Staff and Administration | Mission Dolores Academy


Mr. Paul Recktenwald

Paul Recktenwald (Mr. R.), his wife Sara, and daughter Charlotte moved to San Francisco 7 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 he has taught 6th/7th/8th grade mathematics, been Dean of Students 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 be back home at MDA! When away from MDA, Paul and family enjoy sailing, fishing, paddle boarding and all things water!


Mrs. Meredith Essalat

Meredith Essalat has spent over 14 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. 


Grades K-2 Team



Mrs. Rochelle Reid

Rochelle Reid is the kindergarten 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.  She loves teaching first grade but is welcoming a new career adventure; teaching kindergarten!  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 love spending family time with her husband and two little boys along with dancing hip hop.  



Ms. Megan Cimino
Grade 1

Megan Cimino is the first grade teacher.  She studied psychology and sociology at the University of Notre Dame and went on to get her Master of Science in Education at Northwestern University.  While at Northwestern, Megan focused her Master's Project on how children can develop both imagination and empathy in the classroom, as she is passionate in developing the whole child.  After six years of teaching at private schools in Chicago, Megan finally made her way home to the state of California and was happy to escape the snow! Megan enjoys sharing her passions and experiences with her class and encourages students to explore their interests.  She loves reading and cooking, as well as being active outdoors and makes a point to travel and seek new experiences at every opportunity!

Ms. Becca Unruh
Grade 2 

Becca Unruh has been a teacher at Mission Dolores Academy for the past three years in first and second grades. She received her bachelors degree in English at UC Santa Barbara and is currently attending USF for her Masters in Teaching and Reading Specialist Certificate. Her teaching is influenced by the belief that every child deserves the best education and that the teacher and student relationship is an important key to student success. She loves helping kids find the joy and power in learning, and seeing that spark in kids eyes when they discover something new. She believes that writing is one of the most important lifelong skills that students can learn in school, so one of her focuses as a teacher is providing ample opportunities for students to write in the classroom, build strong writing skills, and develop a passion for writing in her students. In her free time Becca likes to be outdoors and she has been a horseback rider since she was five. She is also a dedicated, lifelong San Francisco Giants fan.


Grades 3-6 Team

Ms. Bea Araujo
Grade 3

Bea Araujo is the third grade teacher at Mission Dolores Academy. She has been lucky enough to be part of the MDA community for three years, joining first as a volunteer,  then as an Associate Teacher, and most recently as a Lead Teacher. She studied Creative Writing and Comparative World Literature at San Francisco State before obtaining her Masters Degree at University of San Francisco in Education with a focus in Urban Education and Social Justice. Outside of school, Bea loves relaxing at home with a great book or movie, as well as experiencing all of the amazing museums and restaurants that the Bay Area has to offer.


Ms. Christina Lancaster
Grade 4

Christina Lancaster joins MDA from Aveson School of Leaders, where she taught math, literacy, and Projects-Based Learning to 3rd-5th grade students.   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. Christina is an advocate for Personalized Mastery Learning which centers on collaboration between teacher and learner in order to ensure students are active participants in their education. Beyond teaching, Christina is a poet and maker specializing in the fiber arts.


Ms. Whitney Brezina
Grade 5

Whitney Brezina is the 5th grade teacher. After earning her bachelor's degree from The Pennsylvania State University she moved to San Francisco to pursue a career in teaching. While attending USF for her Masters in Teaching she volunteered at Megan Furth Academy, became the fourth grade teacher, then joined Mission Dolores Academy upon its opening. Her days outside school are spent with her husband and son. They love to take bike rides, enjoying the beautiful parks and beaches San Francisco has to offer.


