Support Staff

Innovations Academy is fortunate to have a highly qualified support staff on campus.  These folks are the most supportive, flexible and loving people you will ever want to meet.

  • Jennifer Kuebler

    Staff, Solution Center Counselor

    Jennifer Kuebler,  Solution Center Counselor and an Associated Marriage and Family Therapist

    I have a BA in Criminology and Communication, and a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy.  I am certified in Mindfulness and as a Positive Discipline Classroom and Parenting Educator.  I am also  trained in Non-Violent Compassionate Communication, and Redirecting Children’s Behavior and I have worked with individuals, couples and families as a life coach for over 10 years prior to becoming an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist.

    I have  always had a passion for social emotional education and worked as a founding board member to create a school with a philosophy similar to IA. There, I teamed with parents and staff to develop a climate of collaboration and intrinsically motivated learners. I have also served and worked on the board of several other non-profits, including other schools,  delivering value based guidance to kids and working with them to help them to resolve issues. I currently serve on the Board of Soul Charter High School.

    I collaborated to start the Solution Center at Innovations Academy in the fall of 2011. In the Solution Center students learn conflict resolution, problem solving, communication and other life skills. They also receive counseling and other related support. It is so exciting to experience students learning and using these skills!

    I live in Scripps Ranch with my husband, a teacher and trainer, my 20 year old son (when he is home) and my dog and cat, where we laugh, work, play and have a lot of fun. My son, who attended IA in 8th grade, is currently a sophomore at UC Davis.


  • I am thrilled to be returning for my second year at Innovations Academy. I received a BA in Sociology from The University of Texas at Austin. After graduating I realized my true passion for art and headed back to school for a degree in Studio Art. While taking classes I worked as a Preschool Teacher and volunteered as the Art Coordinator for the Homeless Children’s Playtime Project where I collaborated with a licensed Art Therapist. I quickly recognized the powerful relationship between children and art and knew I wanted to spend my life teaching art.

    I attended one of the nation’s oldest art colleges, the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore, MD, where I earned my Master of Arts in Teaching in Art Education in May, 2014. My student teaching and internships included arts integration in non-art classrooms as well as teaching grades K-8 in the art room. During the summers I was a faculty member at MICA’s Young Peoples Studios where I taught painting, drawing, clay, and mixed media to elementary and middle school students.

    My art and teaching philosophies are grounded in exploration. I believe art opens doors, piques curiosity, and offers ways to say things that might not be possible with words. When students are discovering the possibilities of different materials and making art that is personally meaningful and relevant the process becomes a powerful and transformative experience. I am a practicing artist, working currently in monotype printmaking. Continuing to develop and work as an artist is important for me as experiences in the classroom inform my art making, and discoveries in the studio give me ideas for teaching.  I am a member of the National Art Education Association as well as the California Art Education Association and hold a certificate to teach Art to grades K- 12.

    I was invited to be a workshop presenter at the upcoming California Art Education Association State Conference in Sacramento where I will be presenting a project I did with IA students. I wrote an article for the association’s monthly newsletter that will be published this Fall, highlighting the community mural the 8th graders did this past school year. I cannot wait to continue to work with and learn from the amazing students and teachers at IA.

  • Patrick Murphy-O’Connor

    Staff, Spanish Teacher

    Hola a todos!

    Hi everyone, my name is Patrick Murphy-O’Connor and I’ll be teaching Spanish at Innovations Academy. Even though my name looks very Irish, I was raised in Madrid, Spain. I just moved to San Diego in March because I was lucky enough to meet and marry a great California girl, and now we are both starting a new future in this beautiful city!
    I obtained my teaching degree in Spain, at the Universidad Complutense of Madrid in 2003 and since then, I’ve taught many different age groups from pre-school through middle school. Over the years I’ve specialized in teaching a foreign language, but my method has an added twist. I really like bringing out students’ creativity and originality, and use drama, art and music as my tools. That’s why I’m so excited to start teaching at Innovations Academy; together with the students and other faculty, I know we are going to create a dynamic, multi-faceted Spanishprogram that everyone will be happy to be a part of!
    Outside of school I like playing music– in particular the bass– and am proud to have been able to record an album with my old band (Sunnare) in Madrid last year. I also enjoy skating and surfing the beautiful coast of California, as well as traveling and camping anywhere I can.
    Que ganas tengo de empezar YA…¡nos vemos en septiembre!
  • Mary Zanotelli

    Staff, Nature Studies/Garden Ed

    In case you haven’t heard, I’m a nature nerd!  I have been connecting children with nature as an environmental educator for 25 years.  It’s more than a career; it’s my passion.  I use inquiry-based learning techniques to introduce children to the natural world and to excite them about the wonders of nature.    I have created and implemented curricula for a myriad of diverse audiences as an educator at the San Diego Natural History Museum, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and other nonprofit organizations and nature centers throughout San Diego and Wisconsin.  I am a Certified Interpretive Guide with the National Association for Interpretation.  My Bachelor of Arts degree is in Journalism from Marquette University.  I am a published writer and am currently working on a series of children’s books.  I am also an amateur photographer, and my work has been displayed at several juried art shows.  I enjoy exploring the world, and have traveled to five continents.  I spend my spare time with my two favorite people in the whole world, my 2nd grade daughter and my 5th grade son, and our menagerie of animals

  • Natasha Starbuck-Smith

    Staff, Performing Arts

    I was born in Kent and raised in historic Leicestershire, England. I started dance and theatre at a young age and studied Theatre, Dance, English and Communications at Melton Mowbray college. My parents always encouraged me to travel and try new things and I guess I took it to heart because after working professionally for several years I took an opportunity that brought me to America.

    I lived in New England for almost 8 years and during that time I danced in a contemporary dance company and worked full time in a theatre as an actor, resident choreographer and ran the Children’s Theatre Workshop program, amongst a whole range of other jobs that go along with working in a theatre. During that time I also had the chance to work with various other local theatre companies and school theatre programs.

    My husband and I eventually moved to Los Angeles to pursue film and television, which was fun (you can find me on IMDB) but made me realize that my first love is really theatre and dance. I took a break from Hollywood for a while to pursue a career in fitness and gained 3 national personal training certifications, I worked for 24Hr Fitness and also trained privately for many years. I currently teach Zumba at 24Hr Fitness and also MCAS Miramar.

    Shortly after 9/11 my husband joined the Navy Reserves as a corpsman and after a tour in Iraq, he was stationed on active duty in San Diego, 5 years ago we moved our young family and have been here ever since.

    My daughter entered kindergarten 4 years ago and I have been involved with Innovations Academy ever since, everything from teaching after school classes, working in the classroom, assisting with class plays and performances and even subbing P.E. At the end of the 2013/14 school year, I was invited to run a pilot Performing Arts program in Emily’s 4/5th Grade class, it resulted with the play “Rush” which I wrote for the class about the 1849 California gold rush.

    The mission of the Performing Arts Program is to empower every student with the tools to confidently stand before a crowd and have their voice heard, to provide an artistic outlet and to integrate into the curriculum to enhance their learning experience and support their teachers.

    I think Innovations Academy is an incredibly special learning environment and I am honored to be part of such a dedicated and talented team.


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