Bob Schaffer, Ph.D.
Founder/Executive Director/Lead Trainer
In creating Elevate Tutoring in March 2011, Dr. Bob Schaffer strove to combine his passion for improving education for underserved communities with his unique experience in teaching others how to teach and tutor. While at Stanford, Bob actively participated in Science Bus, and later created a chapter at Harvey Mudd College (HMC) to inspire underrepresented students to pursue higher education and careers in the sciences. At HMC, Bob grew the program to 70 volunteers visiting five classrooms weekly for six weeks each semester. While at Stanford, Bob was a multiple-award winning teaching assistant (TA) and developed a program to train other TAs within the Stanford Electrical Engineering Department. His TA training program was proliferated to additional departments at Stanford and to other universities around the country. Bob also taught in the Stanford Summer Engineering Academy where incoming women and minority undergraduates prepared for their first semesters. Bob won three service awards for his campus-wide efforts to improve the lives of those around him. Professionally, Bob worked as a professor at Harvey Mudd College (HMC) for two years where he taught six different courses, including two that he created from scratch. Bob’s day job is as a senior research engineer at SRI International where, in addition to doing research, he has managed multiple projects and has won an ‘above and beyond’ award for his dedication. Bob also teaches a quarterly graduate level Electrical Engineering class at Santa Clara University. In his spare time, Bob enjoys playing in and watching sports and participating in and organizing puzzle-based treasure hunts.
Kristen Bragg
Treasurer/Board Member
Kristen has made service to others a part of her life since a very young age, and her dedication to service has guided many of her personal and professional choices. During her undergraduate studies as a Sociology major at UC Santa Barbara, Kristen received many awards and distinctions for her leadership and community involvement in her role as Co-Chair of the AS Community Affairs Board. After college, Kristen served as a VISTA AmeriCorps volunteer at New Perspectives, a non-profit agency in East Palo Alto, where she coordinated a mentorship program and after school program for the local youth. Kristen fell in love with the community and its families and was hired as a staff member when her volunteership concluded. She spent the next six years working at New Perspectives, coordinating many programs involving East Palo Alto youth to empower them and create a sense of service within the community through education, philanthropy, tutoring, and leadership. Kristen then attended John F. Kennedy University and received her Masters in Counseling Psychology in an effort to gain more tools to help others. Currently, Kristen is a California Board Certified Marriage and Family Therapist and continues to work in schools and non-profits in her spare time. Kristen also volunteers at Kara, a non-profit agency that provides emotional support to those grieving the death of a loved one.
Nabeel Ibrahim, Ph.D.
Board Chair/Board Member
Nabeel’s interest in providing educational opportunities to in-need students stems from his own father’s experience growing up and receiving an excellent education in an orphanage in Lebanon. Nabeel and his family have fundraised and built three computer labs at the orphanage, which now educates more than 1000 students. After 11 years in the semiconductor industry, Nabeel is currently on sabbatical to focus on helping Elevate Tutoring expand and become a sustainable organization. Previously, Nabeel held a number of positions at Lam Research, most recently as a Director of Program Management where he led cross-company projects to develop future semiconductor equipment. Prior to that, Nabeel held key roles in business development and management where he drove strategy creation and implementation with Lam’s most critical customer. Before that, he was a Customer Technology Manager, leading a team of engineers to provide last-line-of-defense technical support for over $800million worth of semiconductor equipment at customers around the world. Nabeel holds an M.S. and Ph.D. from Stanford University and a B.S. from Purdue University, all in Electrical Engineering.
Sherry Palacios, Ph.D.
Board Member
Sherry was molded into a teacher at an early age, first through ‘the invention game’ she regularly played with her father and then by each evening talking through her mother’s classroom management problems to find solutions. Sherry later taught high school Biology in Southeast Arkansas with the Teach for America program and was awarded for excellence in teaching at the local, state, and national level for her creative hands-on approach. Sherry earned a BA in Biology with a minor in Marine Science from Smith College, a MS in Marine Science from Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (California State University), and a PhD in Ocean Sciences from the University of California – Santa Cruz. Her research focus is on using aquatic optics to describe meso-scale features in the ocean and to inform the design of future airborne and satellite sensors at NASA. Sherry is passionate about learning through whatever means possible, especially hands-on learning. She credits innovative teachers throughout her public school experience for bringing to life math and science and making them accessible through non-traditional means. She credits her parents, teachers, and generous financial support while at Smith College for where she is today. She is excited to be a part of the Elevate Tutoring board, helping tutors and their students reach their full potential.
