Meet our La Mesa Tutoring Staff

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Great Teachers Inspire

Our tutors and staff in La Mesa consist of passionate educators who love inspiring children to succeed. Warm, caring and great at relating to kids, our tutors in La Mesa know how to engage and motivate each child in a personal way—building confidence and smiles, as well as skills and better scores. We selectively choose tutors who know local curriculum and can link Sylvan lessons to what’s being taught in school. Get to know our tutors and staff in La Mesa!

  • Katie Hilbert, Center Director

    Katie Hilbert

    Center Director

    Katie manages center operations and supports the students and families of Sylvan of La Mesa. She graduated from Point Loma Nazarene University where she also earned her Multiple Subject Teaching Credential. The great results from Sylvan's personalized programs and individual attention for each student are two of the many reasons she loves working at Sylvan.  When Katie isn’t at Sylvan, you’ll find her drinking coffee with her husband or out with her dog Charlie.
  • Deborah Abrams, Instructor

    Deborah Abrams

    Instructor

    Deborah is credentialed as an Education Specialist and worked for 20 years as a visiting teacher for the San Diego Unified School District. She seeks to inspire students to reach their full potential, especially with regard to reading.  She earned her Bachelor's in Early Childhood Special Education from San Diego State University. Outside of Sylvan, music is her passion.
  • Joshua Arriola, Instructor

    Joshua Arriola

    Instructor

    Joshua is currently a middle school math/science teacher in the Alpine Unified School District. He has worked at Sylvan since 2016 as a Teacher Assistant, Math EDGE Coach, and, now, a Teacher. He received his Bachelor's Degree in Liberal Studies and his Multiple Subject Credential from California State University San Marcos. He was born and raised in Chula Vista, CA, and, in his free time, you can find him hiking and spending time with his dog. 
  • Stan Gabay, Instructor

    Stan Gabay

    Instructor

    Stan is a math teacher at Sylvan of La Mesa, but he has had the pleasure of teaching at several Sylvan centers in both California and Virginia.  Stan brings a wealth of knowledge from 22 years in the Navy, more than a decade as a city of San Diego microbiologist, and 20+ years teaching middle school, high school, and college-level math.  Now that he is retired from his full-time teaching career, he enjoys spending time with his grandkids and using his experience to sub in local school districts and teach at Sylvan.
  • Kathy Havilan, Instructor

    Kathy Havilan

    Instructor

    Kathy has worked at Sylvan of La Mesa since 1996.  She graduated from San Diego State University with a degree in Biology.  She likes tutoring at Sylvan because of the one to one interaction with the students.  Kathy teaches a variety of subject areas including Math, Reading, Writing, and Study Skills.  In her spare time, she enjoys spending time outdoors and reading.
  • Mark Junkin, Instructor

    Mark Junkin

    Instructor

    Mark has worked at Sylvan of Bonita & Eastlake and is now a member of the Sylvan La Mesa team as well.  He graduated from Point Loma Nazarene University with a degree in Spanish Literature.  He finds the greatest joy in teaching Reading and Spanish tutoring.  When Mark is not at Sylvan, you'll find him hiking or playing tennis.
  • Paul Maglio, Instructor

    Paul Maglio

    Instructor

    Paul was born and raised in San Diego. He has worked with students of all ages (K-12) and currently works as an elementary school teacher in San Diego, CA. Paul has been with Sylvan Learning for many years and tutors all subjects offered by Sylvan. Paul earned his Bachelor's degree in Spanish, his Preliminary Teaching Credential from San Diego State University, and his Clear Teaching Credential from Cal State Bakersfield. When not at Sylvan, Paul enjoys spending time with his family.
  • Sandy McKenna, Instructor

    Sandy McKenna

    Instructor

    Sandy is a retired teacher working as an instructor at Sylvan Learning of La Mesa. While Sandy has many teaching interests, she finds the greatest joy in reading and writing. She studied at the University of San Diego and earned her Masters of Teaching from Grand Canyon University.  When Sandy isn't at Sylvan, you'll find her working in the garden or enjoying the beach.
  • Lesley Roland, Instructor

    Lesley Roland

    Instructor

    Lesley has worked at Sylvan of La Mesa since 2008.  While Lesley has many tutoring talents, she finds the greatest joy in Reading and Language Arts tutoring. She studied at San Diego State University.  When Lesley isn't at Sylvan, you'll find her spending time with friends & family and keeping active.
  • Shaira Tayaba, Instructor

    Shaira Tayaba

    Instructor

    Shaira is a teacher in La Mesa, CA who finds the greatest joy in teaching reading and writing. She received her B.A. in English at UCLA and her Masters in Education at Azuza Pacific University. In her spare time, she enjoys going to the gym, eating, and spending time with loved ones.
  • Linda Thomas, Instructor

    Linda Thomas

    Instructor

    Linda is a reading and writing teacher at Sylvan of La Mesa.  She has worked as a Reading Specialist in the La Mesa Spring Valley School District as well as a Reading & Composition Instructor at both Grossmont and Miramar Colleges. She earned her Bachelor's in Liberal Studies and Master's in Reading Education from San Diego State University. She likes tutoring at Sylvan because she loves learning and teaching others to learn. In her spare time, she enjoys playing with her dog, Lena, and reading books.
  • David Todd, Instructor

    David Todd

    Instructor

    David is a reading and writing teacher at Sylvan of La Mesa who also works for the Grossmont Union High School District. He studied English at San Diego State University and Master of Arts in Education at University of Phoenix. When David isn't at Sylvan, you'll find him visiting the beach.
  • Bernie Toledo, Instructor

    Bernie Toledo

    Instructor

    Bernie is a returning Reading and Writing instructor and he couldn't be happier than when helping students and their families reach their academic goals.  When Bernie isn't tutoring, you can find him volunteering throughout San Diego county, reading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland repeatedly, or enjoying his free time with a cup of hot coffee.
  • Mike Wake, Instructor

    Mike Wake

    Instructor

    Mike was an educator for 36 years who taught elementary grades 2 – 6 and middle school grades 6 – 8 as well as working as a middle school assistant principal. After retirement, Mike did private tutoring as a home tutor with students from pre-K to grade 8. Mike enjoys the Sylvan environment where students are motivated to improve academic skills and gain self-confidence. His favorite time is when students have an “ah-ha” moment, that moment when they “get it.” Mike honors the commitment made by families and students to succeed and looks forward to being part of that process.
  • Eugenie Budnik, Teacher Assistant

    Eugenie Budnik

    Teacher Assistant

    Eugenie has worked at Sylvan of La Mesa since 2020 after attending Sylvan as a student herself.  She is a student at San Diego State University studying Liberal Studies in the Integrated Teacher Education Program for elementary education. Eugenie loves teaching students about science. When she isn't at Sylvan, you'll find her drinking iced coffee with her boyfriend and her guinea pig Franz Furdinand.
  • Luke Smith, Teacher Assistant

    Luke Smith

    Teacher Assistant

    Luke is a student working as a teacher assistant at Sylvan of La Mesa. Luke is a part of the El Cajon Police Cadet program and is working toward a career in law enforcement. When Luke isn't at Sylvan, you'll find him playing video games or reading books.