I am an educator because I enjoy being around kids and their curious, adventurous minds.
I am a school leader because all children deserve a learning environment that is safe, supportive, and student-centered. I will always strive to celebrate student success and guide student growth.
I teach because teaching is a gift. Middle schoolers are amazing. They are old enough to understand the true complexities of life, but young enough that they’re not yet jaded. They make me smile everyday, and I get to share all of my passions—literature, poetry, drama, history, social activism—with them.
I fundraise for PJA because every child deserves an education. Fundraising guarantees that PJA students are supported along their educational journey.
I teach because I enjoy helping students learn new things and nurturing their growth.
I teach because I love learning and love to think of creative and meaningful ways to spark wonder and curiosity in young people. My hope is that my students will seek out and embrace opportunities to learn, grow, and expand their understanding of the world and their responsibility to it.
I teach because “We never know which lives we influence, or when, or why.”
― Stephen King, 11/22/63
I work at PJA because supporting this amazing community is the best job I've ever had. PJA's values are truly held by those who work here and I always feel supported, and encouraged and inspired to exemplify these values.
I teach because I love helping children realize that learning can be hard and that's okay! And nothing is better than having one of my students realize they’re stronger and more resilient than they ever thought possible.
I market for PJA so people can learn about how our school makes mensches!
I teach in Afterschool because every family and child deserve an accessible community to feel supported and safe to grow in fun, new ways!
I teach because I want the future to be better and brighter.
I teach because I enjoy working with children. Teaching is creative and interesting work and it fills my heart. In particular, I love finding ways to connect with each child.
As Admission Director, I love sharing the powerful story of PJA with families.
I teach because helping children learn and grow is such a special power that helps everyone and generations to come.
I teach because I believe every child is full of potential and I love helping my babies grow into loving, kind, and confident kids!
I teach because I can't think of anything that better combines my love of Judaism, children, creativity and community. My work is varied, exciting and challenging and after 25 years of teaching, I'm learning new things from my students on a daily basis.
l teach because it brings me joy and I am able to help shape the lives of my student.
I teach because I love to share the joy of education with children and to see their eyes light up with new learning!
I teach because witnessing developmental milestones, making everlasting memories, positively impacting the lives of others, laughing, playing and expressing my creativity are only a few perks of the most important job!
I teach because it is who I am. It is my passion, my calling and my world.
I am an educator at Kidzone because it is my favorite job I have had so far. I like to hang out with the elementary kids.
I teach because I know how important early childhood education is. Young children are not to be molded but people to be unfolded. I enjoy experiencing the wonder and awe of learning with small children. There are so many new things to learn from a group of citizens that are preparing for a future world.
I teach because facilitating a supportive and creative community is my passion! I strive to create an environment where my students can discover new passions with a sense of curiosity and confidence.
"It's a great privilege to take my students on a journey of the Hebrew language - in which they not only learn the language of the Torah but also explore the depths of the Jewish heritage and a culture of the modern state of Israel."
I work for PJA because it is not just a school, it's a community. Families and staff work together as one.
I teach because early childhood education is an important building block in a child's learning journey and I'm honored to be part of their adventure.
I teach because I believe in the power of education. My own teachers have and continue to influence my life and I similarly aspire to positively impact the lives of my students.
I teach because it is amazing to see children’s excitement and creativity as they explore their world.
I teach because I believe teaching is one of the most important, impactful jobs there is. To help a child learn, grow, and find their voice is how I want to leave my mark on the world.
I teach because I truly believe that every child is a capable learner. I'm driven and delighted by the way a student's face lights up when their hard work pays off with an "Ah Ha" moment.
I work for PJA because it is a family and community. PJA students collaborate and learn tech skills for the future.
I teach because working with middle schoolers energizes and inspires me everyday. Mathematics is the tool, because I find great joy in it, but teaching is my destiny. My goal is to help every student discover the great joy in Mathematics, not only the ones for whom it comes easy, but especially for the one who believes it’s not for them.
I teach because of all the joy it brings to me each and every day. From the smallest of moments to the biggest of victories, I love and cherish my time with my students!
I am an educator because I want to be a catalyst for positive change in the education system.