Jennifer Pence
Board Member
Jennifer is the founder and owner of the tutoring company Academic Springboard. Prior to that, she was a director of Advantage Testing and tutored independently and with the Harvard Bureau of Study Counsel. Jennifer has over 20 years of teaching experience, including preparing students for standardized tests as well as tutoring various academic subjects and assisting students with admissions to high school, college, and graduate school. She also volunteers her time extensively by providing mentoring, test prep, and admissions consulting through Burlingame Rotary Club, Mountain View Los Altos Scholars, Educators for Fair Consideration, and the Burwen Education Foundation. Jennifer takes pride in helping students of all academic and socioeconomic backgrounds achieve success in school and beyond. Jennifer Pence is a summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Harvard University, where she received an A.B. in Psychology.
Adriana Sanchez-Hurtado
Board Member
Adriana was a past Elevate tutor who graduated from Santa Clara University with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology. She is currently working as an Instructional Aid for the Special Education department and she also works as an Administrator Assistant for an Occupational Therapist at a clinic. Adriana is hoping to go get her teaching credential in the next year or two to be a High School math teacher. She is very passionate about helping low-income students, especially since she came from a low-income family herself. Adriana has been part of a couple of programs such as Alearn and Aim High where she helped provide a free summer learning program to under-resourced middle school and high school youth. Adriana is very thrilled to be an Elevate Tutoring board member because she is able to give back to a program that gave her so much.
Kathleen Schoenecker, Ed.D.
Board Member
Kathleen is a passionate educational advocate. She has worked in education for over a decade as a tutor, grant assistant, instructor, learning disabilities specialist, and academic counselor, mostly within the California community college system. In all of these roles, Kathleen has enjoyed the opportunity to support students from diverse backgrounds beat the odds to achieve their educational goals. Kathleen currently works at Ohlone College, where she is an analyst supporting student services programs. She is also a doctoral candidate in Educational Leadership at San Francisco State University, Her dissertation is on factors that influence the graduation rates of community college students, with a specific interest in identifying strategies to improve the success rates of disadvantaged students. She is pleased to apply her skills in data analysis and program evaluation to help Elevate achieve its goals. Kathleen holds a B.A. in Liberal and Civic Studies from Saint Mary’s College and an M.S. in Rehabilitation Counseling from San Diego State University.
Jennifer Tonnis
Board Member
Jennifer’s opportunities for a high quality education were a direct result of significant guidance and financial support; a fact she has not forgotten. Her education laid the foundation for future career and life successes and could not have happened without the help of others. As a result, Jennifer has dedicated her career, and time outside of the office, to the public sector. Jennifer’s early career was focused on fundraising and development for national nonprofit organizations based in New York City and the Silicon Valley. Jennifer crafted relationships with corporations in areas of casual marketing and corporate sponsorships, new concepts in corporate philanthropy at the time. More recently, Jennifer has served as a consultant to local governments throughout Northern California struggling with budget deficits in the face of a recession. Her work has been instrumental in the development of sustainable budgets while preserving key services to communities. Jennifer holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Mount Holyoke College and a Masters in Public Administration from San Jose State University. She is pleased to utilize her skills of financial development and sustainability to the continued success of Elevate.
Ross Venook, Ph.D.
Secretary/Board Member
Ross’ interest in teaching and learning began at a young age, when he began helping his elementary school friends finish their homework so that they could come out to play. In high school, Ross’ first jobs were as an independent tutor for classmates and as a math tutor at a junior high summer school. Through college, Ross was a peer tutor and mentor for freshmen in the athletic department, and in graduate school he became an award-winning teaching assistant, undergraduate academic advisor, and teaching assistant trainer in the EE department. Also in graduate school, Ross especially enjoyed combining teaching and learning with service for underprivileged youth as a leader of the Science Bus after-school science program. His desire and ability to connect with and help others through teaching and learning has developed through the years, and it continues to be a focus in his life. Ross enjoys the unique challenges and constraints offered by biomedical engineering projects, and he delights in opportunities for collaborative teaching and learning in a problem-solving environment. He is lucky to find all of these as an R&D engineer working on MRI safety of implantable medical devices at a major medical device manufacturer. Before joining Boston Scientific in 2007, Ross received his BS, MS, and PhD degrees in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University. When not working to understand interactions between medical devices and MRI systems, Ross enjoys endurance sports and rediscovering the world from a new perspective with his wife and young sons.


Adivsory Board:
Joe Galligan
Andrea Trevino