Da Vinci Center for Gifted Children

Catherine Cook, MSEd, Ed.D.       

Head of School/Founder Da Vinci Center

                                        Teacher and Site Administrator

Dr.Catherine is an award winning teacher and administrator.  She won Teacher of the Year 2000 for the San Leandro Unified School District and Professional Woman of the Year 2011 from the National Association of Professional Women for her work in gifted education.

Dr. Catherine has taught students from elementary school to the university level and she has been a teacher and educational administrator for twenty-five years
She holds an Honors BA (Honors) in English and Philosophy from the University of Western Ontario; she earned her K-12 teaching credential as well as Masters of Science, Education degree (with a focus on statistics and educational research) from Canisius College in Buffalo, New York.  She is completed her doctorate in Educational Leadership at Saint Mary's College of California. Her dissertation was on cultural whiteness and preparing preservice teachers for the success in the diverse classroom.

Dr. Catherine is the mother of a fifteen year old profoundly gifted son.

Catherine's areas of specialty are Gifted Education, Educational Administration, Educational Leadership, Cultural Diversity, Equity and Access, English, English As A Second Language, Curriculum Design and Professional Development.  She also specializes in 2E gifted children.


Emma Pigott, BA                            Assistant Principal   

                                                     Art/Social Studies Teacher

Ms.Emma received her dual honors B.A. in Geography and American Studies from Keele University in Staffordshire, England, a multidisciplinary degree combining social and physical geography with American history, politics, literature and film.

Ms. Emma comes to us with over 10 years of experience working one-on-one and as a classroom art teacher in AUSD elementary and middle schools with students ages 5-12.  She has also worked in marketing and social media, authoring a weekly blog for her family business in the fitness industry.  She is our Art and Social Studies teacher.

Ms. Emma, her husband and four children live in Alameda.  Ms. Emma is a kind, compassionate, emotionally intuitive and loving teacher clearly dedicated to the success and creative growth and development of self expression in every child.   

Dr. Vinothini Balasubramanian, PhD                               Science Teacher

Dr. Vino received her BS in Chemistry from Bharathidasan University in India, and received her MS in Chemistry and PhD in Materials Chemistry from the University of South Dakota.  
She has been an instructor for the Summer Institute for the Gifted at UC Berkeley, and she has run an educational company that offers afer school programs for children aged 5-15.  Dr. Vino lives with her husband in Hayward.Our students love her hands-on high level science classes and are particularly excited about her AI class for Friday enrichment!
Dr. Tom Howard, PhD                  Math and Physics Teacher

´Dr. Tom received his PhD in mathematics at University of California Santa Barbara and a BS in physics from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

´Dr. Tom is our math and physics teacher. Historically, the subjects of math and physics have grown up together and to this day there is a strong interchange of ideas between the two fields. Dr. Tom has taught math and physics for over 10 years, working with students from elementary school through university, and is passionate about sharing the beauty and power of these two fields of study, understanding how they shape the world around us, and discussing the cutting edge research being done by the mathematicians and physicists of today.

Dr. Luis Ibanez De Garayo, PhD                     Spanish and Forest Cloud Teacher
Dr. Luis earned his PhD in Environmental Informatics at UC Berkeley, as well as his Master's Degree in Forestry from UC Berkeley.  Dr. Luis earned his undergraduate degree in Engineering and Agriculture at Universidad Publica Navarra in Spain and his Superior Engineer degree in Forestry from Universidad de Lleida.
Dr. Luis' areas of expertise include:
10+ years Linux administration 10+ years computer programming: Python, Javascript, R, SQL Python environment: Web2py, Django, Pylons, SQLAlchemy, Modpython, etc Web Programming: HTML5, CSS3, jQuery, REST, AJAX, App Engine Geographical Information systems: ArcInfo, Grass Databases design and management: MySQL, GAE, DBF, SQLite Metadata Languages and Web 2.0 languages and protocols Mathematical modeling and engineering  Spatial, temporal, and multi-variable statistical analysis Operational Research: linear, non-linear and dynamic programming Silvicutural methods and forestry management Urban forestry and gardening planning and management. Micro-economy and budgeting  Environmental History International environmental conventions.
Dr. Luis has also been a soccer coach as well as a volunteer in the Berkeley Unified School District where his two children attended school. He is a native Spanish speaker and lives in Berkeley with his wife and both of his children are now in college.
Dr. Luis if our Spanish and Forest Cloud Teacher.
Ms. Kirsten Evans-Orville                                           Parent Librarian                                                                               
Miss Kirsten is a life long bookworm, and lover of stories. She has a B.A. from Yale University and a Master or Liberal Arts from Naropa University. Her Master’s thesis was on the transformative power of stories.  Her favorite thing is connecting readers with books they love, and giving them the skills to find those books on their own as they grow and learn. She recognizes the challenges for sensitive, asynchronous, and 2E learners and helps them to discover the books that resonate with them.
Ms. Kirsten's daughter Rachel graduated from Da Vinci last year, and her son Liam will be attending his last year in 2020/2021.