K-12 Administration

Josh Brody

Head of School

Josh Brody is Head of Sequoyah School, an independent progressive school in Pasadena, California.

Throughout his career, Josh has been involved in education and human rights in the U.S. and internationally.  After graduating magna cum laude from the University of Colorado with a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology, Josh worked in Jacaltenango along the border between Guatemala and Mexico coordinating human rights education workshops on behalf of local NGOs in partnership with the U.N. peacekeeping mission MINUGUA. Returning to the United States, Josh started a high school summer enrichment program for program students from racial and ethnic backgrounds underrepresented in gifted and talented programs in the Pasadena Unified School District.

Following his interests abroad again, Josh taught social studies and language arts, and became the principal, at a school in eastern Nepal. Josh later earned his Master’s in Education from The Harvard Graduate School of Education where he focused on decentralization of school governance. As an Echoing Green Fellow from 1999-2002, Josh created community-based education programs for people living in the isolated communities near the Nepal-Tibet border. These programs included curriculum development, adult literacy classes, and facilitating the education of young women in the project area in order for them to become teachers in their own communities.

Josh earned his Ed.D from the UCLA Educational Leadership Program. His dissertation research was on socioeconomic diversity in independent high schools.

During his years in Nepal, Josh was given the name Gajab Bahadur Gurung Lama (which translates as “strange wonderful thing”). His love of Nepali folk music led to the surprising result of national pop stardom. Known by his Nepalese name, Gajab Bahadur, Josh became the first foreigner to record original Nepali songs. He has released a CD and a number of music videos in Nepal.

Josh has served on the boards of the Transformative Action Institute and Educate the Children International.

Azizi Williams

Assistant Head of School

Azizi Williams has served as assistant director at Sequoyah School since 2006. Azizi worked as a K-1 teacher at Sequoyah before joining the administration. She previously taught with the Child Study Center at UC Berkeley upon graduating from the university with a BA in sociology. Azizi is currently working on completing a Masters in Educational Leadership from the Klingenstein Center at Teachers College Columbia University. In her free time, Azizi enjoys baking and going to the beach with her two daughters.

Marc Alongi

High School Director

Marc Alongi is the high school director at Sequoyah. A native of New Mexico, Marc completed his BA in religious studies and his MA in Teaching at Brown University. He has taught high school world and U.S. history, and was most recently the Director of Curriculum and Student Support at Sequoyah. Marc has also enjoyed his time during the last five years coaching the debate team. Marc holds a doctorate in Educational Psychology from USC. His research focused on how teachers help students to apply history concepts to their experience beyond the classroom. In addition to his work at Sequoyah, Marc is a co-founder and advisor to Ashram Paryavaran Vidyalaya (APV), a model school and teacher training center in Uttarakhand, India, dedicated to project-based learning, mindfulness, and music.

Carolyn Stirling

Director of Admissions

Carolyn Stirling joins Sequoyah after 12 years in student recruitment and admissions, most recently as the Director of Recruiting and Admissions at USC Rossier School of Education. Born in California, Carolyn grew up in different states due to her father’s military career. After receiving a BA in English from UC Irvine, Carolyn’s passion for helping students develop and find their fit in the world led her to earn her MA in Counseling in Student Affairs from UCLA and doctorate in Educational Leadership from USC. Outside of work, Carolyn is a member of P.E.O., a philanthropic educational organization that furthers women’s education through loans and scholarships. Carolyn is a Pasadena resident who enjoys reading, movies, traveling, the Huntington Library, and Disneyland.

Emily Singer

Director of Curriculum and Student Support

Emily Singer earned her BA in English from Binghamton University and her MA in English Language and Literature from the University of Chicago. Emily is interested in how the discourses of popular culture, mathematics, science, history, folklore, etc., create and maintain culture. As a graduate student, she studied the intersections between literature, history, and science in the Nineteenth Century. However, her schooling in education started in the Sequoyah-like progressive elementary school she attended in Upstate New York.

Emily enjoys camping, hiking, contra-dancing, knitting, and watching old movies. “I feel so fortunate to have found Sequoyah. It’s a wonderful teaching environment that encourages me to do what I love best.”

