Doray Espinosa-Kahny -Teacher
California Montessori Project
Elk Grove, California
Doray teaches at the California Montessori Project. She started out teaching university students in Iloilo City, then moved on to teach all grade levels, including adults, in Japan and Korea. She has worked with various government, non-government, and private institutions in the Philippines such as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Department of Tourism, the Family Planning Office of the Philippines, and the Canadian Urban Institute. She also has media experience, having worked in national and local radio stations, magazines, and newspapers. She is a communication graduate of the University of the Philippines, Diliman, with a masters in communication management from the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication. She holds a teaching credential from the California State University, and is an American Montessori Society credentialed teacher for Early Childhood and Lower Elementary.
Isaac Abello –Aquaculturist/Development Worker
Isaac, “Casi” to friends and colleagues, has over 20 years of extensive experience in the development industry. His fields of expertise are in aquaculture, resource rehabilitation, and environmental management. His work with several international NGOs has directly and indirectly affected the lives of children as he implemented, supervised, and monitored projects and training programs focusing on technology development, economic development, and alleviating poverty in coastal communities and in the countryside. He majored in Marine Fisheries at the University of the Philippines. Casi has a masters degree in Environmental and Natural Resources Management, major in Coastal Management, from the University of the Philippines. Currently, he’s with Rare, an international organization working with Philippine coastal communities to build and improve their capacities to develop, conserve, and sustain their natural environment and resources. He’s married and blessed with a loving son who looks and moves like him.
Joan Iven or, Ai-Ai, has 15 years of corporate sales and marketing experience. But, when she had her son, she decided to shift gears and pursue her first love: teaching and children. She thought this was also the best way to learn parenting and understand her little boy as well. She now teaches Special Education at the Central Philippine University and is president of the Iloilo chapter of the Autism Society of the Philippines. A licensed teacher with a BA in Psychology and Management from the University of the Philippines, Ai-Ai also holds an MBA from the University of St. La Salle, and an M.Ed. in Special Education at West Visayas State University. Her highest priority, however, is being a proud, loving mom to a young boy. She believes that the formative years of children are the most significant in their lives. As a teacher of children with special needs, she knows that for a child, NOW is always and will be the best time. As a Woods and Books volunteer, she has discovered that life has become more meaningful because she’s made a difference.
Stella currently teaches at Sinarmas World Academy in BSD City, South Tangerang, Baten, Indonesia. A former district secretary of Rotary International D-3410 in Indonesia, Stella holds a BA in comparative literature and broadcast communication from the University of the Philippines. She is a Cambridge-certified ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher and trained MYP (Middle Years Programme) teacher. Stella’s multi-colored hats include the following: principal; Rotarian past president; marketing, public relations, and operations manager; underwriter; stage actress and singer; rock and roll disc jockey; newspaper columnist; and producer of rock concerts and beauty pageants. She’s also the very proud mother of Jego (married to Kirstin Dalipe) and Tala, both former Montessori kids, who are now honing their own professional skills and enjoying their hard-earned independence.
Former chancellor of the University of the Philippines in the Visayas, Rommel, is a teacher and a scientist at heart. A mechanical engineering graduate of the University of the Philippines, Diliman, he pursued further studies in physics at Pittsburg State University (MA) and in computational sciences and informatics at George Mason University (PhD), in between writing award-winning research papers, implementing projects, designing computerized systems, and establishing professional networks for education. What little free time he has is spent visiting his daughter who’s now in medical school, intent on finding a cure for cancer someday.
Jim Kahny – Teacher
River Oaks Charter School
Jim teaches second and third grade at River Oaks Charter School in Stockton, California. Stockton and Iloilo are sister cities, but that’s just a happy coincidence. He was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, and lived for a year in Lockhart, NSW, Australia. He served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Banikoara, Benin, where he built elementary schools. Jim taught English in Sendai, Japan; Seoul, Korea; and Odawara, Japan and, with colleagues in Thailand, developed an exchange program between Japanese and Thai teachers of English. He is co-author and contributing author of several English language textbooks for children, teens, and young adults. Despite his peregrinations, he remains at heart a Pacific Northwesterner, and wishes all kids could just go out in the woods and build a fort.
Martin Genodepa – Teacher/Artist
University of the Philippines Visayas
Martin is currently Vice Chancellor for Planning and Development of the University of the Philippines in the Visayas. A self-taught sculptor whose favorite mediums are coral stone and sandstone, he has held several solo exhibits in Iloilo City and Manila for his own artwork, as well as served as curator for exhibits of other Filipino artists. He has received several grants and awards, including the Ford Foundation International Fellowship, the Freeman Fellowship for Asian Artists from Vermont Studio Center, and Outstanding Alumnus in the Visual Arts from the University of the Philippines. He has been featured and gotten favorable reviews from several art publications. He lives in Guimbal, Iloilo. Once in a while, he generously treats friends and guests to sumptuous meals that he plans and cooks himself.
