the Leadership team
AJ Webster

Innovator, educator, and cognitive architect AJ Webster brings more than a decade of classroom experience to the Sycamore School. He has taught science, Latin, language arts, math, and social science. AJ has his Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. He specializes in game-based learning and embraces the Maker Movement, in which students design, construct, and “think with their hands.” AJ’s work with the PlayMaker School was featured on PBS NewsHour. He is a frequent speaker and has conducted workshops at numerous conferences including the Game Learning Society, Progressive Educators Network, California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS), Games in Education, the Institute for the Future, and the Playful Learning Summit. AJ continues his mission of revolutionizing education as a co-founder of the Sycamore School, a project- and play-based elementary in the LA area.

Christy Durham

Christy Durham is an educator with over 20 years of elementary and middle school teaching experience. She holds a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, as well as a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential. First beginning her career at the Walt Disney Company as a recruiter, she pursued her passion for teaching in 1998 and soon landed at the prestigious Buckley School in Sherman Oaks as a middle school teacher.  Having increasingly developed a teaching philosophy around integrated, project-based learning, Christy left Buckley in 2012 to teach 4th and 5th grade at Los Encinos School, where this teaching philosophy is part of the daily curriculum.  Christy is active in promulgating her vision for change in education by presenting to other educators.  She has presented at Archer School for Girls STEM conference, Playful Learning Summit, Games in Education conference, IndieCade, Intentional Play Summit, Online Educational Symposium for Independent Schools conference, and local public charter schools.  Christy is currently co-founder and administrator of the Sycamore School, which is focused on revolutionizing education for the Twenty-first Century.

Tedd Wakeman

Tedd Wakeman has been working with children in education, recreation, and research for three decades. He worked locally with LAUSD in South Central LA, teaching at the elementary and middle school levels for 14 years, while concurrently traveling the country developing and implementing STEM curriculum for Nike/Eco Educators.  In addition, Tedd taught extensively across the globe. He worked in the Republic of the Maldives, teaching English to groups of adults from over 25 nations while diving the local coral reefs as a PADI dive master. In Bali, he lived and worked among Indonesian farmers, learning permaculture practices while utilizing a distance education program created through Queensland, Australia, to educate local teenagers. Tedd went on to spend two years teaching in Costa Rica while exploring local rainforest ecosystems. After these varied approaches and experiences in culture and education, he returned to Los Angeles and joined the GameDesk team in founding the revolutionary PlayMaker School. PlayMaker gained notoriety for its unique approach to 21st Century learning and game-based curriculum.  Tedd has delivered keynotes, spoken on panels, and presented at numerous conferences, including LA’s General Assembly, Progressive Educators Network, California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS), Playful Learning Summit, and Game Learning Society.  With his current adventure, the founding of The Sycamore School, he hopes to preserve the spirit of creativity and curiosity while developing young problem solvers who possess the desire and skill to innovate in the 21st Century.

director of admissions

Molly's history in admissions began in 2006 in Shanghai, China, where she was the Director of Admission and Marketing at an international school.  After seven years, in search of blue skies, she relocated to the island of Oahu, where she served as Director of Admission at Honolulu Waldorf School, Island Pacific Academy, and as Admission Associate at Punahou School.  Molly is passionate about the value of engaged and future-focused learning and is excited to share the Sycamore School philosophy in the community as the Associate Director of Admissions.

Molly Ripton
our educators
Brie Tompkins

Brie is grateful for the opportunity to teach and learn with the Kindergartners at Sycamore!  She has over 10 years of experience in primary grades and a passion for nurturing the youngest students at our school.  Brie received her Bachelor's Degree from Middlebury College in Education, Psychology, and Art, and her Masters in Literacy from the University of Vermont.  As an educator, Brie is inspired by her students’ creativity and adapts her teaching to their interests and their play. She loves imagining with children as they explore stories, test experiments, create art, cook recipes, perform plays, and solve real problems.  Integrating Kindergartners’ interests with game-development is an exciting way that Brie leads her students through a design-thinking process. Through game-development, she helps students merge their ideas with their new learning as mathematicians and communicators.  Brie also enjoys collaborating with colleagues and community members to develop authentic opportunities for kids to learn in the garden. She wants her students to know that their ideas, feelings, and questions are valuable and that she wants to learn alongside them. Brie lives in Topanga with her husband and two children, who welcome the opportunity to grow at Sycamore! 

Born and raised in Mexico City, Elsbeth has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Texas at San Antonio, where she lived for many years. She has been a teacher for 9 years in both the public and private sector as well. Her experience ranges from Pre-K to 3rd grade. During her last year in Texas, she attended training for the International Baccalaureate at Rice University. She values each child’s way of learning and inspires children to become global thinkers. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, going to the dog park and the beach, and enjoys traveling the world to explore and learn about other cultures. Elsbeth is excited to join the Sycamore team and further the mission of providing engaging, continuous, and future focused education for students.

