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Intrepid Philanthropy is private family foundation which was created in 2008. Our geographic focus is mainly but not exclusively California. Our grantmaking vision is to support a thriving, effective, equitable and respected education system in California and beyond, where all students have the opportunity to learn and succeed.

We believe that teachers are the most valued members of the American workforce. We also believe there is tremendous leverage in investing in education by supporting and encouraging teachers. Throughout their careers, one great teacher will impact hundreds of students.

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Karen Leshner, Founder

Karen Leshner

Karen started Intrepid in 2008, and has been involved in her family’s philanthropy since 1997 through a predecessor organization. Her personal passion in philanthropy has centered around the idea of answering one question: “What can we do to make sure that great people go into the career of teaching and stay in the career?”

 Prior to launching Intrepid, Karen was the founder and portfolio manager of an investment business based in Palo Alto, CA. Before her work in finance, she spent the first several years of her career as an engineer. Karen also worked for eight years as a volunteer music teacher at her local elementary school.  Karen has a degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Virginia, a Master’s Degree in Business from Vanderbilt University, and is a Fellow in the Stanford Distinguished Career Institute program.  Karen is also an Advisory Board Member of the Contemplative Sciences Center at the University of Virginia.

I encountered my favorite teacher a few years ago while traveling on my path as a lifelong learner. Patricia Ryan Madson teaches a spectacular course in “Improv Wisdom” through Stanford Continuing Studies.  Her gift of showing students how to be present, be attentive to others and make time for play and spontaneity have become a part of my everyday life.

David Wagonfeld, Treasurer


David joined the Foundation in 2013. He previously served on the Board of Directors of the Peninsula Jewish Community Center, for which he was the Treasurer for three years, and currently remains on the Investment Committee. In addition, David serves on the Endowment Committee at the Nueva School in Hillsborough and is on the Board of UpStart and Americans for Ben-Gurion University.

David is a co-founder of Castle Peak Partners, an investment firm, and Whirl Partners, which owns and operates Jamba Juice franchises throughout California. He is also a co-founder of J-Ventures and serves on its Investment Committee. Prior to these roles, he spent 12 years as the technology portfolio manager and then president of Standard Pacific Capital, a global asset management firm based in San Francisco. He received his B.A. from Stanford University and MBA from Harvard Business School.

My eighth grade history teacher first opened my eyes to the importance of challenging assumptions about common narratives of historical events. He taught me the value of understanding the perspective of the author and its role in shaping the interpretation of the events we were studying.

Joanne Schneider, Secretary & Program Advisor

Joanne Schneider

Joanne is a Senior Philanthropic Advisor with Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA). She joined the RPA team in 2009. She helps individuals, families, corporations, and foundations at all points in the giving journey from just starting to think about how to engage in philanthropy to creating customized donor intent documents and dissolution plans. Her work includes helping clients determine priorities for giving, developing, and implementing philanthropic strategies, and managing grantmaking initiatives and giving programs. She enjoys that her role enables her to work with passionate philanthropists across a wide range of issues and geographies to bring needed resources to important causes and to support solutions to our biggest challenges.

Joanne has a diverse breadth of social sector experience. Prior to Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Joanne contributed to grantmaking and programs at the Skoll Foundation, the American Express Corporate Philanthropy Department, and the Morgan Stanley Community Affairs Department. She also managed the Volunteer Services Department of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, engaging donors and creating meaningful service opportunities. Joanne served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon, Central Africa. Joanne holds a BS from the University of Michigan and a MBA from Columbia Business School, where her focus was Social Enterprise.

My fourth grade teacher made science come alive for her students through hands-on, creative projects. She encouraged us to be young scientists and inventors and nurtured my love of biology and chemistry.

Jennifer Bloom, Senior Advisor

Jennifer Bloom

Jennifer is an educational leader and consultant with over 25 years of experience in P-12 public schools and education nonprofits. She collaborates with districts and nonprofits around educator preparation, teacher development, curriculum design, adult learning, and coaching. Prior to consulting, Jen worked at New Teacher Center (NTC) for 13 years, most recently as the Senior Director, Bay Area. At NTC, she managed client engagement, strategic partnerships, program design and delivery. As a former elementary teacher, instructional coach, and site administrator, Jen is never far from a classroom—coaching and collaborating with educators.

Jen raises puppies for Canine Companions for Independence and volunteers with Reeter, a therapy dog, in a variety of settings. Jen received her BA in Cultural Anthropology from University of New Hampshire and her MA in Educational Leadership from CSU East Bay.

My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Tice, really showed me the value of knowing each and every student- as a person and as a learner. I felt seen, heard, and cared for in her class. My love of reading and enjoying a good story stems from Mrs. Tice reading aloud to us each day.

