoga, she is excited to create a safe space to honor rest and relaxation that is inclusive and accessible to everyone. She invites you to meet her on the mat for this transformative yoga journey with the rejuvenating power of Yin and Yoga Nidra.


Ed Giles
During a summer school class at Grossmont College entitled Introduction to Education, Ed's life-long journey of teaching began. As Ed would say, "/ knew clearly that summer I wanted to teach, what I didn't know at the time was I would be given opportunities to coach, and I fell in love with both."
Ed transferred to SDSU earning his BA in Arts and his CA lifetime teaching credential. He fulfilled his passion for teaching and coaching for 22 years before returning to SDSU to earn a master’s degree in School Leadership and his CA Administrative Credential.
His resume now includes teacher, coach, Assistant Principal and Principal.  In all of these responsibilities Ed’s philosophy that a great teacher is a great coach and a great coach is a great leader, is easy to see. He truly believes that teaching and coaching are two sides of the same coin.
"To teach is to instruct, to impart knowledge, coaching is simply adding to the instruction the encouragement necessary to bring the best out of your students and your athletes."As a student in his golf class, you will be instructed, trained and encouraged as you learn a skill you can take From the Classroom to the Golf Course.
Jesse Luna
Two things Jesse is passionate about are traveling and living a healthy lifestyle. So far I have been to 19 countries with my top two being Australia and Spain. Other than traveling, I enjoy being active. I have run eight marathons, competed in three Tough Mudder’s and one Spartan Race. During my free time, I spin, do yoga and run. I have been doing spin for the past two years and now I teach it! I am excited to be your instructor. My class will be fun and challenging at the same time. One of my goals is to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I just have to run 31 minutes faster. 
“The expert in anything was once a beginner”- Unknown
Lisa Taylor
Lisa Taylor specializes in Optimum Fitness, Nutrition and Exercise for all ages and fitness goals.
Lisa has over 16 years as a Certified Personal Trainer in the Fitness Industry, specializing in Nutritional Studies as well as in Exercise, training a wide variety of people, from children in Elementary school to Mature Adults and everyone in between. 
Lisa has been offering her popular Total Fitness Workout through Poway Adult School for over 5 years which has been designed for all levels of health and fitness.
Whether you’re new to exercising or a seasoned pro, my Total Fitness Workout can take you and your body to the next level. Come learn, laugh, and meet new people while improving your overall health and fitness. 
Maria Ghaibi                                                                                                                               
Maria took her first ZUMBA® Fitness class in 2009 and was instantly hooked. The Latin rhythm and international music give a zest that makes every class feel like a party! She had been teaching Latin rhythm dance and Mexican folk dance for the past 20 years, so Zumba was a great fit. She is committed to make every class fun, engaging, exciting and a great workout. Maria loves to continue her own learning and is constantly improving her instructional skills.
Patti Bozorgchami
Patti’s fascination with Indian culture and music was the reason she started doing yoga very young.  She got certified to teach at the Sivananda School of Yoga and Meditation in the Bahamas and has been teaching for 18 years.  Since then, her style has developed into a gentle, mindful practice of yoga where she incorporates meditation techniques. She got certified to teach Tai Chi through Institute of Integral Qigong and Tai Chi. Tai Chi and Qigong, have been a beautiful addition to her life.
Peter Wu
Peter Wu is a disciple of Grandmaster Chen Xiaoxing, the 19th generation direct lineage holder of Chen style Taijiquan. Peter participated nationwide tournament ICMAC and won gold medals in tai chi hand form and push hand. As a certified coach/ instructor, Peter teaches Tai Chi and healing arts such as Qigong and meditation.
Richard Iorio
Richard Iorio has been a Class A PGA member for over 20 years and has been working in the golf industry since 1986. He's dedicated his career to golf education and instruction. Richard looks forward to meeting you and taking your golf game to the next level. 
Sattan Acharya 

Sattan (Satya) Acharya is a Certified Mindfulness Meditation Teacher and long-time meditation practitioner. Satya has completed Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification Program taught by Dr. Jack Kornfield and Dr. Tara Brach, which was developed by Awareness Training Institute in partnership with Sounds True and the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) at UC Berkeley.


He is also a biotech business executive. During his free time, Satya likes hiking, biking, and meditating. Satya is originally from Nepal and now lives in Rancho Bernardo with his family.

Shawn Torgerson

Shawn has been teaching in San Diego since 1995. He opened the studio ‘Dance For 2’, now better known as San Diego’s Dance Headquarters in 2005. Shawn is an incredible and gifted teacher. Although he specializes in Ballroom, club, and Latin dance, he can teach over 20 other different dance styles. He loves what he does and thoroughly enjoys introducing people to the world of dance!


