CCA Newsletter 2022


Meet Nick the Nurse!

cca image 1 NickNick Melesko is CCA’s nurse, and you can find him in the first-floor Health Office helping students in a variety of ways. It’s Nick’s fourth year at CCA and he’s happy to be serving such a diverse community of students and families, with a workload that he says “keeps me on my toes.”

Nick grew up in southern Connecticut near the ocean and enjoyed what the four seasons had to offer -- snowboarding during the winter and beach activities during the summer. As a kid, he did a lot of outdoor exploring, hiking, and camping with his parents and older brother.

Before Nick became a nurse, he was very interested in the arts but realized it would be difficult to pursue a sustainable career as a musician or artist. He majored in Computer Science in college but found it boring. Having always had an interest in medicine and the human body, he looked into becoming a doctor but wasn’t ready for all that schooling. He found nursing to be a great fit. “I was able to learn an extensive amount about medicine and healthcare but was also able to have a balance of family and home time,” he explains.cca newsletter vol1 pic 2

He met his wife in nursing school and has two sons – three-year-old Aster and one-year-old Orion. “I know the feeling that my own kids have when they need help, and can deliver that same feeling to students, staff and families at our site,” he says. His wife is also a school nurse in San Diego Unified School District, and they have fun sharing experiences as nurses at their different schools.

Nurse Nick sees his role here as focused on healthcare and wellness not just for students, but for anyone who needs it. “I enjoy helping people feel better, maybe learn something new about themselves, provide first aid and be a reliable person that students and staff can trust to look out for their best interest.”

cca newsletter vol1 pic 3The primary responsibility of the school nurse is to oversee the health office and provide first aid or attend to the needs of anyone who walks through the door. But Nick says that is just a small part of his overall role, which also includes assessments, case management, parent outreach, screenings and immunizations, referrals, clothing supplies, staff supplies, medication, coordination with doctors and parents, Covid screenings, and staff training.  “I am passionate about what I do because at some point, all of us need help,” he says, “especially our population of youngsters that look up to adults for that help. To help a kid feel better after an injury or have a safe place to rest when feeling sick makes me happy and hopefully the student and the parents of that student as well.”

Outside of school, being a dad takes up most of his time but when he can, he enjoys surfing, mountain biking, sailing and snowboarding. And he still loves nurturing that artistic side. “I also spend a bit of time playing guitar and making music, as I have been playing instruments such as violin, trumpet, and drums since third grade.” 

If you want to stop by and say hello to Nick, the Health Office is located across the hall from the main office in Room 13.


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Promoting Peace on Campus


newsletter pic Jen Meet Jen Gutierrez

Peace Educator and Mentor

TKF - Tariq Khamisa Foundation


The TKF Program is up and running in room 827 on the second floor of the new CCA building. Heading up the mentoring program is Jen Gutierrez, in her first year as a Peace Educator Mentor for the nonprofit. Jen started as a peer mentor in high school in Chula Vista, where she grew up, and was a behavioral technician before starting her role at CCA. “The ability to continue this work as a profession is mind-boggling and truly a blessing,” Jen said.

 TKF is a nonprofit dedicated to transforming children’s lives and creating safer schools through education, mentoring and restorative principles of accountability, compassion, forgiveness and peacemaking.

 The origins of TKF run deep. The nonprofit was founded after the murder of a pizza-delivery college student at the hands of then-gang member Tony Hicks. Hicks was merely a teenager but was tried as an adult, convicted and sent to prison. The grandfather of Hicks and the father of the murder victim, Tariq Khamisa, came together in forgiveness to help other young people break through cycles of violence and find peace. Jen still vividly remembers experiencing a TKF Assembly when she was a Chula Vista elementary student. “Reflecting back and realizing how the story of Tony Hicks has stayed with me has made all the difference -- to learn forgiveness and healing at such a young age.”

 Jen’s role will be to help mediate student conflicts, address behavioral incidents or support a struggling student in need of a timeout. She has always been drawn to helping others and says her family’s involvement with the church was the most defining part of her childhood. “There are countless memories of community services and gatherings that have shaped me,” she says, “and involvement in these events at such a young age influenced my passion to help others.”

 Jen sees her role at TKF as instrumental in helping to shape the lives of young students. “With my own personal and mental struggles as a kid, it’s only natural for me to empathize with kids today. Supporting their needs is rewarding to me.”

