The Millennium School Team
Our Co-Founders' Story
After ten years leading a national nonprofit serving middle-school kids, Chris Balme turned his eye toward creating a model for middle school that better prepares students for real-world success. Jeff Snipes spent 16 years running a leadership development firm working with Fortune 500 companies; after selling the business, he wanted to focus on the pivotal adolescent years as the root of developing authentic leaders.
The common thread between the two of them was the belief that school exists not just to prepare kids with knowledge, but also to develop the skills and habits that lead to meaningful, happy, purposeful lives. They both came to see developmental psychology as a scientific foundation for this aim, and they were introduced by leading adolescent psychologist and best-selling author Madeline Levine.
Jeff Snipes: Co-Founder & Chairman
Jeff is passionate about the movement to reimagine education. He is actively engaged as an advisor and board member to organizations such as Mindful Schools, Education Superhighway, Stanford’s Challenge Success, and Aspire Public Schools among others. Previously Jeff served as CEO for 12 years and Co-Founder of PDI Ninth House, helping create the largest U.S. corporate leadership solutions and online learning provider with 600 professionals across 20 countries (now KornFerry). In that role he was named one of the top 25 Leadership advisors in the US, a Deloitte Fast50 company, and an ABA “CEO of the Year”.
He has been a trusted advisor to CEOs, an HR technology investor, and a member of YPO for more than ten years. Along the way, Jeff served as the Board President at Marin Montessori School, where he helped launch a progressive land-based junior high program. That experience inspired him to pursue a broader collective definition of success.
Chris Balme: Co-Founder & Head of School
Chris is an educator and social entrepreneur, passionate about developing schools and programs that help students reach their full potential. From 2004 – 2013, Chris was CEO of Spark (www.sparkprogram.org), a non-profit he co-founded and built into a national organization to improve student success in middle and high school. Spark’s apprenticeship-based programs, placing students in organizations ranging from Google to city government, earned widespread recognition for their ability to motivate students to succeed in school and beyond.
For Spark’s work Chris has received the Ashoka Fellowship and Draper Richards Fellowship for social entrepreneurship, as well as the Bay Area Jefferson Award for Public Service. Prior to this work, Chris received degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and the Wharton School of Business, and has taught with the Breakthrough Collaborative and in the Philadelphia public schools.
Lindsay Berk: STEM Guide (Faculty)
Lindsay brings to the team over 12 years of experience in STEM curriculum design and teaching, ranging from graduate students to upper elementary students, in and out of the classroom. During this time, she has taught an Environmental Science course for undergraduates while backpacking 300 miles in the California wilderness, led groups of middle school students on multi-week service-learning experiences on the Makah Reservation, and designed cross-disciplinary experiences in a project-based learning STEM high school.
For the last 4 years Lindsay has found her niche in the middle school science classroom. In this high energy environment, she has designed "Passion Projects" based on student interests, engaged students in Socratic Seminar, and founded and coached Science Olympiad with events in robotics, aviation, and forensics. She looks forward to incorporating her background in wildlife biology, GIS, and outdoor education into multi-disciplinary projects with real world applications. Lindsay is a graduate of UCLA, with subsequent Master's degrees from the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill and the University of Washington.
Nitty Dupree: Dance Faculty
Nitty Dupree has an extensive Dance, Cheer, Tumbling & Performing Arts background. He found this passion while attending George Washington High School in San Francisco, where his skills in Theatre, Ballet, Jazz, and Hip-Hop first developed. He later graduated from the International Dance Academy of Hollywood. Traveling the U.S, Nitty has instructed and choreographed thousands of young eager dancers in techniques to improve their performance. His long-term goal is to implement dance, theatre and collaborative musical theatre to enhance each child’s diverse talents beyond the classroom or studio.
Vinny Ferraro: Mindfulness Faculty
Vinny Ferraro is a long-time mindfulness practitioner and instructor and a nationally recognized leader in designing and implementing interventions for at-risk adolescents. Vinny continued this work for nearly a decade before transitioning to a more intensive focus on mindfulness and emotional intelligence work. In 2001, he began teaching for the Challenge Day organization, a nationally recognized, school-based emotional intelligence and life skills program, eventually becoming Challenge Day’s Director of Training and leading workshops for over 110,000 youth on four continents.
In 2008, Vinny became Training Director of the Mind Body Awareness Project (MBA) and is the principle author of MBA’s mindfulness-based curriculum for incarcerated youth. Vinny has received national media coverage for his work with adolescents; he is the subject of the MTV series “If You Really Knew Me…” In addition to his work with youth, Vinny teaches mindfulness retreats to adults around the U.S. and the world. In 2012 he became the Senior Trainer at Mindful Schools, and is focusing more of his time on teaching mindfulness and self-care to educators, social workers, and other youth service providers.
