JoAnn Gines

I am the mother of one child, Wiley JaWuan Shepherd.  He is 28 years old and a student at CAA.

I was Born in Oakland, CA, Reared and Educated in Louisiana, Graduated: Valencia Jr. Sr. High School, BA: Northwestern State University, JD: Southern University Law School, Employed in Telecommunications and Social Services in low income communities, included housing and legal services.


Services on the Board of:

Harris County Community Action Agency

The Arc of Caddo-Bossier

The Advocacy Center

Member Parent Helping Parents

Member of Jewish Community Center Department Developmental Disabilities

Member Special Olympics

Member Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority

Sabina Nat

Sabina has a background in Sustainable Management and brings several years of nonprofit board experience. Through various outreach projects at CAA, Sabina has been deeply impressed by the impactful mission of the college. She has seen firsthand how having access to enrichment classes unlocks potential and brings immense joy to CAA students. Sabina is excited about building a more inclusive community by rethinking special education and changing perceptions of ability.

Sharon Dahnert

Sharon taught middle school visual and performing arts and language arts for over 30 years up in the beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains. While teaching, she always had a strong belief that all students were gifted in their own special way. She specialized in using the arts to allow students to learn and express what they knew in as many ways as possible.

While teaching, Sharon was multiple times district teacher of the year. She was also involved in many curriculum committees at the Santa Clara County Office of Education, sat on the Education Advisory Board of Villa Montalvo, and was a member of many educational organizations. She is currently a Professional Expert for Artspiration, a countywide initiative to support arts education for all students in Santa Clara County.

Sharon grew up in Upstate New York with 8 younger siblings. When Sharon was in her teens, her family moved to Modesto, California. She later graduated from Cal State East Bay in Hayward, from where she also received her teaching credential.

Her sister Cathy, next to the youngest, has Down Syndrome. She is the heart of their family and a constant source of joy. Over nine years ago Cathy performed with CAA while visiting Sharon, making lifelong friends that she reconnected with every time she came to town.

Seeing the impact CAA had on Cathy with even limited involvement impressed Sharon with the power of the program. She has continued to attend events and be involved, most proudly now as a board member.

Leann Cherkasky Makhni

Leann has been in her role as Director of the International House (I-House) at SJSU for nearly 30 years.  With a passion for intercultural communication and interactions that bring people from all over the world together, Leann has worked with thousands of university students representing 100 countries worldwide.  Influenced by the passion for CAA exhibited by Founding Director, De, the CAA Latizmo dance class was invited to perform at I-House and became a popular addition to the semi-annual community program.  Over time, Leann has been drawn to the wonderful opportunities offered by CAA and is happy to engage as a Mountain Mover and support further growth.

Lorie Reichel-Howe

Lorie Reichel Howe is founder of Conversations in the Workplace. She leverages over 20 years of expertise in communication and relationship management. Lorie equips managers, teams and business professionals to have “safe conversations” – transformative dialogue that uncovers hidden workplace issues.

Lorie became an active supporter of CAA after presenting a staff training. Having grown up with an older brother with Down syndrome, she fell in love with CAA staff in addition to the college’s vision to provide ongoing learning opportunities to adults with disabilities.

Mimi Giannini

Mimi Giannini is Vice President of Saratoga Springs. She was previously a Mountain Mover board member for a  term, and has now returned to the team. She brings her skills, vision, and support for this collegiate model as she has a teenage child who will hopefully be attending the College one day. Mimi comes from a well-known family of community philanthropist and leaders who have helped create a beautiful and inclusive community in the Bay Area.

Stephen Fiss

A professional educator for over 45 years, Steve has served as teacher, principal, special education administrator, assistant superintendent and superintendent, university instructor and advisor, and consultant to school districts and attorneys. He has served on several Boards for non-profit organizations. A native New Yorker, Steve has lived in San Jose since 1970. Married to Bette with two sons and two grandchildren, Steve enjoys reading, movies, golfing, racquetball, and all time spent with family and friends.

Nicole Matarangas

Nicole is a former medic who loves to help people. Now as dynamic Dance and Fitness/Wellness Professional she takes a hands-on approach. A Certified Group Fitness Instructor, ACE Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Brains and Balance 60+ Specialist, Pound Pro, Zumba Instructor and Dance Instructor qualified by expertise in health, fitness and wellness. She has over 20 years of experience as a professional dancer, instructor, and choreographer. Recognized for dedication to sharing knowledge of health and wellness along with a technical instructional style that fosters overall advancement in fitness of mind, body and spirit.  Having worked domestically and internationally in musical theater, commercials, music videos, concert events and carnival parades, Nicole shares this real-world experience in a way that is both inspiring and genuine.

American Dance Therapy Association Member

Dance Movement Therapy Student


Sandee Raval Kiehl

Sandee is a fairly new bay area resident of San Jose of only 5 years, originally from the central valley.   She has been in the financial industry for the last 14 years, helping small to medium size businesses meet their financial goals. Her passion  has always been building long lasting relationships with people and businesses while connecting them with others. Her true calling has always been to help people in any capacity she can.

CAA holds a special place in her heart, because her mother was a child psychologist that worked with children with special needs and had many wonderful stories. She was also very involved in the theatre, music and dance programs growing up.

Toni Cook

Toni has been a resident of San Jose since getting her B.A. and California Teaching Credential from San Jose State. She has a M.A. in Bilingual/Cross-cultural Education from Santa Clara University and thirty-eight years of experience in public education. Her years as a middle school principal prepared her for the many joys and challenges of working with the diverse population of our valley. She has an understanding of and a passion for working with special ability populations. In addition, she has worked in concert with many community agencies in bringing arts education as well as life skills services to her school for all students. She has been a teacher trainer, an officer with the Santa Clara County Reading Council, a volunteer with the Santa Clara County Senior Centers, Montalvo Arts Center, and is currently active at the local and state level with the Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, a professional organization for women in education. She has a strong belief in the principles, mission, and vision of the College of Adaptive Arts and she is committed to equal opportunity to lifelong education for all individuals.