 You can find Jen in room 827 in the new building on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. She’s typically out during recess and lunches. Stop by and say hello!

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Hope Mitchell photo

Hope Mitchell

ESA and Woman of Many Talents


In case you’re wondering, ESA stands for Elementary School Assistant and for Hope Mitchell, it’s one of many roles she’s filled since working at Clairemont Canyons Academy. She began subbing at CCA as the Attendance Clerk in 2019 and also subbed as the Enrollment Clerk until she was hired permanently as a School Clerk in August 2021. Prior to that, she worked in the classroom for 18 years in Behavior Support Resources. Hope took over the position of ESA when it was vacated at the end of last school year.

 What may surprise you about Hope is that she holds a Master’s degree in Professional Counseling. She debated working in the counseling field after receiving her degree but decided to come back to work in the CCA office. “It wasn’t as easy as I thought to find a job after I graduated, so I came back to the district. When I started working in the CCA office, I enjoyed it. I feel that I’m able to bring some of what I learned as a Behavior Support person and as a Counseling graduate to the workplace.”

 Ever inquisitive as a child growing up in Southeast San Diego, Hope still loves learning new things. But it’s the family connection that really resonates with her in her role as ESA. “I love working directly with our families and I didn’t want to lose that. I’m able to assist the school site, staff members and families every day, and I love it. I’m adding new tools in my tool belt and the staff is very supportive as I learn.”

 Hope also acts as Safety Patrol Coordinator on campus, assisting Officer Timothy Vollmar with leading and instructing Safety Patrol students. “I assist when they go out in the morning and afternoons to work, making sure they are on task and communicating with parents.” She also sets up weekly schedules and celebratory events to reward them for their service. “I was in Safety Patrol when I was in elementary school and had a great time doing so,” Hope shares.

 When Hope isn’t on campus, she enjoys reading and coloring, as well as spending time with her daughter who’s graduating high school this year. She is also active in two community service groups: Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and the Order of the Eastern Star.

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Jay Leach Is Your School Counselor    

Jay Leach

Jay Leach has embraced education for his entire 39-year professional life! His first teaching job was at a high school in the 1980s, teaching Government and History. “I remember students would argue about who was better – Michael Jackson or Prince,” he quips. He then went on to become a Special Education teacher in high school, working with emotionally disturbed students. After that, he taught at a K-12 school at a psychiatric hospital, then went on to become a school counselor for 21 years. For the past 9 years, he’s worked at the elementary school level. 

Jay was drawn to counseling after a tumultuous childhood in LA’s San Fernando Valley with adoptive parents who struggled to take care of him. He spent a year in foster care and then ended up homeless at 18. But Jay persevered through tough times and passed the GED and joined the Air Force, serving four years before enrolling in college. He graduated from Texas A&M Corpus Christi in 1983 with a Master’soffice pic degree in Counseling and moved back to California in 2006. He’s been here ever since.

As CCA’s school counselor, Jay helps students in three ways: He teaches social and emotional counseling lessons in the classroom, he holds small group interventions, and he works one on one with students in the counseling office. He offers an extensive list of resources on his website for parents and helps those going through hard times while trying to direct them to community resources that can help.

Any student can make an appointment with Jay in his office, and he’s also available to meet with students on a regular basis with a parent’s permission if they’re under 12. Students also come to him by referral from the principal.

The challenges facing young children today are myriad – including an increase in broken homes and childhood anxiety, awareness of sexual issues at a younger age due to the internet, and social pressure and bullying due to social media and gaming chat rooms.

office pic 2Jay remains passionate to help kids overcome these problems every day. “I have spent my career trying to help hurt children heal from the problems life has thrown at them. What else can give you that kind of satisfaction?”

Outside of school, Jay loves to read about theology, biblical archaeology and ancient history. He also has a “fiction addiction” to science fiction and mystery books. He was a professional musician for many years, singing lead vocals and playing rhythm guitar, bass and drums as a solo act, in duos and in bands. Video games are also an obsession, especially Minecraft, Metroid Dread and Splatoon 3.

