Teachers and Staff | Mission Dolores Academy

Mr. Paul Recktenwald

Paul Recktenwald (Mr. R.), his wife Sara, and daughter Charlotte moved to San Francisco 9 years ago from New York City. In 2006, after 20+ years in finance, Paul retired from the Fixed Income, Currency and Commodity Division of Goldman Sachs, & Co. and entered into the New York City Teaching Fellows Program. Upon completion of the Fellows Program, Paul spent 2 years teaching middle school mathematics and science at Archimedes Academy for Math, Science and Technology in the South Bronx. Not long after arriving in San Francisco, Paul had the great fortune of being introduced to Megan Furth Catholic Academy! He began teaching mathematics at MFCA and continued on to Mission Dolores Academy. At MDA, Paul is entering his 4th year as Head of School and has taught 6th/7th/8th grade mathematics and held the position of Assistant Principal for 3 years. In 2014/2015, Paul took a brief hiatus from MDA and helped a former colleague launch a charter school in Richmond, CA where he taught mathematics and was part of the administration team. Paul has a passion for education reform and the use of technology to promote data driven instruction and he is extremely excited to begin the new school year!! When away from MDA, Paul and family enjoy sailing, fishing, and all things water!


Mrs. Meredith Essalat

Meredith Essalat has spent over 15 years in academia.  Before arriving to Mission Dolores Academy as Principal, she was both the Dean of Middle School Curriculum & High School Preparation and Eighth Grade Teacher at Nativity School in Menlo Park.  Meredith possesses a BA in Mass Communication from Menlo College, a California-Clear Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from Notre Dame de Namur University, an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction, and an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership, both from the American College of Education. A native to the San Francisco Bay Area, she began her career in collegiate Student Activities before moving into both elementary and secondary academic communities in the areas of fundraising, development, and alumni relations.  Meredith is an advocate for all students, believing that each individual is in possession of strength of character, boundless talent, and expansive intellect.  Some of Meredith’s favorite things are: her husband, ice cream, Christmas lights, pizza, and New York City. 



Ms. Amy Cheng


Mrs. Rochelle Reid
First Grade

Rochelle Reid is the first grade teacher.  She studied Liberal Arts at San Francisco State University and later obtained her teaching credential at Dominican University in San Rafael, CA.  Rochelle always knew she wanted to work in the teaching profession.  She has taught first grade for 10 years, 5 here at Mission Dolores Academy and another 5 years in a public school in Tracy, CA.  After several years of teaching Kindergarten at MDA, Rochelle is looking forward to returning to teaching the first grade.  She believes in teaching students holistically, which includes academics, projects and social skills.  She continues to study and research the best practices for her students because they deserve the best.  A favorite moment for Rochelle is watching her students enjoy reading and developing a love for books.  Besides teaching, Rochelle loves spending family time with her husband and two little boys along with dancing hip hop.  


Ms. Kathryn Wilchynski
Second Grade


Kathryn Wilchynski is the second grade teacher. She studied Psychology and Elementary Education at Northeastern University and completed her Masters of Education for Science in Education at Lesley University. Kathryn taught middle school science in Massachusetts where she is originally from for three years. She loves being apart of the MDA community and living on the west coast, as San Francisco is one of her favorite cities. In her free time, she enjoys being outside in nature, going to the beach and exploring all the city has to offer. 



Ms. Maureen McConnell
Third Grade


Ms. Jane Victor
Fourth Grade

Jane Victor is the third and fourth grade ELA teacher. She studied Elementary Education and American History as a member of the Lynch School of Education at Boston College. Jane spent three years student teaching before becoming an associate teacher in a first grade classroom full time. Her interest in teaching began when she spent a summer volunteering at Breakthrough SF, which first introduced her to the idea of education as a vehicle for social change. Jane is passionate about the importance of developing the whole child, which benefits her students both in and outside of the classroom. She loves being a part of the close-knit school community that is MDA. Outside of school, Jane loves spending time with friends and family, exploring the Bay Area, and rooting on the SF Giants!



Mr. Julian Thomas
Fifth Grade



Mr. Karter Clark
Sixth Grade


Mr. Clark is the middle school Math teacher at Mission Dolores Academy. He studied at the University of South Florida where he received his B.A. in Interdisciplinary Education. Mr. Clark is originally from Michigan and recently moved to San Francisco. His love for teaching started when his youngest brother was diagnosed with Autism at the age of three-years old. Mr. Clark believes in fostering an atmosphere that creates academic growth, leadership, collaboration and instills a positive environment that welcomes all learning preferences. Outside of school, Mr. Clark loves spending time with family, coaching, and being as active as possible. He is overjoyed to join the MDA Family!


