The Discovery School Staff

Helen Hadani, Ph.D.

Director of Research, Center for Childhood Creativity

Education and Professional Background: Helen holds a Bachelor of Arts in Cognitive Science from the University of Rochester and a Doctorate in Psychology from Stanford University. She has designed innovative learning products for toy and technology companies including Apple and LEGO, and taught classes on child development at UC Davis and San Francisco State University. She is the co-author of a chapter on research and museum partnerships in Relating Research and Practice: Cognitive Development in Museum Settings (2016). Roles and Responsibilities: In addition to directing the Center for Childhood Creativity’s (CCC) research agenda, Helen authors publications that synthesize academic research on early childhood education for parents and educators. She works closely with staff from the Bay Area Discovery Museum (BADM) and The Discovery School—BADM’s on-site preschool—to share knowledge on creative thinking in young children and guide curriculum development. Areas of Expertise: Helen draws on her expertise in developmental psychology and playful learning to design and evaluate products and experiences that promote children’s curiosity, creativity, and love of learning. She serves on advisory boards for the LEGO Foundation, Nickelodeon Jr., and Goddard Schools and has close relationships with leading academics and researchers who support the CCC’s work.

Michelle Barreras

Head of School, The Discovery School

Michelle joins The Discovery School after having spent the past three years teaching Kindergarten at the Nueva School in Hillsborough. Her professional career in early childhood education includes teaching preschool ages and kindergarten in both the Chicago and Winnetka Public Schools. While teaching in Winnetka, historically known for their leadership role in progressive education, she took part in the early stages of bringing the Reggio Emilia Approach to the Chicago area. In addition to teaching young children, Michelle has presented multiple times, including for the Progressive Education Network (PEN). As a lecturer and student teacher coordinator/supervisor in higher education, and as a mentor teacher in her classroom, she has supported the development of new teacher’s understandings of the value of progressive education for all children. Through her professional affiliations, various conference presentations, and professional development, Michelle is a staunch advocate for play and joy, social emotional learning, and the implementation of a progressive pedagogy in the classroom. Most recently, while presenting at The World Forum in New Zealand, Michelle joined The Working Group on Children’s Rights.

Danielle Dong

Preschool Lead Teacher, The Discovery School

Danielle joined the Bay Area Discovery Museum in summer 2015, developing and implementing curriculum for the museum’s preschool-aged summer camp, Big Discoveries. After receiving an M.A. in museum studies from New York University, she returned to the museum in summer 2016 as a Program Coordinator. Danielle then began serving as a teacher in The Discovery School, supported by an extensive background in museum education and directly paralleling the work of her master’s thesis – an analysis of The Discovery School, the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center, and twenty-first century learning. Prior to working in the classroom, Danielle facilitated classes and tours in fine arts museums, documented and preserved the work of older adult artists, and worked with Jumpstart to provide positive early learning experiences for children from under-resourced communities. She also holds a B.A. in art history and mathematics from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Maria McMillan

Preschool Lead Teacher, The Discovery School

Maria joined The Discovery School in the fall of 2016. Maria comes to us with an Associate of Education in Elementary and Early Education, a Bachelors of Education and a Masters of Education from Nova Scotia, Canada. She has extensive experience teaching children and teaching and mentoring Bachelor of Education students. Maria started her teaching career in multi-grade classrooms with 4-7 year old students. After teaching in three schools and in-serving teachers for the NS Dept. of Education Maria moved to the UAE to teach and train education students at the college level. After teaching in the college and helping place and mentor her students with children in the British and government schools she has come full circle to teach the 3-5 year old children here at TDS. Maria has a passion for children, the Emergent Learning Process and Literacy and Literature Rich classrooms.

Amy DeBvoise

Preschool Assistant Teacher, The Discovery School

Amy joined the Bay Area Discovery Museum as a Museum Educator in the fall of 2016, and joined The Discovery School as an Assistant Teacher in the fall of 2017. She comes to us with an M.F.A. in Children's Literature from Hollins University and a B.A. in Creative Writing from Eckerd College. For the past five years, Amy has cared for, taught, and tutored children of all ages in a variety of settings, ranging from the private home to a Montessori daycare to a democratic "free" school. Alongside her teaching work, she continues to pursue her creative aspirations and write books for children. Amy is passionate about teaching and learning through storytelling, unstructured play, early literacy, and the creative arts. She considers it an absolute honor to be part of the TDS community.