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Meet the Team




Meet the Team


Bridgette Spencer

Teaches: Chemistry & AP Chemistry


Ms. Bridgette Spencer is a part of the faculty that focuses in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and her specialty is in Gen. Chemistry here at VAPA. Throughout her five years being a part of the VAPA family, she has encouraged her students to think critically and inductively around them, and strives to make her students feel the same burning passion she felt herself as a student under STEM. Before her teaching career, Ms. Spencer was a MBRS-RISE undergraduate researcher focalizing in Organic Chemistry while working for the MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science and Achievement) Program at Pasadena City College, to encourage and ensure other first-generation college students (primarily for people of color) to get the same adequate resources they need to get degrees in the STEM field. 

When she is not teaching, Ms. Spencer can be found with her bearded dragon, Liz watching anime alongside her husband and son.


Diana Hernandez


Ms. Diana Hernandez is a part of the faculty that focalizes in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) at Legacy VAPA and teaches Biology. Hernandez is an active runner and ecologist.




Sonia Hernandez

Teaches: Algebra 1 & 2


Ms. Sonia Hernandez joined VAPA in 2013 and was a California League of Schools Teacher of the Year finalist.  She teaches Algebra 1, Algebra 2 and Honors Advanced Mathematics. Prior to joining VAPA, Ms. Hernandez was a math teacher at South Gate High School for one semester and Gage Middle School for five years. She holds a bachelors degree in mathematics and completed her teaching credential from Mount Saint Mary's University. 

She lives, works, and grew up in the city of South Gate.  At home she is a grateful wife and a blessed mother of two boys:  a 2020 graduate and a fourth grader.  As a mother and teacher she values each of her students as if they were her own son/daughter.  She wants to encourage students, work collaboratively with parents and colleagues, and share her love of math with all.

Maddy Searson

Teaches: Algebra 1 & 2



Ms. Maddy Searson teaches Algebra 2, Algebra 2 Tutorial, and Algebra 1 here at VAPA. This is her first year at VAPA. Previously, she studied at UCSB, Majoring in History of Public Policy and Sociology. She also worked as a Resident Assistant to give support to students in residential living. In her free time, she enjoys going outdoors, hanging out with her family and friends, and trying new food.




Adrian Shaw

Teaches: Geometry, Precalc.



Mr. Adrian Shaw is one of the math teachers at VAPA HS. He is originally from Minnesota where he attended college for Theater Arts. After that,  he joined the military (Air Force) and spent 4 years in Minot, ND. After moving out to California, he spent several years working at a local casino. He went back to school earning his degree in Math Education from Cal State Dominguez Hills. He has now been teaching at VAPA for 8 years and has been the head of the math department for the last two. 




Elizabeth Fletcher

Teaches: English 9, ELD 1-2,     Expo Comp, Arts Management 



Ms. Elizabeth Fletcher, a member of the VAPA English faculty, is a lifelong learner, entrepreneurial enthusiast, and educator with a passion for service, innovation, and people. More than 15 years’ experience evaluating, designing, and implementing instruction for learners ages 3-63. Seven years’ experience in grassroots non-profit development and leadership, including financial management, marketing, customer service, and community engagement. Proven leader, award-winning instructor, success obsessed, family-oriented, all-around fun person, and loving mom.


Anthony Tamborino

Teaches: English 9 & ELD 1-4


Mr. Anthony Tamborino was born and raised in Stamford, CT and went to college at Syracuse University (where our current president, Joe Biden went to law school). He majored in English and Communications and then moved out to Los Angeles, where he worked in television doing post-production jobs on several TV series for the History Channel and TLC. However, he then remembered that one his dream jobs his whole childhood growing up had been to be a teacher, and he changed careers, getting his master's degree from the School of Education at UC - Irvine. Mr. Tamborino has been at VAPA since 2018 teaching - the ELD, 9th grade and ERWC English courses. He loves books and encourages everyone to pick up a good read when they have the time. In his spare time, he likes to hang out with his partner and two cats in their Long Beach home, play his Nintendo Switch, go bowling, bake desserts, and hike the different mountains in Southern California. Go Legacy Tigers!


Ashley Atilano

Teaches: American/English          Lit., Journalism/Yearbook 


Ms. Ashley Atilano is a first-year English teacher at VAPA teaching American Literature/Contemporary Composition, AP English Language and Composition, and Yearbook/Journalism. Growing up as a low-income Latina, Ms. Atilano had phenomenal educators who took to the time to mentor, support, and challenge her to be the best version of herself. Through the love and support of her mentors, family, and community, she was the first in her family to graduate from college. In 2019, she graduated from The George Washington University with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Then, in 2020, she graduated from Stanford University with a Master of Arts degree in Education and an English teaching credential. She hopes that in her classes students have the opportunity to discover and nurture the voice that they will use to advocate for themselves and their communities.


