October 2012

Natalay Goldstein is a Los Angeles native and plans to be here forever. She has been passionate about education and especially writing for as long as she can remember. Helping 826LA students with their writing projects has been a dream. She finds that the kids are so full of ideas and so eager to learn to write well that they make the job easy.

Natalay graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 2003 with a degree in Ethnic Studies. She is beginning grad school in 2013, studying Arts Management at Claremont Graduate University. In her spare time she likes to write, play and listen to music, cook, and work out. She hopes to see dozens of 826LA students go on to college themselves and live up to their potential.

When Diva Magpayo pushed open the old, heavy wood door of the SPARC Building as she rushed to her first 826LA orientation, little did she know she was opening the door to a world of pirates, superheroes, and time travelers…and, also, to what would be one of the most consistent experiences of weekly glee available in today’s hectic world. (Pirates and Glee? Is there a musical brewing? No, but more on this later.) What forces had converged to bring her to this point? First, shifting economies: after graduating in Human Biology from Stanford University, a job offer sent her to Honolulu to work at a University of Hawaii psych lab, but to train dolphins, not humans. This, however, did eventually lead to teaching humans at a local high school, where she happily taught high school biology. Second, shifting interests: moving from science to the arts, especially storytelling, led to work in documentaries and a move back to California to study film and her present career working in post-production.

All of which led to happily discovering 826LA and the aforementioned glee. Deadlines, artistic hassles, and logistical craziness all fall away briefly when entering the world of superheroes-in-training as they tackle vocabulary, algebra, science, and the giant social studies project. It sounds cliché, but there is nothing more fun than wheedling a reluctant pirate into dropping his or her scabbard and nudging him or her into finishing English homework…or seeing that big smile on a time traveler’s face when she or he writes down that next sentence in a story or finally gets a math problem. That’s definitely why Diva finds her way back to 826LA every week. That, and the Capri Sun sippers at snack time.

Charity Rattiner was born in Los Angeles and lived there until she was seven. She and her family then embarked upon a long-distance U-Haul journey that ended in New York, where she grew up. Often dreaming of a winter-less existence, she swore that one day she would return to California. After traveling on a round-the-world ticket, managing a bar and teaching English in Vietnam, and learning how to speak Geordie in Newcastle, it was finally time to come back to the USA, and Los Angeles beckoned. She loves the challenge of relearning math with the kids who come in during after-school tutoring and helping them gain confidence in themselves as writers. You can usually find her walking around taking pictures, going to art shows, and trying to experience as much LA culture as she can.

Jim Thompson enjoys tutoring at 826LA because of its family atmosphere and tolerance for his quirkiness. After studying Philosophy (and classical Greek and other weird things) at Yale, Jim realized upon graduating that he had no idea how to earn a living. In fact, it hadn’t occurred to him that this issue might soon appear on his agenda. So he went into the Peace Corps! For two years, Jim taught in a boys’ school just up the road from a famous Hindu temple, near a village called Pharping in Nepal. After Nepal, Jim still didn’t know what to do, so he went back to school at Columbia University in New York City, where he studied psychology and then switched to sociology. After that experience, one of his Columbia teachers hooked him up with a job as Research Director of the New York City Criminal Justice Agency. They asked him to design a citywide computer system to track the 100,000 dudes who get arrested each year on felony charges. Having no idea how to go about this, Jim luckily ran into a really smart dude who did know how, and the two of them actually got this system up and running. Later, their system took over the entire IT needs for the Criminal Courts of the City of New York. No one was more surprised by this than Jim!

By this time, Jim had fallen in love with and married a really smart woman named Lois (Smith College and Columbia Law School), and they had two smart children, David and Ellen (both went to Yale, which by then had decided to take girls as well as boys). Jim’s family is wonderful, and he’s gotten used to being “a bit slower” than everyone else. Moving to LA in 1987, Jim soon began teaching at a private Catholic boys’ school and (at the time) junior college. Jim learned to trash-talk and discovered happily that all along, he had really been a teenager trapped in what was now a middle-aged body. After he retired in 2008, Jim fooled around with another citywide online case-tracking system, this time for the Los Angeles mayor’s anti-gang program. As far as Jim can tell, these “at-risk” kids are just like the other kids who were in his classrooms for years, and just like the 826LA kids he tutors now.

What has Jim learned from all of this? One thing: it’s okay if you sometimes think you’re dumb or even just not really that smart. But don’t let that stop you from trying stuff.


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