Our Facilitators

“Great teachers mentor, stimulate, promote, and engage students"
-Sir Ken Robinson
Mardi Norman blue suit 052014

Mardi Norman

Founder / Board Director

Mardi is the founder of The LOFT, a non-profit organization dedicated to modernizing education and recognizing customization, not standardization, is the path to learning success.  In her professional career, Mardi is the President and CEO of a mid-sized IT company headquartered in El Segundo, CA.  She has over 20 years of experience as a business leader in the Information Technology industry.  Mardi has sat on Advisory Councils for three Fortune 200 companies, as well as the Board of a small non-profit nursery school.  She received the nationally recognized Human Corps Award for community service in 1991.  Mardi completed the ECHO Parent communication series in 2012.  She and her husband, Dave, live in Manhattan Beach with their two lovely daughters.  Both girls attend Da Vinci charter school two days per week and engage in independent-study the balance of the week.

In September 2015 Mardi Norman was ranked #35 on INC. Magazine’s Impact 50 list.  The article was titled: TOP 50 WOMAN ENTREPRENEURS IN AMERICA. 

In April 2019, Mardi was inducted into Loyola Marymount University’s “Wall of Honor” for lifetime achievement and making significant contributions to the field of entrepreneurship.  Two alumni are chosen annually by the School of Business, Entrepreneurship to receive this honor.

Education:

  • Masters: Mardi graduated Summa Cum Laude from Loyola Marymount University’s Executive Masters in Business Administration (MBA) Program.
  • Bachelors: Mardi was awarded a BA degree from California Polytechnic University, Pomona. She also studied at London University in England through an exchange program with Cal Poly, SLO.

Favorite Quote: “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” –Yeats

David Chrzanowski

Center Director

David Chrzanowski has been involved with education for two decades.  For several years, he was a senior instructor with Lindamood Bell where he built unique one-to-one learning experiences for students needing remedial intervention, and for those who just needed an academic boost. While at Lindamood-Bell, he administered national and in-house service tests and assessments. David was a professor for several years at Oklahoma City University and has taught at many colleges around the country. His initial foray into teaching came through drama-in-education and story-telling in Chicago where he received his M.F.A. at The Conservatory at Roosevelt University. For many years he served as the educational associate at Silk Road Rising in Chicago where he helped to create the successful ‘Myths to Drama’ educational outreach program. This program used world mythology to showcase the similarities of world cultures through the lens of storytelling and served hundreds of students annually throughout the city.

A big fan of the Detroit Tigers and EE Cummings his favorite quote is: “Always the beautiful answer/ who asks the more beautiful question.” -EE Cummings

Education:
  • B.A. Eastern Michigan University
  • M.F.A.  The Conservatory at Roosevelt University
rick

Rick Sharp

Director, Middle School Cohort

Rick brings 35 years of experience as a master of leading constructivist style learning, social-emotional development, and problem solving skills.  Rick’s approach combines a child and teacher lead project based learning (PBL) experience for kids to develop into joyful learners.

My initiation into education began as a young child who always wanted know, “Why?” Unfortunately, in my family, the answer was, “Because I said so,” or the answers didn’t quite seem to make sense. With the exception of one or two teachers, things didn’t get much better until I went to college, where I chose a general education philosophy course, because I had never heard of it before. There I found the people I had been searching for all my life, people who were actually interested in “why” questions. It was then, after almost two years as a Biology major,  that it dawned on me that philosophy should be my major. After completing a BA at Cal State Dominguez, I went on to work on a doctorate in Philosophy at Claremont Graduate School. But, after two years, life interrupted. During this time, my wife and I were looking for a high quality educational experience for the first of our three children. Unable to find exactly what we wanted, she said, “We should start a school.” I said, “You can’t just start a school.” She did anyway. And for the next 35 years I helped lead and taught at del Sol School in Manhattan Beach. There, I have had the rare privilege of being able to live in my passion of wondering, questioning, theorizing, investigating, experimenting, testing, and philosophizing with the students who have taught me more than I ever taught them.

