Meet St. Justin School Teachers!

Meet the Teachers!

Preschool Director, Mrs. Shannon Barela

Shannon Barela worked as a preschool teacher at St. Justin for seven years before taking over the position of Preschool Director. She grew up in Massachusetts and moved to California when she was eleven. She graduated from Sequoia High School in Redwood City and attended San Francisco State University.  While working for a merchandising company, she decided to change her career path and go back to school to study Child Development. She has been working in this field for the last eighteen years and feels truly blessed to have found her passion. She is married and lives in Santa Clara with her family. Both of her children graduated from St. Justin. They are an avid sports family and enjoy rooting for our local teams.

Pre-K Teacher, Mrs. Merry Kaelani

Merry Kaelani migrated from Indonesia in 2003 after earning her Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Bina Nusantara University in Jakarta and working for 12 years in accounting. She found another rewarding field of work when she came to the US, as a teacher for young children. She studied Early Childhood Studies and earned an AS degree from Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria. She has been teaching young children since 2006 and holds a Child Development Site Supervisor Permit. Her prayers to work with young children in a Catholic school were answered when she started teaching at St. Justin. Since then, going to work has become something that she looks forward to every day. Her love for teaching and sharing her Catholic faith also led her to become a Catechist at St. Justin Parish. She and her husband have been married for 22 years and have 2 sons who study at San Jose State University and UCLA.  In her spare time, she relaxes by sewing.

Kindergarten, Mrs. Mildred Garcia

Mildred Garcia migrated from Manila, Philippines, in 2001. She graduated from the University of the Philippines-Diliman campus with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Law. She practiced law for 10 years before contemplating a shift in her career to Early Childhood Education. It was not until their family migrated here to the Bay Area that she was given the opportunity to pursue her “dream.” Her career as an educator includes working as a K-1 Instructional Assistant, a Resource Specialist substitute, and a preschool teacher. She holds a Child Development Master Teachers Permit and Site Supervisor Permit. She has also completed graduate courses in Early Childhood Special Education and the Reading Certificate Program with UC Irvine-Extension. Her passion is her family, which includes her husband and two daughters. When she can find the time, she loves to watch TV or a movie with her family or curl in bed with a book.

First Grade, Mrs. Kathy Moore

Mrs. Kathy Moore is celebrating her 32nd year of teaching! Her experience includes 29 years of teaching first grade — 25 of them here at St. Justin School — and 3 years teaching kindergarten. Kathy received a B.A. in General Humanities as well as her Clear California Teaching Credential from Santa Clara University. She most recently completed the Catholic Leadership Program at Santa Clara University, giving her a master’s degree within the Diocese of San Jose. Kathy’s interests include gardening and traveling with her husband of 36 years. They have two grown children who have both graduated from St. Justin School.

Second Grade, Mrs. Kathy Foley

Kathy Foley is a life-long Santa Claran and is the product of local Catholic education. She is a graduate of St. Clare School, Notre Dame High School, and Santa Clara University. At Santa Clara, she received a B.S. in Psychology and an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Education. She holds both a California Multi-Subject Teaching Credential and a credential in Special Education. She has worked in the Diocese of San Jose for over twenty years and has taught second grade at St. Justin School for twelve years. Kathy is married to Matt, and their three children are graduates of St. Justin School. Her daughter is a recent graduate from Cal Poly University, San Luis Obispo, and her twin sons are seniors in college–one at Pacific University and the other at University of Portland.

Third Grade, Ms. Tracey Gioia Aguilar

Tracey Gioia Aguilar was born and raised in Miami, Florida. After completing her bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Fine Arts from the University of Florida, she moved to the west coast to attend California State University, East Bay. There she earned a master’s in Clinical Counseling as well as a Clear California Teaching Credential. Tracey has been teaching at St. Justin School since 2000. She has three grown children, all St. Justin alumni, and her interests include drawing, painting, playing the piano, traveling, and cooking.

Fourth Grade, Mrs. Gloria Los Baños

Gloria Los Baños is a product of Catholic education, born and raised in Mountain View. She spent 14 years working in environmental markets and high tech/marketing and sales before returning to her first love — education. Gloria became a middle school catechist at the age of 16, taught 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade, and served as Curriculum Coordinator at St. Joseph Elementary School in Mountain View. She earned a B.S. from San Jose State University and received her Professional Clear Teaching Credential with CLAD certification from National University. Gloria loves to spend time with her family and sings in her church choir. She lives in Mountain View with her husband, Chuck.  Her son, Marcus, recently graduated from San Jose State University.

