Beatrice J. V. Balfour (School Director): Holding dual-citizenship, Dr. Beatrice Balfour grew up in Italy and came to the U.S. to attend U.C. Berkeley. Her passion for progressive pedagogies, particularly the so-called ‘Reggio Emilia approach,’  led her to obtain a Ph.D in Early Childhood Education from the University of Cambridge. She has taught early childhood education at the University level and was a project manager for the creation of an experimental school in Ecuador. For Beatrice, Gan Shalom’s progressive educational methodologies are filled with the beauty and richness of the Jewish curriculum and culture. Dr. Balfour is honored to be part of Gan Shalom’s special, welcoming, and inclusive community!

Beatrice can be reached at (510) 848-3298 or



Robin Mendelson (Lead Teacher)Robin: When Robin opened her eyes, she knew she was supposed to teach young children. It is her passion and blessing. Her other passions include her cats, the Beatles, hula hoops, dancing, pomegranates and studying Torah. Robin won the prestigious Diller Award for Excellence in Early Childhood Education in 2011.


Alana Kessler (Lead Teacher): Alana has an M.A. in Special Education with a focus in Arts Integration and a B.A. in Religious Studies. She is filled with positive and creative energy. She loves making new friends, doing arts and crafts, learning outdoors, and spending time with her family. Her educational philosophy is child-centered, and she is excited to make meaningful connections with each student and is so grateful to be part of Gan Shalom’s family.



Iris Greenberg-Smith (Lead Teacher): Iris is the mother of four daughters who all attended Gan Shalom and who have fond memories of rainbows and cinnamon challah.  Iris served on the Gan Parent Advisory Committee (PAC), co-chaired a director search committee, and helped write an Alameda County grant for the new Gan building.  She has a bachelors degree in social science, and a masters in journalism.  Originally from Israel, Iris is now very excited to be back at Gan as a Keshet teacher, a job which lets her play with beautiful little people and share all those Hebrew songs she remembers from her childhood.  In her spare time, Iris loves traveling, beading, and making art.



RisaRisa Dye:  As a former princess, Risa has great experience enchanting youth. She weaves her training as a physical performer and a textile artist into her educating. Risa’s extraordinary background includes a year in Paris studying movement and circus arts, and her creativity and warmth are contagious. Risa leads the Jelly- Jam program at Gan Shalom – a creative and excitng dance and movement program!


MelitaMelita Doostan:  Melita currently works in a number of schools, and also runs a music school from her home for parents and children. Using puppets and an array of acoustic instruments, she inspires little ones to discover their creative spark through song, story, movement, and dance. Malita comes to Gan Shalom once a week to teach in a playful and creative way music and Jewish songs to the children in both Gan Shalom’s classrooms.

Laurie Teeter: Laurie has over 20 years of experience in the Early Childhood field working with children, families and educators. She believes relationships and play are the foundation to the healthy development of every child – especially those who have developmental and behavioral differences. My previous experience as a classroom teacher and school director allows Laurie to be the bridge between teachers, administrators, parents and specialists to help children succeed at home and school. Laurie also has training in FloorTime and ABA.



Joelle Yzquierdo, Preschool Administrator
Joelle makes sure everything runs smoothly. Joelle can be reached at (510) 843-5246 or