Alan Ortanez

Alan OrtanezJiu Jitsu Instructor

Growing up in California, surfing, skateboarding and snowboarding, Alan Ortanez studied Aikido, Goshen Jitsu (Japanese Karate), Muay Thai, and now is very passionate about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He was initiated as a Reiki Level III Master in 1996 and has always believed in "Before knowing how to defeat your opponent by force, you must first learn how to heal them as well." He looks for strengths in children’s character and reinforces them through positive discipline. At the end of each class, he makes it a goal that every kid should walk away with a smile on their face and have a super fun time! He has a good understanding of what kids go through who get bullied in school. For young kids, Jiu-Jitsu builds confidence, respect, and the courage to defend oneself.

Valerie Asensio

Valerie AsensioDirector of SDFAS Enrichment Program

Prior to joining the administration in 2008, Valérie volunteered at the school for several years in various activities such as art, gardening, cooking and science. She became the manager of the Enrichment program to oversee the Summer Camps, Daycare and served as a liaison for the lunch program. Valérie dedicates her time bringing attractive and entertaining activities for the children at SDFAS. Valérie is originally from Picardy, France and has been living in San Diego since 1995. She spent time in Marseilles working on a master’s degree in Molecular Biology and Immunology before earning her Ph.D. from the Pasteur Institute in Paris. After spending more than 10 years in San Diego doing specialized research in the field of Neuro-Immunology, she decided to start a children’s clothing business and not to pursue a career in science. She is the mother of three children.

Catherine Eng

Catherine EngSTEAM Instructor

Catherine Eng is an award-winning digital designer and developer and a principal of the brand and development consultancy, Touch Grove, with her husband Mark. She has designed and developed popular apps and websites for entertainment brands such as HBO, Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, Sony Music, Mattel, Next Model Management, and more. She has also coached middle school Science Olympiad teams, and taught fine art and digital media to elementary and middle school-aged students. She founded Design Code Build, a digital arts academy that works with the San Diego French-American School as well as the San Diego Girl Scouts and the San Diego Public Library.

Clark Gracie

Clark GracieJiu Jitsu Instructor

In 2010 Clark Gracie was awarded his black belt under his father Grand Master Carley Gracie. Being the grandson of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu founder Carlos Gracie, Clark has had a large legacy to live up to. He does it with grace, fluidity and apparent ease. Under the tutelage of his father Carley Gracie, and his coach Rodrigo Medeiros, Clark has become the most active competing member of the Gracie family. The majority of the year you will find Clark teaching at his San Diego academies, but also enjoys traveling abroad, mostly for tournaments and seminars, but also to taste the flavors of jiu-jitsu worldwide. With quite a nomadic childhood, this should not surprise anyone. Clark teaches and practices the family values passed down to him from preceding generations.

Claudia Escolano

Claudia Escolano Gynmastics Instructor

Claudia Escolano comes from Zaragosa, Spain, and has been coaching all levels of rhythmic gymnastics since 2008. She is a graduate of the University of Zaragoza and has a BA in Physical Education and Sports. She has been coaching at Emerald City for three years.

Erica Tarassoff

Erica TarassoffDance Instructor

Originally from Seattle, Erica Tarassoff received her formal training from Evergreen City Ballet (ECB). Joining the company by age 12, she performed as Clara in the Nutcracker, excerpts of Swan Lake, and Midsummer Night Dream. At ECB, she explored styles of jazz, modern, African tribal and character dance. At the age of 16, she joined a local Hip Hop group, ND MIX, and performed hip hop for KUBE93 radio station's promotions, local concerts and summer festivals. Currently, Erica is dancing with San Diego's Rock Steady Dance Ministries. Her training continues at studios such as San Diego City College, San Diego Ballet, Millennium Dance Studios in Los Angeles, Colorado Ballet of Denver, Colorado, and Studio Harmonic in Paris, France. "I dance for the joy that it brings, whether it be to me, a student, or the audience."

Diesa SiedelSports Coach

Diesa holds French and American nationalities. She has a French mother and an Austrian father. She has progressed through her life-experiences and initiations as a collegiate scholarship athlete, professional athlete, private school teacher, coach, and ultimately as the founding director for the accredited non-profit United Initiatives for Peace. Through her experiences, she has honed a keen interest in global issues, specifically those invoking gender equality. Diesa is bilingual in English and French and has traveled and served in more than 58 countries on five continents. Her untiring commitment to positive social change has been recognized worldwide. Today, Diesa enjoys competing in triathlons and marathons, snowboarding, surfing, hiking, cycling, indoor rock climbing, coaching basketball, and organizing service trips that bring sports and recreation to under-served populations.