Elsbeth Ortega-Castillo

Loren grew up here in the Los Angeles area. She received her bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University, and completed her master’s degree and teaching credential at UC Berkeley.  She has taught at both independent and public elementary schools throughout Virginia and California. Loren is particularly excited about developing mathematical mindsets, the role of activism in the classroom, and the social-emotional growth of students. Her passion for music and children’s literature enriches her teaching.  Most of all, Loren enjoys connecting with students and colleagues to create a learning community that celebrates each individual.  Her many hobbies include reading, sewing, crocheting, knitting, gardening, cooking, singing, and playing the guitar.  When not in the classroom, Loren also loves spending time with her husband and son.

Loren Kaplan
Kylie Walker

Over the past few years, Kylie has developed a passion for working with students from diverse backgrounds and nationalities all over the world. Originally from Des Moines, Iowa, she graduated in 2013 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Spanish from Central College. During her undergraduate career, Kylie spent a semester abroad in Granada, Spain, where she realized the importance of experiencing new places, cultures, and ways of life. Upon graduating, Kylie worked as a Language and Culture Assistant in Mallorca, Spain at CEIP Ponent Primary School where she supported children of all ages in a variety of classrooms and subject areas. In 2015, she traveled to South America and ultimately settled and lived in Montevideo, Uruguay for one year. There she worked for two different language academies teaching English to children, adolescents, and business professionals. These experiences were incredibly inspiring to her, as she learned how much she enjoys connecting with, educating, and having a positive influence on children. Kylie moved to Los Angeles in 2017  to join the Sycamore family and hopes to further her educational experiences, while working with a team of talented educators who foster students’ growth through experiments, play, problem solving, reflection, and interactive learning in a fun and engaging environment. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, playing soccer, reading, and spending time with her family.

innovation specialist
Agustin Molfino

Agustin Molfino is a learning designer and artist informed by a multinational upbringing, his mother’s artistic tenacity, his father’s coaching sense, and principles found in psychology and anthropology. He has worked in education for nearly a decade, including in public, private, and charter schools in DC, São Paulo, and Los Angeles. As a curriculum designer in LA, he designed ed-tech instructional experiences and worked alongside Tedd and AJ supporting curriculum and instruction at the PlayMaker School at NewRoads. For the past three years, Agustin was the STEM Learning Designer at JetSpace, a 21st century innovation hub situated inside of Locke High School in Watts, CA. There he designed and delivered curriculum around 21st C. skills, 3D printing, game design, making and tinkering, poetry, performance, and art. Agustin is passionate about exploring what an ideal education looks like for each community, supporting efforts he believes help the members of that community to self-actualize, and creating new systems when innovation proves necessary. Currently he thinks that innovation is especially needed in redesigning learning spaces, reimagining assessment, and inventing personal learning technologies and practices. He is excited to be joining a team of passionate educators and a community willing to entrust him with the development of their youth!

educational assistants
Ashlee Allison

Ashlee is an LA native and brings a variety of rich experiences to her work with students at Sycamore. She grew up playing club soccer, and at the age of 16, won the California State Championship. She and her teammates went on to win the cup for the United States at an international tournament of champions.  Pursuing her love of music, Ashlee was able to turn her talents as a performer into a life on tour. As an entertainer and artist, at the age of 20, she traveled throughout the US and all the way to Thailand, working alongside artists such at KRSONE, Queen Latifah, and Lauren Hill. After selling over 50,000 copies of her album in 2016, she chose to invest the money toward her lifelong dream of impacting the world through sustainable gardening. Her work as a humanitarian began and she started her own LLC company: The EarthSeedsProjects.  Ashlee continues to strive toward her goals as a female entrepreneur, making organic food affordable while teaching botany, sustainability, and entrepreneurship at her summer and spring camps in Oakland California. After 10 years on her family's farm in NoCal, Ashlee returns to Los Angeles to join the team at Sycamore. She has a deep calling to connect children to nature and help them become an active part in transforming our food industries, promoting sustainable farming, and healing with their hands. 

Hanna Walker

Originally from Iowa, Hanna recently relocated to the Los Angeles area to join the Sycamore team. Hanna’s passions are marine sciences and ocean conservation. She attended Drake University to study biology with a desire to educate people in marine sciences. Hanna spent a year managing a marine science lab, and four years working at a veterinary clinic, where both of these experiences showed her the value of collaboration and learning in a hands-on environment. She looks forward to sharing her knowledge and love of conservation with the students and is excited to be a part of a community that values experiential and future focused learning. In her free time, Hanna enjoys photography, painting, and being outdoors.

office manager

​Born and raised in Mexico City, Karla moved to Pasadena, CA at the age of 13 where she remained through high school. After attending college at LMU, she had the opportunity to study abroad at Louvain-la Neuve, Belgium where she was able to meet people from a wide range of nationalities. Upon her return to the States she began to work in a variety of fields from a start-up in the sports industry to real estate development. As a member of the founding team, Karla played a major role in building the foundation for the Sycamore School and continues to be a vital part of its success. Karla calls Santa Monica home where she lives with her husband, two adopted cats and some fish. She enjoys learning through experience and is passionate about her family, friends, and animals.

Karla Reyes - Cooper
rotation specialists

Ashlee Allison - Naturalist/Garden Program

Sandra Savas - Art Program

 

Chad Scheppner - Theater Program

Mind Crafters Robotics - Robotics/Coding Program

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