Bret Harte Elementary School
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Bret Harte Elementary Teachers & Staff

At the heart of a child’s enjoyable educational experience is a passionate teacher who cares about his or her success. That is what you will find with each member of Bret Harte’s staff. Here we are dedicated to providing a positive, encouraging, yet challenging learning environment for our students and cheering them on throughout their time at Bret Harte and beyond.

Please feel free to contact us directly to learn more about how our teachers and staff can meet your child’s educational needs.

Administration

Laurie Haas
Principal
P: (559) 992.8881
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Biography

About Laurie Haas

Education: MA in Educational Leadership

Experience: After over twenty years in education working with students from first through twelfth grades, I am excited to begin my tenure as the principal at Bret Harte Elementary School. I am excited about working with such an amazing staff and wonderful group of students. I look forward to building strong relationships with the students and families of the community for years to come.

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Elma Albert
Secretary
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Angelica Gonzales
Secretary
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Francis Madrid
Community Contact
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Veronica Oregel
Library Tech
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Teachers

Robin Feldmann
Transitional Kindergarten
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Kristy Beam
Kindergarten
P: (559) 992.8881
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About Kristy Beam

Education: BA

Experience: I have been teaching kindergarten for eleven years here at Bret Harte. I enjoy teaching kindergarten because I get to see every student grow in their reading, writing, and math skills from the first day of school until the last. I hope that I can help build a solid foundation to begin their long life of learning every day. I attended California State University, Fresno, and earned my BA in liberal studies and my teaching credential. I enjoy going on many adventures with my family, mountain biking, and exercising at the gym. I believe with every opportunity that is put in front of us, is an opportunity to learn and grow.

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Maricela Lerma
Kindergarten
P: (559) 992.8881
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About Maricela Lerma

Education: MA

Experience: I was born and raised in Corcoran. I went through the Corcoran school system and graduated from Corcoran High School in 1999. After high school, I received my AA degree from College of the Sequoias, my bachelor's degree from Fresno State, and my teaching credential and master's degree from Brandman University. I started teaching for Corcoran Unified in 2006. I have two sons, Alberto and Nicolas, who both are currently attending Corcoran High School. During my spare time, I like spending time with my family because they have been my biggest supporters and have always believed in me. I also like traveling to the Bay Area, hanging out with friends, and watching sports. My boys and I love baseball, and we love to go and watch our San Francisco Giants every chance that we get. The most rewarding part of teaching kindergarten is watching the growth my students make from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. This age level is amazing because their mind is like a sponge, they absorb so much information and keep getting better.

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Laura Mendoza
Kindergarten
P: (559) 992.8881
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Biography

About Laura Mendoza


Experience: Hello, I am Ms. Mendoza and I am currently a Kindergarten teacher at Bret Harte Elementary. This is my third year at Bret Harte and my fifth year as a primary grade teacher. I attended Fresno State University where I obtained a bachelors degree in Child Development. After graduating, I became a substitute teacher and discovered my LOVE for teaching. After obtaining a teaching credential, I was hired for Mendota Unified where I taught Transitional Kindergarten for two years. In 2014, I was offered a position with Corcoran Unified. I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to work with an amazing group of teachers and staff. I love how excited my students are to come to school everyday. Seeing their smiles every morning is truly the most rewarding part of my job. In my spare time I enjoy cooking, traveling, shopping and spending time with my family and fianc?.

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Rafael Mendoza
Kindergarten
P: (559) 992.8881
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About Rafael Mendoza


Experience: I was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and I came to the United States at the age of 17. My father enrolled me into the local high school, where I began my education. After graduating from Golden West High School, I attended College of the Sequoias, where I obtained my associate degree. I then transferred to Fresno State University, where I achieved a bachelors degree and a Multiple Subject B-Clad credential. I have been teaching kindergarten for thirteen years in Corcoran. Being a second-language learner and an immigrant, there were many obstacles I had to overcome in order to obtain a career. I hope that my journey to obtain a career can serve as an inspiration to others who find themselves with limited resources or away from their birth country. When I'm not teaching at Bret Harte, I am usually bike riding, taking my son to the park, reading books in my backyard, or spending quality time with my family and friends. I strongly believe that all students have the capability to learn and to become successful individuals. As a teacher, my goal is to make that possible.

