Kabbalah Children's Academy

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About KCA » Faculty


Rene Alfaro - Custodian Mira Atiya - Teacher's Assistant
Heber Flores - Lead Custodian
Rene has worked for KCA for 9 years. He is originally from El Salvador, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting. Rene loves working with children because of their honesty and sincerity. He feels that children are the most capable of displaying love and light, which is the goal of Kabbalah.

Mira has been a Teacher’s Assistant at KCA for four years. She came to the United States from Israel with her family 12 years ago. She studied Graphic Design in college in Israel, but when she arrived in the U.S. she decided to switch to early childhood education. Mira loves working with kids because they bring her so much joy, especially when she gets to watch them all learn, grow, and develop.

 Melissa Bard - 1st Grade Teacher  Ronit Gohary - 2nd Grade Teacher Victoria Densham - 3rd Grade Teacher 
Bard  Gohary   Densham
Melissa comes to our community from
Charlottesville, Virginia where she received her B.A. in Anthropology and her Master’s Degree in Teaching in Elementary Education from the University of Virginia.  She loves to read, teach, and has a passion for inspiring children to learn and grow. She is originally from Vail, Colorado and enjoys the mountains, snowboarding, and hiking. She has family living in the Los Angeles area and is excited to join them and the KCA community. 
Ronit Gabriella Gohary was born in Israel and moved to Los Angeles at the age of five. She comes from a family of teachers, and teaching has been her passion for as long as she can remember. Ronit received her Bachelor's Degree in Liberal Studies from California State University Northridge and continued her education to receive a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential. Ronit's teaching experience consists of several years of in Jewish schools, schools in Los Angeles Unified District, and Los Angeles Charter Schools. She is constantly learning about herself through the eyes of her students. She looks forward to bringing her passion and experience to educate, nurture, and inspire her students every year. 
 Victoria Densham is the 3rd grade teacher at Kabbalah Children's Academy. She has her Bachelor's Degree in Liberal Arts from Sarah Lawrence College, where she concentrated on Child Development, History, and Literature. Victoria earned her Credential and Master's Degree from Antioch University Los Angeles, which has a social justice in education perspective. She is currently enrolled there for their Clear Credential Program, engaging in Professional Development and making her Credential Permanent. She has been pursuing her dreams of teaching since she was 17, completing her high school's required internship at a preschool in the Kindergarten classroom. Since college, Victoria has been a teaching associate in Kindergarten and 1st grade, and has been a lead teacher in 2nd and 3rd grades. She loves to read and cook in her spare time.  
Yorit Gafni - Hebrew (4th - 6th Grade)
Edra Pantazes - 6th Grade Teacher  Leyla Goldfinger - Director of Curriculum and Learning
 Leyla Goldfinger
This is Yorit Gafni’s first year at Kabbalah Children’s Academy. She has taught for more than three decades at multiple private Jewish schools and public schools. The past four years she taught at Albert Einstein as a Hebrew Teacher and served as the Hebrew Curriculum coordinator. Yorit is a teacher because she enjoys helping students find success. She would like her students to experience meaningful and interesting learning that applies to their Jewish lives. Yorit believes this can be accomplished through the use of hands-on/minds-on activities, cooperative learning, and an integrated curriculum. She is looking forward to an interesting and rewarding year. 