You can find Jay in the Counseling Center in room 62 on the second floor 7:30 am – 2 pm on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, or by appointment before or after school. Visit his website for some great resources for students and parents at

CCA Newsletter Volume 5

Mrs. Wehsener and Her Facility Dog, Clyde

Mrs. Wehsener

Karin Wehsener has been a special education teacher at Clairemont Canyons Academy for eleven years, teaching moderate and severely disabled students. Before that, Karin taught kindergarten, first and second grade. But she knew she had found her place when she began special education. “I like to say that special education found me. Had someone told me when I was younger that this is what I’d be doing, I would have laughed and said, ‘Not me.’ Now I can’t imagine doing anything else.” And she wouldn’t want to do it anywhere else than CCA. “I’ve met so many dedicated staff members and learned so much from everyone. Best of all, we have the most amazing students! My role as a teacher is to ensure that students grow to love learning,” she says.

As a kid, Karin had the wonderful experience of growing up on both coasts. She was born in San Diego but her family moved to western New York when she was young. She has fond memories of being in the snow during the winter, playing outside in the woods of her backyard, as well as fishing and crawdad-hunting in the creek in the summer. “My Italian family all lived on the same street – my grandparents, two aunts and uncles along with my cousins. We had family dinner together on Sunday afternoons and helped in my grandpa’s large garden. We spent most holidays together,” she recalls. Her family moved back to San Diego in tenth grade where she attended Madison High School and then San Diego State before becoming a teacher. Karin has been married to her high-school sweetheart, Chris, for 29 years and has four children ranging in age from 20 to 25.

cca newsletter image 2 dog and student

Karin considers herself lucky to work with most of her students for a six-year span, teaching TK through fifth grade. That means she gets to know not only the student, but the family very well. “I get to watch them grow and change so much. I work to challenge, push and encourage my students to be the best they can be.”

And now Karin has a very special addition to her classroom to help students even more – her facility dog, Clyde. He’s a bernie-doodle, which is a cross between a Bernese Mountain dog and a standard poodle. Karin worked with him in a nine-week training program during the summer so he’d be ready to join the CCA campus. Clyde is similar to a therapy dog, but instead of visiting classrooms or hospitals a couple times a month, he’ll be on campus four to five days a week, stationed in Karin’s classroom. “He may listen to a student read him a book, be a reward for a student who needs a break or help in whatever way he can,” she explains.

When asked what she would change in the world if she could change just one thing, Karen replied, “What if we considered others before ourselves? We would choose different words, have different thoughts and love more.”

You can find Mrs. Wehsener, and Clyde most days, in Room 806 on the first floor in the new building. Stop by and say hello!


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Robert Patton picture

Robert Patton’s Love of Children

Has Kept Him at CCA for Three Decades


Robert Patton has a deep history with Clairemont Canyons Academy, having taught here for nearly thirty years. “I actually student-taught here,” he says, “then got hired full time and never looked back. I continue to love teaching here.” Robert teaches first grade, which is the sweet spot for him. “Teaching first grade is great because I see so much growth out of the children. I also like it because I get to see my former students year after year.” Robert also enjoys the diversity of the students, parents, and community partners at CCA.

Robert grew up in Imperial Beach, and surfing became his passion as a teenager, continuing into his thirties. “I did many trips to Baja California, mainland Mexico and Hawaii,” he recalls. “Some trips were up to three months long. I would go surfing at least once a day. Fortunately, I made completing college a priority.”

When Robert was 19, he became a lifeguard in IB and rose in the ranks to become a supervisor and emergency medical tech. His job as a teacher allowed him to work full time as a lifeguard in the summer, which he continued for thirty years. He also taught beach lifeguard and adult swim classes at Miramar Community College for ten years at the Regional Lifeguard Academy.

Robert’s strong connection to his hometown led him to run for office in Imperial Beach, in order to become part of the decision-making process of his beloved city. He was elected as City Councilmember and served eight years in office until 2020.

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You might find Robert out on the water on the weekends doing standup paddle boarding or ocean fishing. He also loves golfing, cooking and hiking. His wife, Katie, is a third-grade teacher and they have a son, Jake (20) and a daughter, Hannah (18), not to mention two dogs named Salty and Pepper.

Even after thirty years in the classroom, Robert still finds every day rewarding. “I am passionate about teaching because I love children. I love seeing them learn, being there when they need me, watching them grow. I firmly believe we have some of the best teachers here at CCA. And I have to give a huge shoutout to my assistant, Marvin Garcia. He has made my job so much better over the last five years. He is invaluable, the best!” Mr. Patton’s classroom is located in the bungalows in Room B33.