Stacie Craig

Teaches: Playwriting, Theatre                & Leadership


Ms. Stacie Craig was born to write, since she couldn't sing, dance, or mime. She originates from Los Angeles, where she started her love affair with writing. At the tender age of 6, Stacie wrote her first novel, All About Stacie. Then at 7, she made her theatrical debut in a play she wrote, starred and directed, Magic Shoes. When Stacie was 9 her mother decided to move to Southern Illinois, which is no where near Chicago. Growing up in the Midwest helped Stacie develop her keen sense of humor, because everything is funnier in Illinois. All through high school and college Stacie did the normal tour of duty, as far as writing was concerned; poems, essays, and standards. Then in graduate school she was reunited with her soul mate, theatre. Stacie attended graduate school at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. There she mastered the craft of playwriting and drinking coffee at night. She also discovered she had a passion for television, especially during finals week. It was this passion and her Mustang that drove her back to Los Angeles with dreams of stardom and Oscars. Back in Los Angeles Stacie began working in the glamorous world of television, in entry level positions. She was a production assistant, art department assistant, writers' assistant and casting assistant. Her ability to assist is still unmatched, even by today's standards. Stacie worked in the entertainment industry in almost every capacity, except writer. Therefore, after the birth of her son she gave up her Hollywood career and became a public school teacher in South Central Los Angeles. Although Stacie had given up on working in show business, she never gave up her dream of becoming a writer. In between raising her son and teaching school, Stacie continued to write scripts. As a mother and school teacher with no social life, she and television became friends again. She began writing for children and writing felt like it did in the beginning, fun. These days Ms. Craig finds herself at Legacy VAPA mentoring the next generation of Hollywood and Broadway writers. It's hard for her to believe, after many years in the entertainment industry and in public school teaching, Stacie is another Hollywood overnight success story.

Jeff Poncher

Teaches: English 10, Expo                   Comp, & Sci Fi Lit.


Mr. Jeff Poncher has taught English at Legacy VAPA for several years and is currently teaching 10th Grade, senior English, and Science Fiction. Mr. Poncher performs magic frequently at the Magic Castle in Hollywood. 



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Sara Holland

Teaches: US History & Art


Ms. Sara Holland is an award-winning social studies and art teacher who has been with Legacy Visual and Performing Arts High School since 2013, teaching U.S. History to Grade-11 students; and Drawing, A.P. Studio Art Drawing, Design, and Introduction to Art to students in Grades 9-12. Ms. Holland focuses on social-justice education, and encourages her students to be globally aware critical-thinkers who are civically engaged beyond the classroom. To give her students the skills they need to thrive in college and in the workplace, Ms. Holland continually uses a wide variety of electronic platforms and technologies to train fellow educators and to engage students as they learn. She has led the school in developing interdisciplinary-education curriculum, including creating and implementing the school’s first Humanities program.

Alejandro Avalos

Teaches: World History &            Government/Politics




Mr. Alejandro Avalos teaches all levels of social studies and serves VAPA as the Academic Decathlon coach and teacher. Mr. Avalos is proud of his service as a US Marine and has been at VAPA since 2016.



Nora Prado

Teaches: Spanish




Ms. Nora Prado is another one of VAPA's founding teachers and teaches all levels of Spanish language and literature including Spanish for Native Speakers, Advanced Placement Spanish Literature and Language in alternate years. Ms. Prado regularly integrates art and art history in to her lessons.


Cora Prado

Teaches: Spanish

Ms. Cora Prado has a Bachelors of Arts in Sociology and Spanish and a Master of Arts in Urban Planning from UCLA. Her diverse background has motivated her to teach Adult Education, elementary, and high school. She taught and U.S. citizen classes at South Gate High School, as well as multiple subjects at the elementary level in grades 1, 2, 3 and 5. Cora also served as a Title 1 coordinator for three years at Miles Avenue Elementary and was also assistant principal there for two years. She completed her Master of Arts in Education at Cal State University Dominguez Hills. As a mother of four young children, Cora went back to the classroom and taught sixth grade at Park Avenue EL, focusing her teaching in Social Studies, Ancient civilizations and English for the following six years. Cora then decided to teach high school in 2012 and found her niche teaching Language, Literature and Culture in Spanish. Cora has worked the last nine years at Maywood Academy High School and has enjoyed teaching all levels of Spanish. She also teaches English Recovery classes after school and in the Summers. After five weeks of intense Summer work, she and her family like to travel to other countries and explore new cultures. When not working, you can find Cora and her husband taking their kids to their afterschool activities and attending their sport or school events. For leisure Cora enjoys walking at the park or taking Zumba classes at the local gym.