I teach because I believe being a teacher is one of the greatest ways to make a meaningful impact on students, the world, and our future.
I teach because I take pride in the social, emotional, and educational growth. It gives me joy when I see students apply their own techniques and mental shortcuts to problem solving.
I work at PJA because I believe that community can play a large part in people's lives. For me, community was what brought me back when I found myself spiraling out of control - when you have others you can lean on for support, it can mean the difference between recovering from hardships or letting those hardships define and control you.
I teach to help students gain the ability to be critical thinkers, who can solve real-world problems both inside and outside the classroom.
I am an educator because I want to be a source of safety, support, and compassion for children and families.
I fundraise for PJA because I believe that everyone should be able to take advantage of all this school has to offer, regardless of their financial situation. Mensches come from all walks of life. Our ability to offer scholarships enriches our student body and makes our community stronger.
I teach because skills students learn outside the classroom is crucial for the growth of that individual and I love being a part of that team.
I teach to provide a strong social, emotional, and academic foundation for every child.
I teach because my students show me how to remain creative and open while making art. Their ideas and energy renew my optimism for our world.
I teach because I truly enjoy teaching!
I teach because I believe that educational beginnings based on curiosity and kindness create not only an engaged learner, but an open and confident person who can also help and teach others.
I teach because I am a ready collaborator who loves all things library. Connecting kids, teachers and parents to the right resource at the right time is what makes me tick!
I teach because I believe it’s important to be a visibly out and proud LGBTQ+ role model I wish I had as a kid. I want to create a space where kids can feel seen and understood for who they truly are.
I work on the PJA Auction because it helps support students and it gives me the opportunity to connect with our Jewish community.
I teach because young minds need an adult to help guide their curiosity, and adult minds need the curiosity of youth so that we don't stagnate. I learn just as much from my students as they do from me.
I teach because I love children and hope to guide and assist them to reach their potential.
I work for PJA because it gives the opportunity to serve my community, create meaningful and lasting relationships and collaborate to improve the well-being of those around me.
I teach to inspire the next generation of thinkers, makers, leaders and scientists to ensure that we leave this world a better place.
Sarah Truran Wills
I teach because I enjoy watching kids grow and learn. They face challenges head on and grow so much from each other. It’s so inspiring!
I am an educator at PJA because I know about a lot of cool stuff that I like to tell people about, and kids need to learn cool stuff. Kids don’t do traditional small talk and neither do I.
I teach because I learn new things all the time.
I teach because I've found no greater joy in life than to interact with and help inspire children. Learning should be joyous and I find deep fulfillment in the opportunity to teach students to find their own joy in the learning process! My goal is to create lifelong learners.
I teach because I firmly believe that education can repair the world and it brings me immeasurable joy to witness my students grow into kind, responsible and resilient individuals who contribute to a bright future for us all.
I teach because there exists no better, more noble, or more rewarding way to spend my time. I teach because learning is lifelong, and children and adolescents have a great deal to teach us. Spending time around such energy and creativity makes me a better and happier person.
I teach because... Little people are my passion!! I truly feel inspired learning from them - every day is a new beginning, a new journey that unfolds a new path creating new memories and welcoming new adventures. If only we slow down, observe and listen we are able to support already creative minds. I’m honored to be an Early Childhood teacher and to witness as each little person welcomes their “Firsts”.
Steve Albert, Executive Director
B.S. Haverford College. Ed. M. Harvard University. M.S. Portland State University. Steve is passionate about music and theater, and he enjoys singing as well as attending concerts and plays. He also enjoys hiking, kayaking, and skiing, and he likes to travel – especially to visit his grown children who are scattered around the country. He spends more time than he should caring for his saltwater reef tank at his home, which he shares with his wife, Janie, and dog, Lola. Steve’s favorite thing about PJA is the strong sense of community and the genuine care expressed by individuals for one another. This mirrors the collaboration that exists at all levels – from students to teachers to parents to school leadership – and creates a foundation that fosters learning and service on campus and off.