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police officer with stop sign 

Meet Safety Patrol Officer Timothy Vollmar

Officer Timothy Vollmar is in his second school year here at CCA as a Juvenile Service Officer and School Safety Patrol Officer.  CCA is one of several schools where Officer Vollmar works. “I like working with our School Safety Patrol students because of their energy.  Every time I talk to them about Safety Patrol and directing traffic, their faces light up. They become more independent and confident as the school year progresses.” 

Officer Vollmar has been a police officer with the San Diego Police Department for 18 years. He was a patrol officer for most of that time, working as a Field Training Officer, and is now part of the department’s SWAT Team.  Growing up in North County San Diego, he knew he wanted to be a police officer since the sixth grade. “I wanted to serve and help people. It was a way to be active and not sit at a desk all day.”

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Safety Patrol is a program run by the police department. Fifth graders from select schools get to direct traffic with stop signs and help students cross the street at the beginning and end of the school day. Students who are well-behaved and hard-working are selected at the end of fourth grade by their teachers and the principal.

Officer Vollmar works out regularly at the gym and trains in Jiu Jitsu and Judo to meet the physical demands of being a police officer. When he isn’t working, he spends time with his family hiking, camping, and driving his truck offroad in the desert and mountains. 

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 Meet Kirk Johnson

CCA’s Music Man

cca newsletter 8 pic 1Instrumental Music Instructor Kirk Johnson is in his second year teaching music through the VAPA (Visual and Performing Arts) program at CCA. The program he teaches is called “Intro to Music” and it allows students to learn an instrument for the first time. They also learn how to read, compose and analyze music as the year progresses. Students also get to show off their skills and perform as a group twice a year for the school community.

Kirk is teaching students how to play the recorder, a flutelike instrument with a whistle mouthpiece in the woodwind family. The recorder has a thumb hole for the upper hand and seven finger holes for the lower hand. Each students gets a free recorder at the beginning of the school year to call their own.

students pictureBorn and raised in Chicago, Kirk was surrounded by jazz, blues and gospel music, as well as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. “I was always interested in the arts and music as a child,” explains Kirk. “I was fascinated by the arts of other cultures.” Kirk has both a Bachelors and Masters degree in Music and has done post-graduate work toward a Masters in Fine Arts. He has performed professionally in many different ensembles, including as a flutist for an orchestra in Europe.

Kirk is excited about his goals for students this year and believes in the vision statement of VAPA, which strives to transform lives through the arts. His goal is to foster musical literacy in all aspects of music and cca newsletter 8 pic 3particularly in the reading of musical notation. “I want to provide students the unique experience of self-expression through a musical instrument and instill a lifelong joy and love for the arts,” he says.










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Jenn Anderson pic cca9Meet Your Librarian,Jennifer Anderson

Jennifer Anderson has been heading up CCA’s School Library for four years now. It was a volunteer position that got Jennifer interested in becoming a school librarian. “I left the corporate world to spend more time with my children after moving to San Diego in 2010. One of my many volunteer positions was in their elementary school library,” she explains. That led her to eventually pursue a regular position as school librarian at CCA. Prior to that, she was an inventory planning manager for a large home furnishings company.

Jennifer’s love of books and reading started from a young age. She was one of six children and grew up in a small town near Nashville, Tennessee. One of her favorite places to visit was the library. “When I was young, my mom would take me to the public library regularly. It was in a former Victorian house built in 1870. There I developed my love of reading as well as my love of architecture! I always had a book in hand. As an adult, I found the corner bookstore to be a sanctuary from a hectic life,” she says.

The CCA library is staffed eight hours per week, with a steady rotation of classrooms coming in throughout that time. CCA’s younger students visit once a week and the older students come twice a week. Jennifer adds, “I read a story and students are then allowed to check out a book. Checking out books and returning them is a great way to learn about responsibility. Chromebook devices are also checked out from the library.”

cca news classroom image Jennifer believes that a love of reading is most genuinely sparked in a child’s early years and has to be encouraged to take root. “I want students to be comfortable visiting the library. Many students never step foot in a library after elementary school unless they have an assignment. I want them to really enjoy reading for pleasure. A great day for me is when a reluctant reader starts to ask about books.”