Fifth Grade, Mrs. Ria Amidon 

Mrs. Amidon was born and raised right here in Santa Clara. She attended St. Justin School, Presentation High School, and then earned a B.A. in Liberal Studies with a minor in History at Santa Clara University. She holds a California Clear Teaching Credential with CLAD certification. This is Mrs. Amidon’s 22nd year of teaching, nineteen of those years happily spent at St. Justin. Before coming to Justin to teach fifth grade, she taught preschool, as well as first, third, and fourth grade at public schools in San Jose. Mrs. Amidon is married to an amazing man named Andrew. Mr. and Mrs. Amidon enjoy watching movies, walking around the mall, riding bikes, and going to San Jose Sharks games. Go Sharks! Mrs. Amidon loves to bake and has three dogs. She looks forward to coming to school every day and seeing her students’ smiles and eagerness to learn.

Sixth Grade/Religion, Ms. Alicia Aguilar

Alicia Aguilar is a California native and has lived in San Jose for most of her life.  She attended Notre Dame High School in San Jose and then earned her B.A. in English with a minor in Philosophy at Saint Mary’s College of California.  After college, Ms. Aguilar moved to Japan where she taught junior high English for one year. When she returned, she earned a California Clear Teaching Credential with CLAD certification at Saint Mary’s. She recently earned her master’s in Pastoral Ministry from Santa Clara University as well. This is Ms. Aguilar’s nineteenth year of teaching, twelve of which have been here at St. Justin School.  Prior to teaching at St. Justin, she taught sixth grade at a public middle school in San Jose.  In her spare time, she enjoys being an active member in her parish, going to San Jose Giants games, and spending time with her family and friends.

Seventh Grade/Eighth Grade Social Studies, Mrs. Megan Shimada

Megan Shimada was born and raised here in San Jose. (Go Sharks!) She is a graduate of St. Martin of Tours, Archbishop Mitty High School, and St. Mary’s College, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history. From a young age, Megan knew that teaching was her calling in life, and with guidance from family and a few wonderful teachers, she went on to earn her Single Subject Credential in Social Science at San Jose State University as well as her Masters of Education degree in Educational Administration at Santa Clara University. Megan has taught language arts for the past five years at Holy Spirit School, and is thrilled to be teaching middle school language arts and social studies at St. Justin. 

Eighth Grade/Sixth Grade Language Arts, Ms. Carole Such 

Carole Such grew up in San Mateo, California, and has lived in Santa Clara since 2002. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California (Fight On, Trojans!) and heeded the advice from a favorite literature professor to follow an education career. Thank the good Lord for good teachers! She then earned her Clear Credential from San Jose State University, a tradition that followed in the footsteps of her grandmother, and has been working with children ever since. She began teaching in 1993 with an emphasis in middle school language arts and social studies.

Junior High Math/Science (4-5), Mrs. Elizabeth Bennett

Elizabeth Bennett was born in Salinas and grew up in Soledad, California. She graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo with a degree in Liberal Studies and remained there to earn her Clear California Teaching Credential. Elizabeth taught math for 5 years before taking a break to have a family. She returned to teaching and is in her 13th year at St. Justin School. Elizabeth enjoys reading, baking, backpacking, hiking, and biking. Elizabeth is married to Doyle, and they have two boys, ages 18 and 20.

Junior High Science, Mrs. Pam Emeahara

Pam and her husband of 26 years relocated to the Bay Area from Baltimore, Maryland.  They have two children, Samantha Adaeze, 25, who graduated from Cal State University, Fullerton in Fullerton, CA and is currently pursuing her masters at Hope International University in southern CA and CJ, 22, who transferred to Norfolk State in Norfolk, VA this fall.  Pamela was born and raised in Saginaw, MI where her curiosity for science was piqued in an advanced high school biology class.  She received her B.A. in Biology from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.  After settling in the Bay Area, she entered the Teaching Credential program at National University.  She spent the last twelve years teaching middle school science in the Diocese of Oakland at St. Elizabeth Elementary School, a Dominican School.  She enjoys reading, particularly fiction and historical novels.  Family and friendships are important to Pam as she strongly believes they have nurtured her growth spiritually and otherwise.  She also enjoys traveling to new places and meeting people of different cultures and ethnicities.

Junior High Spanish, Ms. Belinda Cañas-Karazija

Belinda Cañas-Karazija’s students know — she was born in Texas in a town called Sonora but her name is señora. 🙂 Although born in Texas, Belinda was raised in San José and earned a B.A. and an M.A. from Santa Clara University. During her junior year at Santa Clara she studied abroad at the University of Madrid. Although she always knew she wanted to teach, it was during her time in Madrid that she became certain teaching Spanish was her goal. It has become one of her passions. She has 3 grown children: Ryan, Erin, and Lauren. Ryan lives in Iceland and tours the world with his band. Erin is a middle school math teacher in the Diocese and Lauren is attending graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin. She is most proud of them!
 Belinda enjoys family time, sports, and being active. She’d climb Half Dome any day! ¡Vámanos!