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Ivette Nunez
Kindergarten
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About Ivette Nunez

Education: BA

Experience: I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. I attended the University of Puerto Rico and graduated in 1984. I moved to Miami, Florida, in 1985, and two years later I moved to California. I received my teaching credential from Fresno State University and began my teaching career in Corcoran. I have been teaching at Bret Harte since 1988. I have been married for nineteen years to Pete, and we have been blessed with three wonderful children, Alex, Alyssa, and Peter. They attend Visalia Schools and are very active in many sports activities. We enjoy traveling as a family, eating out at restaurants, and spending time with our friends and family. We also enjoy watching sports on TV and following the New York Yankees here in California. We have a recent addition to our family—We adopted a pet dog named Dandy, who is adorable and unique. I enjoy teaching kindergarten and watching the students learn to read and write. It is a pleasure to work with the children who each have their own special personality.

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Jessica Peterson
Kindergarten
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Joan Tumaque
Kindergarten
P: (559) 992.8881
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About Joan Tumaque


Experience: Hello! My name is Ms. Tumaque. I am one of the Kindergarten teachers at Bret Harte. I graduated from California State University, Long Beach with a degree in Liberal Studies. I was born in the Philippines and grew up in Los Angeles. My favorite books as a child were Rainbow Fish and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? I am excited to be able to read those to my students now. In my spare time, I enjoy crafting, baking, shopping at Target and spending time with my family.I absolutely love teaching and I look forward to a wonderful school year ahead.

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Amber Urias
Kindergarten
P: (559) 992.8881
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Biography

About Amber Urias

Education: BA

Experience: Hello! I am Amber Urias and this is my fourth year teaching at Bret Harte Elementary School. I graduated from California State University, Fresno with a Liberal studies degree. I love teaching kindergarten! I believe that kindergarten is a crucial building block in every child's life. It's important to encourage students to develop a love of reading and writing. My grandmother was an influential part of my childhood. She encouraged reading and we frequented the library. When I'm not at school I enjoy spending time with my husband and son. I also enjoy going to yard sales, DIY furniture projects and baking. I look forward to an amazing year.

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Karen Yamashita
Kindergarten
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About Karen Yamashita

Education: MA

Experience: This is my eleventh year teaching at Bret Harte. I taught Kindergarten for ten years and this is my first year teaching Transitional Kindergarten. I was born and raised in Hanford, CA. I have a B.S. in Elementary Education from Jacksonville University and an M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction from Chapman University College (now known as Brandman University). I am looking forward to a great year with my TK students.

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Tayza Casillas
1st Grade
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Laura Felix
1st Grade
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Cristina Gallardo
1st Grade
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Terri Heck
1st Grade
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Patricia Jacobsma
1st Grade
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Priscilla McDonald
1st Grade
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About Priscilla McDonald


Experience: I am currently in my fifth year of teaching first grade in Corcoran and my seventh year teaching first grade in general. Before teaching, I was a teacher's aide and a preschool teacher. I moved to Corcoran nine years ago from Salinas, California, to take care of my husband's grandmother. I love the closeness of the community of Corcoran. Everyone knows everyone. I grew up in Salinas, California. I graduated from North Salinas High in 1998. I went to Hartnell Community College to get my AA degree in transfer studies. I went on the graduate at CSU Monterey Bay with my BA in liberal arts - teaching Pathway. I earned my credential through CalState TEACH. I have five children. My oldest just graduated last year from CHS. He started this year at Fresno Pacific. My oldest daughter is a senior at CHS. My middle daughter is in eighth grade. My last two are three and eleven months. I love working with children. Sometimes it is stressful, like on rainy days when we are cooped up inside, but for the most part, we have fun and learn. My favorite part of teaching is seeing the students learn and grow.

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Samanatha Pearson
1st Grade
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Lisa Thompson
1st Grade
P: (559) 992.8881
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About Lisa Thompson


Experience: Currently, I am a first-grade teacher. I have taught first grade for the last twenty-one years. Prior to teaching first grade, I taught kindergarten for ten years. I was also the Reading Recovery teacher for several years and also supervised the Title 1 program. My goal for each student that enters my classroom is that they can independently work, enjoy reading all kinds of books, and be an excellent citizen. I live in Hanford with my husband and a few pets.

