Christopher Keck - Director
Chris founded Palo Alto Prep in 1987 and has been the director of the school since its founding. His goal was to create a school where learning would be fun for kids. The philosophy is that great teachers and a positive environment hook kids on learning for life. This philosophy, combined with a focus on outdoor experiential learning has created a productive and enjoyable environment conducive to learning. There is nothing more critical than the link between student and teacher; it is the teacher’s relationship with the student rather than the subject matter that gets a student to stretch out of his comfort zone and take the risk to learn new concepts, ideas and skills. Chris taught chemistry and biology at PAP from 1986 to 1998 while developing and leading all outdoor education programs. As a former EMT he maintains current emergency medical training certificates, research diving and advanced scuba diving certificates, ski patrols at Northstar Lake Tahoe, and holds a current pilots license. He uses the outdoors as a classroom and believes that “Mother Nature” is truly the best teacher of all.
Andrew Fryer - Vice Principal-Social Studies
Andrew has two important goals (1) Help students to live in the moment and (2) help students connect history to events that define who they are. He feels it is important that when a student leaves Palo Alto Prep he or she can comfortably move from their primary discourse to a secondary or college discourse. Andrew’s satisfaction in teaching is derived from bringing the subject matter to life in such a way that students are excited by it. His leisure activities include bowling, guitar playing, surfing and motorcycles, but his highest priority is his family and spending time with his two daughters. Andrew received an AA degree from Foothill College and a BA degree and teaching credential from San Francisco State University.
Dylan Rich-Vice Principal - Math/Science
Dylan believes every student has the desire to be successful, and he helps students find the inner resources they need in order to master their own learning. As a graduate of Palo Alto Prep in 1999, Dylan is particularly attuned to the mindset and concerns of the students, and he embodies the spirit and pride of the school. Students identify with his youthful perspective. Dylan’s hobbies are surfing, golfing, cooking, guitar and he is currently working on getting his pilot’s license.
Katherine Lighty - English/Social Studies
Katherine has been working in education since 2001, and is in her third year of credentialed teaching. She has credentials in both English and Social Science, and is excited to be teaching English and U.S. History this year at P.A.P.
While growing up in Santa Cruz, Katherine did well in school until she hit high school. A traditional high school just didn’t fit for her and she tried several. After a number of attempts to be the square peg in the round hole, she left school and took control of her own education. A big job for a 16-year-old.
After some time at community college, Katherine attended Antioch College, located in lovely Yellow Springs, OH. During college, she participated in a number of education-related internships both in and out of Ohio, and was able to avoid most of the snow. Katherine graduated with a BA in Education Studies (and a deep hatred of blizzards) in 2003; and hightailed it back home to Santa Cruz and its mild weather. Katherine earned her teaching credential and an MAT from UC Santa Cruz in 2006. Go Banana Slugs!
Katherine worries that her hobbies make her sound like an 85 year old. She likes to bake, (especially cupcakes) spends too much time knitting, and the rest of the time reading (duh, she is an English teacher), and creating the perfect itunes mix.
Robert Ramirez - Spanish / P.E.
“Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Robert is an enthusiastic, fun and knowledgeable teacher. He grew up and completed all of his professional studies in Mexico. Robert knows what it takes to become a professional educator in a different country, he had to go through a lot of struggles in order to accomplish that goal. Because of that, he understands the struggle that students have to go through when they’re trying to learn a foreign language. He always encourages students to practice conversational Spanish at home or anywhere outside the classroom so that they get familiar not just with the language but the culture as well. “Language Goes Along with Culture”, he says; he believes that when someone tries to learn a new language it helps him break down some of the cultural barriers that currently exist between different cultures or countries.
Robert has a unique way of building relationships with parents and students. He truly believes that every student can become successful in school if the moral values are set in place first.
Robert has experience working with students and families of different cultures and backgrounds. He has worked in different school districts in southern California and now the bay area which has given him valuable experience as an educator. He has taken leadership position and has always stood out as a professional wherever he has worked. He has also worked in dual language programs and believes is one of the most effective ways to teach subject matter.
Robert is a very talented soccer coach and soccer player; he likes sports a lot. He also enjoys playing basketball and he is a huge fan of the Los Angeles Lakers. This helps him to have a better connection with Palo Alto Prep students and all students wherever he has worked. For hobbies, he likes to travel (especially to other countries), play the guitar, spend time with his friends and family and his cat “Garfield” who’s been with him for about 14 years now.
One of Robert’s goals in life are to professionally interpret for the United Nations, Television or Radio broadcasting networks. He knows Spanish and English and he is currently working on learning Portuguese and French. He also wants to open a dual language school to help those families and students who are struggling to adapt themselves to the American culture so that they can become truly bilingual and bicultural. One of Robert’s favorite saying is: “Everything is possible in life if you set the goals correctly; you have solid discipline and perseverance”.
Lisa Maureen O’Hearn-Keck - Dean of Students
As Dean of Students Lisa’s goal is to assure that Palo Alto Prep supports our students and families in every way we can. She is a part of each student’s educational process from the interview and enrollment, working with families and students on course selection, transcripts, and college choices and on to graduation. She is faculty liaison for the parent advisory board, as well as works with alumni and the community. She coordinates our international trip each year, and knows that there is no better teacher of culture and people than actually being there first hand. Lisa relishes the time spent with students and is constantly amazed at how much she learns from them each day
A graduate of Menlo Atherton High School and University of Santa Clara, Lisa held the position as Executive Director of the Muscular Dystrophy Assn/San Francisco as well as management positions in media sales, advertising and fundraising for over twenty years. In 2001 she co-founded The Windermere Group, an outdoor education and team-building company. She is still very involved in organizing outdoor adventures and team -building for schools in the area as well as for Palo Alto Prep.
