Our Executive Director, Daniel Calzaretta has been an educator since 1990, most recently working in Walla Walla Public Schools for eight years.
After spending two years teaching at a traditional public high school in a suburb of Portland, Oregon Dan started the award-winning Pacific Crest Community School in Portland in 1992.
Dan believes that schools must be designed to meet the needs of students, their families, and the community. By building strong relationships, personalizing education for students, putting the latest technology into the hands of teachers and kids, and infusing joy into the learning process, Willow Public School will change the lives of students, and put them on a path to college and professional success.
Dan loves bicycle touring with his family. In 2007 he, his two children, and his wife Alison Kirby cycled across the US. Dan has since cycled from Washington to Mexico with his son. Dan is also a science fiction nerd, and an avid award-winning beer brewer.
Mobile: (509) 593-0821
Katie Christianson is our Director of Culture and she comes to school leadership with a background in early childhood education and an understanding that toddlers and middle schoolers are very alike.
A graduate of the Sherwood Trust Community Leadership Program and Collaborative Leadership Institute, Katie has put her activist chops to use in the volunteer arena, building and nurturing relationships to lead various community groups.
After years of volunteering the Walla Walla Public School District and running various businesses of her own, Katie worked with the founding team of Willow School to bring the dream to reality.
Katie’s role at Willow Public School focuses on continued relationship building to benefit students and their families. Katie is mom of two boys, an avid skier, and adores animals, especially dogs. She is an accomplished musician and plays in a band that specializes in covers of cover tunes.
Mobile: (509) 301.5143
Our Director of Community Outreach, Mary Linda Solis is the youngest of six children. Her parents were both Mexican immigrants into this country and they will declare that they have had the privilege to live out the American dream that they came in search of, at the ages of 13 (mother) and 23 (father). She grew up working in the onion fields with her parents and siblings. That is something that Linda would not change for the world; it made for the best childhood memories and will always keep her humble.
Linda is honored to be a part of the Willow family and is looking forward to making a difference in the lives of our children in Walla Walla. As an English Language Learner herself, she knows how difficult it can be to learn in the everyday classroom, so she is thrilled to be able to make a difference for students who are facing this challenge today. In high school,
Linda's softball team made it to state playoffs 3 out of 4 years. Willow has the best high school shortstop to have ever played the sport!
Mobile: (509) 200-5347
Grant Traynor is our Whitman Intern. He is a sophomore at Whitman College, working toward an Environmental Studies Biology degree. Grant is also working to become a fluent Spanish speaker, and he loves to practice whenever I can. Grant has a twin brother who goes to the University of Montana in Missoula, and older brother who lives in Yakima.
Grant has always dreamed of lounging and swimming along a tropical beach. This highly relevant aspiration will be realized when he leaves for a study abroad in Ecuador next fall.
Grant also aspires to own every dog and cat in the universe. He does not discriminate when it comes to dogs or cats; he loves them both and will often run across the street in order to pet dogs.
Board President, Jennifer Beckmeyer brings experience in bilingual education, community organizing and community development to the board. With a BA in Spanish and ten years living and working abroad in Costa Rica, she is fluent in Spanish and very aware of the nuances of Latino culture.
She holds a Master’s Degree in Human Rights and Peace Education from the Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica and worked as a consultant for the Ministry of Education, traveling to rural areas around the country to create community-centered plans to improve the quality of education in indigenous villages.
Since returning to Walla Walla three years ago, she has served on several coalitions focused on youth, diversity, and poverty. Her work in Walla Walla as a community organizer is what introduced her to Willow Public School and from day one it was very clear that her passions and experience aligned with the mission and vision of Willow. She currently manages the Community Development Block Grant program for the City of Walla Walla.
Her favorite place in the world is Isla Ometepe, a laid back volcanic island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua.
Nelly Pilares, our Board Secretary, has been an educator since 1998. She earned a Bachelor's degree in Education and Visual Arts, and taught Art and Theater in Peru for several years. In 2005 she moved with her family to the USA, where she earned both an M.A and a Ph.D. in Hispanic Linguistics, Literature and Culture, and began teaching Spanish at the college level. Nelly has worked for three school districts: Minneapolis, Minnesota; Sioux City, Iowa and Walla Walla, Washington.
In 2014, Nelly started teaching Spanish at Whitman College. Nelly hopes that students’ experiences in their classes at Willow School will teach them far more than subjects matters and will cultivate an environment in which students can freely express themselves while learning in meaningful ways.
Nelly lives in Walla Walla with her husband, her two daughters, three cats, and a hamster. She loves arts and theater, and has been a theater practitioner and actress since high school. Nelly, and her husband have a theater company in Peru, where they direct shows and teach workshop, and they are currently developing a Hispanic Theater Company in Walla Walla.
Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Board Member Cynthia Selde traveled to Mexico after a year of college at the University of Washington and ended up living, studying, and working in Mexico for many years. She worked in economic and social development and education. Cynthia's daughter was born and raised in Mexico City.
Cynthia is very passionate about the importance of high quality education for every individual, from birth to old age, and about the crucial need to build a stronger, inclusive community, in which every single human being is valued and given the support they need to thrive.
One curious thing Cynthia can’t explain: She seems to have left her sense of direction back in Mexico. Although she had no problem living in a huge city like Mexico City, she is constantly getting lost here in Walla Walla!
Board Treasurer, Rick Aguilar was released from prison on December 14, 2015 after serving 8 years of his 10 year prison sentence for drug/weapon possession and attempting to elude law enforcement. While incarcerated, he made the decision to walk away from the Sureño gang, and began a quest to educate himself and to give back by helping his fellow prisoners. In prison, he attended classes and completed his Bookkeeping, Graphic Design, Automotive, Paralegal/Legal Assistant and Advanced Criminal Law certificates. Rick helped launch Toastmasters club at Coyote Ridge Correction Center, where he served as Vice President of Education and President. He served as Ministry Leader for 5 years of Celebrate Recovery, a faith based 12 step recovery group.
At he end of his sentence, he and a fellow prisoner launched an inmate run leadership program called “Moving Forward”. Since his release he has completed a degree in Automotive Repair Technology and is working to complete his dual degree in Collision Repair. He created a local youth outreach organization called Juntos.
Rick likes to dance Zumba (although not very well) on Friday nights as a warmup before Juntos.
David Brauhn is the communications manager for the City of Walla Walla and our Board Vice-President. He has served as associate director of communications for Whitman College, presentation editor for the Union-Bulletin, and chief executive of a creative agency. He has given presentations on social marketing to business, nonprofit, and government leaders throughout the West Coast.
Since moving into government service, he has worked to build stronger connections between citizens and civil servants.
David has earned honors from the City County Communications and Marketing Association, the Hermes Creative Awards, and the Audio Visual Arts Awards. He serves on the Visit Walla Walla marketing board, the Suicide Prevention Workgroup, and the Walla Walla Valley Home Fund committee.
He strongly believes dinner is just a gateway to dessert.
Heidi McFarley is our Food Program Director. Heidi’s passion for food surfaced at age ten on an extended European vacation with her family, where her enthusiasm for new foods and flavors inspired her to keep a detailed culinary journal. That life-changing trip spawned a hunger to deepen her experience with language and food in other countries.
After earning a French degree at Whitman College, Heidi lived in France, Italy, Spain and Morocco. It was in those countries where she re-discovered the joys of good food and camaraderie, especially lengthy, multi-course meals and spirited conversations around the table.
In 2004, Heidi returned to Walla Walla. Since then she has created memorable experiences around food that showcase the best of the Walla Walla Valley. At her restaurant, Red Reina Cuisine & Delicatessen, Heidi offered fresh, local and seasonal food made with love for her restaurant and catering clientele.
When she’s not in the kitchen, Heidi serves on the board of the Walla Walla Valley Farm to School program and enjoys teaching cooking classes to people of all ages.
Heidi's a proud mother of a toddler son and enjoys playing piano, dancing on roller skates and entertaining at her mountain home in the Blues.
Born and raised in Walla Walla, Rosanna Lugo, 0ur Community Outreach Specialist, attended schools locally while working the fields, and/or packing sheds through high school. Upon graduating, she immediately went to work for Employment Security Department holding various positions throughout her 32 years. She graduated from Walla Walla Community College in 2017 with an AAS in Human Services. Rosanna will attend Central Washington University online to obtain her Bachelor’s degree either in Sociology or Psychology.
She is involved with various local committees that include Latino Forum, Comite Hispano. She is very involved with our union, currently a Shop Steward for our office, a Policy Committee member and co-chair for our Department’s statewide committee, and on the Executive Board as an active member representing Eastern Washington.
Rosanna loves to dance, and in high school she was selected to represent the Edinburg Sargenettes dance team (one of 75 dancers) – 150 competed for one of the 75 slots.
The youngest of two siblings, Ana Alcala-Rodriguez, our Community Outreach Specialist was born in Cuidad Guzman Mexico to a very humble and amazing family.
Her parents decided to move to the United States to escape extreme poverty and to seek safety. Life in the United Sates was amazing — full of opportunities and a lot of hard work. It was a true blessing to have the opportunity of an education. Ana would work in the fields with her family before and after school, and they would migrate through all of California and into Washington following the crops. The were finally able to settle down in Milton-Freewater Oregon where she attended school and graduated from Mcloughlin High School in 2010. Later on, she attended Blue Mountain Community College and received an AAOT and transferred over to Eastern Oregon University.
In September 2016, Ana married and moved to Walla Walla. Ana loves to be involved in the community volunteering in any way possible. Ana was involved all through high school in the Ballet Folklorico club.