Tara Sampson

Tara SampsonMusic Instructor

Tara Sampson graduated in May of 2016 from the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theater. She moved to San Diego last October from Italy, where her husband was stationed with the Navy. She is a working actor and singer throughout the San Diego theatre community. She has starred in numerous musical theater productions around San Diego and can currently be seen in the new musical "Fly By Night" at the Coronado Playhouse. Tara has extensive experience working with young children and is thrilled to be teaching at Nightingale Music. She adores sharing her talent and love for music with the youngest little music makers!

Jacob Johnston

Jacob JohnstonCeramics Instructor

From his childhood as the son of an art professor and sculptor, art has played a major role in Jacob Johnston’s life. The opportunities he had from an early age to create have inspired him to work with children. The versatility of clay gives him the opportunity to put art and functionality together to be enjoyed every day!  

Izzy and Coco Tihanyi

Izzy and Coco TihanyiSurf Instructors

Surf Diva Surf School and La Jolla Surf Camp are owned by twin sisters and SDFAS parents, Izzy Tihanyi and Coco Tihanyi. Moms of Annabelle (2nd grade) and Diego (joining 6th grade this fall) the surf camp supports SDFAS with donations back from the ASP surf lessons and special gala auction items. The Surf Diva boutique has been nationally awarded the #1 women's surf retailer in the US and carries beachwear from Quiksilver, Roxy, Desigual, Sanuk, TOMS, and more. The Tihanyi sisters have been featured on CNN, MTV, TIME Magazine, Elle, Vogue, Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal. The school and shop are located at La Jolla Shores at 2160 Avenida de la Playa.

Heather Hansen

Heather HansenPlayball Instructor

Heather Hansen is the Owner and Head Coach for Playball Kiddos. She has a Liberal Studies degree from Cal State San Marcos University. She has always had a passion for working with children, and became a part of the Playball team in 2007 while working on her teaching credential. She lives for the moments when you just see the light bulb click on for the child and they understand the task at hand and comprehend their accomplishment!

Stéphanie Labbe

Stéphanie LabbeLanguage and Arts Instructor

Stéphanie is originally from Lille, north of France, after completing her teaching degree in History and Geography for MS and High School, she spent 6 years in Mexico City, teaching French to students and executives in the French Institute for Latin America. She has a real passion for teaching French with innovative new methods and sharing her French culture. After teaching Hist-Geo in middle school and high school in France she and her family decided to come to San Diego last year. Stephanie is a mother of 2 children in K and 5th grade at SDFAS. She loves to swim, walk on the beach and she practice NIA.

Sheila Dawson

Sheila DawsonArt Instructor

Sheila Dawson has been teaching hand tool woodworking skills to children since 1974. Her “classroom” is a converted 30 foot transit bus with individual and adjustable workbenches which she drives and parks at schools and neighborhoods around San Diego. She works in different schools for many years including Francis Parker Elementary School and local YMCA. She has a A.S. Degree in Child Development. She wrote articles for several magazines and has been featured in San Diego Home/Garden, Sunset Magazine and several books on Woodworking. Her passion and her purpose is her work. She enjoys singing (Sweet Adelines), gardening, hiking (Canyoneer), and strumming her guitar.

Leslie Padilla

Leslie PadillaArts Instructor

Leslie Padilla has been instructing the After School Activity Creative Movement, Pre-Ballet and Pre-Tap dance at the French-American School for nine consecutive years. Leslie’s experiences in dance, design, theater, and writing have taken her from New York to San Diego. She has studied a wide range of dance styles in college, master classes, and dance intensives, and continues to teach many forms of dance throughout San Diego to dancers at all levels and ages. Since 2005, Leslie has been an instructor and choreographer for San Diego Civic Dance Arts. She served on the SDCDA Board of Directors for five years, and currently dances with the Civic Dance Arts’ Adult Ensemble in annual Dance Collage Concerts, and other performances citywide. Leslie has enjoyed the honor of dancing on stage with Will Ferrell in his Cancer for College benefit shows: Comedy Explosion, September 2013 at the San Diego Civic Theatre, and Will Ferrell & Chad Smith’s Red Hot Benefit Comedy and Music Show, in April 2016 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Leslie’s mission is to continue to inspire a love and appreciation of dance in children and adults alike.  

Martin Nilsson

Martin NilssonChess Instructor

Martin Nilson is a USCF Life Master and Swedish Cadet National Champion. He is a USCF certified Professional Chess Coach and has over 10,000+ hours of teaching experience. He has had student representation in the World Youth Championship and Pan American Games, as well as many scholastic chess championships at both national and state levels.

Martine Ayan

Martine AyanArts Instructor

Martine Ayan spent five years in Paris at both the Duperré School of Applied Arts (Arts appliques) and the National School of Fine Arts (also called “Les beaux arts”) learning many techniques in the field of art. After gaining more experience in New York, she moved to California and worked as an art director in a print house called Chemtex in Los Angeles. She created prints for the surf apparel market, junior, women's and men’s apparel market and then became interested to start her own children ‘s apparel company called Paris Cheri. Now she enjoys teaching children and sharing her passion about, art, drawing, developing creativity in children.