Physical Education/Computers, Mrs. Lisa Sarsfield 

Lisa Sarsfield is a lifetime Sunnyvale resident and has taught physical education at St. Justin School for 30 years. She also teaches computers to the primary grades. Lisa received her B.S. in Physical Education with a minor in Philosophy as well as her teaching credential from San Jose State University. An avid sports fan, she loves to watch and play most sports.  She also enjoys all kinds of music and likes spending time with her family. Lisa is married to Tom, who directs recreational tennis programs and teaches tennis lessons both privately and for Stanford University. She is mom to three sons.  Her youngest is severely autistic which gives her a unique insight on the world of special education.

Music, Ms. Judy Bayse 

Ms. Bayse has been teaching music to junior high, elementary and preschool students for over 2o years.   She started at the preschool level and went on to docent with the Music for Minors program at her children’s elementary school after completing the 55 hour training.  She coordinated the Music for Minors program before creating her own Music program for Cumberland School in Sunnyvale. Recently she has taught at Nativity, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and St. Elizabeth Seton.  She has also served as Music Director for Peninsula Youth Theatre and Angels on Stage, a performing arts group for special needs children, ages 8-22.  She has a B.A. in Broadcast Communication Arts and is a singer/songwriter with her own cd, Purple Cow.  She has 2 grown daughters–one in Texas, and one in Georgia.  

Athletic Director/Algebra, Mr. George Santich 

George Santich has always been at the heart of the Saint Justin community. With his kindhearted yet stern approach to teaching, he has positively affected the lives of many, both as an educator and as a coach. Mr. Santich earned his Bachelor of Applied Science (BASc) in Biology in 1966 from Santa Clara University and started teaching at Patrick Henry Public School.  He then taught at St. Lawrence for a year before coming to St. Justin School in 1970.  The community has been very fortunate to have him here the past 49 years! In addition to teaching algebra, Mr. Santich serves as St. Justin’s Athletic Director and coaches football, basketball, softball, and track. His hobbies include gardening, taking care of his chickens, rowing, crocheting, and playing basketball.

Accelerated Math (5th, 6th & 7th grade)/Science (K-3), Mrs. Ginny Orlando

Ginny Orlando was born in Mountain View and then moved to Massachusetts when she was a child. At the age of 16, she moved back to the Bay Area and attended St. Francis High School before heading to the University of Pacific in Stockton where she earned her B.A. in Liberal Studies/Education with an authorization to teach mathematics up to 9th grade. During college summers, she worked in preschools and in the daycare industry. After college, she became the Assistant Director and then the Director of a daycare before being hired by St. Joseph of Cupertino School as the 8th grade homeroom teacher. She spent 7 years teaching 6th, 7th and 8th grade math, 8th grade religion, 8th grade social studies and 7th and 8th grade music. While teaching, she went to Santa Clara University and earned her Masters in Educational Administration. In her last year at St. Joseph of Cupertino, she also served as the Vice Principal. After spending the last several years at home focusing on raising her family, Ginny has opted to return to the classroom now that all of her four children are in school–two at St. Francis High School and two here at St. Justin.

Learning Resource Teacher, Mrs. Mary Hyginus

Mary Hyginus has been teaching in the Diocese of San Jose since 2001, at both the elementary and middle school level. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in English from York University (Toronto, Canada) and a Master of Education degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Santa Clara University.   She and her husband, Kaz, have four children; three of whom graduated from St. Justin School and one who is currently in 6th grade.  Her interests include running, home decorating, watching YouTube videos and singing with the St. Justin Church choir.  After teaching in four schools in the Diocese from Los Altos to South San Jose, she is thrilled to be working in her own parish and school community.  It’s a great feeling to be working where you feel at home!

Vice Principal, Mrs. Barbara Kelly

Barbara Kelly is a California native and has lived in Santa Clara for over 30 years. She has taught at St. Justin School for over 18 years, with experience in both 3rd grade and middle school in addition to her current role as Vice Principal. She received a B.A. in Theater Arts from San Jose State University and earned her Clear California Teaching Credential from Santa Clara University and UCSD. Barbara’s interests include cooking, reading, traveling, and baking anything that includes chocolate! She also enjoys the stage and can be seen in local musical theater productions. Barbara is married to Bill, the City of Santa Clara’s Fire Chief, and they have four children who have all graduated from St. Justin School!

Principal, Ms. Karen Suty 

Karen Suty is a local girl, born and raised in San Jose. She spent over a decade working in high tech (marketing and public relations) before returning to her first love — education. Karen became a middle school catechist at a young age, taught 2nd grade, and served as vice principal at St. Lawrence Elementary School and Holy Spirit School. She has her B.A. from San Jose State University and received her Teaching Credential, Catholic Leadership Certificate, and M.A. in Educational Administration from Santa Clara University. Karen loves to travel, spend time with her family, and play card games. She lives in San Jose with her dog, Lexi.