James Cooper

Chief Financial Officer

James comes to Sequoyah with 23 years experience in independent schools. He started his career as the Director of Information Technology at the Brooks School in Andover, MA, moved west to become the Director of Finance and Operations at the Archer School for Girls in Brentwood, CA, and most recently has been the Business Manager at the Walden School in Pasadena. James currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Association of Business Officers in Independent Schools (ABOIS), National Business Officers Association (NBOA) and the California Independent Schools Business Officers Association, where he serves as Chair of the Statistics Committee. James has served on many National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) task forces and California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) accreditation teams. James holds a BS in Information Technology, an MBA, and a Graduate Certificate in Business Leadership for Independent Schools from Johns Hopkins University.

Outside of the business office, James has coached varsity football and taught Computer Science and Senior Ethics classes at the Brooks School. He enjoys finding time to spend with family and friends, playing golf and flag football, and serving underrepresented communities in the Greater Los Angeles and Pasadena areas.

Randy Bunnao

Director of Communications

Randy has spent the past decade working in social justice, most recently as Communications Director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles, a legal aid and civil rights organization. Before that, Randy was Education Director at the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, a research center on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy. In both roles, he advanced the strategic messaging and advocacy goals related to the protection of immigrants and LGBT communities. Prior to graduate school, Randy was a Coro Fellow in Public Affairs in New York where he interned for the Department of Cultural Affairs, Bloomberg News, and the Working Families Party. He is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and UC Santa Cruz and was a Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) Fellow. You can find Randy upstairs in the administrative offices on the K-8 campus.

Ryan McDaniel

Director of Advancement

Ryan has been working in independent schools for over a decade since moving from Boston to Los Angeles. Having grown up on boarding school campuses in the East, where his father worked, he made his professional start in education as the Admission and Development Director at Chatsworth Hills Academy. He eventually moved on to be the Development Director at The Wesley School in North Hollywood and later at Vistamar School in El Segundo. Ryan’s most recent role was the Development Director at the Petersen Automotive Museum. While he is a car enthusiast, he realized he missed being in a diverse school environment, and found Sequoyah to be the perfect fit. He enjoys coaching middle school basketball, would love to start a golf team, and, even here in LA, continues to be a rabid Boston sports fan. You can find Ryan upstairs in the administrative offices on the K-8 campus where you can also check out his original 100th-anniversary brick from Fenway Park.

Sal Lagunas

Director of Operations
& Facilities

Please visit again soon to learn about Sal

Brian Eagen

Director of Field Studies

Brian has been working in outdoor education for the past decade, involved with numerous independent schools in Los Angeles and the YMCA BOLD/GOLD program in Seattle. Brian is certified as a Single Pitch Instructor through the American Mountain Guides Association and is also a Wilderness First Responder. He has a Bachelor of Architecture and a Bachelor of the Arts from Iowa State University. Brian’s primary focus is making the outdoors approachable for everyone, regardless of their background, by creating an environment that provides opportunities for personal growth and discovery. He built OutdoorBlueprint.com, a starting point for folks who want to explore the outdoors, which features simple gear tutorials, travel guides, and interactive lessons. Brian has visited all 50 states and 33 of the 59 National Parks… and counting.

Zed Kelley

Director of

Originally from Alaska, Zed started his teaching career in Avon, CT, teaching music composition, animation, web design, and robotics. He then spent a year in Massachusetts at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, teaching coding and music in their 11th- and 12th-grade feeder program. Zed moved across the country to San Jose where he took a job as Technology Director for Kehillah Jewish High School, introducing computer classes and starting a robotics team. Zed relocated to Los Angeles where he has continued teaching and pursuing music. and spent nine years at Milken High School as a technology integration specialist teaching coding, robotics, new media design, video, photography, and graphic design classes. Once his music career picked up, he took a few years off from teaching to compose music for TV and film. Eventually, he came back to education as the Director of Academic Technology at Valley Beth Shalom Day School in Encino helping develop a one-to-one iPad and laptop program. He also designed and ran a state-of-the-art makers lab. Outside of teaching, Zed enjoys producing music for TV and film and spending time with his wife and daughter outdoors. You can find Zed in the Thinkering Tank on the upper K-8 campus.

