The core of STARS Academy is our passionate team of teachers who follow a high academic standard to guide their values, creativity and leadership. Take a look below to learn more about each of our team members.
STARS Academy also employs artists and other non-core subject teaching staff who have an appropriate mix of subject matter expertise, professional experience, and the demonstrated ability to work successfully with students.
HEAD OF SCHOOL
Shayna Turk Dovitz
Sam Ducharme, PE Coach
HUMANITIES (ENGLISH / HISTORY)
Rose Beemer, Chair - English
Eedan Shwartz, Chair - History
Nahuel Ossa-Jaen, Chair
Rose Beemer, Assistant Head of School
Jennifer Dollins, Director of Community Relations
Sam Ducharme, Dean of Students
Nahuel Ossa-Jaen, Chair
Brenda Meyer, Counselor
Angy Echeverria, Teacher’s Assistant
Calista Martinez, Teacher's Assistant
Jenny Romero, Teacher’s Assistant
Francisco Vasquez, Teacher's Assistant
VISUAL AND PERFORMING ARTS
Shayna Turk Dovitz, Chair
Magaly Castellanos, Art
Gabi Milman, Theater
Jennifer Romero, Dance Coach
Eedan Shwartz, Theater
Matt Shulman, Music
Magaly Castellanos, Chair
FACULTY DIRECTORY 2023-2024
SHAYNA TURK DOVITZ
HEAD OF SCHOOL, FOUNDRESS
STARS THEATER PROGRAM PRODUCING DIRECTOR
(B.A. Psychology and Spanish minor from the University of Southern California; Multiple-Subject Credential CSUN; Administrative Credential CSUDH; Masters in School Leadership CSUDH; Certified in Neurodevelopmental Theory)
In 2003, at 11 years old, Shayna founded Shayna Turk’s Academy of Rising STARS. Through this, Shayna immediately realized her true passion in life: helping children build confidence and explore their creativity through performance. In 2010, Shayna received NFIB’S (National Federation of Independent Business) Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award as well as the Girl’s Going Places Scholarship. While continuing the STARS program, Shayna attended the University of Southern California and earned her B.S. in Psychology in May of 2014. By taking classes that focused on child and adolescent development, she gained a greater understanding of youth. She also took classes on theater in education. After graduating from USC, Shayna became a homeschool teacher for twin boys who participated in STARS. Together with their mom, Shayna created a curriculum using the arts to teach academic subjects. In 2015, Shayna attended Cal State Northridge's Michael Eisner School of Education, where she earned her Multiple Subject Credential. In 2016, she began her teaching career at CHIME Institute in Woodland Hills. For five years, Shayna was a third-grade teacher and further explored her passion for working with students of all abilities. She has served on the curriculum, professional development, and technology committees at CHIME. In the fall of 2020, she brought her vision of starting a school (STARS Academy) that uses theater to teach to fruition. Also in 2020, Shayna attended Cal State Dominguez Hills where she earned her Masters in School Leadership and Administrative Credential. She is grateful for the opportunity to work with the fabulous students, staff, and families of STARS Academy and looks forward to the years to come!
ASSISTANT HEAD OF SCHOOL
(Graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (NYC), B.A. Linguistics with a minor in communication disorders CSUN; M.A. Linguistics CSUN, Post-Master’s Certificate Educational Therapy CSUN; Education Specialist Credential UCLA; Certified in All Kinds of Minds)
Since 2001, Rose has worked with a variety of learners including students on the Autism Spectrum, those with diagnoses including ADHD, dyslexia, and other learning challenges, as well as the gifted and Twice Exceptional (2E) populations. In her private practice, she has worked with clients who range in age from 4 through adulthood. Rose is an active member of the Association of Educational Therapists. As both an educator and as a parent, her empathy towards students and their families, as well as her ability to understand and value each person’s unique learning style, while guiding each
student toward success, form the cornerstone for her effectiveness. Immediately prior to her current position at STARS, she was a special education teacher at a fully-inclusive charter school, and before that she worked as the Director of Student Support/Learning Resource Specialist for an independent school in the Greater Los Angeles Area. Rose is delighted to work with the stellar students, staff, and families of STARS Academy!
