Curious Minds Learning Center has educators who are carefully chosen for their passion and commitment to early childhood education. We see ourselves as researchers, facilitators and collaborators, guiding our young explorers to form, refine, and rework their current theories of the world around them.
All educators have obtained a college degree, hold at least 12 ECE units, are First Aid/CPR certified and work in a co-teaching team.
We offer internal professional development several times a year, including an intensive orientation at the beginning of each school year.
Jacki Akins CEO/Director:
I am a dedicated professional residing in Petaluma with my family, including my husband, daughter, and our beloved dogs, Charlie & Laguna. I hold a BA in Child and Adolescent Development with a focus on the Young Child and Family, which I earned from San Francisco State University. Additionally, I possess a Director permit issued by the State of California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
With more than 15 years of experience working with preschool children, I have witnessed the marvel of their daily discoveries. As an educator, I firmly believe in introducing children to a world full of novelty and excitement. By embracing the Reggio Emilia approach, we engage in a journey of mutual learning with our young students, nurturing their interests and thoughts in the process. My passion lies in fostering meaningful relationships, building a sense of community, and encouraging active citizenship.
At the heart of my philosophy is the creation of a developmentally appropriate environment, which serves as the “third teacher.” This environment facilitates the holistic development of each child and empowers them to explore the world around them confidently. My ultimate goal is to collaborate closely with the families at CMLC, guiding them through their preschool journey and supporting the optimal development of their children.
I am devoted to creating a safe and nurturing space where children feel secure and capable of embracing the wonders of their surroundings. Through my commitment to the Reggio Emilia approach, I endeavor to foster a love for learning and a lifelong curiosity within each young mind I have the privilege to teach.
Holly Berends Assistant Director and Oak Teacher:
I have been in the field of education for the past 12 years, both professionally and voluntarily. I began my work as an aide for elementary-aged students, supporting students one-on-one with their literacy development. When I met my now husband, who was also in education at the time, we decided to take our skills abroad and teach English in Korea. We fell in love with the country and stayed longer than expected. While we were there, both pursued further education; him in engineering, and I in early childhood education. Upon our return to America in 2016, we got married, and I began working at Curious Minds! This has not only become like a second home to me, but also a second family. The families and educators who come to this school are truly special, and I have loved every minute of my time here. I’m also SO fortunate to now be sending my second child through this incredible program; my youngest will be starting in the Willow Class in the Fall, and I’m thrilled that he will now be a member of the CMLC family.
Lisa Berardi Assistant Director/Willow Educator:
Before I chose the path of educating, I had the opportunity to stay at home with my three children during their formative years. After having been a parent volunteer in my son Ryan’s class, I decided to pursue a career in education. I returned to school and earned a degree in Early Childhood Development. I have worked in a variety of educational settings: Special Education, 2nd-grade, Kindergarten, and Preschool, finally settling in with toddlers at Ross Academy Montessori Preschool. I was an educator there for eight years, prior to coming to Curious Minds Learning Center. I have always felt children are a wonder and joy. They have always brought happiness into my life. Their curiosity and awe are what keeps my desire to educate alive and flourishing. Every day with children brings a new adventure and excitement. As an educator, I appreciate their wonder and enthusiasm. My desire is to create an environment that children find exciting, one that keeps their minds engaged and involved in the world around them. Outside the classroom, I’m passionate about cooking and traveling, and I’m looking forward to welcoming my first grandchild in October.
Jessica Robello Oak Teacher and AC Teacher:
Curious Minds has been my second home since December 2020. While I arrived amidst the middle of the school year and the chaos of the pandemic, I immediately felt the welcoming warmth of the CMLC community. My interest in working with children began early on through assisting in art classes, working as a camp counselor, and tutoring in writing and reading throughout high school. While furthering my education in Denver, Colorado, I worked with young mothers, supporting them through the challenges of limited resources and completing their education while navigating their adolescence. Upon returning to the Bay Area, I continued tutoring and working with school-aged children through the San Rafael City Schools’ aftercare system. At Dixie in Lucas Valley, I loved the Kindergarten-age program. Upon a move to Petaluma, at a Reggio-inspired, art and nature-based school, I met Jacki teaching their oldest daughter, Evie. So, when Jacki asked me to join the Curious Minds team, it was a no-brainer. Nowadays, my dog, Mowgli, and I live in Nicasio exploring the trails and seashores along the Marin and Sonoma coastline.
Devon Febbraio Aftercare Supervisor and Willow Teacher:
I have had the pleasure of working in the early childhood education field for five years now, and am excited to start my third year at CMLC with the Willows. I am originally from New town, Connecticut, and have had the joy of living in many states before making San Francisco my home in 2021. Here, I live with my boyfriend and our two cats, Butternut and Acorn. I have a background in English and Spanish from Florida Gulf Coast University, and in addition to teaching preschool, I have worked in middle school classrooms as an ESL tutor. My mission as a preschool teacher is to create a safe, playful space where children are encouraged to create, explore, and ask questions. I enjoy bringing my love of books and storytelling into the classroom and inspiring a love of reading in others. Outside of school, I try to spend much of my time outdoors and in nature. I’m excited to continue my teaching career with Curious Minds, and I look forward to a wonderful school year ahead.
Nicolby Griffin Willow Teacher and AC Teacher:
Greetings! I have been teaching early childhood education for five years. It brings me great joy to share my ideas with the Willow class at Curious Minds Learning Center. My journey began as an after-school aide in San Rafael, but I was encouraged to pursue further education in child development at the College of Marin. Soon after, I gained hands-on experience working at a preschool. I decided to start a family and now have a two-year-old daughter. Working in childhood education has aided me as a first-time mother. I have a special connection with children and their ability to absorb information, which motivates me to keep teaching. Together, we learn in a safe and comfortable environment where children can explore their surroundings freely. I am excited to work with you all!