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Staff Leadership

The Aseltine staff is deeply committed to the progress of our students and the success of our program.  Many of them have been with the school for ten years or more.  This adds a significant level of stability to the school that has contributed greatly to its longevity and its effectiveness in meeting the needs of the children. They form relationships with these students that provide our kids with a level of support that many of them can’t get anywhere else, and for some, those relationships are what keep them in the classroom and off of the streets. The staff At Aseltine require that the kids who enter our halls be more than just good students; they want them to be good people as well.

Select Staff Biographies

May Padilla, Executive Director
May Padilla earned her undergraduate degrees (Psychology/Social Behavior and Asian American Studies) from the University of California, Irvine before attending graduate school at San Diego State University, where she earned her Education Specialist Credential and her Administrative Credential.  Mrs. Padilla began her work in special education in 1998 and has worked in non-public schools since 2002.  Since then, she has served students in the field of special education in several capacities: aide, teacher, principal and director.  In spite of her years of experience, Mrs. Padilla believes learning never ceases and that her most important role is to always remain a student of her field.  This philosophy has helped her stay inspired by and passionate about her work every day.  Mrs. Padilla holds her work with students and their support staff in high regard; the most valuable lessons she has learned about education and life did not come from a book or university but from working in partnership with them.  In 2013, Mrs. Padilla was excited to join Aseltine, where she found an amazing community in which she could continue her journey.

Kim Groulx, Family/Student Services Coordinator
Kim Groulx landed at Aseltine School in 1983 after completing her BS in Psychology at San Diego State University. She was hired as the school’s full-time bus driver, but soon took on other duties as well. Since that time, she has worked in a variety of positions withing the Aseltine community, including classroom aide, substitute teacher, office support, home visit coordinator, medical officer and Family/Student Services Coordinator. She continues to function as the Family/Student Services Coordinator today. Kim is passionate about assisting and supporting students and their families at Aseltine School and within their communities. Her work with children precedes her time at Aseltine. She considers children and their education to be her life’s work and her greatest passion. She strives to live by Winston Churchill’s words: ” We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

Byron Dawson, Conflict Resolution Coordinator
Byron Dawson started his career at Aseltine in 1987.  Byron, who majored in Human Services at Penn State, has served students in a number of capacities and is tremendously successful working with Aseltine’s most challenging students thanks to his incredible ability to develop a strong rapport with students. Mr. Dawson truly believes in the concept of having an “authentic relationship” with students. Byron states, “We are not here to judge. We are here to help students make sense of the world and the world around them.” Mr. Dawson’s dedication to Aseltine students goes well beyond the classroom and traditional school day–current and former students often visit with Byron on the weekends and after school, stopping by his home, helping him tinker with an old car, or going to community events. Mr. Dawson encourages students to create their own path to success, but is always ready to offer them support when they need it, telling them: “If you want something, you gotta fight for it, and if you don’t know how to fight for yourself, this is the place to practice and learn to fight!”

Nina Williams, Program Coordinator 
A native San Diegan, Nina Williams earned her BA in Social Science with a concentration in Education from Ashford University, and she is currently working on obtaining her Masters and Teaching Credential in Special Education at Alliant University.  Ms. Williams worked as a behavioral specialist in a local non-public school for 9 years before arriving at Aseltine as a Conflict Resolution Facilitator in the Elementary Classroom in the spring of 2012.  Ms. Williams has a strong passion for helping students learn to develop positive, healthy behavior and for providing students and their families with the support they need.  Ms. Williams strongly believes that taking the time to get to know each student is vital to building the strong partnerships that help Aseltine students become successful in all aspects of their life.  Ms. Williams’ work with our students and their parents/guardians is guided by Barbara Colorose’s philosophy that: “If kids come to us from strong, healthy, functioning families, it makes our job easier.  If they do not come from strong, healthy, functioning families, it makes our job more important.”

