The Discovery School Staff

Helen Hadani, Ph.D.

Director of Research, Center for Childhood Creativity

As Director of Research for the Center for Childhood Creativity (CCC), Helen authors original research on creative thinking and child development, including the CCC’s white papers Shared Discoveries and Inspiring a Generation to Create. She launched and manages CCC’s on-site research lab at the Bay Area Discovery Museum and partners with U.C. Berkeley, Stanford University, and Mills College to conduct empirical research on cognitive, social, and emotional development, with a focus on creative thinking and problem solving. She brings more than 15 years of experience in research and education settings, including years in the technology and toy industries conducting research with parents and children to develop innovative products at Hasbro, Apple, Leapfrog, and LEGO. Helen received her doctorate in developmental psychology from Stanford University and has taught at U.C. Davis and San Francisco State University. She is the co-author of a chapter on research and museum partnerships in the book Relating Research and Practice: Cognitive Development in Museum Settings.

Michelle Barreras

Interim 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.

Elisa Pagliarulo

Enrollment Coordinator & Lead Educator, The Discovery School

Elisa joined The Discovery School team in fall 2014. She has worked in various roles at the school, including manager, interim director, and now enrollment coordinator and lead teacher. In fall 2015, she spearheaded and taught The Discovery School’s Toddler & Parent Exploration program. Previously, Elisa taught at Cow Hollow School in San Francisco, and Stretch the Imagination in San Francisco and Corte Madera. She received a B.S. in human development with an emphasis in early childhood and a minor in education from University of California, Davis. She is currently working towards her master’s in early childhood education at San Francisco State University.

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.