Ms. Angelina Gonzalez
Grade 6

Angelina Gonzalez is eager to join the Mission Dolores Academy family as a sixth grade teacher. Angelina first earned her Associate degree at Glendale Community College before moving on to receive her Bachelor of Arts degree in Liberal Studies with a concentration in education and political science from Westmont College in Santa Barbara. She was a scholarship athlete in cross country and track and field, and still holds her college record in the steeplechase. She began her career with the St. Mary’s School community in the Chinatown neighborhood before joining Mission Dolores Academy. She believes that her role in the classroom is to guide students in forging connections with their academics, with each other, with our community, and eventually, the world, to enable them to achieve their fullest potential in every facet of their lives. Outside of teaching, Angelina enjoys living an active lifestyle that includes running, cooking, reading, listening to music, and spending quality time with quality people in the greatest city by the bay.


Middle School Team


Mr. Mike Adkins
Grade 7-8 Math and Science

Michael is the Mathematics & Science teacher for the 7th & 8th grades at MDA.  He earned a business degree in marketing and human resources management from Washington University of St. Louis.  After a career in direct mail marketing for non-profit clients, he earned his Masters Degree in Education with a focus in Urban Education and Social Justice from University of San Francisco.  Upon graduating, he has spent the past three years teaching math and science and coaching the boys' soccer team.  He is passionate about his students, and their ability to exceed even the loftiest expectations.  He deeply believes in the ability for each and every student to succeed at the premiere high schools in the Bay Area.


Ms. Michelle Escobar
Grade 7-8 Language Arts & Social Studies

Michelle Escobar has been the middle school language arts and history teacher at MDA for the past eight years. She previously taught first grade for three years before moving onto bigger and better things...middle school!  Michelle spent the early part of her life trying to teach her cat to write. Despite the failed lessons with her cat, she knew she wanted to be a teacher and her passion never wavered. Michelle believes that every child's potential is limitless. In her spare time, Michelle enjoys following her two year old daughter, Bella, while she discovers new things.  If Bella ever allows, Michelle would enjoy to travel, read, and maybe see a movie again.  



Ms. Amy Yang
Kindergarten Associate Teacher


Ms. Aly Lardenoit
Grade 1 Associate Teacher


Ms. Debranna Ray
Grade 2 Associate Teacher


Mr. Chris Lawton
Grade 3 Associate Teacher


Ms. Breanna Barajas
Grade 4 Associate Teacher


Ms. Kendall Jack
Grade 6 Associate Teacher


Mr. Brian McGovern
Grade 7-8 Associate Teacher



Ms. Elizabeth Faherty
Reading Resource Teacher

Elizabeth Faherty is the MDA Reading Specialist.  She has a BA in Middle School Language Arts and a MA in Curriculum and Instruction from the the University of Missouri and did further graduate work in Reading at UC-Irvine. Elizabeth has been teaching since 2001, and teaching reading at Mission Dolores Academy since 2013.  The best parts of her job are being able to work with the individual needs of each student in her classroom, and watching their excitement as their reading abilities grows.  Outside of work, Elizabeth enjoys walking, cooking, volunteering with Pets Are Wonderful Support, and reading...lots and lots of reading!      


Ms. Elena Patiño
Art Teacher

Elena Patiño is an Art Education Specialist with 15 years of experience teaching, working with and building curriculum for young children.  She is highly passionate about Progressive Education and strongly believes in the arts as a vehicle for learning.  Elena, who is a recent transplant from the Washington DC area, holds a Bachelor's Degree in Studio Art from American University in Washington DC  and an MFA in Sculpture and Extended Media from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, MD. She most recently served as Adjunct Professor of Art and Design at Montgomery College and as the Early Childhood and Lower School Studio Teacher at Green Acres School in Maryland.  When Elena is not teaching, she devotes time to her family, to her professional art practice and to explore San Francisco and the Bay Area. You may visit her art website at


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


Fr. Charlie Gagan

Ms. Cat Hunter
Marketing Manager


Ms. Ivana Iacolino
Business Manager


Mr. Francisco Luna
Administrative Assistant/Recruitment and Admissions


Ms. Jenny Sandora
Data Analyst/Executive Administration

Mr. Matt Safranek
Development Director


Ms. Margaret Walden
High School Counselor


Mr. Mike Ward
Director of Student Services/Facilities