 Edra attended William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey where she received her B.S. in Students with Disabilities. She later earned her Master's Degree in Political Science from Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. After working several years in the fundraising and development industry, Edra made a career shift to education. Here she pursed her passion for teaching as a Special Education teacher, and in the middle and high school grades. She comes to Kabbalah Children’s Academy with a strong drive and desire to see students succeed. Leyla was born in Turkey. She has been in the field of education for thirteen years as an elementary teacher at different international school in the USA and Turkey. She the is the PYP and MYP Coordinator and Director of Curriculum and Learning for KCA. Leyla has her teaching credentials in elementary education from Hacettepe University in Turkey, and holds a Master's Degree in International Curriculum and Instruction from Bilkent University (also in Turkey). Leyla has led schools in international organizations such as Eco-School and Destination Imagination. Her passion is to travel around the world.  
Uria Goldfinger - Physical Education and Wellness  Esther Hakakian - Kindergarten Hebrew & Judaic Teacher  Julia Love - Pre Kindergarten Teacher
 Uriah Goldfinger  Hakakian  Julia Love
Uriah was born and raised in Miami, Florida. He became a Physical Education teacher and coach at the University of Central Florida, and received his Master’s in Education with emphasis in Positive Athletic Coaching from the University of Missouri. His passion for teaching and coaching fitness and sports for the past 12 years, has allowed him to travel to places all over the world such as: Miami, New York, New Mexico, and Turkey. He believes that Physical Education should motivate students towards a lifetime of health, fitness, and fun. Esther Hakakian moved from Houston to Los Angeles a little over a year ago, and she is in love with the weather here. She joined Kabbalah Children's Academy in the fall of 2016, teaching Hebrew, Kabbalah, Judaic to Butterfly, Pre-K, and Kindergarten classes. She has been in the field of education for the past 12 years, and prior she received her BA in Liberal Arts from Excelsior College. Esther greatly enjoys the community feeling that exists at KCA, and the parent-teacher collaboration which allows everyone to witness the growth amongst all students during the school year.  
Miss Julia has been working in early childhood education for the past 16 years. She has tuaght various ages - from "Mommy and Me" classes with 6 month olds to Pre Kindergarten with 4-5 year-olds. Miss Julia has been a part of KCA since August of 2006. Outside of KCA, Julia is currently attending Pacific Oaks College in Pasadena, working in her Master's Degree in Human Development with an emphasis on Early Childhood Education. Julia is a life-long learner who looks for opportunities to learn new techniques in the classroom, and to inspire the children she teaches to be creative, passionate, and eager to learn.  
Danna Snir - Butterflies Teacher  Danyel Kilgore - Pre Kindergarten Teacher  Martha Ramirez - Teacher's Assistant
Danna Snir  Danyel Kilgore Martha Ramirez 
 Danna Snir came back to the USA in 2007 from Israel. She graduated from Wingate Institute in Israel with a Bachelors degree in Physical Education, with specialization in posture rehabilitation. She continued to study at UCLA and Santa Monica College, focusing on early childhood education, while working at Kabbalah Children's Academy. Danna has been with KCA since 2008, and loves every moment working here. The other professional fields in which she has been trained are: personal trainer, life guard, and swim teacher. She worked as a personal trainer for seven years with cardiopulmonary rehabilitation patients at The Heart Rehabilitation Department in Tel Hashomer Hospital, Israel. Working with adults was a great experience for her, but working with children is even greater to her!