Dornel Cerro

Head Librarian

Dornel has a Master’s of Library and Information Science and 35 years experience in a variety of library settings. For the past 20 years she has worked with children and teens in school and public library settings.

Amber Gravely

Athletic Director

Amber is returning to her hometown of Pasadena where she attended PUSD Noyes Elementary, middle school at Westridge, and high school at Poly. She to Loyola Marymount University where she played womens’ basketball and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology. Amber received her MA from USC Annenberg School for Journalism and Communication. A lifelong learner, she is currently working on her doctoral dissertation for the educational leadership program at USC Rossier School of Education, with a concentration in educational psychology. Throughout her career in education, Amber has maintained student-support roles such as guidance counselor at Jefferson Elementary School in Pasadena, and as Director of After School Programs at Bentley School in Oakland. She remained connected to sports with positions as a girls’ basketball coach at both Bentley and Poly, as athletic coordinator at Poly, and as an assistant learning specialist with USC Student Athlete Academic Services. Amber is founder of the educational services organization S.O.S. Student Opportunities for Success, which has produced events such as the Los Angeles Student Athlete Symposium and the Pasadena Student Leadership Conference.

RJ Sakai

Director of Social Innovation

RJ Sakai, a Sequoyah alum, is a design researcher who crafts tools and activities to facilitate insightful conversations for governments, nonprofits, startups, and classrooms. RJ’s work has led to immersions in Uganda, Cuba, small-town Massachusetts, East Harlem, and Los Angeles. After graduating from Hampshire College, where he studied cultural anthropology and graphic design, RJ pursued a variety of interests: helping independent bookstores survive in the face of online book buying; mapping the politics of souvenir supply chains; interviewing international students about their relationship to credit cards; and fostering collaboration, creativity, and innovation amongst professors and students. While earning his MFA in Media Design Practices at ArtCenter College of Design, RJ used workshop facilitation, systems thinking, and pinball to create new forms of communication between city governments and residents. He has a goal to visit all the U.S. state capitals (35 down).

Elsa von Heydenreich

Director of College Counseling

Elsa has over 30 years of experience as a college counselor in independent schools and has served as the president of the Western Association for College Admission Counseling, board member and coordinator for Multicultural Concerns for the National Association for College Admission Counseling and member of the College Board National College Scholarship Service Committee. Elsa is a graduate of the University of Southern California and holds an MS in School Counseling degree from California State University, Los Angeles. When not working with colleges and students, Elsa looks forward to spending time with her grandson. She is also a competitive powerlifter.

Mason Kaye

Director of
K-8 Daycare &
After-School Programs

Working with children has always been a passion of Mason’s. He has been a Sequoyah Daycare and Summerhouse staff member since 2016. Before that, Mason worked for the Eliot Institute intergenerational Unitarian family camp (253 campers, 30 staffers) in Washington for 16 years where he was the director of the middle school program, director of the high school program, and most recently the director of the entire camp. Mason studied music composition and film at Occidental College, then earned his MFA in writing music for movies at Columbia College Chicago. In addition to working with schools and camps, he has worked in the entertainment industry writing music for movies, and conducting recording sessions for other composers as well. He’s excited to be at Sequoyah and loves being in Pasadena. His father was born here, and his great grandfather was chief of obstetrics at Huntington Hospital, just across the street from the K-8 campus.

Carolina Arango

Student Support Coordinator

Carolina obtained a BS degree in Psychology, but soon discovered her passion for teaching and pursued Education studies in Integrated Curriculum, Differentiation, Language teaching, Bilingualism, and 21st-Century skills, among others. Carolina completed a RelaxKids Coach certification, which focuses on helping children and young adults manage their emotions and gain self-awareness and self-control skills. She recently moved to Pasadena from Bogotá, Colombia, where she first taught in an elementary classroom in a K-12 school and was then appointed Head of Elementary. She is committed to maximizing individual student performance through differentiated teaching and believes in instilling compassion, empathy, and self-confidence in all students.

