Our team comprises changemakers, healers, and visionaries— all of whom started their careers in public school classrooms where they taught for at least five years.

We each know the challenges and joys of everyday life inside our nation’s public schools. And it’s our passion to support educators in reclaiming their well-being—as individuals and as school site teams. We are a team of educators who have ourselves experienced burnout and chronic stress, and we now bring tools from hours of additional training in mindfulness, executive coaching, yoga, nutrition and countless other modalities of alternative healing to teachers and leaders at our partner sites.

Kelly headshot.jpg

Executive Director

Kelly Knoche taught math, science and socio-emotional learning (SEL) for six years in public schools in Oakland. She holds a B.A. in psychology from UC Berkeley and also spent time studying at Harvard University.  As a Teach for America corps member, she demonstrated great skill in bringing resources to her students by raising $15,000 for a multi-night field trip and building a joint tutoring program with the UC Berkeley field hockey team. As an innovative curriculum designer, she designed a nationally-recognized middle school project-based SEL program that has continued to be implemented by OUSD middle schools. She is a certified doula, 400-hour yoga teacher and has been trained in both the Mindful Schools and Niroga Institute's Mindfulness programs.

To give to others, you must serve yourself.
— Kelly Knoche

After seeing many of her colleagues leave through her years in Oakland Unified and experiencing the stressors of teaching in an under-resourced school system, she became determined to find simple, low-cost solutions to building teacher resilience.  What started as a donation-based yoga program for educators (Gift of Prana) has transformed into The Teaching Well: a cost-efficient, multi-year series of professional development offerings and 1:1 coaching that is committed to increasing teacher retention, building positive communication among staff and inherently creating school environments where students can achieve. The Teaching Well is proud to have served over 500 educators in a variety of schools since its humble beginnings.  The majority of our work focuses on Title I schools, challenged with staggering rates of teacher turnover.

Sonya photo.jpg

Director of Partnerships

Sonya Mehta lives, works, and engages in the educational justice movement in Oakland, CA. She is working to grow and scale The Teaching Well’s powerful work to enable schools and networks to more effectively support, retain, and leverage the brilliance of their educators.

Prior to joining The Teaching Well in July of 2018, she spent a year working with a diverse group of early childhood practitioners, community organizers, and policy experts to create the Alameda County Child Care and Early Education Initiative (Measure A),  which came close to creating the largest voter-approved public investment in early childhood education in the history of our nation. Before her work in education policy, Sonya taught kindergarten at a Title I school in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland for 5 years, where she worked to launch a variety of programs including the school's first-ever educational garden and a leadership pathway program for parent leaders. She holds a BA from UCLA and a Masters in Education from UC Berkeley, and has completed fellowship programs with Surge Institute, GO Public Schools, and New Leaders Council.

Sonya sees her work in public education and teacher retention as profoundly political, with the potential for far-reaching impacts on social inequities.


Director of LA Partnerships

Jane Mayer taught English, drama and science for five years in public and charter schools in Los Angeles before she left the classroom three years ago to grow The Teaching Well with Kelly Knoche. She holds a master’s degree in Education from UCLA and a B.A. with honors from the University of Virginia, alongside apprenticeships and years of training in trauma work, herbalism, sound healing, somatic-based healing practices and high-level executive coaching.

She now works with individuals + organizations to heal outdated patterns, unprocessed trauma, old paradigms of thinking and blocked channels of communication that prevent them from reaching their highest potential. She knows that our schools hold the seeds of an inclusive and thriving society and believes that teachers and administrators, when fully-embodied in their power and visions, will lead us to long-awaited personal and societal transformations.

She is honored to lead the work with central offices, principals, and school leaders for our clients in Los Angeles.

Director of Curriculum + Programming

Jill Thomas

Mindful Support Specialist

Margarita Acosta

Mindful Support Specialist

Judith Fernandez

Mindful Support Specialist

Michelle Kurta

Research Support Specialist

Channe Hawkins Ash