Bobby Owen

Teaches: PE & Assist. Athletic        Director



Mr. Bobby Owen teaches PE at Legacy VAPA and is the Assistant Athletic Director for the Legacy High School Complex which includes VAPA, STEAM, and ISLC High Schools. Mr. Owen graduated from California State University, Los Angeles, with a BA in Kinesiology after earning an A.S. in Criminal Justice. Mr. Owen is also a veteran of the United States Airforce. He joined the VAPA faculty in 2020.



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Dr. Irene Lara

Psychiatric Social Worker



Dr. Irene Lara, PSW has worked for the district for 21 years, and for Legacy VAPA for about 5 years. She really enjoys working with the staff and students here. She “teaches” students about mental health issues, self-care, and provides mental health counseling. She has her degree as a clinical psychologist, writing her dissertation on “Incorporating aspects of yoga into play therapy.” She is also a licensed clinical social worker having graduated with her masters from University of California, Los Angeles. Her bachelor’s degree is in French language from San Francisco State University. She studies abroad in Southern France during her junior year of college.

She loves dance and live music, yet did not pursue it professionally. She wishes she could be dancing salsa, Folklorico, flamenco, jazz and afro-Haitian styles. During this pandemic, she is learning kizomba. Her favorite places in Los Angeles are (hiking) Griffith Park, the Disney Concert Hall, and the Hollywood Bowl.


Gorety Brown

Counselor: 9th/10th Gr.




Ms. Gorety Brown one of two school counselors at Legacy VAPA.  She has her BA in Psychology and her Masters in School Counseling from California State University, Northridge. She has been working with all grade levels at various sites since 2013.

Griselda Solis

Counselor: 11th/12th Gr./EL        Teaches: AP World History




Ms. Griselda Solis is the 10th and 11th Grade counselor at VAPA as well as working with English Learners and PSAT.


Ariel Legaspi

Coordinator: EL/Title 1/                SSC/Leader in Me/Link Crew


Mr. Ariel Legaspi is the Coordinator at Legacy VAPA in charge of many programs including Title 1, Bilingual/English Learners program, categorical budgets, Link Crew, and Leader in Me. Mr. Legaspi joined the VAPA community in Fall, 2021. 


Frank Turner

RSP Teacher



Mr. Frank Turner is a Resource Specialist Teacher with over 30 years experience teaching at elementary, middle school and high schools grades 6-12 in mathematics, social studies, photography and special education, special day class. He gained administrative experience as a Assistant Principal at Santa Monica High School and Dean of Students in middle and high schools. He attended CSU Dominguez Hills and Pepperdine University earning Master Degrees in Education Administration and in Clinical Psychology. HIs interests are in real estate and yoga.


Bernard Balderas

RSP Teacher



Mr. Bernard Balderas is a Resource Specialist Program teacher at Legacy VAPA.  He attended East Los Angeles Community College, Latin American Bible College, Southern California College, and California State University, Dominguez Hills. He studied Theology and Special Education. Balderas'  experience spans elementary through high school, 35 years in education. He has been with LAUSD for 21 years and this is his third year at VAPA.


Abraham Ruiz

RSP Teacher



Mr. Abrham Ruiz   is a Resource Specialist Program teacher at Legacy VAPA.  He has been at VAPA several years and is in his first year as Department Chair.


John Stoffers




Mr. John Stoffers  is a Teacher Librarian who serves the High School Students at the Legacy Complex in South Gate, California.  He has taught students from Kindergarten to College as well as business clients in private and public schools and institutes in Southern California and San Jose, Costa Rica.  He has a bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of California, Santa Barbara, a Teacher's Credential from California State University, Northridge, and a Teacher Librarian Credential and master's degree in Library Science from California State University, Long Beach.  Mr. Stoffers has visited more than 20 countries and wants to see more.  He is also a musician.  Check the library website


Melany Cardona

Campus Aide




Ms. Melanie Cardona is currently studying at East Los Angeles college majoring in child development aspiring to be a School counselor. Before becoming a campus aide, she was a dance coach at an after school program. Melany enjoys helping others, singing and hiking with her dogs.


Maria Barragan-Franco

PSA Counselor

Ms. Maria Barragan-Franco is the Pupil Services and Attendance Counselor for Legacy VAPA. Her main task to to help all of our students go to school every day and on time!

Irasma Ramos

Support Counselor

Ms. Irasma Ramos is the special populations counselor who specifically assist students who are homeless, in the Foster Care system, or are struggling financially.