Meet Our Staff


Cindy Acker

Head of School

Cindy is the founder of The Child Unique and The Montessori Elementary School of Alameda (MESA), and has served as principal for over 30 years. She has several degrees in education, human development, spirituality, cultural studies and a doctorate in Educational Leadership from UC Berkeley. Cindy has also been involved in public policy, representing Montessori schools in California. She is a published author and a national keynote speaker. Apart from her passion for education, Cindy is a singer and choir director in Novato and a mother of three adult children. Cindy speaks Dutch and Spanish.


Justin Rivers

Director of Student Success

Justin recently moved from Queens, NY to Alameda. He has twelve years of experience managing teams while applying logistics and data analysis to boost the allocation processes of several well known fashion brands. He looks forward to applying his focus to be of service to The Child Unique Montessori School and surrounding community. He has many passions including, but not limited to, spirituality, music, literature, skateboarding, data science, physics, seeking truth, and helping people. Proudly on the Autism Spectrum and working everyday to highlight the beauty of neurodiversity.


Raina Ford

Lower Elementary Teacher

Raina Ford was born and raised in Oakland, California and she have always known she wanted to work with children. She began assisting in a classroom setting in high school as a tutor and spent some time as a summer camp counselor. Raina went on to pursue a Bachelor's of Science degree in Psychology and shortly after, she realized education was her career path. Currently, Raina is finishing up her Montessori credential. She is studying to become a certified Montessori elementary teacher. In her free time, Raina enjoys watching movies, reading and spending time with her family.

Tina Li

Lower Elementary Assistant Teacher

(Bio coming soon)

Chisa Iyo

Upper Elementary Teacher

(Bio coming soon.)

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Kayla Carter

Upper Elementary Assistant Teacher

This is Kayla’s first year as an assistant teacher, and she’s super excited to join the Montessori team! Kayla graduated from UC San Diego with a bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology and is excited to bring her passion for science, especially involving the ocean, into the classroom! Kayla’s other passions include painting and spending time with her partner and their cat Kiki. 

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Rikki Smeltzer

Art Teacher

Rikki Smeltzer has lived in Oakland for 8+ years teaching several art medias to a diverse range of students.  In 2011, Rikki received a BFA in Studio Arts: Metalsmithing and Jewelry design.  Working with youth mentees in the industrial arts inspired Rikki to engage with younger makers to offer guidance in the process of creating art.  The values and teaching styles of Montisoree perfectly align with Rikki's approach to art education.  At home gardening, cooking, custom designing home improvements and spending time with loved ones makes Rikki the happiest.


Steve Slater

Music Teacher

Steve Slater has been playing drums for nearly twenty-five years. Steve attended Santa Barbara City College and San Jose University. He is a percussion instructor at Allegro Music and has his own studio in Fremont called School of Drums. Steve leads the drum line at Mission San Jose High School for over ten years. He also plays drums in three San Francisco Bay Area rock bands and his own jazz ensemble, Park St. Trio, based out of Alameda. He is the primary songwriter and has released two albums of original music.