DIRECTOR OF COMMUNITY RELATIONS
(B.A. Liberal Studies, CSUN )
Jennifer Dollins comes to STARS with over 21 years of office management and administrative experience. She graduated with her Bachelors Degree from CSUN in Liberal Studies. Not only does Jenn have a background in administrative work, but Jenn has done many different kid centric jobs such as tutoring, nannying, working at a childcare center, and teaching kindergarten. She is a definite people person who looks forward to getting to know all of the STARS families and finding ways to assist you while making your experience at STARS as seamless and stress free as possible. Jenn met her soulmate, Eric, while working at a private school together, and he now works as an Elementary Science Specialist. They have two kids: Olivia Kate who is 15 years old and in 10th grade and Jack Charles who is 11 years old and in 5th grade. Jenn, Eric and their kids are very dedicated to family, but there is one thing that they consider to be the thing that bonds them together the most: Disney. They go to Disneyland any chance they get and have even snuck away to DisneyWorld in Florida four times already. Jenn hopes that you will stop by the STARS Office (Room 27) and introduce yourself so that she can start matching up faces with names as well as continue to build up the beautiful community that makes STARS the unique school that it is. If you are unable to come into the office, you are more than welcome to call the school or email Jenn at jdollins@STARSAcademySchool.com. Jenn will be answering the phones all day to get you the answers to your inquiries in the most timely way possible. Jenn is so excited to get to know the kids at STARS. They will probably get a pretty good idea of who she is by the Disney toy collection on her desk once she moves in, but whatever makes them feel more comfortable, the better. The more people that a child has on campus that know them well, the better they can be helped and encouraged to do the right things not only academically, but also socially and emotionally. Jenn. firmly believes that life is short; do what makes you happy!
DEAN OF STUDENTS & DIRECTOR OF ATHLETICS
(B.A in Psychology, CSUN)
Samantha Ducharme holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from California State University of Northridge and an Associates of Arts in Social and Behavioral Sciences from Los Angeles Pierce College. Sam has teacher experience as well as over 8 years of coaching experience. Her educational background and experience equips her with the knowledge and skills necessary to guide students through the critical years of their academic and personal development. Sam is a dedicated and compassionate educator, serving as the Dean of Students at STARS Academy. With a deep understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities that students face, Sam has committed herself to creating a nurturing and supportive environment where every student can thrive and learn.
(B.A. Educational Studies , University of La Verne; Masters in Education from University of La Verne)
Adela Robins has 10 years experience in the educational system. She received her Bachelor's degree in Educational Studies from the University of La Verne, along with her Masters degree in Education.
Adela Robins is a certified elementary school teacher with 5 years of experience in the classroom. She is passionate about integrating technology into her lessons and is also a dynamic teacher with a passion for literature. She believes that reading is the foundation for success in life and encourages her students to read widely and often. Her approach to teaching involves interactive discussions and exercises that allow students to explore the deeper meaning of texts.
She is thrilled to be part of STARS Academy this year!
Angela Echeverria has been working with kids for as long as she remembers. She was in charge of her church group for three years, working with students ages 4-9. She worked at a daycare for a year and served as an ABA therapist prior to working at STARS Academy. Angela’s been passionate about working with children since she was in elementary school. She is very thankful to have the opportunity to live out her dream and looks forward to learning more each day. She is planning on enrolling in school to further pursue her passion.
