Bay Area Academy Staff
David Foster is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over 28 years experience in public child welfare as a social worker, supervisor, educator and administrator. He was Title IVE Project Coordinator for the CSU, Fresno Social work Program 1993-1997, founding member of the California Regional Training Academy Development and Implementation Project, and Academy Director since 1997. He also currently serves as Staff Director of the Central California area Social Services Consortium (CCASSC), a regional collaborative that links public human service Directors with research, policy analysis, and training support services.
Chris Mathias currently leads the Bay Area Academy, a Regional Training Academy that supports the professional development of Bay Area social services, most specifically in child welfare. She is the former Director of the Title IV-E Stipend Program at the California Social Work Education Center, a consortium of 22 schools of social work, county welfare directors, mental health directors, NASW and the California Department of Social Services. Previously, she worked with children in out-of-home care starting in 1986 first providing direct care, case management, family engagement, case planning and wraparound services. In the 1990’s she worked extensively in the area of staff and program development and training and education for direct care workers in the child welfare system. Her work focuses on the strategic use of partnerships and the development, implementation and evaluation of the workforce development strategies and approaches to improve child welfare and social services. She also provides technical assistance to developing nations in the areas of social work education, training and professional development.
Program Development Manager
Jennifer Buchholz joined BAA in May 2016 and is currently the Program Development Manager. She served with the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) as the Project Director of the California Partners for Permanency (CAPP) project, a five-year federal grant aimed at reducing disparities and disproportionality in California’s child welfare system. Prior to joining state service in 2013, Jennifer lived abroad in several different countries and served with the United Nations and other non-governmental organizations working on the protection and promotion of international human rights focusing on anti-discrimination, indigenous rights and child rights and she brings a global human rights based approach to her work. Jennifer holds a BA in Communications and Exercise/Health Science from the University of California, Santa Barbara and a MA in Human Rights and Social Change from City University London, United Kingdom. She lived in London, Geneva and Kathmandu before the strength and power of family brought her back to California where she lives with her husband and two children.
Workforce Development Specialist
Amabel Baxley, MSW is a Workforce Development Specialist and works with Bay Area Academy-CSUF who partner and support Bay Area Counties with Child Welfare and Resources Family training. She has over 25 years of experience working with children and families in a variety of social services settings in the Bay Area. She worked with San Mateo County Human Services Agency for over 17 years as a Social Work Supervisor and Social Worker. Amabel holds a Master’s degree in Social Work and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology that she received from San Francisco State University. Her experience ranges working in all aspects of child welfare that include program development, direct practice, hiring and training, Coaching, RFA, CMS/CWS, SDM, Safe Measures to implementing new program initiatives. Her passion, enthusiasm and sense of humor provide motivation and insight to training.
Trainer & Coach
Gloria King is the former Executive Director of Black Adoption Placement and Research Center, a private non-profit Foster Family Agency that served both Adoptive and Foster Care Children and Families in 14 Northern California Counties. She earned her Masters’ Degree in Clinical Psychology with a Minor in Speech Communications from Cal-State Hayward, University. Gloria served in the Director role for 25 years. She joined the Bay Area Academy in 2015 as an Independent Contractor facilitating trainings and developed curriculum for “Cultural Humility and the Art of Coaching” and co –wrote curriculum for the “Advanced Art of Coaching”. In October of 2017 she transitioned to a full time employee, serving first as a Workforce Development Specialist with San Francisco County and is currently serving in the position as Resident Trainer and Coach. In addition, Gloria has presented and facilitated trainings at local, state and national conferences in the specialty areas of Cultural Humility, Targeted Recruitment for Foster and Adoptive Families and building Private/Public Collaborations. She has been a guest lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley-Graduate School of Social Work, published an article in the Child Welfare Journal National Association of Social Workers Specialty Practice Section entitled, “The Face of Adoption and foster Care Has Changed: What About Our Beliefs?” and has also served as a Panelist at Stanford University. She comes from a family of nine children and in addition to her parents loving their own children, her parents extended their family and opened their home to serve as a Resource Family to other children for over 19 years.
Workforce Development Specialist
Ventura Cortez is the Workforce Development Specialist working with San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. He is the Bay Area Region Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) lead, supporting counties with their implementation efforts. Previously, he worked with the Regional Project and Alameda County. He also worked with San Mateo County as the San Mateo Training Project (SMTP) Training Coordinator and worked with the Foster Youth Advisory Board in lifting up the youth’s voice in training. Ventura is native to the Bay Area and a UC Berkeley alumnus. He enjoys hiking coastal trails and jogging on the beach.