Danyel Kilgore attended Pitzer College, part of the Claremont College Consortium in Claremont, CA where she received her BA in Psychology with an emphasis in Child Development. She began her official teaching career in 2004 at a small non-profit preschool in Portland Oregon and has had the opportunity to teach at a Lab preschool in Honolulu, Hawaii and then for a Head Start program in Little Rock, AR. Danyel took a break from teaching for 3.5 years when she had her son who is now a thriving 6-year-old! She made her re-entry into the classroom in February of 2016 when she began working at KCA. Danyel has been teaching for almost 10 years and it is something she is truly passionate about. She believes that it is vitally important for early childhood centers to provide quality programs as this is the first introduction to school for most children and we have the ability to create life-long lovers of learning!!

Martha was born in Los Angeles, Ca, and has been living there her whole life. She has 2 brothers, 2 sisters, and a 13 year old boy who are such blessings. Martha has been working with children for many years, but has been an employee of Kabbalah Children's Academy for 4 years. Working with children is her passion because no single day at work is the same, and she loves that she gets to learn from them as well. Children make her a more knowledgeable person - they are by nature very curious and they have a lot of questions. Knowing that her job is to help kids achieve, and help them feel happier, motivates Martha to keep working with them and brings a huge smile to her face. 
 Ora Sery - Art Teacher  Luna Shalom - Hebrew and Judaic Teacher
Edna Soleimani - Teacher's Assistant 
 Ora Sery Luna Shalom  Edna Soleimani 

This is Ora Sery’s 5th year teaching Art. She has a B.D in Textile and Art from Shenkar University Israel and creates mostly expressive textile art. Ora had a solo exhibit at “Artists House Tel Aviv”, a group exhibition at “Beit Amiad” Jaffa Tel Aviv, and was published in “Text Tile Tech Style”. She loves providing an artistic space and teaching her students ways to express their unique and personal creativity and imagination.  

 Aaron Vanek - Gaming Teacher  Yael Benaim - Administrative Assistant   Janinne Villatoro - Caterpillars Teacher 
    Janinne Villatoro 

Aaron Vanek has been playing and making games since childhood, and he hopes to leverage his love of gaming to learning at all levels. He prefers hobby games such as board, card, and role-playing because he likes interacting with people directly instead of a computer screen. He has created game activities for the Girl Scouts of America, the San Diego Public Library, the Paul Biane Library in Rancho Cucamonga, the West Hollywood Book Fair, the UCLA Game Lab, Sanrio, Inc., plus 18 educational games for four different Southern California schools, including an escape room for a local high school. He currently serves as the vice-president of The Game Academy, a 501c3 that uses role-playing games for after school programs and summer camps, and is a founding member of Creative Crisis Leadership which uses role-playing games to train for disaster preparedness. He holds a Creative Writing degree from UCLA and an MFA in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago. After serving as a private tutor for five years, 2017 marks his third year at KCA. 


Yael Benaim has four boys and speaks three languages fluently, with two more that she is still trying to master.  She has a degree in Accounting and has been working for private Jewish schools since 2001. She previously worked for Hillel and was the assistant to the Judaic Studies Principal. Before that Yael lived in Florida for five years and worked at Hebrew Academy of Margate as the assistant to the Judaic Principal, General Studies Principal and the Office Administrator. She loves working with children and believes in treating them in the same manner she would like people to treat her own boys: with respect, kindness, guidance and love.

Janinne is the Outdoor Classroom Teacher and Aide of the 2 Year Old (Caterpillar) class. She has been working with children for over 5 years. She was born in Los Angeles CA, but raised in El Salvador. Janinne went to law school, but when she moved to the United States she discovered her passion for working with children. That passion led her to start taking Child Development classes.  She enjoys every aspect of teaching and has realized that children teach us as much as we teach them. Janinne has been employed with Kabbalah Children’s Academy for over three years. She truly feels as though this is her second home.  She believes that this center is a unique and wonderful place for young children to begin their education.  
Stephanie Billman - Admissions Coordinator, HR Generalist, & Financials
 Shanaz Hoorfar - Caterpillars Teacher 
Angela Kazanjian - Administrative Assistant