For the past 15 years, Brenda Meyer has worked as a School Counselor in a fully inclusive TK-8th grade school. She is
excited and honored to be providing social-emotional support for this amazing community. She is committed to encouraging all Stars Academy students to become better learners and community members by providing accessible, comprehensive, and developmental counseling services that meet their social, emotional, and academic needs. Her educational background is in the areas of School Psychology and Marriage Family Therapy. Both have been beneficial in
supporting and understanding the emotional and social needs of students and the ways that learning can be impacted. Academic success and access often lie in the student's ability to manage their emotional and social states as well as have access to tools and strategies that support how they learn. She is a lifelong learner and strives to gain knowledge that will help me serve the community that she is supporting. Training in mindfulness, somatic work, SEL, Growth Mindset, Neurodevelopment, and trauma have been helpful in developing supports that aid in the success of the child's ability to engage socially and academically within the school environment. Especially as we transition from pandemic protocol and living, our students will need more understanding, compassion, and care than ever. Each child is unique in their strengths and challenges and with guidance can begin to access tools/strategies that allow the growth of their true potential and being. She looks forward to being part of your child's team of support.
(B.S. Behavioral Health Sciences and minor of science in Forensic Psychology , Grand Canyon University)
Calista Martinez holds a Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Sciences from Grand Canyon University and a minor of Science in Forensic Psychology. Calista has behavioral experience as a student aid which started in a high school in Arizona. She expanded her experience by pursuing her degree. Working as a student aid and teachers assistant in two previous schools, Calista has honed her skills in teaching and helping students to grow both academically and socially. She is extremely passionate about helping students and youth and is excited to have the opportunity to expand her knowledge. She is planning to continue her education by getting her master’s in Psychology.
Cami Mostman has been a part of STARS for 10 years. She began as a camper at age six and acted in over 20 musicals, until becoming a counselor. Cami loves working with kids and takes any opportunity to bond with them. Outside of STARS, she attends de Toledo High School and plays volleyball. Cami loves working for STARS and sees it as her second home and a place where she can truly be herself!
(B.A. Political Science, Philosophy, Minors in English, Professional Writing from UC Santa Barbara 2021)
Eedan is a graduate from UC Santa Barbara where he earned degrees in Political Science and Philosophy and minored in English and Professional Writing. While in college, Eedan had the opportunity to write and direct his own play and acted in two others. Eedan has been a part of the STARS family since 2010 when he participated in his first show at the age of 11 and became a counselor for 3 years. In addition, Eedan was a member of the Cleveland High School Players’ theater program for all 4 years of his high-school experience. Eedan most recently worked as a high-school teacher at High Bluff Academy and as a math and science tutor, where he realized that teaching and working with students was his passion. He grew up in a family of educators and is a 3rd generation teacher. Theater and the arts have played such a major role in Eedan’s life and helped him learn public speaking skills and self confidence from a young age. Eedan is looking forward to fostering a classroom and community where all students can develop their own self confidence and public speaking skills. Eedan is very excited to be a part of the STARS Academy family!
STARS THEATER PROGRAM DIRECTOR / CHOREOGRAPHER
Gabi is the dance teacher and dance coach for the dance team at STARS Academy. She has been a part of the STARS family for 11 years, starting as a camper at the STARS theater program. She has been in 13 musicals and then began training to be a choreographer at age 12. She has been doing it ever since. She has choreographed over 20 musicals and absolutely loves it. She has worked with kids for many years now and loves the relationships and bonds she forms with them. She also loves being a confidant for them. Gabi competitively ballroom danced for 12 years and participated in the Junior Olympics of Ballroom Dance in 2014. She has taken 5 years of jazz and hip hop and immediately fell in love with them. She teaches the jazz and hip hop movement classes. She is currently in college, majoring in Psychology. She hopes to inspire each student with the expression that dance allows and for it to be something they continue to love and grow in.
DANCE COACH & TEACHER'S ASSISTANT
Jenny has worked with kids in all different age groups and special needs all throughout high school. She has gained skills through various jobs that have required her to be on her feet, be fast-paced, learn quickly, and above all, promote kindness. She has worked as a paraprofessional prior to joining us at STARS Academy. She has learned to accommodate students' needs for education and emotional support. She also has skilled medical training. Jenny is currently in school to get her bachelor's degree in Sociology and minor in Child Development. Overall, her goal is to be a supporting role to expand the minds of future generations. Jenny's hobbies include running (she ran the 2020 marathon) and dancing (she has performed in large crowds her whole life). Please help us welcome Jenny to the team!
