Leadership Team

Melanie Hayes: Founder

Dr. Melanie Hayes, Founder and Executive Director, is a 2e expert.

She holds a Doctorate in Educational Leadership with a focus on twice exceptionality, a Masters of Arts in Gifted Education, a Masters of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy, a California Teaching Credential, and is currently working toward LMFT/LPCC licensure in California. Melanie has 20 years experience teaching, mentoring, coaching, and advocating for 2e persons. She won the Innovations 4 Entrepreneurs National Award for her work using adaptive technology for twice exceptional students, and the Jefferson Award in recognition of her contributions to the 2e community. She also received SENG’s Educator of the Year Award for her groundbreaking work in educating gifted and twice exceptional children. Melanie is a certified SENG Model Parent Group Facilitator and supports parents to help them develop their parenting skills. She also works with various other professional associations, such as the IECA, where she serves as the Affinity Group Co-Chair for Gifted/Talented and Twice Exceptional. You can read her book, We Tried Normal at no cost on Medium.

Rianna Bensing

Rianna Bensing, Pinole Site Director

Rianna has been in special education for almost 20 years. She has held various roles during her time including Special Education Teacher for 9th-12th grade, Resource Specialist for K-5, Assistant Director of a Non-Public school for students with intensive Social-Emotional needs, Program Specialist at the Contra Costa SELPA, and Program Specialist in a Bay Area school district. She holds a special education credential, a Masters Degree in Special Education, and a California Administrative Credential. She is a Bay Area native and lives with her family and dog locally. She loves to cook, travel, and enjoys concerts and the outdoors. Rianna is excited to be part of the Big Minds team and is passionate about being able to serve our students who are 2e. She believes our students are some of the best humans you will ever encounter and she carries that attitude with her in her daily interactions with our community.

Billy Bouzos

Billy Bouzos, Operations Director

Billy Bouzos is an educator, musician, and community organizer. He has a diverse background uniquely suited to support the growth of our 2e students and our school – spanning from being a pillar of the Oakland and Berkeley underground art and music scene for the last decade to heading departments of multi-million-dollar start-ups. He has a bachelor’s degree from Santa Clara University (both in business and in music, as well as a minor in Latin). Billy began his career with Big Minds years ago as a part-time driver for several of our former students between tours with his various bands and projects. Since then, he has moved up the ranks to teacher, assistant director, and recently to his current position of director. He is passionate about his students, his community, and music. In his free time, he runs a record label and art collective that organizes concerts and events that provide free meals to all in attendance and literature and education regarding important local progressive topics and issues.

Jessica Garcia, Pleasanton Site Director

Jessica has worked in the field of special education for 20 years. Since earning her undergraduate degree in elementary and special education, she taught special education classes (SDC, inclusion, and Non-Public School) for almost 10 years. Since that time, she has provided leadership as a special education program specialist or coordinator in Oakland USD, Mt. Diablo USD, and Benicia USD where she has focused on programs and support for students with social, emotional, and behavioral needs.  She holds a special education credential, multiple subjects credential, administrative credential, and a Master’s Degree in Special Education. Jessica is originally from the east coast and has lived in the bay area for 20 years.  She enjoys spending time with her husband and young children swimming, traveling, and playing outside.

Amy Fox, Online Director

Amy Fox believes that the most important ideas in any school come from its students, and she has spent years enacting this educational philosophy. She has a degree from The Ohio State University in Education and Child Development, with an emphasis in child-centered, project-based learning and mathematics. Her early career was spent teaching in a thematically-integrated First Grade classroom. She also developed and implemented programs in art and math for experiential learning at a prominent children’s museum. During this time she, with her husband, raised and guided their four 2e children to adulthood. Amy has spent time as a professional ceramic artist and a fitness instructor, both of which inform her approaches daily. She lives with her husband, her little dog, Piper, and a bunch of wacky chickens. She is grateful every day for the opportunity to work with our amazing students.