Dean of CurriculumTufts University, MS
Brown University, BS
email: kelly.castaneda [at] sonomaacademy.org
phone: (707) 636-2456
Kelly knows a thing or two about design thinking, and not just because she is deeply engaged with current educational theory. Kelly’s college and graduate degrees are in engineering management, and that training has greatly influenced her approach to teaching and learning. “I love working at SA because we are one of the only places that not only talks about valuing the process of risk-taking, design, and prototyping —we really embody it. Those ideas are truly ingrained in our curriculum and our culture.”
Kelly attended high school in New Jersey, Canada, and England. She went to college at Brown University, where she studied Chemical Engineering, and she earned her MS in Engineering Management at Tufts. Kelly worked in process control for four years before, during, and after graduate school, and she discovered that her favorite part of the job was teaching her colleagues. She wanted more community in her work, and so she sought a job as a high school teacher, which brought her to Sonoma Academy in 2004.
In her first years with us, Kelly taught Chemistry and Math, and she served as the Chair of the STEM Department. She left Sonoma Academy for Southern California in 2010 to take a position as a math teacher and Department Chair at the Crossroads School. She also worked as a Grade Level Advisor, assisting with academic advising and social-emotional support.
After a few years of fighting traffic in Los Angeles, Kelly found herself thinking back to her blissfully peaceful commute in Sonoma County. She still owned a house in Santa Rosa, a city where she suspected that her children would have space to grow up a little more slowly. When she got wind of the new Guild & Commons project underway at Sonoma Academy, Kelly knew it was time to come back. She was hired as our first ever Dean of Curriculum in 2017.
Kelly thrives in her role overseeing the development and execution of academic courses, Intersessions, and programs that engage with our community. “The creativity of this position is truly unique,” she says, “and it helps that our school culture is a culture of YES—try it, let’s see what happens. Everyone is a learner here.”
In her free time, Kelly is learning Korean (sometimes practicing her listening and comprehension by watching Korean dramas). She loves to run the trails of Sonoma County with her dogs, and spending time with her husband and two children.