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 and WILLOW Teacher:

I live in Petaluma with my husband, daughter, and dog, Charlie. I graduated from San Francisco State University with a BA in Child and Adolescent Development, with a concentration on the Young Child and Family. I also hold a site supervisor permit through the State of California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. I have worked with preschool children for many years, and I found that every day has new surprises. I find that children come into a world where every detail is new and exciting. As educators, we introduce this world and can support their interests and thoughts by becoming a student with them. We bring the children’s interests alive in the classroom while allowing them to experiment with each other or by themselves. I am a strong advocate for creating and maintaining relationships, community and being an active citizen. I thrive on creating a developmentally appropriate environment that focuses on the whole development of a child and acts as the third teacher. I am passionate about partnering with the families at CMLC through their navigation of preschool and the development of their child. I want the children to feel safe, confident, and capable of exploring the world around them.


Holly Berends, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR and OAK teacher:

I was originally born in Seattle, Washington but didn’t stay for long! I spent my formative years in Japan and England before moving to Marin for the rest of middle school and high school. I then attended Richmond International University in London, where I studied International Relations and psychology. During this time I was also able to volunteer in Kenya and Vietnam as a teacher for orphaned and disabled children.

In the Summer of 2016 I moved back to Marin after living in South Korea for two years teaching English, and got married. We’re now expecting our first child (a girl!) in December 2018. Working at Curious Minds has been a wonderful and educational experience, confirming my passion for early childhood development on a daily basis. After working in the Oak Class for two years and spending a year in the Willow class, I am moving with some of my Willows back to the OAK class.

In my free time I enjoy experimenting with cooking, I practice yoga, and try to get outside as much as possible!


Jennifer Reynolds, OAK educator and After Care:

I live in Fairfax with my husband, John, our creative, 12 year old daughter, Piper, and our sweet cat, Wilma. We feel so lucky to be surrounded by nature and believe that we must do all we can to care for our environment. There are many things that I get a kick out of, such as quilting, baking desserts, solving puzzles of all kinds and taking hikes. I think that the library is an amazing invention, that all things space-related are astounding and that insects and animals are jaw-droppingly fascinating. And I adore books too, especially children’s books.

I have returned to the field of early childhood education after almost 20 years, in which time I received my master’s degree in Clinical Psychology, became an MFT and joined the Marin Early Childhood Mental Health Consultants team. For many years I helped teachers and parents gather around very young children who needed support and understanding and I worked with preschool centers to improve their quality of care. I also have a background in drama and children’s theater. I am delighted to be entering my fifth year teaching here at CMLC.

Emma Dennett

Emma Dennett, WILLOW educator and Before/After Care:

My name is Emma and I live in Petaluma. This past May, 2019, I graduated from Chico state with a BA in Child Development. My previous work experience includes working in child development centers on U.S. military bases located in both Hawaii and Germany, and working in the Child Development lab at Chico State. Throughout my time working with younger children,I have learned that children are curious and excited to learn about the world. I am looking forward to cultivating that curiosity in a safe and nurturing environment here at Curious Minds Learning Center.
In my spare time I enjoy traveling the world, cooking with my friends and family, and going to the park with my dog Gabby!

Aria Watson

Aria Watson, OAK educator and After Care:

As a native of the Sonoma Valley and the daughter of a third grade teacher, I am lucky to have grown up close to nature and always knowing I wanted to work with children. This desire to connect children to nature has led me to teach in a variety of educational settings, including a wilderness semester school in the Sierras, a farm-based program for students with special needs in upstate NY, and as a social skills counselor at a Bay Area-based mindfulness organization, Seeds of Awareness. More recently, as I have focused on early childhood education, I have been teaching in a fully outdoor nature and science program for 2-6 year olds based in the San Anselmo area. As a candidate for a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, I student taught at Prestwood Elementary School where I designed and taught a unit on native plants that culminated in the class building a native plant garden on campus. I hold a BA in Design with a minor in Education from UC Davis, and a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from Dominican University of California. In addition, I will be completing my Site Supervisor Permit this year at College of Marin. As an educator, I strive to help children experience a sense of connection to place, belonging in their community, and competence in their abilities. I happily live in West Marin in a cabin in the woods.


Lisa Berardi, WILLOW educator

I have worked in a variety of educational settings; Special Education, 2nd-grade, Kindergarten, and Preschool, finally settling in with toddlers. I was a Montessori Preschool Teacher for eight years. During that time, I returned to school and received my Early Childhood Education Certificate from the College of Marin and North America Montessori Certificate diplomas.

I was lucky to have found my passion for teaching late in life, which, for me, is just as rewarding. Children are a wonder and bring joy and happiness to my life. Their curiosity and awe are what keeps my desire for teaching alive and flourishing. Every day with children brings a new adventure and excitement. As an educator, I appreciate their wonder and enthusiasm. I desire to create an environment that the children find exciting, and one that keeps their minds engaged and involved in the world around them.