Our Team

Who we are and what we do.

Molly Wertz

Molly Wertz

Executive Director

Molly has worked tirelessly throughout her career to support partnerships between education, nonprofits, and community for the benefit of children and their families. She’s led Tandem™ since it launched as a 501c3 (then known as Raising A Reader, San Francisco and Alameda Counties), and prior to that, served as executive administrator for the program in her role as Vice President of Community Investment at United Way of the Bay Area. From 2004 through 2010 Molly provided leadership for all United Way’s community programs, and served as Program Officer for education investments. While she was a consultant with New Ways to Work, Molly also facilitated the National Intermediary Project, which brought together teams of local business, government, education and the nonprofit leaders with their peers from around the country to prioritize, plan and implement community wide programs to ensure success for all youth. At Petaluma City Schools Molly taught both primary and high school and was a founding teacher of Sonoma Mountain High School. She served as district level administrator responsible for development of community partnerships for school reform. Molly has a MS in Curriculum and Instruction from Dominican University of California, and a BA in English Literature from Sonoma State University. Molly is a proud grandmother of four emerging readers.

Tom Meshishnek

Tom Meshishnek

Finance Director

Tom has an extensive background in accounting and financial management of nonprofit organizations, both large and small. He has served in a variety of sectors, including marine conservation, reproductive rights, wildlife rehabilitation, performing arts, food cooperatives, residential real estate, and CRM solutions. He is a Bay Area native and currently lives in Berkeley, California.

Julie Barton

Julie Barton

Senior Development Manager

Julie joined Tandem in 2013 after six years of development and nonprofit management experience, working for the Harry Potter Alliance and the Philharmonia Orchestra. With a PhD in Literature and a MA in Children’s Literature, she has publications in The Journal of Children’s Literature Studies and Crossing Textual Boundaries in International Children’s Literature. In London she served for four years on the UK chapter of the International Board on Books for Young People, and is currently a committee member for USBBY. A Board Member for National Novel Writing Month and New Leaders Council SF, and a 2015-16 Leadership San Francisco fellow, Julie is determined to never be too old (or too busy!) to read books written for children. She is passionate about the power of story to enact positive social change and believes that quality children’s literature can change the world.

David Lee

David Lee

Development Manager

David joined Tandem in January 2017 and brings over 8 years of nonprofit management and development experience to the team. Once he discovered his passion for service in college, he hasn’t looked back! David has done a little bit of everything, including co-founding an academic and music mentorship nonprofit, serving as an AmeriCorps member doing volunteer coordination, and fundraising for a variety of education, arts, and youth-focused nonprofits. In the 3.5 years prior to joining Tandem, David was the Grants Manager at Notes for Notes, a national youth development nonprofit that builds music recording studios inside of Boys & Girls Clubs. David enjoys playing recreation soccer, cooking, and rooting for the Golden State Warriors.

Mary Jo Price

Mary Jo Price

Operations Manager

Mary Jo has over 20 years of experience in leadership, management, and administration including over 10 years in nonprofit management. In addition to her work at Tandem, she is currently the Administrative Director at The Playwrights Foundation, and Managing Director of Anton’s Well Theater Company. She spent several years as the Director of Museum Experience at The Children’s Creativity Museum and was a founding member of San Francisco’s Theatre Forte. Mary Jo holds an MFA. in performance from San Francisco State University.

Emily Thompson

Emily Thompson

Communications Manager

Emily joined Tandem in 2014, and has several years’ experience in writing, editing, and social media marketing. In her free time, she enjoys discovering new books to share with friends and family. Emily is a graduate of Berry College in Mount Berry, Georgia, with a BA in English.

Kaitlin Pearce

Kaitlin Pearce

Curriculum & Evaluation Manager

Kaitlin has over eight years of experience in the education sector. Her experience ranges from in-home support for toddlers with autism to teaching Writing and English in Oakland public schools. She is passionate about empowering families and youth through education and believes that education is the key to equity. Kaitlin received her BA from UC Berkeley in Cognitive Science, and received her teaching credential from San Diego State. She joined Tandem in 2014. Kaitlin is an avid cook and traveler. When she’s not working, she loves bringing people together to share a meal and their life stories.

Dulce Maria Torres-Petty

Dulce Maria Torres-Petty

Program Supervisor, Alameda County

Dulce Torres-Petty joined Tandem in 2012, bringing five years of experience providing education and case management services to underserved New York City residents. Her work with immigrants and struggling students helped her develop a deep sensitivity to the issues of low income families, which is critical when working with Tandem families. Dulce earned her BA in Education from Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM).

Lucy Parada

Lucy Parada

Program Supervisor, Contra Costa County

Lucy Parada is a native of Sinaloa, Mexico and is a recent graduate of UC Berkeley with a BA in Spanish, with an emphasis on Hispanic Languages and Bilingual Issues. Lucy is passionate about working with underprivileged and immigrant communities. She comes to Tandem with 10 years of experience working within the West Contra Costa Unified School District.

Kelsey Gottschalk

Kelsey Gottschalk

Program Supervisor, San Francisco

Kelsey joined Tandem in 2014 after spending three years living in Ecuador, where she worked as a K-12 English teacher and Program Coordinator at an educational nonprofit, and later as Regional Office Director for an Immigration and Expat Assistance firm.  During this time, she also freelanced in legal and medical translation and taught English and Spanish lessons to children and adults. Kelsey holds a BA in Linguistics from the University of Michigan.  She is a singer, dancer and actress from way back who loves to get lost in a good puzzle, book, movie, play, language or city.

LeNesha Jefferson

LeNesha Jefferson

Community Literacy Specialist, San Francisco

LeNesha has spent the past 11 years working with children and adults with developmental disabilities. LeNesha has developed various enrichment programs to support her clients as well as families, and has a passion for advocacy and direct support for children and families. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, cooking, and spending quality time with her family.