Stephanie Billman serves as KCA’s human resources generalist, accountant, and admissions coordinator.  With over a decade of human resources experience, Stephanie most recently worked at UCLA’s Facilities Management.  She has a Bachelor of Arts in History from California Baptist University, and she is currently pursuing a Master’s in Business Administration and a Master’s in Human Resources from Claremont Graduate University.  She is heavily involved in the philanthropic organization Beta Sigma Phi, and she serves on the Board of Directors for the Riverside Dickens Festival.  Shanaz Hoorfar is a preschool teacher at Kabbalah Children's Academy Early Childhood Center. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Economics, but due to her tremendous love for children she continued her studies at UCLA Extension in Child Development. She has been a preschool teacher for over twenty years, having worked at La Brea Montessori Preschool for 13 years followed by 14 years at Kabbalah Children's Academy as a director and teacher. Shanaz loves teaching children and spending time with them. Every child is special in their own way to her, and she feels blessed to be doing what she loves every day.    After graduating from University of California San Diego with a B.S. in World Literature and a minor in Spanish, Angela later attended California State University Los Angeles where she earned her Master’s Degree in English Literature. She has worked in the Education field for several years as a Substitute Teacher, Tutor, and in Administration. Angela was raised by a private school Principal and a Middle/High School teacher, so she is well-versed in all aspects of school organization. She is enjoying being a part of the Kabbalah Children’s Academy community!
 Elizabeth VanBronkhorst - Kindergarten Teacher  Katie Wirth - 2nd Grade Long Term Substitute Teacher  Benjamin Farnoosh - Judaic Teacher
 Elizabeth was born and raised in Minneapolis MN, and has been loving the warmer weather in Los Angeles since 2015. From a young age, she had always known she wanted to be a teacher. She earned her B.S. in Early Childhood Education from the Univeristy of Wisconsin - Stout. Over the past five years, Elizabeth has taught Preschool, Kindergarten, and 1st grade, giving her a strong foundation in kindergarten programming. Elizabeth is happy to be teaching her favorite grade at Kabbalah Children's Academy. Outside of the classroom, you can find Elizabeth snuggling with her husband, dog, and two cats.  Katie Wirth is a second grade teacher at KCA. She comes from Madison, Wisconsin. She graduated from the University of Milwaukee Wisconsin with a degree in education in 2007. Katie taught for the past 10 years in Milwaukee Public Schools. She spent the last five years teaching first grade. Her passion is teaching reading, with a focus on foundational reading skills. She was awarded MMABSE Teacher of the Year while teaching in Milwaukee. Katie moved to California in the summer of 2017 joining the KCA team at the start of the 2017/2018 school year. She has a daughter named Claire who attends the KCA at the Early Childhood Center.  

Binyamin grew up as a a member of the Kabbalah Centre community in Los Angeles. He attended Emek Hebrew Academy for grades 1-3 & 6-8 and KCA for grades 4 & 5. He subsequently attended Valley Torah High School where he received the Torah Award at graduation. Binyamin studied half a year at Yeshivat Ner Aryeh and then spent 10 months in Israel learning to be a Sofer Stam (Jewish Scribe/ Calligrapher). He is enjoying his first year teaching Judaic Studies to the 4th and 6th grades at KCA. Binyamin had a few school teachers who left a positive, lasting impact on him and he hopes to do the same for all his students.  

 Kimberly Jones - 4th Grade Teacher  Kevin Kassebaum - Interim Administrator  Melissa Katchen - School Counselor

Kimberly graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a bachelor's degree in Economics. After teaching English in South Korea, she decided to become a full-time teacher. She has her teacher certification from UC Denver in Colorado. Kimberly taught the IB PYP for fourth grade in Ankara, Turkey for three years before returning home to California.


Melissa Katchen is Kabbalah Children’s Academy’s School Counselor for both the Day School and Early Childhood Center.  She moved to California from New Jersey in June 2017 and loves calling Los Angeles her new home!  Melissa graduated from The College of New Jersey with a Master of Arts in Counseling, specializing in School Counseling. She graduated from Ramapo College of New Jersey where she received a B.A. in Psychology and her Elementary K-6 Teacher Certification.  Melissa is extremely passionate about making a difference in her students’ lives and truly loves and believes in what she does.  

Miriam Zadeh - Kabbalah Teacher

Miriam Zadeh was born and raised in Jerusalem and served at the Israeli Defense Force as an Officer for almost 3 years. Ever since she was a child she was searching for a deeper understanding of the world. At the age of 17 she discovered Kabbalah and began her studies at the Kabbalah Center in Tel Aviv. Excited and passionate about how Kabbalah can make our world a kinder and better place, she decided to devote herself to working at the Kabbalah Centre. After moving to Los Angeles, Miriam continued on in many roles and soon became a teacher at the LA Kabbalah Centre. Now, with her husband and five children, Miriam is mostly excited about teaching Kabbalah and spiritual skills of life to the next generation at Kabbalah Children’s Academy. She loves kids and believes that the best way we can change the future of our world is by raising our kids with spirituality.