Lisa is a mother of two daughters, and treasures time with her family. However she will jump at any chance to travel. She loves to water-ski, snow ski and scuba dive and has recently become a devotee of meditation and yoga.
Leslie Gunterson - Special Education
Leslie Gunterson was raised in Hemet, California. She is the mother of four amazing boys she raised in So Cal who are now 3 of 4 in college (UCLA,UCI, UCSD) and one in High School. In helping her own children overcome learning differences, Leslie became interested in learning, brain development, limiting and empowering belief systems and motivation. She is a certified performance and leadership coach, as well as a martial arts instructor. Leslie has worked in community education for over 19 years, both in the public and private sector. She has a Master’s Degree in special education from Brandman University.
Leslie is the educational specialist/coach managing the special education department and assisting students to access the services/skills that they need to be successful at Palo Alto Prep and in their college programs in her study skills class. More than just a study skills class, she works with students and their parents to create successful goals and transitions from high school into college, career and or trade school. She also helps students identify their life purpose and career opportunities that line up with their purpose and values.
Her life purpose is to creatively lead, teach and inspire herself and others toward excellence and possibilities while having fun. She enjoys laughing, playing, travel and vacation with family and friends, music, writing, science, martial arts, water sports, fitness and coaching.
Allyson Simonton - English
Allyson Simonton loves great books and good poems. She believes the movie version of a book never lives up the original but enjoys watching it so she can point out just how bad it is. She graduated from Cal Poly Pomona with a BA in Communication and a minor in Business Marketing. While there, she wrote for the school newspaper where she obviously did not learn, like Hemingway, to keep it short and sweet. Regardless, Allyson believes in the power of journalism to keep people accountable – or at the very least – entertain us. She also received her teaching credential from Cal State Fullerton and taught English and Journalism at two high schools before joining the classy staff at Palo Alto Prep.
Since she thoroughly believes that “the unexamined life is not worth living” Allyson has three main goals: teach students how to think critically, read critically, and live deliberately. English is a subject that incorporates all the most important aspects of life and requires one to become aware of, discuss, evaluate, and analyze them. It helps students consider other perspectives and experiences and compare them with their own. Allyson loves to use history, current events, student experience, and even popular culture to discuss literature and teach writing skills.
Allyson promises a dance party if the whole class gets an A on a test, cupcakes on special occasions, and a lot of talk about sentence fragments and run-ons. When she isn’t delving into the subtlety of meaning in literature she can be found traveling the world. Naturally she chose teaching because she loves teenagers, but she enjoys the freedom to gain worldly wisdom during those beautiful summer months. When she returns, refreshed, to the classroom, she connects learning to experience. For instance, scuba diving is like Hamlet because…please let me know if you figure it out. Allyson also loves theater, mild hiking, and the unique, and sometimes hilarious, students who attend Palo Alto Prep.
Brad Mayol – Educational Assistant
Brad Mayol believes that all students have strengths that can be nurtured and used to encourage them to learn. Brad was born with a visual impairment, which helped him discover that there are many different ways to perform a task. Some are better for some people and some are better for others. It took him a long time to understand that, despite his visual impairment, he is a visual learner. Prior to this revelation, Brad had a difficult time in school. Once this hurdle was overcome, Brad earned his GED, then went on to receive an Associate of Arts degree in music from Gavilan Community College, a Bachelor of Arts degree in music from U.C. Santa Cruz, and a teaching credential for students with moderate to severe disabilities from San Jose State University. He went on to teach students with autism and other developmental disorders as well as students with emotional disorders. As the assistant for the study skills class, Brad helps students by getting to know them and learning what motivates them and what they want from life. He shares his love of music theory with PAP students in music class. In his spare time, Brad plays keyboards and sings for several rock bands. He loves playing his piano with his grandchildren and spending time with his family. Brad also tries to catch as many SF Giants games as he can each year.
Chris Chen – Science
Chris Chen is the Biology and Chemistry teacher. He grew up in Marin County where he attended a small private high school. He then attended UC San Diego where he received a B.S. in General Biology. While there, he took several classes in biology and chemistry before discovering the teaching program. He received both his credential and Masters of Education at UC San Diego.
Chris enjoys educating students about science. He also enjoys strategic board games such as Settlers of Catan, Chess, Shogi, and is trying to learn Go. He also enjoys card games such as Magic, Pokemon, and Yu-Gi-Oh!. He enjoys meeting students and discovering new interests through them. He enjoys his pet rats as well as his cats.
Dan Nevo – Math
Dan was born and raised in Israel, and came to California in 1994 to work in the high tech industry here in the Silicon Valley. After 15 years of experience in operations and taking an active role in his own kids’ education, Dan decided to switch careers, got his teaching credential in Math, Business, and Finance; and is now our math teacher. Dan’s teaching philosophy is all about understanding concepts and hands-on work: “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand”. Dan strongly believes that once the student understands the concepts, he/she can conquer any math level they desire.
Dan got his Engineering degree at Tel-Aviv University, his MBA degree at Santa Clara University, and his Teaching credential and Masters in Education at National University. During his free time, Dan goes on long distance running and biking, takes part in triathlon races (three Ironman races so far…) and marathons, and loves the outdoor — camping, hiking, backpacking, canoeing, kayaking, and white water rafting.
Keith Costas - Internet Technology Specialist