Workforce Development Specialist
Adreanna Riley has over 22 years of experience in bilingual social work and in the field of training social work staff, eight years of which are at the Bay Area Academy. Adreanna consults with counties on effective implementation of social work practices; manages regional projects, including Advanced Art of Coaching Academy; trains and coaches on Safety Organized Practice, cultural humility and institutional equity. At the County of Santa Cruz, she worked in the Family Preservation Court drug-involved families program. At San Andreas Regional Center, she provided developmental assessments and case management for developmentally disabled children, and mentored new social workers in the field. Adreanna has two children and is an avid hiker, gardener, reader and ocean-swimmer.
10+ years of experience in social service roles have included Early Intervention Specialist, Family Advocate, Behavioral Skills Specialist, and FFA Social Worker. Her training experiences include parent education classes through Head Start and designing and teaching elementary school Spanish classes with 1st through 7th graders. She also trained the Resource Family Approval preservice training in her role as as FFA social worker.
During her Master's in Education program at San Francisco State University, Samyalisa authored and conducted a pilot evaluation of a curriculum for adult learners on holistic family health and early development. She is currently a doctoral candidate in the final year of the Doctor of Educational Leadership program at San Francisco State University. In her individual research, Samyalisa studies the implications of leaders’ views and attitudes on policy and practice in early childhood settings. She is dedicated to using this experience to apply research informed approaches to systemic and individual change in social service settings.
As the resident evaluator at BAA, Samyalisa facilitates the annual Training Needs Assessment, ensures fidelity to BAA's evaluation model, oversees collaborations related to statewide evaluations, and works closely with BAA colleagues to build and support a culture of continuous quality improvement. She is passionate about working with data to inform workforce development, transformation, and quality improvement within social services.
Program Operations Manager
Emily Katz is a licensed MFT and earned her Masters in Counseling Psychology from the University of San Francisco. In the last 10 years she’s worked with late age adults, as well as children and families within Child Welfare. Prior to her work at BAA, she focused on permanency efforts for youth in foster care in San Francisco. In her spare time she loves to travel, bake, cook and she’s an avid runner, finishing the Honolulu and San Francisco marathons. These days, you’ll most likely find her hiking in the East Bay with her Dalmatian or trying to keep up with her toddler.
Angela Giorgio joined BAA as the Southern Training Assistant in February 2014. In May 2015 she transitioned to the Regional Registrar Coordinator position. Prior to BAA she was an entrepreneur in business start-up and operations management. Her time off is spent with family, enjoying the outdoors, cooking and traveling.
Bernadette Malabanan is a San Jose State University graduate with a degree in Psychology. She began working at BAA as a temporary Administrative and Fiscal Assistant. In April 2018, she transitioned to the Event Planning Coordinator role. Outside of work, Bernadette enjoys binge watching her favorite TV shows, trying out new restaurants, and cheering on the Golden State Warriors.
Rachel Mock is Bay Area native and graduated from UC Irvine in 2013. She started at Bay Area Academy in 2014 as a Training Assistant and transitioned to a Program Coordinator in 2017. With a background working in non-profits and a passion for social services around children and families, Rachel appreciates being a part of the BAA family. Outside of work Rachel loves spending time with her cat and dog, and finding new recipes to cook at home.
Cynthia Ramsell worked in media, communications and advertising in the Bay Area before joining BAA. A Fresno State graduate in Media, Journalism and Communications, Cynthia also has a Master of Fine Arts degree in Television Production and Programming from the City University of New York, Brooklyn College. She has produced videos for many organizations, such as Make-A-Wish, A Better Life, Samaritan’s Purse, Hope for Orphans and Children’s Hope International. When not creating communication materials for BAA, Cynthia enjoys spending time with her two children, cooking, traveling, skiing, exploring the Bay Area, crafting and playing the piano.
Natalie Tottenham began working at BAA in August 2017 within the Fiscal Department as Fiscal Assistant and transitioned to the Operations Team as Program Coordinator in September 2018. Her previous work experiences have been in the arts and arts management.
