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.
Kathleen Schoenecker, Ed.D.
Chair, Board of Directors
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 recently completed a doctorate in Educational Leadership at San Francisco State University. Her dissertation was 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.
Ross Venook, Ph.D.
Secretary, Board of Directors
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.
Kristen Bragg
Treasurer, Board of Directors
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 of Directors
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 of Directors
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 of Directors
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.
Jennifer Tonnis
Board of Directors
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.
Adriana Sanchez-Hurtado
Advisory Board
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.
Andrea Trevino
Advisory Board
Andrea is a past Elevate Tutor and the first to graduate college in her family. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Hospitality, Tourism and Event Management from San Jose State University and adores her current position in the Hospitality Industry as a Sales and Catering Coordinator for a boutique hotel in Santa Clara. Andrea strives to serve as a positive role model for her peers and younger generations by serving her community, continuing to be an active member of different organizations, and constantly seeking and spreading knowledge. Some of the other organizations Andrea contributes to include Sigma Alpha Zeta Sorority Inc. where she has held a variety of positions like Academic Chair, New Member Educator, Treasurer and Secretary, as well as Opportunity Fund where she served as one of Opportunity Fund’s ambassadors.
As a board member of Elevate Tutoring, Andrea hopes to help low-income college students hungry for an education achieve their goals of a Bachelor’s Degree and beyond. Having received a helping hand throughout her own college journey, Andrea has not forgotten how valuable that was to her success. It is a joy to now be extending that same helping hand onto others, especially through an organization that has made such a positive impact in her life.
Joseph Galligan, CPA
Advisory Board
Joseph Galligan is a Burlingame native and President of Galligan Thompson and Flocas, LLP CPA where he specializes in all aspects of tax planning, business valuation, litigation and return preparation, including retirement planning for individuals and business planning for small to medium size companies.
Catherine Bradshaw
Director of Programs and Operations
Catherine is the first full time staff member at Elevate. Previously, she was the Director of Program Development at San Francisco Achievers where she oversaw the organization's development from a scholarship fund to a full-service youth development program. She is a graduate of Harvey Mudd College, with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematical Biology, and a former student of Bob Schaffer's. At HMC, she led the Science Bus program and was an Academic Excellence math tutor. She is thrilled to be working for her mentor again and to be contributing to the future success of such incredible young people.