Sondra Hall is the founder and Director of “Take My Word For It!”. Her inspiration as an artist-educator is fueled by her belief in the power of the written word to transform. She’s seen first hand that when kids’ imaginations are ignited, they are more engaged and enthusiastic about learning.
“Take My Word For It!” has been leading kids on word expeditions for the last 7 years through after school and community-based classes as well as camps throughout the Bay area as well as in northern Virginia.
Lisa Barratt, a California Credentialed elementary school educator, holds a Master’s Degree in Education and has been trained in the Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Project method of teaching writing. She has taught in the San Ramon Valley Unified and West Contra Costa Unified School Districts, and at various private schools thorough out the East Bay. She believes every student has a voice and thoroughly enjoys the surprise when reluctant writers find theirs. When she isn’t teaching, she can be found spending time with her two children, reading or on a dance floor.
Marissa Bell Toffoli, in addition to teaching with “Take My Word For It!”, works with California Poets in the Schools as a poetry teacher, and for UC Berkeley as an editor. Previously, Marissa has coached students for the national Poetry Out Loud competition, and has been a writing judge for annual high school student recognition projects in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District. She earned her BA in English at UC Santa Barbara and her MFA in Writing from California College of the Arts. Marissa also publishes interviews with writers at Words With Writers.
Sarah Bruhns graduated in 2010 from San Francisco State University with a degree in Creative Writing and has been roaming the writing world ever since. She is a long-time volunteer and intern at 826 Valencia, where she designed a comic book creation class and taught in the English Language Learners’ Summer Series. She is a huge fan of comics, space, superheroes and secret identities in all forms, and one day aspires to be the first graphic novelist on Mars. She can be found at Borderlands Cafe in San Francisco, drinking way too much coffee.
Casey Busher has a BA in Creative Writing from UC Santa Cruz and currently works as a tutor and office manager at Classroom Matters, in Berkeley. In her free time she writes something that’s turning into a novel. She’s also into playing games, asking questions, and exploring!
Chelsea DeRose is happy to trade in the Chicago skyline for the coastal highway. She is attending USF for her MFA in Poetry. Chelsea earned her BA in History with a minor in Creative Writing at Lewis University in 2010. In tune with the emotional needs of others, Chelsea has worked a range of jobs from customer service, to patient care, to classroom and academic positions. When she is not engaging in poetry she enjoys talks on Native American history, ghost hunting, bookmaking, and drinking tea.
Laureen Mahler lives and works in Oakland, California, where she is co-owner of Volta Press, a letterpress and book arts studio. She received her BA in English from San Francisco State University and her MFA in Writing from California College of the Arts. While at CCA, she co-founded Beeswax Magazine, an annual journal of literature and art, and since then she has worked as a teacher, private tutor, and freelance writer.
Sheila McMullin is the 2012-2013 Heritage Fellow at George Mason University where she is an MFA candidate in poetry. She is poetry editor and blog/twitter manager for So to Speak: a journal of language of art. Sheila interns at the Library of Congress in the Poetry and Literature Center helping to create easily accessible poetry resources for the public through the internet. In 2010, Sheila lived and traveled throughout China teaching English to university students in the Shandong Province. While poetry is her first love, Sheila also loves traveling to meet new people, exchanging ideas on how to live a happy life, being outside, and engaging with the imagination to learn something new about ourselves!
Matthew Mongelia graduated in 2009 from CUNY Brooklyn College with his BFA in Creative Writing. He is also a recent graduate of the MFA in Writing program at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. While at SAIC he taught two freshman seminars, Dystopian Fiction and The American Hunting Story, and spent his summers teaching creative writing in the Early College Program, which offers college courses to all levels of high school students in the city of Chicago. After relocating to San Francisco, inspired by the work and creativity of his students in the Early College Program, Matt sought other opportunities to work with young writers and was very thankful to find “Take My Word For It!”
Apollo Papafrangou is a graduate of the Creative Writing MFA program at Mills College, and a published author. An Oakland native, Apollo currently splits his time interning at 826 Valencia and working on a new novel. He dreamed of teaching Creative Writing to young people, and then, almost magically, he found “Take My Word For It!”.
Emily Phillips was bitten by the writing bug at the tender age of 10. Poems, short stories, and novels have been in her blood ever since. She took her first real writing class when she was 24 and wishes there had been a “Take My Word For It!” around when she was a kid. Emily received her MFA in Creative Writing from California College of the Arts and has been teaching with “Take My Word For It!” for three years.
Annie Rovzar is currently pursuing a MFA in Poetry at the University of San Francisco. After graduating from Santa Clara University with a BA in Religious Studies, she spent a year in El Salvador as a community coordinator for a study abroad program. In the past three years, Annie has worked as a tutor and after school program leader for at-risk youth in San Francisco.
Wes Solether is currently pursuing his M.F.A. in Poetry from the University of San Francisco. He graduated with a degree in English Writing and Religion from Augustana College in his home state, Illinois. Beyond school, Wes tutors writing through the Student Disability Services at USF. He is also a teaching assistant, running a monthly reading series at the university. He hopes to continue teaching, tutoring and publishing his poetry after graduating in August.
Antona Stanley graduated from the University of San Francisco in 2008 with a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. She has taught Arts and Crafts at Purple Crayon, led Summer and Winter Camps with San Francisco Gymnastics, and also spent a semester working for the African American Shakespeare Company. She is just returning to the city after spending two years in Chicago earning her Masters in Creative Writing, and teaching Intro to Science Fiction to college freshman at the School of the Arts Institute of Chicago.
Sandra Stringer graduated from Portland State University in 2011 with a MFA in Creative Writing. After returning from a Fulbright grant to Azerbaijan where she taught academic writing to university students, developed an ESL course for homeless children, and interviewed international refugees, she is developing these various topics for a book of nonfiction. She is a published short story writer, a grant writer, an editor, and a Pilates trainer.
Danny Thanh Nguyen has taught writing and creative arts to youth for over ten years, including through the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center, and the Asian Art Museum. He received his MFA from Indiana University and edited the anthology AS IS: A Collection of Visual and Literary Works by Vietnamese American Artists.
Tessa White has a BA in Journalism from the University of Oregon, and an MFA in Writing from the University of San Francisco. When she’s not building legos or chasing masked villains with her two sons, she’s writing and reading. Tessa has taught undergrads at USF, tutored with 826 Valencia’s in-school program, and has published a series of educational activities for the non-profit website, GreatSchools.org. Her short fiction has been featured in Glimmer Train Press, Stones Throw and Freight Train.
Anna Wilson, aka “Annah Anti-Palindrome,” is an Oakland-based educator, writer and sound-artist. Anna(h) obtained her MFA degree in Creative Writing/Poetry through Mills College in 2011. Just for the record, she has nothing against palindromes on principle…it’s just kind of a long story. Anna(h) has tutored writing, led creative writing workshops, and facilitated after school programs for a variety of different age ranges (from elementary to high school students). She is currently a submissions editor with Deviant Type Press publishing collective.
Zach Wyner has been a playwright, actor and tutor and has spent eight years teaching in progressive elementary schools, including the past four years at Park Day School in Oakland. He earned his MFA in Creative Writing from University of San Francisco in 2009. Currently, he is tutoring, volunteering at 826 Valencia and is at work on a collection of short stories. His work as a teacher had clarified his passion for writing and he is thrilled to bring the two together as an instructor for “Take My Word For It!”.