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.

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She now works with individuals + organizations to heal outdated patterns, unprocessed trauma, old paradigms of thinking and blocked channels of communication that prevent them from reaching their highest potential.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 a  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.


Mindful Support Specialist & Executive Coach

Candice Valenzuela is a proud Afro-Latina native of Watts, CA who has worked in the Bay Area education community for 13 years. Starting out as a teen health educator, she went on to teach Special Education, high school English, creative writing, and women's studies and ran after-school enrichment programs before becoming a teacher coach and wellness consultant. Candice has coached, trained and mentored hundreds of educators in Bay Area, Los Angeles and Indianapolis schools. 

Candice has a BA in Humanities from Loyola Marymount University, and an MA in East-West Psychology from the California Institute for Integral Studies. Candice is also certified as a mindful yoga teacher through the Niroga Institute. In addition to coaching and facilitating in schools, Candice teaches as an adjunct at the University of San Francisco School of Education and the San Francisco State Department of Health Education. Candice is a lifelong student of healing, spirituality and wellness and has studied with community healers, indigenous elders and mindfulness teachers throughout the Bay Area, Los Angeles and Oaxaca. She believes that the keys to social transformation lie at the intersections of education, healing and justice.

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.

Mindful Support Specialist

Air Gallegos began her career working in after-school programs in both San Francisco and San Diego. She transitioned to teaching middle school English and ethnic studies classes at Strive Preparatory Schools when she moved to Denver, Colorado. Air lived in Denver for five years and served as a part of the curriculum design team and as a culturally-responsive teaching lead, where she dedicated her energy to bringing culturally-responsive teaching methods into classrooms. In 2014, she transitioned to Smart High School where she continued teaching literature, creative writing, and spoken word poetry and performance to 9th-11th grade students as well as serving her school as an instructional coach and professional development lead.

Air moved back to California to focus her efforts towards social-emotional learning for students, and sustainability and mindfulness practices for teachers. For the last two years, she has worked serving local bay area schools by providing social emotional curriculum and professional development to educators. Air believes deeply in the power of community, in knowing one’s self, and working collaboratively to make a difference. She currently serves The Teaching Well as a PD Designer/Developer and Facilitator, utilizing her coaching and mentorship skills to provide quality sustainable practices for teachers in northern and southern California.

certified holistic nutritionist and natural foods chef

Erica Favela’s first year in the classroom was probably not much different than most new teachers’ experiences: she was stressed, addicted to caffeine, and exhausted. She knew if she was going to make it through the year, something needed to change. Ultimately, when she changed her diet, everything else changed. She finally had the energy to keep up with her third graders, as well as the mental fortitude to teach and lead them with patience and positivity.

After four years at Greenleaf Elementary in Oakland, she made the painful decision to step out of the classroom to pursue further studies in holistic nutrition. Her whole health journey began in the classroom, so working with The Teaching Well to support teachers is exactly in alignment with her roots and goals. She uses her personal experience as a teacher to lead nutrition workshops from a space of complete empathy and compassion, and deliver information that she knows to be absolutely game-changing.