Sean Bartlett, Director of PJA Afterschool Programs
Sean holds a B.A. in American Studies and a teaching credential in social studies. He worked as a middle school history and language arts teacher at the School of the Epiphany in San Francisco from 2010-2016. Sean gained administrative experience as the Assistant Director of the Serra Summer Camp (San Francisco) from 2007-2016. Since moving to Portland in 2016, Sean has worked in Afterschool programs, first as the SUN Extended-Day Program Coordinator at Impact NW, and more recently at Champions in Tualatin. He is responsible for PJA's Afterschool Programs, both on-campus and at our other PPS sites, including opening a new Afterschool Program at the Odyssey Program for the 2023-24 school year.
Kate Dickinson-Villaseñor, Director of Lower School General Studies
Kate holds a B.A. in Diversified Liberal Arts and an Ed.M. in Special Education from the University of San Diego, and she is completing her Ed.D in Organizational Change Leadership from the University of Southern California. She holds a wide range of licenses and certifications, including licenses in Elementary Teaching and Special Education from the State of Oregon. Kate currently works as a Teacher on Special Assignment for the Multnomah Education Service District where she provides instructional coaching, professional development and special education guidance, and she also provides consulting through the company, Educating Changemakers, which she founded in 2017. Previously, Kate lived in San Diego, where she served as the Director of Changemaker Initiatives for the San Diego Cooperative Charter Schools. Other professional experience includes work as a 1st/2nd grade teacher in a multi-age classroom and service as an inclusion specialist. Kate has also worked as a Professor of Practice & Community Fellow at the University of San Diego and as an Adjunct Professor at Brandman University. She is a frequent presenter on a wide range of educational topics ranging from social emotional learning and empathy to anti-bias literature and culturally responsive practices. Kate has received a number of honors and awards as a student and professional.
Becky Ewer, Marketing and Creative Director
Becky is the Marketing and Creative Director for the Mittleman Jewish Community Center and Portland Jewish Academy. She started working here in 2005 and loves the family feeling of the MJCC and PJA. Becky grew up in Seattle. She graduated with a B.S. in Business from Skidmore College and a Masters of Science in Arts Administration from Boston University. Becky is passionate about music as she has played the violin since the age of seven and is married to a professional violinist! She and her husband Greg founded the local nonprofit, 45th Parallel. Becky enjoys playing with her two children, cooking, knitting, and travelling. As a breast cancer survivor, Becky serves as a mentor to other women who are newly diagnosed.
Beth Germain, Chief Financial Officer
B.S. Finance - University of Illinois, MM (MBA) Accounting from Northwestern University – Kellogg School of Management
Beth is responsible for all aspects of financial management and budgeting. Beth has held CFO positions in real estate development companies in both Chicago and Portland from 1989-2002. Beth joined the PJA Finance Committee in 1999, became Treasurer of PJA in 2000 and was hired as Controller in 2002. Beth is married to John and they have two sons, Payton and Louie, who are both PJA graduates. "PJA has been my strongest connection to the Jewish Community and I am grateful to have it be such as large part of my life." Beth enjoys living in the Pacific Northwest and being outdoors skiing, walking and boating as well as being indoors doing yoga and puzzles.
Sarah Glass, Director of Admission, Retention, and Engagement
Sarah grew up in Portland. At the age of 18, she moved to New York City where she earned her BA from Barnard College of Columbia University. After college, she taught in a public school in Brooklyn for three years before returning to graduate school to earn a Masters in Urban Planning from NYU. All three of Sarah's children attended PJA. "I love sharing the story of PJA with families. This is a school that truly lives by its core values. Our students learn to think critically, work together to build community, and know that they can make a positive impact in our world."
Merrill Hendin, Principal
Merrill grew up in Brooklyn, New York where she attended Jewish day school through high school. She graduated with a BA in English from the State University of New York at Binghamton and worked at a Jewish day school in Brooklyn before moving to Vancouver, BC, where she completed the graduate education program and received her teaching certification through the University of British Columbia. Merrill and her husband lived in Haifa, Israel, where she taught English to adults, seniors and children in a variety of settings. When her young family returned to the United States, they made Portland their home and their PJA lives began. Merrill taught Hebrew and Jewish Studies at PJA before taking time off to raise her growing family. Her involvement at PJA has taken many forms over the years as she became involved as a lay leader, has served as a member of the PJA administration as the Director of Hebrew and Jewish Studies, Assistant Head of School, and currently as the school's Principal. Jewish education has always been an integral part of Merrill's life both personally and professionally. PJA was home to all three of their children and remains an integral part of the Hendin family's lives.