Along the way I have continued my studies. Among others, I have trained with Matthew Lipman who founded the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children, with Marshall Rosenberg inNonviolent Communication (NVC), in Thomas Gordon’s Parent Effectiveness Training model, with Stephen Covey in Seven Habits of Effective Families, Harville Hendrix and Helen Hunt’s Giving the Love that Heals, as well as several Dan Seigel workshops. Most recently, I have studied the writings of Ross Greene, (The Explosive Child, Lost at School, Raising Human Beings). These, combined with my Del Sol teaching experience, have led to a deep interest in helping parents develop a “Conscious Parenting” style — one which replaces “What is the ‘right’ way?” with, “What do I think and feel about my last interaction with my child?”

I look forward to working with your children as, together, we develop a “Culture of Thinking” and hopefully with you as well, as we attempt to become more “Conscious Parents.”

Favorite Quote: “There are no mothers or fathers for grown-ups, only sisters and brothers.”

dilette

Dilette

Middle School Cohort

One of my favorite quotes is: “There are two kinds of people, those you love and those you do not yet understand.” Understanding others and myself has been a driving force for me for as long as I can remember. From a young age I’ve been curious and fascinated by human beings… how we think, how we learn, what makes each of us different or similar,  why we behave and feel the way we do, and how we can grow and change. This, and my joy of being with children, led to my interests in psychology and working with families. I received my BS in psychology at UCLA where I worked for two years in the Child Development Center for the infants and preschool aged children of UCLA faculty and staff. Following my undergraduate work I received my Masters in Social Work from USC and two years later obtained my LCSW. Upon graduating, I was now ready to build further on my interest in people by working as a therapist at Family Service of Santa Monica, as a consultant to the Head Start Program at McKinley Preschool, and as a School Counselor for McKinley Elementary School. But as all parents know, having our own children is the best test of our theories, and I tested mine. So, after working for 8 years at Family Service, until my first born daughter was a year old, I decided to dedicate myself full time to raising her and then my son who followed 4 years later. During this time I couldn’t  stay away completely from working with kids, so I volunteered as a Sunday School preschool teacher at American Martyrs, taught art classes at the elementary schools in Manhattan Beach through Young at Art, and taught a 6 week nutrition course for 5th graders through the Growing Great Program.

Ten years later, after seeing my children’s experiences in the local public schools, I began a search for a “better way.” It was then that I found the constructivist educational philosophy and schools that were interested in building Social and Emotional Learning. I enrolled my son, then 6 years old, at del Sol School and immersed myself the parenting philosophies of P.E.T., Alphie Cohen, Steven Covey, Dan Siegel, and anything else I could get her hands on! The last eight years, I have spent teaching 9 to 13 year olds with Rick Sharp at del Sol School in Manhattan Beach.  As a class, we worked together to build a close community where higher level thinking, an emergent, project based curriculum, and social emotional development (including problem solving and conflict resolution skills) were emphasized. At del Sol, I was excited to work with wonderful young people, sometimes growing effortlessly by leaps and bounds, and other times stumbling over challenges, but always, always excited by learning and so desirous of growing through their struggles. I am honored and excited to continue my life’s adventure with your children, whom I know will give to me as much as I give to them.

Favorite Quote: “There are two kinds of people, those you love and those you do not yet understand.”