Michael Fisher: Humanities Guide (Faculty)
Michael brings a deep background in writing and the humanities as well as a keen interest in mindfulness and humanistic psychology. While completing his PhD in American History at the University of Rochester, he spent the past six years teaching college writing in small seminar-style classrooms. In addition to emphasizing the importance of strong arguments and evidence, he also encourages students to reflect deeply on their own voice and the sense of purpose that motivates their writing. Michael believes that students write and think best when they feel a personal stake in what they are addressing. By treating students as fellow thinkers and critics, he seeks to cultivate intrinsic interest and engagement with the questions and problems that shape their world.
Michael is also an avid lover of music, dance, and contemplative practices that help balance the mind, body, and spirit. As a cultural historian he studied the human potential movement of the 1960s and ‘70s. Now he seeks to live and learn the best lessons from that era while sharing them with diverse audiences including middle schoolers.
When his Chapel Hill third grade students asked Enrique about his favorite animal, they were all expecting him to say ‘a tiger’, ‘a lion’ or ‘a dragon’; however his answer was “a sea turtle”. Sea turtles are born in remote places and immediately after, they take off on a life-long journey around the world to finally come back to exactly the same place where they were born. For Enrique, it is easy to relate to the sea turtle, as his life has taken him to many interesting and diverse places.
Born in Lorca, a town in the south of Spain - the Romans called it ‘Eliocroca’ (The City of the Sun) - it was easy for him to spend long hours playing outside in the sea and in the mountains and dreaming about becoming a Real Madrid soccer player. At the age of 18, he moved to Andalusia and studied Education and Psychology at the University of Almería. During this time, he developed a passion for education and surfing, his other great passion. Enrique joins Millennium after having taught elementary and middle school students in Spain, Puerto Rico, North Carolina and San Francisco.
Crystal Harrison: Music Faculty
Crystal Harrison was working for a local solar company not long ago, when she felt the unwavering desire to follow her dreams as a Music Producer. Now, Crystal has produced and made beats for various aspiring artists, she is a 2015 TFS Beat Battle Winner, and a Recording Engineer at Hyde Street Studios in San Francisco. In the past year, she has been empowering youth with Today’s Future Sound as a Music Production Instructor, and she raps…occasionally!!
Stephen Lessard: Humanities Guide (Faculty)
Stephen has taught in various settings, from kindergarten to college, for the past two decades, most recently at The Nueva School where he fell in love with teaching middle school students in the humanities. During his 13-year tenure at Nueva, Stephen brought to the classroom an empathic global vision and focus on real-world experiences, launching Nueva's international summer service program, leading students to Model United Nations conferences around the globe, and envisioning 21st-century learning within and beyond the middle school years.
Since 2012, Stephen has co-facilitated an intensive summer retreat for educators through the Bay Area Teacher Development Collaborative, which recognizes the importance of a teacher's soul work to the psychological health of a school and its students. He has a keen interest in social-emotional learning and the crucial role silence can play in our lives. Trained in music and anthropology, Stephen received an advanced degree from the University of California at Berkeley, as well as undergraduate degrees from the University of Rochester and the Eastman School of Music.
SueAnn McKean: Aikido Faculty
SueAnn has been teaching Aikido for almost 40 years in bay area dojos and several other educational institutions. She has a 6th degree black belt and began her Aikido odyssey at the end of the tumultuous teen years. Growing up with four siblings in a military family that included moves to Japan, Laos and Thailand, SueAnn had to learn how to deal with aggressive older brothers and to adapt to new people and cultures. She was drawn to martial arts in high school, particularly to Taekwondo for strength and Tai chi for soft mindfulness. Not until discovering Aikido did she find both qualities in one art-form. It was a lifestyle that truly encompassed the whole and set her on the journey of her life. Aikido's most powerful weapon is mindful grounded-ness. It is a valuable skill for middle school kids to better cope with the ups and downs of life. Its emphasis is on flowing movement that blends rather than forces or blocks. SueAnn loves sharing Aikido, and she knows that she will be learning as much from the students as they will be learning from her.
Ashley Nickels: Spanish Faculty & Admissions Officer
Ashley joins the team bringing 12 years of classroom teaching experience as well as a lifelong passion for language learning. Growing up in Michigan, Ashley developed a love for speaking and learning Spanish that began in her own sixth grade classroom. After completing her degrees at the University of Michigan and Middlebury College, she spent the first five years of her career teaching at an international school in Valencia, Spain. In San Francisco, she spent the next six years building the Spanish program at the San Francisco Friends School, where she was a teacher, advisor, and trip leader.
