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.  

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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.



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



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. 





Johanna Martinez


Johanna is a San Francisco native and current student at Contra Costa College, studying Early Childhood Education. Johanna has been teaching preschool for over 3 years, and is bilingual in Spanish and English. Her early childhood education philosophy is influenced by Montessori and Reggio Emilia. Johanna believes that all children have the potential to learn and thrive in a hands-on stimulating environment that is prepared for them based on observations of the children's needs and interests. She also has a particular interest in ensuring children get the necessary exposure to STEAM topics. 


Derek Contreras


Derek is a Bay Area native who studied Early Childhood Education at Chabot College. He has been working with preschool children for more than 13 years, and is bilingual in Spanish and English. Derek believes children learn best with a dynamic, hands-on learning environment and creative  experiences. His early childhood education philosophy is a blend of play-based, Reggio Emilia, and Montessori. 


Samineh Baradaran Hosseini


Samineh is originally from Iran, where she received her BA degree in English. She has been studying Early Childhood Education at Contra Costa College, and has been teaching preschool since 2015. Sami believes children learn best in a nurturing environment with lots of hands-on activities and experiences. Her early childhood education philosophy draws from Montessori and play-based learning. 


Francesca Tringali


Francesca is a Bay Area Native who has worked with preschool age children for the past 18 years, and is passionate about the field of early childhood education. Her teaching style is to support the whole child by fostering positive self esteem and a love for play based learning. She helps the children develop skills essential for problem solving and developing empathy for others. Francesca guides children by a Positive Discipline Approach that focuses on positive acknowledgment and age appropriate expectations. She is also passionate about natural science exploration and letting children explore their five senses in the garden. She enjoys the Arts and Music in her personal life and engages the children in sensory play of all mediums. Francesca is also certified in Handwriting Without Tears, Everyday Mathematics and holds an ECE Certificate as well as Teachers Permit.