Staff Directory 2018-2019

Ms. Abbene - Social Studies Teacher and Director of Curriculum and Instruction - - 818.583.6229 ext 1006

Ms. Agrafiotis - English Teacher - - 818.583.6229 ext 1007

Ms. Garber - Principal - - 818.583.6229 ext 1000 - direct 818.233.8250

Ms. Kazikhanyan - Special Education Teacher - - 818.583.6229 ext 1004

Ms. Molina - Special Education Director - - 818.583.6229 ext 1013

Ms. O'Neill- Math Teacher - - 818.583.6229 ext 1008

Mr. Perry - Art Teacher - - 818.583.6229 ext 1012

Ms. Tersakian - Office Manager - - direct 818.583.6229

Ms. Thorpe - Science Teacher - 818.583.6229 ext 1009


Staff Bios

Rachel Garber - Principal

Rachel Garber is the Principal of HighTech LA Middle School. Rachel began her career as a Teach For America Los Angeles corps member at Endeavor College Preparatory Charter School, where she taught and led for 8 years. At Endeavor, Rachel was a founding 5th-grade math and writing teacher. She had the opportunity to teach her founding 5th-grade class through 8th grade, taking on the role of Mathematics Content Leader in her fourth year. Rachel then stepped into significant leadership roles as Campus Co-Director, Director of School Culture and Mathematics, and then as Campus Director, where she honed her skills in instruction, culture, and coaching.  Rachel spent the 2017-2018 school year at HighTech LA High School as Assistant Principal preparing to open HTLA Middle School.  She is honored to be a part of this incredible organization and is passionate about providing a high-quality education to all of our students at HTLA.


Karen GOld - School Counselor

Karen Gold is the School Counselor of High Tech LA Middle School.  Karen is a credentialed School Counselor and Associate Marriage and Family Therapist, who has worked with elementary, middle and high school aged students for over five years.  Her training includes the school-based training program at Phillips Graduate Institute, Grief Specialist training through Our House Support Center, and volunteer work with Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission and We Spark Cancer Support Center.  A mother of two teenagers, Karen believes that every student is gifted, and that it’s in the journey that people discover their specific gifts & talents. She is thrilled to be a part of HTLA Middle School, and looks forward to encouraging each and every student to reach their academic potential, and succeed in middle school, and beyond.  


Sandra Tersakian - Office Manager

It is my pleasure to introduce myself as the Office Manager at High Tech La Middle School!  As a mother of two teenage children myself, I know how important the decision is to enroll your kids into an educational institution in their formative years.  Both of my children attended a small, charter middle school, and I cannot overstate the dramatic and positive impact it has had on their lives. I have dedicated my life to working with children, both my own and others, and I am so excited to foster a community of learning with your kids.  I especially enjoy meeting new parents who want to volunteer, ask advice with homework, or simply wish to discuss the joys of parenting. I look forward to establishing a true and lasting relationship with all High Tech families! Please stop by and say Hi!


Colleen Molina - Special education Director

Colleen Molina is the Special Education Director of HighTech LA Middle School. She has a BA in mathematics from UC Santa Cruz and a MS in educational leadership and administration from Pepperdine University. Colleen began her career in education as a Behavior Intervention Implementation Aide for students from preschool to high school. In 2008, she began her teaching career at HighTech LA High School. She taught for eight years and then joined the leadership team. She is elated at the opportunity to be working at both campuses and helping the organization grow.  


Reese Abbene - Director of Instruction & Social Studies Teacher

Reese Abbene is brimming with enthusiasm to enter her thirteenth year in education at HTLA-MS.  A native of the San Fernando Valley, she completed her undergraduate career at the University of Portland, Oregon with a B.A. in Communications.  Following graduation, she became a member of AmeriCorps and worked as a community educator in the public education system in Washington, D.C.  The frigid East Coast weather drove her back to sunny Los Angeles, where she earned her Masters in Secondary Education at Loyola Marymount University as a member of the PLACE Corps.  She is credentialed in both English Language Arts and Social Science and has served as a teacher at the elementary, junior high and high school levels.  For the last eight years, she was as an administrator and program director at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, where she founded an award winning law program and oversaw service learning, student leadership and school culture programming.  Currently, she is pursuing her Master’s in Educational Psychology at Alliant International University, with the intent to obtain her doctorate.  She loves children, yoga, art, theatre, ball games, hiking, the beach, books, traveling, movies and festivals.  


Iris Agrafiotis - English Teacher

Iris Agrafiotis is excited to join HighTech LA Middle School as a founding English teacher. She grew up outside Philadelphia and has had a lifelong passion for education. She attended UC Berkeley where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies with a minor in Sustainable Design. After working for several tech startups, she received her Master’s in Teaching and teaching credential from the University of Southern California, specializing in English Language Arts and Gifted Education. Prior to joining the HTLA team, Iris taught English Language Arts and various electives at New West Charter School, Birmingham Community Charter High School, ICEF Vista Middle Academy, Animo Venice High School, and PUC Triumph Charter High School. Iris is also a certified Pilates Mat Instructor through the Equinox Pilates Institute and loves teaching Pilates, yoga, acrobatics, and other forms of fitness. She is thrilled to be part of the HTLA team and is committed to providing students with a strong foundation for lifelong learning.


Cathy O'Neill - Math Teacher

Cathy O’Neill is a math teacher at HighTech LA Middle School.  She has a BA in applied mathematics and statistics from CSU Sacramento and a MA in education from CSU Los Angeles.  She has taught math for grades 7 to 12 at SCVi and Albert Einstein Academy for 7 years.  In addition, she has taught martial arts and self-defense, robotics, and astronomy.  She is passionate about ensuring that all students understand the why behind mathematics and is looking forward to being a part of founding HTLA Middle School.


Jordan Perry - Art Teacher

Jordan Perry is the Art Teacher at HighTech LA Middle School. Jordan began his career at Clarke Middle School in Athens Georgia where he taught visual art for 6 years. He has run multiple after school programs including yearbook, art club, comic-book club and coached the ultimate frisbee team for the past 3 years. He is excited to begin a new chapter at HTLA Middle expanding notions of creativity through the making of art.


Lilit Kazikhanyan - Special education Teacher

Bio coming soon!


James Pike - Technology Teacher

James Pike has been teaching and designing curriculum for the past 6 years. His passion for educational technology and game-based learning has led him to teach out of the box lessons on coding and video game design. James has been recognized as a Minecraft Global Mentor, a Microsoft Innovation Expert, and a PBS Digital Innovator.  His work has been published by KQED. When James is not teaching, he loves ice hockey and cooking cheeseburgers.  


Melissa Thorpe - Science Teacher

Melissa Thorpe is the science teacher at HTLA Middle School. She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Texas A&M-Central Texas. Her experience includes working as a special education paraprofessional for four years, as well teaching 4th and 5th grade science for two years in Copperas Cove, Texas. She also has experience in case work, with the Children's Mental Health Clinic in Temple, Texas providing skills training to students. She is excited to be part of HTLA Middle School, and has the passion to guide students in their science class, connecting to technology and real world applications. She also enjoys photography and traveling.