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Specials / Elementary Support Teachers

Christina Cena

Christina CenaChristina Cena (EL TOSA) was raised in Chile for the first ten years of her life, and since then has lived in Southern California, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Nevada, and finally settled in Santa Rosa in January 2012. Christina graduated with her B.A. in Liberal Studies from Hope International University in 2003. During her college years she spent time in Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and studied abroad in England and Austria. In 2009 she received her Teaching Credential and M. Ed. Christina has been a teacher at CCLA since the school first opened in 2013. She has taught Kindergarten, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 6th grades, and now serves the CCLA community as the EL TOSA. Christina is passionate about instilling a love of learning in her students.  She and her husband have three children, all of whom have studied at CCLA. In her free time, Christina enjoys camping with her family, mountain biking, and paddle boarding. 

Email: | Extension: 23241

Diane Gunderson

Diane Gunderson

Diane Gunderson (Elementary Reading Specialist) has been teaching for twenty three years, all but two have been with Santa Rosa City Schools. Her years in the classroom were predominantly in kindergarten, but she has also taught first, second and third grade.  She has ten years of experience as support staff.  This included support for students in English language development and early literacy instruction as well as support to teachers as an instructional coach. Diane became fluent in Spanish as a part of a university student program in Oaxaca, Mexico and then later earned a degree in Spanish from Humboldt State University.  She has also traveled to El Salvador. Diane grew up in Sonoma County and still considers spending time with family and community of the utmost importance. She and her daughter love to play in local parks and explore our county regional parks. Diane is excited to continue be a part of the CCLA team to help the school and community thrive and grow.

Email: | Extension: 23241

Katia Palacios

Katia PalaciosKatia Palacios (Art) was born in Los Angeles, California. She grew up in Koreatown surrounded by different cultures and languages as well as delicious food. She attended public schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District and knows first hand the struggle of being the child of a family whose first language is not English. Her family migrated to  the United States from El Salvador in 1982. She enjoys drawing in her sketchbook as well as paint on large canvases. In her free time she enjoys listening to oldies, reading a good book accompanied with a delicious cup of coffee, and watching Korean dramas. 

Katia received her Bachelor's Degree in Art Education from California State University, Chico and her Single Subject Credential from Sonoma State University. 

Katia is passionate about teaching her students the art of self-expression through the usage of their creativity and imagination. Most importantly, she desires to teach her students the value of believing in themselves.

Email: | Extension: 23231

Brad Saunders

Brad SaundersMr. Saunders teaches elementary and 7th grade Physical Education. He is a California native who has lived all over the state, from Los Angeles to Shasta County and many places in between. He currently lives in Windsor with his wife, who is an emergency room nurse in Novato, and three children: Meara, 5th grade; Charlize, 3rd grade; and
Patton, 2nd grade. Mr. Saunders has been teaching since 2000, with a bachelor’s degree in American History and Culture from UCLA, and two Teaching Credentials from Chico State (Multiple Subject and Physical Education).

Mr. Saunders believes in lifelong learning and lifetime fitness, and that all people are capable of achieving these qualities. His teaching emphasizes improving physical fitness and developing
movement skills, according to California Standards, while strengthening social requirements of teamwork, sportsmanship, and creative problem solving.

“A life is not important accept in the impact it has on other lives.”
– Jackie Robinson, UCLA Bruins


Carolyn Smith

Carolyn SmithCarolyn Smith (Resource Teacher) was born in San Diego. She moved to Sonoma County to get her B.A. in Theatre Arts at Sonoma State            University  in 1998. After college she worked for several years with teenagers who had emotional disturbance in a residential setting. She also had the pleasure of working in Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theatre Program touring schools in Northern California. During this tour she was educating kids on violence prevention and conflict resolution. In 2008 Carolyn earned her Education Specialists Credential from Sonoma State University.

Carolyn has worked for Santa Rosa City Schools for 15 years as an Education Specialist.  She works with the North Coast School of Education where she mentors new Education Specialists throughout the district start their careers in special education. Carolyn’s philosophy of education is to educate the whole child. She works tirelessly to make school a place for growth and happiness for every child regardless of their abilities. In her off work hours she can be seen camping, hiking, and enjoying the bounties of  Sonoma County.

Email: | Extension: 23242

Kyle Thompson

Kyle ThompsonKyle Thompson (Music) has been a member of the Santa Rosa community of music for over 25 years. He sang in the choral ensembles at Santa Rosa High School under the direction of Dan Earl and Dr. Paul Head, played cello in the Santa Rosa Junior Symphony under the direction of Eugene Shepherd (who also taught at Lawrence Cook Middle School), and then went on to receive his A.A. degree in music at SRJC under the direction of Dr. Curtis Sprenger. He received his B.A. at CSU Chico and just finished completing his Masters Degree at Sonoma State University. Mr. Thompson is excited about building a strong music program at CCLA, believes in music as a powerful force that can connect all people together, and has loved working with students in southwest Santa Rosa all of his teaching life. 

In 2010, Mr. Thompson was given the honor of being the Elsie Allen High School Educator of the Year, was awarded the Chamber of Commerce Excellence in Education Award in 2009 and 2013, and received the Music Director of the Year for 2015 from the Northern California Band and Choir Director's Association.  He also received the March 2019 Teacher of the Month from the Sonoma County Office of Education. Outside of teaching, Kyle enjoys spending time with his family, cooking, disc golf, woodcarving, and making music. 

Email: | Extension: 23240