Gwen Weil, Development Director
Gwen Weil earned her BA in English at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee.  She soon put her writing skills to work for Aseltine students, first as a grant writer and then, beginning in 2011, as Development Director.  Mrs. Weil was immediately impressed with the school’s unique approach to partnering with students and with the supportive relationships and genuine interactions between the staff and the students.  Since joining Aseltine in 2008, Mrs. Weil has helped the school grow its fundraising income each year, including doubling its grant income in the 2011/’12 fiscal year – funding she continues to grow.  She also focuses on maintaining strong relationships with existing donors while reaching out to new supporters.  Mrs. Weil also devotes her time to developing and implementing fundraisers, like the popular Julian Orchard Run, that generate income and publicity for Aseltine School as well as fundraising initiatives like the Founders Club, which has raised over $300,000 since 2008.  Although most of her day is spent raising funds for and awareness of Aseltine School and its students, Mrs. Weil greatly enjoys her time tutoring students in the classroom: “Writing and learning about Aseltine’s unique approach is a treat in itself, but experiencing it – and, most importantly, how students respond to it – is inspiring.”

Carla Hancock, Chief Financial Officer
Carla Hancock arrived at Aseltine in 1999 from Athens, Georgia where she attended the University of Georgia.  She worked closely with the Board of Directors, Program Director, and Executive Director as well as the Development Coordinator and office staff to help ensure Aseltine provided students with the most effective services and programs to address their diverse needs.  She moved to the East Coast in 2005 before returning to Aseltine in 2008 as the school’s Chief Financial Officer.  Ms. Hancock says she was drawn back to Aseltine by the strong sense of community the school creates for both students and staff – a quality she immediately loved, and which she strives to maintain every day in her interactions with students, staff, and community friends.

Aseltine Teachers

At Aseltine, we ask a great deal of our students; we also demand a great deal of our staff – “we ask of our students what we ask of ourselves”.  We are fortunate to have a talented group of teachers who are committed to Aseltine’s challenging work and our incredible students.  Because of their different backgrounds, teaching experience, and areas of expertise, Aseltine teachers are highly effective with many different students.  Aseltine teachers develop stimulating lesson plans to address a wide variety of interests and learning styles; they also ensure our students receive the support, understanding, and guidance that helps them overcome their learning disabilities and begin thriving in the classroom.  All Aseltine teachers hold Special Education teaching certification from the state of California.

Senior Staff

Aseltine benefits from the expertise of a number of staff members who have dedicated their talents to Aseltine students for many years:

Mary Ann Douglas, Speech and Language Therapist
Since 1989, Mrs. Douglas has helped Aseltine students overcome speech impediments; improve comprehension; master skills to manage processing disorders, and learn to read.  Mrs. Douglas shows uncommon levels of patience and persistence in her work with Aseltine students, never allowing them to give up or declare a task “too hard.”  The work she does with our students is fundamental in helping them gain confidence in their abilities so they can make incredible progress in the classroom.  Mrs. Douglas is fully credentialed and licensed as a Speech and Language Therapist by the State of California.


Aviva Idell, Conflict Resolution Facilitator
Ms. Idell has worked with Aseltine students since 1993.  Her impressive ability to connect with students is due in large part to her extraordinary generosity and capacity for understanding.  In addition to her work supporting students in the regular classrooms, Ms. Idell has run the Culinary Arts program since 1996, helping students learn budgeting and cooking skills that help them lead independent lives and inspiring some students to pursue careers in the Culinary Arts


Janet Iorillo, Conflict Resolution Facilitator
Mrs. Iorillo holds a BA in Psychology from San Diego State University.  Since she arrived at Aseltine in 1999, Mrs. Iorillo has benefited Aseltine with her extraordinary gift for organization and logistics.  Along with Byron Dawson, Mrs. Iorillo manages the Conflict Resolution Room – one of the most challenging and demanding rooms in the school – making sure the students’ needs are met and that the program operates at the highest degree.  Mrs. Iorillo has been described as “the glue” of the Conflict Resolution.  Perhaps her strongest asset is that, in the words of a former student, “she’ll keep it real with you, she won’t sugar coat anything.  She will call it how she sees it, and I like that.”


Kevin White, Conflict Resolution Facilitator
Mr. White has worked with Aseltine students since 1989.  Students respond to Mr. White’s unique combination of playful personality, nurturing spirit and high expectations.  Mr. White has an uncommon ability to connect with younger students, due in large part to his vivacity and his willingness to take the time to understand their world and view points.  Recognizing the importance of connecting with students outside the school setting, he was a driving force in establishing the “Students in the Community” outreach program and continues to spend his time supporting Aseltine students in and out of the classroom.  Mr. White also uses his impressive artistic skills and knowledge of sports to inspire and engage Aseltine students.

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