Lee Michael Krieger

Field Studies Specialist

Lee Michael started out pursuing environmental engineering and quickly discovered his interest in outdoor education, earning a BA in Park and Recreation Management from Northern Arizona University. Since then, he has combined his love for the environment with the inspiration he gets from leading youth on trips and has led trips and outdoor programs with diverse groups in a variety of settings. With Outward Bound, Lee worked with students from Boston’s inner city, focusing on developing students’ integrity and self-reliance. With SoulStainable Adventure group, Lee led adventure and service learning trips to Ecuador.

Kay Yamamoto

K-12 Advancement Associate & K-8 Admissions Associate

Kay Yamamoto has been working at Sequoyah in Development and Admissions since 2005. She graduated from Reed College with a degree in anthropology. She is the proud mother of two Sequoyah graduates, Akira (’09) and Ethan (’13) Abderrahman.

Eileen Lee

K-12 Advancement Associate

Prior to coming to Sequoyah, Eileen Lee was a preschool teacher, the Head of Production at Harpo Films, a production supervisor on feature films, and a music video producer. Eileen is a graduate of New York University with majors in Psychology and Radio Broadcasting. She has two children in high school and enjoys meditating, cooking, and going to the beach.

Dennis Escobedo

K-12 Administrative Assistant to the
Head of School

Dennis Escobedo, Administrative Assistant, has enjoyed working at Sequoyah since 2000. He has been the coach of the girls’ basketball team for four years.

Betty Chavez

K-8 School Office Manager, Operations

Betty Chavez is the K-8 school office manager and unofficial school nurse at Sequoyah for the last 20 years. She truly enjoys her work, especially because she gets to interact every day with students, parents and staff.

Patricia Han

High School
Admissions Associate

A New Yorker at heart, Patricia Han moved to the Los Angeles area with her husband, Rob, and their young children in 2007, where she adjusted to year-round sunshine. She has worked in several independent schools in the NYC area as a teacher and a school counselor. Her last position was as Counseling Psychologist in Brooklyn where she provided counseling and crisis management to middle school students diagnosed with language-based learning disabilities. Patricia received her BA from Smith College in Education and Child Study, and Italian Language and Literature and earned her MEd in Counseling Psychology at Teacher’s College, Columbia University. She is inspired by the dedication and passion of Sequoyah’s teachers and is grateful for the supportive and loving friends they have become during her years in the Sequoyah community.

Debbie Deems

High School
Administrative Assistant

Debbie Deems is thrilled to be a part of the team at Sequoyah’s high school. She spent 14 years at Sequoyah with her children – Kathleen, Rory, and Maeve. As a parent, she volunteered countless hours doing everything from co-chairing the auction to sitting in for Betty Chavez in the K-8 main office; and she brings the organizational skills she demonstrated as co-chair of the Parent Resources Committee for eight years. Debbie is also very involved in National Charity League and has volunteered over the last six years with her daughter Maeve for more than 100 hours annually at local philanthropies. In her previous life, she was Executive Director of the California Commission for Economic Development and Finance Director of Leo McCarthy’s U.S. Senate Campaign.

Malena Brans

Senior Accountant

Malena, originally from a ski town in southern Argentina, has lived in Southern California for the past 18 years. She earned a degree in real estate auctioning in Argentina and has an accounting degree from La Verne University. Malena has two children, Sofia and Valentin, and a mini pincher named Rio. In a past life, Malena was a competitive fencer. She enjoys traveling and experiencing different cultures and languages. She is especially fond of cooking, coffee, and spending time with friends and family.

Tina Gonzales

Business Office Associate

Tina is the new Business Office Associate at Sequoyah School. In this role, she will support the accounting and business office with the daily oversight of fiscal operations, accounts payable and receivable, payroll, and employee benefits. Tina has worked in the finance departments of elementary and high schools for more than 12 years. She is a graduate of Cal Poly Pomona with a degree in Finance. Tina lives in Glendora with her husband and two sons, ages 22 and 19. She is an avid sports fan and loves watching baseball and college football. You can find Tina upstairs in the St. John office.