Steve Hope, Senior Advisor

Steve Hope

Steve has been a Senior Advisory Board member to the Intrepid Philanthropy Foundation and its predecessor foundation since 1997. Steve has had a varied career in public education over the last 36 years. He has served as a social studies teacher, assistant principal, and principal at a comprehensive high school in Mountain View, California. After serving at the school site for 18 years, Steve moved to the district office as the Associate Superintendent of Personnel and Technology.  For 18 years in this capacity, he oversaw a wide variety of both professional development initiatives for teachers and technology projects for a high-performing California public high school district.  Since his retirement in 2013, in addition to his service on the Intrepid board, he is currently serving on the board of Acknowledge Alliance (Resilience and Social Emotional Learning) as well as VIA (Cross-cultural educational programming related to service in Asia). Steve received a BA in International Relations and MA in Education from Stanford University.

Among my favorite teachers was Sister Joan King. Her gifts to me as a high school student were patience, high expectations for who I would become and her ability to see that I was a work in progress. She knew when to lead me, when to follow and when to provide support in my educational journey. Her ability to ask the right, probing questions whether they were about the subject matter or about life choices was something I tried to copy in my own teaching career.

Taica Hsu, Senior Advisor

Taica Hsu
Taica Hsu is currently a National Board certified teacher on special assignment with the secondary Multilingual Pathways Department in SFUSD where he supports secondary math teachers in multilingual classrooms and develops math and computer science curricula for SAILL, a nationally-recognized summer program for multilingual students. Previously, he taught math at Mission High School in San Francisco for 13 years and high school Spanish in New Hampshire. As department chair at Mission, he recruited a team that was predominantly teachers of color and dedicated to the principles of complex instruction and social justice. He was instrumental in convincing the San Francisco School Board to de-track math classrooms until the 11th grade, which has created more equitable learning environments for students of color in SFUSD. In his work as the San Francisco Program Lead with Trellis Education, Taica is revolutionizing the way STEM teachers are recruited, trained, and supported by employing research-based mentoring methods that focus on high-leverage teaching practices.

When he is not teaching, Taica enjoys training in the martial art, Tang Soo Do, where he holds a second-degree black belt, dancing in drag, and raising money for queer youth through his non-profit, Queens of the Castro. He also loves peacocks!

My high school math teacher, Ms. Yamano-Grey, made learning exciting, challenging, and thought-provoking. Her lessons built on each other seamlessly, and she was always available to answer questions and provide additional learning opportunities. She was my teacher for three years and greatly influenced my decision to become a high school math teacher.

Jenny Maehara, Senior Advisor

Jenny MaeharaJenny has helped the foundation to develop the LIGHT Awards program since 2010. She currently works in Santa Clara Unified School District as an instructional coach. Prior to this role, she spent seven years as a district ELA/ELD Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) and seven years working as a 3rd and 4th grade teacher at Ponderosa Elementary School. During that time, she received National Board Certification in Literacy and Language Arts, the PTA Golden Oak Award, and her California Administrative Credential. Jenny also applied for and received grants for over $70,000 for resources, technology, and professional learning to improve the learning opportunities for students and teachers at her former school. Jenny graduated with a BA in Human Biology and MA in Education from Stanford University.

So many teachers have mentored and inspired me.  My 8th grade English teacher, Mr. Tsujimoto, sparked my love of poetry, reading, and writing.  He helped me see the beauty and importance of words.  When I teach writing to young students, his words echo in my mind.

Paula Mitchell, Associate Advisor

Paula Mitchell

Paula Mitchell has incorporated hands on learning from the beginning of her 25+ year career as an educator in Oakland, CA. Paula believes in fostering equity and providing access to high quality educational STEAM programs to historically underserved and underrepresented populations through a focus on culturally responsive making and authentic inclusion for students with disabilities. She is a Teacher on Special Assignment for Maker-Centered Learning at Grass Valley Elementary School. As part of her work, Paula developed her school’s very first maker education/project-based learning program and its makerspace, the Wonder Workshop.

Paula is also the Co-Director for Agency by Design Oakland, which works at the intersection of teacher leadership, inquiry-based professional development, and maker-centered learning, in service of student agency. Paula was the team lead of the Grass Valley’s Project Based Learning with a Maker Mindset team, part of the 2016 LIGHT Awards cycle. She also served as a LIGHT Advisor in 2019.

I love learning and have had many wonderful teachers over the years, but one who always stands out is my 10th grade world history teacher. She was exacting, had very high standards, and she challenged all of her students(whether “slacker” or “brain”) to use higher order, more complex thinking skills. I had never worked so hard in my young academic life but I loved it and respected her for her fair treatment, high expectations, and no-nonsense attitude. If you received a good grade in her class, you knew you’d truly earned it. As I started my teaching career, she influenced my always holding high expectations for all of my students regardless of perceived abilities. I thank her for that.