Terry Sanchez

Terry SanchezFencing Instructor

Terry Sanchez has been a fencing trainer for over 20 years. He is the owner of the oldest sports center in La Jolla. He specializes in all three fencing blades, but the Foil is the blade of choice for beginners and novices. His step-by-step fencing training can take someone who has never fenced and build fencing skills rapidly.

Seth Senecal

Seth SenecalCuriosity Corps Instructor

Seth Senecal is a professor of psychology and a mental-health specialist with 10+ years’ experience working with children and adults in a variety of settings. He had a life-long love of learning for its own enjoyment, and the understanding of the world that he has gained simply by following his own curiosity has helped him tremendously over the years. As both an educator and a clinician, he has known far too many individuals who were incredibly bright, but because they had done poorly in school (along with other reasons) they had no sense of their own intellectual capability. By shifting focus onto more fundamental principles, anyone's capacity to learn, grow, and discover and develop their own strengths can be enhanced, for a better present and future of their own making.

Pablo Lanatta

Pablo LanattaSkateboard Instructor

Pablo Lanatta was born in Buenos Aires. He created his own Adrenalina brand in 2001 and owns a shop in the local neighborhood of Bird Rock. Pablo, already into extreme sports began practicing action sports at age 8. He couldn’t help it; it was in his blood. He didn’t realize it in that moment, but at that young age he marked the path that he would follow the rest of his life. At the age of 14, he became a windsurf instructor. He is very energetic and always wants to try new things. He began traveling throughout the country experiencing every kind of extreme sport he could, specially skateboarding. One day he started to film his friend practicing, and that day was a milestone for him.

Not only is he an extreme sport athlete, he knows how to produce television shows. He also organizes a skateboard marathon every year in San Diego to raise money for Parkinson’s research, “The Adrenalina Skateboard Marathon”.

Paloma Salvadores

Paloma SalvadoresGymnastics Instructor

Paloma Salvadoresbegan training on rhythmic gymnastics at the age of 6. And the next 15 years, she spent her time participating every year in the National Competitions in Spain as Club Acordes member. In 2005, she decided to become a coach. In just 3 years, she earned her title as a Spanish National Coach and started her career coaching all levels of Rhythmic Gymnastics, from recreational classes to competition level. Paloma has been coaching in the US since 2014. Paloma graduated in Sport Sciences (University of A Coruna, 2013) and earned an MBA Sports Management (Madrid European University, 2015). She loves working with children and helping them enjoy the sport. She currently coaches at Champion Rhythmic, Ballet Institute of San Diego, and SD Dance with Erica Tarassof 

Roberto Martini

Roberto MartiniTennis Instructor

A native of Brazil, Coach Roberto Martini has over 20 years of coaching experience from beginners to professional level. The past 10 years alone working and developing new players starting at the age of 4 up to 16. A former ITF player himself, his creativity and humor are matched by his rigorous practices to make his students love what they learn while maintaining a strong work ethic. Speaking Portuguese, Spanish and English, he is a Coach that strives to teach with love for this game all that he learned while competing and teaching around the world.

Vesna Hunt

Vesna HuntCulinary Instructor

Vesna Hunt is originally from Serbia. She graduated from University of Belgrade as a FLE teacher and has been teaching French for many years before coming to United States. She was working with different age groups and cultures. Vesna has been working at SDFAS for 5 years as an assistant and instructor during our after school program and various camps. She is very passionate about traveling, meeting different cultures and get connected with people through their language and cuisine. Vesna has lived in Paris and Moscow and traveled around the world while dancing in the National Dances Group from Serbia. She also loves sewing and designing, cooking and baking. She likes to share her interest in these hobbies with her friends and family and with children she teaches.

Susan Hall

Susan HallArts Instructor

Susan Hall is a teaching artist who, drawing upon her extensive experience in education, performance and production, provides music and theater education that invites progressive skill development, inspired creativity and camaraderie among students of all ages. Susan earned her B.S. in Biology, with a minor in Physiological Psychology, at SDSU; and received formal training in theater arts at UCSD. She is the owner and Director of RhythmWorx, a Roots of Rhythm Instructor and Certified Trainer, a Certified Facilitator for both HealthRhythms and Fit Rhythms, an active member of AERO (Arts Education Resource Organization); and has trained under esteemed music and theater professionals such as Craig Woodson, PhD, Eric Christmas, Arthur Hull, Paulo Mattioli, Barry Bittman, MD, Christine Stevens, MSW, and more. Susan is an actor, dancer, musician, recreational music facilitator, teaching artist and life coach.