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Nicole Wales
1st Grade
P: (559) 992.8881
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About Nicole Wales


Experience: Hello! Let me introduce myself. My name is Nicole Wales and I teach first grade here at Bret Harte Elementary School. This is my fifth year at Bret Harte and my ninth year teaching in the education field. Previous to being a school teacher, I was a dance teacher for 16 years, so I love to teach my students how to sing and dance! I truly believe that all students can learn in a positive, nurturing environment. If you set high expectations for your students and encourage them to reach their goals, the possibilities are endless! In my spare time I am running my kids either to band practice, dance class, aquatics, other sporting events or church activities. My family is so important to me. I also enjoy decorating for just about every holiday of the year and am a bargain shopper. I am looking forward to another fabulous year at Bret Harte! Go Bear Huggers.

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Christina Prieto
Kindergarten
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Lynda Martyn
First Grade
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Carol Abeyta
Kindergarten
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Jessica Bribiesca
First Grade
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Lupita Fields
Kindergarten
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Support Staff

Katherine Howarth
Literacy Coach
P: (559) 992.8881
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About Katherine Howarth

Education: BA

Experience: It is a great honor to be working with students, teachers, and staff at Bret Harte Elementary School. I received my BA degree from Cal State University, Long Beach, and my teaching credential from Brandman University. I have also been working on a master's degree in education. I have a love for learning, and I have worked in education for eight years. I have had the pleasure of working in a small home school for children with learning disabilities, teaching as a substitute and having my own class as a first-grade teacher. The greatest reward for me is helping students and teachers see their own potential. The greatest joy is watching a child's eyes light up when they have learned something new.

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Kristine Scott
Certified Intervention Teacher
P: (559) 992.8881
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About Kristine Scott

Education: MA

Experience: I am from Hanford. I attended St. Mary's College in Moraga, California, where I majored in liberal arts and earned my Multiple Subject Teaching credential. I have been in the education field for over 14 years. In 2008, I earned my master's degree from Cal State Bakersfield. I am currently the intervention teacher at Bret Harte. I have also been a classroom teacher and literacy coach. My favorite part of my job is working directly with students and helping them learn how to read. There is such tremendous growth in early elementary, and that makes my work very rewarding.

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Jennifer Van Essen
Certified RSP
P: (559) 992.8881
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About Jennifer Van Essen

Education: MA

Experience: I have been teaching special education since the year 2000. I taught for seven years for Kings County Office of Education at the John C. Fremont campus for students with moderate to severe disabilities. I taught for two years with the Tulare County Office of Education at Linwood School in Visalia. I have been the resource specialist for seven years at Bret Harte Elementary. I obtained my bachelor's in business management from the University of Phoenix. I received my general education credential, level II special education credential and my master's degree in special education from Chapman University. I have two children; Megan, age 11 and Jacob, age 13. I also have a five-year-old chocolate lab named Maddie. I've been married for eighteen years to a very skilled mechanic. My hobbies include reading, camping with our travel trailer, being a 4-H club foods and nutrition leader, and being involved with my kids racing go carts, playing sports, and doing 4-H.

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Janice Westbay
Certified Title 1 Resource
P: (559) 992.8881
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About Janice Westbay


Experience: I've been teaching for 21 years. My teaching experience has been with students in kindergarten through 3rd grade. I graduated from Fresno State University with my BA and then went to Chapman University to complete my teaching degree in education. I have been with Corcoran Unified for 11 years. For the past five years, I have been at Bret Harte Elementary School as the Title I resource teacher.

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Leanne Shellhammer

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Rose Marie Bernal-Renteria
Classified Paraprofessional
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Linda Brice
Classified Paraprofessional
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Linda Halverstadt
Classified Paraprofessional
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Lydia Martinez
Classified Paraprofessional
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Cecelia Barrera
Cafeteria Head Cook
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Maria Gomez
Cafeteria Staff
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Andrea Ramos
Cafeteria Staff
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Martha San Miguel
Cafeteria Staff
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Anabel Alvarez
Yard Supervisors
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Ruth Gilpin
Yard Supervisors
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Erica Holquin
Yard Supervisors
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Donna Ortega
Yard Supervisors
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Jesse Gomez
Day Custodian
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Brian Flaherty
Night Custodian
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