Brad

Brad Gilbert

Math Lab, Creative Writing Facilitator

Brad was a classroom teacher for 25 years, working in classrooms from the San Francisco Bay Area to the Arizona desert and finally West Los Angeles in every grade level from third through twelfth grade. Brad considers John Wooden, William Shakespeare, Dr. Seuss, and Abraham Lincoln to be his “Mount Rushmore” of influence and inspiration.  His bailiwick is grammar and writing, and he also has a flair for math. Most recently he worked at PS1 Pluralistic School in Santa Monica where his passion for Shakespeare fostered one of the best elementary Shakespeare Festivals in Southern California. Brad is a second-generation Los Angelino and second generation Bruin from UCLA. He attended the Harvard School, now Harvard-Westlake, and has taught at the Brentwood School, Milken Community High School, as well as Sequoia High in Redwood City, Henry M. Gunn High in Palo Alto, and Thunderbird Middle School in Lake Havasu City Arizona. Brad did his post graduate work at San Jose State University in social studies, English, English as a second language (ESL), and math. A resident of Manhattan Beach and parent with his wife of fifteen years, Wendy, to three current MB public school students (Ryan 11th grade at Mira Costa, Terra 9th grade at Costa, and Alex 8th grade at MBMS, he is a longtime resident of the South Bay. Currently Brad operates The Grammar Shop and More in Santa Monica when he is not working at the LOFT.

 

Education
Harvard School class of 1985
UCLA class of 1989
SJSU teacher education program class of 1991
Bard College Thinking and Writing Program 2002
Learning and the Brain Conference 2016

 

Favorite Quote: “It takes time to create excellence. If it could be done quickly, more people would do it.” -Coach Wooden

Carlos

Carlos Angeles

Conversational Spanish, Magic Science, Engineering Using Recycled Materials Facilitator

Carlos is a native Spanish speaker born in Mexico City. He has taught Spanish as a second language for 25 years to adults and children. When he started homeschooling his son four years ago he became a better teacher by understanding that the best way a child learns is by playing in a physical and emotionally safe environment. Given those conditions, a child can flourish to her full potential. He has taken two ECHO parenting courses in the last three years and received training as a parent from Dr. Reggie Melrose on how to work with children with trauma.

Carlos is the founder of letspanish, a Facebook community and business that offers classes and free advice and sources to complement the Spanish acquisition journey. He is also a co-founder of “La Manada, Multicultural Homeschooling” group, a primarily Spanish-English bilingual community located in Long Beach, CA. He currently teaches at GEE (Great Educational Experiences), Viva Homeschool Co-op and has his own Spanish programs in the South Bay as well as a tutoring business. Due to his successful programs he also has been invited to teach Science and Spanish for the next fall by The Lab Learning Space, Valiant Charter School, Lakewood campus, and South Bay LA Learning Center in Gardena.

Education

BA Mexican Law by the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos, México.

Michelle Charfan

Math Facilitator
Piper, Kawai

Kawai Sharp Piper

Math: ``What's the Big Idea (1-3) / Language Arts: Creators Studio (1-3) / Science: We're Not Studying Rockets (4/5)

Kawai Sharp Piper has had the pleasure to teach across the span of Early Childhood Education: As the Director of Education at Aha! Learning Center in New York City, a parent-child play lab for children 0-3 years old, at the Parenting Program at Temple Shaaray Tefila for ages 0-3, and for the majority of her career, she has taught at del Sol School, teaching 3-9-year-olds, alongside Dilette and Rick. 

I was raised and educated in constructivist, project-based classrooms with the progressive “gentle parenting” practices of the day. A South Bay native, I eventually went to the public middle school and graduated from Mira Costa. I left for college loving math, yet not sure how I would use it — “maybe astronomy?” I thought. Turns out, I was a math purist and disinterested in applied math. Not a very helpful career path. 

When I started teaching 20 years ago, my studies seemed wasted. However, with time, I have come to see how my math background overlaps with logic and problem-solving in ways that I use each and every day with children. To my way of thinking, math has had the misfortune of becoming synonymous with arithmetic. True math is beautiful, it is in everything we do, and one of my delights is to lift math up, out of the shadows of arithmetic algorithms, and into the light of day.

I have been influenced as a teacher, a parent, and woman by the works of Reggio Emilia, Bev Bos, Lilian Katz, NVC, P.E.T., and more recently Ross Greene, Dan Siegel, and Brené Brown.