Amy Katz, Director of Jewish Life
Amy Katz has been working in Jewish Education for over 20 years. She taught in Jewish Day Schools, synagogue schools, and Jewish summer camps in Wisconsin, Canada, Los Angeles, Boston, and San Francisco before moving to Portland in 2004. Amy taught Hebrew and Jewish Studies for seven years at PJA before becoming the Director of Jewish Life. Amy's favorite thing about PJA is forging strong connections with students and faculty and encouraging everyone to learn a little more about the beauty of Judaism. Her favorite part of each week is Middle School tefilah. Amy graduated from Beloit College with degrees in Creative Writing and Literary Studies, and has a Master's in Jewish Education from Boston's Hebrew College.
Kim Krikorian, Assistant Director of Early Childhood Education
Kim grew up in Utah with strong family roots in Montana. She received her bachelor's degree in Sociology with a focus in Education from Ashford University. She also has associate degrees in Early Childhood Education and Human Services from Dawson College. She has completed her Aim4Excellence National Director Credential through National Louis University. Kim participated in a learning cohort of administrators and teachers through the Sheva Center Early Childhood Leadership Institute through the JCC Association of North America. With this cohort was able to visit learning environments in Israel and Italy.She loves good food, music, theatre, and traveling. Kim and her family live in the neighborhood and love being part of our greater community. Her husband has an Italian restaurant on the waterfront. Her two sons attended the after school program and went to MJCC camps. She loves how PJA offers a place where the spirit of a child is celebrated.
Erika Saiers, Director of Early Childhood Education
Erika grew up in central Pennsylvania. She attended Green Mountain College in Poultney Vermont and earned a BS in Elementary Education and Teaching with a concentration in Recreation and played collegiate soccer. During her senior year at Green Mountain she attended the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) where she spent 3 months in the PNW mountaineering, sailing and rock climbing and decided that Oregon was where she was destined to be. She packed up a small pickup truck, spent a month traveling the country and has been rooted in Portland ever since, now calling the PNW home. In Portland Erika earned her MEd in Educational Leadership and Administration from PSU and continues her love of exercise. She has coached the PJA middle school cross country team, and loves hiking and biking. Both of Erika's children attended PJA as "lifers"- they started as infants and graduated 8th grade. Erika believes this community is truly a wonderful environment to grow up in.
Nadine Gartner is the current President of the MJCC and PJA Boards.
John is the current Vice President of both the MJCC and PJA Boards. John is an active member of the MJCC and the Board’s Facilities Committee.
Richard is a past Vice President, and the current Treasurer of both the MJCC and PJA Boards, and a member of our Finance Committee.
Naomi Harwin currently serves as the Secretary of both the MJCC and PJA Boards.
Jason currently serves as the Immediate Past-President of both the MJCC and PJA Boards.
Eric is an active MJCC member and is passionate about Jewish heritage and cultural values.
Marni is a past Treasurer of both the MJCC and PJA Boards.
Martha is a public interest attorney with Legal Aid Services of Oregon.
Michelle is an active member of the MJCC, where her two daughters have attended Day Camp, swim lessons, and Stingrays Swim Team.
Steve Klein is a past President of both the MJCC + PJA Boards.
Danelle is a past President of both the MJCC and PJA Boards. She is an attorney in private practice specializing in government relations.
Nathaniel “Nate” Smith was born in 1990, in Rochester, NY and moved to Ludington, MI in 1996.
David is a family physician and has been on staff with Providence Medical Center since 2009. Originally from New Jersey, he spent several years in Boston as a double Jumbo to earn his B.S. in Engineering followed by his M.D. degree at Tufts University.
Sandra Valle is an environmental scientist that has supported and directed numerous pollution prevention, energy efficiency, and sustainability projects over the past 20 years.
Tamar was part of a founding family in the PJA Giving Circle, is a member of the MJCC, is the mother of two PJA students, and is a prior co-Chair of Kehillah, PJA's Parents Association.