Dorothy Lenore Llariza-Tome – Life Coach
Las Vegas, Nevada
Dorothy (Dot) is a certified Law of Attraction Life Coach and Angel Card Reader based in Las Vegas, Nevada. Dot has done extensive professional and volunteer work in Montessori preschool education (14 years), university graduate school (career English), teacher training, life coaching, and spiritual animation before coming to Las Vegas to remarry. Her current career is “wifing;” that is, being a wife, and using the wi-fi to connect to clients. Dot’s peace and solitude come from her belief that “whoever I am, God IS, and all is well.” Dot holds a Master’s degree in education and a Bachelor’s degree in humanities, but what she holds dear and gives her the utmost degree of fulfillment is motherhood. Her son and daughters are now pursuing their in passions in dance, music, writing, teaching, and design. To them and to her clients, she says, ” Love and live life to the fullest, and trust in the unfolding of the Now, always and in all ways.”
Remia Regalado – Office of the Mayor
Rhemz is our dedicated expert on public service. For decades, she has worn a multitude of hats as member and leader of various teams that organized and prepared agenda, events, reports, proposals, and documentation for national and local government officials. For a time, she set up and supervised a service-oriented enterprise, The Staff Shop, which provided secretariat support for private organizations such as the Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers, the Iloilo Business Club, and the Iloilo Landowners Association. She has a BA in European Languages from the University of the Philippines and is currently serving as Executive Secretary and Chief of Staff at the Mayor’s Office in Iloilo City. Her pride and joy are her children who both started out in Montessori preschools, inspired our toy-giving activities, planted the seed for Woods and Books, and eventually became founding members of our youth volunteer team.
Sylvia Ticao-Garcia – Teacher
Claremont Immersion School
Sylvia is a primary Montessori teacher at the Hoffman Boston Elementary School in Arlington, Virginia. She taught at three private Montessori schools in Iloilo and before joining Claremont Immersion School, a public Montessori school also in Virginia. Prior to teaching, she was a language instructor with a food company in South Korea,worked with the US Peace Corps in the Philippines, and taught at the Bataan Refugee Camp. She sees herself working alongside young children for as long as her knees can hold her up.
Betty is our living link to Philippine history. Her grandfather was the first lighthouse keeper of the Corregidor Lighthouse built by the Spanish in 1853. Her father took over lighthouse duties throughout the American occupation when World War II broke out. The Castillo ancestral home in Bataan was the site of the formal surrender of the US Army Forces to the Japanese after the fall of Bataan. Interestingly enough, Betty now lives in Japan! She has a BA in elementary education from the National University in Manila, taught in Mindoro and Valenzuela, then moved to Japan to follow her passion for singing. For more than twenty years, she has taught English to children, teenagers, and adults in several towns and cities in Japan. Donations from her friends and students made it possible for us to ship our very first Book Box!
Ma. Faith Varona – Architecure Professor
University of the Philippines
Diliman, Quezon City
Faith is one of the founders of TAO-Pilipinas, a women-led non-stock, non-profit, non-government organization of architecture, planning, and engineering professionals that provides technical assistance to the urban poor. She holds a post-graduate diploma in urban and regional planning from the University of the Philippines, Diliman, where she also completed her bachelor’s degree in architecture. She also has an MA in Urban Management and Development from Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Her pet projects include the TAO Resource Center and research on alternative materials and technology.
Rhods G. Solis – Digital Marketing & Social Media
Rhods is our digital marketing and social media expert. This light description of her heavyweight responsibilities doesn’t do her justice, of course. Her experiences and skills are so highly valued that even while currently based in Iloilo City, she’s effortlessly working in three different time zones—Dubai time, US Pacific Standard Time, and Philippine time. She also runs “Escuela de Iloilo,” a design-led arts, crafts, and fashion school with designer PJ Aranador. Tack on teacher, artist, farmer, adventurer, nature activist, and socially responsible entrepreneur to all these, and one wonders how and why she does it all. “I have to work with people that I can learn from, in terms of running a business, entrepreneurship, working with passion.” In short, she works only with the best in order to be her best.
Mitch Espinosa – Creative Artist
You know how some people have that caring, compassionate aura about them and all you want to do is shelter in their warmth? That’s volunteer Mitch Espinosa, erstwhile proud, elite member of the World’s Best Cabin Crew at Cathay Pacific. When not seeing to the comfort and well-being of family, friends, and strangers in need—Mitch lets her creative hands speak for her and to others. Not only does she cook and bake delicious treats, she also crochets cute amigurumi Li’l Creatures. She does all this in her free time, and gives them for free to all who would most benefit from them. Her latest cause is getting the word out to children. “I want to help raise funds for Woods and Books,” she says. “I just tell myself they might make other people smile. Oh, how I wish I had more days off!” A management master in an extremely competitive field of service, Mitch has quietly and effectively shared her expertise with those of us who simply need some good, old TLC—tender, loving care. Now that she’s gearing up for retirement, her wish of having more days off is coming true!