Ms. Krista Forgey
Seventh Grade

Krista Forgey is thrilled to be the sixth grade teacher at MDA.  Krista earned her Bachelor’s degree in Education, with minors in Spanish, Philosophy, and Global Studies, from Purdue University and is currently working on her Master’s degree at University of San Francisco. She has four years of classroom teaching experience, two years each in Chicago and Oakland. In addition to classroom teaching Krista has taught English as a Second Language in Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Guatemala.  That being said, Krista is excited to teach in San Francisco where she now calls home.  Krista is constantly finding ways to make learning meaningful, powerful, and fun for students.  She finds the best way to make learning impactful is to integrate subjects into real life situations or areas of high interest to her students.  Krista makes sure that each student has his or her academic needs met in order to be successful in middle school and beyond.   Krista enjoys traveling and the outdoors, reading, most forms of exercise, and spending time with her family and cat. 

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Ms. Kelsey Blow
Eighth Grade


Kelsey Blow is both MDA’s Eighth Grade and Middle School ELA teacher. She studied Elementary Education at the University of Central Florida and earned her endorsements in both English as a Second Language (ESOL) and Reading. Kelsey has been in the education field for three years, teaching various age groups, from Kindergarten on up. Being from a small town in South Florida, Kelsey wanted to move to a big city and make an impact in her community, and she knew that she could accomplish this by joining the MDA community and focusing on servicing the whole child. When she is not teaching, she likes to play soccer, photograph the city, and eat all of the diverse food San Francisco has to offer! 


Ms. Debbie Ray
Art Teacher


Debbie Ray has been an art educator for 30+ years in both the public and private sectors.  Debbie is so excited to bring her passion and enthusiasm for children's art to MDA.  She believes that the arts enhance all areas of a student's life: socially, emotionally, and academically.  Debbie enjoys learning about new cultures, reading a good book, and watching documentaries.  Debbie has to be outdoors whenever she can and spends much of her time with her three grandchildren. 



Ms. Sonia Rodriguez
Kindergarten Associate Teacher




Ms. Anna Center
First Grade Associate Teacher


Ms. Debbie Ray
Second Grade Associate Teacher



Ms. Dana Berk
Third Grade Associate Teacher



Mr. Hayden Victor
Fourth Grade Associate



Ms. Stella Fisbee
Middle School Associate/Social Studies Teacher


Ms. Elizabeth Faherty
Reading Resource Teacher

Elizabeth Faherty is the MDA Reading Specialist. She has a BA in Middle School Language Arts and an MA in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Missouri. She also has done further graduate work in Reading and Special Education through UC-Irvine and Trinity Washington University. Elizabeth started teaching in 2001 and has taught Reading at Mission Dolores Academy since 2013. She enjoys addressing the individual needs of each student in her classroom and loves to watch their excitement for reading grow. Outside of work, Elizabeth enjoys walking, cooking, and reading-- lots and lots of reading!


Ms. Christina Lancaster
Math Resource Teacher


Christina Lancaster is the MDA Math Specialist. She earned a BA in Liberal Arts from Sarah Lawrence College, MFA in Creative Writing from The New School, and multiple-subject teaching credential from CSU Los Angeles. She loves helping students learn math in creative ways. Beyond teaching, Christina is a poet and maker specializing in the fiber arts.


Sister Ann Providence, O.P.
Director of Religious Education

Born in Ukiah, California, Sister Ann studied the Catholic faith with the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose. In 1965, she entered the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael. Her first mission was St. Dominic’s Elementary School in San Francisco where she taught 6th Grade and 7th Grade, before becoming the Principal. Sister Ann has always loved teaching, and has taught at St. Dominic’s in Eagle Rock, St. Vincent’s Elementary School in Vallejo, and at San Domenico School in San Anselmo. In 1995, she returned to San Francisco, teaching 5th Grade at Sacred Heart Elementary School. At Megan Furth Academy she became the Director of Religious Education and has continued her ministry as Director of Religious Education for Mission Dolores Academy. She loves the families of Mission Dolores Academy and cherishes the opportunity to prepare students for the Sacraments and to share in the joy of belonging to this beautiful community.

In the summer, for the past 40 years, she travels to the border, where she serves God in the beautiful people of Casa de los Pobres, in Tijuana, and to Ciudad Juarez, where she ministers with the Dominican Sisters of Christian Doctrine, in a daycare with 100 precious babies! She feels richly blessed to have been able to serve families and their children throughout her life.


Coach Steven Ta
Physical Education Teacher and Athletics Director


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Ms. Caitlin Halasz
Latin Teacher


Caitlin Halasz is MDA’s Latin teacher. She studied Latin and Ancient Greek at Vassar College in New York State and received her Master's Degree in Classics from UCLA. At UCLA, she taught Latin, Greek, and ancient history to college students. Her experiences teaching at UCLA helped her discover her passion for education, and after leaving graduate school, she spent several years teaching Middle School Latin in Los Angeles. A Northern California native, she is excited to be returning to the Bay Area and teaching at MDA. When she is not teaching, Caitlin enjoys knitting, reading, and spending time with her husband and their son.  


Fr. Charlie Gagan, S.J.



Ms. Ivana Iacolino
Business Manager


Mr. Francisco Luna
Admissions Director


Mr. Govanni Penaloza
​Administrative Assistant



Ms. Fran van Bergen
Director of Development



Ms. Margaret Walden
High School Counselor


Mr. Mike Ward
Director of Student Services/Facilities


Ms. Nicole Lancaster
​Administrative Assistant