Ashley also joins the admissions team at Millennium, and is excited to get to know both current and prospective parents and students, and to contribute to the growth and depth of the greater school community. One of her favorite experiences of being a part of a school community so far has been taking seventh grade students to Nicaragua over five consecutive years. Most recently, Ashley has expanded her quilting career as well, teaching both in-person and online sewing and quilting classes, and growing her small handmade bag business.
Sarah Nadler: Math Guide (Faculty)
Sarah joins the team with 11 years of experience teaching middle school mathematics in a variety of school settings. She began her career with Teach for America Los Angeles and has since worked in Montessori and International Baccalaureate schools. Sarah’s area of interest is the cognitive neuroscience behind learning and development. Recently, she has worked on the clinical side at the Institute for Learning and Development to implement research-based tools and strategies to support executive function skills and working memory in students.
In addition to mathematics, Sarah has a special affinity for the outdoors, especially the ocean. She has enjoyed surfing, kayaking, and snorkeling all over the world. She has shared her passion for the ocean with children through school field studies on Catalina Island and volunteering with her favorite organization, the Best Day Foundation.
Sarah is currently completing her Master of Education in Human Development and Psychology at Harvard Graduate School of Education, and will join the Millennium team for the 2017-18 school year. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College and holds a Master of Arts in Special Education from Loyola Marymount University.
Broderick Rodell: STEM Faculty and Capoeira
Broderick is an educator, yogi, and capoeira practitioner who is passionate about learning how to create a world that maximizes well-being for all. His passion for learning about the world has taken him on a surprisingly adventurous journey in various disciplinary fields, which has culminated in a PhD in Chemical Engineering from Georgia Tech and a Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University, in addition to teaching yoga, meditation, and martial arts.
Broderick is dedicated to nurturing the development of human consciousness through education. He feels that the more comprehensively developed our consciousness is, the more likely we are to creatively develop a world that reflects the values of love, kindness, goodness, truth, and beauty. He has shared this vision with adults through various workshops, classes, and professional trainings. He has also shared these ideas with children primarily through yoga and martial arts instruction. At Millennium, Broderick shares his love of science and the humanities as vehicles to understanding the world. Together, he hopes to guide our students in finding creative solutions to the current and future challenges involved in living life harmoniously on this beautiful planet.
Jesse Sachs: Arts & Wilderness Faculty
Jesse is a passionate, nature-loving Renaissance man. He is co-director of Back to Earth, a small outdoor education and wilderness guiding outfit in the East Bay. He has spent hundreds of days backpacking, mountaineering, climbing and paddling - in the Yukon, North Cascades and the wilds of California. Jesse has also kindled his passion for the natural world through a formal education in ecological design and the arts. He received a Permaculture Design Certificate from Bill Mollison in Australia and later received an MFA in Combined Media from Hunter College in Manhattan. His thesis project at Hunter consisted of a series of urban food-forests, participatory/educational paintings and a gallery exhibition of experimental cartography.
Before taking over at Back to Earth, he managed Oz Farm in Mendocino, starting an organic CSA and tending an antique apple orchard, all the while honing his skills as an herbalist. His broad experience connecting to and participating in nature serves as the foundation for his work as a guide and instructor. He has found much meaning and purpose guiding adults and youth into the wilderness.
Vivek Shah: Entrepreneurship Faculty
An entrepreneur and teacher at heart, Vivek has helped to start several businesses, spanning the real estate, investing, business process outsourcing and education sectors. Vivek is currently a Managing Partner at Nitya Capital, a real estate firm with a social mission. Vivek graduated from The University of Texas at Austin where he returns annually to teach undergraduate students. Vivek has also served as a Lecturer at the undergraduate and graduate level at The University of California, Berkeley. More recently, Vivek is particularly interested in business and financial education for middle and high school students given the void that exists for students' financial literacy at early ages.
Ann Wang, Director of Operations
Ann feels most energized when she is creating and fine-tuning systems that promote student learning. She is looking forward to keeping the trains running and on time at Millennium School, managing the infrastructure and logistics that will allow Millennium's community of students, parents, teachers, and staff to focus and thrive.
Ann is fortunate to have spent her career working with education organizations that are innovating on school design and practices. As the Senior Project Manager on the Research & Evaluation team at the KIPP Foundation, Ann supported various multi-state and cross-team data collection, reporting, and assessment administration projects. Prior to joining the KIPP Foundation, Ann completed the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs, which provided her with a rich set of foundational leadership skills, along with opportunities to apply those skills through contract work across the public and private sectors. She began her career in education by teaching 9th, 10th, and 11th grade English at George Washington High School in San Francisco Unified School District and serving as a Teach for America corps member. Ann holds a B.A. in English and Policy Studies and a Secondary English Education Certification from Rice University, as well as a Master's in Public Administration from San Francisco State University.