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Tabitha Thigpen - Principal
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Tabitha Thigpen has thrived in numerous leadership roles during her 25-year career in education, which began at King/Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science in Compton, CA as a high school French Teacher. Ms. Thigpen immersed students in the rich histories, customs and cultures of the francophone world, extended her classroom and traveled with students to Paris, France so that they could put into practice what they had learned. As magnet coordinator, she ensured that the Medicine and Science Careers program remained a unique opportunity for experiential learning for students for over a decade. She feels that King/Drew’s success is directly related to the strong collaboration of community partnerships and the dedicated faculty who continue to hold high expectations for all. She holds a B.A. in French and Political Science from Howard University in Washington DC. and a M.A. in Cross-Cultural Teaching and her administrative credential from Cal State University Dominguez Hills. She is currently the proud principal of Richland Avenue School. Ms. Thigpen has a daughter, Marley, who is currently a sophomore in high school. 

Lori Forkin-APEIS
French Immersion
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Rebecca Zewdu - 
Transitional Kindergarten

Ms. Zewdu was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where she attended Le Lycée Français until she moved to California to continue her studies.  She holds a degree in Biology from CSUN and a Masters in Public Administration from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. Her career extends from holistic health to international development, where she worked for Save the Children and USAID projects, focusing on gender issues, refugee relief and Mother Tongue Education.  After becoming a mother and raising a bilingual daughter, she is returning to her lifelong love for teaching and promoting multilingualism among young children.  She was raised speaking four languages and is fluent in Amharic, Tigrinya, French and English.  She is passionate about Ethiopian food and hosts cooking classes and dinner parties in her home.

Marisol Rojas -
English Kindergarten

Ms. Rojas started at Richland Avenue as a Teacher's Aide.  During those early years, she went to school for her teaching credential and became a full-time teacher.  When the French Program opened, she jumped at the chance to join the fun. She has been teaching for over twenty years.

Elodie Moore - French Kindergarten

Mme. Elodie was born in Nancy, France, where she received her B.A. in Physical Education. After graduation, she moved to Paris and performed in shows, including Disneyland Paris, a play on French Grammar (she was the qualifying adjective), and other French educational plays. She moved to L.A. in 2010 with her husband and baby after she won the Green Card lottery. She enjoys snowboarding, surfing, and skating with her husband and sons.

Matt Gaydos -
English 1st Grade

Mr. Gaydos has been teaching for eleven years. He has a Bachelor of Arts from The University of Pittsburgh and a Master of Fine Arts from The University of San Diego.  He likes video games, pizza, and Star Wars.

Ben Hayflick -
French 1st Grade
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Veronica Leon -
English 2nd Grade

Originally from Gainesville, Georgia, Ms. Leon received her B.A. in Spanish Language and Literature from Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia. She then received her Masters in Education from UCLA. Ms. Leon has been teaching at Richland Avenue for three years. In her free time, she likes going on runs, exploring new areas, and taking her dog Maxwell to the dog park.

Sophie Moine-Lysenko
French 2nd Grade

My name is Madame Sophie. I am the French teacher in 2nd grade. I was born and raised in France near the city of Lyon and came to the US for college. I graduated from UCLA. I have been living in Los Angeles for 15 years. I joined Richland Avenue elementary in 2021 and worked with many classes from 1st grade to 6th grade sharing my knowledge of the French language. I have 2 French speaking children aged 6 and 9.  In my spare time, I like going on walks outdoors and going to the pool. I am very excited to be a member of the Richland Ave Elementary family. 

Mari Morikawa -
English 3rd Grade

Mrs. Morikawa received her Bachelor of Arts in Education from Cal State Long Beach, followed by her M.A. in Education from UCLA. Mrs. Morikawa wanted to be a teacher since she was four. She has now been teaching for nine years, five of which have been at Richland Avenue. Mrs. Morikawa is mother to two young children, and she is enjoying motherhood by exploring the world through the eyes of her children.

Dorothee Leroy -
French 3rd Grade

My name is Dorothée Leroy. I was born and raised in northern France. I moved to California in 2000. I have experience teaching elementary students and I am fascinated by their ever curious and developing mind. I enjoy spending my free time with my family and daughter. Swimming, reading, and cooking are some of my favorite’s activities. I am delighted to be joining Richland Elementary school and its Dual French Immersion program, as well as working and getting to know my students.

Rachel Zeidman -
English 4th Grade

Ms. Zeidman has spent her entire life in Los Angeles, California. She graduated from CSUN with a B.S. in Liberal Studies and a desire to follow in her mother's footsteps by becoming an elementary school teacher. In her free time she loves to read, watch Disney movies, and bake.

Isabel Spears -
Frencn 4th Grade
Jazmin Hurtado -
5th Grade
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Kimberly Goodman -
French 5th Grade

Ms. Goodman grew up in Los Angeles. She graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a B.A. in French and received her teaching credential from Los Angeles County Office of Education. She has been teaching in French immersion for the past five years for fourth and fifth grades. When she’s not in the classroom, Kimberly works with Stanford’s Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, researching how best to support teachers locally. In her spare time, she enjoys road trips, baking, adventure novels, and her Golden Retriever, Bella. 

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Christy Danieri -
Middle School


Ms. Danieri has been teaching at Richland since 2001, and she has specialized in the teaching of math and science for at least ten years.  She has lived in Southern California for her whole life and attended UCLA for her undergraduate studies. She loves to play the piano and is a strong believer in musical performance education that starts in elementary school.

Mailys Krier-
Middle School French


Katie Caloghiris-

Middle School

Born and raised in the UK, Ms Caloghiris studied in London where she completed her BA in English and Drama followed by a Post-graduate Certificate in Education for secondary school. In 2014 she moved to the United States with her husband and baby to embark on a new life adventure. Eight years, two sons, a cat and a dog later, she is still here and very much looking forward to this next chapter of teaching. Some of her favorite things are; family beach time, attending theatre shows, tea-drinking and book-reading (preferably together).

Special Programs
Elizabeth DeFazio - Resource Program

Ms. Defazio grew up in Orange County, California. She has worked at Richland Avenue for eight years. In her free time, she enjoys gardening.

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Keith Ceely - Preschool

Mr. Ceely grew up in West LA, attending nearby schools.  He has a credential in Early Childhood Special Education and an M.A. in Special Education.  Mr. Ceely began his career at the UCLA Early Intervention Program as an assistant, which inspired him to complete his studies to become a Lead Teacher.  Mr. Ceely enjoys spending time with his wife and two daughters, DJ-ing, skateboarding, watching movies, and practicing Aikido. 

Gisela Gutierrez - Preschool

Ms. Gutierrez has been teaching pre-school at Richland Avenue for over twenty years.

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