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South Bay

Manhattan Beach

Hermosa Beach

Redondo Beach

Mar Vista

Santa Monica

Venice

© Breathe and Learn 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Meet The Teachers

Joanie Plake

Founder & CEO

Joanie is the founder of Breathe & Learn and lead teacher for select Mar Vista and South Bay after-school workshops and summer camps.

 

Joanie's yoga journey began while living in New York City and earning her Masters in Elementary and Special Education at New York University. Through her unique experience as a childhood educator, Joanie is well-versed in building developmentally and age appropriate foundational skills through yoga and mindfulness.

 

As a former teacher at Citizens of the World Charter School Mar Vista, she found that daily breathing exercises and meditation worked wonders in helping her children self-regulate and manage their emotions. In addition, the physical postures offered a fun introduction to healthy living. She graduated from the 200 hr. Soho Yoga Teacher Training in April 2016 and shortly after, received her children's certification through Yoga Ed. 

 

Click here to learn more about her journey and why she chose to take a leap of faith and start Breathe & Learn.

Heather Tuttle

Lead Teacher (South Bay Workshops & Summer Camp)

Heather is beyond excited to merge two things she loves immensely - kids and yoga!   By profession, Heather has been a teacher for students with special needs for over ten years and currently works in Manhattan Beach Unified.  By desire, Heather is a lifelong learner of all things yoga and engaging in daily healthy practices to support a holistic sense of self.  She recently obtained her Masters degree in Special Education from CSULB, as well as, her 100 hour kids yoga certification in Costa Rica through a Yoga Alliance program.  Heather is well-versed in the MindUp! curriculum that is implemented in MBUSD and continues on her journey to enhance her own meditative practice.  In addition, she runs several school programs, including GirlPower, which teaches young girls the art of friendship-making and how to promote empowerment in their relationships.  Heather is also a passionate lover of the arts, especially dance, theater, and music.  She infuses music and movement into the classroom whenever possible to help teach students of the steady, beautiful rhythm they have inside of them.

Rachel Rush

Lead Teacher (South Bay Workshops & Summer Camp)

Rachel is an elementary, mindfulness and yoga teacher. She has always loved working with kids and is very excited to be a part of the Breathe & Learn Team. Rachel grew up in Hermosa Beach and was fortunate to come back and teach at Hermosa View and Valley. She most recently taught at Lunada Bay Elementary School in Palos Verdes. Rachel now owns Mindful Circle, a mindful education business, with the goal of spreading the positive benefits of mindfulness to schools and the community. 


Rachel is trained in the MindUp Curriculum, is a Certified Mindfulness Teacher through Mindful Schools and recently earned her 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Certification in Bali. She is also working toward her Masters Degree in School Counseling at CSULB. Rachel is passionate about teaching mindfulness and yoga to kids to help them live in the present and enjoy life! Students enjoy the compassionate and playful energy Rachel brings to her classes. She loves connecting with students on their level and inspiring kids to find their passions.  

Cindy Swenson

Lead Teacher (South Bay Workshops)

Cindy dreamed of being a teacher from a very young age. She first began coaching gymnastics when she was in 8th grade. She found such fulfillment in helping others expand and grow. She followed this dream when she went to college by pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education. Cindy taught junior high science and health until the time came when she wanted to begin a family and have kids of her own with her husband, Beau. She had three beautiful children--her son, Riley who is now 25, her daughter, Lauren who is now 19, and her son, Trent who is now 17.  Little did she know the years to come would be full of growth and knowledge tapping into the minds of her own children and what made them flourish and grow. It was hands-on training at its finest! Through these years, Cindy also taught preschool and loved seeing these little minds at work. Seeing the world through a child’s eyes intrigued her and inspired her. 

 

Growing up as a gymnast, her life has always been full of movement and all different kinds of exercise. She loved to stay active, but still always felt there was something missing. After suffering from a tennis injury in 2011, she couldn’t exercise or even walk. Frustrated after sitting on the couch for days healing her leg, she decided to look up a yoga class and within two hours she was taking her first yoga class--she felt like she was in heaven! This was the game changer. She found the missing piece she had been looking for! It was the connection to her breath and the peace that flooded over her from the moment she stepped onto her mat.

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Cindy then felt compelled to share this beautiful practice with others. She took her 200-hour yoga teacher training and shortly thereafter started teaching yoga at schools to at risk elementary students.  She is living her dream of being a teacher. Her happiest moments in life have been seeing children learn and grow. She believes time invested in our children reminding them how to come back to their breath, be creative, play and follow their heart is her purpose and mission in life and this fulfills her heart tremendously. 