Robia Lee

Robia Lee

Community Literacy Specialist, San Francisco

Robia joined Tandem in 2015 and has always been passionate about providing educational resources to students of all ages. She has experience working with families and tutoring young children in reading and writing. She has also provided SAT tutoring to low-income high school students in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Robia speaks Cantonese and conversational Mandarin. She also holds a BA in Economics with a minor in English Literature from the University of California, Los Angeles.

J. Jimenez

J. Jimenez

Community Literacy Specialist, Alameda County

Fernando “J” Jimenez brings a decade of experience as an educator in Berkeley and the Oakland Unified School Districts. He specializes in early childhood development and literacy and helped pilot transitional kindergarten in Oakland schools. J has an educational background in psycho-biology with an emphasis in child development and education from UC Santa Cruz. J’s teaching experience has taught him that it takes a village to support a child’s growth and that working together with parents, educators, and administrators is a key component of ensuring children’s success. His motto is “the more you know, the more you grow.” J loves to travel and laugh. He could be caught spending a whole day in a local bookstore or library. His literary hero is Dr. Seuss.

Kajal Shahali

Kajal Shahali

Community Literacy Specialist, Alameda County

Kajal joined the Tandem team after working as an Education Coordinator with a Refugee Resettlement Agency in Alameda County for 2.5 years, connecting newly arrived refugees to educational resources. Kajal’s interest in early childhood development grew increasingly during an internship while serving a local library in Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica, and later while working to connect newly arrived refugee students to public schools in Oakland. Kajal is passionate about International Children’s Rights and is interested in the correlation between education and capacity building in impoverished and post conflict communities.  Kajal speaks Farsi and holds a BA from UC Berkeley in Peace and Conflict Studies, with a concentration on Human Rights and a minor in Public Policy.

Laura Rodriguez

Laura Rodriguez

Community Literacy Specialist, Contra Costa County

Laura Rodriguez comes to Tandem after a long and fulfilling career in California public libraries where she specialized in services to Spanish-speaking communities, families, and children.  She understands the institutional barriers that many people face and she is committed to promoting literacy and advancement within these groups.  With a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science from the San José State University, she is steeped in the principles of emergent literacy, intellectual freedom, and partnership.  Laura currently resides in Contra Costa County and was born in raised in the Bay Area.

Cecilia Valdez

Cecilia Valdez

Community Literacy Specialist, Contra Costa County

Cecilia joined Tandem in June, 2016, and brings close to 20 years of experience in the early childhood education as a teacher and administrator. She holds a BA from California State University East Bay in Liberal Studies with an ECE option, and is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Early Childhood Education at CSUEB. She has worked with underserved immigrant families and children through METAS, a weekend tutoring and academic support program for students in Pre-K through 12th grade and their families. In addition to tutoring families, she also contributed to the development of an early literacy component for the METAS program. She is a first generation Mexican American born and raised in the Bay Area, and currently resides in Contra Costa County.

Dorothy Gray

Dorothy Gray

Community Literacy Specialist, Contra Costa County

Dorothy holds a BA in Sociology with an emphasis in Education from Occidental College in Los Angeles. While completing her degree, she worked as a transitional kindergarten Teacher’s Aide in the Los Angeles Unified School District where she discovered her passion for early childhood education. After graduating, Dorothy spent a year teaching English in Malaysia on a Fulbright Teaching Grant. Dorothy is proud to have contributed to building children’s love for creative learning as a summer preschool teacher in San Francisco, a theater camp director in Contra Costa County, and as a Reading Partners volunteer in Oakland. She strongly believes that every child deserves access to books that inspire imaginative thinking. Dorothy was born and raised in the Bay Area and currently lives in Oakland, where she enjoys trying out all the neighborhood food trucks.

Samar Shaukat

Samar Shaukat

AmeriCorps VISTA, Development Team

Samar joined Tandem during the summer 2016 as an AmeriCorps VISTA to work with the development team. She graduated from Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. While there, Samar double majored in Anthropology and Latin American and Caribbean Studies with a minor in Spanish. She spent a semester abroad in Oviedo, Asturias, Spain. For her honors thesis she wrote a bilingual children’s book, titled “Juan’s DREAM,” about immigration reform dedicated to all the children struggling with access to citizenship and a proper education. After graduating she accepted a position as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Indonesia. Her move from Orlando, Florida, to the Bay Area is one of the many adventures she is excited to embark on!

Brittany Raji

Brittany Raji

AmeriCorps VISTA, Alameda County Programs Team

Brittany is an AmeriCorps VISTA for Community Engagement member working with Tandem, Partners in Early Learning. This is her second term working as a VISTA. Brittany graduated from the University of Missouri St. Louis in May 2015. She currently holds two undergraduate degrees in Communications: a Certificate of Public Relations and a Teaching Certificate for Adult Education. Brittany has worked for six nonprofits specializing in youth transitions and marketing. She is an entrepreneur and runs two small businesses. Brittany loves abstract marketing concepts and using creativity to find innovative solutions to bridge the gaps in society.

Dwyn Asher

AmeriCorps VISTA, Programs

Dwyn joined Tandem in March 2017 as an AmeriCorps VISTA member. She graduated from School of Visual Arts with a BFA in Photography in 2012. After graduating, Dwyn moved to Israel to work at an Israeli newspaper. She later moved to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to teach English to both children and adults. She is born and raised in the Bay Area and lives with Lysander, her cat, named after a character from Dwyn’s favorite Shakespeare play. When she’s not at work, Dwyn is most likely in the kitchen or planning her next adventure.

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