Sarah Shimkunas

Program Director


Sarah earned her M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education at Teachers College, Columbia University and BA in Child Development from SFSU. She also holds a Program Director credential from the State of California. Her educational philosophy is influenced by Piaget, Montessori, Gerber, Dewey, Vygotsky, and the Italian community of Reggio Emilia. Sarah has been in the field of Early Childhood Education since 2000. Prior to SF Tikes Academy, her school leadership positions include Director of a large Montessori toddler and preschool program in San Jose, and Director of an infant-toddler program co-located within a co-working space in San Francisco. Prior to being a Director, Sarah was a preschool teacher for 5 years and then wrote Montessori-inspired curriculum across seven subject areas for a small chain of Montessori schools in Silicon Valley.  


Sara MacDonald


Sara earned a B.A. in Elementary Education from The University of Michigan with double majors in Social Studies and Language Arts and earned a M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education from The University of Texas at Austin. Sara has taught 2nd grade and worked with 4 and 5 year olds at the UT Austin laboratory preschool. She also helped to write curriculum for the Washington D.C. Public Schools. Sara’s interest in teaching started at a young age and her educational philosophy is inspired by Piaget, Vygotsky, Montessori and the Italian community of Reggio Emilia.


Edel de la Peña 


Edel is a graduate of Eastern Washington University with a BS in Applied Psychology, and studied Early Childhood Education at Foothill College. Prior to SF Tikes Academy, Edel was Lead Teacher at a Spanish immersion preschool in San Jose, where, amongst other duties, he lead the creation of a school gardening program. Edel has worked with several age groups ranging from preschool to college; his goal is to help children create a strong emotional and educational foundation, with a focus on self-confidence and teamwork.



Julia Cai


Julia graduated from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo with a BS in Child Development and a minor in Psychology. She has worked with children of all ages, ranging from infancy to adolescence. Her academic and social perspectives stem from the works of Pavlov, Skinner, Bandura, Piaget, Bronfenbrenner, and Vygotsky. Julia is passionate about the arts and hope to cultivate children’s creativity by building upon their likes and interests.


Donna Gonzalez

Teacher Aide 


Donna is a current student at City College of San Francisco, studying Early Childhood Education and Art. She has over 5 years of experience working with toddlers and preschoolers. Her early childhood educational philosophy is that children learn best through hands-on experiences, exploring and being nurtured, supported, and guided along the way by teachers and parents. She has a passion for the arts and has previous experience as a children's art teacher. 


Jessica Webber

Master Teacher


Jessica earned a BA in Early Childhood Education from San Francisco State University, and holds a Child Development Site Supervisor credential from the State of California. She has been teaching preschool for over 4 years in an inclusion-based environment. She is a certified Music Together teacher and has over 15 years of choral experience. Her goal as an educator is to create a nurturing and safe environment that fosters children's intrinsic motivation to learn, enabling them to become lifelong learners. 









Rebecca Elmasian



Rebecca earned her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Phoenix. She studied Early Childhood Education through Southwestern College in San Diego.Rebecca emigrated from Argentina as a young child and was raised in Southern California. She has worked in the preschool setting for many years and has a great passion for early childhood education. Rebecca also has a passion for the arts and believes loves to do lots of arts based curriculum. She believes the messier the art project, the better!