SPANISH / ART ELECTIVE TEACHER
Magaly Castellanos is originally from Mexico. She has more than 20 years of teaching experience, working with all grades and with different educational methods. She also has experience working with kids with special needs. In San Francisco, Magaly had the experience of working with groups of kids in a Homeschool program. Her most recent position was as a
drama teacher in the Spanish language here in Los Angeles. Magaly enjoys fusing her passion for the arts into education. She also is an actress, writer, and director who has studied and worked in the USA, Spain, Argentina, and Brazil. In her time in Europe, she wrote a children’s book that was published in Spain. California is now her home where she is happy and working on many T.V, theater and film projects.
Born and raised in West Hills, Matt has had a passion for music since a young age. When he was eleven, Matt picked up the alto saxophone, migrating into tenor saxophone as his skills progressed. Once he started high school, the flute, clarinet, bass guitar, and acoustic guitar were added to his repertoire of instruments. From Honors Classical Band to Marching Band at Hamilton High School and de Toledo's Jazz Combo, (and even a Mariachi band!), Matt Shulman has had experience playing in large groups and for various occasions including last year's STARS Gala. Matt continued his studies at Berklee College of Music before returning to Los Angeles to advance his growing passion for music.
Melisa Mendez has eight years of experience in the education system. She has ten years of experience in special education, three years in mentorship, and two years in coaching various sports teams. Melisa is currently enrolled in school. She will be earning her bachelors in early childhood development. Melisa was a paraprofessional for five years at an LAUSD school and was a special education assistant for three years. She has a wide range of knowledge when it comes to working with students with special needs. She has been working in a school setting since her teenage years and has a passion for working with students with special needs. Melisa has received a variety of training in order to help children meet their social, academic, and IEP goals. Melisa is able to modify and accommodate work in order to help students be more successful. Melisa truly enjoys working in a school setting and helping every child meet their goal.
(B.A. in Physics and Computer Science, Minors in Mathematics and Astronomy from University of Redlands)
Nahuel is a graduate of the University of Redlands where he earned his degrees in Physics and Computer Science along with minors in Mathematics and Astronomy. While at UoR, he maintained and managed the university's Astronomy Student Taylor Robotic Observatory, where he spent many nights learning about the nuances of astrophotography. He was fortunate to have spent a summer researching alongside the University of Chicago's Astrophysics Department and the South Pole Telescope group. His research helped astronomers learn more about the South Pole Telescope's ability to view asteroids against the cosmic microwave background -- the remnants of the primordial universe -- and was published in the Astrophysical Journal. Apart from the sciences, Nahuel has been involved in theater since high school and was a Scene Shop Assistant for all four years of his university career. He was also stage manager for an independent theater group that specialized in devised, immersive plays, eventually writing and producing his own play. Before STARS, he was a coding instructor for Qualia: The School for Deeper Learning, and there he discovered his passion for teaching. Nahuel holds a deep love for creativity and artistic expression, and loves to find ways to incorporate the arts into STEM. He looks forward to fostering curiosity and creativity in his students in a safe and supportive environment!
(B.A. Psychology and minor in Child and Adolescent Development, CSUN; M.A. Psychology in Education, Columbia University)
Oshi is a graduate of Columbia University where she earned her Master of Arts in Psychology. As a passionate researcher and educator, she prioritizes the whole-child approach by implementing social-emotional learning to ensure that each child reaches their fullest potential. She strives to promote global mental wellness by leveraging clinical and positive psychology knowledge to enhance educational experiences for students from diverse backgrounds. Oshi aspires to continue her research studies in multiculturalism and resiliency to facilitate culturally-responsive and evidence-based approaches. She is thrilled to be an educator at STARS Academy and hopes to cultivate an enriching space for her students to thrive.