Our Teachers

Josh Briggs

Acera Engineering Teacher,  Math Mentor, Woodshop manager
B.S. Civil Engineering, University of New Hampshire

In this video, Josh explains how students discover engineering at Acera. Josh’s bio will be posted here soon!


Robyn Deakins

Acera Cross-Classroom and Mathematics Teacher
M.S. Math Education, Dartmouth College
Robyn will lead Math Club on Tuesdays, and Political Science & Model UN Club on Wednesdays.


Danny Fain

Software Developer, STEM Teacher, Game Designer
B.S., Geoscience, MIT

The desire to understand how learning happens, and how best to prepare kids for the world of the 21st century, drives Danny’s quest into serious games. Through 15 years as a STEM teacher (in a variety of schools and student populations, including at the Learning Prep School in Newton, MA), Danny increasingly immersed himself in the classroom use of computer games & simulations. Coupled with his previous career as a software developer, this experience gave Danny a multi-level perspective into the uses and limitations of educational software. Danny teaches game design in our Afternoon Program. He was a team leader and coach in the Learning Games Network’s Game Design summer camps of 2010 – 2013, and the lead instructor of the Videogame Design workshop at URJ’s 6Points Sci/Tech summer camp in 2014 and 2015. Danny also has a new game about endangered species conservation out in app stores, for which he was the lead-designer on a multinational team. Danny earned his SB in Geoscience at MIT, and he also completed the Teacher Education Program there.


Michelle Finston

Film and Animation Teacher
B.F.A., Fine Arts, School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
M.A., Teaching and Art Education, School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Specialty:  Integrating the arts across fine art, film, and theater.


Michael Hirsch

Acera Science Teacher, Lab Manager, Curriculum Creator
B.S., Molecular Biology, Clark University
M.A.T. Biology, Salem State University

Michael began his work life as a scientist in the exciting world of Kendall Square biotech, researching therapeutics for metabolic disease and inflammation. After helping to place more than 20 drugs in clinical trials and frequently publishing papers in the field of diabetes, Michael decided that his favorite part of being a scientist was teaching others and sharing his passion for science.  He pursued a masters degree and Massachusetts teaching certifications, and taught Biology and Chemistry in public high schools for 3 years before joining Acera. Michael’s belief — that everyone can be a scientist — is reflected in his STEAM Lab offerings: Michael will be teaching biology and chemistry basics to young elementary students via real experiments in our science lab, and he will take middle school students into the world of DNA. Michael talks about his approach to teaching in this clip.


Alisha Panjwani SEEDS Lab-12

Acera Design Learning and STEM TeacherPreneur
B.S., Fashion Design, Annamalai University
M.S., Media Arts and Sciences, Media Lab, MIT

Alisha is a designer and educator, and the founder of the Acera SEEDS StudioLab. SEEDS stands for Science, Engineering, Esthetics, Design and Storytelling. By engaging students in playful, experiential, inquiry-based, and collaborative learning experiences, Alisha works to nurture children’s creative confidence with new technologies and encourage their involvement in creative acts within their communities. She is the co-author of StartMaking! and co-founder of the Duct Tape Network. Alisha comes to our school from the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab. She will run her innovative SEEDS StudioLab programs through all 3 sessions of our afternoon programs and will also offer weekend courses!


Vanessa Roman

Acera Teacher in Friendship Skills, Kinetic Mathematics, Human Sexuality, and Theater Arts
M.A. Magna Cum Laude, Theatre Arts, Salem State College

Prior to joining Acera, Vanessa was a Yoga Instructor. At Acera, she teaches Kinetic Math for young students, Human Sexuality in the Middle School, Theatre Arts for all ages during Creativity Morning, Friendship Skill-Building during recess, and leadership in our After School Program. Vanessa specializes in understanding, honoring and experiencing the joy and uniqueness of each child. Vanessa talks about her work at Acera in this clip.


Debbie Sidell

Acera Mathematics Teacher
M.S., Math Education

Debbie will be leading Debate Club on Thursdays.


Suzana Somers

STEM Specialist and Cross-Classroom Teacher
B.S. with University Honors,  Applied Learning and Development EC-6, The University of Texas at Austin

Suzana will be teaching Robotic Friends & Hands on Creations on Fridays.




Mark Weinzierl

Acera After School Physics and Science Teacher

More about Mark will be posted here soon.




20150304acera_gm_026-e1454015439598Chris Woodard

Art Teacher
Chris has been an artist all her life. From the age of 3, digging in the dirt to make African Masks with her father, to today, she has pursued numerous creative outlets — painting, cooking, sewing, knitting, gardening, and woodworking among them. After working as a graphic designer for 30 years, Chris decided to follow her true passion, earning a painting degree from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Chris will bring her talents and creativity to Acera this fall, working with children in a variety of art forms.