When Jennifer is not in the library, she’s busy being mom to two very active teenagers, driving them around and attending their water polo matches and swim meets. And she still likes to visit the library, even when she’s not working there. “I like to visit the public library where I search for new books to share with our students,” she says. “And I scour used book sales for anything I think our students will enjoy in their library. If I still have spare minutes, I drive to the beach and just watch and listen and enjoy.”

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newsletter vol 10 Ms. CrabbMeet Mrs. Crabb First-Grade Teacher and Environmentalist


Maria Crabb has been a first-grade teacher at CCA for 14 years. No matter what curriculum she’s teaching, she incorporates a focus on environmental awareness. “After joining the

Environmental Conservation Club in college,” she explains, “I became aware of the need to pass on information about conservation so we can make wise decisions that will affect us all.”

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Her drive to empower students to be good stewards of the land and sea includes using paper wisely in the classroom, reusing spoons for breakfast, having reusable water bottles in the classroom (she has a pure water filter in the room), picking up trash in the playground and using disposable items for art.

Recently, she found a praying mantis outside her classroom door and decided to turn it into a learning opportunity. She put it in a plastic box with a leafy branch and fed it crickets. Her students then wrote about it, drew pictures and reported on it as a science project.

Maria grew up in Cuba under a communist regime where no personal freedoms were granted. “Even though my dad was a doctor and had a good salary, food was rationed,” she says. “You couldn't buy more than your allocated amount, so not enough to eat for most Cubans. My dad would receive gifts of produce, eggs, and chicken from his farmer patients

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after delivering their babies. So we were privileged in that sense.” 

She and her family left the country when she was in ninth grade as political refugees. At the time, she didn’t know how to speak English but she quickly learned and became acclimated to the U.S. After graduating from high school in Los Angeles, she volunteered at an elementary school across the street from where she lived. She got hooked on education and ended up teaching there for sixteen years.

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Maria believes in immersing her students in nature to learn their role in the ecosystem. She’s taken her students on field trips to Torrey Pines State Park, Cabrillo National Monument, and San Elijo Lagoon to observe native plants and animals. “The field trips have been a wonderful way to include families,” she says, “since many have joined us throughout the years and have then taken their children to the same places on their own.”

You can find Mrs. Crabb in Room B26 in the bungalow area. 


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Mrs. Wood Is All AboutMrs. Wood

Keeping Students Engaged

 Kathleen Wood is a Physical and Health Impairments teacher at Clairemont Canyons Academy. She has a unique teaching job because her students have orthopedic impairments along with some learning delays. Some of her students are nonverbal. She uses a combination of approaches to best meet their academic instructional level and adapts the general-education curriculum and special-education curriculum to accommodate the learning style of her students. “The instruction is at a slow pace,” she says, “targeting each student’s individual instructional level.”

Kathleen grew up in Chula Vista and says she knew from a young age that she had a calling to be a special-ed teacher. However, she took a little detour to get there. After getting her degree in Design at San Diego State, she worked as an interior designer in her twenties. Then she went on to become a physical-therapist assistant with geriatric patients until she returned to her teaching ambition in her late thirties. That’s when she went back to school at National University to earn degrees in General Education, Special Education and a Master’s degree in Special Education.

cca newsletter 11 pic 1Mrs. Wood was a Medically/Physically Challenged (MPC) teacher at Field Elementary School in Clairemont for fourteen years. Then she joined the Physically Handicapped Impairment (PHI) department and has been working as a PHI teacher for eight years. Five of those years have been at Clairemont Canyons Academy. 

“The biggest challenge is keeping the students actively engaged in learning. Sometimes they just want to give up,” she says. “I keep gently pushing them to continue to attempt to learn, often switching up the approach I am taking in instruction. The biggest celebrations are when I see my students progress in their learning.”

Kathleen believes that every child deserves to have an adult in their life who believes they can learn and will take the time to help them, “no matter how many baby steps it takes to get to the end goal,” she adds.

When Kathleen is not at school, she enjoys going to concerts, hiking, snow skiing andcca newsletter 11 pic 2 dining out with friends. She also likes to do home-improvement projects.

You can find Mrs. Wood in room 801 in the new building.

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