Yolanda Mellentin 

Yolanda worked for the Princess Cruise Line as a professional dance, and she has danced in the film industry. She has danced in movies such as Grease, Xanadu, and Thank God its Friday. Her understanding and knowledge of the body has helped her become a skilled teacher. Whether you’re taking “Killer Sculptured Abs” or “Strength Training for Seniors”, she designs the class to the abilities of her students.


When she is not teaching, Yolanda loves reading and is in two book clubs. She is also learning how to golf.



Carol Gratzke
Carol Gratzke received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California at Los Angeles with a major in Italian and a minor in German. Carol spends her retirement as a volunteer for many causes including the San Diego Italian Film Festival. Carol loves to travel and has reconnected with her Italian roots traveling twice annually to fully immerse herself in the Italian Culture. She has even received her Italian citizenship. Carol teaches Italian, working with children of all ages and being a Nonna to Julian and Chanel, as well as being the proud Zia of Isaac, Benjamin, Irma and Irene
Lauren Surett 
Lauren has had a life-long passion for languages and teaching since she was a young girl.She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in French from USD, and since has been teaching and interpreting in languages and has traveled extensively through Europe. Lauren is passionateabout languages, cultures, and art. In her spare time she loves swimming, creating art and walking with her dog.


Maria Buendia
Maria Buendia is a native Spanish speaker, sharing the love for her language and culture has become a passion. She was born and raised in Sonora, Mexico, graduated with a master’s degree in international business, and is currently working at PUSD. She loves teaching Spanish and will bring much of her culture into the classroom. Her students will learn about cultural differences, traditions and have fun while learning a new language. Maria believes that her enthusiastic, cultural approach to teaching Spanish enables students to acquire language skills in a manner that keeps them interested and motivated. She has been teaching for several years, and her goal is that students will step out of her class feeling confident speaking Spanish daily. On her free time, she loves to hike around beautiful San Diego. 
Young Kang
Young Kang has served as a Korean instructor since 1992. Her career began in Seoul, Korea teaching writing and speech. In 2005 Young Kang brought her expertise of the Korean language and worked for SDSU helping translate research from English to Korean. Ms. Kang has taught beginning and intermediate levels of Korean to service members of our United States Navy and Marine Corps. 

Personal Enrichment

Brooke Yang
Ms. Brooke Yang has recently moved to San Diego after 26 years of her musical career in San Francisco. Previously, Ms. Yang has been a soprano soloist for various choral groups in prestigious venues, and she has served as a voice coach and a music director for many voice ensembles. Ms. Yang earned her Master's of Voice Performance at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and is currently a member of National Association of Teachers of Singing. 
David Todd
David brings to the table over 15 years of real estate experience with a deep expertise in lending. He enjoys helping others achieve their personal goals through home ownership, investment property purchases or using their real estate as a tool to improve their financial situation. David studied finance at Brigham Young University and received his MBA from UCLA – The Anderson School of Management, with a focus on real estate. He enjoys spending time with his wife and four kids, all beach activities and being active outdoors.
Gigi Xiang                                                                                                                                     
Gigi is a professional modeling instructor and posture coach with 20 years of experience. Gigi is not only the founder of Gigi's Modeling & Acting Studio but is also the modeling instructor for John Casablanca’s Modeling and Career Center. Gigi's students are between the ages of 6 and 65. In addition to teaching modeling and posture, Gigi continues to actively teach styling, makeup, acting and workout. Gigi is very passionate about teaching and helping people create greater health and beauty.
Gwen Evans
Gwen Evans, Associate Professional Clinical Counselor, works as a clinical therapist in Escondido and Fallbrook. She holds a Masters of Arts degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling degree from Liberty University, where she also was inducted in Chi Sigma Iota, Counseling’s Academic and Professional Honor Society. She is a happy transplant to California from New York by way of military service in the United States Navy, and has lived in San Diego for the past 38 years.
John LoPiccolo
John LoPiccolo is an accomplished conductor and music director with more than 30 years of professional and teaching experience. John attended the famed High School of Music and Art in New York, a Bachelor of Music Degree in Music Education from San Francisco State University and later received a Master of Music degree in Orchestral Conducting from Eastern Washington University. When not studying one of the more than 1000 scores in his collection, he enjoys cooking, constructing, flying model airplanes and spending time with his family. 
Marissa Mitchell
Dr. Mitchell is a writer, professor, ballerina, creator of "feel good" wellness blog + handmade shop, and a neurotrauma researcher. She is so happy to be pursuing her passion of health communication and health education. Her greatest pleasure is learning to enjoy her life and teaching other people to do the same, often through wellness.
Michael Graney 
Michael is a portfolio manager and an RIA/Fiduciary. He has been in the Financial Services industry since 1999. Michael has been teaching Financial Planning for Women for over 15 years.  He loves interacting with his students and getting student feedback.  The class he teaches has been built around the concept of making complex, hard to understand financial and economic principles understandable and interesting.  The focus is to make the material approachable and the learning environment interactive and fun.
Tom Fay
Tom Fay graduated from Duke University in 2022 with a Doctor of Ministry. During his study he wrote a novel that that was six years in the making. The rights to produce a movie based on his novel were purchased, and filming is scheduled to commence after the actor's strike in 2024. His Master of Arts degree was earned in 2016 from Fuller Theological Seminary. He also has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Simpson University and a diploma from the Grand Rapids School of Bible. Tom prides himself in sharing his extensive knowledge or novel writing and world religion to the students at the Poway Adult School.
Ulli Reiner-Marcus
Ulli Reiner-Marcus, director of our Symphonette is also the manager, founder and concertmaster of the Poway Symphony Orchestra. Ms. Reiner’s musical studies began at the age of 3 ½ when she learned to play the cornet. She played trumpet throughout her youth through college. At age 11 she started studying the violin. She has performed extensively throughout the United States and Europe. In 2011 Ulli became the conductor of the Concert Strings ensemble with the San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory.  Ulli’s current passion is working with the Raptor Resource Project, composing an original piece for solo violin representing the Decorah, Iowa bald eagle family. Ulli has also produced a 2015 calendar for the Poway Symphony Orchestra in celebration of the 10th anniversary. Look up in the skies of San Diego for Ulli to be flying around piloting a Piper Cherokee plane.