Training Operations Team
Training Operations Supervisor
Shallen L. So’Brien is the Training Operations Supervisor with Bay Area Academy. Her professional background includes 20+ years of extensive training and experience within non-profit and for profit organizations with a focus on mental health and wellness, reproductive and sexual health services, education, training and research. Her educational background includes an undergraduate degree in Business Management and Master's degree in Forensic Psychology. With her ultimate professional goals being to create a non-profit within her community focused on motivational speaking, leadership, wellness, mentorship and healthy development of youth and families, Shallen enjoys being a part of the Bay Area Academy family. In her free time Shallen volunteers at her church and in the community. She also enjoys reading, working out, going dancing, vacationing, having great laughs and adventures with friends and family and trying new things. Her personal philosophy is if we stop learning, we stop living, and she continues to search for knowledge and creative opportunities at every turn.
Kayla Chai is a Training Assistant with Bay Area Academy. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Social Behavior at UC Irvine. Before joining BAA, Kayla was in the ABA field working with children who have special needs. Kayla was also a member of an early education organization that helps preschool students in low income communities develop literacy and language skills. Kayla loves any work related to helping children and is thrilled about her role as a training assistant. Kayla enjoys spending her free time outside, especially near the water, and watching basketball.
Courtney Miller joined the Bay Area Academy in 2016 as a Training Assistant. Courtney has a Bachelor’s degree in Childhood Development from Cal State East Bay. Courtney’s passions include social justice and child welfare, which has motivated her to continue her education with plans to earn her Masters degree in Social Work. She enjoys reading, event planning and outdoor activities with her family. Courtney is proud to call herself a Bay Area native and is constantly inspired by the representation of diversity and creativity in her community. She currently lives in the East Bay with her wife and son.
Glenys Rodeback grew up on the Monterey Peninsula and went to California State University, Fresno to pursue her degree in business administration with a marketing emphasis. While at Fresno State, she joined Pi Sigma Epsilon, a professional fraternal organization in sales, marketing, and management. Through her studies at Fresno State, her association membership and experience working on campus, she gained valuable work ethic skills and administrative experience. Glenys eventually moved back to the Monterey Peninsula and started work as an employment specialist for Monterey County Office for Employment & Training where she taught at-risk youth pre-employment skills training, career exploration, and work placement. She is excited to be part of the Bay Area Academy team and supporting her alma mater. Glenys believes that continual education and personal/professional growth are the keys to personal success. Read a book, attend a training, browse the web or best of all – go outdoors!
Stephanie Rudd has been working as a Training Assistant for BAA since 2016. In addition to her role in the training room, she is responsible for putting together curriculum for all of the BAA trainings that take place. She enjoys contributing to BAA in positive ways such as planning potlucks, birthday parties and activities. She loves that she can bring her dog, Pookie, into work everyday. She also appreciates working with a diverse group of people and being a part of the BAA community.
Pam Verrey is a native of the Bay Area and has been a Training Assistant with BAA since 2016. She has vast experience from working in World Wide Operations as a Planner at Apple, Inc. to being an Admissions Director at an elementary and middle school managing their advertising budget, marketing, and trade shows. Continuing to be part of the education field, especially in Child Welfare, Pam appreciates being part of the BAA family. Leaving the world a better place is part of Pam’s personal outlook and agrees with Daphne Koller (co-founder of Coursera), “Educating even a single person can have a profound effect not only on that person’s life, but also on the lives that person touches.” Outside of work, Pam loves the outdoors exploring the many beautiful hikes in our area and spending time with family.
Teresa Guthrie joined BAA October 2017 and is the Fiscal Assistant. Originally from Oregon, she attended UC Berkeley for undergraduate and ended up staying in the Bay Area. Prior to joining BAA, Teresa worked for the Oakland Unified School District at the school site level and within the Special Education Department. She was also a high school rowing coach in Oakland and Los Gatos for almost a decade. Teresa lives in Berkeley with her husband, two daughters and their dog and enjoys adventures with her family. She is excited to further support the BAA community and mission.
Noel Keirnan is the Fiscal Analyst at BAA. He studied Music at Humboldt State University and for the past twelve years worked in Financial Administration in Academia. He enjoys problem solving and process improvement challenges. He is a classical guitarist and enjoys surfing, reading, black and white movies, and studying Spanish.
I was born and raised in San Francisco. After high school, I owned my own restaurant with a few friends. After a few years, I left the restaurant business to pursue a position with Mervyn’s Stores Headquarters in Hayward. I have over 30+ years Business Administration experience. I accepted a position with Bay Area Academy in August 2015. I love and enjoy the work we do here and the people I work with. When I’m not at work, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, which includes a variety of pets I have collected over the years. I really enjoy the simple things in life that make me smile and that’s what brings me happiness.