Each summer hundreds of dedicated educators gather at RAFT, Resource Area For Teaching, for multi-day Summer Institutes to learn innovative ways to enhance student achievement through hands-on education. From this group of leading educators, RAFT selects a cohort of experts in hands-on teaching to serve as RAFT Fellows. During their year of service, RAFT Fellows share these strategies, which are proven effective in the most challenging teaching environments, with educators throughout the community.

2013-2014 RAFT Fellows

2013-2014 RAFT Fellows

“Inspiring” is the word that describes the impressive group of ten Bay Area teachers recently named as the 2013 RAFT Fellows. Each inductee brings a unique perspective to the program and exudes passion for both teaching and learning.


Julie DiMaio, 4th Grade Teacher – Lomita Park Elementary; Millbrae, CA

“I think I am most passionate about differentiated learning. It is my job to facilitate the learning of ALL students. I am a TEACHER, not a presenter. If my students lack language skills or background knowledge, I scaffold the lesson and provide language and background knowledge. I consider the learning styles of my students.”


Debbie Eitner, Teacher – Monroe Middle School; San Jose, CA

“I love to see those little “light bulbs” go on! It is always rewarding when students make discoveries of their own, or you can see them thinking something through. I am also passionate about working with other teachers. I think that collaboration about teaching is the best way to keep the passion about teaching!”


Patricia Graham, Kindergarten Teacher – Linda Vista Elementary; San Jose, CA

”Learning! I am very passionate about not getting stagnant in my teaching, and try every summer to engage in learning for myself. I would like to have the kids leave my class being good learners and joyful learners. Learning is a passion for me and my students.”


Cynthia Lipsig, Teacher (Science, Film, Technology) – Central Bay High School; Salinas, CA

“Foremost, getting students to be creative problem solvers, understanding there are usually many ways to tackle a problem and multiple possible solutions (outside of math). Secondly, technology is a TOOL, not just a toy! Getting them to use computers and smartphones for more than texting, passive video watching, or Facebooking.”


Hope Oliver, Science Teacher – Bret Harte Middle School; San Jose, CA

Teaching – Provide daily opportunities to try/persevere, experiment/model, ask/discuss, read/write/explain, develop teamwork and leadership, and use technology to collaborate/communicate. Learning – Student-driven and hands-on using everyday objects in novel ways”


Akilah Ponds, Third Grade Teacher – Live Oak Elementary; San Jose, CA

“I love to see students work with hand-on projects and learn through discovery. Students are encouraged to collaborate and ask each other for help. They are taught to explain their thinking to each other and question each other’s processes to gain deeper understanding of how to complete a task/challenge.”


Marisela Ruiz-Gutierrez, 2nd Grade Teacher – Sebastian Questa Elementary; Mountain House, CA

“I am passionate about learning and teaching because I am a living example of what education can do for a family. My parents, my siblings and I worked as farmworkers living in the Central Valley. My family would spend the summers, hoeing tomato plants and picking fruit. Education provided the pathway to a better life for me and my siblings. We are a family of 6 children and all of us went to and graduated from universities.”


Maria Simonette Ramiso, Math Teacher/ Math Department Chair – Magnolia Science Academy; Santa Clara, CA

“I am passionate about improving how students learn in math. Most of the time students memorize formulas, or steps on how to solve a problem. They don’t see the big picture of what is being taught to them and how everything is just connected and related to each other. I continuously search for different ways on how to effectively teach math concepts where students gain meaningful understanding.”


Thom Stephens, 8th Grade Teacher – Price Middle School; San Jose, CA

“My passion lies with my students. My thrill is not that they were able to memorize a fact or concept BUT that they were able to use and apply it. Science is a subject that is not static, is it always evolving, so my joy comes from not only seeing students use the tools I have given them, but to also use them in a way that I never thought of, it is a BLAST to be able to learn from them, too!”


Carrie Tibbs, Tech Teacher/Site Coordinator – Campbell Middle School; Campbell, CA

“I believe that it is just as important for kids to have fun as it is for kids to learn, and the best of both worlds exists when kids have fun learning. I feel that the needs of students should be the deciding factor in the planning of everything at a school site, from how the school is run to the actual instruction in the classroom.”


This group of ten 2013-2014 RAFT Fellows joins the 59 former RAFT Fellows from around the Bay Area in sharing what hands-on teaching can do to enhance learning for students and teaching for educators.


RAFT Fellows complete assignments over ten months and share their proficiency in hands-on teaching through demonstrations with colleagues, students, and the community. Fellows use assessments to document impact on student learning, results of which help grow RAFT’s library of best practices in hands-on teaching.

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