Marissa "Mar" Rodriguez

Lead Teacher (South Bay Workshops)

From teaching swim lessons to working as an in-home behavior therapist, Mar has always had a passion for interacting with little humans. After receiving her 200 hour yoga teacher certification from SoHo Yoga, she was eager to mesh her love for yoga and children into one realm. 

 

At the age of two, Mar was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. She was constantly struggling with body awareness.  She has always been athletic in nature, but her joints told her otherwise. Always curious to educate herself on the human body - physically, mentally, and spiritually, she went to University of Arizona to major in Public Health with an emphasis in injury prevention. In addition, she began volunteering as a mentor for those living with social disabilities to work on social anxiety and peer interaction. 

 

Mar did not discover the beautiful practice of yoga until after she graduated from college, but has never felt more at home in her body. After her 200YTT, she began to integrate prana and asana practices to her behavior therapy clients and is seeing amazing progress. Wanting to impact more children of all backgrounds is what brought Mar to Breathe & Learn. She hopes to see you and your kiddo's bright smile soon! 

Orlee Klempner

Lead Teacher (Studio City & Hollywood)

Orlee lives in her hometown, Los Angeles, CA and teaches meditation and yoga classes to adults and kids.  She holds certifications in Yoga RYT 200hr, DEN Masters 400hr, UCLA Mindful Awareness Practices I, II & III, Mindful Schools Educator, and Yoga Nidra 90hr.  And, Orlee is a member of Yoga Alliance and International Mindfulness Teachers' Association.  She has assisted in retreats, yoga teacher trainings, led anatomy and history lectures for yoga teacher trainings, and facilitates talks.  Orlee has taught kids within non-profit and for-profit after school programs and school settings.

 

She is enrolled to continue her education in Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach's Mindfulness Certification through UC Berkeley. Orlee teaches kids ages 7 and up.  She teaches with the intention of loving oneself. Entry into practice is through the Act of Noticing with present-open awareness. This creates space for decision making towards our own and others’ well being.

Ava Moreno

Lead Teacher (South Bay Workshops)

Ava Moreno entered the yoga community through her first love: dance.  She began her dance training as a toddler, training in all forms of dance.  She spent most of her youth in studios, and at the age of 11, she began assistant teaching the tiny tots and she found so much joy and fulfillment through it.  Ava struggled with several injuries in dance, which lead her to look into deeper ways of understanding and helping her body. She began exploring new ways of moving and strengthening her body.  She started practicing yoga regularly, discovering the peace, focus, and stability--both physically and mentally--it brought her.  Ava immersed herself in the yoga, fitness, nutrition, and wellness world. 

 

Ava went on to receive her personal training certification through the National Academy of Sports Medicine.  Shortly after, she completed her RYT 200-hour yoga teacher training at South Boston Yoga in 2014.  During recovery from a knee surgery in 2015, she began teaching dance to kids of all ages again, as well as yoga to middle schoolers at Beaver Country Day School, and she thoroughly enjoyed returning to teaching and learning from kids.  Ava holds the following certifications: 200-hour vinyasa, restorative, and prenatal with David Vendetti and Todd Skoglund, 50-hour yin yoga and advanced 300-hour with Rebekah Rivera, advanced 300-hour with Julia Planine-Troiani, and most recently, 30-hour aerial yoga with Lei Lei de Kirby of Levity Aerial Yoga® in San Luis Obisbo. 

 

Ava believes in always being a student first, which has driven her to explore new practices and points of view to help her better serve her students, as well as her own practice.  This led her to move to Los Angeles in March 2016 to pursue her passions of dance, yoga and fitness.  She is thrilled and humbled to be working with and alongside such inspiring teachers and young individuals, and is excited to be a part of the Breathe & Learn team.  She is now a ERYT-500 Yoga Alliance certified instructor and is ready to bring this incredible work of aerial yoga to children and adolescents, as there’s nothing better than bringing magic, strength, and defying gravity to the next generation of leaders and role models.

Christine Kerrigan-Okamoto

Assistant Teacher (Manhattan Beach)

Hello, I am Christine and people also call me Ko (Koko Cat and Coconuts too)!  I have a background in psychology from Loyola Marymount University, where I also played volleyball. After graduating, I continued to work with children through behavioral therapy. Over the summers, I taught volleyball to kids and teenagers in multiple summer camps. I found roles in behavioral therapy, research, and clinics after I received my degree to continue pursuing my interests in health and wellness.

 

Looking to maintain a connection to physical movement and the mental focus of athletics that I embraced for most of my younger years, I ventured into the yoga world!  I tried different classes and teachers, and slowly but surely, developed a zest for practicing shapes and a different type of movement. Finding the work translating to other parts of my life, and looking to learn more, I completed a variety of yoga teacher trainings.  Now, I get the amazing opportunity to teach children and combine many things that spark my curiosity through teaching.