Career & Technical Education

Alfredo P. Hernandez Jr
Before joining Poway Adult School, Alfredo was a computer instructor for at the Elito M. Santarina Technology Center at the City of Carson in Los Angeles. Alfredo has worked with Information Technology and Business Process companies that outsource work to the Philippines as education lead for talent development. He also served as Executive Director for the Eggie Apostol Foundation, with community-driven education reform as a core advocacy. Before moving to the United States, Alfredo was a journalist with his own opinion column in one of the Philippines major daily newspapers. 
Debra Wilson
Debra was born and raised in San Diego and has worked for over 40 years in both computerized and non-computerized accounting systems. She has been a controller or in a management position in every company she has worked for and can therefore easily spot possible areas for improvement in your business. She knows how to set up accounting processes and procedures for efficiency. She enjoys fine dining, attending concerts, personal development, mystery novels, crafts, bicycling and living a holistic lifestyle.
Gregg Watkins
Gregg is a highly qualified business owner with a 20-year profile of success in the real estate and financial industries as a Real Estate Broker, Investor, and Business Banker. He has helped many people navigate the real estate market with finding foreclosure bargains, accomplishing a short sale, and investing in real estate. Gregg’s background also includes work in the entertainment industry and film/TV production. In addition to his real estate and finance classes, Gregg has coached attorneys, national speakers, radio personalities, and accomplished film actors. Gregg has taught hundreds of classes over the years and enjoys sharing his knowledge and experience to help his students.
Ilona Kerr
Currently, Ilona works as a Position Control Analyst for PUSD's Finance Department, having held various roles within the district since 2016.  Her BA degree in mathematics has allowed for a seamless transition into accounting, and Ilona was recognized as Finance's 2022-23 classified employee of the year. Her passion for procedures, analytical thinking, and streamlining of accounting processes has provided vast "real world" experience and applications. In her spare time Ilona enjoys hiking, biking, painting, and spending time with her family.
Melanie Fink
Melanie Fink is a Special Education teacher for Poway Unified. She works at Abraxas High School in the Transition Program. She has also taught a kindergarten/1st grade ASD class and worked as a Full Inclusion Specialist. She holds a master’s degree in Autism. Her passion is working with people with disabilities, and she is excited to share her knowledge with others.

Academic Classes

DeeDee Ade
Deedee is a well-known face at Poway Adult School and continues to represent student achievement through various disciplines. She has experience at Poway with teaching English as a Second Language to students of all learning levels. Currently, Deedee teaches Citizenship Preparation and helps students achieve their naturalization status. She has been teaching Citizenship since 2011 and loves every minute of this process. It is her great pleasure to prepare students for this life-changing event, and she enjoys hearing about the many adventures and experiences students go through on their journey to the final Oath Ceremony.
Xinhua Huang
Xinhua Huang is an experienced teacher who received her masters in education from the University of Pennsylvania, as well as a masters in applied Linguistics from the Yangtze University in China. Ms. Huang joined Poway Adult School after teaching several years in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.