Women Leading the Way in Silicon Valley

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Silicon Valley is a hot spot for talented individuals and start-ups, and it can take quite a bit to succeed and make your company stand out. We spoke with five notable women who achieved their goals and are thriving in their careers. Their industries are wide-ranging, including politics, manufacturing biodegradable materials, founding a school for autism, money management, and helping companies tell their innovation stories. Each woman speaks about the challenges she had to overcome, as well as any particular issues she faced as a woman in her field. Their stories are compelling and will inspire and motivate you to flourish in your career!

We’ll be highlighting one of these five inspirational women each day.

ELENA MARIMO BERK
CO-FOUNDER OF CREEKSIDE SCHOOL

What led you to co-found The Creekside School?
The Creekside School was founded because when my son turned six years old, we couldn’t find an appropriate school placement for him. My son Derek has Autism, and he is seriously impacted. We traveled around the country to find an appropriate placement but realized that there was a huge need in the Bay Area, and we wanted to stay in California. So we decided to start our own school. We started with two students, and classes were held in my basement. We quickly began to grow. We then leased a couple of classrooms at the Achiever School in San Jose in 2007 and remained there until 2018.

What’s the current location of The Creekside School ?
We recently moved into the former George Miner Elementary School site in San Jose, California, which had closed due to low enrollment. By this October, we hope to have 21 students, and we currently have 65 students on our waiting list!

What are some of your day to day tasks?
I serve on the board of The Creekside School as board secretary. I also assist the Head of School and staff with resources, making connections with organizations we’d like to collaborate with, and just making sure everything runs smoothly.

What have your biggest challenges been?
Our biggest challenges have been finding staff and finding land for our school. There is a teacher shortage in California, especially in the field of Special Education. Because our program is so specialized, it’s even more difficult to find credentialed teachers with an Autism certificate. I’m very proud to say that today we have the finest staff around – we have an amazing Head of School, incredible teachers, teaching assistants, and resource specialists: Occupational Therapists, Speech therapists, Art therapist and Music therapist. We are very grateful to the Oak Grove School District for allowing us to lease their school site!

What makes The Creekside School a special place?
Our program tries to accommodate the needs of each student. As the saying goes, “if you’ve met one person with Autism, you’ve met one person with Autism.” Each child is different, so we do our best to design the program around them. We rely on several types of therapeutic approaches, but the foundation of our program is based on the DIR model, which focuses on developmental, individual differences and relationship building. This year, we are very excited to be adding a primary level classroom, as well as an Adult Transition program, for our 18-year-olds who are moving into adulthood.

By Ali Lee and Sarah Wilson

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